The jury is still out – Part Three

A couple of months ago I sent a copy of council member Moore’s newsletter (Brea Net #597) to the Special Prosecutions Unit with the Orange County District Attorney. Uncertain of the legal issues and ethical ramifications alleged in Roy’s account of how Council inadvertently gave themselves a raise with a retroactive bonus, I turned to professionals for an answer. Here’s what I got:

Justice“We have reviewed the Brea City Council issues called to our attention by your recent emails. We have determined that there is insufficient evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Brea City Council or city staff in connection with the Council’s vote to increase their own flex benefits last July, and their subsequent vote to rescind the increase last December. While the initial staff report regarding the resolution increasing the benefits may have been incomplete, in that it failed to remind the Board that several years earlier they had voted to link their own benefits to the group of employees meant to be covered by the July resolution, there is no evidence that the omission was intentional, or meant to mislead members of the council or the public. And there is no evidence of any improper communications, either before or after the July meeting, in violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act’s “open meeting” laws. Accordingly, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office is closing its inquiry into this matter and will not be taking any further action.” – Raymond S. Armstrong, Senior Deputy District Attorney, Special Prosecutions Unit

Jeez, where do I start?

It was June, Mr. Armstrong, not July… who, exactly, were you talking to? How were you able to reach such an absolute conclusion without interviewing a single player in this comedy of errors? You say that there was “insufficient evidence” – which would suggest that there was some evidence. Sorry, but your conclusions could have been reached merely by reviewing my email, the document I sent and my blog… and dismissing the matter because you had bigger fish to fry.

A quick conversation with the city attorney, whose job it is to cultivate a hedge of defense, of plausible deniability, around his clients, could easily have guided you to the same conclusion. More than mere professional courtesy, this may explain your cc-ing him on your correspondence to me.

Bigger fish to fry.

Smoking GunI get it. Real criminals, killers and the like. Okay… in the full scheme of things I would have to agree that tackling violent crime should certainly take precedence over allegations of petty mismanagement of public funds and possibly malfeasance on the part of elected officials and public employees.

It does beg the question, if the raises had contained as many zeros as the Bell fiasco, would we have seen a more vigorous investigation?

Before writing this, I sought the council of several trusted friends, pillars in the Brea community with enviable track records for volunteerism and philanthropy. It was pretty evenly split between, “Now’s not the time to toss in the towel.” and “Maybe it’s better not to flog a dead horse.”

Interestingly though, the anger and disappointment over what has occurred in study sessions and the council chamber between June and December, is unanimous. Not just the flex benefits matter, but the arrogant disrespect for historical precedents, the mistreatment of senior council members and irrational dismissal of talented volunteers, the lackluster effort to retain the contract with Yorba Linda for police services.

So, with all that said, I guess I’ll just let sleeping dogs lie, and lie, and lie again. At least for now.

48 thoughts on “The jury is still out – Part Three

  1. I sometimes wish there was 2 of me to handle all of the things I care “deeply” about. Fight on!

    • Maria… It never ceases to amaze me how brash and arrogant some elected officials can be. Their surreptitious behavior will no longer be tolerated. Some will find themselves voted out of office, others may well find themselves the recipients of subpoenas. Either way, they’ll get what they deserve.

  2. It’s a good thing there are people like you out there. This has been happening and will keep happening unless people like yourself start asking the important questions. There’s too many crooks out there getting away with it.

    • Dennis… True, so many politician’s have gotten a bit too comfortable in their own skins. Somehow we need to restore the power of the ballot box and that’s going to be through the voting public making much more intelligent use of their vote than we’ve witnessed over the last couple of decades. I’m one guy making noise. I’ll continue to make noise.

      Unless others join in and turn an idea into a movement… it may just remain noise. Thanks for taking the time to comment Dennis.

  3. You should go see what they’re up to. Maybe you’ll like their blog as much as they liked yours! Hard work Rick, keep it up!

  4. Insufficient evidence. Yep. But I bet they could come up with “sufficient” evidence of other things, some of which might be from whole cloth! But it sounds like they just want you and whoever else might want to look into this to just go away. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

    • Susan… Our system of jurisprudence can be wrought with contradictions at times. Then there’s Harry’s Law. Harry isn’t about to roll over, neither am I. I may get stonewalled from time to time, but if I keep it real, sooner or later real people will see through the system’s self serving agenda and step up.

  5. Rick… Every city needs a great watchdog like you! So often, these inspiring, well-meaning people get elected and immediately drink the politician Koolaid. Thanks for what you are doing to keep Brea from becoming the next Vernon or Bell. Feel free to move to my city and do the same!

    • Lisa… You’re too kind, thanks. Giving the benefit of the doubt, I do think some enter public office with good intent. Maybe it’s the Koolaid, maybe the adulation, maybe just the natural maturation of politicians. Why so many of them end up being the last one’s worthy of the office remains a mystery.

      Anyway, all things considered, I love living in Brea so perhaps you’ll need to put an ad on Craig’s list for “loudmouth political gadfly” wanted.

  6. I’ve seen that in our city as well. Starting off well meaning and then losing sight of your goals. It’s not just a local government problem either.

    • Denise.. There’s that old saying about power corrupting. I agree that the concept wasn’t reserved for just for municipalities. Governments/bureaucracies at all levels too easily fall prey to corrupting influences.

  7. This seems to be par for the course. I’m a little surprise you received a response at all. Definitely stay on top of it, and perhaps somewhere down the line justice will prevail. All the best.

    • Steve… Thanks. That’s all any of us really want isn’t it… justice? I kept enough pressure on that I knew I would get a response. Lets say I wasn’t that surprised at what it said. Appreciate your comments, always. Thanks again.

  8. Today, communication is the essence. Government, at all levels, has it’s own language. How are the people to understand? How are the people supposed to respond? When I hear things like “insufficient evidence” it makes me angrier than when they say nothing at all.

    • Fabrizio… I call it “cityspeak” and it’s designed to keep the general public from understanding what really goes on down at city hall. It is way too reminiscent of the Tower of Babel for my liking.

      • At least at The Tower of Babel, they were all speaking the same language before they went off to form separate tribes.

        This sounds like an us vs. them situation, and the them are controlling everything the us gets to hear, see, and ultimately, do.

      • Matches… Precisely! I’ve started to make headway cracking the “cityspeak” code and, believe me, much of it is self serving, back patting, good ol’ boy gibberish designed to give “them” a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

      • Matches… possible, yes, there have been a few over the years and I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and supporting them. Good point.

  9. I so admire people who take a stand and fight for what they believe in. These things happen in Canada too… not exactly the same story, but the same idea.

    • Shannon… You’re right, thanks to some pretty smart folks a couple hundred years ago, we have freedoms here shared by few others around the world. Our problem is folks today who abuse this power to serve their own ends. I don’t need any more power. I need friends and neighbors to join in and exercise theirs so we can toss the carpetbaggers out on their butts. (How’s that for politically correct?)

  10. Rick, maybe it’s time to run for City Council! These kinds of responses are dispiriting. But a businessman-gadfly here in RSM who had been hassled by the city and neighbors too many times over his business has now decided to run. If elected, he would be one of the few council members to have actually run a business (as opposed to practicing law). Keep on it, Rick!

    • Mitch… We have a couple of similar “contenders” here as well, but they’re not running because holding public office (if you’re ethical) handcuffs you. Think Brown Act. I can ride around their circled wagons from dawn to dusk, fire whatever and whenever I choose. This is suburban gorilla warfare at it’s finest.

      I think it was Twain who said that, “Politicians and diapers ought to be changed often and for the same reasons.”

      • I understand the constraints that holding office imposes, but we’ve got to have some ethical people running things, otherwise the whole experiment fails. We can’t expect to clean house from the outside of it.

        Whether it’s from Twain or not, I like the quote. Think I’ll have to tweet that. 🙂

      • Ha ha ha Mitch… I knew I hadn’t heard the last of you!

        A number of us are looking for candidates whose qualifications we can truly vet, whose ethics are above reproach and whose agenda is the agenda of all the people, not just the people to whom they are indebted. Putting the right folks in office will allow us to spring clean from the inside too. This can’t remain an experiment much longer. We need full implementation of a plan that is sensible and sustainable.

        Twain also said, “In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.” – but that’s too long to tweet.

      • Rick, I am proud of you. Working as an activist in my area for Voting Rights now in PA shows me how much we all have to keep bringing up the truth again and again!

      • Sally… Sounds like we share an affinity for truth and an understanding of how much more value it brings us than the lies and half truths that have become the common language of our elected officials and the bureaucracy they’re hell bent on perpetuating.

  11. Any luck finding candidates you can vet? RSM just hired a new City Manager. I feel like our city is in pretty good shape, with a surplus and a rating by the FBI as the safest city in the state with over 20,000 residents.

    • Mitch… No emerging new candidates, unfortunately. The old guard has started parading around a young lady that I thought had good potential, until the old guard started parading her around. If she wakes up to what’s happening, I could still through my support her way. We’ll see.

      Sounds like RSM might be doing okay. Hope you got a city manager for a fair price. We pay ours more than Jerry Brown and only have a little over 40,000 residents.

    • Jay… not so long ago is was a very expensive proposition, or dependent on whether you could get placed on the local OpEd page with any regularity. Now all it takes is a willingness to do the work.

  12. Hi Rick, just stopping by to see if there are any new developments in this situation – but it doesn’t sound like any suitable candidates have appeared to challenge the old guard. Here’s a thought: why don’t YOU run? Sometimes we wring our hands about a problem, and don’t realize that we are the solution! I think you would be a real asset to the Brea city council.

    • Susan… others have posed the same question, and I say this, that I am more able to fully express thoughts and ideas from this side of the fence than if, as an elected official, I was under the oppressive thumb of the Brown Act. Then, of course, there would have to be a lot more people sharing the idea than the handful that have mentioned it. Thanks for the compliment, but as un-politically correct as I tend to be, I’m less than electable I think.

  13. I wonder sometimes if people are less politically correct than we think, but are just afraid to speak up. I have some surprising conversations with people when they feel they are out of earshot of anyone who would be offended by their real opinion. Anyway, keep writing about these things. So few give a crap.

    • Susan… keeping up appearances seems to have become a full time occupation for so many people. I love the give-a-crappers!

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