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:
“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.
I 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.