Along with several others, I’ve been trying to get to the truth about why Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell went to Anseong, South Korea and Hanno Japan. Who invited who and why were we obligated to send anyone?
What city business was so important that it took three people to represent Brea and what did they really do there? Did Council approve this junket, with full understanding of the cost (almost $20,000… maybe $30,000 before it’s all over)?
Invitations, communications, receipts, itineraries… simple stuff, things that should be routine in matters of such international consequence. But no, not in the home of transparency and accountability, where it seems to be common practice to leave as little a data trail as possible. I think it’s called plausible deniability.
What they would have us believe.
- The invitation carried with it an obligation that could not be denied.
- Costs were well within allotted city budget for travel, thereby not requiring review or approval by Council.
- The potential workload was of such magnitude that it would take three people to properly manage it.
- There would be opportunities to build commercial connections between Brea and the sponsoring organizations.
- Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell, as publicly stated by the City Manager, “Worked their butts off!”
The truth of the matter may never be known.
- In spite of the city’s repeated attempts to hinder public inquiry (example), it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to assemble a pretty clear picture of what likely transpired.
- Is there any doubt that they’re stonewalling inquisitive citizens? The city’s response to my final CPRA request regarding invitations was sitting on O’Donnell’s desk yesterday morning (2/28) awaiting his approval (I’m not even sure if that’s legal). Friday is a furlough day, nobody in city hall. Undoubtedly the City Clerk will wait until the last possible minute on the final date allowed by law to send my response.
- The invitation to visit Anseong was as much a cultural courtesy as not, and could have been graciously declined by Schweitzer without anyone losing face.
- There was no invitation from Hanno. Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell notified Hanno officials that they “would be in the neighborhood” and planned to drop by. What a presumptive and culturally insensitive way to treat our Japanese Sister City friends, by inviting themselves to dinner. There was no agenda for Tokyo and Hanno, the entire excursion was fabricated to allow a second week of sightseeing at our expense.
- The invitation from Anseong was to attend a little known cultural event hosted by a non-governmental organization (NGO) who’s mission statement says specifically, “Founded in 1970, CIOFF continues to work for the safeguarding and dissemination of traditional culture and folk arts.” Nothing commercial, period.
- There were only two occasions (Korea Itinerary) where the Mayor “might” have been asked to say a few words; all other activities could easily be characterized as touristic or sightseeing.
- No invitation, Sister City communication or itinerary exists for the time spent in Japan. It would seem that Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell decided to take advantage of the “free” airfare by extending their unnecessary trip to include a sightseeing junket to Tokyo and Hanno, Japan.
Here’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.
- There was no reason, none, zero, nada for anyone to go, let alone three people. To claim otherwise is complete nonsense. Of the two occasions where Schweitzer might have spoken, Murdock and O’Donnell were asked not to attend one because it was a Mayor’s Only event. While trying to justify their trip during a council meeting, Schweitzer mocked O’Donnell over role as Brea’s second banana.
- There was little or nothing that could be construed as legitimate city business conducted. To suggest such was the case is so evasive that the truth is at risk of becoming unrecognizable.
- Those involved have continually denied all allegations of impropriety leveled at them. Their repeated, often angry and arrogant denials do nothing to change the facts. This was a vacation.
- Three former Brea Mayors, Lynn Daucher, Bev Perry and Glenn Parker (Brea’s current Treasurer) have publicly reprimanded Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell for exercising extremely poor judgement and wasting tax dollars that could have been better spent elsewhere.
- If this does not constitute a misuse of public funds, how egregious an offense is required to trigger broad sweeping public outrage and a thorough investigation by the Orange County District Attorney?
- What steps would be required to demand a full repayment by Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell of the gift they gave themselves from the public treasury?
- What steps would be required to demand that O’Donnell reclassify the allocation of his time to “paid vacation” instead of double charging the city to the tune of almost $20,000? ($10,000 paid for “work time” and “administrative leave” plus another $10,000 for accrued vacation.)
Put this all into context.
Bookmark the links and come back for a refresher when O’Donnell has the audacity to ask for another raise and bonus. It’s just around the corner. Send a letter or email to Council, call a council member or two or three. Step up during Matters From The Audience and tell Council face-to-face how wrong it would be to give O’Donnell another penny.
Share the links above and the link to Brea Matters with your friends and neighbors.
In 2014, when you’re reading over your voters pamphlet, come back and revisit the coverage from 2012. Remind yourself that every vote counts and make sure that you, your neighbors and friends put people into office we can trust.