A changing of the guard.

monkees_2No one I talk with about Brea politics has a clue what will happen Tuesday night. The speculation leads to numerous scenarios, all of them influenced, to a large extent, by the demise of the old O’Donnell guided voting block and the unknown quantity of Christine Marick. Most folks agree that there is likely heavy lobbying going on. Brown Act restrictions would keep these back room negotiations underground, and no one is foolish enough to think it isn’t happening.

Politics vs. Precedents

king_don_150Last year the voting block blindsided Council by turning their backs on decades of precedent and awarding Don Schweitzer the gift of reigning as Mayor in his final year.

They added insult to injury by inserting Brett Murdock into the line to the throne as Mayor Pro Tem.

While a large number voters were shocked and dismayed, few took the time to speak out about it. Now, with the hoped for shift in the balance of power, maybe the situation will get the scrutiny it deserves and order will be restored.

Murdock for Mayor?

Murdock MPTNo way. He wasn’t ready to be a council member when he was elected and his performance since being elected underscores his continued failure to learn the job. He spends more time glad-handing than getting things done. What are his credits?

  • Asked Council to further limit the public’s ability to speak at meetings.
  • Lobbied to spend money the city doesn’t have to move a county library that is fine where it is to a building the city doesn’t own.
  • Failed to make good on his campaign promise to get the parking ordinance ticketing residents on street sweeping days rescinded.
  • Was the last to return the windfall flex benefit raise and is apparently still making payments to return it in full.
  • Selected to voice the city’s objections on Measures T and U during the debate, instead he spent his time bragging about what a marvelous job the overpaid City Manager did.
  • Spent taxpayer dollars, lots of them, to go on an inappropriate junket to South Korea and Japan with Schweitzer and O’Donnell.

According to his new Facebook page, Murdock’s favorite quote is, “Politics separate the men from the boys (and women from the girls). Boys get into politics to be someone. Men get into politics to do something.” A little odd coming from the pool boy that has done nothing.

Murdock MPT 2The site also suggests his aspirations center around a career in politics. He claims to be a moderate with no party affiliation (another “decline to state”). Good luck with that.

We’ve just endured a year under the mayorship of one prima donna, will Council be so short sighted as to make the same mistake twice?

If history is any indication, there’s a good possibility that we’re in for another year of political double-speak, closed door sessions and continued managerial dysfunction. Like surviving a double dip recession isn’t enough…

Tune in to public access Channel 3 at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday (12/18) to watch your Council hard at work.

[OMG, did that really just happen? Not what you expected, huh Christine.]

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.

Is Council trying to pull a fast one?

What’s with Frank Mickadeit’s OCR column last Thursday? It’s one of the most rambling non-news pieces I’ve seen in the Register lately. A dubious honor, to be sure.

First, he lets Don Schweitzer off the hook because Don wrote a weak and blatantly self serving op-ed piece suggesting that all will be okay when they (Council) “revisit” their medical compensation.

What on earth does “revisit” mean? Are they going to flog a dead horse during a study session, effectively changing nothing, while keeping the whole affair out of public view? Unacceptable.

There’s more to discuss than just medical benefits.

No matter how hard Council tries to portray their “job” as demanding and time consuming, it’s still part time. C’mon, they didn’t know what they were getting into when they ran for office? That might be a plausible excuse for Mr. Murdock, but it doesn’t hold water for anyone else.

The whole compensation package, including whatever retirement benefits they receive, should be on the table for discussion… and not at a study session.

It’s obviously a part time job.

It’s laughable that the item won’t land on the agenda until January thanks to either cancelled meetings or the absence of various council members over the holidays. If Mickadeit’s calculations are accurate, our illustrious hard working Council will have either cancelled or run short handed for a third of their meetings during 2011.

I’m not sure how much others might be willing to pay someone to show up so sporadically, but I’m thinking it ought to be significantly less than what these guys were making before they surprised themselves with a raise.

Even the Mayor’s 100 hours a month is less than what my favorite Starbucks barista works, and he doesn’t get the sort of medical coverage and retirement they do.

Yeah, Mr. Mickadeit, I’ve circled January 3rd as well. I hope a lot of other folks do too, and show up in council chambers ready to make their opinions heard loud and clear.

I’ve also made a note about the elections next November.