The jury is still out – Part One

On January 25th, Council Member Roy Moore published Issue 597 of his Brea Net newsletter.

In it he chronicles the events surrounding the raise Council gave themselves back in June, especially the fiasco following and the eventual reversal of that decision.

As of today, all Council Members except Brett Murdock have arranged to pay back the $3,600 they each received in retroactive pay.

To put everything I’m about to say into context, I highly recommend you first read Roy’s full newsletter by clicking the link above.

Roy Raises Important Issues.

Within Roy’s explanation of events, which I personally find to be the most credible thus far and consequently the most believable, are several important issues that have not been adequately or publically addressed.

These issues include nominally related matters being lumped together as consent items providing a convenient means of masking the serious nature of the topic, items that would be more honestly addressed independently and within formal public hearings; the continued poor, sometimes incomplete preparation of staff reports; the wrongfully diminished authority of the Mayor and Council Members, particularly in the matter of the Mayor’s managing and setting of agenda discussion items; personal and political agendas taking precedent over the will of a majority of the community.

And, finally, procedural policies and protocols that provide numerous opportunities for Council and staff to, inadvertently or willfully, commit malfeasance in the course of carrying out their duties with little or no opportunity for public oversight or intercession.

My next few blog entries will address these issues in more detail, beginning with…

The Misleading Nature Of Consent Items.

In his report Roy points out, “At the June 7, 2011 council meeting the Consent Calendar consisted of seven consent items.

The Consent Calendar is where multiple items, mostly routine, are considered and passed by a single vote without discussion.

Item 12.7 consisted of three separate elements: 1) The contract memorandum between the City of Brea and the Brea Fire Management Association, 2) salary range increases and a flex benefit increase of $450/month for city executives, and 3) part time employee salary increases.

I pulled Item 12.7 off of the Consent Calendar for separate discussion and vote.  The three elements were also separated for separate votes. Elements 1 and 3 were unanimously passed.  Element 2, after discussion, was passed on a 4-1 vote with me dissenting.”

Though it may be somewhat more convenient to consolidate similar matters, minimally discussed at study sessions, into single consent items in order to shorten meetings, the public is denied the opportunity to fully follow and understand the matters in question, to make public inquiry for clarification or make public comment to make Council aware of what their constituents would prefer.

Closing thoughts.

I believe the people of Brea would be best served if Council would put the subject of Consent Calendar items on the agenda for discussion, not at a study session but during a regular televised meeting, so that the public might weigh in on the matter. It is long overdue to revisit what should and should not be designated as justification to put an item, or collection of items, on the Consent Calendar.

Next time on Brea Matters.

Flex benefits, who knew what when and were there any ethical breaches or laws bent or broken?

21 thoughts on “The jury is still out – Part One

  1. Ugh. The Consent Calendar sounds like a place where they can ram through things without anyone knowing about it. I don’t live in Brea, but I agree with you – any municipality that uses a similar concept should make those sessions open.

    • Susan, this has become a fairly common practice amongst most cities. On the surface it seems innocent enough, getting council members and staff home in time to catch the Dancing With The Stars finale, but in reality it provides far too much freedom to mask their shenanigans. I encourage you to look into this in your home town. You might get a real surprise. Thanks for stepping up and speaking out.

  2. “I believe the people of Brea would be best served if Council would put the subject of Consent Calendar items on the agenda for discussion, not at a study session but during a regular televised meeting, so that the public might weigh in on the matter. ” Completely agree. Hope they are reading your blog!

    • Rumor has it, Debra, that this blog is getting circulated down at city hall. As long as my friends and neighbors start applying a little pressure where it’s needed the most, we’ll all come out ahead.

  3. Glad to see that you are making a bit of progress Rick. Most people would rather just live in denial where politics are concerned, and then are surprised after bad things happen.

    • There’s something about deflated retirement accounts, homes in foreclosure, kids unable to go to college, and months of unemployment turning into years that will wake a silent majority up. Our vote is strongest and it’s effect felt sooner at the local level. I really hope people around Brea start understanding that and doing something about the sad state of affairs down at city hall.

  4. Definitely a meaty article, had to add it to my RIL so I can read the first part. Thanks for sharing these thoughts!

    • Oscar, I know that your “RIL” doesn’t stand for “Res Ipsa Loquitur” – but funny how well that fits! (Latin: The Thing Speaks for Itself; legal negligence.)

  5. It’s great that your blog is being read and talked about at City Hall. All it takes is one voice to start a movement. Good luck Rick!

  6. I agree with you Rick, when you say Consent Calendar items (defined as where multiple items, mostly routine, are considered and passed by a single vote) should have more public weight and the televised discussions would be a good place. I think that in the public eye the Consent items would be used to help the community rather than be used for executive raises. <- Maybe I am dreaming?

    • Dreaming, no Karla, but wishful thinking maybe. Most would agree that it appears they were trying to slip one by us.

      The city manager, Tim O’Donnell, once told me that his favorite definition of leadership was from Marty Linsky, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, “Leadership is disappointing your contituents, but in increments they can absorb.”

      If the “Occupy” movement tells us anything, it’s that we’re no longer willing to absorb disappointments. They better find a new model to work with, or find a new line of work all together.

  7. I’ve never heard of a “Consent Calendar” before but it sounds like an invitation for abuse. After reading multiple items in the Register about how much “public servants” are paid, and how the public sector has continued to grow… I sometimes wonder whether I should have gotten a government job. But then I come to my senses.

    Just imagine what kind of shenanigans happen at the national level. Rick, you ought to check out the new book “Throw Them All Out” http://amzn.to/y82mwt Right up your alley.

    • Hey Mitch, thanks for jumping in. Only about one in a couple hundred folks take the time or have the courage to comment on threads like this. Somehow I knew you’d be one of the bold ones.

      And thanks for the link to Schweizer’s book. How odd that our Mayor is a Schweitzer, but doesn’t seem to understand that his cronyism suggests he believes that some are more equal than others. Perhaps we’ve stumbled across the reasons for both the arrogance and the whining.

      BTW – Some are telling me that the only difference between Brea and Bell is about five zeros.

  8. Salary increases and Flex benefit increases are far from routine. Anything money related, unless negligible, should definitely be more pronounced and televised in this case. This just comes off as a bit sneaky.

  9. Ohhh, the all-encompassing consent calendar. I have yet to attend a meeting where someone challenges it. Thank goodness there are people like you to play watchdog when sneaky politicos try to pass things by the public.

    • Lisa, others are getting involved, coming forward. Well beyond the comments received here, the emails and calls I get are encouraging and I have no intention of letting up. Thanks for adding your voice to the chorus.

  10. Pingback: The Jury Is Still Out – Part Two | Brea Matters

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