Ask Mitch, 4-14-2013

Originally posted on April 14, 2013 by Mitch Green

[Editor’s note:  Today we introduce a semi regular feature, “Ask Mitch,” where Mitch empties his in box and pastes up stuff for no particular reason]

Hey Gang! My e-mail in box keeps filling up with provocative comments, along with the usual “You’re a lying liar who lies!”  or, “I bet you have tinted windows!”  or even the occasional (baseless I might add!) accusations of being less than hands free during my drive time communications.  Puleeze! I’m shocked!  Shocked I say!!

Simi, have you no shame? Why, I’m not going to play along with this “Gotcha” bloggerism! This armchair quarter quipping where any half brain undead who thinks they can lift a non original bumper sticker sentence and qualify as a procurer of deep thoughts will not stand!

No, unless you’re my ex-wife’s lawyer getting pissed about the late alimony payment, just sending me an unsigned blast about how you’re “going to make me pay!” isn’t going to shake me out of my Sunday afternoon three beer buzz.

What does get my attention, besides the real cool old school episodes of Peter Gunn playing in the background on the Airstream’s t.v., are intriguing letters like the following,

“Dear Mitch,

At the April 8th City Council meeting the issues surrounding of the MOUs were up for discussion. Most of it seemed like prepared statements about the mistakes that were made, both in 2005 and the present, with very little actual discussion. Mayor Huber had promised during the February 25th Council Meeting that the issues would be talked about in their totality, but because the scope of the issues that could be discussed had to be based on the agenda’s staff report, the talking points seemed very limited, leaving more questions than answers.

It was conceded by the other members of the council, including Mr. Becerra, that Mayor Huber’s signing of the December 20, 2012 MOU was a mistake as he signed the MOU because it was included in a stack of other documents provided to him that were already signed by City Attorney Marjorie Baxter. But the question remains why did City Attorney Baxter sign the draft and then hand it to the Mayor to be signed in the first place? If Baxter had not signed it and given it to the Mayor to sign, the mistake would never have happened. This has never been addressed or explained.

Although Tom Zanic, partner and senior vice president of New Urban West did not consider the MOU void at the time, the December 20, 2012 MOU was, in fact, Void – Ultra Vires by law because it did not meet the requirement that it be approved by the City Council. This speaks to the legality of the document but not to the intent. If the December MOU was never intended to be the finalized version, only a draft on December 20th before the Mayor signed it, why is there email communication between Assistant City Attorney David Caceres, Council for the LA Avenue Group, Kenneth Bley, Simi Valley Legal Secretary Cyndi Esparza and City Attorney Marjorie Baxter on the 20th of December stating ‘as soon as I have the required City signatures, I send you back a copy of the entire MOU.”? . If the December MOU was never intended to be the finalized version, only a draft on December 21st, the day after the Mayor signed it, why is there email communication between the same group of people stating “Attached please find a scanned copy of the agreed upon Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) between the City of Simi Valley (“City”) and LA Avenue Group, LLC. A hard copy will also be mailed to you today. According to the terms and conditions of the MOU, your client’s previously filed claim, dated November 21, 2012 will now be deemed withdrawn, as a result, no further action will taken upon it by the City.” ? And if the December MOU was never intended to be the finalized version, only a draft, why is it, as the Mayor pointed out, exactly the same as the MOU that was finalized in February of 2013? This has never been addressed or explained.

City Attorney Marjorie Baxter only learned of the mistake a few days before the January 28, 2013 City Council Meeting and didn’t tell the council in part because she thought it might have required disciplining Assistant City Attorney David Caceres, a confidential personnel matter. She later concluded no discipline was needed. Wow! So much for this personnel matter being confidential. The fact that she discussed a confidential personnel matter with the press and named Caceres, an employee she states required no discipline seems highly unprofessional, perhaps unethical or even actionable. With the Mayor’s concern for confidentially and the leaks of information, I wonder what he would say about this leak.

The question that remains is how is it even possible that City Attorney Baxter only discovered the mistake just before the January 28, 2013 City Council meeting when she signed the MOU and was part of the email discussions about the finalization of the MOU a month prior? This has never been addressed or explained.

Warm Regards,

Three Cell Maglite”

In the words of the beat drum player in the fifties scene from Peter Gunn, “That’s crazy, man!”  And grammatically correct too! Readers, if you can write, I’m happy to cut and paste.  Makes my job that much easier.

Our next reader comments pertain to the April 8, 2013 Council meeting, which I confess, I slept through.

“Dear Mitch,

Here are my thoughts on the council meeting the other night:

Mike Judge making an analogy of Huber not informing the council to that of mistakenly sending out an email is completely flawed. In his example he is autonomous so the act of sending the email does not require supervision and the OK of others. What is also flawed in his example is his reasoning for not saying anything. Judge wouldn’t inform anyone because the email is retracted before the recipient has seen it. With the MOU the recipient looked at the finished memorandum and perceived it to be official and finalized.

If Mike Judge thinks his example is a good one, it’s possible Judge is OK with Huber acting autonomously, without council supervision, or perhaps Judge lacks the ability to comprehend the information that has been presented to him, or if he knows full well what is going on perhaps he was trying to throw in some misdirection. None of those explanations bode well for our city. And remember, Judge had all weekend to prepare his statements.

If Huber had simply informed the other members of the Counsel, it would be difficult to look upon this as anything but a mistake. But Huber made a choice. Going with Huber’s logic that it was a non-issue and therefore was nothing to talk about might indicate that he feels things only need to be discussed as he sees fit, which doesn’t bode well for our city either. If you are a professional working in a Weak Mayor, Strong City Manager government where all five members are supposed to be equal, acting on the consensus of opinion and not autonomously, when a mistake is made that effects or involves the other council members, YOU TELL THE OTHER MEMBERS. This should not even be a judgment call, and an apology that is followed by a statement that you plan to pick and choose which city polices you follow doesn’t cut it.


Semper Fi Guy”

So, with that, I decided maybe I should actually watch the salient portions of the April 8, 2013 Simi Valley City Council meeting.  Other than the poorly scripted and acted out drama between the Mayor and former Council Member Williamson, this is what I observed in an exchange between Mayor Huber and Council Member Becerra that took place at approx, 2:38:10 on the City’s archived video of the meeting and ending, around 2:40:10. This is one of the few candid, non-staged moments of the evening’s presentation.

“Becerra – The other issue was… ummm… and again this goes back to.. ya know, the equal treatment of the city council. I applaud the fact that, Bob, you put in place a policy… ya know… on the signatures.. ya know, on the contracts. That’s something else we should have been notified on. When , ya know, cause again not one of us has the right to create policy. I, in fact, just gave you 3 policy issues that I would like you all to consider to have brought back for your consideration. And so… I mean I applaud the fact that you did it and it’s not a big deal but we should have been at least m… notified…

Huber – You, you were notified of it and by the way from the standpoint of my signature… my signature… if this city council is creating a policy that I gotta sign stuff like it happened before I’m not gonna follow the policy. This is MY signature. I’m the one that got the ‘Gotcha” problem. OK? I’m the one that you did the “Gotcha” with.

Becerra – I didn’t… I… Bob., ya know, again, I didn’t play “Gotcha” politics…

Huber – Oh yes you did.

Becerra – No. What I did was raise a very serious concern that…

Huber – The second time in the last six months you’ve done “Gotcha” stuff.

Becerra – Bob, this isn’t political. I’ve.. you know you keep talking about how you’ve served 7 years here. I‘ve served 15 and I know you are going to throw in that you add your community college time and now you are up to 13 or 12 or whatever the number is. This isn’t about, ya know, our pedigree on how long we’ve been up here. This about us doing what we think is right.

Huber – I agree

Becerra – And I’m allowed to advocate on the issues that I think are right when I, ya know, don’t think something is being done appropriately. And I believe when, ya know, the mayor or me or anybody says they are creating a policy for this city, we at the very minimum have a right to know about that policy. Y.. you’re right, it is your signature, You’re absolutely right, I give you that and you have the right to protect yourself. I’m not arguing that point at all. But in.. in the same way we have a right to protect ourselves to at least be inf… I don’t think what I am asking is too big a deal. Please inform us, when you are directing staff, who work equally for all five of us, you know, to change policy or to change the way they do business in this city. That’s what a Weak Mayor, Strong City Manager form of government is.

Huber – I wasn’t… I wasn’t.. uh… changing the way they did business. I was changing the way I did business.

Becerra – Which had an impact on the way they do business.

Huber – That’s true. Because I’m not going to sign another document as long as I’m mayor of this city and.. and I don’t believe any other mayor in the future because of the “Gotcha” politics would do any different than me to protect themselves when there is an inadvertent mistake to… someone to Armchair Quarterback later. OK? Armchair Quarterback is real simple to do. OK? Real simple. But you weren’t in the trenches. You didn’t have to deal with it. And to me, I was told that it was invalid and that was the end of it. You know… ahhhh… it’s just… it’s just.. the way it is. We can’t change the facts. I’ve said I’m sorry it happened. I don’t know what else I can do. I’ve changed the policies of the way I’m… I’m gonna do my signature. Period. It’s just like the… the… the letter to go… I don’t know if there are policies quite frankly, OK? But ask me to send a letter to the President of the United States when I just got hit with “Gotcha” politics without coming from the council, I’m not gonna do it. It’s coming before the council, it’s gonna be on our agenda. That’s the way it is. OK? You want to delegate that to the City Manager, that’s fine for me. And he can be on the receiving end of “Gotcha” politics. Or she.

Becerra – Well like.. like I said, I fully support your right to protect yourself and I support our right to be informed of when those actions take place. It’s not too much to ask. It’s an ethical and.. and it is a… it is a professional… ahhh… ya know, I think obligation of the City Manager and the City Attorney to keep us informed equally. The other issue…

Huber – Well I’m not disagreeing, by the way, I’m not disagreeing with you on that.

Becerra – Well..

Huber – That I’m not disagreeing with you on that.

Becerra – Well I think the issue we are disagreeing on is the “Gotcha” politics I…

Huber – Well it is “Gotcha” politics. There’s no question it’s…

Becerra – I say we are disagreeing on something and you say it’s “Gotcha” politics.

Huber – Well it is. It is “Gotcha” politics.”

Now doesn’t that take all?  And with this context our final e-mail for the day finally makes sense . . .,

“Dear Mitch,

About the only few things that the City Council agenda item on the MOU issue revealed was,

1 – The Mayor told the paper there was a new policy in place to ensure the incident wasn’t repeated, which makes it appear to the public that there are new city authorized procedures, when they are just his personal requirements before he signs something.

2 – If there is a city policy the Mayor disagrees with he is not going to follow policy.

3 – This is all “Gotcha” politics, just like the last time Becerra brought up a complaint about Huber, the incident with Leigh Nixon and the threat to the Chamber’s funding. This makes an excellent case to tie the truthfulness of Huber’s statements here with the Chamber incident because Huber, himself, has tied the two issues together under the banner of Becerra’s “Gotcha” politics. Big tactical error.

Don’t call us . . .,

Senor Sombra Del Delator”

Ok, so there you have it. I”m thinking I need to brush up on this other “gotcha” incident.  Or maybe, dear readers, you can send me your insights. [[hint, hint!]]

So this is it for this week’s inbox.  Wendy has just showed up here at the Airstream with Betty our psycho puppy bouncing up and down on her lead and its time for me to sign off until our next cheap shot gotcha armchair quarterbacking session. [[Snicker]]

See ya Simi Valley! You send em, I’ll print em!

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