Unilateral What?

Unilateral dismissal, and it’s been a scrofulous canker festering within the Brea Municipal Code for 25 years.

A majority of Council members turned city hall into a complete circus last night. The only ones interested in honestly addressing the real issues on this matter were Mayor Hupp and City Attorney Jim Markman.

If you have the stomach to watch this travesty go to THIS LINK to view the streaming video. Warning: this item is 40+ minutes in length and the results are zero.

Can’t tell the players without a program.

Hupp.

unilateralAs soon as the item was opened for discussion Mayor Hupp identified the key issue, the unilateral dismissal provision within the municipal code… pointing out that removing it and editing the Council Code of Conduct to little more than a reprise of the amendment to the municipal code would solve 99% of the issues at hand.

From there, as I am about to clarify, everything went to hell in a hand basket. Mayor Hupp’s thoughtful and unchallengeable identification of the real issue and a relatively simple means of addressing it got lost in a blizzard of disconnected hyperbole rooted more in opinion than fact.

Parker.

unilateralMPT Parker, as is becoming all too common, became bogged down in his own rhetoric and, after the City Attorney poked holes in his “solution,” Parker became withdrawn and contributed little of value.

Once again I was surprised that MPT Parker made no mention of being amongst the Council members unanimously approving unilateral dismissal in 1992, along with Mayor Bernie Dunlap and Council members Nelson, Perry and Wiser.

Marick.

unilateralCouncil member Marick, as she has done on many occasions, tried to sabotage any meaningful progress by layering on additional demands beyond what was called for on the agenda or in the staff report.

Though she admitted several times, “I know this isn’t on the agenda…” she persisted to insist the topic be broadened and brought back later.

She pulled the same garbage when she and then Mayor Murdock blindsided Council with a list of ridiculous extra demands upon the Madrona development.

Also, when the Central Park Brea development CFD was on the agenda for approval she voiced a shared concern with Council members Moore and Simonoff about double taxation and the lack of a sunset clause to cover assets with fixed costs.

Only when City Attorney Markman assured her that a full review of all CFD’s and Maintenance & Lighting Districts (M&LD) could be conducted anytime Council chose did she vote to approve the CFD, allowing the project to move forward.

Nothing has happened since on either matter. “Revisiting the issue at a later date” has become a euphemism for sweeping things under the rug.

Simonoff.

unilateralCouncil member Simonoff’s only contribution was to challenge Council member Marick’s obvious deflection. After 20+ years on Council and 5 years working with Ms. Marick, I would have thought he realized what his interjection would cause.

Each time he challenged Ms. Marick she emphatically doubled down on her objections. Seriously, Council member Simonoff should abandon the countless “cityspeak” cliché’s that have become his go to phrases when he has nothing of significance to offer.

By the way Mr. Simonoff, your challenge that employing the unilateral dismissal has only happened once in Brea’s 100 year history is quite a stretch since it wasn’t part of the municipal code until 1992. That’s 25 years Mr. Simonoff.

The manner in which Council member Vargas employed it, however, will likely remain a blemish on Brea history for 100 years.

Lets just say that Council member Simonoff could have played a much more material role in reaching a workable conclusion if he would set aside his perpetual concern with how he’s being perceived by others.

Vargas.

unilateralIt was Council member Vargas’ unprecedented use of the unilateral dismissal provision in the BMC on September 26, 2016 that triggered this year long process. It’s not surprising he sat, sulked and rolled his eyes as everyone else offered their two cents.

Finally, when Mayor Hupp made a motion to eliminate the unilateral dismissal from the BMC, he seconded the motion… not because he really supported the idea but because he though it might soften the blow using it will have if he runs for a third term

He withdrew his second later when he realized what it was. What a surprise that, like a petulant child, he decided to take his ball and go home – letting the motion die for lack of a second.

He punctuated his withdrawal by slinging angry accusations at fellow Council members for wasting time and expense on a meaningless matter.

Markman.

mad as hellOkay… time for me to eat a little crow.

For as harsh as I’ve been towards City Attorney Markman, he along with Mayor Hupp, were the only two who clearly understood the real issues and were focused on finding the most sensible and effective solutions to resolve them.

Mr. Markman did mention, “The municipal code is a without cause at will removal by a majority of Council or the person who appoints” – au contraire Mr. Markman… by the person who nominates. Appointments are ratified by a Council majority.

No single member of Council has more authority than their peers anywhere else in the BMC. All are members in equal standing. The unilateral dismissal creates an unjustifiable advantage to one member.

Markman also drove home the rational for eliminating any attempt to fix the problem by editing the Code of Conduct. He pointed out that it provided for dismissal done for cause, a real slippery slope.

He also pointed out, “It’s (the Code of Conduct) overridden by a code section (BMC) that says something else.”

Bingo.

The Code of Conduct has been a smokescreen from the moment I brought it’s contradicting language to the City Manager’s attention – five months after raising the issues with the BMC.

The Code of Conduct is a policy statement subject to modification at any time, in a study session, beyond the scrutiny of most Breans and is not law.

Let me say that again. The Council Code of Conduct is NOT law! The Brea Municipal Code IS law and overrides all lesser documents.

Thank you Mr. Markman for attempting to nudge this unruly body towards an honest assessment of the real issues.

Well, now what?

Thanks to Council member Marick’s diversionary tactics and Council’s inability to muster itself into some unified approach to a matter that’s been on or near the table since last December… it’s fallen into the black hole of “let’s circle back to this later.”

What a total crock.

Final thoughts.

Everyone kept harping about how important it is to protect Commissioners and Committee members from the possibility of any public embarrassment… why it’s important to make their execution swift, silent and out of the public view.

Thanks to the horribly inept unilateral dismissal conducted by Council member Vargas last year and the protracted process I’ve had to wrestle with ever since to seek some sort of reasonable solution… my “execution” has been anything but swift, silent or out of the public view.

Nice job folks. Quit fooling yourself and get about the business of governing instead of playing at local politics.

 

18 thoughts on “Unilateral What?

  1. Mayor Hupp started the matter by explaining that all but two cities in the city attorney’s research required a majority vote of the full council to remove a commission member which is fair enough. That fact should have been enough to realize that something was amiss in Brea and that was the solution.

    Brea’s existing situation is the practical reality that a commissioner has to be a full time minion fully subservient to the appointing council member. This is prima facie a problem ab initio.

    The Brea Municipal Code should with respect to commission members be appointed and dismissed by a majority of council members. Period.

    • Tom… Mayor Hupp’s clarity was offset by the smoke screens ignited by Gallardo with that ridiculous staff report and Parker and Marick.

      A Commissioner has no responsibility to be anyone’s minion, to their nominating Council member or anyone else for that matter. The fact that Vargas’ dismissal letter both suggested that servitude and enumerated various “causes” that vacated the cities right to dismiss without cause poses a big problem for the city. In simple terms, the city is lucky I did’t sue their ass off.

      And yes, Commissioners and Committee members should be appointed or removed by a majority vote of Council. Marick can doodle around all day with her liberal progressive ideas how candidates should be nominated and what role politics plays in the process but, bottom line, it takes a majority vote to approve appointment or dismissal.

  2. I would like to say a few words regarding the Council meeting Tuesday, November 7, 2017.

    After reviewing the information and video of this meeting, it appears to me that Mayor Hupp and Mr. Markman seemed to agree and were focused on finding the most sensible and effective solutions to the real issue.

    Council member, Marick seemed to side-track the issue at hand several time. Yet, in almost the same breath, she recognizes and admits to “I know this isn’t on the agenda…” What exactly was her point? Was she trying to sabotage any meaningful progress to the real issue at hand?

    I am not surprised at Councilmember Vargas’s disengaging behavior when other members chimed in and offered their thoughts on the municipal code. However, Mr. Vargas showed his hand when Mayor Hupp made a motion to eliminate the unilateral dismissal from the BMC. First, Mr. Vargas seconded the motion and he withdrew his second later. What did that act accomplish; it let the motion die for lack of a second. Is this an act of obstruction?

    Why is Mr. Vargas still a council member in light of the fact that he is always pensive and irritated during the meetings? I am at a loss on this subject.

    As far as I’m concerned, Mr. Simonoff and MPT Parker’s input on the subject was lackluster, to say the least.

    Bottom line, Council member’s diversionary tactics and Council’s inability to come together in a unified manner to correct a matter that’s been ongoing since last December is to disesteem the Municipal Code and the residents of Brea.

    Let me finish with the words of Rick Clark. The Council Code of Conduct is NOT law! The Brea Municipal Code IS law and overrides all lesser documents.

    Thank you, Rick Clark, for trying for so long to right a wrong.

  3. If the main concern among council members is that the removal process would be in public view, why not just hold the removal vote in closed session, similar to how city staff HR matters are discussed?

    • Jason… That is NOT their main concern, that’s pretending to care. Do you really think these last 13 months have not had their embarassing moments for me? Angry moments? Frustrated moments?

      No one minded when the reappointment of John Koos to Planning by Ron Garcia was pulled from the mass vote and debated at length in the general session.

      Far too much city business is conducted outside public view at study sessions held at painfully inconvenient times… or buried deep within consent items that easily slip by public scrutiny.

      The main issue is empowering a single Council member with authority equal to a majority vote and the opportunity to exercise it without the counsel or agreement of other Council members. Nowhere in the Brea Municipal Code is there a similar provision. Nowhere in North Orange County except the struggling City of Fullerton will you find a municipal code with a similar provision.

      If that isn’t Council’s main concern… it damn well should be.

    • Ken… I agree. Time is long overdue to elect Council members who will embrace the job of representing the people rather than getting their egos stroked or constantly trying to appear to be the smartest one in the room.

      I’m told that after the meeting Vargas and Marick were seen whispering to each other… whatever that means. Vargas probably sees Marick’s monkey wrench as an opportunity to bring this to a grinding halt.

      Apparently Vargas thinks he “won” Tuesday night.

  4. You warned me. That’s 40 minutes I’ll never get back. They all seem consumed with driving their point home with little consideration for what anyone else is saying. Thats not a legislative body. Thats a bar fight with people wearing suits.

    I know this should be more about issues than people, but they make it too easy. Simonoff and Parker are obviously past their prime. Marick has missed the whole point of the discussion and Vargas just wishes this would all go away.

    Your point about things always getting swept under the rug hit the nail squarely on the head. Hupp needs to get this back on the agenda before they reorganize and she loses whatever extra influence being Mayor affords.

    • Henry… You clearly didn’t fall asleep watching the video. I can’t argue with any of your observations. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Mayor Hupp could get this back on their agenda for the next meeting, the 29th!

    • Vargas has been off the rails ever since he squeaked back into office. I thought he’d grown up and I voted for him. I’ll never do that again. Is he using the same lawyer he used when he sued the city?

      • I was being a little flip there. I don’t really know if he has an attorney or not or whether he can afford one. Is there a way to find out how much his campaign committee has in the bank?

    • Brea’s public records include campaign (financial) filings and for all currently elected officials you can find them HERE. Click the folder named “Elected Officials” and the whole history is there.

      • Seems Vargas has less than $600 bucks in his campaign account. Considering how many of his followers have peeled off since 2014 I’d say a run for another term is pretty unlikely.

  5. I have to admit I’ve had a very hard time getting my arms around this. It really seems to be a simple issue that has been smothered with an avalanche of legalese, statute-speak, and gobbledygook.

    After reading all of the comments, and reviewing the above city hall sound bites, it really just boils down to power. Who is in charge of the city of Brea? The staff? The city attorney? The council? Or the residents? The four council members are saying they want the final say, that the citizens are not deserving of any due process, and they will decide for us who comes and goes on all commissions.

    While this may be a wonderful outcome in Utopia, one wonders what the fear is of having a true checks and balances system for appointed officials ?

    I personally would say the people should have the power ergo the city code needs to be amended. To take the opposing view, one would literally have to think they are smarter than everyone else involved, now, and for eternity.

    Thank you

    • I agree Dwight. I’m concerned that if Council does not make the changes recommended by Rick/Brea Matters that we’ll see a serious decline in the number of people willing to volunteer for commission and committee appointments and a similar decline in the quality of candidates running for Council.

      We’ll end up with a political environment that has succeeded in taking “the people” completely out of the equation. That is unthinkable.

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