When Is A Law Not A Law?

Well, it seems a law isn’t a law unless City Attorney Markman decides to give it his blessing and Councilman Vargas likes it.

At the March 20 meeting of City Council, the Consent calendar item amending the City Manager’s employment contract triggered a strong public objection to the unsupported dismissal of Measure T, passed by a majority of Brea voters in 2012 and limiting Council and senior staff compensation.

The law matters.

A half dozen or so residents decided to address Council during Matters from the Audience.

Three folks, all admittedly candidates for Council this year, addressed a Consent item about park maintenance, the homeless situation in Brea and Senator Moorlach’s recent study that put Brea fiscally next to last in OC cities.

Measure T and the City Manager contract wasn’t on the radar of any candidate for Council. Thee red flags!

The other speakers all focused in on the law, the contract, the damned good reasons the law should be upheld and the contract pulled from the Consent calendar… subjected to public hearing.

Let’s talk about the initiative process.

The initiative process is a form of direct democracy. Citizens draft a “measure” which they then propose by petition; if the petition receives sufficient popular support, the measure is placed on the ballot and can be enacted into law by a direct vote of citizens.

Unless Measure T can be shown to be in conflict with Constitutional law, it is law in Brea and enforceable.

Again, I suggest that the law is the law. Write the contract accordingly. Through negotiation, Mr. Gallardo can agree to it’s stipulations or reject them. He may also challenge them in court.

So, what the hell happened?

Let’s start here then I’ll give you a rundown of events. The rule of law is the principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by decisions of individual government officials.

lawDuring the “Response to Public Inquiries” Mayor Parker, rather than pulling the City Manager Contract from the Consent calendar (Item 18) as had been requested by several residents, allowed the City Manager to defer to comments from the City Attorney.

First came a brief and mostly unintelligible description of the amendment to the City Manager Employment Contract Agreement, which had received substantial objections, mostly centering around the restrictions imposed by Measure T. Then Mr. Markman jumped into a rationalization of why the law approved by Brea voters in 2012 has been largely ignored.

“(The speakers) are blasting something that was done very carefully, in public… you will recall that when Measure T was adopted it was our obligation to analyze it because some parts of it we saw were obviously valid and had to be implemented… like the health benefits being deprived from the Council… some of the other provisions we didn’t think, for various reasons, were enforceable or valid…”

Let me stop you right there Mr. Markman. As you pointed out, Measure T was adopted. A majority of Brea voters passed Measure T with the intent that it become law. Not unlike when they voted to establish a paramedic service… and we know what a fiasco that has turned out to be.

Your obligation, Mr. Markman was to implement the wishes of the voters, NOT analyze it. Who is the “we” you mention that decided some “provisions we didn’t think… were enforceable or valid” – you and Tim O’Donnell?

Because another unnamed city has let a similar initiative languish without implementation is not a good reason why Brea should mirror the same groundless behavior. They, whoever that is, were wrong… ergo you were wrong.

Mr. Vodhanel, during “Matters,” clearly described the history of unsound counsel that cost Brea nearly a million dollars in unnecessary legal expenses… half of which ended up in the RGW coffers.

Any chance you’ll be giving that back?

I don’t care what “thoroughgoing presentation with PowerPoint” you gave Counsel in 2013. If it’s intent was to dismiss a law demanded by Brea voters it was just one more sample of unsound counsel.

I don’t care that you attempted and failed to “negotiated with Mr. Vodhanel directly to try to get some sort of compromise resolution.” Once Brea voters made their wishes known, the original proponent placing the measure on the ballot was no longer in the gunner’s seat… amending the law should be done in a manner that, again, gave Brea voters a voice.

Arguing on behalf of the amended contract.

Now Mr. Markman’s comments, having successfully dismissed any relevance of Measure T or the Brea voters who approved it, turned to yet another prattling of legalese, the sole purpose to rebuff the law and dismantle every objection to Mr. Gallardo’s amended contract.

At what point did the City Attorney’s job description add the responsibility of playing agent for the City Manager? Take your “show me the money” propaganda Mr. Markman and stick to your job description.

Vargas jumps in… puts both feet in his mouth.

lawCouncilman Vargas interrupted the normal flow of the meeting to interject comments relative to Item 18, without objection from Mayor Parker. Totally inappropriate.

With no motion on the floor to approve the Consent calendar or to pull Item 18 for individual consideration… this was little more that grandstanding.

“I would like to make a couple of additional comments on Item 18 without pulling it as I’m prepared to support this Consent calendar.” Vargas said. No objection from anyone on Council. Wimps. Are you really that susceptible to being bullied by someone you all know is in way over their head?

After claiming to be the biggest and most vocal proponent of Measures T and U, Councilman Vargas cites some piece of correspondence from an anonymous woman to allow him to springboard into putting his two cents in without challenge. Anonymous? Put this mystery letter into the public record so we can all see it. No need to redact anything… it’s anonymous!

First, he squashed the four mile limit claiming the city would have to spend large sums for moving expenses and the provision of a silent second. Whoa Mr. Vargas!

A silent second is a type of second mortgage loan that is part of a home sale transaction without the knowledge of the first lender. In most instances, silent second home financing is a form of fraud and thus highly illegal.

Right, wrong or otherwise… Councilman Vargas seems to have dismissed any possibility for further negotiation with the City Manager.

But wait… there’s more!

Councilman Vargas then addresses the limitations to the contract imposed by Measure T and Council’s amending the term from three to five years… which requires explanation, to be sure.

Vargas points out that the City Manager is waiving a 3.2% salary increase, driven by a provision in Measure T for an automatic adjustment of 10% higher than the next highest employee. “I never liked that provision… it was put in long ago and I don’t like it.”

Your use of the unilateral dismissal strikes me the same way,” it was put in long ago and I don’t like it.” Okay Mr. Vargas, you’ve used up all of your unilateral overrides and embarrassed this community enough. What you like or don’t like has no bearing on the law or it’s enforcement. What a preposterous idea.

If, one day, you decide you don’t like the speed limit on Birch Street will we be dodging your big red pickup? If you decide you don’t like laws prohibiting driving under the influence can we expect to see that big red pickup weaving in and out of traffic… putting lives at risk?

You may say that’s just silly… but your rejection of a law adopted by Brea voters on a whim is just as silly. Maybe even more so.

Badda-bing… badda-boom.

With that, Councilman Vargas moves to approve the entire Consent Calendar, someone mumbled a second (we’ll need to see the minutes to determine who it was), there was no additional discussion from any Council member and the whole list was approved – badda-bing… badda-boom.

If that weren’t enough, fast forward to Council Announcements and the only one to speak is Mayor Parker. Unwilling to quash the inappropriate remarks of Mr. Vargas earlier, he launches into his own remarks after the horse is well out of the barn.

Citing that Council is only capable of doing the great job they do because they’re able to hire the very best employees to support them. He continues suggesting it’s Brea’s ability to be salary competitive that brings us “competent and effective” staff we have.

How’s that been working for you Mayor Parker?

Mayor Parker concludes his four minute unsolicited, unnecessary and unwanted comments with an effusive back patting and rationalization session.

Please… don’t let me see his name on the ballot ever again. Not even for dog catcher.

 

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10 thoughts on “When Is A Law Not A Law?

  1. This is a lot to take in Rick. I have to say it’s impossible to fault your logic and I agree, a law is a law and Measure T is a law. Again I used the streaming video to watch both “matters” and the dialog you reviewed. Council should do the same. They will be embarrassed by their failure to act.

    How is it that so many people fail to see right through the pretense of both council and staff? They repeatedly have turned a blind eye to public opinion.

    I’m also shocked to discover that you’ve been temporarily blocked from Nextdoor. I can only assume it was an orchestrated effort by those disagreeing with you and frustrated by your ability to better communicate the facts. I hope to see you return to Nextdoor soon. You are missed by many I’m sure.

    • Alexandra… Looking over the blog posts for the last 3 to 4 years a reoccurring theme emerges… they only pretend to care and even local politics is divisive and disinterested in hearing what the people have to say. We are currently without meaningful candidates for 2018, at least any who have expressed their intentions in a way that we can believe.

      You’re not the only one suggesting there was more than a little behind the scenes scheming to shut me up on Nextdoor. The general feeling amongst my friends and neighbors is that my membership will one day soon be restored. Time will tell.

  2. Ow! The truth hurts. As a joke, lawyers are licensed to lie because they can twist the truth into an apparent falsity and it is opposing counsel’s job to untwist it. When there is only one attorney, who he represents is the key.

    The community website, Nextdoor, and other neighbors may have sidelined you for being too controversial and upsetting, as its interest is more to generate a profit by selling targeted ads of sponsors and maintain the largest captive audience. Cynical as it may be, is collected data sold to an entity like Cambridge Analytica?

    • Sue… I’ve long wondered about what role the City Attorney really played. Too many times it seemed he was at odds with the people of Brea. In the 45+ years he and his firm have had the contract for legal services I wonder how much they’ve really cost us in settlements and unnecessary legal fees?

      I’ve been contacted by over a dozen folks, some Leads even, all sure that my removal from Nextdoor was a collaborative effort spearheaded by, as one friend put it, ”the usual suspects.” I’m in communication with Nextdoor Support regarding getting my membership reinstated. I’m hopeful that I will return soon.

      The blindsided removal, reminiscent of my dismissal from the Planning Commission by Mr. Vargas, makes a sad statement about the ethics and morality of some of our neighbors.

      It also underscores the growing role Nextdoor is playing in discussions of important local issues and politics. In the run up to the 2018 election there are those who already tire of seeing the “Rock The Boat” button.

      Given the small amount of personal information we share to become Nextdoor members, I don’t see much of a threat in that regard.

      Harvesting from content, though I believe Nextdoor denies that happens, could produce some serious big data.

      Knowing how many Breans have an abject fear of coyotes, which real estate agents consistently violate TOS to post promotional threads and the number of garage sales per capita has little political value I would imagine.

  3. Why hasn’t the city attorney position been put out to bid? There are much more qualified firms out there.

    • Well JB… I’ve heard Council members whisper the same question to me for almost two decades. None of them have ever come up with the answer or the cojones to do what everyone else believes would be best for Brea.

    • Hey… noticed you closed your account on Nextdoor (or got booted off like me) – wassup JB?

      Nextdoor 1

  4. You obviously can’t see it but there is a thread on Nextdoor about your disappearing and people are either angry or confused. It feels like there was a group attempt to silence you right when major issues are being drug into the light and candidates are polishing up their speeches for the Forth of July.

    Someone posted that you’ll be back April 30. Is that true?

    • Manny… Yes, I have been given 30 days in the hole. I am buoyed by all of the support I have received and look forward to returning soon.

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