In the weeks ahead, breaking news regarding several cases of fiscal misconduct will be finding their way into public discussion. The egregious nature of several will likely lead to widespread use of the term malfeasance.
Let’s take caution in our choice of words to be certain we characterize people and their actions clearly and fairly. An exact definition of malfeasance (in office) is difficult: there is no single legal consensus definition.
Malfeasance is generally defined as “a wrongful act which the actor has no legal right to do.” Many courts find malfeasance (in office) where there is “ignorance, inattention, or malice”, which implies no intent or knowledge is required.
Much of what we’ll hear, however, will probably trigger accusations of malfeasance.
Truth: the final frontier.
I’ve invested literally hundreds of hours pouring over a vast array of communications, agendas, minutes, resolutions, staff and consultant’s reports, spreadsheets and financial records from both the city and from Orange County.
I’m not alone. Several others, equally curious about Brea’s past fiscal practices and current fiscal policies, have invested similar time and energy… and come to similar conclusions.
What has been common practice in the past has cost Brea the loss of significant assets and revenue sources and has placed an undue burden upon tax payers to meet unconscionably large financial obligations well into the future.
There is clear evidence, going back several decades, of both ignorance and inattention to detail contributing to the failure of Council members to exercise the full due diligence their office and those who’ve elected them demand.
Malfeasance… I believe so. Malice… not so much. Let me explain.
I’ll point the finger…
Repeatedly it has been found that Council member’s information packets come up well short of including a full set of facts. Consistently, the missing information helps lead Council to forgone conclusions staff has predetermined are preferable.
Again and again it appears that staff has usurped the visionary role and authority of Council. While the evidence of malfeasance is frighteningly clear, at least to me and those digging into these matters, a couple of critical questions remain unanswered.
Obviously staff has the means and opportunity to play fast and loose with Brea’s financial future. What’s missing is motive. Why would our city staff, highly educated… the best and the brightest, do what they’ve done and to what end?
We may never find any answer to why and what for but we can cast a bright light upon this nightmare in the hopes that today’s Council will find the courage to challenge history and change the future.