NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCE….. OR IS THERE?
By Donna Westfall
Let’s just begin by calling this “The case against City Attorney Bob Black and his alternate, Attorney Martha Rice.”
When you first meet Bob Black be prepared to enjoy his affable, smooth style. Seemingly intelligent, knowldgeable about law and municipalities. He was a former Mayor in the city of Davis. He certainly has put in his years and learned a great deal on how to protect a city.
Here’s the problem I have with City Attorney Bob Black. He represents multiple agencies and individuals. I call that a conflict of interest. I’d like to see Crescent City have an attorney dedicated 100% to city business and NOT know everything about all the other agencies he represents.
I recall back in 2008, long-time resident, Jim Snow supported my run for city council. I remember him telling me, “Now, I just want to warn you that when they take you in that back room, I don’t want you to come out forgetting why we voted you in to office. Don’t let them turn you.”
Let me explain how they try to “turn you” into one of their “pod people.” (“Pod people” refers to the movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.)
Back when former City Clerk Dianne Nickerson was accused of miscounting the votes on the Proposition 218 protest vote count and in the first 5 months of my 4 year term of office, I met with City Attorney Bob Black to discuss potential resolutions.
During our conversation, I mentioned to City Attorney Bob Black that my husband started having unexplained seizures in 2008 and it affected his ability to work. I was given the distinct impression that should we be able to work things out, (meaning work things out with the the Dianne Nickerson thing) it would be no problem helping my husband find a job. This could be looked at as a bribe.
Then we turned to the issue of how to start resolving the problem of Dianne Nickerson and the miscounting of the Prop 218 vote. My City Attorney, Bob Black stated to me, “we can minimize or sanitize……” and at that point my ethics thermometer went SPROING! And that folks, is how this city government works.
First, the carrot…. promises of a job…. and job security I would imagine. Then, the trade off. If we can sweep this under the carpet, all is well. Sure, job security would have been nice. But, at what price? Selling my soul and forgetting the constituents that voted me into office?
When Doug and I first moved to this City we had plenty of money in our bank accounts. Today, we live month to month like so many others in this community.
The problem I have with City Attorney Bob Black is that in order to make this city goverenment work, there is this swarmy, unethical and boarderline illegality going on. And those along with loss of constitutional rights are some of the reasons why I sued the city when they censured me by resolution instead of investigating on trumped up charges to help stop or slow down my investigation into corruption on the WWTP.
OK, let’s have a short recap before going on to the next item which is: ETHICS, the CODE of ETHICS and how it allows our city council members to lie, discredit, ridicule, control, minimize, marginalize and GET AWAY WITH IT!
RECAP: The city council under Mayor Irene Tynes, 2007, approves the 1 and only bid in a 4-1 vote with Wahlund Construction to do the Wastewater Treatment Plant Project for $37 + million (Councilmember Mike Scavuzzo the dissenting vote.)
Construction is started and OOPS…. 6 months later the city decides they need to do a Prop 218 protest vote. THIS is not illegal. Let me repeat. Starting construction and then doing the Prop 218 protest vote is not illegal. A flaw in the system for sure, but not illegal. The powers that be felt it was a foregone conclusion that everyone in the city would embrace the project and not object to the doubling of their sewer rates. WRONG!
Another way to look at it is this: Start construction and then point out to the cash cows otherwise known as the ratepayers, that the City would be sued for breach of contract if the Prop 218 vote failed and sewer rates were not allowed to increase. That’s called putting a noose around the neck mentality. A great strategy wouldn’t you agree?
Ultimately, these decisions resulted in encumbering our ratepayers and City to the tune of $43.8 million loan to the State of California for the next 29 years in a community with 63% at or below poverty level and less than 30,000 population in the entire county with the country going into a recession. And then, let’s not forget our Public Works Director, Jim Barnts, is also a major real estate developer and/or partner or part owner in building projects, most notably low income apartments behind Wal Mart and Ace Hardware. So, we have the cart before the horse…. construction started before the Protest vote which would ultimately determine how the rates would increase to pay off the loan. We have conflicts of interest because afterall, it was Jim Barnts duty to try to “sell” this to the public during workshops. Being new to the area, I didn’t buy in to it. Neither did my new friends and neighbors. Not knowing the history of corruption in this town, I thought involving myself in the political arena could correct some wrongs. Thus, I ran and won for City Council…. a job that was supposed to be part time.
Having said all that to get to the next point. ETHICS and the CODE OF ETHICS and how it ultimately affects our constitutional rights. When Councilmembers Murray and Slert decided that I should be censured for questioning Jim Barnts on whether or not he was getting kick-backs connected to the WWTP, the city attorney’s office was called up in open session to address the issue. Their office came back with a RESOLUTION TO CENSURE me. Not an investigation. After all, had an investigation been conducted, the odds are that they could never have censured me. But putting that aside, and getting back to voting as a block, all you need are a minimum of 3 like-minded people. In this case, Slert, Murray, Schellong and Dennis Burns totaling 4.
In other cities, it’s up to the public to make complaints about elected officials. In this city, only the city council members complaints are considered. Thus city council members may lie with immunity and get away with it. How do I know? I spent the last year learning about the law in Federal Court that’s how.
In other cities, there is a policy and procedure to addressing complaints. In this city, there is none. Only the whim of 3 like-minded people. 3 or more can ridicule, bad mouth, discredit…. in other words, obliterate the Code of Ethics because they can get away with it. How do I know? I’ve been the target and there’s been no one to hold them accountable.
What are the chances that the complaints made by signature gatherers on Charles Slerts recall; Daniel Kelly and Amy Bradley will be addressed? SLIM TO NONE.
What are the chances that there will be a policy and procedure to dealing with complaints made by the public against their elected officials. SLIM TO NONE. WHY? Because we still have Katherine Murray, Kelly Schellong sitting on the council both puppets of Martha McClure with the latest appointee,
Richard “Rick” Holley. That’s why. What does Rick Holley have to say about all this? Don’t
yet, but the word is circulating that Martha McClure made sure he was elected to replace Slert’s position.
What have other communities done about this? Recalled their elected officials successfully for ethics violations.
While this city government currently delights in having City Attorney Bob Black win case after case (with the big exception of the Michelle Barber case…$250,000… which affected our Police Chief Doug Plack), one should ask about the price tag? How much did the city pay Attorney Black to keep Measure B off the ballot (to repeal sewer rate increase)? How much to fight the former Finance Director Joei Sanchez cases? Is his methodology to win (and continue to earn over 6 figure income from the city), based on experience in loopholes and ruthlessness? Is this the type of “accountability, honesty and integrity” we want to be known for?
We have a city where the majority are “POOR”. “Disenfranchised”. “Couldn’t care less”. So why bother to care about the POOR people when it’s so much easier or at least more expedient to care about those who still have money and know how to manipulate the city? Our City Attorney, Bob Black is a smart man in that he watches out for himself. His experience has taught him that watching out for the POOR doesn’t pay. He was forthcoing with me and explained his background. But, don’t take my word for it. Ask him about his background.