By Donna Westfall
Over the course of the last eight years, there were a number of unsuccessful recalls initiated. I know because I instigated or supported them against my then fellow council members; Charles Slert, Kathryn Murray, Kelly Schellong and Dennis Burns.
There were also lawsuits filed against me by the City, and against the City by me.
One of the first lawsuits that should have been filed, however, concerned the very first Proposition 218 count on the sewer rate increase. We had proof that we won. Chalk that one up to ignorance. I didn’t know that we should have sued. That’s what happens in other municipalities. They sue.
My philosophy had to change. Up until then, my philosophy was that lawsuits were the last resort. Having lived in Crescent City, Del Norte County for 8 years, I’ve learned that at times it has to be the first resort.
Let’s have a history lesson. In 2010, I went to court with Attorney Tim Biddle representing me from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in front of Judge Morrison to get the sewer rate repeal onto the November 2010 ballot.
In the City of Dixon, their taxpayers association went before a Judge to get their sewer rate repeal on the ballot.
The Judge told them in court; “If you don’t like it, get rid of them.”
The “THEM” meant the city council members that voted to increase the rates.
That’s what they did. Last month, September, the Mayor and three council members in Dixon were served with recall notices. Let’s look at the recall for their Mayor:
- The grounds of the recall are as follows:
- We, the citizens of Dixon, accuse Mayor Jack Batchelor, Jr. of failing to affirm his oath of office by refusing to uphold the citizens’ right to vote given by Article XIII C & D of the California Constitution and agreeing to use ratepayers’ money to sue the citizens to prevent that right.
- We further accuse Mr. Batchelor of acting against the citizens, many who were economically disadvantaged, by not enforcing existing ordinances in order to get a pet project accomplished.
- We find Mr. Batchelor tyrannical in his approach to governance. He has proven his allegiance to city staff rather than the citizens by championing higher salaries and benefits while refusing to address long overdue projects except through higher rates and taxes.
- Mr. Batchelor believes he knows better than his constituents what is best for them and their budgets.
- We find Mr. Batchelor to be argumentative rather than receptive to citizen input. He has attempted to aid developers rather than adhere to Dixon’s General Plan concepts.
- Restricting the right of citizens to address their representatives by establishing unnecessary time limits on those citizens is the final straw and proof he wants no opposition during his reign.
- Recall Mayor Batchelor now.
Let’s evaluate the similarities which I highlighted in red. Take, for example, Crescent City resident, Ellen Hawkins public comment, about giving up her magazines, TV and internet and asked the City Council what they were willing to give up before increasing rates again.
Did the City ever consider cutting salaries? If they can increase our sewer or water rates by doubling or tripling them, did they ever consider decreasing their salaries by half? How about 15%? 10%? 5%?
Let’s look at the next recall notice:
- The grounds of the recall are as follows:
- We, the citizens of Dixon, accuse Councilman Steve Bird of failing to affirm his oath of office by refusing to uphold the citizens’ right to vote given by Article XIII C & D of the California Constitution and agreeing to use ratepayers’ money to sue the citizens to prevent that right.
- We further accuse Steve Bird of abrogation of his duty as an independent councilman in failing to adequately question staff on any and all subjects, and being inattentive and disrespectful to citizens who address him during council meetings.
- We find that Mr. Bird rarely challenges the staff or the consensus of the council, does not research subjects, and relies on the feedback of a small group of his supporters.
- Mr. Bird has politically and financially paid back his governmental supporters through higher wages and benefits packages while overdue projects such as drainage and the Parkway Boulevard overpass remain unsolved.
- Mr. Bird’s priorities are not to the citizens butfor political expediency.
- Mr. Bird has violated his oath of office by voting to institute a “civility” ordinance and limiting First Amendment rights for both freedom of speech and redress of grievances.
- Recall Steve Bird now.
Let’s analyze this: Remember the Grand Jury report of 2009? Of course not. So let me refresh your memory. One of the observations was that Former Public Works Director, who was Jim Barnts, was given too much authority. And the council relied of his recommendations. The council did not challenge Mr. Barnts. He said, “Jump,” and they said, “How High?”
Or take for example limiting 1st Amendment rights for both freedom of speech and redress of grievances. Kathryn Murray shut off Gini Marie Aland’s mic during public comment and had her escorted out of chambers for mentioning the word, “fluoride.” (Refer to article published May 22, 2012 in crescentcitytimes.com, “Constitutional Rights obliterated by Kathryn Murray.”
She and Charles Slert were the ones that led the charge to censure me in using the Code of Ethics as the sledgehammer to shut me up about corruption and fraud on the Wastewater Treatment Plant project (WWTP).
Now the Code of Ethics is a joke and a very bad one because it’s being used like blackmail to get rid of good politicians rather than chastising the bad ones. Just look at the Solid Waste Authority Management Board meeting wherein Roger Gitlin finally resigned. He and Mike Sullivan wanted answers to missing funds. Not the other board members. Why is that?
Gitlin and Sullivan voted against increased fees at the dump. Enea and Holley voted for. Why is that? Who is looking out for the ratepayers? Gitlin and Sullivan.
Who was forced to resign?
Does this make any sense?
When our elected officials rule by rubber stamping and act like bobble heads, I believe it’s time to get rid of them. Will there be recalls and lawsuits in our Crescent City/Del Norte County’s future?
Most assuredly yes.
One thought on “Reasons for Recalls and Lawsuits”
Great article Donna, now is the time to start informing the public all of the dirty deeds by both city council and board of supervisors…some of these elected have been in a position far too long. Martha McClure and DAve Finigan 20 years…need to go…Kathryn Murray, needs to go….what we need is fresh blood and new outlooks….someone who practices their due diligence….not sit on their bottoms, and eat bon bons