Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Looking For Answers From Kim Barlow


In the midst of trying to figure out how much of Southern California remains unburned, I submitted a letter to the editor to the Daily Pilot addressing the subject of Costa Mesa City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow's recent letter published on those pages. You can read her letter here.

The Pilot published a version of my letter this morning. It was edited for space and to correct what they thought were errors. Unfortunately, their "fixes" only further complicated things. For example, I misspelled the judge's name in the last sentence of my submission. They "fixed" that problem by misspelling it another way!

So, in what may be a feeble attempt at clarity, the following is my submission to them - with the judge's name spelled correctly. I've highlighted items deleted in the Daily Pilot in italics:

***

Letter to the Editor, Daily Pilot

I read Costa Mesa City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow's "Sounding Off" commentary, (Peelman's missed oath doesn't negate his principles), published on these pages October 20, 2007 with great interest. Her attempt to clarify the role of Peelman as "our prosecutor", while thorough, left me with a few questions.

When she says, "The City Council does not determine who gets prosecuted, nor does it direct what charges may be pursued, when and under what circumstances charges will be filed, whether a case should be dismissed at some point in time during its course, or whether to appeal a decision adverse to the people.", I find myself wondering just who works for whom? In the dismissed Acosta case the City Council held numerous closed session meetings over many months in which the case was discussed. Are we to believe that these sessions were "one way streets", with Barlow telling the council what is happening without the opportunity for the council - her boss - to "provide direction"?

If that's the case, what happens in the pending federal case filed by Acosta against Mayor Mansoor, Chief Hensley and The City if the defendants wish to try to find common ground for a settlement? Will the attorney ignore that direction if he feels his case is strong?

I certainly don't pretend to have legal training and I'm not being critical here, I just want to know how this "system of justice" is supposed to work.
I want to know just how much authority, responsibility and influence our elected officials have in this kind of a situation. It sounds like Ms. Barlow is saying, "none, none and none."

When Ms. Barlow tells us that Mr. Peelman, her associate from Jones & Mayer, should not be taken to task for failing to meet a legal requirement for a prosecutor - which caused the Acosta case to be dismissed - I become concerned. If Mr. Peelman is not responsible for this gaffe, who is?
Is the judge responsible because she enforced the rule? Is the defense attorney responsible because she brought it up? Who do we, the people, look to as the party responsible? Even though I hold Ms. Barlow in high regard, this sounds just a teeny bit self-serving.

Ever since Jones & Mayer was contracted to perform the job of Costa Mesa City Attorney, represented primarily by Ms. Barlow, it appeared to me that we were getting good return on that investment. We, the residents of Costa Mesa, really can't judge that, though, since much of what happens occurs behind closed doors. We are not privy to the legal advice she provides, nor the council's questions of her. We don't know whether she frequently has to rein them in to avoid costly legal problems or not. We are left only to judge by the outcome - as in the Acosta case.

Despite Ms. Barlow's excellent account, based on letters and postings on the Daily Pilot blog, there are many people in this community who still find it curious that charges were filed by the prosecutor for the city after the District Attorney's office chose not to do so, and that those charges were filed only after Acosta filed his federal case. Whether it is or is not the case, it looks like we, the city, chose to try to teach Mr. Acosta a lesson - to show him his proper place - for acting in a disrespectful manner towards the mayor at the earlier meeting in December of 2005. It looks like we were willing to spend thousands of taxpayers dollars on a case that would generate $1,000 in fines. None of that, in my opinion, makes our city look very good.

Ms. Barlow ends her commentary with the following statement: "Whether you agree with the decision to prosecute Acosta or with the judge's order dismissing the case, the guiding principle for every prosecutor remains the same. Swearing one more oath does not and cannot change that." Well, apparently Judge Kelly MacEachern felt differently, so who are we to believe?

***

That it - the way I submitted it to the Pilot which was sliced and diced to fit their pages and, apparently, to tone it down a little bit.

I don't know about you, but I'm not very comfortable with the way this situation has evolved. In my opinion, Kim Barlow shouldn't have published her letter. It only served to rip a scab off a festering wound and ended up generating more questions than answers.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Bruce Krochman said...

I started to weigh in over there on the commentary surrounding her letter and yours. I am a bit out of sorts with the melee going on over there and have been a bit turned off to the point I am not posting much if at all. I am sure a subject will come up that will spur me on, but for now...

In any case, I am a bit concerned that our city council does not have a say in such matters. to me that is tantamount to writing this law firm a blank check. Unless they are on a fixed fee arrangement, which I would bet against.

I could see having some prosecutorial independence. For example, if the city attorney believed that the mayor did something illegal she should be able to prosecute if she felt it necessary. On the other hand, I would hope that the prosecution would be referred out to the DA or another more independent office.

10/24/2007 06:16:00 PM  

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