Barlow Bails Out!
My first reaction when I read the brief Daily Pilot article (HERE) announcing the pending departure of contract City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow late this afternoon was, "Uh-Oh! I wonder what she knows that we don't that would cause her to bail out just as a new municipal administration is getting started?"
WE'LL PROBABLY NEVER KNOW WHY...
OK, I know that may be an over-reaction - she's quoted in Joe Serna's piece as saying, "Both personal and business reasons compel this decision - other challenges require my attention." However, the past couple years have been tough on her, with the whole Fairgrounds Sale issue, plus the legal action that occurred as a result of things that happened during the recent campaign. And, she's been a whole lot closer to this new council than the rest of us. Maybe she's jumping off the train before it wrecks...
LEGAL BUDGET WAY OUT OF WHACK
At the recent study session a member of the public who fancies herself a budget watchdog of sorts pointed out to the council and audience that the city legal department - Barlow's domain - had been blowing through cash at a rate averaging more than $100,00 per month - well beyond their budget. It's hard to lay that directly at Barlow's feet since she responds to the demands of the council. She arrived at the meeting after that comment was made.
BARLOW WAS OK FROM MY VIEW
I've watched Kim Barlow perform her duties from the remote viewing platform as a member of the audience. My personal contacts with her have been few and far between, but those were usually satisfactory. Only those privy to the privileged conversations between her clients - the council - and herself really know how effective she has been. She's served a long time as City Attorney through several iterations of City Councils and it's not as though she's a neophyte at this - she's served other cities as well.
AGAIN, I WARNED YOU...
You will recall that I've warned you about what may happen with this new City Council. I've told you that I suspect we'll see lots more litigation, some of which might be directed at members of the council because of their apparent willingness to ignore the rules. I wouldn't be surprised at all if part of Barlow's reason for departing is that she doesn't want to be tarred professionally with the brush that's almost certain to land on some of our elected leaders.
GRUMBLINGS AND RUMBLINGS
I'm not sure what's going on in City Hall these days... I continue to hear grumblings from a variety of sources about staffers being verbally abused by certain individuals. More recently I've heard rumblings about demands being made of staffers that may not be legal, and intimidation when those demands are rejected. It's difficult to tell how valid those grumblings are in light of the very obvious intent of some members of the council to disassemble our city government and turn it into a de facto haven for temporary help. It seems to me that most city staffers are nervous about their future - correctly so, in my view. It's my opinion that no city staffer - at any level - should ever follow instructions from elected or appointed leaders that they know to be illegal or a violation of city policy. Further, they should report ANY such request to their management AND the City Attorney immediately.
APPREHENSIVE SINCE JANUARY
Since the first week of January, when the new City Council was sworn-in and when the un-elected member, Steve Mensinger, was appointed, I've been very uneasy about the tack this group was taking. Barlow's departure doesn't do a thing to alleviate that apprehension. I can only hope that whichever member of the Jones and Mayer staff is appointed to replace her is a strong individual - one who will be able to provide strong, credible legal counsel to keep this group from driving our city into legal quicksand.
In the meantime, I find myself wondering which senior staffers will bail out next. City Manager Allan Roeder will be gone early in March. We have no Police Chief - Chris Shawkey is on a paid administrative leave for unknown reasons - and his top Captain, Ron Smith, just retired under a cloud. We have no Fire Chief, nor are the next top two positions filled, apparently in anticipation of working out a deal with the Orange County Fire Authority. Former Fire Chief Mike Morgan, who recently retired, is across the border in Newport Beach as their interim chief. With the enhanced retirements over the past couple years much of the institutional knowledge of our city is, or will be, gone. This doesn't make me sleep very well at night. I grabbed this shot of Roeder at the recent study session. Tell me, do you think he's praying for the future of our city... wouldn't be surprised.