Employee Free Speech Challenged?
Tuesday I wrote an entry, HERE, that in part questioned a recent letter sent by Costa Mesa CEO Tom Hatch to all city employees defining "guidelines" for them related to political activities. I wondered in that entry what penalties there might be for non-compliance and whether the City Council will be required to sign that memo.
SEPARATE CORRESPONDENCE TO HATCH
I also wrote to Hatch that day asking him for answers to eight (8) specific questions related to his memo dealing with the penalties and many other concerns I have, including the apparent prohibition for employees to speak before the City Council on political issues - like Jim Righeimer's Charter. Other questions referred to the "guidelines" application to the City Council, since they, too, are employees; how he plans to monitor the use of the City's wireless network; how he plans to monitor employee conversations and how he squares the prohibitions on using "public funds" when the city has, for example, spent lots of public funds to promote the Charter. In my last sentence to him I speculated that, if he followed his own rules, he might not be able to reply to me since there was a political element in my correspondence to him. To date I've received no reply.
DAILY PILOT COVERS THE STORY
Today the Lauren Williams wrote about this issue in the Daily Pilot, HERE, and included copies of Hatch's memo to the staff, HERE, and Costa Mesa City Employees Association President Helen Nenadal's response, HERE.
SO, WHAT IS THE TRUTH?
In Williams article she quotes Communication Director Bill Lobdell - who earlier said former City Manager Allan Roeder established a custom of this kind of correspondence - as stating, "CEO Hatch's memo followed in that tradition - a preventative action to avoid violations of state law during what promises to be a closely watched city election." She then quoted Nenadal as saying that, in her 30 years with the city, she's never received a similar memo. That leaves one wondering what the truth is...
THE GOVERNMENT CODE
In case you're interested, you can find the section of the California Government Code relevant to this issue HERE.
THE ACT OF DESPERATE POLITICIANS
This situation reeks of certain desperate politicians attempting to discourage opposing views from major stakeholders in this process - the employees/residents who have a very large vested interest in this election. We know, from having observed this council very closely for over eighteen months, that none of the majority handle criticism very well. Steve Mensinger, for example, just couldn't believe that actual residents of this city could possibly disagree with him, much less boo him so heartily at the recent Feet To The Fire Forum. Get over it, Steve. Some people just are not buying what you're selling.
AN ACLU INVITATION?
There are knowledgeable folks in the community who feel Hatch's memo may create major legal issues for the city. This seems to be precisely the kind of issue our friends at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) like to get their teeth into - remember Benito Acosta? I hope they are wrong. This current municipal administration has already spent way, way too much money on legal fees with their ham-handed attempts to bust the associations - unions, in their parlance. I guess we'll see soon enough.