Genis Admits Gaffe - Now What? (AMENDED)
JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS OVER...
OK, you thought the drama swirling around the "firing" of all previous commissioners was finally put to bed when the Costa Mesa City Council plowed it's way through a lengthy screening and interview process over two weeks, then worked its way through the new selection process last Tuesday night to complete the filling of the Planning, Parks and Recreation and Senior Commissions, right? Ha! Guess again!
NEW COMMISSIONERS START MONDAY, BUT...
Although the new Planning Commission is scheduled to be sworn-in on Monday, February 13, 2017 at a meeting that begins in City Council Chambers at City Hall at 6:00, HERE, all is not well at City Hall. Despite what you will read below, the meeting is still scheduled.
GENIS ADMITS AN ERROR
On Wednesday, the morning following the selection of commission members, and after realizing that she had misunderstood the instructions in the nomination process, Councilwoman Sandra Genis contacted Mayor Katrina Foley, City Manager Tom Hatch and City Attorney Tom Duarte to advise them that she had marked her nomination forms incorrectly and the result was very different than she had intended. She was looking for a solution. As you might expect, the top floor of City Hall was a buzz of activity all day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, too.
SHE GOT IT BACKWARDS
It seems that Genis - a very smart woman and Stanford graduate - applied her ranking of applicants backward. Where her first choice should have been marked on her nomination form with the highest number - 5, in the case of the Planning and Parks and Recreation Commissions, 7 for the Senior Commission - she reversed it and marked her choices 1-5 or 1-7. The result was very significant.
AND THEN THERE'S CARLA NAVARRO WOODS
And, the situation was exacerbated by the placement of candidate Carla Navarro Woods on the Planning Commission Nomination Form. She had applied for a position on the Parks and Recreation Commission and was interviewed for that position the previous week.
THE CERTIFIED RESULT
As mentioned in my report of that meeting, the Planning Commission candidates who scored highest in the process as approved by the City Council, were:
Jeffrey Harlan - 36 points (4 year term)
Byron de Arakal - 32 points (4 year term)
Isabell Mayer Kerins - 20 points (2 year term)
Carla Navarro Woods - 18 points (2 year term)
Stephan Andranian - 16 points (2 year term)
However, if Genis had voted correctly, Andranian would be out and Teresa Drain would be in. Here's how those two sets of numbers would have looked. The top is the nomination forms as presented. The second one is what it would have looked like with Genis' numbers entered correctly. Click on the image to enlarge it. You'll note I had to add Woods to the far right side.
NO SOLUTION YET
So, the City Management has been dealing with this all week and, to the best of my knowledge, has not come up with a legal solution to the issue. They cannot simply "take a Mulligan" as one correspondent suggested - the results have been certified by the City Council.
THE TWO PROBLEMS...
There are two issues.
1) Sandra Genis misunderstood the instructions, even though they were clearly indicated in the staff report and, at least on the copy of the nomination forms available to the audience, had a clear note that "5 being highest score" in the case of the Planning Commission.
2) The presence of Carla Navarro Woods on the nomination form for the Planning Commission although she applied late. Some may recall that a similar situation gave us Jim Righeimer a decade ago, when Allan Mansoor rejected his friend and long-time supporter, Paul Bunney, not once but three times when he was nominated for a Planning Commission spot and, instead, made it possible for Righeimer to land a seat instead - even though he had applied after the deadline. We presumed then, and continue to presume, that it was payback for the political support Righeimer and Dana Rhorabacher gave Mansoor in that election. So, there actually is a precedent...
FELL ON HER SWORD AND LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION
Last week Genis, on her Facebook page, fell on her sword and admitted her mistake - much to her credit. And, having spoken with her a couple times since then, I know she's looking for a good solution to the issue, but doesn't have one yet. Of course, we could just leave things as they are - all the candidates who are on the official roster are solid and will likely make up a very effective Planning Commission. Or, they could swear-in the winners, then fire them all and re-start the process. I'm told by sources in the know that this process would likely take us into March, costing us yet another month of Planning Commission work. It's unclear whether an entirely new recruitment process is required, since there was such a recent, comprehensive effort for this time around.
PARKS & REC. COMMISSION STAYS THE SAME
In case you're wondering, Genis also reversed her numbers on the Parks and Recreation Commission forms, but the successful candidates remain the same. Here's a comparison of how they looked.
SENIOR COMMISSION IS AFFECTED, THOUGH
WHAT ABOUT RIGHEIMER AND MANSOORS VOTES?
Want something else to think about? Take a look at those original charts above. The votes cast by Righeimer and Mansoor look more than a little strange. Would they really have so little regard for Jeff Mathews that they marked him "1" - last in their rankings - on both the Planning and Parks and Recreation Commission forms? Seems unlikely. It appears that they may have also reversed their numbers. They voted as a block on each selection, and only voted for three of the seven possible for the Senior Commission - ironic, since it was their pal, Steve Mensinger, who insisted that the Senior Commission have seven members - and he actually wanted to take it up to nine!
INTERESTING TO SPECULATE ABOUT
So, if you presume for a moment that Righeimer and Mansoor did, in fact, make the same mistake that Genis owned-up to, the changes would be significant. I did the calculation with Genis' correction and the presumed corrections for Righeimer and Mansoor. In the case of the Planning Commission, it would mean that former Vice Chair Jeff Mathews would return to the dais, Stephan Andranian would be out and Teresa Callo Drain would replace Isabell Mayer Kerins. Woods would remain.
It appears that Righeimer and Mansoor actually voted the way they intended on the Senior Commission selection, so we presume no further changes would be made.
In the case of the Parks and Recreation Commission, it would mean that former commissioner Jeff Mathews would be on the commission and Kristina Bogner would be out.
So, dear neighbors, let us all contemplate how The City is going to resolve this mess. Genis has confessed to making mistakes - shouting it loud and clear via social media. What will The City do? Will they just let it ride? Will they fire the new commissioners and start over? Can they do something at their Study Session on Tuesday? No - they cannot vote on issues at Study Sessions. It is way, way beyond ironic that this selection process - planned to remove politics from the selection of commissioners - has managed to become such a mess and will likely have political ramifications that will linger for all involved. The best laid plans.....
DO SOMETHING... NOW!
I do know one thing... they MUST come forward with a decision - SOON. The longer this issue lingers unresolved the deeper the political quicksand becomes.