Thursday, February 10, 2011

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?"

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...

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.

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.

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.

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.


Since the first week of January, when the new City Council was swor
n-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.

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Anonymous sissy casper said...

Kimberly Barlow bailed out because she does not want to be tainted with the "unethical" blood of the City Council. Do me a favor Mr/Mrs Citizen.. follow the City Council and tell me they don't meet outside of City Hall and I will personally buy the legions of readers a beer. Violations of the Browne Act.. just one of the violations this council is accused of..

2/11/2011 05:15:00 AM  
Anonymous mike m said...

the plot thickens...

2/11/2011 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger rhbee said...

Not from OC but have spent my last 16 summers there working the fair, so as far as Barlow goes I don't really know what to say. Budget stuff seems to me to be the only topic these days where in San Diego where I normally abide last night's school board meeting exploded over the layoff possibilities for 535 teachers and another 400 other school employees.

Meanwhile, I tune into your blog mostly because you talk about the fairgrounds and the sale thereof so I would really like to read your thoughts on the Jerry Brown approach to nixing the sale and finding other means by which to fund things.

Of course, since my visits here are occasional maybe I missed a post or two about our new Gov. So link me up to those to.


2/11/2011 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

rhbee, I confess to having ignored the Fairgrounds issue recently. The sale is on hold pending litigation resolution next month. That hasn't stopped the posturing by opposing sides, though. Depending on who's doing the talking, Brown either set the stage for quashing the sale of the OC Fairgrounds AND your Del Mar site OR he didn't. I wouldn't be surprised if we hear something definitive from him within the next few days on this issue.

2/11/2011 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger rhbee said...

It seems we have been waiting for that something definitive since forever, doesn't it?

But now I believe that no matter what the decision until we get ourselves to agree about what we really should be doing about the whole range of issues that the buzz of the word "budget" engenders none of this dust will settle.

2/11/2011 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Yep, our state officials need to come to grips with the way they spend our tax dollars. They've dug into this pit and seem to feel the only way out is to keep on digging!

2/11/2011 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Terry Shaw said...

does this mean costa mesa united will need a new headliner for the post golf tournament entertainment next year? Ms. Barlow is the lead singer for a rock band and has performed there the last couple of years if not longer.

2/11/2011 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger rhbee said...

Whenever someone says "state officials", I can't help but think of what happens in the 1972 film by Micheal Ritchie, The Candidate. The closer an official gets to the power the more likely he or she is to be corrupted. Hmmm, maybe this is about your retiring Barlow after all?

2/11/2011 01:46:00 PM  

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