Wednesday, September 12, 2012

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.

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.

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.

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...

In case you're interested, you can find the section of the California Government Code relevant to this issue HERE.

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.

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.

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Blogger just wondering... said...

Well, darn. Its gonna be quiet in here now...except for Fitzy, who of course, has no job. And Messy, who will not obey rules anyway. Man, isn't this a little Hitleresque?

9/13/2012 08:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

After reading the code you provided, it certainly seems the city, once again, over-stepped its bounds. We pay a fortune for counsel that is supposed to be expert in municipal affairs, yet our city keeps getting led in the wrong direction. It makes me suspicious that this is on purpose so we keep accumulating legal actions and therefore fees for their firms.

The question now is whether or not Mr Hatch will swallow his pride, admit the mistake and stay within the bounds of the code. There are still limitations he can impose, just less Draconian ones.

Who's taking that bet? Not me.

9/13/2012 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger just wondering... said...

I don't imagine that asking your employees to stay off the personal internet during working hours is out of line, however, telling them what they can talk about in their own time, is a bit over the top.

9/13/2012 08:46:00 AM  
Anonymous No Wonder - Fact said...

Dear just wondering, we recommend that you get a life. Jimmy Fitzy and Steve Mensinger are doing just fine. Most likely making more money than you ever did. We understand that their efforts and success make you angry and we often take great delight in your angry rants as an indication that your side is feeling the pressure of knowing your status quo is changing. As an old fart, that has got to piss you off. Thanks for putting a smile on our faces this morning. It will all be over in November, you can crawl back under that rock.

9/13/2012 09:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Hatching a plot said...

Righeimer wants to be Emperor of Costa Mesa. This is where it starts. Next you'll see Dickson and Joyce feeding him grapes on the dais.

9/13/2012 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger just wondering... said...

No Wonder: Which is it? Do I put a smile on your face? or do you hate the posts? Fitzy and Messy's success speak for themself. Need I say more? *HA* They are the town clowns. Nice of you to try to defend them though, as if you could.

As for it being over in November. Not so much. We're not going anywhere, either way.

9/13/2012 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

Love the 'most likely making more money than you' comment - I'm sure that really hurt Just Wondering's feelings.

You could have at least stuck out your tongue and thrown in a 'neener neener neener' in there, too.

And it will all be over November... but perhaps not as you think.

9/13/2012 10:13:00 AM  
Anonymous NO m & m s said...

It is clear by the stories at city hall that anyone who speaks is subject to a serious chest bumping.

You are to be seen and not heard. A book burning is next or maybe just close the library.
The military can't speak against the president but their contract is a litle different. They still can vote.

9/13/2012 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Voter said...

Do Mensinger and Fitzpatrick have regular jobs outside the home?

Shouldn't these people who want to be in public office tell us?

If they're simply house-husbands, there's no shame in that these days.

9/13/2012 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous roboto said...

how about a simple rule that when employees are at work and being paid that they do the city's work with a reminder that it is election season with heated feelings but please confine your political postings/conversations to non working hours. The Estancia football players will not wear their uniforms when working for us, just shirts we provide. the cheerleaders will dress as they please. this is in compliance to orders from school superintendent. city employees should have rules too. the crowds and weitzberg can shout down or cough down speakers at city council, that is allowed.

9/13/2012 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gericault said...

My favorite part of the "politicization" of everyday life here in Costa Mesa came last spring during the Costa Mesa EXPO. CM4RG applied, paid, and was granted a space to pitch a tent. The group was made up of entirely of Costa Mesa residents, of which combined, we represented hundreds of years of costa mesa residency and community activism.
We were going to perform voter registrations.
Everything was fine until Dan Joyce, newly hired "Kommissar of the Kommunity", got wind of it.
He went to the EXPO Board, did some fear mongering and arm twisting and told them they would lose all of their support and sponserships if we were to be included.
Literally days before the event , we were refunded our money....the check HAD been cashed, and "un-invited". The reasons given were that NO political organizations , or Churches, would be allowed to participate in the Community EXPO. At the final Board meeting with the EXPO volunteers, some Board members were literally in tears, and while going along with the bullied majority were sickened by the process, and probably will not want to donate time and energy to this "process" again.
CM4RG did not go public with this as they didn't want to reflect badly on the event.
Consider this out of city (Laguna Niguel) petty bureaucrat, Dan Joyce, is allowed to determine which residents and community organizations are allowed to participate in a supposed, "Community" EXPO.
Consider this also...when you hear "local control", they are making Government so small, it knows you by name, where you live, who you are voting for. They will use vicious code compliance measures, they will threaten to deny public works projects to your street or property , they will publicly denounce you from the dias and public access channels, they will post your addresses on rascist blogs, they will deny fair businesses practices and public fairness in RFP proposals against your family and associates, they will lie and accuse you of crimes by name. This isn't something that MIGHT happen, this is HAPPENING right now.
How do I know this is happening? ...they've done it to me and my friends...I can verify every single one of those charges with specific names and instances.

9/13/2012 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger just wondering... said...

Gericult, if you have evidence of that, there is always the lawsuit factor. They are a great target, they never win anything.

9/13/2012 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous No Wonder - Fact said...

I thought just wondering was part of the lunatic fringe.

Recommending a law suit, now we know he is part of the Union. That is part of their Playbook 101

9/13/2012 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous roboto said...

publicly denounce you and accuse you of crimes? sounds like the public speakers at council meetings for the last two years. what goes around...gericault. you were the original loose cannon with the video full of lies and tarnishing the CM brand. Luckily that brand is strong now despite you and your friends. you should definitely post the names and details of your accusations. we have yours on tape! haha, chestbump extreme

9/13/2012 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Transparency said...

When will Mensinger tell us the outcome of his fiasco at John Wayne Airport in 2006?

Did he really flash a phony badge?
Did he really harangue a female clerk?

9/13/2012 02:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Show Me The Forms said...

I hope that the City shows just how transparent it is, by posting all the Council Members and the senior staff members form on the City website. This is true to the word of letting the people see it all.

9/13/2012 04:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Barry said...

It's not free speech to politically campaign while you're working. Why can't our employees just work. Not sue, not complain, just work. Why is this so hard.

I don't campaign while I'm at work. I work. I guess our employees just don't want to ever work.

All the union does is continue to piss off more and more of the residents in this town. So tired of them.

9/13/2012 04:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Troll Tracker said...

"All the union does is continue to piss off more and more of the residents in this town. So tired of them."

No, not unions MARTY, just weirdos who wear the same clothes every day and lick Riggy's boots.

Semper Fi.

9/13/2012 05:51:00 PM  
Anonymous re-read said...

The issue is the not being able to speak at a public city council meeting on an employee's own time. .. not all the garbage Barry claims. Barry if you spent less time getting angry you may be able to understand the real issue better.

9/13/2012 08:48:00 PM  

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