Friday, September 14, 2012

Hatch "Clarifies" His Memo

Shortly after lunch today Costa Mesa City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch sent out the following message to all employees:

Sent: Friday, September 14, 2012 1:19 PM
Subject: Speaking at City Council Meetings

Recently, I sent a memo to employees concerning state legal guidelines for involvement in elections/campaigns by City staff.  An employee had a question about whether it is legal to speak at City Council Meetings.  The clear answer is yes but the employee must be off duty and not be in a City uniform.  The intent with not speaking at an “official City meeting” relative to elections/campaigns was intended to address personnel participation while on duty, on paid City time including breaks and/or in uniform.  This point was not intended to be while on one’s own personal time. 

I don’t apologize for sending the memo, however I apologize for any confusion it may have caused.  The upcoming election will likely be very difficult and our role, while on duty, is to professionally and fairly facilitate the process and not be engaged in the process.  Everyone will be watching what employees are doing but even if they weren’t, the right thing to do is to follow the law and not put our professional credibility at risk.  

So, I guess that means that employees MAY stand before the council at meetings and ask political questions, but not in uniform and not while on duty.  That means Helen Nenadal, President of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association, will have to change her work shirt with city logo if she plans to address the council on "political issues".

Hatch has still not replied to my memo to him on the 11th in which I asked him several questions, including the one he just answered.  Remaining unanswered are:

1) What is the penalty if an employee refuses to sign the form?
2) What is the penalty if an employee is observed violating the guidelines?
3) As "guidelines", does he believe his memo has the power of "rules"?
4) Was answered above
5) Does the list of "guidelines" apply to council members, too, since they are city employees?
6) How does he plan to enforce the "guidelines".  For example, his prohibition on the use of the City's wireless network.  How will that work?  Will he have a cadre of roving monitors prowling the corridors of City Hall, peeking over partitions and through windows to observe employee activities?
7) How will he enforce his prohibition on employees speaking to each other during work hours?  Will he use that same cadre of monitors?
8) How does he square his prohibition on employees expressing views on, for example, Jim Righeimer's Charter - which he cites as a misuse of  public funds (the staff time) - when VERY significant resources have been spent, and are being spent, to promote it?

I don't really expect to hear from him on these issues, which is pretty disappointing.  I'm a 39-year resident and taxpayer - one of the few who actually pays attention to what's going on in the city - so I kind of thought he might respond.  I guess not.  Perhaps, if he did so he would be actually violating his own rules.  He is, after all, an employee and my memo to him had a very definite "political element" to it.  If that's the case, I guess we can't expect him to discuss anything about Jim Righeimer's Charter or anything else political until after the election, right?

Also unknown is the reaction to Hatch's "clarification" from the Orange County Employees Association.  We do know they were NOT happy with the original memo.  I guess we'll hear about that soon enough.

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Anonymous Themosticles said...

For as much as Costa Mesa spends for their public relations flacks, lawyers, administrators and management consultants, you would think they should be able to write a simple memo to gently remind employees of state law.

It would have been written in about three sentences with a few bullet points, referenced the law, and never should have required every employee to sign an overly broad document which appeared to try to control what they did on their personal time.

9/14/2012 05:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Sam Grady said...

What is ironic about the State law is that the majority of it has to do with elected officials using their offices to intimidate employees. Kind of like the council members and Hatch. We all know Hatch was told to send out that memo. Hatch has to be the biggest buffoon city manager around. It must me weird to go you whole life being milquetoast.

9/14/2012 06:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

A city manager, such as Tom Hatch, is employed by a majority of the city council. The majority, in effect, signs the front of his paycheck.

Like any employee, he needs to do what his employers want. He is not a free agent who can cross his employers. Nationwide, it is not unusual for city managers to be fired for not supporting well enough whatever majority is controlling the council they’re working for.

If the Costa Mesa majority changes back to something like the councils we had in the first 57 years of CM life, Tom Hatch would appear to be a different man because he’d be implementing different policies, ones that Sam Grady, for example, apparently would support. Hatch wouldn’t appear to be a buffoon or milquetoast any more (except of course, to the supporters of the old council that got deposed).

9/15/2012 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous The Wizard of Oz. said...

I don't think Hatch cares one iota about the employees. Did he really have to say he didn't regret sending the memo? No, he could have clarified the confusion without the comment.

That one comment says it all. He is not being forced by council he is a part of the entire thing.

He believes wholeheartedly and supports the council majority. Just listen to his comments .

Don't think for one minute he isnt part of it!

9/15/2012 06:24:00 PM  

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