Sunday, February 12, 2017

Genis Admits Gaffe - Now What? (AMENDED)

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!
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.
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.
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, 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.  On Tuesday, the day of the selection meeting, On Friday, February 3rd, she emailed City Hall asking to be considered for the Planning Commission, too. (Thanks to both Mayor Katrina Foley and Councilman John Stephens for setting this record straight since original publication.  Lots of misinformation floating around this issue last week.)  It happened so late in the process that her name did not appear in the packets available to the audience that night.  We are told it appeared on the nomination forms the City Council had in front of them.
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.

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.

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...
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.
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. 

And, she also flipped the choices for the Senior Commission.  Those numbers are shown below.  They would result in Olga Reynolds being replaced by Joeliza Jones, whom she beat out in a tie-breaking vote last Tuesday.

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!
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.....
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.

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Anonymous big boy pants said...

The whole Righeimer, Mansoor and Dana R. scenario disgusts me as a Republican. Just another reason why we are losing ground in the OC. But it's too late to undue that scam.

For this current situation, if Righeimer and Mansoor also made the same mistakes, hopefully they step up too. But these two are pure politicians so I don't expect them to do the honest thing. If they made the same mistake I hope they can cancel the scheduled Planning Commission meeting and call a new Special Council meeting where all seats are vacated again and a revote is immediately taken. But If Righeimer and Mansoor actually understood the process and their votes were as meant to be, then the solution for the Planning Commission would be for Andranian to simply resign or pull his name out before being sworn in. Council then appoints the next highest which would be Drain. Parks and Recreation doesn't change and good luck figuring out the Senior Commission resolution.

I am hoping that there is a legal remedy that would make this right as the council intended. But as we have all too often seen in the recent past RIGHT is not what it was, has been, intended to be or should be any more.

2/12/2017 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

What a cluster___!

I'm sorry, as much as I respect Theresa Drain and would love to see her on the PC, I believe the results shouls stand. Hard to believe Sandy could have made such an egregious error and going back on it now just doesn't seem kosher to me. Then again, if this sets a precident and the country could have a mulligan on the general election....

2/12/2017 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

Here's why a do-over is not only possible, but desirable:

1. The Council can do what it wants. I liken the council to a King, since a city council in this State is all three branches of local government (Executive, Legislative, Judicial). In either case, King or Kouncil, who is going to overrule anything they do?

2. Under Robert's Rules of Order, a person who votes on the winning side of an issue can call it back for reconsideration. Since Sandy Genis, trusting in the convoluted ranking process, voted for the incorrect panel, she could call the acceptance votes back for reconsideration. Presumably, her peers in the interests of council comity would respect her wishes, and the memberships of the Commissions would be corrected.

3. Just plain common sense tells us that the will of the people should be reflected in the votes. Genis won big in the election, so if she doesn't get her preferred panel, it means that her voters don't get the representation they signed up for. (Let's remember, none other than Jim Righeimer told us that elections have consequences, so he was going to do what he wanted unless thrown out of office. He did, and he wasn't.)

2/12/2017 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

I question why a person who applied for and was interviewed for the Parks commission was allowed to change her candidacy to the Planning commission and received a high ranking from two council members. Interesting to note that Jim and Allan voted exactly the same, while the other 3 council members voted independently of one another. I wouldn't apply "egregious" to Sandy's error - she put her choices in order from 1 through 5 instead of assigning them points. Maybe next time she'll read the directions.

2/12/2017 07:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

Someone actually thought it was possible to eliminate “politics” from the process of selecting commissioners? Land use, especially, is a political matter because it affects every resident, landowner and business owner. Politics is a dynamic resolution of conflicting interests. It's democracy in action. If you want to eliminate politics from the commission appointments, you might as well draw names from a hat.

So instead of each Council member appointing a Commissioner, or having the Council vote on each nominee, they tried to use a method that was confusing and convoluted, and it resulted in a mess. Whatever the Council decides to do to bring this matter to a conclusion, please never do this again. Let’s use one of the methods that has been successfully employed in years past.

2/12/2017 08:19:00 PM  
Anonymous zennymoon said...

Let's set this straight, the candidates sheet should have been numbered 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 with the appropriate multiplier, instead it was 1-5. @Honeyman Councilwoman Genis has integrity and ethics, so she stood up and admitted her confusion of the numbering system. Kudos to her and if there were others that reversed the process, I believe, along with Geoff that there were, I wish they had the "balls" to admit their mistakes. This is a bit of a muddle, it will be worked out. It seems, that the council with all the process of application, deadlines, interviews, has the option to pick someone without any application or interview, plucking them from the audience or in any other manner. BUT this I know, Councilwoman Genis stood up and did the right err is human, to admit it is refreshing.

2/12/2017 11:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Tamar said...

The Egans have this problem pegged, both in analysis (Eleanor) and suggestion (Tom). A noble gesture and then an easy solution would be for Mr. Andranian to step out, as another writer suggested, but of course he’s under no obligation to do so, and then the City Council should take the step of correcting the error and putting Teresa Drain on the Planning Commission.

2/13/2017 01:43:00 PM  

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