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Guest column: A Fearless Opinion By Seth Eaker | Thu, Dec 01 2016 04:11 PM

Mark Twain, the well-known American author (1835 – 1910) said: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” I have admitted fear multiple times, and yet I now know what Twain means. So do some other people in a statement below.

I have now been working diligently for just about two months, without pay or compensation, and certainly not to curry favor with the City or Council, to truly try to formulate a clear opinion on two basic questions: “why would Chief Joe Stilinovich be suspended and does our City Manager make good personnel and contract decisions generally?” I through various sources, including public records, interviews and communication that must remain confidential for they may be former or current employees of Seal Beach, have amassed a sufficient amount of confirmation, which leads me to agree with the following communication and ultimately its truth. I invite you, the reader,

 to consider my opinion of its truth. It is verbatim below.

Dated Aug. 28, 2015 at 7:31 p.m.:

“The city manager is obsessed with secrecy and demands unwavering loyalty from the organization. If she has even the slightest inkling that an employee might not be loyal because they question a particular course of action, or they demonstrate loyalty to the community and ethical standards instead of her own doctrine, that employee is now a marked person and she will do whatever she can to undermine them and ultimately fire them or force their resignation. A few months ago, she actually asked the department heads to pledge their loyalty to her. The chief of police advised her that his loyalty was to the oath he took to uphold the law, regardless of the potential personal ramifications that could cause him. Since that time she has worked to undermine him and is seeking a political or causal reason to fire him. You would have to look no further than to what happened to the previous city clerk to understand how she operates.

She has surrounded herself with sycophants who have pledged their devotion to her. In particular, Basham and the finance director. Between the three of them they control the entire organization. When the city manager was the clerk in Cypress, she hired Basham’s wife to be her assistant. They developed a close personal friendship which remains to this day. When she was appointed the city manager, her first order of business was to fire the previous community development director. Why? Because her best friend’s husband was a planner in Monterey Park and he wanted a job closer to home, so she hired her best friend’s husband and in doing so was able to secure another loyalist to do her bidding. She told several department heads at that time that she was very nervous that the community would find out that she hired a close personal friend to fill that position. The recruitment was a sham, there was no question as to who would get that job.

Since being hired, Basham fired the entire building and safety department and replaced them with friends of his from Monterey Park. He has a history of this sort of behavior as he did the same thing in Monterey Park—fire everyone perceived to be disloyal or not “on the team” and replace them with friends. He fired other planning staff when he first arrived at Seal Beach who (he) replaced with former coworkers as well. John Traw, the building official responsible for reviewing structural and building plans for the city is a Basham “friend” and loyalist too. The only problem is, John Traw is not a licensed structural engineer … he’s a licensed civil engineer. As such, he is practicing outside the scope of his licensure which could cause his own license to be suspended or revoked but more importantly expose the city to a lot of liability. Basham is aware of this.

When (Sean) Crumby announced his resignation, Basham and the finance director found themselves with an opportunity. An opportunity to expand their influence into the public works realm. Basham took control of the community services department last year and found himself with an opportunity to expand his portfolio, pad his resume, and most importantly to him: increase his salary.

Only a few days after being appointed the interim director, Basham removed park and landscape maintenance operations and associated staff from the public works department and placed it under his control within the community services department. Whether or not the City Council is aware of this, is unknown. Basham also recently announced that he would be working exclusively out of the city yard from now on. The plan, ultimately, is that Basham and the finance director will absorb the public works department with Basham taking all the maintenance and engineering functions and the finance director taking the utility functions. There will be no recruitment for a new public works director as plans have been set in motion to dissolve the department. This will allow Basham and the finance director to pad their resumes and ask for bigger salaries. This has nothing to do with improving operations or services and everything to do with greed.

Ultimately, there simply isn’t enough work for the building and planning department. This is a very small city and there simply isn’t that much development work occurring here. However, Basham has managed to expand the size of his staff, but they don’t have much work to do. So they are now expanding their reach into public works. Specifically, John Traw was involved with reviewing the plans for the roof replacement of the Beverly Manor water reservoir roof replacement that was damaged. The insurance adjuster has requested the city justify the large number of hours John Traw billed to this work…he’s a contract employee and he bills the city for his time…so the more hours he can bill for work the more money he makes and since the insurance company is footing the bill, why not? If I were you I would submit a public records request asking to see his time records and billing relative to this task. That’s what I have to share at this time, but if you ever have questions we can answer them. There are a number of “insiders” that have collaborated on this. We feel we had no one else to turn to. Gary Miller has been questioning the city manager regarding this arrangement, but we don’t know if he understands the full scope of what is occurring. The city manager knows Miller is on the losing end of many votes so she is not inclined to consider his opinion.”

•••

Thus, ends the inside view of City Hall. So, where does that leave us now? The investigation into Chief Joe Stilinovich is shrouded in mystery and without apparent conclusion. The community’s overwhelming support of Joe has been ignored by both the City Council and City Manager. Based on the statements above, my future opinion would be the City Manager would fire Joe Stilinovich before the first of the year. She would even have the Assistant City Manager do it, so she could then be the authority for his appeal. She found him worth investigating, so give him a settlement and gag order to save her own job and failing reputation.

I can personally say I have direct experience now which validates that if you are not on the same “side” as the City Manager and the department heads, your materials get lost, your applications are challenged or the “interpretation” changed, the standards which you though applied no longer do. City Hall, once a place of joy and camaraderie has become shuttered, dense and walled off from citizens who disagree. I know personally over 30 people who are afraid to speak for fear a project, decision, code enforcement action or other factor which they are counting on would be swayed if they vocally supported Chief Joe or opposed the current power structure.

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear,” said Harry S. Truman, our 33rd President, and so it rings true here.

You just read their voice, doesn’t it seem compelling and truthful? We have two new council representatives. Can’t we do something? Well, thanks to the election on Nov. 8th and our City Charter Section 607, “the City Manager shall not be removed from office during or within a period of ninety (90) days next succeeding any municipal election at which a member of the City Council is elected.” Wow, that was interesting timing too. Suspend Joe, cancel two council meetings and after the election, you still get more time. My opinion is that was a pretty sneaky plan. So, we are locked in step and position with Jill Ingram until February? Good thing for the City Staff has Section 706: “Administering Oaths. Each department head and deputy shall have the power to administer oaths and affirmations in connection with any official business pertaining to his/her department.” Maybe that was the basis for the loyalty oath demanded repeatedly in oral form by Jill Ingram.

I wonder how many votes it takes to change the Charter or how many signatures to recall our elected officials? Other than fellow citizens, I don’t feel those 13 people in charge seem to care what we want or think. I know from experience Joe Stilinovich does. At least this has been my opinion, what about you?

Seth Eaker is a multiple business owner  and local resident.

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George Briney Says:

Fri, Dec 02 2016 01:01 PM

Is the right person in Seal Beach being investigated?


George Briney Says:

Fri, Dec 02 2016 10:33 AM

It appears to me the wrong person is being investigated in Seal Beach.


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