Guest column: Resident virtually adds to City Council meeting

Seth Eaker-Morgan. File photo

Once again, I come to you from another part of the world, to continue in my commitment to be an engaged, informed and productive citizen. We have a problem in Seal Beach, and as Francois De La Rochefoucauld said in the 17th century, “Pride does not wish to owe, and vanity does not wish to pay.” That pride revolves around the leadership of several members of Council and our City Manager.

I am compelled to share with you an ongoing series of discoveries which have negatively impacted my view of the integrity of the City Manager, specific members of her executive team, her leadership, the direction she provides to the team, and frankly her ongoing competence to maintain a stable, focused community governmental partnership.

My disbelief that there will be any outcome with the “paid administrative non-disciplinary leave” other than eventual termination, for cause or without of Chief Joe Stilniovich is not only undaunted; it is reaffirmed by the continued delay of any report, findings or explanation.

Despite Craig Steele’s verbatim reading of a partial excerpt of my email correspondence with him as urged by Councilwoman Deaton at the last meeting, he neglected to mention the substantial time lag between my date of the email, Nov. 3, 2016 and his eventual reply, on Nov. 14.. The clarifying text, which he deleted is below:

“Seth – This responds to your email to me dated November 3, 2016, which was sent to a email address that is not active and does not, unfortunately, automatically bounce to my email address. I apologize for the resulting delay in getting a response to you. You can more quickly reach me at the email address above in the future.”

Why do we have a City Attorney, who does not check his email provided to the public? I understand the need for email management. I handle five company emails and four non-profit boards in addition to personal communication. I seem to have time to respond when even in another country or city when issues arise in our community.

Simply put, what is our City Manager and Council doing? What is the investigation doing? What possible reason could the City Manager, or Patrick Gallegos still have not made a determination on an internal personnel matter?

Now I have learned some. Would you like to hear them? Let me be clear, I am asserting these only as a concerned citizen, investigative activist and if some wish to refer me, a “lobbyist” for the people of Seal Beach.

First, where does the City Manager dine often? Why, at The Boathouse in Los Alamitos Bay Marina. Did you know her son is a server there? How often would her credit card receipts show tips to her son? I could be entirely mistaken, but should we not care, since her budget is thousands of dollars a month?

Second, what happened with the “emergency” El Nino preparation – closed session actions, massive expenditures of money with little to show for it and pumps sitting idle for nearly two months. Those were “explained away” by later open sessions, yes? What FUND did that come from? Who transferred that money from one fund to another? Was it a legal transfer of funds? Whom did the City Manager use to backfill that decision? People already gone, people under gag orders or people who were just following orders?

Third, the fact that during closed session, both council members and citizens asked for simply exit interviews for staff members who were leaving as a metric with which to evaluate the City Manager’s leadership. This was summarily denied and was not even focused on for some time – until recently, when others starting noticing attrition of our staff, people we know, respect and understand.

Four, are all of the department heads currently serving meeting the minimum requirement of their very job description? Could this be verified against public records of education and job description? I know for a fact an executive staff member does not have the minimum requirement to hold the position they are currently in and additionally has a conflict of interest which is of fairly monumental in proportion to his authority.

Five, I have now documented, witnessed and am prepared to in the presence of the City Clerk, City Manager, City Attorney, City Council and Acting Chief of Police, with the FPCC and District Attorney present if needed to file personnel complaints of “serious allegations of misconduct” against multiple members of executive staff, including the City Manager and members of Council who, based on direct personal contact and experience know that I have been targeted, not communicated with and made persona non-grata. Furthermore, I have it going back for several years and on more than one project. Once I thought they were misunderstandings, now I believe it may very well be actual discrimination. I have yet to bring all those elements to light,  and yet, it seems I must.

Six, I have a growing amount of evidence of potential fiscal and personnel mismanagement by Community Development, the volume, and scope of project work that the staff has seemingly been unable to continue or finish promptly.

This is compounded by the lack of Public Works director. Look to the triple cost landscaping contract, which once again, was an “emergency” or somehow we managed to get in a position of actually being bent over the barrel by a landscaping contract.

Seven, there are serious issues with the parking studies, the termination of the consultants, their recommendations and the absolute unwillingness of executive management and apparently Council to bring forward an efficient, new parking system which would benefit the entire community.

Eight, the pier continues to go nowhere.

Nine, consultants, consultants, consultants … they are like Interim Directors – always ready to file a report, collect money and pocket funds. What are all the connections from the tangled web from Pat Importuna to Jill Ingram? It is growing in complexity every day. After all, there are layers of consultants and money just in projects I know about. How many are there specifically in the areas of the OCFA and legislative scandal?

So I reiterate, reinstate Chief Joe. Close the investigation. Citizens are beyond angry – it is moving to a stage that our council has not seen in years. I implore both Schelley and Tom to take a good look at all of this and seriously consider who is leading our community.

What is the possible motivation for any of this madness, which has festered for so long? It comes down to a simple thing really – safety and pride. What is the only benefit if the Chief is ousted, staff continues to run amok, and we as a city are known for our community walls, deceit, and manipulation? The maintenance of the status quo. We have been moving to it for the last four years. The only mistake that I can see is Jill Ingram hired a man of integrity and humility who had the courage to say no. Can we say any less to her?

Again, I bring all of this up because there continues to be a lack of clarity about the process to the public. When the findings are determined will Patrick be the one to determine discipline for Chief Stilinovich or will it be City Manager Ingram? If Chief Stilinovich’s Skelly Hearing is made to the next level adjudicating body, could that be City Manager Ingram? If so, does that present a conflict of process or procedure?

Under Government Code Section 3304(d), “an Internal Affairs investigation must generally be completed within one (1) year from the date the Department is made aware of the allegations giving rise discipline.” Furthermore, my understanding about a Skelly Hearing is “a ‘Skelly’ is a hearing which must be provided to an employee prior to the imposition of discipline. Generally, Skelly’s must be provided in the case of termination, demotion, suspension, reduction in pay and transfer with an accompanying loss in pay. An employee’s Skelly rights entitle the employee to due process consisting of: (1) notice of the intended disciplinary action; (2) a copy of all materials upon which the action is based (including material which was available for review by the individual responsible for imposing discipline, regardless of whether such information was, in fact, reviewed); and, (3) an opportunity to respond orally or in writing to an impartial reviewer prior to the effective date of the disciplinary action. Pursuant to State Personnel Board Rule 52.3 an employee must be served with a Notice of Adverse Action at least five (5) days prior to the effective date. The ‘Skelly’ Officer must have the authority to modify (or at a minimum recommend modification) of the adverse action.”

Based on this language, it seems like there would be a need to understand who is the “authority” beyond the initial findings and subsequent action. Perhaps it is to the City Council, except the Council is strictly prohibited from interfering in personnel matters based on City Charter. So who is the “impartial reviewer?” Might it not be easier just to fire him “at-will.” Then there is nothing to be done – unless there are a gag order and severance.So here we are, with the basics reasons of safety and pride as the only explanation – for who benefits? Jill Ingram, Jim Basham, other members of “loyalists” and those who subscribe to that leadership model.

Dale Carnegie, arguably one of the greatest of understanding the foibles of personality and people said, “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”

Council, I implore you, look, and you will see. Why else does everyone agree?

Seth Eaker is a Seal Beach resident, businessman and activist.