Monday, May 25, 2015

COMMENTARY City Administrator Douglas Schmitz’s ‘Consequences:’ Consequences for Public Works Superintendent Stu Ross, But No Consequences for City Attorney Don Freeman & Police Chief Mike Calhoun

“As a public entity, we must have the continuing confidence of the citizenry that its municipal employees exhibit the highest professional ethical, financial and behavioral standards,” Schmitz concluded. “When we, either as employees or as an employer, fall short, there are consequences.”

Source: Ross retires to avoid fight with city over timecards, By MARY SCHLEY, The Carmel Pine Cone, May 22, 2015, 1A & 13A

Stu Ross, former Public Works Superintendent, retired from city employment Wednesday, May 20, 2015, in the midst of allegations that he “recorded hours on his city timesheet that he did not actually work” which amounted to $4,860.92 in pay for hours he did not actually work, according to the settlement agreement between Ross and the City as reported in The Carmel Pine Cone. Previously, City Administrator Doug Schmitz decided to hire an investigator at taxpayer expense to investigate Stu Ross after receiving an anonymous “packet of information” about Ross. Moreover, according to The Carmel Pine Cone, “Rather than spending time and resources on a protracted battle over the termination, Ross and Schmitz agreed that he would retire and pay the city back for those hours,” with neither Ross nor the city admitting any “liability, fault or wrongdoing.”

There were consequences for Stu Ross, but what were the consequences for City Attorney Don Freeman and Police Chief Mike Calhoun regarding the contracts fiasco and the McInchak travesty?

City Administrator Doug Schmitz absolves City Attorney Don Freeman of any and all responsibility for the contracts fiasco with the excuse that Freeman was deliberately kept “out of the loop.” But, according to Freeman’s EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENT FOR LEGAL SERVICES with the City, dated March 2, 2004, “Attorney is to be responsible for assisting in the drafting and preparing of ordinances, resolutions, ordinary contracts and agreements, and engaging in whatever legal research, study and review necessary to properly advise and protect the interests of the City.” Furthermore, if indeed Freeman was deliberately kept “out of the loop,” then, at a minimum, he had a responsibility to his position and to the citizens of the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea to publicly inform the public that he was unable to perform his contractual legal duties, particularly with regard to the oversight of outside counsels and consultants. Instead, City Attorney Don Freeman was silent and continued banking his $7,500/month taxpayer funded retainer. Adding insult to injury, the City then charges City Attorney Don Freeman with the responsibility of hiring outside counsel to investigate, review and report on City contracts with Mark Alcock, Public Consulting Group, Davies Communications, Blaze Public Relations, Boots Road Group and Richard Tavener and allows City Attorney Don Freeman to define the scope of the investigator’s review, such as “deliverables” defined by the consultants or the contracts, not actual verified performed professional services, ensuring there is no evidence for accountability purposes.

And what have been the consequences for City Attorney Don Freeman’s apparent breach of confidentiality of the 2014/15 Monterey County Civil Grand Jury, specifically the Carmel Investigative Committee? In January 2015, Louis P. Panetta, Chairman, Carmel Investigative Committee and Foreman Pro Tem 2014/15 Monterey County Civil Grand Jury, sent Donald Freeman, VIA FACSIMILE & U.S. MAIL, a letter requesting personnel files, termination documentations and Police investigative file of certain former and current city employees.   Instead of promptly producing copies of the documents to the Grand Jury, as requested, Freeman apparently breached the confidentiality of the Grand Jury by giving the letter to City Administrator Doug Schmitz who proceeded to write a letter to the employees informing them of the Grand Jury request for their personnel files and by apparently leaking, directly or indirectly, the Panetta letter to a Carmel resident who proceeded to smear the reputation of the Grand Jury at the Special Meeting of the City Council (February 10, 2015) when it was the City which had breached the confidentiality of the Grand Jury. The City subsequently gave a copy of the Panetta January 21, 2105 letter to The Carmel Pine Cone and henceforth considered the letter subject to the California Public Records Act, although all future Grand Jury correspondence with the City was deemed confidential.

City Administrator Doug Schmitz absolves Police Chief Mike Calhoun of any and all responsible for the McInchak travesty with the excuse that Administrative Services Director Susan Paul and City Administrator Jason Stilwell “ordered” him to act as he did with regard to the criminal investigation into IT Manager Steve McInchak, Search Warrant No. 7682, et cetera. Police Chief Calhoun facilitated the facts in support of the search warrant as contained in the Statement of Probable Cause, as dictated to Officer Rachelle Lightfoot, Carmel Police Department, by Mark Alcock, Forensic Examiner, including Evidence type for “Property or things used as a means of committing a felony” and “Property or things that are evidence that tends to show a felony has been committed, or tends to show that a particular person has committed a felony and the statement,” Moreover, Police Chief Calhoun announced that the ‘Criminal Investigation” was closed because “[he] was unable to provide sufficient information to proceed further with the investigation” in July 2014 which contradicted Administrative Services Director Susan Paul’s Declaration that “On December 11, 2013, an information firewall was established that precluded the City from participating in the Criminal Investigation, limiting the scope of the City's involvement to the Administrative Investigation only,” without any public explanation by Calhoun for the contradiction. Former IT Manager Steve McInchak died on October 22, 2014 at the age of 63 while on paid administrative leave for over sixteen months.  And adding insult to injury, City Administrator Doug Schmitz has since appointed Police Chief Calhoun to the additional position of Interim Administrative Services Director.

In the aforementioned cases of City Attorney Don Freeman and Police Chief Michael Calhoun, arguably neither Freeman nor Calhoun exhibited “the highest professional ethical, financial and behavioral standards.” That they fell short and there were no consequences implies there are dispensable city employees and there are indispensable city employees. Only if City Administrator Doug Schmitz treats every city employee equally under the principle that municipal employees must exhibit the highest professional ethical, financial and behavioral standards and there are consequences when employees fall short will the citizenry have a reason to have confidence in the current city administration.

Written & Published by L. A. Paterson

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