Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bad News

This is the front page of today's South Pasadena Review. It leads with a story about South Pasadena police chief Dan Watson's decision to retire. Does this announcement surprise anyone after the shameful treatment he received from the South Pasadena City Council? (You can read my first post about this issue here.) The story goes on to cover the many, many South Pasadena notables who have spoken out in favor of the chief -- at council meetings and elsewhere. The paper includes a full page ad listing dozens and dozens of names of South Pas residents who support the chief and want him to stay. There's a second smaller ad and a page full of letters to the editor -- all echoing the same sentiment: We Want Dan Watson as Our Police Chief.

Is the council listening? Doubtful. At last week's meeting, the chorus of adamant citizens who spoke -- including former mayors, activists, esteemed members of the community and even yours truly -- didn't sway the council. A reliable source told the South Pasadena Review that "four members in closed session sided with the decision to recruit a new chief, while Mayor Richard Schneider was the only one pushing to keep Watson on board."

South Pas resident Ron Rosen wrote in his letter to the editor, "Do we want a City Council that acts in the best interests of the city? Or a council that acts based on the personal agendas of its individual members?"

I think former mayor Odom Stamps summed it up well when he wrote an open message to the council in my blog comments a few days ago. The message was also printed in today's South Pasadena Review:

For the past eight years the City of South Pasadena has experienced an unusually high percentage of turnover of almost every department head, often multiple times, including the City Manager. Consequently there is a dearth of institutional memory and the results are a loss of public employee morale, a lessening of the quality of services to the community, as well as numerous real and some costly problems due to lack of follow through on a range of issues, and confused (and broken) policy decisions.

For eight years one shining example to the contrary has been the excellent service and leadership of Police Chief Dan Watson. He stepped in to head up an organization that had endured several scandals and has overseen a complete reversal of that perception and reality - It is now a police force esteemed by our community. And the community let’s you elected officials know this at every appropriate opportunity, whether it has been the decision to keep the police as a part of our government rather than to contract the service out to the county sheriff, or the standing ovation Dan Watson received when city officials that attended were announced at the TOR Crunch Party last week.

Beyond establishing an exemplary work record, Dan and Kathy Watson also have given largely of their time and money in active community service work, including Rotary Club (past President), SPTOR, ACS Relay For Life, to name three. They are both fixtures at our community events. This man deserves the South Pasadena Review’s “Citizen of the Year Award”, for many jobs well done - not the humbling requirement of having to reapply for his job, as one among many.

Most of us can’t take the time to come and speak out at City Council meetings, and when we do, it’s usually to complain about something believed to be going wrong – not to attest to what’s going right. It was therefore an inspiration to those in the community who do follow government actions when our City Clerk, Sally Kilby and our City Treasurer, Vic Robinette got up to support Chief Watson. The following meeting eight more community activists, including former Mayor Harry Knapp and myself took the opportunity to do so. I expect that this will lead to a ground swell of support at the next meeting, until such time as this issue is resolved, and the Chief is accorded the respectful treatment that he is due.

This has been made necessary because of the public airing of the issues involving the Chief’s employment in the past two issues of our Newspaper of Record. After the shameful treatment that very recently played out in the pages of that same newspaper, leading to the dismissal of our City Manager – people who know and respect Chief Watson are understandably upset.

We expect that the City Manager would deal fairly and privately with his employees on any personnel matter, and he has a duty to investigate any allegation or complaint as well as the record of achievement in making up his mind. To my knowledge, City Manager John Davidson is doing just that. But because this process has been brought to public attention, and that the review of the Chief’s record extends past the expiration of his employment agreement, and that others are encouraged to apply, makes what should have been a private employment negotiation, an embarrassment.

Therefore I urge the City Manager to conclude his review with all deliberate speed, and if everything is found to the good, to quickly conclude negotiations with the Chief. Separately I urge the Council to get ahead of the rumor and innuendo mill with a resolution of support for Chief Watson and the great job you know him to be doing. Such a resolution would go a long way to reassure the town that our local government is professionally run, that it’s leadership respects long serving, capable managers, and also to buoy the morale of the City’s employees with the knowledge that a job well done is a secure job.


I think the council should instruct the city manager to beg Chief Watson to rescind his retirement and stay on.

Concerned citizens are printing another ad in next week's paper. If you would like to include your name as a supporter of Chief Dan Watson and/or contribute to ad costs please email southpaschief@live.com

Update at 9:00AM: Take a look at what Larry Wilson has to say in The Pasadena Star News.

Update at 3:00PM: Here's an article on the subject by Alfred Lee, also in The Pasadena Star News today. Interesting note: Council members David Sifuentes, Mike Ten, Michael Cacciotti and Mayor Richard Schneider did not return Lee's calls for comment Tuesday. Councilman Philip Putnam could not be reached.

Update on January 17, 2010: Read Pasadena Star News' writer Larry Wilson's newest column touching on a legal aspect of the council's actions.

30 comments:

Mister Earl said...

Bravo, Laurie!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

this says it all for me...

"For the past eight years the City of South Pasadena has experienced an unusually high percentage of turnover of almost every department head, often multiple times, including the City Manager. Consequently there is a dearth of institutional memory and the results are a loss of public employee morale"

I believe this kind of "dearth of memory" is the kind of thinking responsible for half our mountain going down inflames

shame.......

Judy Williams said...

Politics suck.

Julie Hill said...

Laurie...well done! This situation is all too sad and I commend you for taking the initiative and stand in fighting for what is right.

Before all your magnificent followers get bogged down with the depressing state of affairs of our "little town", may I invite them to visit a light and joyful painting that I did based on your South Pasadena photo posted earlier this month...maybe it will leave a sweet and lighter taste ... www.jhillpaintings.blogspot.com

Thanks again for the use of your fabulous photo!!!

Mister Earl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Judy Williams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Judy Williams said...

As long as we are rallying, I hope you don't mind me using this as a platform for helping the devasation in Haiti. I have watched footage on CNN and ABC new and it is unbelievable. You can give directly to the relief effort here:
Care.org

or log onto whitehouse.org and link to the Red Cross on their home page.

Petrea said...

You all might enjoy Larry Wilson's column about the subject in the Pasadena Star-News.
http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/ci_14177950

Seems like more and more voices are being raised in support of the Chief. Shout it out! It works.

altadenahiker said...

I love that you guys aren't taking this lying down. Get it all out in the open. (Good for the mayor, by the way.)

Mister Earl said...

Thanks, Petrea, for the link. Yes, hopefully the raising our our voices will have an effect. We're working hard on this.

I, for one, am not going to forget about this, and I'm going to join an effort to unseat the Councilmen behind this, if not the ones who went along with it. As Larry Wilson reports, only one City Councilman, Mayor Richard Schneider, MD, has unequivocally supported the Police Chief.

Laurie said...

Thanks for the heads up on Larry Wilson's column, Petrea. I updated the post with a link.

Petrea said...

My pleasure. I'm following this story with interest.

Mister Earl said...

I understand that no one on the Council would return a reporter's phone calls at this time. They apparently cannot discuss this matter because of their interpretation of the Brown Act that makes personnel matters private. The important thing is that they received messages from a reporter. The other question is whether the Brown Act prevents them from ever discussing why they did what they did in this case - for example when they're running for reelection. We know where they stood: 4-1 with Schneider being the 1. It's also becoming clear that the Council's actions are in response to some members of the Police Officers Association. So the new question becomes: Who runs this town?

Laurie said...

Earl, is there a verified source of info about the Police Officers Association?

Laurie said...

Also, Mr E, please let my readers know the legaleze about The Brown Act, if ya don't mind.

Mister Earl said...

No verified source. Notice, I didn't say "The POA." I said, "Some members of the POA." I'm just basing it on logic. If no citizens are speaking out against the Chief, someone must be. I know that at least one Councilman was heavily supported by the police and fire unions.

The Brown Act, which I'm certainly no expert on, says that personnel matters being considered by a body like a City Counsel must be conducted in closed session. But I'm not sure how far that goes. Can a Councilman answer the question, "Why didn't you support the Chief in this matter?" Not sure whether there's a blanket over anything regarding this matter. If so, it's wrong, and they're using the Brown Act to hide behind.

Laurie said...

Thanks, Mr. E.

Shanna said...

Atta girl! Laurie, my sister/niece! I'm proud of you for standing up for what is right and honorable and for doing it with such eloquence. I wish I could have heard you at the meeting.

I also appreciate the updates and links.

As you know, I don't follow politics. But this strikes at the very core of my sense of response and responsibility.

Anonymous said...

I watched Laurie and the others on the tv broadcast of the council meeting. Those councilmen must have hearts of stone to ignore all of the eloquent words in favor of chief Watson.

What I want to know is if members of the police officers association are behind all of this then what do they have to gain and what does the council have to gain? I dont get it.

altadenahiker said...

Eyes are on this.

Petrea said...

Lots of eyes.

Dixie Jane said...

Even, "The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You". I'm proud of you, Laurie. I raised a girl who really knows right from wrong and is not afraid to stand up and shout it to the house tops.

Mister Earl said...

In any job with a relatively large workforce, some people would be happy to get a new boss. That's true in any organization. So there are bound to be some officers who want the Chief out.

It really comes down to this: some of them want a change, ohers don't. But there's a reason that the City Manager and not the rank and file decide who the Chief will be. In this case, I'm guessing that some on the Council are beholden to the union, or at least some of the union. They are just taking advantage of an opportunity to try to get someone else whom they think they would prefer into the job. What they're doing is on behalf of a small group of people, not the citizens of South Pasadena.

Some in public office think their job is to do the right thing for the people of their jurisdiction. Others think their job is to represent the personal interests of themselves, their friends, and their supporters.

This is such a smarmy thing. They waited until right after the November election to direct the City Manager to tell the Chief that they weren't going to renew his contract. They knew that had they done it before the election, the results would have been different. In addition, they did this over the Christmas and New Years holidays. They were hoping no one would notice. Some people did, and they told a lot of other people. And there are still more people to tell.

Don't forget that the people who are pulling all these shenanigans are the people we elected to run this City. Clearly, they don't have the mentality to do that properly.

Laurie said...

Thanks, everyone.

Carrie said...

The real question now is how can the City Council retreat from this disastrous decision and still save face. Their self serving actions are not in the best interest of the City and this needs to be rectified immediately.

I urge everone to email southpaschief@alive.com to include your name in next week's ad in the South Pasadena Review.

Laurie said...

Thanks, Carrie!

Laurie said...

I've updated the post with a link to Larry Wilson's latest about the South Pas Council, in the Pasadena Star News.

http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/ci_14209522

Mister Earl said...

Larry Wilson in his recent column also mentions a theory about why some on the Council may be going after the Chief's job: He says there are rumors that a certain former SPPD member was planning to run for City Council and may have been offered the Police Chief job in exchange for not running. If true, that would explain why the Council seems unconcerned about Chief Watson's excellent performance record. If true, it's not about Watson's performance, but about needing to make good on the deal.

Laurie said...

Everyone, make sure to send your name to southpaschief@live.com to be included in the next ad in the South Pasadena Review. If you missed it last week it was a full page of names stating that we support Dan Watson, that crime has gone down 21% on his watch. Let's keep showing our support, and send the council a message that the we the people want Dan Watson to continue doing the fine job he's been doing for the past 8 years.

Anonymous said...

I will send my name. Thank you for highlighting this. My neighbor didn't know about it and neither did I. I don't like the idea of political backroom deals in our town.