April 21, 2016

City Report Out: O'Connor "Not Credible"

In the wake of Elizabeth Riel’s firing as the City’s Communications Director, at SMCLC’s request for a full investigation, former Enron prosecutor John Hueston was hired by the City Council. His Report as to: 1) whether Councilmember Pam O’Connor violated the City Charter by causing the City Manager to fire Elizabeth Riel; and 2) whether the Oaks anti-corruption law is enforceable is in. The Report confirms that the answer to both questions is YES:

1. COUNCILMEMBER PAM O’CONNOR VIOLATED THE CITY CHARTER -- KEY PARTS OF HER TESTIMONY ARE NOT “CREDIBLE.” She made “thinly veiled threats”—in her escalating barrage of emails -- that were “intended to pressure [City Manager] Rod Gould” to fire Ms. Riel. (p.24-25)

2. The Report also specifically found that the City Charter prohibits even “an indirect request to the City Manager to remove any person” and that Councilmember O’Connor’s threats were “intended to pressure Mr. Gould to reversing his hiring decision. As such, it qualifies as at least an ‘indirect . . . request’ for the removal of Ms. Riel.” Ms. O’Connor’s threats thus were found to violate the City Charter. (p.25)


4. CITY ATTORNEY MARSHA MOUTRIE ADVISED THE CITY MANAGER THAT FIRING MS. RIEL WOULD NOT VIOLATE HER FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS (COSTING TAXPAYERS OVER $1 MILLION). Thereafter, she, O’Connor, and Gould kept the City Council in the dark over O’Connor’s role in the firing despite that “multiple councilmembers requested more details” on the firing – the Council only learned of Ms. O’Connor’s improper threats when SMCLC publicized documents from the Riel lawsuit and demanded a full investigation. (pp.18-19, 22-23, 31)

SANTA MONICA’S ANTI-CORRUPTION STATUTE KNOWN AS OAKS “FULFILLS IMPORTANT ANTI-CORRUPTION GOALS” AND THE CITY ATTORNEY SHOULD ENFORCE IT. This strongly vindicates the Transparency Project’s position and repudiates Marsha Moutrie’s refusal to enforce Oaks complaints to date. Oaks creates “a deterrent effect and a tool to minimize corruptive behavior in Santa Monica.” Some ways to strengthen Oaks are suggested. (p.33-57, 47)

Taken together, these serious failings have steadily eroded the public trust and undermined the transparency, accountability and openness that good governance requires.

It gets worse: Our City also failed to properly respond to SMCLC’s public records request just after the firing to determine what documents Mr. Gould reviewed before firing Ms. Riel. Instead, the City Attorney advised SMCLC that there were no such documents. The failure to provide ANY of the many emails O’Connor sent Gould protected O’Connor from having her misconduct exposed during her re-election campaign. The City Attorney also allowed the clock to run out (the statute of limitations) so that councilmember O’Connor can never be prosecuted for violating the City Charter.

Together we can restore the role of the City Council in upholding the City Charter and clearly set a standard for the City so that this conduct is less likely to reoccur:

1. The City Council should formally censure Councilmember Pam O’Connor for violating the City Charter and for providing testimony in an official investigation that was found not credible. This is particularly important because the prescribed remedy – prosecution -- has been thwarted by the City Attorney, allowing the statute of limitations to run out. The Council has the inherent power to censure a councilmember for violation of the City Charter, after giving her notice and an opportunity to be heard.

2. The City Council should conduct a performance evaluation of City Attorney Marsha Moutrie, including her advice and conduct in the Riel matter and her ongoing failure to enforce the Oaks Initiative. While we understand these evaluations are conducted in closed session, there should be a time before the Council goes into its private session for public comment.

This coming Tuesday, April 26th, Council will discuss the Hueston Report (Item 8-A) and its findings and recommendations. We urge you to send the Council your comments, including the Council’s need to censure Councilmember O’Connor for violating the City Charter and the need to conduct a performance review of the City Attorney at: councilmtgitems@smgov.net

And, if you can, please come down to support SMCLC, or to speak. The full Report can be found under Item 8-A at http://santamonicacityca.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=1061

Thank you,
Victor, Diana, Sherrill, Jeff