Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Just Another Wacky Evening With Sierra Madre's City Council.

Terri Highsmith v. City of Alameda
I think I have finally figured out why so few people want to go to City Council meetings anymore. Or at least since Josh Moran and Nancy Walsh took control of our City's government. Nobody wants to be in the same room with them. Up until a year or so ago Council Chambers would often be packed with all kinds of people, and at times the lines at public comment would extend almost to the top of the aisle. There were regulars, innocents, and people with business to conduct. Now? There are often more city employees at these affairs than residents. What used to be the peoples' house is now just an empty room filled with meaningless noise, with those running the show only concerned about raising fees, rates and taxes, and willing to say anything to do it. No matter how absurdly untrue.

Last night I went to the podium and discussed information regarding Teresa Highsmith, our City Attorney. Things that are easily found anywhere on the Internet. Teresa, as our Colantuono & Levin city attorney, was fighting for her job. The City Council was looking around for a better deal elsewhere, and had conducted a long search that drew the interest of over 40 lawyers and firms, with a top notch rival lawyer in the house and ready to take away her job. The pressure was on for Teresa, and I had a topic she didn't want discussed. Here is the first portion of what I said:

According to a January 11, 2011 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, our current Colantuono & Levin City Attorney, Teresa Highsmith, had been placed on indefinite leave by the City of Alameda. The vote to do so by the Alameda City Council was 5 to zero. My question here is did Colantuono & Levin make the City of Sierra Madre aware that the attorney we were sent to replace Sandra Levin had been put on indefinite administrative leave by another city?

Teresa Highsmith's response to this was that she had not been forced from her position in Alameda, rather she had left that city because it just wasn't up to her high ethical standards. Or something. A reply that had absolutely nothing to do with the question. And when Mayor Moran, who apparently had heard the question a little better than the City Attorney, asked City Staff if they'd ever been told that Highsmith had been put on administrative leave by Alameda, nobody replied. Something that I took as a tacit admission that they knew nothing about it, and that Colantuono & Levin did not inform its client that the attorney they had sent our way was damaged goods.

This is how the San Francisco Chronicle described what happened (click here):

Alameda's city attorney, Teresa Highsmith, took a job as city attorney in Barstow on Dec. 20 without quitting her six-figure-salary job in Alameda. Soon Highsmith will be collecting two paychecks.

"We were blindsided," said Alameda City Councilwoman Lena Tam. "We're not sure what happened. Right now we're still in a fact-finding mode."

A week after Barstow approved Highsmith for the job, the Alameda City Council voted unanimously to put Highsmith on paid, indefinite administrative leave. The council did not say why. She earns $191,568 plus benefits in Alameda, where she's worked for 13 years.

Here is the second part of what I had asked at the podium about this matter.

Was the City also made aware that Ms. Highsmith sued that City, one that had employed her for 13 years?

Ms. Highsmith's response was that she has never sued a client, and that the mere thought of filing a legal action against something that had employed her would be unthinkable.

Fortunately we live in the age of the Internet, and the truth can almost always be found. In the upper left hand corner of this page is a copy of the first page of Highsmith v. City of Alameda. It can be viewed in its entirety by clicking here.

Now being a legal layman I might not have picked up on a nuance. Even now after having made calls to some folks familiar with these things the distinction, if there is one, seems rather slight. But what would be the difference between a claim against the City of Alameda, one that, if carried to fruition, would bring significant financial penalties, and a full on lawsuit? Either way, Highsmith did bring legal action against the City of Alameda. No matter what language you speak.

Here is how a news site called Action Alameda News (click here) describes it:

Today, former City Attorney Teresa Highsmith filed a claim against the City of Alameda for personal injury damages pertaining to her dismissal on December 28th, 2010.

In a claim filed by her attorney, William Rapoport, of Redwood City, Ms. Highsmith claims the following injuries: wage loss, fringe benefits loss, emotional and physical injuries, damage to her reputation and general damages based upon statutory violations and constructive wrongful termination. She blames Mayor Marie Gilmore and Councilmember Lena Tam for her injuries. A copy of the claim was obtain by Action Alameda News from the City under the California Public Records Act.

In a three page supporting exhibit, Highsmith explains that her termination was “motivated in substantial part by an illegal motive, namely, in retaliation for [Highsmith] reporting illegal and criminal behavior” by Councilmember Lena Tam, regarding allegations of official misconduct against Tam. Highsmith also writes in her claim that in mid-December of last year, Mayor Gilmore told her that she didn’t wish to work with her, and that she, Highsmith, would have to leave her position as City Attorney.

Highsmith asserts that she will pursue her claim on the basis whistleblower protection laws under the Labor Code and the Government Code, the Brown Act, and “several common law torts” including defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negative infliction of emotional distress.

Sounds like a lawsuit to me. You will notice that in this article Highsmith's departure is reported as being a "dismissal." Hardly the word you'd use to describe somebody leaving their place of employment over idealism or reasons of personal ethics.

After all of this nonsense concluded Josh Moran, Nancy Walsh and John Harabedian voted to  rehire Teresa Highsmith as City Attorney for the City of Sierra Madre. Shoddy government in action. The law firm that mishandled One Carter, the DSP, the water rate hike and conducted the seminal "suites versus units" Kensignton debate was back on the gravy train. Apparently in Sierra Madre poor performance, ineptitude and a hostile relationship with the truth are no barrier to the big money just as long as you got your agenda right.

The fix was in, but how could it not be? The Mayor of Sierra Madre had even allowed Theresa Highsmith to list his name as a reference on her application. I am not certain the many law firms that had spent time here expecting a fair shake were very impressed. Welcome to Mayberry counselors, just watch out for the chickens.

John Capoccia and Chris Koerber, to their eternal credit, cast votes against making so grievous an error. Something that made Highsmith's job performance review and resulting rehire something less than a standing ovation.

The rest of the evening was consumed with going through a mostly sham "water process," one that had no other real purpose than laying the foundation for another water rate increase. It will be the second such rate hike since Josh Moran and Nancy Walsh took office. Couple that with the stated intention of the 3 usual suspects to raise Sierra Madre's utility tax rate to a California high of 12%, and you can see where their true priorities lay. Everything they do is done with the intention of getting their hands deeper into your pocket. Despite all the noise it is really all they ever do.

Just another wacky evening with Sierra Madre's City Council.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

65 comments:

  1. You were hoping for another outcome?Certainly you jest.As the old saying goes.."Birds of a feather flock together.

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    1. The birds you're talking about, they are of the loon family?

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    2. have to be, there's a chicken ordinance

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    3. Free range organically raised or factory farmed?


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    4. "birds of a feather flock together..." No one ever finishes this little ditty especially when it is so applicable. So here it is, " Birds of a feather flock together and so do the pigs in the stye"

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  2. It appeared to me that all five on the council are in favor of some kind of hike in the water bill very soon

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    1. Yes both Koerber and Capoccia gave very good reasons to increace to rates

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    2. There is a better reason not to raise water rates. The rate payers in Sierra Madre don't want to see it happen.

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    3. I would not object so much to the water rate hikes if city hall staff would be cut by one third. One third. Over the years that staff has grown disproportionally to the town, and needs serious pruning. Save money there, and not from "freezing" positions, but from eliminating them. Then ask hard working people who have none of the benefits city staff has for more of their money.

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    4. The best suggestion I've seen on this Blog for a while....However the City's goal remains for continuous expansion and therefore pushing their ongoing program of fraud and deception to subsidize their grandiose designs.There is no reason that only the homeowners are hammered;lets all share this blunder beginning with staff,attorneys,police,fire the works!!!SLAVES..It's time to revolt!!!Fire the lot including the City Council!

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  3. gotten quite used to listening to people evade issues and utilize distractors and subterfuge. "it's all innocent they say. a simple miscue" one word in a query can be all that is necessary to truthfully lie in an answer. one word tweaked in an answer is all that is needed to lie again. i think three-fifths of the council members heard what they wanted to hear. this lady, in the face of a document right in front of her, has the one word necessary to wiggle out of the answer. that is very desirable because winning is the name of the game, truth is not.

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    1. Thanks to the Tattler, and their informed posters, let's hope the TRUTH Tony mentions is finally sinking in to the dumbed down voters who let this happen.
      Thank you John Crawford and Tattlers, slowly but surely, you are getting the truth out there.

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    2. Evade, utilize, tweak,wiggle - there should be one word to sum it all up, and not a swear word, but one that actually describes the linguistic torture you describe so well.
      Evutwegle?
      As in, I ned a break from all the evutwegeling that goes on at the council meetings.

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  4. The dumb voters of Sierra Madre are at blame for this.
    If these low information voters would have paid attention and re-elected MacGillivray along with Koerber and Capoccia, this would not be happening.
    Why did you vote in Harabedian, who is obviously just another vote for what will ruin Sierra Madre.
    Shame on you uninfmormed, silly voters. Wake up. Vote out Moron and Walsh in the next election or kiss Sierra Madre goodbye.

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    1. Looks as if Capoccia and Koerber have caved to the Establishment!!!

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    2. Capoccia & Koerber voted for an "A" rated attorney firm...The Moranistan 3 voted for Lying Teri.

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  5. I was raised to believe lying is extremely offensive. Apparently last night in Council Chambers it was seen as a virtue to be rewarded with a highly paid job.

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    1. From her point of view it's not lying. It's manipulating language so that she doesn't have to be accountable. And it's a double twisty thing because she's avoiding accountability by claiming she was the only accountable one. Yeah, she fits in Sierra Madre city hall.

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    2. The last thing Moran wants is an honest city attorney. A truth teller at the dais could ruin everything for him and his handlers.

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    3. Right you are, 7:52. The pro-development pro-taxes minority has been able to get the council majorities - as people are posting, because of such disinterest on the part of the average voter. The council majority is only interested in how the attorneys can guide them around what the citizens really want.

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    4. Wait until All the increases are added up.Federal,State,County and tiny weeny SM.Enjoy the ride!!!

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  6. One of the things that was probably clear even before last night was that there's no hope Harabedian will ever break away from being the lap dog of the LA County Democrat establishment. He's just another Mosca.

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    1. Harabedian has never owned a house, never paid property taxes and has never experienced a day in his life where he had to worry about meeting his bills or getting a kid new shoes. The son of the garbageman is a gilded zero.

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    2. Harabedian is part of the "anointed" class. He is overly educated and under experienced yet he knows that he knows it all.(In his tender thirties, no less.) Here is something he needs to answer. He has said a couple of times now that we need to ask the feds and state to give us money, because, after all, we have sent it to them in the form of taxes. I want to know, that if it's our money, why do we send it to the government in the first place? And why does Harabedian feel (he obviously doesn't think) that the government is so much wiser than the rest of us in the spending of our money? Of course, this is a circular question, the government knows better because they are smarter than us, just like Harabedian is "smarter" than us, and that therefore gives him the power to run our lives. I say he should run his own life and leave the rest of us the h--- alone!

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    3. Hello,this is a surprise!!!!Where were you during the Election cycle.The guy was a poster child of a phoney!

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    4. Do you think that if Harabedian saw nothing wrong with asking the SMPD to break the law and appear in photos with him he would see anything wrong with Theresa Highsmith lying about her severance from the City of Alameda? Neither of them have a very highly developed sense of ethics.

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  7. Lawyers are paid too much money.

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  8. rule of life number one : beware of the pretty boys and their overly solicitous behavior. They are never to be trusted.

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    1. you need your eyes checked. Josh certainly ain't no pretty boy.

      slimy boy is more like it and anybody that can sell reverse mortgages certainly is overly solicitous.

      Josh's legacy is that he once advocated a boycott of Sierra Madre businesses because he disagreed with the freedom of the press.

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    2. I got a marvelous bit of advertising in the mail yesterday - a Community Meeting to discuss The Real Truth about Reverse Mortgages. Come one, come all to a Community Meeting. And then sign on the dotted line.
      What a bunch of malarky. Hope it doesn't fool any elders.

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    3. Really? What company was it from? Are there any presenters named? We need to track this one down.

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    4. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the Mayor's company, or I would have noticed. I'll see if it is in the recycling bin or not. Bright yellow, postcard, Community Meeting.

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    5. Thanks! You never know where these things will lead.

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    6. Security One Lending sent the mailer. It's very sneaky work. It uses the residents name, not occupant, and calls it a community meeting. On the flip side you see the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce and the Monrovia Community Center listed - and that might make someone think it is actually city sponsored.

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  9. I'm 60, realistic, generally jaded, and usually cynical, but this vote for Highsmith still disgusts me. Moran, Walsh, and Harabedian are incorrigible. Josh and Nancy, ask Harabedian what it means.

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  10. It is a mistake to over romanticize Sierra Madre. There is a lot that is bad here. Last night being a good example.

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    1. That's for sure....examples (besides the current 3/5 council) Joe Mosca, Bart Doyle, Bob Matheson, Susan Henderson.....each one a dirty little secret.

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  11. So Michael Colantuono gets One Carter accomplished then moves on, Sandy Levin gets the Prop 218 water rate hike accomplished and moves on, and Scott Porter gets the suites/units definitions accomplished and moves on.....

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    1. It is like the circus and elephants. Colantuono and Levin attorneys pass through, and we follow with the dust bins and shovels.

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    2. Touche....Welcome to the city whose goal is to impoverish the residents!

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  12. LOL! Old Terri sure didn't make it easy for her pals on the council. Thanks for the show Crawford!

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  13. Here is a question. Is it time for an RFP for water services? How do we know privatization would be worse if we can't see the numbers? I personally would rather send my check to a private company than City Hall.

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    1. I like it! How could things get any worse than they are now?

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    2. Be careful what you wish for. Private companies can charge whatever they want up to a State limit and it could be double what you're paying now. You don't put up an RFP, you put a "For Sale" sign up. This means losing our own water forever.

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    3. How do we know this for certain? We have all heard this many times, but is it for real? By getting an RFP we would have actual figures that would enable us to compare the performance of the Sierra Madre Water Company with private firms. Does it hurt to at least find out? Our water company raises rates every couple of years. It is an antiquated water company with crumbling infrastructure and an inability to solve it's problems. We get nickel and dimed constantly. Then there is that awful bond debt. Properly negotiated, privatizing could very well be the way to go. But we won't know any of this for certain if we don't at least do an RFP.

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    4. As I said before, you don't get an RFP for a water company, you sell it.

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    5. You get an RFP from private companies who would perform the duties of our Edsel of a water company. Do I need to type more slowly?

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  14. Harabedian is adding to his law school education, watching Highsmith, learning how it's really done, lying legally and getting away with it.

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    1. this is a world of networking and alliances.the young lawyer in a green tie is no dummy.

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    2. Tell me please, how does this work for Sierra Madre? We know Johnny watches out for himself, but how is he serving the community that elected him?

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    3. Who said anything about John Harabedian helping Sierra Madre?

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  15. Last night proved the truth of the old joke - how do you know when a lawyer is lying? His/her lips are moving.

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  16. If anyone would know how to spot a frivolous lawsuit, it would be John Crawford, he having brought one against the city and all...but, as usual, he's wrong...no lawsuit was filed.

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    1. So what was filed by Ms. Highsmith, Johnny? It is a legal document, is it not?

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    2. Ah, the Unicorn patrol is out and about.

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    3. What is it that rhymes with parse? Oh, that's right. Arse.

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    4. City Attorney Highsmith threatens lawsuit against Alameda

      SF Chronicle: "This is a shameful filing..."

      http://blog.sfgate.com/inalameda/2011/03/16/city-attorney-highsmith-threatens-lawsuit-against-alameda/

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    5. Some very funny Terri videos attached to that sfgate post. Good find!

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    6. Ya gotta love their commitment to the lie.
      It wasn't a lawsuit that was filed; it was a claim for personal injury that was filed (and no doubt cost the city a pretty penny). She didn't quit because she was put on administrative leave (5-0 vote); she left because she was ethical and they weren't. It wasn't because she went after a councilwoman and hired Michael Colantuono to do it; it was that she was the only moral one and the others were in a cesspool of corruption.
      And now, thanks to Harbedian, Walsh and Moran, she's all ours.

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    7. Just you wait until she finds out what a moral cesspool Harabedian, Walsh and Moran are treading poo in! She'll be suing Sierra Madre claiming she is the only moral authority on the dais. Mark my words...

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  17. All I ask for is factual accuracy

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    1. Then stay away from the City Attorney.

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  18. I know someone, who knows someone that used to work in Colantuono's office and that knows Ms. Highsmith. I'll ask some questions. Can the three council members that voted to keep the same law firm spell ethics?

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  19. Ethics (noun): synonym - see Moranistan

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