In the Rose City it is not only raining men, but just about anyone else the City Hall establishment can get their hands on long enough to throw headlong into the abyss. No matter what the position or classification preference might be that particular week. When the going gets tough, Pasadena's apparently responsibility-free elected officials start heaving the help. Through appropriate channels, of course. And not all of them are what you might exactly call bureaucratic featherweights.
So who got thrown under the bus in Pasadena yesterday? What management level City Hall employees are being cast out from their almost $200,000 dollar a year privileged perches in hopes they will take all of that bad embezzlement juju karma flying with them? Here is how today's Pasadena Star News lays it on us (link):
Two Pasadena department heads fired amid $6.4M embezzlement investigation - City officials Tuesday announced the firings of two department heads who were in charge of overseeing a fund from which $6.4 million was allegedly embezzled.
Finance Director Andrew Green and Public Works Director Siobhan Foster were fired without cause by City Manager Michael Beck. They are the second and third high-profile City Hall department heads that have left their jobs under a cloud in the past year.
“...Our current challenges require a change in department leadership to meet the city’s future organizational needs,” Beck said in a letter sent to city employees. “These are difficult times for all of us and more challenges are ahead.”
Beck named Assistant City Manager Julie Gutierrez as interim head of both departments.
“Siobhan Foster and Andrew Green don’t work for the city any longer,” said William Boyer, the city’s spokesman. Boyer said details about Foster’s and Green’s severance packages were being worked out. Typically city department heads receive six months severance pay, according to their contracts.
Green and Foster were among city department heads that received pay raises in December. Green earned $197,442 in 2013 and Foster earned $192,065 that year, according to city salary data.
Now don't get me wrong, I am all in favor of firing city employees. If that is what PeeDee City Manager Michael Beck means by more challenges ahead, then you keep bringing 'em, boy. Especially the ones that are earning money as large as that. Besides, if done properly, it means that you will always have new blood running the city, and none of them will be around long enough to retire. A good system, right?
However, here is something that I think is just not right. If you are going to fire the help in order to keep the angry mob off your back, then you should also do at least something about the responsible elected officials as well, right? Like maybe admit that they might have done something had they not been asleep for 11 years? Nobody on a City Council should be allowed to blame the help as a way of "getting away with it."
As the highest of elected authorities in their town outside of the Mayor, City Council members should not be permitted to hide behind the skirts of those they are firing. They need to face at least some of the consequences as well. The buck has to stop somewhere.
But that is not what's happening on the far side of the Michillinda Curtain. There the angry mob seems quite content with the whole "fire the help" strategy currently in place. Maybe it is something in the water?
What makes the Pasadena situation even more absurd is that two actual members of the City Council, both of whom are also running for Mayor I'll have you know, served on the very committee that directly oversaw the activities of the guy arrested for embezzling $6.4 million dollars, Danny Ray Wooten!
Here is how InvoiceGate Pasadena enlightens us:
A third member of the Municipal Services Committee, Jacque Robinson, is running for Mayor of Pasadena as well. Right along with Terry Tornek. Tornek has been on that committee for six years, or right up until this day.
Yet few seem to be calling either of them out on any of this. With the exception of InvoiceGate Pasadena, practically nobody is asking these potential Mayors to take their fair share of responsibility for that $6.4 million dollars in embezzled taxpayer funds. Not in the candidate debates, not in the Pasadena newspapers, not on the blogs and news sites. The theft was done on their watch, for years, and now they get to run for Mayor consequence-free, like nothing had ever happened.
I had an opportunity to question an Internet policy expert named Mark Davis about this on the website discussion board attached to the above Star News article. Or at least I think that is what his name is. But he must be an expert because his words can be found on the web.
Besides, he is the only person yet to try and shed some light on this. Trust me, I have been asking. You have to take what you can get.
My question was this: "When are the two candidates for Mayor - who both also oversaw Wooten - going to be inconvenienced by having to discuss their responsibility in the scandal?"
To which Mark answered:
"Maybe because your statement is based on a false premise? Pasadena has City Manager Government. By law, no city employees are "overseen" by the Mayor or any City Council members. The only city employees that answer to the Council/Mayor are the City Clerk, the City Attorney and the City Manager."
Which is pretty amusing if you think about it. If "City Manager Government" even exists as a recognized form of governance, and isn't something that Mr. Davis invented on the spot to deal with an annoying questioner, then it means that the people the taxpayers elect to watch over their financial contributions to the Rose City have no direct control over those spending it. Even if they serve on a Committee tasked with overseeing just those very people.
Joe M, another expert on Pasadena government law, then joined the conversation. Note the complete lack of irony in what he says here.
"In Pasadena the city staff is independent of the Council and reports only to the City Manager in order to avoid the systemic corruption of "political machine" government. I think that is a superior system then the sort of Tammany Hall system you are proposing or falsely claiming exists."
Yeah, Joe. There's no corruption in the Rose City. It is no wonder Pasadena got robbed blind. The lunatics run the asylum, they have the support of Mark and Joe, and the elected officials there are as innocent as little babes.
It also explains why so few people vote in that town. Apparently the City is run by its inmates and everybody there thinks that helps fight corruption.