City’s, Farias’ Actions Called into Question in Recall Attempt

One of the proponents of a recall movement against Mayor Pro Tem Sergio Farias called into question the timing of Farias’ apparent about-face on the SDG&E expansion project. The proponent also questions the appropriateness of the city manager’s actions relative to the release to the public of an unverified petition.

 After pledging during his campaign to fight the SDG&E expansion project "with whatever it takes", proponents say Farias changed his tune once elected. They pointed to a number of statements Farias made publicly after the election, such as that residents would "… have to accept the reality" that the expansion project in their neighborhood could not be fought. Farias made additional statements indicating his position had changed say proponents, including; "… campaign promises can’t always be kept", and telling his constituents, "… you guys need to go to San Francisco and complain to the CPUC [California Public Utilities Commission]." 

"His own statements prompted the recall," proponent Dawn Fusco stated. "After promising the voters that he would do ‘whatever it takes to fight the expansion’, he almost immediately threw in the towel, telling us that we need to just accept that it was going to happen," Fusco said. "He did not vote with the council majority to retain an outside attorney to fight the expansion until after proponent signatures were being collected for the recall," she added.

In fact, prior to a March 7th special closed session council meeting at which hiring an outside attorney to fight the project was to be discussed, a number of residents addressed the council. The residents urged the council to protect them by hiring attorney Michael Aguirre, who has had success in fighting the CPUC. Councilmember Pam Patterson made a motion to report out in open session who voted which way [about hiring Aguirre]. The motion was seconded by Mayor Kerry Ferguson. But Farias joined Council members Derek Reeve and Brian Maryott in voting to shield from the public the result of the vote, and the motion failed.

The council did not report out in open session a vote on hiring attorney Aguirre at that time, which indicates that they did not vote on the item. Had they done so, the law requires them to report in open session the result of any votes taken in closed door sessions (if not who voted for what). "Why would [councilmember Farias] want his vote kept from the public, unless he did not support hiring the outside attorney at that time?" asked Fusco. Farias also stated publicly at another council meeting that hiring the outside attorney "… wouldn’t likely change the outcome" of the CPUC decision, which recall proponents say runs counter to his pledge to vigorously defend their neighborhoods from the negative impacts of the expansion project.

It was not until nearly two months later - after a petition began circulating to collect recall proponent signatures - that the council reported out in open session a unanimous vote to hire attorney Aguirre, say proponents.

Fusco also questions the city manager’s actions which led to the media being informed about the rejection of the initial recall petition - before she was even made aware of it. "I dropped off the petition in a sealed envelope addressed to the city clerk on a Friday afternoon, and learned that [City Clerk Maria Morris] was gone for the day. By Monday, I was being contacted by the media about the city clerk’s rejection of the petition – before I even knew about it. How did the media know about this before I did? Someone obviously leaked it to the media."

City Manager Ben Siegel sent an email to Fusco, explaining that he was the one who opened the envelope addressed to City Clerk Morris. The city manager admitted that after opening the envelope, he called Farias, who immediately went to City Hall and took a picture of the unverified recall petition. By Monday morning, the picture of the unverified petition with all of the proponents’ signatures was posted on Councilmember Derek Reeve’s Facebook page, on another publication’s website, and Fusco was contacted by two reporters.

Recall proponents maintain that it is a matter of trust and values – or lack of them. "This is about Sergio Farias’ betrayal of his campaign promises. It didn’t take him long, once elected, to renege [on them]," Fusco said.

2 comments:

Rhen Kohan said...

Please check the Recall Handbook source at
https://www.ocvote.com/election-librar/docs/Recall%20Petition%20Process%20Handbook.pdf

What Ms. Fusco filed was a Notice of Intention (which is open to the public) however she appears to have missed a step in her filing. She filed the Notice without first serving Farias hence the process, done incorrectly, was rejected BUT as it was turned into the City, it became a public document. She has not yet filed a Recall Petition (which is not open to the public). Your article terminology calls this initial paperwork a petition - the recall petition step hasn't been completed to even start circulating for the 500+ signatures. The Notice of Intention required abut 20 some signatures only. It appears the City Manager/City Clerk followed procedure.

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