One of the comments I received on my latest Tindall blog was in the form of questions. “If it (referring to Tindall’s advice) were legal advice given to the City, wouldn’t it be provided to the entire City Council? Does a subset of people on the City Council (fewer than would qualify as quorum) qualify as ‘The City’?” They are interesting questions raising a subject I have been thinking about for quite some time. One of the most precious commodities in local government is arguably, the power accrued from knowledge. There is an old saying, “that knowledge is power” and in government is it golden.

From the time I took my seat as a councilmember in 2000, Dr. Martin Vanacour, City Manager at that time, managed by the precept, what one councilmember knew, all councilmembers should know. Whenever I asked for further information on an issue or raised questions, my questions and the answers I received were always copied to all councilmembers and I received the same when other councilmembers asked. That practice was always followed under subsequent city managers until my retirement in 2013. That was the ethical thing to do.

So what has happened to the ethics quotient in City Hall lately? What caused an email request for legal advice to be sent by 3 councilmembers and former City Attorney Craig Tindall’s return response solely and exclusively sent to those 3 councilmembers? To refresh your memory about this specific email, here it is: Tindall email 3 correctedAn investigative cause of concern may turn out to be the legal advice he provided without benefit of a separate agreement permitting him to do so per his Severance Agreement. Legally it may prove troublesome to him at some point.

The greater issue that should be of concern to all Glendale city councilmembers, as well as to that of Glendale’s management, is one of morality and ethics. The three councilmembers that solicited Mr. Tindall’s legal advice were well aware of the terms of his Severance Agreement. I am sure those terms were discussed in at least one council Executive Session. They cannot plead ignorance. If they attempt to do so, shame on them. It is their responsibility to know and understand the terms of agreements such as these. Ignorance, if proffered, is no excuse.

Mr. Tindall was employed by the city for many years. He should have known better than to respond to only 3 councilmembers and not the entire council. During his tenure habit and practice dictated that he share with all of council. Was he advancing the agenda of the pro IceArizona councilmembers? A few months later he became General Counsel to IceArizona.

There is another underlying serious concern and that is, why were three of the four councilmembers who supported the IceArizona Management Agreement, asking Tindall about that very same agreement? They should have properly directed their question(s) to Dick Bowers, Interim City Manager or Nick DiPiazza, Acting City Attorney. Did they hope to gain some advantage over those councilmembers who did not support the IceArizona agreement? In any event, their motivation in seeking exclusive legal advice, not shared with others on the council, is suspect.

There is a separate, ongoing issue regarding ethics and that is the reluctance of senior staff to share all information with the entire council, whether it be helpful or detrimental to their agenda. There is a natural tension between senior management and the council about information sharing. It appears when it is information that furthers staff’s agenda they are all too willing to share but if it is information that does not, it is not shared readily or sometimes, at all, with council. There remains a culture of secrecy at the senior staff level, a walling-off of information that should be shared. It is all too apparent when a councilmember publicly asks for information that a senior staffer believes to be detrimental to his/her agenda. The request for information is stone-walled and a councilmember will frequently and publicly state that his/her previous request still has not been met. It is often obvious what staff’s position is on an issue simply by the way councilmembers’ questions are answered or ignored. It is senior staff’s duty to provide information on an issue, positive and negative, in a fair and impartial manner. It is council’s duty to make a policy decision based upon the provision of such information. It is not senior management’s prerogative to make a pre-determined decision on an issue and then manipulate the manner in which it is presented to council.

Over the years I occasionally asked for copies of a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request made by a member of the public. Sometimes staff would provide copies of FOIA requests when they thought it might be of particular interest to council. None of the copies provided ever contained redactions (blacking out of information). Lately that is no longer the habit and practice of senior management. Copies of FOIA requests have been provided with redactions. So much for transparency. It is not appropriate and the practice should stop immediately. Councilmembers must be fully informed about any situation and redaction of information does not serve them well.

Information is the coin of City Hall’s realm and councilmembers are not receiving their share. We are poorer as a result of this unethical practice.

© Joyce Clark, 2014


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