Carter under fire for using city resources in special election

August 16, 2011

Andrew Carter

By KAREN VELIE

Members of the San Luis Obispo public safety workers’ unions want to know why city councilman Andrew Carter is possibly violating the law in his attempts to overturn binding arbitration and implement pension reform during August’s special election involving Measures A and B.

Carter has been instrumental in bringing Measure A and B to the voters, while at the same time allegedly using public resources to battle opponents of both measures.

Critics contend Carter is using his city email account in his fight against binding arbitration, actions which appear to violate laws restricting the use of taxpayer resources or money to support either side of a ballot measure.

In addition, according to emails obtained through a CalCoastNews public records request, Carter has enlisted the help of city employees to spend work hours to disprove claims of opponents of Measure A and B that, since the passing of binding arbitration, paramedic staffing numbers have increased.

Matt Blackstone, president of the San Luis Obispo Police Officers’ Association, expressed doubts about Carter’s email use and influence over city staff. “It ties into the ongoing concerns I have with conduct of certain council members regarding the ballot measures. It appears they believe the ends justify the means.”

On Aug. 1, Carter emailed city Human Resources Director Monica Irons, with a copy to City Manager Katie Lichtig, asking Irons to help him refute the claims about increased staffing in the fire department.

“Do you know when we went to three firemen on each truck at stations two, three, and four and four at station one?” Andrew asks Irons in the email. “The firefighters are claiming this happened since binding arbitration was passed. But my records show little increase in fire department staffing since 1995/1996, which would indicate what they are saying can’t be right.

“Also, do you know when we shifted from two paramedics on duty to four?” Carter added. “Their saying this has happened since binding arbitration was passed.”

Irons sent an email back to Carter explaining that staffing minimums and paramedic assignments had increased since binding arbitration, but that she would also ask Fire Chief Charlie Hines to verify the numbers had actually increased in the department.

On July 29, Hines responded by email that he was “on it,” and would review the matter.

After several city employees investigated Carter’s assertion that the firefighters were incorrect about the numbers, it was determined the firefighters were right and the number of paramedics had indeed increased.

The use of Carter’s city council email account to inquire into firefighter staffing, and the expenditure of public employee hours in the fight against binding arbitration, appear to violate Government Code 8314, which bans government officials from using public resources including buildings, government employee hours, phones, computers, or public email accounts to discourage or support a ballot measure.

On July 27, a San Luis Obispo resident sent an email to council members questioning if two firefighters standing on the sidewalk in front of Fire Station One, waving “No on B” signs, were on duty and if the coat and hats they were donning belonged to the city.

Carter emailed the resident thanking him for his concern and voicing his own.

“My expectation is these are not on-duty personnel, but we won’t know until we look,” Carter says in the email. “If the firemen in question are off-duty and on the public sidewalk, they have a legal right to be there, even if this sends a terrible signal to the community.

“The wearing of firefighter coats and helmets is another matter. It is absolutely off limits to use city property in this way.”

Nevertheless, the firefighters were off-duty and wearing personally purchased coats and helmets while promoting No on Measure B.

When contacted by CalCoastNews, Carter said he was too busy to respond to requests for comment prior to publication because of teaching at Cuesta College and a Tuesday evening council meeting.

Opponents of Measures A and B are wondering about an email Carter–who is advocating for council control of employee benefits and compensation packages–sent Irons on July 19, asking how retiree medical benefits apply to council members.

Irons responded by telling Carter in order for him to be eligible for retiree benefits, a council member must retire directly from service in the city, be enrolled in the PERS medical plan, and be at least 50 years old.

If passed, Measure A will amend a city charter that requires voter approval to change employee benefits and instead places that ability in the councils’ hands.

Measure B would undo binding arbitration, a measure passed by the voters in 2000 that allows a third party to decide on safety worker contract disputes.

The deadline for returning ballots in the special mail-in election is Aug. 30.

 

 


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106 Comments

  1. oxforduniversity says:

    Shame on the fire and police department, if the fire should be mad, they should be mad at the police department when Andrew Charter said because the police department demanded more money 2008, they rejected the 20% the fire department accepted, as Andrew said, there would be no A & B today if the police department didn’t demand so much 4 years ago. If they would accepted less, this would be a different story. They should be mad at the police department but now these overpaid fire department are so pissed at the taxpayer community not realizing the city is broke and they have the recession proof jobs over most people in this town? They should be lucky they are working in a bad ecomony. Take a ride over at the mobile parks allover San Luis Obispo and see what its like living on social society into they die living on $14,000 a year. There are plenty of people that not retiring at 50 years old and leaving with $160,000 a year like Chief Deborah LInden is, she never worry a day in her life about her money. In the 9 years she worked for the police department she made more than 2 million dollars of City tax money. How that money alone would of been better used that paying her so much, it is absurd she is leaving with bankrupting the town when she already made more than enough as it is. Its it sick. Where’s film maker Michael Moore?

    How about we post new jobs at the police & fire depatment from $10.00 to $15.00 an hour openings and see how many people need a job now (even at that rate you get free health insurance too many people don’t get at all). I would like to see their reaction, the police & firemen would be shocked on how many people need an anything kind of job. I mean seriously these cops and firemen have the easy lifestyles, there is hardly any crime here and they are complaining? Head over to Oakland guys, with less pay and more problems then San Luis will every face. Or how about a US soldier salary in Iraq or Afghanistan making less then $40,000 a year and away from friends & family and in war. I would like to see these fire fighters & police overthere to understand how much those guys are paid vice versa. They see nothing those guys see every minute.

    And two, to make threats to SLO citizens to boycott business, yeah go right ahead fire fighters, its not like you are buying from businesses that employee illegal immigrations in San Luis Obispo but to threaten people to boycott business, it is absurd. Many small businesses have taken a beaten in the last 2 years this recession began and to here absurd comments from the fire fighters!!!

    Andrew Carter is not out of line, it is trying to protect the city from going into bankruptcy; I give Andrew credit for his knowledge and honor to serve the city and to think about the city. I may not agree with all the ordiances that Andrew as voted upon but I like his passion for what he wants to protect this town.

    Prehaps if we don’t listen to reality, other towns & cities across the nation are being hit with the same problems. For example Rhode Island City in Rhonde Island heads into Chapter 9 bankruptcy files because of police and fire pensions August 2001, posted on USA Today here:
    http://www.usatoday.com/MONEY/usaedition/2011-08-02-Central-Falls-Bankruptcy_ST_U.htm

    That is the wakeup call that A & B needs a yes vote. The police & fire are living beyond there means with high salaries and these pensions that are ripping off the City. If these guys love their jobs than you remember the Geico commercial, if you love your job you’ll never work a day in your life. If your uphappy, then leave and go look for another job you fire fighters & police officers, go right ahead. I would like to see what job in San Luis Obispo that will pay you more than $40,000 if you can find one (with health insurance and a pension).

    Stop complaining and be happy you have a job in a this terrible economy thats heading back into recession again.

    The voters will approve A & B, I have my money on it.

    (5) 13 Total Votes - 9 up - 4 down
    • wisegate says:

      This was so hard to read and a waste of my time. Police and fire are there to protect and serve you. Get a life and please use proper grammar. Most computers have automatic spell check, but you are on your own when looking like a donkey.

      (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
  2. oto says:

    Chief Velie! All hail to the Chief! You deserve a raise!

    (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
  3. Crusader says:

    Whoa, who re-set all the thumbs-up/thumbs-down counters in favor of the unions? It was running more than 2:1 (more than 3:1 in some cases) in favor of A&B. Looks like the site got hacked…

    (2) 12 Total Votes - 7 up - 5 down
    • slocorruptionhater says:

      hahaha…hopefully it has nothing to do with the fact that NO on A & B is advertizing on this website. I did notice that slojo gave himself thumbs up on his own posts…too funny or sad depending how you look at it.

      A & B will pass, that I am certain of. The recent market downturn coupled with the many rounds of layoffs going on all around the State will make the citizens even more resentful of over-compensation.

      (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
  4. flytrap says:

    Way to go unions-bring out a technicality which is a “smoke screen” to protect the police and their $105,000 salaries, and the fire department with their $100,000 salaries, way above the state’s average salaries for these jobs. They will do anything to protect their bloated 100K+ salaries and pensions including wild claims that, “people will die” if measures A and B are passed”, and claiming that the only “fair” thing to do is to protect and maintain their outrageous salaries. They may have to wait and retire after 50 and actually pay into their pensions like most of us ordinary folk do if we are lucky enough to have a pension plan.

    (7) 17 Total Votes - 12 up - 5 down
    • oto says:

      I agree with flytrap: The growing disparity between government paid workers and management on the one hand, and civilian workers on the other, creates an “us versus them” mentality when the average citizen attempts to do government business with these large bureaucracies. The union involved in negotiating with the County engaged in unethical practices when Gail Wilcox with the County’s negotiator. Therefore, I think measures A and B are a response to that situation. Do we place the negotiation process in the hands of the City Council? Do we place the decision to raise police and fire fighter salaries in the hands of the voters? Or does the County select a representative to negotiate with the union, giving voters and their elected officials little control over the outcome?

      I have never had the good fortune of being a unionized worker. Even some government jobs, which are temporary assignments, have no union representation or benefits. Therefore, I know little about the process and want to know more. I am hoping we get some further discussion on this issue. There has to be a reasonable balance between government worker rights and salary. As it stands now, especially with respect to some managerial pay, the amount of pay is not justified by the job, and is not justified by the person holding the job. I am thinking of former SLO City Police Chief Deb Linden (Salary=$253,000.00 dollars?!) who could not even get her own officers to follow her directions to provide police incident reports that were to be used in a court trial.

      (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down
  5. Crusader says:

    Once A&B pass and he finishes his term, I would like for the city council (less Carter of course) consider the idea of sending Katie Lichtig packing and hiring Carter as the new city manager. He’s well educated, he knows the city and he’s showing the mettle of a true leader during a very difficult period in our city’s history.

    (-1) 15 Total Votes - 7 up - 8 down
    • SLOChildrenAtPlay says:

      Hey, great idea!! If Carter became City Manager, maybe he could negotiate a contract with the rest of the council (behind closed doors of course) that would increase the City Manager’s salary and benefits to that comparable with the the U.S. President. The best Litchtig could get was just a little more than Vice President Biden and Governor Brown.

      (-2) 12 Total Votes - 5 up - 7 down
  6. isoslo says:

    Vote YES on A & B !!!!

    (3) 21 Total Votes - 12 up - 9 down
  7. Crusader says:

    I need to get a photo of Jan Marx posing with the $1M super-duper firetruck and the double-decker bus. Then I can have the image printed on rolls of toilet paper and sell it to other disenfranchised citizens of SLO. I suspect there would be a huge demand…

    (4) 10 Total Votes - 7 up - 3 down
    • SLOChildrenAtPlay says:

      You could get even more money for that toilet tissue if you could get Marx to pose down on her hands and knees – being held on a leash by Jim and Tom Copeland.

      (4) 16 Total Votes - 10 up - 6 down

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