App mute on moles at union meetings

March 14, 2012

Jim App

By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN

Paso Robles City Manager Jim App and Police Chief Lisa Solomon allegedly used spies during negotiations last year with police officers’ union representatives and later discussed the practice in emails.

Members of the Police Officers Association (PRPOA) reacted sharply to the emails, copies of which were obtained through Public Records Act requests by CalCoastNews.

Jon Tatro, who until recently was president of the union group, said he has “long believed that (Solomon) has moles in the POA who report privileged information from our meetings directly back to her.” Tatro called the action criminal.

App Tuesday declined to comment on the matter. Solomon is on leave.

“It should be noted that if they gathered information from Solomon’s ‘moles’ to help them in any way to bargain against us in contract negotiations, it is a crime,” Tatro added. “It is conspiracy to commit fraud. They defrauded me out of a fair labor contract.”

Tatro’s suspicions of city spies are borne out by a Nov. 10, 2011 email from App to Solomon in which he asked, “Any info from your moles at last night’s meeting?” Union members were negotiating a new contract and discussing health benefits and salaries at that session.

Tatro and Dave Hernandez, another former union official, are accusing the city of negotiating in bad faith.

Other emails from App to Solomon showed they were involved in obtaining names and keeping track of union meeting attendees, as well as making demeaning comments about police officers for agreeing to lower wages.

Hernandez, POA president during those negotiations, said it was obvious the city manager and Solomon were trying to influence the association to vote in favor of a new health plan. He also thinks the “moles” were able to change the health plan union members voted for during the meeting.

“On that night, the officers voted unanimously to stay with the current health plan, not the one the city manager wanted us to go with,” Hernandez said. “The following day, after we explained to city management that we wanted to stay with the current plan, a sergeant began calling officers to confirm their vote.

“He explained we had no choice, that we were being selfish, and that we should change to the new health plan,” Hernandez added. “The sergeant said he was able to get enough officers to change their votes, and the health plan was switched to what the city manager wanted.”

Tatro also took issue with a Nov. 30 email exchange between Solomon and App in which the pair discusses the city’s police officers’ pay being lower than earnings of San Luis Obispo County sheriff deputies.

“So, why does anyone still work for us?” App wondered in an email to Solomon after reviewing the salary comparison.

“Good question,” Solomon responded.

“I can answer that question,” Tatro said. “Many of us are hoping not to have to work for either of you two much longer.”

Inquiries to city council members seeking comment on Solomon and App’s actions got only one response, from Fred Strong.

His March 8 email to CalCoastNews is reprinted here verbatim:

“As a member of a legislative body (one of three branches of government in the United States) and one which, at the local level, is sometimes called upon to exercise the duties and responsibilities of the judicial branch, I choose to follow Constitutional protocol and neither interfere with, nor pass judgement on, the operations or process invoked within that branch of government until and unless it comes to me in an official capacity. At that time, with appropriate evidence, rather than unsupported statements or opinions, I will respond according to established protocol and process.

“However, I do not choose to prejudice my quasi-judicial status, should it be invoked in matters that are purportedly headed in that direction.

“This has nothing to do with ‘freedom of the press’ or ‘transparency.’ It has to do with due process.

“I have never seen nor heard of any specific email content within the administrative branch of government prior to this communication. Therefore, I apologize if my response is not what you were expecting. Once alerted to the possibility of being cast into a quasi-judicial role regarding personnel matters within the Police Department, I have diligently avoided any and all articles and electronic media once the words police department, Solomon, Chief, etc. have come up in view, hearing or print.

“If this matter comes to me officially, I will give it my full attention and seek to find the truth through evidence and/or corroborated allegations. Until this clears I do not choose to engage in any discussion which might taint the process or prejudice the outcome.

“Thank you for considering me worth contacting. Best wishes, Fred.”


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slowtime

I’ll say it again: A fish rots from the head down.


MarkJames

So far, I’ve stayed out of all this but Holy Moley, this is serious. I don’t know if I’m more concerned about the behavior of the Chief of Police and the City Manager or the response from the city Council Member.


Now I know for a fact that we are in serious trouble up here, more than I believe many of us realize. The city has insurance for law suits so I haven’t been all that worried about the cost that the behavior of the Chief was going to tap us for but now this, it could break us, seriously, it could.


highdude

Extremely disappointing to say the least!


danika

Insurance only covers UNINTENTIONAL acts. Those that were done with purpose would be tough to get company representation. The emails point to intentional acts, not unintentional. Will be interesting to see this play out.


MaryMalone

Is there an insurance policy a city could get that would cover them for willful, criminal acts by their management or staff?


danika

Willful, intentional…probably not. Errors and Omissions will cover “ooops, I didn’t realize” types of mistakes but not out and out lies. Gonna be interesting to see what is said about this article by the city attorney.


The Gimlet Eye

That’s why a group of citizens needs to join the police plaintiffs and file their own lawsuits against the city to go after the perpetrators, open up the records, twist their arms and flush them out.


They also need to RECALL the city council and replace all involved. I hate to say it, but this is going to be agonizing for Paso.


Nancy

Can anybody here imagine going to your boss and telling him that although the press is writing negative articles about you and although Employees are making accusatory statements about you that he is not ethically or legally allowed to read or listen to any of it?? Then you have your attorney confirm that your boss can only respond to information that you present to him and he buys it ?


WOW! Paso Robles is in deep doodoo. Indeed, the city is run by a sociopath

or two

or more?


MaryMalone

I think the city council is circling the wagons.


There is supposed to be a kind of barrier between the city council (elected) and the city manager and staff (who are hired).


The city council directs the city manager what to do, and the city manager develops the program or task the way she/he feels is best. The city manager directs city staff.


The city council is not supposed to have any direct workings on city business with the city staff.


Usually, cities and districts go to great lengths to maintain this condition of what is SUPPOSED TO BE.


In reality, by the time the city manager is assigned the project or task by the city council, the city manager knows exactly what the city council wants, and if the city manager doesn’t do what the council wants, the city manager may well be fired.


I think Strong is just emphasizing his “Sergeant Schultz” aura of ignorance-being-a-shield-from-blame by publicly declaring he will remain uninformed except for what the attorney and city manager want to spoon-feed to him.


MaryMalone

If the city is run by a sociopath, it is probably like other local area governments.


The Gimlet Eye

Lawsuits and a recall election.


Scarlet

Disgusting. App and Solomon act like street thugs.This has GOT to be the nail in their coffin.


The citizens could probably make a big impact by linking all this to the Mid-State Fair. I’ll bet the city council would take action if out of towners coming to the fair realized that Paso is not “darn near paradise” after all – that what Solomon and App have done endangers their kids who are running around town. Which it most definitely DOES!


MaryMalone

Well, with the fair, I think solomon will be there anytime the media outlets are there for coverage. She seems to really like to have her face in front of cameras. She usually brings along her officers to use as publicity props.


So, the actual fair may be safe. However, one-foot outside the fair’s limits…not so much.


Cindy

No kidding, I think you’re absolutely correct and I’m about to pick my jaw up off the floor… The city manager with the assistance of the city attorney have mislead the ignorant city council members into what their role is and how to perform it right down to blocking them from garnering any outside information !


Unbelievable !


MaryMalone

As we’ve learned from the City of Bell, ignorance of the council regarding conditions for which they are responsible is NO excuse for breaking the law.


Cindy

What the heck is with Fred Strong, has his title of council member gone to his head? Exactly what does this guy think his job is? He sounds like he thinks he is a sequestered juror rather than an elected council member who is responsible for hiring an incompetent and apparent criminal into a management position ie: the city manager, Mr APP. Fred Strong, get your head out of your butt and come down to earth and do your job.


racket

His response smells like legalese to me. I suspect there’s some CYA going on in council chambers this week, and his counsel (either City-sponsored or personal) had a hand in writing his response.


Cindy

If so, then his counsel is as ignorant as he is. This is insulting to think that they believe the Citizenry is this uneducated. How is it that we know their job better than they do? Strong thinks he is in charge of the PD, for crying out loud, what the ?


Strong, do something about the guy that is in charge of the PD …… THAT DEAR SIR IS WHAT YOUR JOB IS and do something about your other ONLY EMPLOYEE, the one with the jurist doctorate that has been pulling the wool over your eyes.


MaryMalone

City counsel is probably advising him, and the other council members, to take this “Sergeant Schultz” stance…. “I KNOW NOTHINK!”


IronHub

Be sure to read Fred Strong’s comments at the end of this article. He admits he has avoided READING or TALKING or LEARNING ANYTHING about this major city problem. And he thinks he might end up judging Solomon? Who told him that gibberish? Is THAT the kind of involved council member this city needs? Geeeesh!


slowtime

Yeah, He doesn’t know anything, yet still knows something.? Does it work both ways?


The Gimlet Eye

Ol’ man river,

Dat ol’ man river

He mus’know sumpin’

But don’t say nuthin’,

He jes’keeps rollin’

He keeps on rollin’ along.


MaryMalone

IF she is terminated–which I doubt will happen, not by the current “leadership” ni PR–I believe she will have to undergo a Skelly hearing. If this is the case, she will be assigned, by the city, a “hearing officer.”


I know one woman who was assigned (by another local government agency), of all people, Tammy Ruddock, when the employee’s claim was harassment, intimidation, retaliation and wrongful termination.


Now, don’t most people think that Ruddock, who was fired for doing the same things, would be a little prejudiced?


So, if the city is forced to terminate solomon, and a Skelly is required, they can get a hearing officer who is biased for, or biased against, solomon. Their choice will be dictated on whether the city council (directing the city manager) really want to fire her or not.


Mr. Holly

Oh boy here we go. Can it get any dirtier than this. How much more is tolerable? It’s time to clean house and start to recover from all of the damage that these two crooks have done to Paso Roble. Both need to be fired by the City Council, maybe criminally charged, and stripped of any benefits that they can be deprived of.

This will be interesting to watch.


MaryMalone

I think it can go much dirtier than what we’ve heard so far.


I have a lot of compassion for the officers who have experienced harassment, intimidation, retaliation and wrongful termination by solomon. We have probably only heard just a very small amount of all of the bad things she, and her co-conspirator, app, did to them.


Mr. Holly

41 like and 2 dislike.


Thank you Lisa and Jim for at least reading my blog.


The Gimlet Eye

This would be a good time for new candidates for city council to announce their candidacies and explain how they would clean up the city. Somebody has to take the place of the malfactors.


pasoparent5

App & Solomon are despicable. What ELSE will it take for the spineless councilmen to fire Jim App? Lisa’s already “on leave.” Jim App should be next.


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