Is San Luis Obispo County censoring the public?

February 16, 2015

censoredBy KAREN VELIE

An Atascadero man who attempted to voice his opinion in an email to a San Luis Obispo County planning commissioner had his correspondence commandeered by planning department staff who determined it to be a “personal attack.”

San Luis Obispo County Planning Commissioners do not have public emails. So, constituents wishing to correspond with their commissioners have to go through Ramona Hedges, secretary for the planning commission.

Last week, Hedges censored an email Tim Haley had sent to District 5 Planning Commissioner Don Campbell. In a return email to Haley,  Hedges said the Atascadero man’s email would not be tolerated, published or sent on to the intended recipient.

“This person could be injecting their bias by throwing these email away,” Haley said. “This person could discard emails directed towards the commissioners that are in favor of a project she is opposed to.”

Article 1 Section 3 of the California Constitution gives people the right to address and instruct public officials. Commissioner Campbell said he should be provided all correspondence sent to him regardless of its content.

“I should be able to make my own decisions on email sent to me – good, bad or indifferent,” Campbell said. “I don’t think there is any reason for the county to censor emails.”

Following is the email Tim Haley attempted to send to Campbell:

“It is beyond comprehension as to why you would vote for the approval of the Las Pilitas Rock quarry project. You stated you favored the property rights of the applicants. What about the property rights of the remaining citizens of the neighborhood? Everyone has the right to expect to enjoy their property without intrusive activities of their neighbors. These are called nuisance laws that go back to common law established in England at the time of the Magna Carta. You state that there is or will be a demand for the product yet the two existing quarries in the area are not operating at capacity and all data presented proved the opposite other than fabricated data from the applicant. You also stated that the negative impacts of the quarry could be mitigated. Are you living in a dream world? How do you mitigate 285 trucks traveling through town? How do you mitigate the noise? how do you put back a mountain once torn down? how do you mitigate any of the issues YOUR staff pointed out to be unsolvable issues? You don’t….. You should NOT be on any planning commission because you are not in touch with the constituents of the community nor reality. Thank goodness common sense prevailed and the rest of the commission listened to the will of the people.”

The planning department responded, “Personal attacks such as the one emailed to our department below will not be tolerated, published, or sent to the commissioner you intended this to go to.”

Planning department staff originally stood behind Hedges decision to withhold the email.

However, County Council Rita Neal said Friday that the department made a mistake and that the email should have been sent to all five commissioners.

Late Friday afternoon, SLO County Planning Manager/Environmental Coordinator Ellen Carroll apologized to Haley.

“Your letter should have been sent to the Commissioner upon receipt,” Carroll said in the email. “This was an error that has now been corrected. The Planning Department welcomes respectful comment and input. We understand that there can be many different viewpoints on any issue and remain committed to ensuring open communication and full public participation in the planning process.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Don’t miss links to breaking news stories, like CalCoastNews on Facebook.


Loading...
womanwhohasbeenthere

It sounds to me like they took a page out of SLO city handbook. Every piece of correspondence to council members was “reviewed” first by the city manager, who then scanned and SHREDED original documents and added her comments to the correspondence before passing it on to the council members.This practice was accidentally discovered and I understand has since been abandoned.


Staff has NO BUSINESS censoring anyone’s mail. These are adults who are perfectly capable of reading their mail and making decisions about it. without a flunkiie’s help.


catdude

Wow, what amazing arrogance. Not only that, that letter is not a personal attack. Disagreeing and pointing out a Commissioner is out of touch is hardly a personal attack. Who the hell does this Hedges person think she is? And the Most Corrupt County in the state of California just keeps rollin’ along…


achillesheal

Government power is achieved by the erosion of our freedom, yet people keep voting for bigger government. Is this a surprise?


Soon it will be a misdemeanor to criticize a government official. Keep your mouth shit, turn over your money, and accept what government gives you.


Jorge Estrada

What about “the property rights of the applicant and what about the property rights of the remaining citizens of the neighborhood?”


There is allot more, the property rights of the residence within the County of San Luis Obispo and the property rights of the people of California and the property rights of the remaining people within this country that use our public facilities. Remember that most have driver’s licenses too.


We are talking about defined natural resources not resources that exist everywhere. If it were oil, there would be a pipline and if it were a heavily wooded National Forest it would be logging. This dilemma exist everywhere so we can have studds for our homes, gas for our cars and now it’s aggregate for both.


Welcome to SLO growth elsewhere, it doesn’t have to be here for us to notice. We have been very lucky and still are.


SloHeadInTheSand

Jorge,

The story is about blocking emails to the planning commissioners.


It is not about the QUARRY. Give it a rest Estrada.


Maxfusion

Their hyper-sensitive response to constructive criticism is fueled by their ineptitude and corruption. Defending the indefensible, the most Sisyphean of all endeavors.


HarryMalone

Given the fact that Mr.Haley’s email, while a bit terse, was not an ‘attack’ IMO.


Thus it could be deduced that it was censored because of a personal bias on the part of Hedges.


So this begs the question….


HOW MANY HUNDREDS, MAYBE THOUSANDS, OF CORRESPONDENCE WERE REJECTED OVER THE YEARS?


Remember, the SLO Planning Department initially stated the practice of censoring/blocking communication from the public to the commissioners was STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE!


Maxfusion

There is nothing in the Email directed personally at anyone in the planning dept. Commissar Hedges would make Joseph Stalin smile.


MaryMalone

Does Ramona Hedges have a personal stake in the outcome of the quarry issue?


Her reaction seems way over the top. There may be a conflict of interest going on.


Kevin Rice

Quote: “The Planning Department welcomes respectful comment and input.”


The problem doesn’t sound “corrected” in the slightest.


panflash

OK, so……. has any disciplinary action been taken against Ramona Hedges? If not- why not?


kayaknut

Why not?….. Public employee union….


MaryMalone

If her job description does not include censoring and/or destroying official communication, then she can be fired.