Double standards are endemic in politics, but sometimes they really stick out like a sore thumb. Today’s Voice of OC story on tomorrow’s Anaheim City Council on whether to hire Arturo Fierro as the new city attorney provides a good example.
Mayor Tom Tait has already said he is going to vote against Fierro’s appointment (I have no opinion either way on the matter). His stated objections are:
1) The current council was elected at-large and therefore should punt the vote for a few months until after the swearing in of the expanded council elected by districts.
2) Fierro cannot represent the city as city attorney because he has a personal injury client currently in litigation against the city.
3) The severance package (half a year’s salary) will make it too hard to fire Fierro if it becomes necessary.
As to the first objection: the mayor is essentially arguing for the current city council to stop conducting the people’s business for the remainder of the year. Is there some magic to having the city attorney appointed decided by a 7-member council elected by a mix of at-large and by-district elections, instead of by the current council – elected by and accountable to all of Anaheim?
When the mayor has a policy priority he wants to push – such as his draconian measures to extinguish hundreds of legal, licensed short-term rentals – he sees no need wait for the new council to be seated. Indeed, a much better case could have been made for delaying Mayor Tait’s STR ban, since they are really only an issue in District 3 and 4. Would it have been better to wait until the voters of Districts 3 and 4 had made themselves heard? Apparently not – there were political and campaign considerations driving the timing of the mayor’s STR ban and amortization.
As for the alleged “conflict” objection: this one is almost comical. Mayor Tait was the driving force behind the city hiring influential attorney Wylie Aitken to negotiate with the Angels on behalf of the city. At the time, Aitken represented clients with pending litigation against the city. When critics of the mayor’s proposal pointed those out of possible conflicts, Tait waived off concerns about conflicts.
As for the severance package: it’s not unusual for city managers and city attorneys. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if former City Attorney Christina Talley had the same severance. Furthermore, a generous severance package didn’t prevent Mayor Tait from getting City Manager Tom Wood fired in 2011.
If the mayor has concerns about Fierro’s professional and personal qualifications to be city attorney, fair enough. He and the rest of the council were elected to make those decisions. But these phony-baloney objections are pure political – they are about the mayor wanting to hire his choice for city attorney, rather than someone he perceives as being Councilman Jordan Brandman’s choice.