Dear Editor – A Litmus Test for Culver City Council Candidates

Dear Editor,

One should not vote for any candidate who, in his or her heart of hearts, does not support government accountability. We need to extinguish any sense of governmental impunity in Culver City. This is a gatekeeper issue.
One would think that the issue of fully supporting the prompt implementation of an independently managed fraud, waste, and abuse program and associated hotline (FWA Program/Hotline) would be as uncontroversial as supporting apple pie and motherhood. However, that’s not the case in Culver City.
On September 9, 2019, 358 days ago, the City Council vetted and unanimously approved an independently managed FWA Program/Hotline. Independent management ensures that whistle blowers come forward; their tips are treated seriously, and their identities are protected. However, offering one bogus excuse after another, Staff failed and, thus, refused to implement an independently managed FWA Program/Hotline. Staff—a potential target of whistle-blower complaints—secretly seized management for itself. The current City Council has done nothing to remedy the situation. Staff commands and the City Council Members obey. Each believes that you are so asleep-at-the-wheel that you will not notice or care.
I asked each City Council candidate for a position statement. What started out as Staff’s insubordination became a litmus test, informing us of which City Council candidates are worthy of further consideration. Some cannot pass this most-basic test. Others accredit themselves nicely.

STRAIGHT-TALKING CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES
Dr. Khin Khin Gyi—”I support a fraud, waste and abuse hotline that the Council has already accepted on Sept. 9, 2019. It is time to implement it.”

Freddy Puza—”I support a Fraud, Waste and Abuse hotline in Culver City. It makes sense to have an independent third-party to manage and facilitate the hotline. If elected, I’d investigate it to ensure it’s being executed properly.”

Albert Vera, Jr.—”I’ve been listening to [Les Greenberg’s] concerns [about a FWA Program/Hotline] for quite some time and quite frankly; I am appalled that the current City Council has been dismissive to [his] suggestions.”

Heather Wollin—”I agree with Les Greenberg’s requests for transparency and answers regarding why Staff has not fully implemented the fraud, waste, and abuse program that the City Council approved on September 9, 2019. The way this has been handled is suspect. The City Council and Staff should be clear and, at a minimum, provide answers as to why this delay has occurred. This program should undoubtedly be handled by a third party to ensure transparency and to guarantee that it is running properly. I see no reason why … this program cannot be implemented immediately.”

Robert Zirgulis—”Of course, I am against fraud and waste, particularly in the City Attorney’s office. … The problem with bureaucracies, exemplified by [our] Staff and City Council, is that they don’t care about the people they are supposed to serve. Their failure to implement the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Program/Hotline that the City Council approved on Sept. 9, 2019 is reprehensible.”

ESTABLISHMENT CANDIDATES
In their heart of hearts, the incumbent and two City-Council-endorsed candidates do not support government accountability. The latter two’s non-support gives new meaning to the word “progressive.”

Mayor Goren Eriksson—Mayor Eriksson and four so-called “progressive” City Council Members thoroughly vetted and adopted an independently managed FWA Program/Hotline. The only step remaining was for Culver City to inform the intake center to forward all tips to the Internal Auditor. One year later, Culver City has not taken that step. On November 17, 2019, I informed each City Council Member, including Mayor Eriksson, that Staff had secretly seized management of the FWA Program/Hotline. He claims that Staff is currently circulating a “draft policy” that Staff will eventually present to the City Council. It does not take a rocket scientist to recognize that Staff is engaged in another bogus maneuver to undermine the City Council’s prior vote and permanently destroy any chance for an independently managed FWA Program/Hotline. After multiple requests, Mayor Eriksson has failed and, thus, refused to take action to remedy Staff’s blatant insubordination. He can’t or won’t get the job done. His conduct demonstrates a sense of impunity. He has failed the most basic test of good governance. This guy is definitely not a keeper.

Ms. Yasmine-Imani McMorrin—I was originally attracted to Ms. McMorrin’s campaign by her repeated statement, “McMorrin’s campaign is focused on … government accountability….” I quickly learned that her words are cheap attorney-speak. She informed me that: (1) Council Member Sahli-Wells—her mentor— told her that Culver City’s current FWA system was “sound”; and, (2) she claims that she believes what she was told. I pointed out: (1) Staff failed to implement the independently managed FWA Program/Hotline that Council Member Sahli-Wells vetted and approved; and, (2) Culver City’s website falsely represents the situation. Her response was radio silence. Perhaps, she does not want to bite the hands of those ineffective City Council Members who endorse her candidacy. Voters need independent thinkers, not political puppets.
Darrel Menthe—On June 12, 2019, Mr. Menthe served as Vice Chair of the Finance Advisory Committee (FAC) when it thoroughly vetted and unanimously approved the independently managed FWA Program/Hotline that was later adopted by the City Council. During the July 4 Democratic Club forum, Mr. Menthe stated that he supported the FWA Program/Hotline, “but not exactly as [approved by the FAC and City Council].” He responded to my inquiry by stating, “At this point, I am not persuaded that the hotline program being implemented is materially different from the recommendations accepted by council. … The accusations that you have made as to city staff are serious, and I take them seriously. I will continue to watch this issue closely.” One would expect that this savvy attorney, if acting in the voters’ best interests, would be readily persuaded by the fact that an independently managed FWA Program/Hotline differs greatly from one managed by an inexperienced-low-ranking Staff member. I replied, in part: “I await hearing from you as to: … whether you will do more than watch.” He did not respond. Why would the FAC’s Vice-Chair, admittedly recognizing the seriousness of my accusations, just sit back and “watch”? What will he “watch”? Does he consider a struggle for government accountability as entertainment? His cavalier attitude and lack of action should keep him from public office. Perhaps, he, like Ms. McMorrin, does not want to bite the hands of those feckless City Council members who endorse his candidacy.

For more information, please see www.LGEsquire.com/Culver_City_Is_An_Ethical_Desert.html.

Les Greenberg, Esquire

www.culvercitysymphony.org

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