http://almanacnews.com/print/story/print/2012/10/17/guest-opinion-atherton-police-tactics-raise-questions


Almanac

Viewpoint - October 17, 2012

Guest opinion: Atherton police tactics raise questions

by Walter Sleeth

The present contract with the Atherton police expires in 2013 and the negotiations with the Town will begin soon. A good case can be made that the Teamsters through the APOA (Atherton Police Officers Association) are attempting to buy influence on the Town Council by supporting two candidates in the upcoming election and trying to intimidate homeowners by sending fliers and telephone calls with lightly disguised threats, warning residents that if they do not vote for Elizabeth Lewis and Cary Wiest their home security and safety may be at risk.

In order to try and ensure that their chosen candidates are elected, they have supported these candidates with signs and "robo" calls costing so far, over $3,000. (See the APOA's Form 460 at the City Manager's office.) While under the "Citizens United" case, this is presumably legal, a concerned citizen would ask if conducting our Town election this way is in the interest of either the candidates or the union. The tactics of the APOA are short-sighted in light of Proposition 32 being on the ballot.

Should these candidates be elected they will have a perceived conflict of interest and would ethically recuse themselves from any involvement in contract negotiations with the Teamsters. This result is not a good scenario for either the union or the Town.

One question in the endorsement questionnaire that the APOA asked all candidates to complete was:

"Do you believe in protecting police officers' retirement plans and health benefits regardless of state and/or city budget deficits?"

One might first question the chutzpah of the union in asking such a question, including the phrase "regardless of state and/or city budget deficits." The answer to this question is supposedly confidential, but is there much doubt as to how these candidates answered? While the tactics of the APOA may be legal they are, in my opinion, unethical and the endorsed candidates have been tainted. These candidates have publicly stressed transparency and ethics. How much hypocritical behavior, even on the local level, does our society now condone?

This Atherton election should be about representing all residents on many difficult issues and not electing candidates who may be perceived to be in the pocket of any one interest group, including the APOA.

Walter Sleeth lives on Catalpa Drive in Atherton. Editor's note: Candidate Elizabeth Lewis has posted her answers to the APOA questionnaire on her website. • Visit tinyurl.com/Lewis-101 to find a link to those answers.

Comments

Posted by Oliver , a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Oliver Stone should live in Atherton. While combining fact with fiction to mislead an audience can get an Oscar nomination, it should not be used in small town elections.


Mr. Sleeth wrote:

"One question in the endorsement questionnaire that the APOA asked all candidates to complete was:

"Do you believe in protecting police officers' retirement plans and health benefits regardless of state and/or city budget deficits?"

The answer to this question is supposedly confidential, but is there much doubt as to how these candidates answered?

While the tactics of the APOA may be legal they are, in my opinion, unethical and the endorsed candidates have been tainted. These candidates have publicly stressed transparency and ethics. How much hypocritical behavior, even on the local level, does our society now condone?"


There is no doubt as to Vice-Mayor Lewis responded. Her response is post on her campaign web site:


12. Do you believe in protecting police officers' retirement plans and health benefits regardless of state and/or city budget deficits?

Answer:

It is hard to answer this question because you state : "regardless of state and/or city budget deficits"

If our Town cannot remain solvent and is forced into bankruptcy because of its unfunded liabilities, there will no longer be jobs for those who work for our Town. That is not something our residents – our police officers – or our council -- would like to see happen.

All across our state and nation cities and towns are faced with this difficult financial dilemma. There are new mandatory regulations within the next 5 years from the State requiring pension contribution sharing if not agreed to before that."

What part of this answer does Mr.Sleeth not agree with?


Now the question to ask is it ethical to incorrectly state that her answer is confidential and suggest what it said when the answer is public and anyone can find the answer on her web site?

This is the second Guest Opinion the Almanac has printed against the APOA endorsement, plus a story in last week's paper. Will equal coverage be given to Guest Opinions supporting the APOA's right to endorse and inform?

The real story that needs to be reported by the Almanac is same old tune. Council Majority tries to implent major change in Atherton without polling residents or campaigning on the issue.

Previously it was putting a size yet to be determined County Library in the Park. A group called the Athertonians brought this to the attention of the public. Mr. Sleeth earlier wrote a guest opinion critical of the Athertonians.

Last year the Council outsourced the Public Works and Building Dept. No discussion with the residents. Outsourcing the Police is now being discussed, yet the council is not informing the residents and the candidates are not talking about it.

So the APOA informed the residents of the town directly. The last time a survey was done in 2006, more than 90% favored keeping the police. Would the residents of Atherton be happy to read in the Almanac that three members of the council voted to outsource the police? I do not think so.

While Mr. Sleeth might favor the approach to tell the police take a big cut or leave; other residents might be happy paying them a little more the the average salary for an officer in the Bay Area.

Other residents might to elect council members who feel that way and have them sit in on contract talks.