Secret E-mail Revealed: Keith Bohr bashes the City Attorney, she responds

Editor’s note: The following e-mail from Huntington Beach City Councilmember Keith Bohr was sent to City Attorney Jennifer McGrath, other members of the City Council and other city officials on Aug. 12 as a response to McGrath’s previous e-mail questioning the eligibility of her election opponent, T. Gabe Houston. In his e-mail, Bohr chastises McGrath for allegedly breaking a promise not to oppose turning the City Attorney’s office into an appointed rather than elected position. He also questions her integrity and motives for challenging Houston’s credentials.

The e-mail has not been revealed to the general public but was obtained from a source by the Surf City Voice. Because it relates to the issues raised and examined in the first two parts of our series “Who Will Control Surf City?” we are publishing it in its entirety.

The Voice asked Ms. McGrath to reply; she did, and her reply is published in full at the end of Bohr’s e-mail.

The photos were added by the Voice.

Also read Part I and Part II.

Subject: Re: Verification of Certified Law Student Status

Dear Madam Elected City Attorney,

Once again I find your actions to be quite contrary to what you have said in the past.  In 2002, when we were both campaigning and you asked for my support of your first campaign for City Attorney, I asked if elected will you support or at least not oppose a move to amend the City Charter to make the City Attorney an appointed rather than elected position and you answered in the affirmative.  We discussed the reasons I believe it should be appointed as it is in all Orange County cities and the vast super majority of cities in California and across the United States and you concurred.  Let me note that this has never been about who is or has been the elected city attorney, but the fact that there is little to no accountability for an “elected” city attorney, especially if they are not challenged at election time.  Further the pool of those eligible to run for city attorney just by having a residency requirement alone allows for little to no viable competition for an incumbent.  Since that time as thee “elected” city attorney you have very much changed your tune.

Keith Bohr
Councilmember Keith Bohr says the City Attorney broke her promise and lacks integrity. Photo: SCV

Shame on me for taking you at your word.

In fact, you very aggressively campaigned/lobbied and even spoke to the Charter Review committee as a member of the public during the public comments portion of their meetings on the subject. You argued against the proposal to revise the charter from changing from elected to appointed city attorney, after which presenting such testimony you went and sat back down as the City Attorney staffing said Charter Review committee.  At the very minimum it seems you would have demonstrated the “integrity” to have somebody else from your office staff the Charter Review committee given you knew it would be discussing this issue that clearly presented a “conflict” for you or at the very least the “appearance” of a “conflict.”

Okay, let me for a minute give you the benefit, despite my doubt that you did truly have an epiphany and for some reason other than your own job security, you really believe HB residents are best served by an elected City Attorney.

That then begs the question why are you so afraid of having to “run for re-election?”  You really shouldn’t have it both ways if the system is going to work best for our residents should you?  Do you really think you should be able to be elected every four years without having to campaign and make the case that your performance as our “elected” city attorney deserves yet another four years?  When it was rumored that Scott Baugh would be running against you, you were literally trembling with fear, but speaking with bravado how you had no fear and would beat him in an election.  You asked if I would endorse you and I said I would not because I do not believe in the position being elected so I believe it would be hypocritical to then endorse a candidate.  Last Friday at an event we were both at, you displayed a very similar physical nervousness as you verbalized you were not concerned about having an election opponent, but then proceeded to take  shots at his qualifications.  I have since then heard you were “pissed” that the City Clerk did not bail you out and reject Mr. Houston’s candidate filing.  I have also heard you quoted as saying you were not worried you would “kick his ass!”  in an election.

Fine, so campaign, make your case that you have been the best city attorney the City of Huntington Beach could have elected or appointed please!  I would have preferred to not have had to air this publicly, but since you chose to do so I have “replied to all.” and then some.  You will be very hard to beat in an election no doubt, one of the many other reasons the “elected” city attorney is a bad idea is that the race is very much stacked in the incumbent’s favor in that very few people want to publicly donate money to a challenger, even if they are not happy with the incumbent, in fear that they will fall in to disfavor with the incumbent who likely will win.

From reading your rationale in your email below, it seems you are saying that Mr. Houston may very well have practiced law as a law student for a year or so, but he may not have obtained a new certification each time he had a new employer.  Technically true or not, I do not know, but I hope Mr. Houston chooses to stay in the race and you choose to run a campaign against him rather than try to litigate this issue of “technicality.”  If Mr. Houston does proceed to run and he publicly affirms that he also agrees that the City Attorney position should be appointed rather than elected, I will gladly publicly endorse and financially support him.

I also heard you were planning to sue the City Clerk of the City of Huntington Beach, please say it is not true Madam City Attorney!?!

If you choose to litigate rather than campaign it will confirm that you are fearful to campaign based on your track record, because contrary to what your campaign website states, this elected official  believes your performance has been below acceptable standards.  More specifically your campaign website ( makes the following assertions that I in my experience as one of your clients have found to be untrue. “Jennifer McGrath is a leader with integrity”, “Her team-oriented approach towards litigation has led to success in the courtroom and cost savings for Huntington Beach.” Jennifer McGrath is a  proven choice.”  Strike one, two and three!

Please bring on the campaign rather than the lawsuits Madam City Attorney!

City Attorney Jennifer McGrath Responds

1.  I do not agree with Mr. Houston’s interpretation of the City Charter that clerking as a law student under the supervision of a licensed attorney is “engaging in the practice of law.”  In addition, whether or not he obtained the appropriate certifications as a law student is not a mere technicality.  Quite simply, a law student is not a lawyer nor is a law

Jennifer McGrath
City Attorney Jennifer McGrath says she has a proven record of integrity and helps to provide the checks and balances that city government needs. Photo: SCV

student “engaged in the practice of law.”  An internship or clerkship is akin to an apprenticeship.

2.  Councilmember Bohr’s vitriolic response to my inquiry of Mr. Houston’s qualifications is indicative of his personal agenda.  Councilmember Bohr has been consistent in his position that the City Attorney of Huntington Beach should be an appointed position.  He fails to acknowledge that the citizens of Huntington Beach created an elected City Attorney decades ago to be a watch-dog of the City Council.  They did not want an appointed City Attorney beholden to the City Council subject to the potential influence and/or pressure of a City Council to present the opinion City Council wanted to hear.  And each time the citizens of Huntington Beach have been given an opportunity to establish an appointed City Attorney, the ballot measure has been overwhelmingly defeated.  I will admit that before I took office, I myself was questioning whether or not it should be an elected office; however, since I took office, multiple experiences have demonstrated that the City needs a watch-dog.

3.  I take exception to Councilmember Bohr’s statements regarding my role at the Charter Review Commission.  I attended the Commission personally as I appreciated the importance of the Charter and I have the responsibility of interpreting and enforcing the Charter.  I did not aggressively campaign/lobby the Charter Review Commission for an elected City Attorney.  As evidenced by the public record, I recused myself and ensured that an Assistant City Attorney advised the Charter Review Commission during the deliberation of Charter Section 309, “City Attorney”, for this reason specifically.  I think my decision to recuse myself was an example of integrity.

4.  Regardless of Councilmember Bohr’s analysis of my job, qualifications thereof, or motivations, my record speaks for itself.  I am not the elected City Attorney to tell him, or any other individual councilmember or staff member, what they want to hear.  The personal agendas of individual councilmembers should not sway the legal advice of the City Attorney.  Too often, councilmember decisions driven by their own personal agenda or partisanship simply result in lawsuits against the City that require the expenditure of taxpayer dollars to defend.

5.  I am not “afraid” to run for re-election.  I am concerned that an inexperienced, rookie attorney could potentially take office.  It is not what the citizens of Huntington Beach expect or deserve.  As any Human Relations professional would say, if he has no experience, then he can’t do the job.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

Please Give Generously Now
Other Amount:
Your Web Address:

Who Will Control Surf City? The Election of City Attorney – Is T. Gabe Houston Eligible?

John Earl
Surf City Voice

Editor’s note: This article is the second of a three part series.

On August 6, the last day for local candidates to file papers, T. Gabe Houston came to Huntington Beach City Hall and officially became incumbent City Attorney Jennifer McGrath’s opponent in the November election.

When he handed City Clerk Joan Flynn his list of 24 qualifying signatures, Huntington Beach City Councilmember Devin Dwyer’s name was at the top.

Who is T. Gabe Houston, anyway?

T. Gabe Houston
T. Gabe Houston, says it's up to voters to decide if he is qualified or not. Photo: Houston web site

Houston’s official candidate’s statement says he is an attorney, business owner, financial professional and member of the Huntington Beach Finance Board—he was appointed by councilmember Keith Bohr.

But a quick look at Houston’s professional web site (his lean campaign web site was uploaded just before press time) proves that he is not likely to be the candidate who Red County blog publisher Chip Hanlon bragged McGrath would probably face:  “the strongest challenger she could imagine this Fall (sic)…Extremely close in [Republican] party politics…close to the Rohrabachers…very recognizable name…connected to the donor community in a big way,”  a person who would make McGrath faint when she received the news.

Houston has none of those qualities.

In fact, he is a defense attorney, licensed for little over two years, with a business web site that is tagged with choice Republican voter turn-off terms like CraigslistPimp, HBHookers, HBPimps, Hookers, OC Hookers, OC Pimps, Pandering, Pimping, Prostitution, Selling Sex, etc. Continue reading Who Will Control Surf City? The Election of City Attorney – Is T. Gabe Houston Eligible?

Who Will Control Surf City? – The Republican wrath against Jennifer McGrath (Part 1)

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a 3 part story

Since 1957 a vote of the people has decided who would be the Huntington Beach City Attorney. Since 1978 no incumbent holding that office has lost an election. Gail Hutton, who defeated incumbent city attorney Don Bonfa in the city election that year, easily remained in office until her retirement 24 years later in 2002.

Her replacement, Jennifer McGrath, was elected to the office next with 48.2 percent of the vote in a race against three opponents, but she ran unopposed in her 2006 reelection campaign.

Next November she will have one opponent listed on the ballot, T. Gabe Houston, who officially signed his candidate’s papers at the City Clerk’s office on Aug. 6, the last day to file.

Council member Devin Dwyer. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino for SCV

Like other City Attorney challengers, Houston may also end up as election fodder. But his late entry reveals a serious flaw in the Huntington Beach City Charter—despite nine months of work by the City’s Charter Review Commission that recommend reforms—and exposes the hidden attempts (and not so hidden attempts) by various  members of the Huntington Beach City Council to gain political power by manipulating the reform process for better or worse.

Previously, the Voice showed how the council’s backroom political dramas have come to center stage at city council meetings. But recent e-mails obtained by the Voice give a sharper picture of the passion and acrimony flowing through the political veins of the city.

Some of the conflict centers on the office of City Attorney. One side wants the city attorney to be elected by vote of the people; the other side thinks that he or she should be appointed by the council or the City Administrator. Continue reading Who Will Control Surf City? – The Republican wrath against Jennifer McGrath (Part 1)

A Seed Fallen to Earth: Thomas Grams gave his life helping people in Afghanistan

Medical Charity Identifies Aid Workers Killed in Afghanistan

The International Assistance Mission has released the names of its medical aid workers who were killed in Afghanistan last week in an ambush. The attack against the Christian charity has been described as “the worst crime targeting the humanitarian community that has ever taken place in Afghanistan.” The dead included optomistrist Dr. Tom Little, sixty-one, of Delmar, New York; thirty-two-year-old Cheryl Beckett of Owensville, Ohio; Dan Terry, sixty-three, of Janesville, Wisconsin; forty-year-old Glen Lapp of Lancastger, Pennsylvania; twenty-five-year-old freelance videographer Brian Carderelli of Harrisonburg, Virginia; and the fifty-one-year-old dentist Thomas Grams of Durango, Colorado. The dead also included two Afghans named Mahram Ali and Jawed, Deniela Beyer of Germany, and Dr. Karen Woo of Britain. The International Assitance Mission has worked in Afghanistan since 1966. Up until last week, the group had lost just four international staff members.

From Democracy Now, Aug. 10, 2010

Have you ever seen
A seed fallen to earth
Not rise with a new life
Why should you doubt the rise
Of a seed named human.
- Rumi, 13th Century Afghanistan

By Mary Urashima

Special to the Surf City Voice

I see Tom Grams’ handsome face smiling back in photos taken in Afghanistan.  He retired his private dental practice in Durango, Colorado and began devoting his life to working with the underprivileged in remote places around the world: Guatemala, Nepal, India, and Afghanistan.  Since 2007, he had been working often in Afghanistan.

Thomas Grams and patients in Afghanistan.
Thomas Grams with patients and students at Kabul school. Photo courtesy of Mary Urashima

I first met Tom via email in 2006 when he asked for help with a Pierre Fauchard Foundation grant to help establish a small dental clinic at a school I helped support in Kabul.  Tom had spent some time providing free dental care in the village of Wardak, but wanted to reach more Afghans.

The schoolmaster in Kabul wanted to make sure Tom knew the risks.  While our organization was predominantly Afghan, there were many Westerners working with the group both in Kabul and the U.S.

We employed female Afghan teachers and provided secular education for girls and boys together.

This—and the presence of Westerners—created a risk at times.  Some organizations had received “night letters”, which essentially threatened those who worked with “foreigners.”

Danger Warning

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a travel warning in mid 2006 that characterized the security threat to all American citizens in Afghanistan as critical.

“Unfortunately from last week till now the security is getting worse every day and lots of explosions in Kabul happen and lots of bad people are looking for US compounds to do explosions or other bad things,” wrote the Afghan schoolmaster in mid 2006. Continue reading A Seed Fallen to Earth: Thomas Grams gave his life helping people in Afghanistan

Special Event: Jim & Sylvia Gallagher on the Birds of Bolsa Chica

Renown birder Sylvia Gallagher and photographer Jim Gallagher will be the guest speakers at a town forum hosted by the Bolsa Chica Land Trust. Sylvia’s birding classes are always in high demand, so this is an outstanding opportunity for birders and nature lovers to hear from Sylvia and Jim about the awesome avians that frequent the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County.

September 23, 2010
at: Huntington Beach Public Library Room C/D
7111 Talbert Ave (at Goldenwest)

more info: Bolsa Chica Land Trust, 714-846-1001,

Surf City Earns Energy ‘Smarter City’ Status

By Sarah (Steve) Mosko
Special to the Surf City Voice

Residents of Huntington Beach can take pride in being the only Orange County city that landed a spot this year on a list of 22 ‘Smarter Cities’ nationwide being recognized by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for setting good examples for the rest of nation in the areas of green power, energy efficiency and conservation.

The announcement came at the end of July, and Long Beach is the only other city in southern California earning this distinction. The NRDC extended initial consideration to all 655 U.S. municipalities with populations of at least 50,000.

Huntington Beach and other Orange County cities made an initial cut because the county’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, as measured for 2002 by a North American monitoring program called Project Vulcan, averaged 1.8 tons per capita which met the qualifying per capita cut off of less than 2.5 tons. That Huntington Beach alone made the final list reflects both the city’s record in improving the energy efficiency of its facilities and its community outreach efforts to empower residents to save energy and money.

Although the city’s temperate beach climate might make energy efficiency seem, on the surface, an easier task than for cities in locales with more temperature extremes, its partnership with Southern California Edison (SCE), together with the efforts of its one-man show and Energy Project Manager Aaron Klemm, provided much of the necessary driving force needed to meet the qualifying criteria set up by the NRDC.

For starters, because Huntington Beach purchases all its electricity from SCE which, at 16 percent, delivers the nation’s highest mix of electricity from renewables like geothermal, wind and solar, the city easily meets the  greater than 5 percent green power threshold. This is up from a green mix of 10 percent in 2007. Continue reading Surf City Earns Energy ‘Smarter City’ Status

Fed Farm Subsidies Favor California Agribusiness

By Chris Hinyub
Special to the Surf City Voice

New data compiled by the Environmental Working Group shows that the majority of federal subsidy dollars granted to California farmers are being collected by the state’s largest agribusinesses. The new figures highlight the skewed priorities and rampant waste inherent in the USDA’s current subsidy program. In their own analysis of the numbers, the EWG calls for a more “intelligent and equitable strategy” to funding all areas of California’s diverse agricultural system.

Last year the top one percent of farm subsidy recipients in the state garnered a staggering $57 million in support, according to the latest update of the EWG Farm Subsidies database. That was an average of $453,000 per recipient. The lion’s share of this money went to cotton and rice growers. Compare this with the bottom 80 percent which received less than $1,400 a year on average.

California farmers who don’t grow cotton, rice, corn, livestock or wheat, receive little to no direct subsidy payments. Yet, almost half of California’s $36 billion a year farm revenue is generated outside the commodity crop market in the growing of fruits, vegetables and nuts – so called “specialty crops”. By comparison, rice and cotton accounted for less than three percent of market value of the state’s total agricultural output for 2008, the last year such statistics were available.

Nationally, 44 percent of federal crop subsidies went to cotton and rice farmers in 2009. Kari Hamerschlag, Senior Analyst at EWG, points out that “much of these subsidies came from programs that paid based on past production, whether or not cotton was still being grown.”

In fact, cotton acreage throughout the state has decreased dramatically since 2009 subsidy apportionment figures were cast. This means that unsustainable California agribusinesses are receiving a federal stipend while creating little (if any) revenue for the state.

In his analysis of the latest agricultural subsidy data, Hamerschlag writes, “The EWG Farm Subsidies database starkly reveals the imbalance, waste and skewed priorities of federal farm programs in California. It is a system that disproportionately benefits relatively few big growers of thirsty, chemical-dependent crops while failing to address the environmental challenges facing California agriculture.”

Specialty crop producers also rely on government support but through less-direct means. Some get their start through grants promoting water conservation, good land stewardship and overall farm sustainability.  Unfortunately, the disparity between commodity subsidy payments and agricultural conservation program funding is disproportionately impacting California.

“Nationally, EWG’s analysis found that the $13 billion paid out in 2009 in federal commodity subsidy payments and crop insurance premiums outpaced funding for agricultural conservation programs by more than 3-to-1,” writes Hamerschlag. “In California, the disparity was even greater: Subsidies outpaced conservation funding for agriculture by a more than 5-to-1 margin.”

California has the nation’s largest agricultural economy by far, but is surprisingly more resilient than other states to the effects of the ongoing “subsidy gap”, possibly owing to its rich diversity of agricultural goods.

Chris Hinyub writes for California Independent Voter Network, which originally published this story.

Please Give Generously Now
Other Amount:
Your Web Address:

Addressing the Prison Industrial Complex with a Rational Drug Policy

By Chris Hinyub
Special to the Surf City Voice

What is a “Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy?” To find the answer, the California Endowment Center for Healthy Communities hosted a one day Conference last week. Organized by the Drug Policy Alliance and California Society of Addiction Medicine, guest speakers included physicians, therapists, administrators, policy makers and law enforcement officials.

Attendee, blogger and physician specializing in addiction medicine, “doctork”, chronicled the event in a recent post. Aside from calling into question the specious science backing marijuana prohibition, participants seemed to reach a consensus on conventional “abstinence-based” drug policy. Their conclusion: it’s an indefensible failure.

Most attendees looked toward a “harm reduction approach” to addiction treatment and policy enforcement which would encourage addicts to seek help without fear of a criminal label and the social stigmas derived from today’s draconian penal code.

Pete White, founder and Co-Director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, exposed (in a rather impassioned speech before delegates) what he believes to be the driving force behind continued official support for the failing War on Drugs – the “prison-industrial complex.”

Countering conventional “drug war propaganda” – that progress is being made on the front lines – White’s advocacy group maintains that the war has only escalated since its inception and victimized countless numbers of California citizens because of its counterproductive and unsustainable strategy (not to mention its “ignoble ends”).

Paraphrasing White, doctork relates:

“It is not unusual for an undercover police officer to say something like this to a homeless person in the ‘skid row’ areas of the city: ‘Hey, man, I got 20 dollars in my pocket, what have you got for me’? So, a homeless person goes to ‘get something’ for 20 dollars only to find himself in handcuffs upon return, now charged with possession with intent to sell, a much more serious offense which will also make it impossible for him to enter some kind of ‘diversion’ program.”

Such nefarious practices are fully supported by an industry that wants, according to White, “more privatized jails and prisons, more prisoners, more prison guards, more probation and parole officers, more, more, more… and whose lives they destroy in the process is of very little concern to any of them.”

Mr. Jakada Imani, Executive Director of Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, echoed White’s views, adding that the movement to round up people for minor drug possession creates a “second-class” of citizens who become “damned to a life of poverty and exclusion”. The negative socio-political consequences of such arrests far outweigh the potential good of current federal and state drug policies, Imani argued. In essence, popular enforcement actions “benefit only two groups of individuals: the ‘prison-industrial complex’ and the makers of tobacco and alcohol who would love to keep their ‘monopoly’ on the mind-altering substances in this country.”

Two speakers, Donald MacPherson and Kyle Kazan of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, offered their sentiments on the drug war from the unique perspective of police officers. It is their claim that most police departments support possession arrests (especially marijuana related ones) because they boost department funding. But, as MacPherson so poignantly stated, “You cannot arrest yourselves out of this problem… Rational drug policies must rest on four pillars of Science, Compassion, Health and Human Rights”. The concern is that law enforcement all too often makes its own drug policies, a task meant for addiction treatment professionals he said.

Several guests pointed to the drug policies of Vancouver and Portugal as exemplars of a much more rational approach to lessening the social ills that they perceive are attached to narcotics addiction.

MacPherson, former Drug Policy Coordinator of the City of Vancouver, explained how that city took to decriminalizing substance abuse including its institution of a supervised injection facility which has been a key factor in lowering needle-transmitted diseases.

Portugal has had astounding success with its now nine-year-old national harm reduction policy on drugs. Fatima Trigueiros, Senior Adviser to the Executive Board of the Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction in Portugal, pointed out that even though drug possession has been decriminalized across the board in her country, no “Armageddon” of exploding drug use and crime ensued.

Quite the contrary can be observed today. Since decriminalization, drug use in Portugal actually fell by ten percent. Though initially a wedge issue between left and right leaning factions in that Parliament, the new approach presently entertains the distinction of being one of the only policies supported by all parties of the government. The dire predictions by critics that Portugal would become a “drug tourist destination” never panned out and (as in Vancouver) the rates of diseases (including HIV) associated with injection drug use have declined.

As was to be expected, support for California’s fall ballot initiative to legalize the personal use of marijuana (Proposition 19) was expressed by the majority of California policy reformers in attendance. This was made clear when Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, made a heartfelt and passionate speech during the closing Plenary session. His call to end the “destructive and futile” drug war and support Prop 19 was met with unanimous and thunderous applause.

Doctork surmises the conference was a great success, writing:

“It underscored the pressing need for a scientific approach to the drug abuse problem, the central role that basic human rights should play in whatever is being done, with the law enforcement not as a ‘legislator’, but as a link in the chain of rational drug policies that are both scientifically sound and practically effective.”

Chris Hinyub writes for California Independent Voter Network where this article was originally published.

Please Give Generously Now
Other Amount:
Your Web Address:

Just In: Former Mayor Connie Boardman runs for HB City Council

In a major event that is likely to change the dynamics of the upcoming election for city council, former councilmember and mayor Connie Boardman has announced at the 11th hour that she is running for city council, becoming the third member of a slate that also includes Joe Shaw and Blair Farley.

The following announcement is from the slates official website:

Former Mayor Connie Boardman announced today that she was running for Huntington Beach City Council and was joining candidates Joe Shaw and Blair Farley to form Team Huntington Beach.

“I am running because I believe the current council is just not listening to the residents of Huntington Beach,” Boardman said. “Together with Blair Farley and Joe Shaw, we’ve created Team Huntington Beach to provide voters with a choice for real change.”

Boardman was spurred to run after the council’s recent decision to change the land use designation of a portion of Bolsa Chica from open space/parkland to residential. Boardman, like Farley and Shaw, believes the city needs to pay more attention to its neighborhoods and residents.

“The city has a deficit of parkland, yet the council just voted to turn five acres of it into housing in the most sensitive ecological area in the city,” Boardman said. “It’s no surprise there are four neighborhood groups currently suing the city. They aren’t listening.”

Boardman, a professor of biology at Cerritos College, served on the City Council from 2000-2004, and was mayor in 2003. She is currently the President of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust. Farley is IT Director at Mariners Church, and is the Chairman of the HB Planning Commission. Shaw is a small business owner who has served on three city commissions.

Connie Boardman
Connie Boardman enters the race for Huntington Beach City Council.

The Days of Our Lives: Will Joe Carchio become Surf City’s next mayor? Will Don Hansen become a journalist?

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Informed and “reliable” sources have told the Voice that Joe Carchio has stated his understanding that, following his self-assumed reelection to the Huntington Beach City Council next November, he will become the city’s mayor for 2011.

According to practice established by the city council in 1991, however, councilmembers rotate in set order into the mayor’s docket for one-year terms. According to policy, it would be Councilmember Don Hansen’s turn to be mayor in 2011, followed by Carchio the next year.

The resolution was passed to prevent manipulation by special interests (the Huntington Beach Company in particular) of the mayor selection process, according to councilmember Keith Bohr.

Since its inception, the resolution has been followed without exception, but the city council can adopt a new selection method by majority vote anytime.

Reform advocates wanted to make the resolution part of the city charter so the council could not alter it. Their efforts failed at a June 7 city council meeting when councilmembers decided not to place the proposal on the November ballot along with other proposed charter changes.

Carchio issued a statement by e-mail firmly denying the assertion that he said he would be mayor out of turn.

“Your source is ill informed and unreliable. I have never had conversations with Don Hansen about switching rotation for mayor nor has Don Hansen had that conversation with me. Also, I am not assuming nor have I ever assumed about being re-elected, that (sic) is entirely up to the voters and I will be judged on my record over the last four years. I think we as a council have made some difficult decisions, but mostly positive. I hope you will print this response correctly.”

Likewise, Councilmember Don Hansen told the Voice that he did not have “any kind” of a deal with Carchio.

The sources did not assert that Carchio claimed he made a deal with Hansen, only that he would be mayor starting next December.

Carchio Reaches Out
Regardless, in the city’s official video record of the June 7 city council meeting it’s obvious that Carchio is reaching out to Hansen during a heated debate over whether the resolution should be put before the voters or not.

And, likewise, Hansen dropped strong hints of his own desire to politicize the process for selecting the city’s mayor.

Councilmembers Cathy Green, who Hansen accused of trying to block former mayor Debbie Cook from taking her term as mayor in 2008, and Jill Hardy, who warned that a deal might be in the making, voted for placing the charter revision on the ballot.

Both Green and Hardy are termed out under current city charter rules, meaning they have served two consecutive terms on the council and must sit out an election cycle before they can run for city council again. If elected again in the future, they would have to go to the back of the line for the office of mayor.

Hansen is termed out in 2012.

Hansen, Devin Dwyer, Keith Bohr and Gil Coerper voted to keep the charter as is, but Hansen led the argument.

But Hardy warned that if the charter isn’t revised future councilmembers will play with the mayor’s term for political purposes. It was clear she was thinking of Carchio and Hansen when she said “Watch the votes” when one council member decides to defer his term to another so that he can be mayor as he heads into a campaign for higher political office.

“They can’t be switching around to get their buddy, who says, ‘I’ll switch this year and you can have that year,’” Hardy complained. “That’s just playing the system…Like I said, watch the votes. If it doesn’t end up being in the charter, then just watch what happens. I know. I know what I’m sayin (sic).”

Then Carchio, who by various accounts is not liked much anymore by OC Republican Party big shots, and who at recent city council meetings seemed, embarrassingly, to echo every utterance of favored party acolytes Hansen and Dwyer, all but extended an official invitation to Hansen to reverse positions in the rotational cycle for mayor.

“If someone came to me, and I knew the situation were (sic) dire and that person needed to, you know, skip a term, and switch, I would switch with that person. It wouldn’t make a difference to me.”

Carchio bumbled on. “If I knew that it would help the person or make sure that if they had a serious illness in the family or an extenuating circumstance from work—”

Hardy shot back. “That will be interesting to see if since you’re due in 2012 to see if anybody asks you to switch your year.”

“If it was a legitimate request, I would probably do it,” Carchio answered.

Loathing and Politics
Of course, Carchio or Hansen are “great people,” Hardy pointed out, but “it might be two buddies trying to help somebody with a title in their future. And it might not be anyone of the seven of us, but I have my suspicions about the way it is right now…”

Then councilmember Cathy Green expressed her views, based on personal experience.

“I think the fact of the matter is that most of the games were played with me, so I can probably attest to this. And the second thing is, that’s why you have a mayor pro-tem,” she blurted out.

Hansen pounced on Green’s self pity with obvious loathing.

“As if your hands are clean and you weren’t trying to engineer it on prior mayors yourself behind closed doors. So, let’s not take a holier than though approach when all of these scenarios are played out and people have been involved on both sides of the equation.”

The council needs flexibility, Hansen explained, and the fact is, “Like it or not, there’s still some politics to this office. And I think if any games were played, it was to bring attention to that whole unity factor of working together wasn’t really working.”

By “flexibility” Hansen may mean that he wants the power to stack the city council with people who will obediently help him tackle the city’s budget problems, most notably by cutting the city’s pension funding obligations to city employees while providing him with a convenient pedestal—the office of mayor—in 2012.

City council candidates and, relatively speaking, political neophytes Barbara Delgleize and William O’Connell may foot the bill: they have spent $5,432.25 and $5,400.55 each, respectively, on Red Zone Strategies, a political consulting firm that operates out of Hansen’s home, and they should be well trained by swearing in day.

His Future
Carchio, until now at least, was left hanging by his former Republican friends possibly due to some spending votes that were contrary to Party doctrine and duly noted,  but not detailed, on the blog Red County.

Hansen has been trying to remove Carchio from office, local political insiders say, because Carchio has been Green’s lackey and Hansen, like some other council members, despises Green, and due to his (Carchio’s) close association with former Surf City mayor and convicted felon Dave Garafalo.

There is also Carchio’s own perceived vulnerability to corruption—he no longer runs a downtown restaurant, his most recent financial statement at city hall indicates he is currently unemployed, and he likes to be a big shot.

But Carchio has been as legally clean as any other councilmember by all accounts. He is also by nature eager to please the powers that be, carefully following his cues during city council meetings, an approach likely to intensify due to his apparent dire straits. All this could make him the perfect city council patsy for Hansen.

Meanwhile, by almost all accounts, true or not, Hansen is the OC Republican Party’s chosen one and is also being groomed for higher office.

A few words of caution are in order: rumors are like tumors—once they start growing they are hard to stop.

But anything can happen in politics.

As for his future, Hansen told the Voice, “I don’t have any plans at this point after my term ends in 2012. I am looking into a career as an investigative journalist.”

Please Give Generously Now
Other Amount:
Your Web Address: