Anaheim Mayor Blocks Debates, Prompting Accusation He’s “Undemocratic”

JEFF ANTENORE, Voice of OC Contributing Photographer

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait. JEFF ANTENORE, Voice of OC Contributing Photographer

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait shut down discussion on two items by City Council members Lucille Kring and Kris Murray during a heated meeting, prompting accusations from the councilwomen that Tait was stifling debate.

Tait, backed by three council members, moved Tuesday to table two separate proposals before hearing a staff report or discussion from council members. Procedurally, a motion to table does not allow for any discussion.

Murray, who proposed several amendments to the city’s new anti-lobbying ordinance, called the move “undemocratic.” Her proposed amendments will come back before the council in about 90 days.

Kring protested when the mayor moved to table her item, a request to oppose a statewide “sanctuary state” bill.

She spoke several times without being called on, prompting Tait to gavel her down.

“You don’t like what other people do and you can’t stand when other people bring an item up that you reject,” Kring said.

“It is unbelievable how you don’t follow the rules,” Tait replied.

Council members Denise Barnes, Jose Moreno and James Vanderbilt voted with Tait to table Murray’s item. Barnes, Moreno and Councilman Steve Faessel voted with Tait to table Kring’s proposal.

The drama is the latest flare-up in a long-standing quarrel between Tait, Kring and Murray, who have served together on city councils with starkly different dynamics.

Before the November 2016 election, Tait was often a voice of dissent on a council in which Kring and Murray were part of the voting majority.

At times, Tait’s motions were tabled by his colleagues before any discussion was held.

After the election, the dynamics flipped, with Kring and Murray often on the losing end of votes.

Recently, animus between the three council members has flared when Kring and Murray speak without being called on, prompting Tait to gavel them down. Both councilwomen have accused Tait of using the gavel more frequently with them than others.

A Second “Sunshine” Ordinance

Murray’s proposal includes several amendments to a sunshine ordinance proposed by Moreno, which was passed on July 25 and adopted at Tuesday’s meeting.

Moreno’s ordinance would bar elected officials and employees from lobbying the city for two years after they leave their job; prohibit the city from hiring people from lobbying firms; and requires lobbyists to register with the city and file quarterly reports.

When Murray tried to propose several amendments to Moreno’s ordinance on July 25, she was voted down by fellow council members, prompting her to bring back the amendments as a separate item at Tuesday’s meeting.

Several of the amendments broaden the scope of the previous ordinance, while some narrow the influence of the law.

Murray’s amendments include:

  • Defining a conflict of interest for the council or Planning Commissioners to include relatives that have an ownership interest or are employed by a for-profit company located within 1,000 feet of a property under consideration. Relative is defined as including an official’s spouse or domestic partner, child, parent, grandparent, in-laws, aunt, uncle or cousin.
  • Changing the definition of a lobbying firm from “any business entity” compensated to influence a legislative body to “any individual, entity or organization.”
  • Requiring lobbying firms to report any campaign contributions made to the mayor and council members.
  • Restricting the “revolving door” ban to council members only. Moreno’s ordinance includes employees in the ban.
  • Extending the two-year revolving door ban for council members to include a ban on lobbying for a term “equal to the total of accumulative years” of their service on the council.
  • Prohibiting the employment of any person paid by an independent expenditure committee or successful city council campaign for two years after they received payments.

Shirley Grindle, a citizen watchdog who helped craft the county’s campaign finance ordinance and a ballot measure creating a county ethics commission, was complimentary about some of Murray’s suggestions but said several others were “overkill” and “a little politically motivated.”

She praised the provision which expands the definition of a lobbying firm, noting it would require groups like nonprofits and labor unions to register, in addition to business interests.

The requirement that lobbying firms report campaign contributions was Grindle’s idea.

Grindle, however, said some of the amendments were too broad, difficult to enforce and potentially unconstitutional, pointing to, for example, the revolving door ban that prohibits city council members from lobbying for a period equal to their years on the city council.

“That’s ridiculous. It should be a standard two years for everybody,” Grindle said.

Murray said her amendments are about strengthening, not competing with Moreno’s ordinance.

“I don’t understand why there’s resistance to make sure it’s comprehensive,” Murray said.

At the July 25 council meeting, Faessal said he felt Moreno’s ordinance unfairly targeted him, Murray and Kring, saying the ordinance’s ban on employing people from lobbying firms might affect the employment of their council aides.

Tait leveled a similar accusation at Murray during the July 25 meeting, saying her conflict of interest provision about relatives was aimed at him. Tait once owned property near Angel Stadium that he transferred to his adult children.

Tait, in tabling Murray’s amendments Tuesday, said the council should allow Moreno’s ordinance to go into effect rather than attempting to make changes to the ordinance on the same night that it is adopted.

“I look forward to a rigorous debate on this in the future,” Tait said.

“Sanctuary State”

Separately, Kring called on her colleagues Tuesday to write a letter voicing opposition to Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, which has been called the “sanctuary state” bill.

The bill would prohibit state and local law enforcement, including schools, from using resources to investigate, detain, detect or arrest people for the purpose of immigration enforcement.

Nearly two dozen people spoke against Kring’s proposal at the meeting, with several noting the city’s large population of foreign-born residents, at 37 percent.

While no one spoke in favor of Kring’s proposal at the meeting, she said the voices of people who oppose the sanctuary state bill are often drowned out.

She said she did not intend to be divisive.

“It was done because somebody needs to protect the residents from criminals,” Kring said.

Tait called Kring’s proposal unnecessarily divisive.

“We don’t need to be debating this bill in Sacramento…I believe it causes harm to our effort in building trust in the community,” Tait said.

Cheers erupted from the audience when Kring’s item was tabled.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • Cynthia Ward

    The item was tabled for good reason! The Acting City Attorney admitted that no, she had not been ASKED by Murray to confirm the Constitutionality of the amendments, and if Council wanted that, the CA’s office would need more time to review it. That seems like a good reason to table an item for later, does it not?

    Murray would have crammed this through like she and Brandman did the rainbow flag ordinance they appear to have KNOWN, prior to taking action, would be a violation of Muni Code and a misdemeanor (this is from Murray’s own admission in an open meeting!) They seem to have somehow imagined that altering the law after the fact would erase the unlawful behavior.

    What is frustrating about BOTH versions of the Sunshine Ordinances is that they don’t actually address the issues that have been so contentious, and fiscally devastating, during this administration. Enforce the laws on the books now,(the City doesn’t comply with their own Conflict of Interest Code, rooted in State law) AND require staff reports, consultant/contractor reports, and all claims made during open meetings upon which the Council relies for decision making to be submitted under oath, and actually READ prior documents and reference the language showing the history of the earlier agreements that are often miscommunicated to the Council and public in justification of outrageous kick backs to special interests while our neighborhoods go begging for resources. Then and only then will we begin to slow the giant sucking sound coming from the bottom of the City Treasury. Neither of these Ordinances addresses the manner in which the misdeeds of the 2010 administration has been ripping off the General Fund. So what difference does it really make?

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  • astar2b

    We need Murray for Mayor

    • Cynthia Ward

      She is termed out in 2018 and cannot run. She is expected to run for Todd Spitzer’s open County Supe seat. Astar2b, I am curious, WHAT do you believe qualifies her for higher office? Please be specific, and hating Tom Tait doesn’t count, since he is leaving in 2018. What positive benefit has she brought forth for the people of Anaheim that was not the work of a misinformation campaign hastily pushed through the meat grinder of government, while stopping the Mayor from even ASKING QUESTIONS with her famous and repeated action of, “I Call the question!” I am truly curious.

  • Wes Jones

    On Vanderbilt’s lead Our Mayor also reduced comment time to 2 minutes. To my way of thinking that is an attack on democracy.
    Also there was a report by chief of APD on jurisdiction on the the riverbed while I agree 100% that law on the riverbed needs to be in forced for public safety. Those homeowners living along the bed should not be subject to crime coming from the riverbed. However it is my belief that the current method of enforcement is harassment and is not aimed at crime reduction nor has it been proven to be effective in crime reduction. One after one the the council complained about crime coming from the riverbed, with fassel being the loudest. BUT NOT ONE OF OUR COUNCIL MENTIONED THAT CALLS FOR SERVICE TO ANY LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY BY PEOPLE LIVING ON THE RIVERBED ARE NOT BEING ANSWERED. I guess homeless people don’t make enough campaign contributions to deserve police protection. (That was a cheap shot but In this case they earned it

    • Cynthia Ward

      Wes, as you know I was pretty raw about that too. The number of contentious items on the agenda meant even the paltry 3 minutes we had was insufficient and then it was cut to 2 minutes. I know the Mayor has always been very open about wanting to let all those present share their views and participate but when we cut the time in which we share our views for multiple items it effectively shuts us out of the participation portion of the meeting. I do understand Vanderbilt’s concern, it is unfair to ask staff to stay until midnight or later when they have been at work all day and must return again first thing in the morning.

      But the answer should not be to reduce our time, but to reduce the number of contentious items on the agenda, or to bifurcate the agenda and allow comments on the general business of the City and conduct that business and then participate in the more contentious items. At least then those who are present for something like permit parking don’t have to sit for hours waiting through the war of verbal hand grenades tossed back and forth from side to see at the dais (which is REALLY OLD)

      Frustratingly, one of the things that makes the meetings go long, and was apparently the impetus for Council member Vanderbilt’s concern for time Tuesday, is when a group with skin in the game shows up, and we hear the SAME talking points 23 times, because here is a mistaken belief that hearing the same message 23 times makes it 23 times more impactful. It doesn’t. It just sends the message that the group doesn’t respect the time and resources being shared by all present in the room. If those groups were to limit their comments to specific spokespeople, and ask their compadres to please STAND UP and submit for the record how many people in the room would otherwise have gotten up to speak in support or opposition of the item, the meetings would go faster and all present would still have their numbers and views on the record. This takes the cooperation of both sides of the microphone, and it is especially galling when OUR time and input is restricted but the Council is still permitted to drone on, including rebuttal for the most inane reasons–like Lucille Kring needing to IMMEDIATELY respond to Daniel Robbins claiming his quote regarding the Statue of Liberty was mistaken–how is THIS so time critical it could not wait for Council Communications? Why did it require a response from the Council at all? Their supporters/cheerleers and even staff are permitted to say things easily proven false, and our requests for additional information or a delay to the net meeting to get more information are ignored, but they somehow feel anyone they don’t like may be crushed immediately and without the chance for a response or correction, and I have HAD IT UP TO HERE WITH IT!! Lucille going after me with false statements at the 2nd to last meeting was outright slander.

      The City Council MUST be prevented from their wholesale abuse of “point of personal privilege” which is NOT intended to permit instant response by those who lack the patience or emotional maturity to wait until the Council Communications at the end of the Public Comments period, which was ADDED by this Council a few years ago to let them respond to Public Comments because they were stewing to have to wait until the end of the meeting to tell us we are all “politically motivated and misinformed.” The parliamentary Point of Privilege is intended for those in the audience/gallery to catch the attention of the chair for an issue that needs immediate response, such as being stiflingly hot in the room or not being able to hear the proceedings. The only time a member of the voting board is to use such a mechanism for instant response to a character attack is if the meeting CANNOT otherwise proceed due to the character slur from someone–ie claiming “you are not even a real lawyer” during a meeting of the Bar Association, the meeting obviously cannot continue until the issue is clarified to ensure all involved are indeed members of the Bar. In that case, the member does not dispute the charges directly, but gains the attention of the Chair, who then demands of the accuser either proof of the allegations or a retraction. This is certainly not how our meetings are being run, yet when Mayor Tait has tried to point that out he is attacked for “silencing” his enemies. Hmm…stopping an abuse of parliamentary procedure is “attack?” But when the prior majority stripped him of his agenda setting powers as meeting chair back in 2013, with Lucille Kring openly admitting the action was a response to his demanding answers to the shenanigans of the Angels MOUs, they called it a “technical clean up” or some such nonsense.

      Rules for thee but not for me, needs to be hung over their heads where “In God We Trust” currently misrepresents actions forbidden by any version of “God” they may choose to make fit for their own agendas.

      • Wes Jones

        Cynthia thank you very much. You know I think it about time Anaheim grows up and have a “full time” council (as I understand it our council supposed to be part time). I think they should be very well paid. In exchange I would like to see the tightest conflict of interest control and personal financial disclosure regs. I personally do not know enough about “good government” proceduress to coherently comment. As you pointed out, Cynthia you can write the tightest laws imaginable but if you do not enforce them what is the point. I personally believe city staff needs a greater level of oversight. I do not how to do this. Could an outside audit firm do this?

        • Cynthia Ward

          That is so funny, I just came over here while taking a break from that very subject. We shall talk soon. I have ideas. Not likely to get anywhere given the lack of power we have in the cheap seats but we can try.

      • Mike

        My issue with the cut to 2 minutes for public comments is that it is becoming a habit to start the meetings late- this particular meeting was started at approx 5:40 when it was scheduled to begin at 5:00. This equates to 40 people getting their 3 minutes during public comments. Public comments should never be cut time-wise when they are late getting started.

  • Wes Jones

    At Vanderbilt’s lead the Mayor cut the comment time was cut from 3 minutes to 2 minutes. I feel that this a big assault on democracy. Also there was a report by the chief of APD on jurisdiction on the riverbed. One by one the council ranted about crime coming from the riverbed. With fasselI having the longest rant. I agree 100% that homeless people need to be law abiding citizens and if the homeless can’t do that on there own then that becomes the job of law enforcement. But the style of most law enforcement agencies with the homeless is harassment and and has little to with either the solving or preventing crime. I think it is clear that their results bear this out. BUT NOT ONE OF OUR COUNCIL ADDRESSED THE ORIGINAL POINT OF JURISDICTIONAL ISSUE WHICH IS THE FACT THAT NO LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY IS RESPONDING TO CALLS FOR SERVICE BY HOMELESS ON THE RIVERBED. I guess the homeless do not vote or make campaign contributions therefore are undeserving of police protection.(yes I know that was shot but in this case well earned)

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  • kburgoyne

    Short of having been there to see it first hand, it appears from the article that Tait and the others didn’t exactly “stifle” the discussion. It sounds more like they moved to not allow the discussion to drag on, or at least to exceed its usefulness.

    I appear to “generally” agree with Grindle. She seems reasonable in her position that some of the suggestions are good while others are unworkable. That type of position tends to demonstrate open-mindedness which inclines away from partisanship.

    Tait, et al, may be very much correct that some of the amendments were designed as attacks upon him, et al, but that doesn’t necessarily make them illegitimate moving forward. Indeed even if Tait, el al’s, situation is such that no real issue exists, that just implies there is even less reason not to consider some of the amendments. What would appear to be more of interest would be Grindle’s evaluation of the feasibility rather than the concern over dislike/desirability.

    While I support unions as a very important arrangement to provide power for workers, I also recognize it means the employer at times needs to be able to push-back against the unions. That is where the struggle to establish balance occurs. Without unions the workers get crushed. Without the ability for the employers to effective push back in balance, the workers will, like everyone else, gladly advance their own position as they should as part of looking out for their own best interests — precisely like the employer will do. Balance is established by the struggle between employer and employees.

    Thus while I support the removal of influence money from fictitious legal entities (aka corporations) and their kin from politics, it must be matched by the removal of influence money from unions. If the influence money of fictitious legal entities is not removed, then the influence money of unions must not be removed. The playing field upon which the struggle is played out must remain level. My preference is to level the playing field without influence money from any of these groups.

    • Every signatory employer has an equal opportunity to push back against unions, it is called contract negotiations.

  • JACK WHITE

    Just a clarification on the process for the adoption of ordinances. With the exception of an “urgency ordinance” which must contain a compelling reason as to why immediate adoption is required and be adopted by a supermajority vote of the city council, an ordinance is neither “approved” nor “adopted” at the council meeting at which it is introduced. “Introduction” means simply that: the ordinance is introduced for later consideration and possible action by the city council at a subsequent meeting. Assuming it is a listed agenda item, an ordinance can be introduced by any individual council member and no vote is required (nor appropriate) at the time of introduction. Once introduced, the ordinance is brought back for consideration at the next regular council meeting unless action is taken to postpone consideration of the ordinance to a later date. All council discussion on the proposed ordinance is generally deferred to the meeting at which the ordinance is considered for actual adoption because once the ordinance has been “introduced” by a council member, no further action on the merits of the ordinance is possible at the “introduction” meeting, This process is often misunderstood by both council members and the public.

    • kburgoyne

      Thanks for the clarification.

      • JACK WHITE

        My pleasure.

    • Shirley L. Grindle

      Jack – Can an ordinance that was introduced at the first meeting, be amended at the meeting at which it is adopted?
      Your old friend, Shirley

      • JACK WHITE

        Hi Shirley,
        Any substantive amendment to an ordinance (other than an urgency ordinance} requires that the ordinance be “reintroduced” as amended. The amended ordinance could then not be adopted until the following council meeting.