The for is back in the spotlight as November elections approach in South Pas.
Patch Blogger Ron Rosen's recent post—and comments that ensued—have made their way into San Gabriel Valley Tribune columnist Larry Wilson's Sept. 20 piece, "When a Police Chief Dares to Pen a Note."
Wilson calls the nonrenewal of former Police Chief Dan Watson and subsequent appointment of Payne "fishy" and adds: "It also seemed to come out of the blue, and to not be tied to any dereliction on Watson's part."
But he also notes Payne's comments on South Pasadena Patch: "To put your claims in perspective, when a police chief loses the support of the council, city manager, and the POA, it's time for a change of scenery. ... Any one of those three spells trouble."
"As far as my appointment, sometimes the ends justify the means," Payne continued.
After Patch put in a phone call to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office this summer, to a complaint filed in August 2010 from a South Pasadena resident, who alleged that the City Council violated the (which requires public meetings).
While the DA's reponse to the council found "no factual findings with regard to the alleged conduct because there is no independent source of evidence," it also said the circumstances "reviewed provide a sufficiently reasonable concern."
If, in fact, Watson's agreement was presented by the City Manager or otherwise discussed in closed session as an offshoot of “Performance Evaluation of City Manager,” the council was in violation of California's Brown Act.
Nevertheless, there are other aspects of non-renewal that could lawfully be considered in closed session as long as they are accurately depicted on the agenda, Assistant Head Deputy of the Public Integrity Division, Jennifer Lentz Snyder, explained to Patch in June.
But some residents claim that the City did not properly create an agenda for these meetings, especially because two job candidates—including Payne—independently confirmed with the Pasadena Star-News that they were being interviewed for the position in closed session August 2010.
Watson and Others Respond
Council member Philip Putnam told Patch his only private input was: "Chief Watson—as far as I could tell—was doing fine."
"But I didn't supervise him on a daily basis, so I had no way of telling what his job performance was," he continued.
Putnam did admit, however, that "closed session agenda items could be posted a little more clearly"—also mentioning there is very little transparency when it comes to personnel issues.
"Employee privacy rights trump the public's right to know," he told Patch. "How they are itemized is the only opportunity for increased transparency."
And while some have alluded to the fact that the City was unsatisfied with the former police chief's performance, Watson says it came as a "complete surprise."
"I worked for four City Managers, all of whom were satisfied with my performance," he told Patch in August. "When I met with the City Manager on Nov. 5, he told me that he was very satisfied with the job I was doing and had communicated that to the Council. I had a good working relationship with all the Department Heads."
Council member Richard Schneider, Watson's contract should have been renewed, declined further comment when recently contacted.
Patch Asks: What do you think? Was City Council in violation of the Brown Act? Or are some South Pas residents drawing innacurate conclusions?