Santa Paula Times

Letters to the Editor

June 15, 2012

The cause of Steve MacKinnon into perpetuity

To the Editor:

The incessantness of Steve MacKinnon tenure and termination continues. No doubt, as the rule goes, nothing is forever. Even when the true facts see the light of the sun the doubtlessness of “the deniers” will continue in the corridors of darkness. I have been amazed at the intensity of the MacKinnon supporters. MacKinnon illuminated the charisma of his charm; he was gifted with eloquence of speech, the magnetism of good looks and much time on his hands in which to share the bounty of his gift. According to the Republic newspaper of Phoenix, Arizona, Steve MacKinnon left the police department after a similar situation which was experienced in Santa Paula. Anything written in this article is not meant to defame the chief of police but rather bring out facts in the controversial issue surrounding his temporary suspension, no more, no less. It was reported by this same media that Steve MacKinnon left after a $23,000 settlement. Whether or not this settlement was justified is not the issue but if the City of Santa Paula is coerced into a similar monetary settlement this should be an issue with taxpayers. Charisma has its fruits in conquests and in providing boundless offerings. In reading Peggy Kelly’s supportive articles of Mr. MacKinnon, I have begun to wonder where the integrity of journalism has drifted and how charm may have played in her role as a reporter. I do hope in the near future that all the “hoopla” surrounding this man that “almost walked on water” as described by his many supporters comes to a happy and final ending. My prayers are indeed with all of the community but especially with Jaime Fontes, Santa Paula City Manager and with the city council members that have been adversely affected.

Andrew F. Castaneda

Santa Paula


To the Editor:

Our current administration lacks integrity, Obama it is desperate and this is an election year. Desperate people do desperate things, that is human nature. President Obama’s image took some big hits this last week and his fears of losing the election in November has made him do some desperate things. The unemployment rate went up, the unions lost in Wisconsin, the economy is sliding down and the national debt is going up. Obama is desperate to improve his image to the American people - fast. We know that he will never answer a direct yes or no answer to any question when asked. Have you ever heard him say yes or no? You never will!

Our intelligence department is doing some covert moves to forward our causes behind the scenes with some undercover agents in a number of countries. Telling America about these activities may help Obama’s image, but these friends that are helping us are exposed and are being killed or imprisoned. If we expose our friends to the wrath of our enemies, our source of friends will disappear all over the world! Our friends are paying the price for Obama’s image enhancement with their lives. A glaring example of this was exposing the doctor that helped us identify Bin Laden in Pakistan before our Navy SEALS took him out! This friend of America has been sent to prison thirty-three years! 

Bless those that are shouting - stop the leaks! - Republicans and Democrats, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Diane Feinstein, John Bolton, Mitt Romney, Lamar Smith and our CIA are together on this issue. Obama, stop the imaging building for yourself when it is costing our friends so dearly. Vote for Obama’s retirement November 6th!

David Kaiser       

Santa Paula

Just move on 

To the Editor:

After reading the SP Times of last Friday, June 8, I decided I had to renounce my resolution to write no more about the current Mackinnon/Council controversy until all the facts have come out because our city’s reputation is being damaged on a daily basis, and is being made a laughingstock in the county, which generally looks down their collective noses at Santa Paula anyway. We have the best Main Street of almost any place in the country, the finest climate, great growing conditions, plentiful water, and a lot of very fine, intelligent people who do know what a gem Santa Paula truly is, and then – this totally out of control brouhaha comes out of nowhere to blindside the Council and the citizens. Is it that some people are so blessed with extra time on their hands to foment more and more dissension they just cannot resist? No, I think they genuinely believe the Chief has been done an injustice, either by someone, or, more likely, just by a confluence of unfortunate circumstances and misunderstandings beginning with Wally Bobkiewicz’s having worded a flawed, ambiguous employment agreement, which, by the way, was done on Mary Ann Krause’s watch as Mayor, not the current Council. The current Council just gets to deal with the fall out generated by this poorly written “agreement/letter” of employment.

 Most everyone on the current Council were born and raised in Santa Paula. Can it be seriously believed that they want to injure the City to which they give so generously of their time to govern, after all these years? Why would they do that? That makes no sense at all.

Sometimes various personalities just don’t mesh well. Maybe the City Manager and the Chief had a failure to communicate, neither one is a long time Santa Paulan. It is logical to ask, why would it take 5 years to find out the Chief was driving a city provided vehicle, without limitation, as if it were his own? What exactly did Wally Bobkiewicz intend when he granted that privilege? I understand Wally refused to discuss the matter when contact by Mr. Fontes, the current City Manager. So much for professional courtesy there. If Wally was so great, as some believe, why would he duck any conversation or clarification? Again, a basic failure to communicate. Instead of yelling and protesting at City Hall, how about some of Wally’s boosters giving him a call in Illinois and asking: “Wally what gives, don’t you owe our city a clarification? People’s jobs and reputations are on the line here?” What’s so hard about doing that? Has Mary Ann Krause or any of Wally’s booster club done that? It’s a free call after all. Or is it more fun to just use this controversy to roast City Hall without regard to damaging the City’s reputation. Some kind of payback for losing a prior election and a certain development referendum.

I certainly take as true every good thing the Chief’s partisans have been saying about him, why would they make it up? But by the same token, why would our homegrown Council want to create such an awful mess? They wouldn’t, anyone with half a brain knows that, but by weird “law” and on the advice of attorneys, they feel constrained – unable - to defend themselves. They are in a no-win situation. Lawyer Bamieh can bang on them with incomprehensible letters to the press (what was the point of that quotation filled letter anyway – taint the jury pool?), and the press is happy to run such as that as “fact”, keeping the controversy going (it’s good for business), but what of the city’s reputation and the bad PR about the city it is causing, and yes even nationally, as friends in Florida have emailed me after having read about this on-line or in their local newspaper. We don’t need that kind of negative publicity. Get a clue. Stop throwing gas on this smoldering fire. With lawyer Bamieh now involved, we need to tamp this down or we’ll be reading crapola for the next two years while our housing prices continue to fall and local businesses fail or go elsewhere. The Chief has left town, for good or for ill, it’s over! The Council’s not going anywhere. We’re all stuck here until Armageddon devolves and we are released for eternity. Stop mucking up our own place over spilled milk. Time to move on!

Richard Main

Santa Paula

Setting the record straight

To the Editor:

I am responding to Delton Lee Johnson’s letter to the editor in the Friday, June 8th edition regarding the Thompson apartment homes on Harvard Blvd. next to Isbell Middle School. Apparently those apartments were approved 14 years ago; in any case, it was well before I ran for City Council in 2002.

I did tour Phase 1 after it was completed, and the architect told me that they had framed doorways in the walls as a part of the original construction. While currently covered by drywall, the doorways could easily be punched through in the event they wanted to convert units to live-work spaces, as was just approved by Planning Commission. Mr. Thompson knew up front that the commercial use he originally proposed might prove a risk, but the profitability of the project was not dependent on the rent from that space. Mr. Thompson also planned ahead in case the demand in Santa Paula for live-work units caught up with Camarillo, Ventura and Santa Barbara, where live-work apartments rent for princely sums. 

Mary Ann Krause

Santa Paula

A question of integrity

To the Editor:

In Larry Sagely’s last letter he took a parting shot at Steve MacKinnon by asking us to google Arizona to check his track record. In the interest of fairness, honesty and equal time I thought I might google Nogales, Arizona, a small border town and the former employer of our city manager, Jaime Fontes.

During the latter part of his tenure as city manager it was revealed that the mayor, Octavio Garcia Von Borstel, had squandered twenty thousand dollars of city funds on lavish hotels, expensive meals, seventeen-dollar martinis and sixteen dollars for an adult movie. All this was done on a city credit card under the watchful gaze of Mr. Fontes. Fellow council members were interviewed and councilwoman Olga Valdez stated she was disgusted with the mayor’s actions and described him as a corrupt politician. No surprises there. Comments from Mr. Fontes were zero. He simply refused to speak.

An FBI investigation followed and it was discovered that Von Borstel was found to be soliciting businesses in Nogales to hire him as a consultant while acting as an elected official with influence over city contracts. All this happened right under the nose of Mr. Fontes.

Von Borstel is now serving three and a half years and seven years probation for bribery, fraud, and stealing $600,000 from Western Union. Ultimately Mr. Fontes did grant one brief interview with TV station KVOA in which he stated the following: “As city manager you try to provide what is requested, and you deal as respectfully and as cooperatively as you can.” End of quote. Wow! Can this really be the same person who ordered a private investigation on Chief MacKinnon, or did we inherit a fast talking switch hitter who wears a suit and tie. To use the words of Mr. Sagely, this is a question not a statement!

There is lots more poop on Nogales and it makes Santa Paula look like Disneyland. Police officers having sex with underage women. Tunnels beneath the city used for drug smuggling. Perhaps Mr. Fontes was unaware of any of this or maybe, as usual, he just wasn’t talking. Does it sound like Mr. Fontes was doing a good job down there? He was after all, selected from more than seventy applicants to serve the city of Santa Paula. Is he selective in what he ignores and whom he singles out? Do we have a man of honesty and integrity as our head of staff?

A black cloud has descended over our lovely small town. Over the city manager, and sadly it seems, over several council members. Confidence has been shattered and so many questions remain unanswered. It is said that time will heal all wounds but it is going to take more than a few days before this one goes away. To our police chief I can say this: Steve, no matter where you go, and whatever you choose to do, may luck be on your side and may God bless you.

Barry Cooper

Santa Paula

Recruitment and selection of a Chief of Police

To the Editor:

The City has managed to dispose of its Chief of Police. The stated reasons for this action do not seem to justify the disposal/dismissal. Many in our community believe that we have lost an outstanding Chief of Police in a process that was, at best, inept and clumsy.

Can those of us in the community that are very concerned about the disposal/dismissal process bring ourselves to trust the City’s administration to effectively recruit a new Chief? We need another truly effective Chief, not someone willing to fall in with old, outdated past practices. We need another real leader, another innovator, another person committed to the total community. We need another Steve MacKinnon. Can we trust the City Administration to find us another MacKinnon? I believe that many people share my concerns.

I am requesting that the City involve a Citizen’s Committee to lead the way in the recruitment and selection process. This committee should be made up of at least seven members. Each Councilperson should nominate a member, the Chamber of Commerce should be asked to nominate a member, and County Sheriff Geoff Dean should be asked to nominate one member from the ranks of senior law enforcement in the County.

The committee should approve of the recruitment process. City Administration should implement the recruitment process and develop a top five list of candidates. The committee should be authorized by the Council to approve or reject any or all of the candidates. Those candidates approved by the committee should constitute the eligible list from which the Council would make an appointment.

Hopefully, this process would restore public confidence and result in the selection of the best-qualified Chief of Police.

David L. Hanson

Santa Paula

For the benefit of Santa Paula

To the Editor:

This letter is in response to those recently published in the Ventura Star by Mr. Sagely and Mr. Castaneda with regard to the MacKinnon affair.

Let’s talk about critical thinking, which we all try to teach our children when they are young and, admittedly, struggle to practice ourselves. Critical thinking is a process that questions assumptions. It is a way of deciding whether a claim is always true, sometimes true, partly true, or false.  

A look at the assertions in these two letters would make one think that they had been written after fact-based consideration had been applied to MacKinnon’s time in the little town of Avondale, Arizona; and that somehow that situation was unknown to the then City Manager, Wally Bobkiewicz, and/or the City Council when he was hired years ago. I would posit that the research was shallow and led to erroneous assumptions, which then, through leaps of illogic, made their way into a biased and fear-based letter writing session.

To make the assumption of a bungled hiring process years ago, and blame the hired at this late date, seems to me to be rather far fetched. Santa Paula thrived under Bobkiewicz’s tenure as City Manager, mainly because he was very good and very thorough at his job. I have complete faith that he conducted a lengthy due diligence process before hiring MacKinnon, and within that context, knew of and judged that the situation in Avondale was resolved to best interests of all involved, and that any severance accorded MacKinnon was merited. While both Mr. Sagely and Mr. Castaneda say in their letters that the Avondale settlement “is not the issue”, they certainly point to it with condemnation, innuendo and hyperbole.  

Now that the critical issue of Chief MacKinnon’s service has been, at least temporarily, resolved by his firing, the question that remains to be answered is: Who will replace him, and what will be the process for hiring a new Chief? A proposal has been brought forward that a committee of civic leaders be re-appointed, as they were when the last search was conducted, to participate in the vetting of applicants to assure that a high standard of qualifications be met. 

I cannot support the ongoing appointment of yet another barely qualified interim department head. At this point almost all of the business of the city is handled without experienced leadership, and/or by paid consultants whose interest in and commitment to the welfare of the city is strictly financial. 

An election is on its way, and we all must put on our civic engagement hats and insure that those who sit in our city government work for the benefit of everyone in Santa Paula.

Marsha M. Rea

Santa Paula