Shawn Nelson is no hero!

And another Orange County Register Editorial distorts the truth, again.

In a Sunday Editorial The Orange County Register tries to paint Fullerton City Councilman Shawn Nelson as a hero for revealing confidential discussions from closed session meetings of the Fullerton City Council regarding contract negotiations with city employees.

Not only is Mr. Nelson not a hero, he is probably a criminal.

It is against the law to disclose information discussed in closed session. There is no debate about this. It doesn’t matter is you agree with the discussions or not. Let’s take an item from this Tuesday’s Fullerton City Council agenda identified for closed session for example.

3. CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATOR – Per Government Code Section 54956.8
Property:  Assessor Parcel Map Number 033-030-19 (Northwest Corner of Lemon Street and Walnut Avenue), Fullerton, CA
Agency Negotiator:  Rob Zur Schmiede, Director of Redevelopment and Economic Development
Negotiating Parties:  Art Leahy, OCTA CEO
Under Negotiations:  Price and terms

This item is identified as required by law, but the details of the City’s negotiating position are not disclosed. If the negotiating position of the city was that they would be willing to sell this parcel for as low as ½ market value, it would be illegal and unethical for Mr. Nelson to disclose that information, to anyone.

The public right to know is provided when a negotiated agreement is presented to the Council for approval. The same holds true for the details of negotiations regarding the terms and conditions of employment for city employees.

Further, the assertion that pension benefits are being “spiked” is misleading. For example, if the terms negotiated requires that employees pay for the increase in their pension benefits, such as is the case with Orange County employees, the disclosure of only partial information is a disservice to the public. The Register does not know the facts or details of the agreement. Yet they have no problem spouting off how “The Fullerton City Council has been trying to secretly negotiate a 25 percent pension spike for government employees in closed session,” or how “the fix was in behind closed doors for a 25-percent pension increase.”

Shawn Nelson is simply grandstanding for his reelection campaign. He has had no problem, which we know of, keeping his mouth shut about other closed session items in the past. Of course, you’ve got to wonder if he has chosen to secretly reveal the position of the city on other matters discussed in closed session.

His own comments and actions on this matter leave little doubt that the source of the closed session information regarding Fullerton City employee contract negotiations is Shawn Nelson.

Sorry Shawn, you cannot pick and choose the laws you want to follow, or when you want to follow them. You cannot disclose the details of closed session discussions, no matter what you think of them.

And Orange County Register, shame on you for claiming; “These benefit hikes are irresponsible and especially unconscionable in a troubled economy. The retroactive portion of the pension spike is especially troubling and could be construed as a gift of public funds.” If you had some actual facts or documents to back up you wild assertions, I would expect that you would publish the information.

From where I’m looking, you’ve got nothing more than the claims made by Mr. Nelson, which are a violation of law and the public trust. For violating that trust, Shawn Nelson should be censured by his colleagues on the Fullerton City Council.

  8 comments for “Shawn Nelson is no hero!

  1. OCGator
    August 18, 2008 at 2:13 am

    This is a govenrment by the people, for the people. All things should be above board and in the open. I dont know about Mr. Nelson being a hero, but he has the right idea about a OPEN government.

  2. August 18, 2008 at 5:12 am

    And don’t forget that Silly Shawn also tried to get historic Chicano murals whitewashed!

  3. Observer of Fullerton
    August 18, 2008 at 10:21 am

    What Chris misses on Item #3 is that there is a middle ground between what the City is telling us and someone saying what offer the City would accept. We are not told even who is the buyer and who is the seller, what the land is used for now and what it would be used for if it changed hands; and what the other options are. When an item like this shows up on the agenda an explanatory paragraph would be helpful and I doubt if it would violate the Brown Act.

    Just because Nelson may be grandstanding does not mean that there is not a valid issue here. The City needs to be more forthcoming and there is no need to defend the City simply because you disapprove of Nelson’s behavior.

  4. August 18, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Fullerton Observer,

    What part of Conference with Labor Negotiator and a list of all of the represented groups isn’t clear? The Council declared that it was meeting in closed session to meet with its labor negotiator. Like it or not, that is all the public can know until a proposal is placed on the agenda for a vote of the Council.

    If someone is so stupid that they cannot figure out that the Council is discussing the terms and conditions of employment with a labor negotiator, they most likely wouldn’t be looking at the agenda in the first place.

    The Brown Act requires that the city post the agenda 72 hours before their Tuesday meeting. THAT IS THE PUBLIC REVIEW PERIOD. No scheme to slip something through. This is the same amount of time given to all matters presented to the Council for a decision.

  5. truthout
    August 18, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    sorry Chris, but the Brown Act requires that the contract provisions that are open be placed on the agenda. For instance, if the closed session is going to discuss pension or any other article. the Brown Act requires that the public be made aware of what articles in the CBA are going to be discussed in closed session; however, it does not require the details.

  6. August 18, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Truthout,

    Before you enter the field of battle, make sure you’ve got your facts straight. In this case, you do not.

    Government Code 54954.5 specifies the model format for local agencies covered under the Brown Act to use to announce closed session items to the public.

    The City of Fullerton followed that model to the letter and the intent of the law. There was nothing hidden. This model has been used for years to guide compliance with The Brown Act.

  7. Voice of Reason?
    October 7, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Last time I checked, things like the Freedom of Information Act have been championed by liberals everywhere. I understand that Closed Door Sessions are totally legal, but the public still deserves to be informed to some degree what is actually occurring, and the term “labor negotiations” sure doesn’t tell us much about what is going on, especially when our hard-earned tax-dollars are at stake and we are in a complete and utter economic crisis. I don’t necessarily disagree with adding to the city employees pensions, but I do want to know whats going on. Maybe Shawn Nelson didn’t act perfectly, but at least he had the courage to stand up and voice his concerns. I don’t think this was political grandstanding, in fact, it may end up hurting his chances. However, I’d rather have him balancing out our city council than Dick Jones wasting space and jibjabbering away, and then sucking up to Quirk to gain supporters for his faltering campaign. Its fine to disagree with the way Shawn Nelson handled all this, but realize that we do need to have way more accountability in our city government.

  8. Voice of Reason?
    October 7, 2008 at 11:02 am

    oh and saying someone is “probably a criminal?”

    if you are going to go ad-hominem, at least go for the throat and get it over with.

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