Santa Ana business owner Mike Tardiff has filed a formal ethics complaint against Santa Ana Planning Commisioner Sean Mill for multiple counts of violating the city’s code of ethics when it comes to dealing with the public.
Tardiff spoke out against Mill at a recent City Council meeting and submitted the letter to the city attorney early this week. The context of the letter reads as follows:
To Santa Ana City Attorney – Mr. Joe Straka,
I would like to inform you of improper conduct by an appointee to the Santa Ana Planning Commission. In the course of a debate concerning medical marijuana dispensaries on the New Santa Ana Blog – Sean Mill, unprovoked by anyone, conducted himself in a manner which is in violation of the Santa Ana Code of Ethics and Conduct and not fitting for an appointed official of the City of Santa Ana. Following are the offending excerpted remarks:
Sean Mill on May 24th: “Speaking of Buffao Wild Wings … We could’ve had one of these fine establishments here in Santa Ana but a small handful of folks including … Mike Tardif caused the applicant so many problems that they packed up and left.”
“So it is not just medical marijuana dispensaries that Mike Tardif has an issue with, he seems to scream “NO” at new businesses in general. How does he expect us to generate any revenue if we chase all the businesses out of town? I thought he was a small government, anti-tax, Republican. It appears to me that is is nothing more than your typical NIMBY from the “Coalition of No”.”
Sean Mill on May 25th: (in ref. to Mike Tardif) “Standing in opposition to everything and constantly acting as a contrarian to the actions of our great council majority is not going to help move our city forward. The fact that you disagree with my position and have a very hostile hatred of me does not equal a violation of the ethics code.”
Mr. Mill is entitled to his opinions and to express them in a public forum as well. However, as an appointed official of the City of Santa Ana, and having pledged to conduct himself according to the Code of Ethics and Conduct, he has an obligation to live up to the letter and the spirit of the Code. He should engage residents through rational discussion – not through a heated, accusatory, belittling and thoroughly unprofessional rant in a public forum. This type of behavior generates bad feelings and division and will not accomplish anything positive for the City of Santa Ana.
As Santa Ana City Attorney you know the following “Core Values” of the Code:
I treat my fellow officials, staff and the public with patience, courtesy and civility, even when we disagree on what is best for the community.
I work towards consensus building and gain value from diverse opinions. I conduct myself in a courteous and respectful manner at all times during the performance of my official City duties.
I encourage full participation of all persons and groups ..
(The) Code of Conduct is intended to be a reflection of the community’s values as articulated by the Mayor and City Council as they represent the will of the people of the City of Santa Ana.
The Code requires compliance with both the letter and spirit of conduct befitting an appointed official representing the City of Santa Ana. When Sean Mill speaks in a public forum on matters which have or may come before his commission he puts on himself the mantle of authority granted to him by his appointment. In that capacity he is therefore obliged to uphold his pledged obligation to the standards of the Code of Ethics and Conduct.
In singling me out with his inflammatory and divisive speech Sean Mill has engaged in behavior which is in direct opposition to, and makes a mockery of, the values expressed in the Code of Ethics and Conduct.
As a resident, property and business owner in Santa Ana I feel that it is important to work with representatives of the City who treat the public with “patience, courtesy and civility and work toward consensus building” – Mr. Mill does not fit that bill. I hereby request action by the City Attorney’s Office to assure that Mr. Mill no longer conducts himself in violation of the Code of Ethics and Conduct.
Mill suggested he met with officials from Buffalo Wild Wings in this post on New Santa Ana. If this is true and it was in his capacity as a planning commissioner, then it would appear that Tardiff has a case in regards to a possible ethics complaint even though the meeting would have occured during Mill’s first turn with the planning commission. He was reappointed this year after “resigning.”
Mill’s response to Tardiff’s allegations can be found in this comment on NSA below:
As a Commissioner I am obligated to uphold the law, the constitution of the state of California and the constitution of the United States. I serve at the pleasure of the Mayor and City Council.
In the case of Buffalo Wild Wings I did not break any laws and the position I took and stand by is one that I believe was in the best interests of Santa Ana. You disagree with my position, which is your right, but that does not mean that I have violated any laws. And as I recall, the overwhelming majority, if not all, of my fellow commissioners supported the position I took.
I did reach out to those behind the efforts to bring BWW to our city in hopes of keeping them here. Unfortunately their plans were set on that location and when things went sideways they decided not to come to our city.
As far as your claim that I am somehow wasting someone’s time I disagree completely. I am here to have an open and thorough discussion of the issues. I think this openess leads to a more transparent process which I think leads to a better governmental structure.
I suppose we could do things the old fashioned way and discuss the issues behind doors in secret, but I think that we should use these new forms of media to further the discussion. I am sorry that you disagree with my wanting an open and transparent discussion on the issues.
I agree when can learn from Brea and what they are doing. Jay Trevino and Karen Haluza worked in Brea and played major roles in the developments there. We must also remember that we are not Brea or Irvine or some other place, we are Santa Ana.”
Mill and the administrator for New Santa Ana seem to believe that Brea somehow “took” the BWW slated for Santa Ana. The sports bar is a chain and while you certainly can visit it with your family, good luck keeping little kids entertained while you try to watch an entire football game there on a Sunday. But it cetainly isn’t anything close to a strip club either. It’s a bar first and a restaurant second, so I think it’s a stretch to say it’s a family place. A better place to watch the game with friends.
Location is the driver for success.
The site in BWW in Brea, like the one in Irvine, are in locations near other retail and away from residential neighborhoods. The proposed site in Santa Ana did not offer that option.
Santa Ana’s economy needs more back office and manufacturing jobs. You’re not going to do that by counting on new restaurants or bars which frankly don’t pay very well. The average BWW employs about 50 people. This includes waitstaff, bartenders, dishwashers, and cooks, plus a small number of managers. Now I’m sure BWW compensates its employees well, but it’s doubtful there are a lot of six figure salaries coming out of payroll at each location. You cannot rebuild Santa Ana’s economy on the backs of new bars and restaurants. There has to be a combination of professional services, manufacturing, and back office functions. Mayor Pulido’s ideas for attracting companies in the green/clean technology space will be far more valuable to the city than a Buffalo Wild Wings.
So as we venture back to the ethics complaint against Mill, it’s up to the city council to enforce the city’s Code of Conduct for ethics. Tardiff is a small business owner in Santa Ana who frequent signs the front of a check instead of the back of one. He can easily take his business and move it, and take those Santa Ana jobs with him to Anaheim, Orange, Costa Mesa, or Tustin.
Does anyone believe the city council will say a word to Mill about his actions?
I won’t hold my breath.