Doing the People’s Work

Does Tustin City Council member Jerry Amante think the late Tom Fuentes, a leader in the OC GOP, was a bad public servant?  All evidence suggests, yes he does.

So here is the logic behind my contention and stay with me on this.  Jerry Amante has a singular mission and that’s to bully and belittle his Democratic colleague Deborah Gavellon into submission.  His latest stunut had to do with coming up with a policy regarding council member absences, as though he was a nun at a Catholic school keeping attendance not only in class but making sure the student’s family attends Mass every Sunday.

So far, Amante’s tactics have backfired spectacularly.  When Gavello offered an olive branch of pie and a offer to work together in April, Amante threw it back and challenged Gavello to produce an elected official to colloborate the story; and a month later, former Fullerton council member Pam Keller showed up and called Amante a schoolyard bully to his face with a detailed retelling of Amante threatening Gavello with ineffectiveness.  In his comments, Amante, who could probably remember what you were wearing when you meet him for the first tiem, claimed “not to recall” the incident.  Perhaps all the bullying incidents run together?

Not that we read a word about Keller’s address to the council in the OC Register, even though a council member from another city calling a sitting council member a bully should be…ahh, what’s the word….hmmm…. newsworthy.  But here’s what Amante said about Gavello according to this story in the Register about the absence rule.

“If the councilwoman’s complaint is that I call out her absences because she has not served the public, if she’s concerned because I point out that she’s missed 16 meetings so far, 8 months worth of work, all the time taking her stipend and benefits…” Amante said. “… and those are in her mind acts of bullying, well that’s just me following my obligation to make commentary about the quality of service by any public servant.”

Any public servant.  Any.  As in anyone.

So let’s take Amante’s words and apply them closer to his GOP home.  Amante is by all accounts a staunch and proud Republican.  The late Tom Fuentes is synonymous with staunch and proud Republicans.  Fuentes, who passed away in May after a long bout of terminal cancer, was a member of the South Orange County Community College Board.

According to documents obtained by TheLiberalOC from SOCCCB, Fuentes was excused from attending meetings for more than a year starting in April 2011.  Despite not attending the meetings, Fuentes still received the $400 monthly stipend and full health insurance benefits accorded to trustees to “do the people’s work” when it was painfully clear, he could not. Fuentes, who is quite wealthy, was able to use his taxpayer-provided health insurance to help him battle cancer.

To be clear and consistent, this writer has no problem with Mr. Fuentes following the rules and being excused from attending meetings and collecting his stipend and benefits because it is not only likely but accurate that the amount of time Mr. Fuentes put into the SOCCCB since being first elected years ago well exceeded his low “hourly rate.”  We also believe other electeds who tell us 95 percent of their work as city council members is related to work done outside of city council meetings; while Gavello has missed a number of meetings, largely due to doctor’s orders, she has been more than available to Tustin residents to provide assistance and listen to the concerns of residents.

So why is it OK for Amante to comment negatively about Gavello not doing the people’s work while taking the stipend, paint this criticism with a broad brush to criticize “any elected official” and somehow not realize this situation applies directly to Mr. Fuentes?  We called Tustin’s PIO Lisa Woolery (twice) and asked if Mr. Amante believes that Mr. Fuentes did not do the people’s work while accepting the stipend and benefits for more meetings than Gavello missed, but we’re pretty sure she won’t address the question (two calls actually, we left a message the first time and we were disconnected the second time; gotta love the classics).  We also sent email, but there’s no reply.

And we’re pretty sure Amante will have forgotten his criticism applying to “any” elected official especially if that offical was a near-deity type figure in the Republican party like Tom Fuentes.  IOKIYAR (It’s OK if You’re a Republican).

So local Republicans, let’s connect the dots for you.  If you are an elected offical and miss meetings of your elected body because you are fighting cancer and still collect your stipend and benefits, you are “not serving the public” and “not doing the people’s work” according to Tustin council member Jerry Amante. He said as much on this about Gavello.  The late Tom Fuentes missed a year’s worth of meetings for which he was excused, collected $4800 in stipend and taxpayer provided health insurance used to battle terminal cancer despite being wealthy enough to have his own health insurance.  Does this mean Jerry Amante thinks Tom Fuentes was a bad public servant?  Fuentes endorsed Amante’s opponent Don Wagner for the AD-70 race in 2010; it helped that Wagner and Fuentes served together on the SOCCCB board together. So perhaps it does.

Again, we’ve asked for a comment from Amante to explain his position and comment on the quality of service Fuentes provided SOCCCB from April 2011 to May 2012.  It’s probable he wasn’t aware that Fuentes missed so many meetings while accepting his pay and benefits, so detailing this information has to make Amante uncomfortable.  But it’s going to take a cortortionist for Amante to demonstrate why is OK for Fuentes to benefit from his position while “not doing the people’s work” when it’s not OK for Gavello to miss meetings to fight her own battle with cancer.  We suggest a pilates class for Amante to improve his flexibility, and perhaps a doctor with a flashlight can help Amante find the logic in his reasoning.

Tustin council member Gavello has had two major skin cancer surgeries.  Every one of her absences was reported to the City Manager’s office, following the rules of the city council.  Skin cancer survivors need to be careful to guard against infection:

Cancer itself can increase your risk of getting a serious infection. So can certain types of cancer treatment. Once the cancer is gone and treatment is finished, the risk of infection usually goes back to a normal level. For most people, high-level risk for serious infection only lasts for a limited time.

Most people with cancer do not have a high risk of getting the kinds of infections described here. Your risk of infection depends on the type of cancer you have and the treatment you get. For example, surgery does not weaken a person’s resistance to infection nearly as much as a bone marrow transplant. (For more information, see our document, Bone Marrow and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplants.) And some chemotherapy drugs are less likely than others to affect a person’s resistance to infection. It is important to weigh the risk of infection and other side effects against the benefits of cancer treatment.

You may want to talk with your doctors before or during chemotherapy or radiation therapy to see how this information applies to you. Here are some questions you can ask your doctor or cancer care team before and during cancer treatment.

The fact of the matter, elected officials get sick or are injured while in office.  Dick Cheney was treated for a heart attack as Vice President.  Ronald Reagan and Gabby Giffords were treated for gunshot wounds.  James Brady held his press spokesman’s position after being shot even though he could never do his duties.  There are countless examples of elected officials from both parties missing official work to deal with health issues.  Politicizing it is bad form.

For our Republican friends, this post is not a criticism of Mr. Fuentes.  Despite our differences in how this blog views political issues, Mr. Fuentes, like Ms. Gavello, adhered to the rules of his elected body.  In going after Gavello on this issue, Mr. Amante proves again he needs to think before speaking.


  3 comments for “Doing the People’s Work

  1. June 28, 2012 at 5:32 am

    As far as I know, no one ever complained about Fuentes’ absences from the dais. Certainly not in public. With Amante you have to remember it is not about the facts; it is about Amante exercising power over the perceived weak. He might have expected anger from her and was surprised that she would make an offer of peace. So, who is the better statesman? Who would you rather have govern your city (wait, let me guess…)?

    Soon enough, the Little General will be gone from Tustin politics. Unfortunately, the casualties he left may include Gavello.

  2. Mike
    June 28, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Great points! How grinchy can you be? I understand going after school crossing guards and defenseless school kids, but cancer patients, too?! Hope he discovers his Whoville moment soon.

    • June 28, 2012 at 11:38 am

      Boil that dustspeck, boil that dustspeck…..

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