Even for people as cynical as we are, it’s possible for us to be amazed at the ability of elected officials to tell outright lies while standing by those statements by calling them facts. Facts are true and lies are not. Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray provides us with an excellent demonstration of this skill. In her April 25th commentary for the Orange County Register, Let process play out on Anaheim’s elections, Murray discusses the proposal to elect members to the city council by individual districts. In the first paragraph of her piece, Murray suggests; “if the council had approved the ballot initiative proposed last year by Mayor Tait to divide Anaheim into single-member districts, it would have been a violation of state law.”
It isn’t so much Murray’s unmitigated gall in asserting that Mayor Tait’s proposal to put the matter of council districts before the voters was an unlawful proposal that sticks to the roof of our collective liberal mouths like peanut butter. It’s Murray’s ability to lie with a straight-face by taking a section of law out of context and use it to justify her conclusion. And to put it in print for all to see.
Murray states in her editorial:
In the wake of the city of Bell corruption scandal, state law was changed requiring charter cities, like Anaheim, to engage their citizenry in a broad public process before any changes to the charter can be put before voters. Assembly Bill 1344 became effective Jan. 1, 2012, and requires extensive public noticing and a minimum of two hearings before the council may consider and approve initiatives changing the city’s charter. None of these steps occurred before Mayor Tait’s ballot initiative was agendized for council consideration last September.
Sounds great; and there is a section in the government code related to charter cities that requires the kind of public discussion she cites. That section however, is related to the process where general law cities develop a charter for public consideration. It explicitly does NOT apply to the process of amending an existing charter.
Initially we were just going to ignore Murray’s drivel; but that was before Mayor Tait publicly demanded a retraction from Murray for her “false” allegations in his member comments at the end of Tuesday’s council meeting.
The Voice of OC reported:
“In referring, by innuendo, that my attempt to place the question on the ballot was in any way similar to the situation in Bell was not only false, but, I believe, an attempt to damage my name and credibility,” Tait said.
After reading his retraction demand into the record during council communications at the end of the night, the mayor adjourned the meeting, triggering more political theater.
Council members Jordan Brandman and Murray immediately intervened to ask that the meeting be continued, with Brandman making repeated calls for a point of order and for the mayor to “please stay.” Tait refused and walked out of the council chambers.
After mayor Tait left the meeting, Murray requested that Mayor Pro Tem Eastman conduct the meeting on the council’s behalf so that the city attorney could address member Brandman’s point of order. The city attorney ruled that while Brandman had no standing to respond to the Mayor’s comment, that member Murray could, because the Mayor’s comments were directed at her. In her response to Mayor Tait’s remarks, Councilwoman Murray stated:
“The new state law—the intent is very clear in that informing the public, and engaging the public, when changes to a city’s charter are made. I did have my editorial reviewed by counsel that represents cities—I had two different legal opinions actually on it, and so was not reckless in printing my editorial.”
You can view Murray’s response here, at the 1:55:14 time mark.
Murray went on to claim that city attorneys across the state are being advised to inform their clients (cities) that the law will apply if there are substantive changes made to a city charter. While we have no basis to question the veracity of Murray’s claim that she received two separate legal opinions, we are at a loss as to how the legal conclusions she claims, could be arrived at given the language in the statute.
As far as we can tell, there is no requirement for extensive public noticing and a minimum of two hearings before the council may consider and approve initiatives changing the city’s charter, beyond what is required by the Brown Act. We challenge Ms Murray, or anyone else, to cite a section of the government code that supports Murray’s position.
In order to understand the magnitude of unmitigated gall demonstrated by Murray’s claim that Tait’s charter amendment proposal was unlawfully presented to the city council last year, it is important to consider her actions, which sparked the current calls for equitable council representation. Murray and her colleagues, Council members Eastman and Sidhu, voted in 2012 to grant $158 million in tax subsidies to a luxury hotel developer. That vote was recently invalidated by a judge because of insufficient public notice. It was also Murray and her colleagues who refused to attend a public meeting called by Mayor Tom Tait and former Council member Galloway to reconsider the decision, so that the issue of proper notice could be resolved.
We find it troubling that Murray would claim such passion for an informed public regarding changes to a charter, after personally disregarding the right of the same people to be informed in advance of a vote to give away, an unprecedented, $158 million in future Bed Tax revenues to support one of her campaign contributors hotel development projects.
We think the word we are looking for to describe Murray’s position is…