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JOHN TOMLINSON, Dana Point
I am a current Dana Point City Councilmember, and former Mayor of our city. Since I am not running for reelection, my time on the City Council will only last a few short weeks, but I feel it is necessary to address an issue that has become one of the key issues in our current election cycle. As many of you may have noticed, my comments to the media to date have been far and few between, if not almost non-existent. I prefer to voice my thoughts, feelings and comments about our City in a Public and open forum. Before my time on the Council is over, and notwithstanding my typical decision to avoid commenting in the media, I feel it is necessary to address the inaccurate facts and statements that have been circulating in connection with one of the key issues in our current election cycle.
Specifically, I want to set the record straight on what actually has occurred with the Financial Review Committee (FRC.) I became concerned about the committee when two members suggested that city was in dire financial straits for purely political motives. They spent enormous amounts of staff time trying to substantiate these assertions. However, the remaining members of the FRC concluded these assertions were absolutely incorrect. In short, the two members of the FRC who were politicizing the city’s financial situation with false information, were refuted in their own committee. Hence, their position was never formally reported to the Council. Unfortunately, the fact their committee did not agree with them did not deter these two members from their political goal. True to form, they continued to politicize the issue by appearing at City Council meetings and making their inaccurate assertions during Public Comment.
Unfortunately, there was a quorum of the FRC committee at the Council meetings where this occurred. It was unclear to me if this would constitute a Brown Act violation. The City Attorney expressed concern over this issue, but Council allowed the public comment to be made after one FRC member left the room so a quorum would not be present. The two members attempted this again at the very next meeting. I thereby exited the room, soon after to be followed by three other Council Members, so that I would not be party to the violation.
In light of this unusual circumstance, the City Attorney submitted a request to the Orange County District Attorney (DA) for an opinion regarding the possible Brown Act violation. Shortly thereafter the Council, on my motion, suspended the FRC meetings until a future date after its Charter was updated. In addition, the Council directed that the FRC’s Charter be amended, since they had delivered nothing the Council had requested, including waste, fraud and abuse a watchdog committee is tasked with uncovering.
While working on revisions to the FRC’s charter and waiting for the DA opinion, two members were removed: Debra Lewis removed Joseph Jaeger and Paul Wyatt removed Buck Hill (the emails confirming their removal are a matter of public record and available upon request). Mr. Hill and Mr. Jaeger now claim they were fired – they were, but by their appointing Councilmembers not the Council as a whole. In the meantime, the DA opinion came in.
The DA determined the FRC member’s actions were a Brown Act violation. The DA didn’t stop there. He went on to suggest their actions may have been criminal, specifically stating “ if the members of the committee are attempting to circumvent the provisions of the Brown Act by intentionally depriving the public of notice that an issue is to be discussed and preventing interested members of the public from commenting on the matter being discussed. This could potentially subject the participants in such a scheme to criminal liability in accordance with the criminal provisions of the Brown Act.” ( The DA’s opinion is a matter of Public Record and available upon request.)
The Council is only interest in maintaining the city’s integrity. I predict, that in the near future you will see the FRC back – but under a new charter, and with a clear direction to abstain from taking actions that violate the Brown Act.
This is all a matter of Public Record, but with all of the misinformation circulating on social media I thought it important to make sure the facts were presented so the public could form their own opinions with correct information.