Political Fix (7 July, 2016)

A Made for TV Presidential Election

The word chaos has become synonymous with Donald Trump.

Some headlines include, “Chaos and disaster in campaign manager’s firing.” “Trump campaign – an organized circus of chaos.” “A Donald Trump presidency would be chaos.”

And being the Reality Television star that he is, every time I hear the word chaos it reminds me of the 1960’s sitcom, Get Smart. Forty years later I can still hear the theme song as Maxwell Smart intently walks through a line of automatic doors to his secret phone booth where in he answers his shoe.

The international organization for evil in Get Smart was called KAOS, a spoof on the Soviet Union’s KGB. It wasn’t an acronym for anything, just KAOS – kind of like Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Maxwell Smart and his side kick, Agent 99, worked for CONTROL, a spoof of the CIA – kind of like Secretary Clinton’s life and campaign.

Some could think CONTROL is a spoof on Ms. Clinton, considering she used a Blackberry and private server in her basement for sensitive diplomatic emails. On the other hand, CONTROL could describe her campaign as one watched Ms. Clinton neatly dispatch Bernie Sanders and stay on point during her speeches, winning the endorsements of the Democrat Super Delegates. She plans on campaigning with President Obama this week and Vice President Biden in the following weeks, both of whom plan on attending the Democratic convention.

Mr. Trump, on the other hand, has been the model of KAOS. He fired his campaign manager, has no money, and his potential presidency is described as a disaster waiting to happen. Fellow Republicans have said he does not have the temperament to be in charge of the country’s nuclear arsenal and military commanders have said they will not follow his orders. He can’t hide the fact that he doesn’t know what is going on around the world and, lastly, no one ever knows what will come out of his mouth–least of all himself.

The last two Republican presidents, George and George W. Bush, will not be attending the convention, nor will the last Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. They don’t even plan on voting for him. The Republican nominee in 2008, Senator John McCain, says he is voting for Mr. Trump, but can’t make it to the convention because “he is busy that week.”

So who is left to go to the Republican Convention besides Sara Palin, and who is willing to speak besides Chris Christie? Sounds like Republicans are experiencing some buyer’s remorse, a la Brexit.

Now that we know that the vice presidential picks might be Elizabeth Warren for Ms. Clinton and Newt Gingrich for Mr. Trump, the perfect sitcom now would be the Honeymooners. The Kramdens and the Nortons probably would have even been Trump supporters. Mr. Trump and Mr. Gingrich can campaign against each other on who gets to play Ralph Kramden, known for his very short temper and loud insults. With Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Gingrich’s combined six wives and lousy record on women, it will be a tight race.

And who couldn’t imagine either of them shaking their fist and yelling, “To the moon Hilary!”

The Deck Is Stacked

More than ten years ago a group of Sequoia Union Elementary School parents, including myself, were tearing our hair out. A very divisive school board member had moved out of the district but would not give up his seat. The superintendent didn’t fix the problem and instead entered into a quid pro quo with the wayward trustee. The unspoken agreement was that the superintendent would cover up the board member’s new residence and the board member in turn voted to renew the superintendent’s contract.

A very nice arrangement indeed.

Concerned parents finally got the Grand Jury on the case, but the superintendent mislead the Grand Jury, and no follow up was done. Then someone told me about County Council, a group of lawyers hired just to work for the county. I thought, “Yes! Now we’re cooking with gas.” So I called County Council and explained to them Sequoia Union’s situation and asked them to assign us a lawyer. The nice lady over the phone would not comment on our predicament except to say that County Council was there to defend county employees –not us. If they were to defend anyone, it would have been the director who moved out of the district, not the parents.

So who is supposed to defend us?

It’s been 12 years since I first asked that question, and I still don’t have an answer.

When facing a lawsuit, the county can use any of its 21 lawyers on paid staff, or contract out to any of the best and most expensive lawyers throughout the Valley. Hiring an expensive law firm goes against the said frugal reputation of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. But when it comes to proving who is right, or sending out warning shots to anyone considering a “frivolous lawsuit,” no expense is too much. If the county loses the suit, that’s ok because it is part of an insurance pool that will help pay damages, and may even pay some of their legal costs. So no harm, no foul.

Every county and county employee needs to know that they will be defended against a lawsuit. But where is the pool of money to help the average Tulare County resident who has a legitimate grievance against a county agency or employee?

To make matters worse, if a resident does manage to take the county to court, the county can then turn around and charge the resident to pay the county’s legal expenses.

Case In Point…

I just sat through a three-week trial between the county and two former Tulare County Animal Control (TCAC) employees, manager Paul Grenseman and Adoption Coordinator, Julia Jimenez. The trial revolved around the fact that the two employees believed that they were unlawfully terminated. The county felt that the two had to be immediately escorted off the premises with only their personal belongings and without explanation.

The only consistency during those three weeks was the fact that everyone’s testimony was inconsistent– from the top of the totem pole to the bottom.

The number one in charge admitted she did not read the full report on why the two were fired. A personnel services officer admitted that an accusation of theft against Mr. Grenseman wasn’t true and was included in their report by error. The county investigator didn’t realize that the animal control officers and manger Grenseman were required to have extensive fire arms training and were in fact armed.

One of the animal control officers thought the outside kennels were air conditioned and one of the kennel workers thought Ms. Jimenez was hired as an additional kennel worker. A secretary for TCAC had discernible stalker qualities and kept handwritten notes in her desk about how Ms. Jimenez “parked too close to someone else’s car” and “wore a tank top or short pants.”

And finally, the county’s star witness, a kennel worker, admitted to drinking on the job, but didn’t really want to, and to taking the Animal Control truck on personal business and totaling it.

Ms. Jimenez and Mr. Grenseman gave about the same performance as the county witnesses. Mr. Grenseman couldn’t answer many of the defendants’ lawyer’s questions as a result of a heart attack he said he suffered because of the stress of being fired. He was pretty lucid, though, when questioned by his own lawyer. Ms. Jimenez gave contrasting accounts between her deposition, the county’s investigation, and her testimony on the witness stand, casting doubt on her claims of being harassed and sexually assaulted.

After a pretty messy trial of contradicting facts the jury took just 45 minutes to come to a verdict. Except for the jury, no one else walking out of that court room could definitively say that the county was fully justified in firing Ms. Jimenez and Mr. Grenseman. Nor could anyone definitively say that Ms. Jimenez or Mr. Grensemen didn’t deserve to be fired. The county won its case, but not wholly on the evidence. That jury just wanted to get the hell out of Dodge.

After the trial the county wasn’t what you would call “good winners.” Kathleen Bales-Lang, head of County Council, threatened to bill the plaintiffs for partial costs of the trial.

Tulare County Supervisor Mike Ennis said, “The County of Tulare is in the process of compiling a cost bill to be presented to plaintiffs for payment containing all costs associated with having to defend this meritless lawsuit.”

Ms. Bales-Lang chimed in, “We will aggressively pursue reimbursement for those costs to the extent possible….This litigation has cost the County in excess of $400,000.” She continued, “the County is forced to defend itself against meritless and frivolous lawsuits in order to save the taxpayers’ money in the long run.”

Mr. Grenseman is retired and still suffering the effects of his heart attack, and Ms. Jimenez has gone through foreclosure, lost her car, and is in bankruptcy. In what universe does paying a lawyer to squeeze blood from a stone save tax payer money? Also, before lawyers got involved, Mr. Grenseman and Ms. Jimenez would have accepted a settlement. Wouldn’t that had saved a ton of tax payer money?

Lastly, if Ms. Bales-Lang opts to hire the most expensive law firm in the Central Valley, which is exactly what she did, she hardly has a right to complain about the cost. Where is the accountability?

Ms. Jimenez and Mr. Grenseman have gone on with their lives, but the county is stuck in a scene from “Ground Hog Day.”

Another suit has been filed against Tulare County Animal Control, this time in Federal Court. The complaint states the “County of Tulare is lacking and wanting any measure of checks and balances on their ‘due process’ jurisdiction actions especially for in-custody dogs.

Tulare County is a place where due process is just a word and ‘Official Record’ audio tapes go missing and so do in-custody dogs.”

And this Federal suit names almost the same cast of characters for the defendants as last trial. Makes you wonder.

Just A Side Note…

Residents are still left with the question, who is there to defend them? Well of course there is the Valley Voice, but now we also have a revitalized Grand Jury. In years past they have been impotent.

But, in the last few years, the Grand Jury has stepped up to the plate and has aggressively investigated public entities and defended the county’s residents.

Now that the Grand Jury is doing a bang-up job, what does it get for its trouble? Attacks by our friend Bruce Greene, the Los Angeles lawyer for Dr. Benny Benzeevi’s Healthcare Conglomerates Associates. (HCCA.)

It was Mr. Greene who threatened to sink Valley Voice’s ship with legal bills. “Damages would be measured by the hour,” he said when we broke the story about the Tulare Regional Medical Center board discharging their entire medical staff.

Now when the Grand Jury foreman, Chuck White, is interviewed about the situation unfolding at TRMC, Mr. Greene accuses him of breaking the law and of being “politically motivated.”

Isn’t it ironic that the person working diligently for the good of the community is being accused of wrong doing by a $500-an-hour lawyer fleecing the citizens of Tulare?

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