Tustin PIO Resigns. No Communication?

While we were out enjoying the Tustin Tiller Days Parade from our front porch, we got word that the city’s Public Information Officer, Lisa Woolery, abruptly resigned her position with the city. I reached out to several sources in the city and even emailed Lisa to find out the details. This evening, we finally received an email from Lisa, who stated the move was purely career-oriented. “I’m ready for new challenges and a better salary.”

Lisa had been with the city for over 6 years. She came to the position with outstanding credentials: a former teacher,  a masters in communications from CSUF and has worked in the field for over 15 years. She is only one of 1,400 public relaitions professionals to have earned the Accredited Public Relations certification from the Public Relations Society of America.She was named Public Information Officer of the Year in February and both The Liberal OC and Our Town Tustin applauded her achievements.

It was unfortunate the kudos were one sided. Over the year, Woolery had managed to stop communicating with local blogs, including the Lib and us, and apparently only worked with Ellyse James of the Orange County Register, whom she was more than happy to feed the stories of Tustin’s bright side. She was not happy with criticism of the city or, in particular, the (un) transparency in city government that was supposedly her bailiwick. When we ran a story complaining the city was not being very transparent in their dealings over the cell towers at Cedar Grove Park, we received a curt email stating that all future requests for information would need to be made under the California Public Records Act to the city clerk. We were also cut off from further press releases and had to rely on combing the city website for general information.

Whether it was bruised ego or a directive from the city fathers (read Jerry Amante), Woolery failed in a principle goal of any communications manager to maintain relationships with the media. Realizing we were and are an upstart blog for the city, Woolery did not seem to grasp the responsibilities of watchdog blogs such as ours and the well established The Liberal OC, where Dan Chmielewski had told me long ago that she refused to communicate with him. There is an old saying we frequently bring up: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. And, while never considered each other enemies, we often had an adversarial relationship mostly due to the nature of the blog.

Woolery’s hours were cut earlier this year in a budget move. That was verified by our sources at city hall who stated she was down to 32 hours a week. Was City Manager Jeff Parker trying to send her a message? If so, she apparently received it, loud and clear and she is joining the flock of talent leaving our city for greener pastures where visions of Jerrydom fade into the distance.

For the near future, I have been told the Facebook and Twitter feeds are being handled by Debbie Sowder from the City Manager’s office. She came out strong and has been posting to Facebook and tweeting her littler heart out all weekend from Tiller Days over at Columbus Tustin Park. We’ll see how often those tweets are coming after the newness has worn off.

For our part, we will say goodbye and good luck, Lisa. When we were talking, we had a good relationship and I appreciate you making my job easier in the beginning. Happy trails.

About Jeff Gallagher

My day job is a peace officer for the 2nd largest law enforcement agency in Orange County. I live in and love Tustin where my family and I have resided for the past 17 years. I am a highly moderate libertarian that despises hardcore Republicans, Democrats and anyone else who is not willing to compromise for the good of the people.

Posted on October 7, 2012, in In the News, Local Government, politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Lisa was brought in to this PIO position by Amante who created the position. he had a need for someone to completely screen any negative information to the media, primarily about himself. He then moved to having Lisa create negative Press Releases against any group, organization or person ordered by Amante, especially when Mayor. No need to bother the other 4 Council members with her assignments for approval. Lisa’s talent for robust poison writing, newspaper ads and Power Point presentations were at an all time high once J and J, along with the former City Manager of many years, decided to go after the Tustin Unified School District. She used pictures of the Love Canal contamination in the “Red Herring” ad appearing in the community newsletter, The Tustin News and City Council Power Point shows denigrating the School District. This information is verified by the depositions taken from Lisa and other City Staff by TUSD’s attorney in preperation for the upcoming trial involving the first lawsuit the City filed against TUSD to stop construction of improvements and new schools. Maybe now with Lisa leaving, Ellyse James will start writing her own “news” stories for the Tustin Weekly and not just print those provided by Lisa.

  2. You mean that 7 hour deposition she went through? Oh, the pain to have to put up with lawyers for that long.

    It is doubtful that Lisa provided Ellyse with the “news” unless Jer approved it first. I had hopes for her when she actually followed up on my story about the racist remark. I’m still wondering if they made her pay for that one.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Watchdawg your point really loses its strength when you take the low road to name calling. Especially a swing at a dedicated city employee. Not everyone enjoys the luxury of answering to only the First Amedment like Mr. Gallagher. As the pio for the city Ms. Woolery had to answer to three different city managers and a city council.

    As for the differences between the City and TUSD all I can do here is quote the movie Cool Hand Like. “what we have here is a failure to communicate.”

    • Law Dawg, what name calling? I think Watchdog called it like it is.

      The politics of city government is not lost on our readers who understand that Lisa sometimes had a tough row to hoe. Our point has been that, as a professional, she should have been able to juggle the requirements of her bosses and the media to effect her job. She chose, instead, to cut off communication with any media source that did not write pretty things about the city and it’s corrupt city council.

      Lisa has gone to a better position with more money, I am told. She had enough good grace and class not to bash her employer (or her real employer, Boss Tweed Amante) upon leaving.

  4. I see the “war on women” is alive and well right here on this blog. It is not name calling to call a woman a “bitch”? Even with your arch-enemy the Sicilian Stallion you don’t condone such labels. So a double standard?

    If Ms. Woolery can get a pay cut while Amante is still on the council does not look like such a puppet / puppetmaster relationship. It is not logical.

    As for the impeachment of one’s professionalism come out from behind that union protection and let’s see how self-righteous you are.

    • I have much more colorful names to call the clowns that run the city. That was a comment made by a reader, not an article on this blog. You should really be able to tell the difference. I don’t edit comments or delete them just because they use language that offends you.

      I fail to see where there is a war on women around here. If anything, most of our articles about people have been about the men that run the council and how certain ones like to bully women. If you want to see it, just watch any city council video where John Jerry and Deborah are present. Then you will see who bullies who.

      I have to agree with you that it doesn’t seem logical that Woolery got a pay cut. But, Jerry is quick to pick allies and just as quick to dump them when he no longer needs them.

      The last statement, I am at a total loss. You will need to explain that one before I can adequately answer. This blog is not union protected at all. In fact, I had to give up my last position in my union (which my readers know represents most Tustin city workers) because they were upset with my writing. So much for that one.

  5. Mr. Gallagher you speak with a forked tongue! Out of one side of your mouth you defend the rude “comments of a reader” then when they are characterized as derogatory you dismissed them as just the comments of a reader. That’s a really neat trick. Do you fetch as well?

    I would not put the debate amongst publicly elected officials who are supposed to debate and have differences on the same level as a “reader” who degrades a long serving civil servant of the City. If Debra is bullied then she should have run for a second term and brought friends.

    As for your underground union activities that is not what I was referring. You are a self-proclaimed “peace officer” that comes with a union and POBOR rights. My point is it is easy for someone like you to pontificate. Try walking in someone else’s shoes for a few miles. What if the City managers and the council members told Ms. Woolery not to give information to the blogs? Would you defy your Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain? Probably not.

    Here is my real test of your fairness and impartiality, has Amante EVER done anything good for the City? Or is this just an anti-Amante, Nielson, etc. political mouth piece.

    I think blogs such as this and the Voice of OC, OC Liberal are hopefully the new home of real investigative journalism. But from your defense of the lowest comment denominator and your situational reporting I am afraid this is a case of meet the new media just like the old media.

  6. How do you figure I speak with a forked tongue, just because I allow free speech in the comments on my blog? If I deleted the comment because I thought it was derogatory toward women, which I do not see in the original comment, I would suffer from those libertarian minds who think I am stifling the essence of free speech.

    You have your opinion on Deborah and I have mine.

    You offer a straw man argument on the union activities. How could the Peace Officer Bill of Rights even come into play in a political blog or my “pontificating” as you put it. It is no more easier or difficult for me to do so than any other citizen of this country. POBR protections and, as I said, my union, have nothing to do with it.

    Now that you mention it, Amante has never done anything that was in the best interest of this city. Others have and, if you have gone back through my archives, you would find articles on those items. But, I would wager you have never done that. Maybe you should take the time to do so and not pick and choose the articles you wish to read.

    I agree with you in that political and news blogs are the wave of the future for investigative jounalism. But, you miss the entire point of this blog is you think I should only point out the good things the city has done (I have). This is a watchdog political blog. To help you and my other readers understand this, here is an excerpt from the Democrat and Chronicle website:

    But what does “watchdog” really mean? Earlier this month, Editor Karen Magnuson challenged me to come up with a definition. I purposefully have not gone to other journalism sites to see how they define it because I want to come up with our own definition that suits what we do.

    To me, the best watchdog journalism has all of these components:

    It is authoritative because it gets its information from primary, not secondary, sources, and it seeks answers to the questions that information raises.
    It is revelatory – it breaks new ground and tells readers information they didn’t know.
    It gives the reader enough information to be able to draw a reasonable conclusion.
    It has an impact on the community by prompting change.
    It advances the community’s quality of life.
    It rights wrongs.
    It holds public officials accountable.

    This blog, whether you agree or not, does this, for the most part. Yes, there is a lot of commentary but that is because I want to let the reader know where I am coming from. You are free to dissent from my opinion. I hope you will keep reading and you will read the archives to see exactly what this is about. But, in the end, if you don’t find it relevant, you can always move on to the next blog. It’s your choice and I support that, although I would hope you would stick around and keep me on my toes.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  7. with due respect to those who object, commenters are responsible for the words they use in comments. If someone wants to call Ms. Woolery the “B” word, that is for them to live with. I hope her new employer emphasizes to her that par tof her job is to actually return calls to credentials media members (yes, I do have a county issued press credential). I certainly hope she has landed at another city where she can use public records requests to dodge basic questions. If she has been hired in a private sector,…well, good luck to her. I wouldn’t hire her.

  8. Mr C word County credentialed very impressive. Was it issued by the BOS or Public Works? :-). I would have figured that you could get around public records requests by now. Guess the development of those inside contacts isn’t bearing much fruit.

    BTW: I wouldn’t shed any crocodile tears but I am sure most people wouldn’t hire you either.

  9. Dan Chmielewski

    LD — I am busier than a one-armed coat hanger, thanks for asking. I added three new clients this month and we start with two others next month.

    As for typos in the comment; I should stop commenting from my phone…

  10. I hate preductive tixting.

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