Rumors are Just Rumors Until They Become Fact
A hat tip to Dan Chmielewski of The Liberal OC for bringing a story that has been on our minds for some time. As you know by now, former Orange County employee Carlos Bustamante, has been charged with multiple sex crimes that he allegedly committed while a high level manager of the Orange County Public Works Department. Subsequently, it came to light that Assembly Candidate, Tom Daly, has also been the subject of multiple claims of sexual misconduct while holding the office of Orange County Clerk-Recorder. The allegations against both of these men allegedly came to light through a series of anonymous letters. As Dan said, “Government by anonymous letter is the trend one can take away from the Summer of 2012.”
Some time ago, both The Liberal OC and Our Town Tustin became aware of anonymous letters and emails alleging misconduct of sorts of Tustin Chief of Police, Scott Jordan. The letters made unsubstantiated allegations against Jordan saying, among other things, that he had slept with a police department employee and had been applying for “lots of jobs” and complaining that Jordan received a raise while other employees with the city were required to give up benefits in their latest contract. It was signed by “The Women of TPD”. It also listed his home telephone number which was verified by Chmielewski.
The second letter followed on the heels of the first. It outlined the saga of Jordan marrying a woman in Garden Grove Police Department that was “below” him, came to Tustin and promoted a woman based on her looks over other, more qualified applicants and then got her pregnant.
The two letters outline quite a saga in the history of our police chief that you can read in the post on The Liberal OC so we won’t republish them in full here.
Chmielewski did quite a bit of research, inquiring of the city about the allegations of the letters. From the Lib:
We’ll note the Chief did marry a former employee of the department after she left the City’s employ. There was no pregnancy and no call to HR as alleged in the letter.
The chief did travel with a woman named in the letter but several other members of the city’s elected officials and staff made the same trip. Hence, the holes in the story.
The city responded almost a week after we delivered the letters. We deleted names and titles in the city’s response to protect the privacy of those employees mentioned in the letter. The email from Tustin City Manager Jeff Parker goes like this (excerpted – for the entire letter, see The Liberal OC story):
First, the City takes very seriously an allegation of workplace harassment. I’ve attached a copy of the City’s Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation policy which can be found in the City’s Personnel Rules.
The training focuses on our policy, the law, and how employees can address concerns they have regarding conduct in the workplace.
Please note that neither of the letters you provided to me were given to our HR department nor have complaints in any other form been received relating to this matter.
The city manager goes on to say that anything that happened in Garden Grove is unknown to him and he cannot make an investigation into those allegations. As to the first letter, Jeff Parker says he looked into it and found it had been adequately investigated two years ago by the then city manager. Hmm, two years ago the city manager would have been Bill Huston who left with serious issues of cronyism and alleged coverups of his own. You’ll forgive us if we believe that any “investigation” conducted by Huston was anything more than cursory in aspect. Perhaps Parker should have re-opened the investigation in light of the allegations. Or should he?
Parker also addresses the issue of the promotion-by-looks of one police department applicant (we understand this is a non-sworn employee, by the way) over other more qualified applicants. He assures Dan this is not true and the applicant was one of six who qualified and that she exceeded the minimum qualifications for the position. He blows off the allegation that the chief is currently having another affair with a deapartment employee, saying there is no credible evidence.
But, Parker brings up an interesting point when he says, “…I find it interesting that these letters were provided to you after the City entered into a contract with Chief Jordan rather than when the issues were actually occurring.” We do too. More than that, the employees were locked in tough negotiations where the city was demanding certain concessions from the employee unions. So, was this just to throw gas on the embers in hopes someone would shout, “Fire”?
We agree with The Liberal OC that government by anonymous letter is unsavory, to say the least. Unsubstantiated claims, where those making the allegations believe a reporter will be able to “dig up the dirt”, more often than not, result in inaction. That is partly because of laws that, rightly, protect individual privacy even of city employees, where the trend has been to open the doors on everything from compensation to every report or complaint -substantiated or not- brought by a member of the public or even another employee.
Scott Jordan is a well respected member of the law enforcement community. He is also well-respected in our community where crime has dropped and the professionalism of the police department is second to none in the county. And, although OTT has been critical of the recent raise he was given in light of the takeways experienced by other employees of his department and the rest of the city, we think he deserves the benefit of the doubt unless those who wrote the letters come forward with allegations they can substantiate and not just grouse about. In fact, Dan has given a set of guidelines to use for would-be whistleblowers who believe they would be retaliated against if they were to go through official channels:
But for those government employees who feel that they have no choice but to go to the local media with their story, some advice:
1. Ask a reporter or editor for confidentiality and make sure you get agreement before you say anything.
2. Summarize your complaint; Who, what, where, when, why (in your opinion) and how. Bring copies of documentation, emails, photographs, videos, audio files….be prepared to prove your claims. He said, she said isn’t going to help you. Copies of letters, emails, photos, and other evidence surely will.
3. Bring copies of department/city/county policy and show why your documentation proves your complaint.
4. It’s not what you think; it’s not what you heard. It’s what you can prove.
5. An employee who meets with a superior behind closed doors for an hour or two does not mean the two are having an affair; hasn’t anyone else had two hour business meetings with the boss or a conference call that required a closed door? Think of your own interactions; we all have relationships with our business associates that range from professional loathing to genuine affection and friendship.
6. Journalists can protect the identity of confidential sources provided you deliver on documenting your claims with evidence. It also helps if you have two or more colleagues who will back your story with details of their own. And yes, we’ll protect your identity if you have a tip for us. But we are going to check it out.
We subscribe to the same advice.
Along with The Liberal OC, we would also like to thank the Tustin City Manager, Jeff Parker, and the Human Resources staff who responded to his inquiries. In my conversations with Dan, he offered that Parker was very frank in answering questions, declining to answer only when required by law. That says volumes for our new city manager and his willingness to work toward a more transparent city. Thanks, Jeff.
Since Our Town Tustin began as a watchdog for the Tustin political community, we have had our share of anonymous letters about various city officials and electeds. I am sure that many of the writers have wondered why nothing was ever published. Now you know. This blog, and no respectable news source, will ever publish anything that cannot be independently verified and substantiated. When something is published here, you may not agree with it (and I hope you don’t agree with everything we write) but you will know it is truthful. And, you can rest assured that, unless your comment violates our simple rules, it will never be deleted or modified.