Friday, September 26, 2008

Chula Vista falling apart under leadership of Cheryl Cox and Steve Castaneda

Scott Lewis writes about Dave Garcia, the fired city manager of Chula Vista, and his relationship with mayor Cheryl Cox and Councilman Steve Castaneda. After attacking Cheryl Cox regarding perjury charges that were rejected by a jury, Castaneda seems to be working well with Cox in their joint effort to make questionable and secret charges against the city manager.

Help Wanted: Doctor, City of Chula Vista
By Scott Lewis
Sept. 18, 2008

...The dysfunctional City Council could not even agree to protect taxes and fees the city already charges. There will be more revenue losses.

There are some city managers who see it as their job to placate their nervous bosses on city councils -- giving them what they want (low taxes) and avoiding what they don't want (painful and unpopular cuts). And some of them are clever enough to push off budget obligations even in the toughest of times. David Garcia, whatever you think of him now, was not one of those managers. He spoke with a sense of reality about the situation all local cities are in and he didn't hide the necessary pain.

If the City Council, consumed with short term convictions, chooses someone the politicians can bully, Chula Vista will someday fall off the rails and ground to a halt.

So why do they even need to choose a new manager? Why was Garcia fired without an explanation? I don't know. A month ago, the local newspaper revealed that Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox had officially chided Garcia for viewing what was called "inappropriate" images on his computer. Cox and Garcia agreed that the matter had been settled between the concerned employees who had complained and Garcia. The word "inappropriate" implies quite a spectrum. Managing a fantasy football team, for instance, could be "inappropriate" but so could viewing pornography.

The fact that the matter had been handled to supposedly everyone's satisfaction implied that whatever Garcia was viewing was more on the former side of the spectrum than the latter. Garcia's attorney, Bob Ottilie, said that the images were vacation photos. Again, "vacation photos" can include quite a spectrum of images. And there is no excuse or apologizing for a man who would create a hostile work environment by displaying nude pictures or something.

Unfortunately, the city has, to date, not released the details about what was inappropriate.

So only a few people know what was happening. And the one who seemed most interested in getting rid of Garcia and sharing what was supposedly inappropriate with reporters -- City Councilman Steve Castaneda -- did not return my call for comment.

I asked Mayor Cox in a dozen different ways to share some insight about what had happened. If Garcia had played better with Castaneda and others, would he have kept his job? What changed between when she seemed OK with the issue between Garcia and now when she joined the 4-1 majority that had him fired?

She wouldn't say.

OK. I went at it differently. Had Garcia's tough approach to balancing the budget created enemies?

"Any time you're involved in a situation in which you are in a hiring freeze and the employees are asked to do more and any time you're involved in layoffs or diminished opportunities the employees will tend to compete and there will be people who are concerned," Cox said.

In other words, yes.

So was this partly why Garcia was fired?

Again, she wouldn't say.

"The City Council believed we needed to make a change in order to move forward together. It became clear that this action was in the best interest of the city," Cox said.

"In order to move forward" is an interesting way to put it. This implies that whatever it was that some City Council members were not going to put behind them what had besmirched Garcia. The dysfunctional body would apparently function even worse.

Yes, that's the last thing Chula Vista needs.

The city is sick to the bone...

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