COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Fifteen words or less

By Sheila Cameron

There has been a lot of media coverage of the harassment complaint filed by Encinitas Councilwoman Teresa Barth. The issue has been distorted and muddied and needs some clarification.
Glenn Sabine is the Encinitas city attorney. His job is to give sound legal advice to each individual council member as well as to legally guide the council as a whole. That is his primary job. He reports to no one else.
For this, the taxpayers pay him a healthy salary of more than $200,000 a year. We also give him an office and assistants.
Councilwoman Barth went to the city attorney to file a complaint against Councilmen Jerome Stocks and Dan Dalager based on the city’s “zero tolerance” policy against harassment. Her complaint of verbal harassment, hostile work environment and retaliation was based on her right as a city employee.
If Mr. Sabine knew the law, he could have immediately given her an answer in “15 words or less.”
If Mr. Sabine was ignorant of the law regarding the status of whether a council member was considered an employee under the rules regarding elected officials, he could have taken 20 minutes to look it up!
The answer would have been clear — “Elected officials are not considered employees and Barth was not covered by the city’s employee policies.” The action should have ended there. No money would have been spent.
Instead, Sabine and City General Manager Phil Cotton turned this simple legal question over to an expensive Los Angeles law firm, which apparently is no smarter than Mr. Sabine. They took months and siphoned off more than $15,000 of our tax money to answer a question in “15 words or less.”
Which begs the question, who is actually responsible for running up this bill?
Stocks and Dalager have accused Barth of mean spiritedness. If there is any mean spiritedness that has been exhibited by a council member, it is not Teresa Barth. She has shown herself to be an honest, straightforward representative of the citizens of this city. She does her job with integrity and without malice toward anyone.
In contrast, we have seen malicious, inflammatory personal statements against their colleague in the San Diego Union-Tribune, North County Times and The Coast News by Councilmen Stocks and Dalager, who went to great lengths to malign her. They attacked her positions on open government and the Brown Act and her request to put items on the agenda for public debate — for example, the cutting down of the trees in Orpheus Park. The failure to agendize that subject for a public hearing had citizens all over this city in an uproar and created a lot of ill will.
A teacher/aide at Paul Ecke Central School told me that Dan Dalager went to the school and ripped the teachers and students for protesting against cutting down the beautiful trees. That park was created as a partnership between the school district and the city, and the teachers and students are entitled to exercise their First Amendment rights. In cutting down those trees and planting other unsuitable species, city staff violated the master plan for that park.
Councilwoman Barth’s lone voice was saying “Wait a minute, let’s discuss this publicly at a City Council meeting before these trees are cut.” She was the only one watching out for the people and the integrity of the park. She showed leadership; the male council and city manager showed disdain for the citizens and for the public process.
I believe revenge was on the menu and extracted by denying Barth the position of deputy mayor. Dalager told the media that he would never support her for mayor. In fact, she would be mayor now, if any council person had had the grace to step aside, as all of them have been mayor previously.
What was the ultimate conclusion by the law firm? In 15 words or less: “Elected officials are not considered employees and are not covered by the city’s employee policies.”
When approached by Barth, this statement should have been the first thing out of attorney Sabine’s mouth. He is responsible for the process reaching this point today by his failure to know the law and speak those “15 words or less.”

Sheila S. Cameron is former mayor of Encinitas.

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  1. REALEncinitas says:

    Some of the critics of this complaint seem to be saying that Teresa Barth shouldn’t be able to complain about the behavior of Council members to anyone, and that it is her fault the way that her complaints were investigated. Some people claim that by Barth raising the complaints that have been verified by other women Council members, that somehow her raising the consciousness about this problem makes it her fault. Let’s talk about the training that Encinitas paid for last year to try to address the behavior that continues even now. Compared to the amount of money that we will owe if an employee, vendor, or citizen decides to sue Encinitas for the inappropriate actions of 2 male Council members (who we have already paid to train), the $15,000 that the City Attorney chose to spend on investigating the harassment charges that occurred after an attempt at training will be nothing.
    I think we need Council members who behave in a professional manner that is befitting of any public gathering. Whether this is a “workplace” for Barth or not, is really not the issue. The issue is that she has brought up some very legitimate issues that depict Council meetings a hostile environment for ANYONE who is used to operating in a professional setting. Encinitas is a diverse community, and many men would also be embarrassed by the actions and behaviors that have been documented.
    The 3 men on the Council are all independent businessmen. Not to denigrate their capabilities or personal achievements, but they might work for themselves since they lack the social skills to work for or with other people. I don’t find it credible that an insurance agent, a real estate agent, and a retired scissor-sharpener guy are the best representation of a community, where the majority of our citizens have college degrees and/or manage many employees or entire companies. How many Encinitas business owners would take on the liability of hiring Dalager and Stocks in their own businesses, with the crude and arrogant behavior that has been verified by a number of different, believable sources?
    In every organization where I have worked, the bullying of the two men would not be tolerated since such people drive away ethical employees and clients, and expose organizations to lawsuits. We already paid to put these guys through training. They aren’t exactly the sharpest tools in the shed if this is the result of many conversations about the problem and a training session to seek improvement.
    Aside from being the 2 women on the Council, Teresa and Maggie also bring the professional experience of working in large organizations, where a culture of harassment is not tolerated. I personally can’t imagine how they have put up with as much as they have. Encinitas voters, help us replace Dan and elect Teresa for another term. Let’s have a Council that is reflective of OUR values, and is not beholden to a bunch of developers who want to sell off our community piece by piece.

  2. Mo'Side says:

    Seriously, how can Councilwoman Barth have the nerve to show her face around town, fully knowing she cost the taxpayers money?

    Oh wait, daddy will make it all better

  3. REALEncintas says:

    Teresa Barth did not “cost” Encinitas anything. We had already paid to have the members trained on issues of sexual harrassment, and when she pointed out that they were still unable to demonstrate the skills needed in a modern workplace the City Attorney decided how to handle the issue. It was HIS choice of how to handle this legally required investigation into serious concerns.

  4. Jerrymander says:

    I heard that before Phil Cotton leaves town he is going to release proof that both he and the city attorney clearly communicated to Teresa Barth that her complaint was not going to reach the threshold necessary to achieve her desired effect (destroying Stocks and Dalager) and that it was the uncomprehending councilwoman, who has a history of this retaliatory behavior, who demanded that they hire an outside investigator.

    Now that it has blown up in her face she is incapable of telling the truth to the public. Typical politician.

    It doesn’t enhance her position that Ms. Cameron is a politician who was removed from office for cause. If Cameron is the best Barth can put forward to defend her position; she is in a world of hurt.

  5. Clark Street Mafia says:

    15 words or less?

    Encinitas Mayors are not allowed to strike city employees. That’s nine.

    That’s WHY Sheila Cameron was removed from her office.

    That’s nine more.

    Speaking of revenge, the reason you see Mrs. Cameron on your television screen three Wednesday’s out of every month addressing the current Encinitas City Council is because she is seeking revenge against some of the people on the dais she blames for her past troubles; WHY she never takes responsibility for any of the false statements or actions she takes is truly one of the great mysteries that we in Leucadia have yet to answer.

    The more this item is discussed, the less chance Ms. Barth has to be reelected.

    And please, more from local genius, Dianne Bonde. She REALLY helps Ms. Barth’s cause.

  6. REALEncinitas says:

    This IS a polarizing issue, but there are more educated, rational people in Encinitas who support Teresa Barth and her value for open govenerment, than there are people who believe this attack on her character.

    I think that the unforgivable act that Sheila Cameron has comitted is that when she speaks, many people applaud what she says! If you notice, she still has influence in this town.

    Diane Bond explained why Teresa’s complaints were legally valid. There is no need for Mafia to ridicule if he/she doesn’t agree!

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