Fire Chief Muir appointed to vacant council seat

ENCINITAS — In a 3-1 vote, with Councilwoman Teresa Barth opposed, the City Council chose Encinitas Fire Chief Mark Muir over 12 other applicants to fill the vacancy on the council left by the death of Counciwoman Maggie Houlihan.

The special council meeting on Nov. 2 was well attended as public speakers made their opinions known. Foremost, Ian Thompson, Houlihan’s husband implored the council to let Houlihan’s dying wish, an endorsement of UCSD lecturer Lisa Shaffer, become a reality. Further, Thompson said that by appointing Muir “you’ll be collectively dismissing the wishes of the citizens of Encinitas.”

He cited Muir’s involvement in various political action committees that supported both Mayor James Bond and Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks in various elections. He also said Muir’s “pro-development stance” was antithetical to Houlihan’s record of environmental stewardship.

Anticipating a nomination, Bruce Ehlers, Houlihan’s former campaign manager provided more background and examples of Muir’s involvement in local city politics before the council began discussion.

He cited the “Encinitas Coalition of Homeowners” a PAC run by Muir that endorsed Stocks and Bond. Ehlers showed emails Muir sent from his city email address during normal business hours regarding the 2002 campaign.

“He both directly, and indirectly endorsed candidates in his position as Fire Chief,” Ehlers said referring to Muir. He said he supports Muir’s right to run in an open election, but not to be appointed. The term ends December 2012. Muir said last week that he has not decided whether he will see election at that time.

Livia Borak, an attorney at the Coast Law Group told the council that the seat should go to an individual with similar qualifications to Houlihan. “I urge you to choose somebody who represents Maggie’s voice,” she said. Borak said that voters would remember the choice made by the council in the next election and vote accordingly.

“We are strangely silent up here,” Bond said as the public speaker portion of the meeting came to a close. “Nobody wants to speak or nominate anyone,” Bond said.

He nominated Muir and listed his accomplishments and cited the 24-year firefighter’s long service to the community. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be involved in politics,” Bond said, dismissing the charges that Muir was a driving force in any local election.

Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar seconded the nomination and said Ehlers’ presentation “appalled” her.

However, Councilwoman Teresa Barth said Muir’s political activity while a city employee is an inherent conflict of interest. “Maggie always believed that diversity of opinions lead to better dialogue,” she said. Her motion to nominate Shaffer was not seconded.

“We are each representing the entire city on a spectrum of things,” Stocks said. “I don’t want to make this a political decision,” he said. “I’m going to support Mark Muir.” He said their friendship was irrelevant. He said his decision was based on qualifications.

Steve Meiche, a local resident and firefighter in Los Angeles County said the vote came as no surprise.

“They had an opportunity to take city government to a level of fairness and be objective in having a diverse City Council,” he said. “They threw it to the wind by picking Muir.”

Meiche said Muir’s conflict of interest, lack of integrity and ethics violations, all-the-while a city employee involved directly in the campaigns of City Council candidates, was enough to disqualify him. “City policy doesn’t allow him to participate at that level in city politics,” he said. “This is a complete violation of the philosophy of ethics.”

“It’s total favoritism and cronyism at it’s most obvious,” Meiche said. “I don’t think he’s any more qualified than any of the other applicants.”

Muir will be sworn in Nov. 9.

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  1. Eric Simpson says:

    Deny it all you want, but this is nothing but pure cronyism. Now Barth is the only councilmember who represents MY interests. As a native Cardiffian, I am more sorry than ever that cityhood ever passed.

  2. Calling Potsblack says:

    Has Wehtanhnah Tucker purposefully omitted the fact that Ehlers and Meiche both questioning Muir’s integrity: are well-known political enemies of Mark Muir’s. Readers expect fairness.
    The reader doesn’t know that Meiche blames Muir because he repeatedly tried to catch on as a fireman (I.D’d as Los Angeles Fire Fighter) with Encinitas Fire and was repeatedly found unwanted. Meiche blamed Muir.
    Ehlers has made multiple accusations about Muir; yet he himself lost his city council campaign in 2004 because of purposefully misleading the voters; and he is the last person who should be questioning electioneering from his workplace.
    Allegations are just that.
    If a new councilman has to publicly suffer at the hubris of known enemies, at a minimum; the readers deserves to know who is speaking.

  3. Conflict says:

    I’ve got to disagree with Potsblack below. Bruce Ehlers showed actual mailers that had pictures of Mark Muir endorsing Jerome and Jim while in his role as Encinitas Fire Chief. Besides that, he had emails that Mark sent from his work email during business hours. So now we have the answer to what City employees do with their time!

    Anyone else would be fired for the email during work situation, but Mark also demonstrated a clear conflict of interest in this pattern. Ehlers mentioned that he defended Mark’s right to retire and run for the next election as a private citizen, but this is a clear case of conflict of interest.

    As far as Meiche goes, I respect that he is pointing out the many needless injuries that firemen have suffered as a result of a departmental lack of supervision including ignoring safety proceedures. This stuff is just dumb, except that a number of people have been seriously hurt.

    The budget arguement is also suspect. It looks as though instead of saving taxpayers money, that Muir is finding a way to divert it to his own pension!

  4. Steve M says:

    Clearly Muir has been violating city policy for some time. Why can’t he be held accountable? The way I see it, he was ineligible to even apply while a city employee. Correct me if I’m wrong.
    City of Encinitas Administrative Manual Code of Ethics Number P025 Section E and F as follows:
    City employees should refrain from participating in the election of City Council members, and from all partisan political activities that would impair employee performance.
    It is unacceptable for City employees to seek favors. Efforts to achieve personal gain, obtain profits secured by confidential information, or misuse public time are regarded as highly dishonorable for all employees.

    Additionally Chief Muir is violating City of Encinitas Administrative Manual Disciplinary Procedure P023 provisions set forth in Section II. B (12).

    Section II. B Subsection B (12) requires employees to "Fully comply with
    the rules, regulations, and policies of the employee’s department."
    It clearly states in the Administrative Manual under Code of Ethics P025 that the Philosophy under which the administrative was created that:

    It is the intention of the City of Encinitas to develop and ensure the highest standards of professional conduct in its employees. To this end, the following guidelines are established to help employees measure the integrity of their actions.

  5. David S says:

    There are so many levels of wrong in this appointment and even if Mark Muir were an upstanding Fire Chief/City Employee (witch he was not) he would not have made himself available for this appointment.
    The history of his political favors and inappropriate advancement within the city is ripe with a gross conflict of interest and has set an appalling example of cronyism.
    This is a classic example of municipal government practices that should be avoided.
    Take the time to educate yourself. Do not let our city behave in such an appauling manor.

  6. Wehtahnah Tucker says:

    @ Calling Potsblack: This reporter DID identify both Ehlers and Meiche accurately. This reporter does not have the capacity to "omit" "facts" that are unknown or are in reality not facts at all. Alleging that Meiche "blames" Muir for something is editorializing rather than reporting. I suggest you stick to your job and this reporter will stick to hers. Should you have constructive criticism in the future, please forward it to the Editor.

  7. YESSS! says:

    GO WEHTAHNAH!!!!

  8. Conflict2 says:

    Speaking of conflict of interest, why doesn’t someone do something about the Encinitas City Attorney who lives with Financial Director Jennifer Smith, who in in charge of vendor contracts like for legal services, for example? One comfort was that with all of the hinting at inappropriate behavior, Glenn was silent at last night’s meeting. Why don’t 1 or both leave their 6-figure jobs if it is really love, so that Encinitas can have people work their based on qualifications?

  9. TheWayItIs says:

    This illegal appointment represents everything that is wrong in Encinitas City Council. Obviously, Gaspar, Bond and Stocks appear to have violated the Brown Act since they had an agreement that they would select the same person. The appointment of a former campaign manager and current fire chief gives a strong impression of quid pro quo, and is unacceptable even by the City’s own policies.

    This Council (except Barth) flagrantly breaks its own rules and State and Federal Laws, yet they strike out against citizen participants who want to be involved in government by contributing to discussions out of a love for this City. These citizens are rewarded by insults from Jerome Stocks and Jim Bond, and attorney Glenn Sabine, who has his own set of ethics issues and failures in performance.

    The men on the Council were always insulting towards Maggie Houlihan and Teresa Barth, who were and are heads and shoulders above Bond and Stocks in terms of intellect and the respect that they have earned from Encinitas citizens. These people in charge only want to keep control because of numerous financial rewards from their various special interests, which up to this point, have been able to buy them elections.

  10. Lady Bella says:

    Kristin has tried to justify her vote on the Eninitas Patch comments by posting a handpicked voting record. This voting record is not relevant in the least to what she and Stocks and Bond did by appointing Muir to a council seat that had been occupied by Maggie, who was voted in with the most votes, even more than Kristin received in more contested campaigns, because of her integrity and position on the issues. Maggie left us with no ambiguity as to who she wanted to fulfill her oath of office and push her agenda. Stocks, Bond and Gaspar took no time in crushing Maggie’s last wish, panting and drooling to the dias to appoint a bought and paid for crony while chastizing the people who came to participate. Of all the morally repugnate actions the majority has taken over the past 10 years, this has to be the lowest. I have lost all respect for Gaspar now, Stocks and Bond I lost respect for 8 years ago.

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