Keep an eye on your city officials

Details. They're where the Devil resides, some say. I say, they're where the city breaks the law time and time and time and time and time again.

You think I'm exaggerating the number of "times" I listed there, don't you?

For nine months, I've reported on city government, a beat critics have so inappropriately tagged "the Dog and Pony Show." In that time, I've witnessed several violations to city ordinances.

For the record, ordinances carry the same legal importance as state statutes or federal laws. The only difference is that local officials create them (and, as we've seen, local officials break them).

I know this is an easy one, but let's start with our saint of a city manager, Mr. Paul G. Beecher, and the city's Electronic Communication Policy. The "e" in e-mail stands for "electronic," meaning that this policy governs employee use of the city e-mail system. It states that users have no expectation of privacy, that all exchanges are considered public record, and that personal messages - while open to public scrutiny - shall be limited.

I can't define "limited." I can only say that the David Smith disciple of ours had some 7,000 personal e-mails in four months. Calling this a violation of the E-communication policy is like saying Michael Jordan was pretty good at basketball.

Having recently been fired, Beecher is undoubtedly training to secure the record for fastest e-mail typist this side of Dover, N.H. That or he has those once hard-at-work fingers under ice right now.

Then there was that situation with the things we don't like to discuss in Golden Valley with the guy whose name we don't like to mention for fear of starting a debate about ethics with an unnamed Realtor.

We survived the bickering over the legal interpretation of accepting bids for property "until 3 p.m." and whether that actually means "until 3:01 p.m."

Then the city realized it failed to advertise the sale of the four things in Golden Valley that what's his name wanted to buy.

Come to think of it, I'm wrong. That wasn't a violation of city code. It was a state statute. I stand corrected.

Let's see ... what else?

Oh, yes! There was that little squabble over the General Plan and the development department's failure to provide the information needed to approve a major amendment. This voter-approved General Plan isn't the Bible, as the mayor has stated, and it has provisions for amending it. That's fine, but you actually have to follow those steps. Otherwise, the passage of an amendment to the city's 160-something acres at Kingman Crossing is illegal. Say it with me now, il-lee-gull.

Fourth, there was the little issue with failing to draft a development agreement with Kingman Academy of Learning. The agreement (if it existed, like the ordinance and state statutes require) would need City Council approval, as it would order the waiver of fees for a private school in the amount of $54,000 in impact fees. Council approval, which also is required by state laws, means publicity; publicity means telling taxpayers they're going to cover the $54,000 in fees that were going to be charged to a private school into which the average resident couldn't place their child. The city's solution: break the law and don't draft an agreement.

Now, thanks to another resident's inquiries into city code, we have a new violation. The mayor thought it would be a good idea to put the Call to the Public, the portion where residents scream at officials for allegedly being monkeys poisoning the city, at the end of Council meetings. This Call to the Public has caused nothing but trouble for Council in the last three, six, nine months.

People like Scott Dunton and Howard Pennington use it as their personal soap-box to critique city officials for their failures, their "alleged" lies and their generally untrustworthy style of governance.

By city ordinance, the Call to the Public has to come at the beginning of the meeting. On Sept. 3, Council haphazardly moved it to the end, which it cannot do, according to the ordinance that governs the order of the agenda. The mayor thought the move would keep residents from disturbing the aura of the meeting with their criticisms.

"Some of it was detracting from the scheduled business of the Council, and the business of the Council should be the priority," the mayor said. Actually, the public's voice is the reason these people are in office, so their concerns - some might argue - aren't any less important than approving a liquor license for a local bar.

Having broken another ordinance, it makes you wonder why the city doesn't hire somebody to keep it from making these mistakes. You know, like a city attorney or something.

Given this list, I recommend that people keep an eye on their officials. And don't be fooled by their descriptions of "an unavoidable mishap and accidental rift in complying with locally mandated edicts." If you were paid $100,000 a year, you'd spend hours brainstorming clever ways of saying "oops," too.