Editor’s Note: Anaheim has a million stories, most of them untold. This is one of them. This is Cynthia’s story, you understand. I’m just narrating it. In italics.
Picture us at the Orange Juice Blog office. It’s early — about 2 p.m. Chairman Vern is out doing some story about “harvesting”; I, Managing Editor Greg Diamond, have been left in charge. I’m working on layout, assignments, when suddenly star reporter Cynthia Ward bursts in which what she says is a scoop. “Print this,” she yells! “Wait just a minute, Dollface,” I say. I stop talking to Vern’s life-sized doll, to which I’d been complaining — she’s discreet — and turn my attention to Cynthia, who is obviously trying to butter me up. She shoves the copy into my face and I begin to read:
“Our Greg Diamond did a fabulous job of dissecting the August 13 Anaheim City Council meeting, and the blatant give-way of our public funding to the Chamber of Commerce. Note how I stopped just short of saying “gift of public funds” because that phrase carries a legal definition, and until I talk to someone who went to law school for more than a concert series I am not willing to go there just yet. But I can see it from here.
“Greg very wisely asks throughout his recap (with a serious doff from the Mr. Ward who loved the Jefferson reference) ‘What meeting?’”
So far I like it — this is my kind of story! Plot, characters, setting — the whole nine yards! I read on:
“Well, Greg, I believe Kring and Murray may be referencing THIS meeting.”
Cynthia shoves forth another photo at me.
She speaks up:
“Someone tell me this photo does not look like an FBI surveillance pic!”
I was in no position to say that it didn’t. I looked at Dollface — but her mouth was shut. Well, not shut, but open no more than usual. Was Cynthia with the FBI? I decided to rat on Vern if she demanded it of me. No resistance.
Well, all that’s very interesting, Cynthia, I said, but you’re not going to try to sell me on something significant here based on just a couple of photos, are you?
Silence seemed like the wisest option. I spoke up:
Cynthia seemed confused at this.
“I’ve already handed you the story,” she pointed out.
“So you did, so you did. Why don’t you read it out loud.”
She grudgingly complied, muttering something about “being used to dealing with actual copy editors.”
“It seems that on August 7, the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce (recipients of those public funds which may or may not be “gifts”) hosted a small, private hoot-nanny at their Board room inside the Kraemer Building (for now). Kris Murray helpfully described the gathering, while confirming she attended — and, like Greg, I will let readers in on a secret.
“Pay very close attention, because who was there becomes rather important.”
She was asking the impossible of me, but I was prepared to fake close attention. She went to the official Orange Juice transcript.
“KM: “I attended the meeting with Michael Rossi, that the Chamber hosted, in partnership with Sen. Correa, last Thursday, with some of our business leaders, and.. he was.. Mr. Rossi, I should say, is the Governor’s Job Czar, oversees all of the economic programs for the State of California.”
“Hmm…. ‘hosted in partnership with Sen. Correa’ — well that must have been rather awkward, given the presence of Lucille Kring, who ran against him in a Pringle-prompted suicide mission in 2010. Yes, if you are counting, that makes 2 of our elected leaders at a meeting to discuss information relevant to a vote the following week — in the offices of, and in the presence of, the principal players to benefit from that vote!
“Now again, I have to defer to the attorneys on that, but the phrase “ex parte communication potentially creating bias leading into a quasi judicial decision” sure might pop up in conversation (at least phrases like that pop up in conversation at my house, not sure about yours.)”
I made a mental note: don’t mess with this broad; she knows Latin!
“Continue,” I said. “Post hoc!”
“But of course the gathering of our elected leaders is not a Brown Act violation unless there is a majority of the City Council present for the discussion….and oops! There we go! Kring!”
I almost jumped out of my chair and looked to Dollface for reassurance. Turns out that that was just in the copy.
“Kring shows that she was at the meeting in her own part of the transcript.
“LK: Thank you. I’d like to respond to that. Actually, at this meeting last week the Chamber said that they are constantly going out — because the program does end on December 31st of this year, we still have September, October, November, December, we have a little over 4 months — that they are still going out, still talking to businesses.”
“That doesn’t mean that she was actually there,” I noted. “You’d need some sort of –“
Cynthia, as usual, was way ahead of me:
“– nameplates or something.” Cynthia nodded. “She’s also fully visible in another picture; I just wanted to point out the nameplates.”
Amazing! I did some quick mental calculations out loud.
“Murray … and Kring. That’s … two!” I was pretty sure I was right.
Cynthia nodded again, then spoke.
“Yes, and three would be a majority. So now we have to see if anyone else was there.”
Sounded fun. I was game.
“Take a look at the name plate in the middle of this one.”
I slowly sounded out the letters on the nameplate — and then almost jumped out of my chair.
“Jordan Brandman is the blonde woman wearing purple!” I exclaimed. “Fitzgerald was right?”
Cynthia shook her head slowly.
“No, no — trick of perspective. He was sitting next to her.”
“That’s Kris Murray!” I pointed out.
“Other ‘next to,” Cynthia explained.
She suggested that she go back to reading directly from the story.
“While the chair may be empty (a metaphor if ever we needed one) Jordan Bradman left behind an almost empty water bottle, the remnants of his completed lunch (nicely covered by his used napkin, ‘cuz Mara raised him up right) and……right there above his lunch is … his nameplate.
“(By the way — does Kris Murray ever blink?)”
I assured her that she does not.
“And look in the background of this photo. Know what that is?”
I looked. Carefully.
“Yes,” I finally said, “that appears to be a trompe l’oeil, a painting technique in which a hard flat surface is rendered to as to appear that it is a three-dimensional extension of space. Pretty big one, too! But not very interesting for all the effort.”
Cynthia looked at me blankly for a moment.
No, that’s real — and it looks like someone — it could be Jordan, who is absent from his seat — standing up to look through a window into another office. It’s not definitive. But this next one is!
“And here, oh look, right next to Sherri VanderDussen — it’s the back of Jordan’s head.”
That was hard to dispute: badgers don’t wear suits. I nodded, feeling a little disappointed. Like, couldn’t she have shown me that one first?
“Oh, just wait for it. Matt Cunningham will be hard on our heels insisting that is the head of an imposter, and that we have no proof that is Jordan’s head. Why that could be any Mormon on a break from Missionary work, who just wandered into the Chamber’s board room looking for a men’s room and someone to “share” with, and was fed lunch out of the goodness of the Chamber’s heart. Why not, the taxpayers likely popped for the lunch too.”
Cynthia flung herself back into her chair, spent from her indignation, and then again began reading from the copy.
“By the time you read this I will have submitted a PRA request for meeting calendars and correspondence related to this meeting, just to confirm the presence of all three Councilmembers. Lucille Kring and Kris Murray disclosed during the Council meeting that they attended the Chamber meeting, Jordan did not mention it, but his head, ear, and nameplate appear to have attended.
“Gail Eastman may be off the hook with this one (and won’t she be proud of herself) we do not see her in the pics, nor did she mention being present. And honestly I doubt they even bothered to invite the Mayor. Why on earth would they want the independently elected leader of the City to be there gaining information that the others have clearly decided outweighs both common sense AND their own staff reports?”
I roused myself to do a little reporting myself later, prior to publication: the Mayor was apparently NOT invited to this meeting. This may explain his absence from the photos.
“I would like to thank the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce for the photos, courtesy of their Facebook page.
“I would also like to thank their leader for being dumb as a rock to post these. I tried to tag the pics just to be sure that those who don’t know Jordan’s distinctive head shape would still be informed of how we was working right through his lunch hour to make sure he would be as informed as possible, on behalf of the taxpayers.
“See apparently that is where we go wrong. The rest of us are simply critical of the Chamber’s deal, because like our views on Districting, the Gardenwalk, and the streetcar, we simply do not know as much as our leaders.
“Why, if we only knew what they know, we would cheer them on for the great visionary leadership they offer, following in the footsteps of the greatest leader in the history of Anaheim. Because if you use as your benchmark a complete lack of common sense, basic math, elementary business skills, and ethics or morality, (and you squint REALLY HARD) then these people might just look as smart as they believe themselves to be, making their leader the king of the description above.
“For those (Matt) who do not understand some of the phrases we have dragged out of the closet, I have shared them here. Feel free to twist and misinterpret them to your heart’s content … this particular bit of blatant cronyism is so egregious that it isn’t the court of public opinion that I am concerned with.”
Not the court of public opinion? Surely she didn’t mean — basketball?
“A ‘meeting’ is any gathering of a majority of the members of a covered board to hear, discuss, or deliberate on matters within the agency’s or board’s jurisdiction. (§ 54952.2(a))
“Note: No vote or action is required for the gathering to be a meeting, nor must the members meet face to face. (§ 54952.2)
“In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.
“The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”
She looked at me meaningfully, while I stared back incomprehensibly. Finally she explained:
“That’s from California Government Code § 54950 et seq. — the Brown Act.”
“Yes, yes,” I said. “The Open Meeting Law … thingie!”
“One and the same. Now we just need to verify what they discussed at this meeting leading right up to the vote that was taken to review the Chamber’s contract with the City on August 13, where they dropped the ball — hard.”
“But how would we know who to ask about what was discussed there?” I pleaded. “Are there pictures? Have any of the Council members in attendance made any statements? We need something like that to go forward with this!”
Cynthia looked at me for a moment and slowly stoop up and gathered her things.
“You know, I think I’ll just leave a note for Vern.”
And with that, it was over.
(Apologies for the use of silliness on my part to trick you into reading a story about the Brown Act; here’s a song that might help explain the approach here.) — GD