I DON’T KNOW… THAT’S NOT MY JOB…
I lost track of how many times those and similar refrains were the responses of City Council member and four-time Mayor Pam O’Connor, in her marathon deposition Monday for the lawsuit to change our voting for City Council and School Board from at-large to district-based.
It was followed in numbers by how many times O’Connor asked to have the question repeated (looked up and read back by the court reporter), with the next closest tally being the number of times the deposing attorney, R. Rex Parris, had one of his assistants mark down what he considered “frivolous objections” from the lawyer from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the expensive international law firm representing the City’s protracted and very slim-odds fight against this lawsuit.
Within minutes of commencing he fairly exploded at her for the continuous objections, and threatened to walk out and go back to the judge for a ruling, “just like the last time, and then we can all come back out here to Lancaster and start this all over again.” Phew.
I’m not picking on O’Connor, without cause. Other depositions I’ve read of our Council members for this case also show some lack of recall that in some instances seems suspicious. Who of us can clearly remember and recount events that happened years or decades ago? But let’s also keep in mind that if you have some recollection, perhaps not including ALL details, names and dates, but then answer “I can’t remember” or “I don’t recall” — that’s a lie and lying is perjury. Unfortunately, it’s hard to prove without a mindreader.
Was something to behold. For most of those many hours it was head down, eyes staring at the table, voice muted, searching for words, pauses, uncertainty, stumbling to find an answer, deferring to having to first look at the figures, or the report, I’d have to check the records.
Much of the questioning about the inequities of neighborhoods in Santa Monica as revealed by our million-dollar Wellbeing Project report of three years ago, remained unaddressed by O’Connor because of her beginning assertion that the pages of the report that were being shown or read to her, as evidence, might not be authentic. Even though they bore the logos of the City of Santa Monica, the RAND Corporation and the sponsoring Bloomberg Philanthropies. She said she didn’t know for sure if it was the actual report or… some pdf from… somewhere, and would have to check it against an online copy she knew to be the real deal. But wouldn’t the whole deposition by Parris be thrown out if it was shown he was using altered documents as evidence?
Pretty convenient, not very credible. She still made weak attempts to answer some of the related questions but since she testified to an unrelenting aversion to personally check on nearly anything that happened in the City of Santa Monica during her 24-year tenure, trusting rather in our staff, police, education and other systems to “do their jobs,” it’s a little hard to believe she would go through a 142-page document page by page.
When Parris brought up an issue, an inequity, usually for the Pico neighborhood, and showed her documentation, and she admitted she had not looked into that, when he asked her if she would now look into it, now that she was aware of it — she also demurred. It’s one thing to admit, I missed that, another to say, I’m still not going to check it out.
Suddenly Pam came alive! In the last hour Parris asked her about her day job, as an historic preservation consultant, and her voice grew louder, with great enthusiasm, her speech accelerated so much Parris asked her to slow down, he couldn’t follow it now, as she described in much, much detail what her work entailed, what procedures she had to go through, which city, county and state officials had to be consulted, which documents researched and read. I’m telling you, all of a sudden we had a new, energized witness. With a great memory. For detail.
She revealed that most of her outside income, generally $70-80,000 a year, came from her work as an historic preservation consultant, and all that work came from one Santa Monica firm, that of architect David Kaplan. But she denied that she had any idea which builder or developer who hired Kaplan was responsible for her hiring to check on historic preservation for each project, “25 or 30 a year,” O’Connor said.
“Couldn’t that be a conflict of interest,” Parris asked, “if firms with projects you would have to vote on as a Santa Monica Council person, were the ones paying Kaplan to pay you? O’Connor answered that she left it to Kaplan to see that didn’t happen. Parris asked an assistant to obtain a subpoena for the last five years of her records of work documents.
WORST POSSIBLE POSTER CHILD
Several Council members have responded that one of their big reasons for fighting to maintain at-large rather than district elections for City Council is that at-large voting leaves each of the seven responsible to the entire city, not just their district. Mayor Ted Winterer recently opined (and stated that fellow Council member Kevin McKeown agreed with him), in deposition questioning, that under a district plan “voters of Santa Monica forfeit their ability to vote for all seven council members… and pit neighborhood against neighborhood, as opposed to doing what’s best for the city as a whole.”
If that’s their reasoning, then Pam O’Connor, in her deposition Monday, proved to be the worst possible argument for that case. As a representative of the entire city, she testified all day to an appalling lack of knowledge of or interest in many, many very serious issues in our city. I call it either willful ignorance, or, more likely, deceptive, self-serving
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What would an America without crowd-slaughtering automatic rifles and easy access to all guns feel like? A breath of fresh air? Safety? A new lease on life? What would a Santa Monica with seven City Council members whose first loyalty was to the people who live here, instead of outside interests who fund their campaigns, feel like? Let’s find out, both.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” — Kurt Cobain
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org