Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shirley Kressel weighs in on Sam Yoon's slips of the tongue

I was astounded, at the English High mayoral candidates’ forum, to hear Sam Yoon flatly say that your statement that he secretly voted to give Paul Walkowski a big raise and pension boost was “false.” He called you a liar, when he knows that the City Council’s official video of its June 20, 2007 meeting shows him with all the other Councilors meeting around the president’s dais -- with all microphones carefully turned off -- in the middle of the meeting to get prepared for that vote when it came up later in the meeting. Council President Feeney convened them to pre-arrange the vote, because she intended not to call out the docket number or say in public what it was about, so no one could even trace it in the minutes. He then did vote for it when it did come up, as you show in your You-tube video; we know he did, because it was an amendment voted to an Ordinance introduced for the first time (and as a late file, to hide it further!), and so it required unanimous approval to pass.

He knew very well what it was about, because he’s a member of the Rules Committee, which had decided to hire Walkowski to do that report on exempting the Council from the Open Meeting Law. When I asked him, at his recent Tubman House event, to explain why he, a champion of both transparency and frugal governemt, voted clandestinely for this give-away of public money, he said “you have to pick your battles if you want to get things done in politics.” That was after he said he was honoring a death-bed wish of a colleague, Jimmy Kelly, to take care of his staff. Instead of assigning Walkowski to staff work within the existing budget of one of the Councilors, the Rules Committee, which Yoon was on, decided to create a new statutory position, $17,000 higher than Walkowski's salary, for him to work in for a couple of years on a report to evade the Open Meeting Law and retire at a much higher pension. That would have been a worthwhile battle for him to pick. That pay slot is still there, a handy pre-retirement "transition position" for anyone who needs a temporary pay boost to get a pension boost; has Yoon (or Flaherty) filed to eliminate it? No.

This bold and wrong assertion of Sam’s reminded me of another he made on a radio forum, I think on WBZ, where he said our second Open Meeting Law suit against the Council (filed in 2006, when he was a member) – the one about Committee voting in private communications, in this instance on the Council pay raise -- was defeated BECAUSE SAM STOOD UP AND MADE A STATEMENT. I asked him at Tubman what he was talking about. He said he spoke up on the floor of the council and supported the pay raise to recruit better talent, and a video of that was shown at the trial to show the council deliberating, and that’s why we lost. Amazing. First, there was no video shown at that trial, by either side. Second, the suit wasn’t about the whole council deliberating, it was about the committee process of serial written votes without a public session (which the Council, knowing it won that suit by some fluke and might not be so lucky next time, immediately changed to have public “working sessions” for committees). Third, the Council won because they misled the court, saying that committees don’t actually vote on the substance of their reports, they just take a poll on sending it off to the floor for action – that is, that committees don’t deliberate and decide substantive matters, they just do an administrative chore of sending reports (written by …whom?) to the full council. Only Mike Ross, to his credit, admitted, on the witness stand, that when he votes on a report, he is voting on the substance of the report; the rest who testified (including Flaherty, but not Yoon) went along with committee chair Maureen Feeney’s story: just housekeeping here in committee, no positions expressed by anyone when we send up a report on a matter, with a recommendation on whether it ought to pass.

Sam said things that are seriously wrong, not just honest mistakes of facts and figures, taking advantage of the scant opportunity for rebuttal at these forums to say things that can’t quickly be explained.

Shirley Kressel

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