Yesterday an essay was shared privately with me. It was written by a Huntington Beach woman, Yvonne Mauro, whom I know. She had written the piece as a kind of cathartic exercise with no set plan to publish it. I found the piece interesting enough that I reached out to Ms. Mauro to ask if i could publish the piece here. She agreed. I’m not going to frame it too much except to say that I think it is honest, direct and relevant, and I’m thankful she is allowing me to share it with you. I hope you will, in turn, share it with others.
Take it away, Yvonne
As resident of Huntington Beach and an administrator of the Huntington Beach Community Forum (HBCF), I’d like to reach out to everyone without the restrictions of Facebook.
Something is wrong
I had an experience this weekend with a Huntington Beach public official I found profoundly disturbing. Our national political climate may be out of control but I had hoped our local government would still be made up of people who respect their positions and the people of this city. In most cases I have found this to be true, however, my interaction with a particular public official this weekend certainly was an eye opener.
In order to eliminate any perception that this is just a hit piece the name of the official has been omitted. It’s not about the official as much as the attempted abuse of power I experienced.
I’ve been an administrator on HBCF for almost 4 years. I and the other admins are used to people disagreeing with decisions we make on the forum. I am used to being called names, seeing my interactions with disgruntled members relived on other forums (completely inaccurately most of the time), etc. I’m used to being accused of all kinds of bias….it comes with the territory. I signed up for it and I deal with it. Enforcing rules is not a popular position but one I try very hard to execute fairly, no matter who you are. However, being threatened by a public official to stifle citizens remarks about them is concerning to me. For those not familiar with HBCF …we are a Huntington Beach civic topic forum, which of course, includes a great deal of local politics. Since 2014 just about every HB elected official current /past/man/woman has faced scrutiny and the wrath of residents of HB. Accusations ranging from money laundering/ use of their positions for personal gain/collusion with unions/ inappropriate relationships with fellow City Council members all played out on HBCF. Only one of those people ever contacted me or any other admin and demanded any comment be removed.
An elected official demanding special rules
This particular official has periodically complained to the admins at HBCF for three years about various comments and/or posts questioning the actions/ethics and or behavior of this public official. The demands are never limited to the acceptance of our decision but always turn into a tirade. I considered these communications little more than trivial childish behavior, up until last Saturday night at which time I was threated with legal action. The next threat was to “take action” which was in the form of a post on the forum listing a series of complaints about anyone who questioned this officials ethical behavior. The post was aimed at creating chaos and mayhem towards the forum and it’s admins. We were warned.
False claims and legal threats
The claim was I had been approached in a “polite and quiet” manner requesting that a comment of libel and defamation be removed. And that I had ignored the request. This is the original message to me… : “I’m bringing this to your attention. I’m being libeled and defamed on HBCF, I’m informing you of this so if legal action is taken, I have record that I informed you”. Now I don’t know about anyone else, but that is not a “polite and quiet” approach, it’s a threat. Not to mention the comment in question reflected on accusation made by a grandfather at a “public meeting” unrelated to HBCF. It involved her personally but she IS a public official so questioning those activities is perfectly acceptable . Rather than subject myself to yet another two-hour combat with this public official, I chose to address the issue directly with the poster of the comment., informing him he could not make a blanket statement and needed to qualify it with terms indicating the information was alleged. Which he complied with.
Suddenly, a complaint about a single comment had the elected official ranting about racism/sexual harassment/accusations of complicity and fostering of libelous comments. All this without any grounds whatsoever, barring my refusal to be threatened into submission that is. The public official’s post, in fact, was in regard to an entirely different subject than the purported libelous comment. Which is where this really got interesting and very concerning for me.
Your rights as a citizen
I watched as this official maligned a citizen for making CPRA (California Public Record Act) requests – which is EVERY citizen’s right to request. The official intentionally misinformed the public as to their rights. The average person who doesn’t work for the government or has never had a need to request this information can easily be lead to believe its an invasion of privacy. It absolutely is not.
Anyone has a right to ASK for any record they want of a government employee. It is not harassment and it is not invasion of privacy – it is YOUR right. As far as I am aware there is no limit to the amount of requests that can be made, however, to hear this official rant about the amount of CPRA requests you would think there was. When you go to work for the Government you are informed of the CPRA and you have a choice. if you don’t want people getting information about you don’t take a job with the government. Or maybe don’t do anything you want to hide?
We need to be able to trust our elected officials. And we deserve honesty and transparency.
Citizens should be able to trust their public officials especially at a city level, after all, these are neighbors we elect. These officials should be helping citizens navigate through a system that at times can be overwhelming for the average person, not telling them they have no right. I am appalled that a public official would prey on the good people of our city in order to discredit another person for exercising their constitutional rights….no matter how inconvenient it may be… or does it go deeper than convenience? What information could those records hold that would cause such outrage by this official for a perfectly legal request?
In our case we are fortunate to be the home of an author who takes no prisoners when he gets his sights set on potential acts of corrupt or unethical behavior by a city official. Chris Epting, who has written 30 books, countless articles for outlets ranging from the Los Angeles times to the Huffington Post, is an expert on artists, musicians, history and… political misdeeds. You get the point. The guy is accomplished with research and writing. Currently it seems he is following up some leads on potentially damaging information about this public official. He is relentless and that seems to offend some of the very people he is trying to protect, and this public official is hot to demonize anyone who is willing to hear him out. Why?
I did absolutely nothing except refuse to succumb to this official’s threats. From that point on, I watched as a city official blatantly lied about me, and essentially issued a call to arms for citizens of the city to rise up against me and the forum itself. This can’t be allowed. I simply want people to know, you have rights and before you believe the self- serving rants of any public official telling you that you don’t, check the Constitution.