Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | March 13, 2007

Puh-lease stop missing the point

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” ~ British author Charles Caleb Colton

In his March 6 letter to the editor, Dale Morejon scolded folks who are concerned about City Hall’s hidden retirements scandal. I’ll take it as a compliment that he apparently attempted to imitate my expression of frustration. (Or, perhaps he was issuing a non-sequitur comment on paleness.)

After citing many failures of the Bush Administration, Morejon concluded, “And we’re focused on our city manager attempting to save a $100,000 of our local funds. Paleeeese!”

Puh-lease. Morejon has completely – and, I suspect, intentionally – missed the point.

The tactic reminds me of City Administrator Jay Baksa, who called the retirements of Police Chief Gregg Giusiana and Assistant Chief Lanny Brown “pending” in his letter to the editor and repeatedly brings up those alleged six-figure savings when talk turns to his ill-considered decision to hide their retirements.

Just for the record, employees who are collecting pensions and had to be rehired as independent contractors are retired – present tense, not future tense.

Baksa’s attempts at spin – trying to take the focus off the scandalous secrecy – are so lame that I involuntarily roll my eyes and shake my head.

At the risk of being redundant, let’s be clear: The secrecy is the scandal.

There’s the problem of disrespecting the city charter, which can quite reasonably be interpreted as requiring that council members be notified of these changes in employment status.

There’s the problem of disrespecting and demoralizing the Gilroy police force.

There’s the problem of disrespecting council members, Baksa’s bosses, who cannot analyze his claims of six-figure savings or evaluate his wait-awhile strategy for hiring replacements if they’re kept in the dark.

There’s the problem of disrespecting Gilroyans, council members’ bosses, who deserve to know that the city’s two top police officers – whose salaries they pay – are retired and double-dipping.

Despite what Morejon’s March 6 letter implies, it’s possible to be concerned about national issues like the war in Iraq, increasing poverty and the economy while still caring about local issues like what the city government or school district are doing.

It’s all part of being a responsible, engaged citizen.

If Gilroyans are lucky, the outrage of responsible, engaged residents might lead to clarification of the city charter and crystal clear understanding of proper roles at City Hall.

If Californians are lucky, it might lead to reconsideration of fat public employee retirement packages that are so attractive that it’s commonplace for police officers retire in their early fifties and double dip.

But the hidden retirements scandal wasn’t the only issue that compelled Morejon to write to The Dispatch editor. My column decrying political correctness bullies who try to define various debates, including the merit pay debate, prompted another letter.

In a missive published on March 8, Morejon asked for “a few simple answers.”

He first asked for a definition of merit pay. That’s easy. It’s pay based in large part on job performance.

His last two demands aren’t “simple,” despite his description.

Morejon demands: “Give me examples in the private sector where merit pay works for the individual, quantitatively, and not the group,” and “Explain why private schools do not offer whatever merit pay is defined to be.”

Morejon’s demands require quite a bit of research. Of more relevance, his demands are beside the point of my column, which was not about the merits of merit pay, but about the demerits of political correctness.

Nevertheless, I will provide two brief responses.

Regarding the second demanded answer: I have always worked under private sector versions of merit pay. Within the financial constraints of the company, the better I did my job, the bigger my raise. I benefited, my coworkers benefited, my company and its customers benefited.

As to the third demanded answer, I doubt that the assumption underlying his third demand is correct. How can it be, if, as Morejon implies, he doesn’t know what merit pay is?

If Morejon is so interested in those answers, perhaps he should research them using unbiased sources and ask the editor to publish his 750-word guest column based on his research. Given this community’s upcoming merit pay debate, it’s a timely topic.

But as to Morejon’s attempt at spin, his attempt to take the focus off political correctness, I can only shake my head, roll my eyes, and utter a properly spelled “Puh-lease.”

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