The City of Milton continues its information blackout concerning ethics charges against Council Member Paul Moore. I suspect the City’s lack of transparency around this issue has much to do with City Manager’s misbehavior in this matter . . . more about that later in the post. Mr. Krokoff will not tell you the truth, so I will. And judging from recent traffic to the blog, quite a few Miltonites are starting to pay attention to this scandal. Thanks for tuning in.
Last Monday, I attended the City Council meeting where once again the matter of cost-sharing for White Columns traffic calming devices was discussed . . . and after more dithering by City Council, finally decided in favor of the White Columns Board. Last Tuesday, I attended Paul Moore’s ethics hearing, which lasted most of the day. The ethics panel did not render a decision, but rather is allowing the parties to submit additional information (especially case law supporting their positions). The panel also needs time to digest the extensive testimony and voluminous documentation provided at the hearing. Following are some of my impressions of the City Council meeting and the ethics hearing.
City Council Meeting. After foolishly deferring the issue of cost-sharing for traffic calming devices in White Columns for 90 days, City Council again took up the issue last Monday night. Paul Moore stated that “out of an abundance of caution” he was not going to participate in the discussion or vote on the matter. This would be cited—justifiably in my opinion—in the next day’s ethics hearing as a tacit admission by Mr. Moore that he has a conflict of interest in the White Columns matter. I agree. If Mr. Moore is so confident of his innocence, why not participate in the discussion and vote? And conversely, if Mr. Moore is tacitly admitting to guilt, why not MAN UP, admit it, apologize, and take your lumps? When at first we practice to deceive . . .
What most struck me about this City Council hearing (and the previous hearing) is the triviality of the underlying issue . . . and the associated pettiness and cluelessness of several council members, who made an Everest-sized mountain out of a pimple of a molehill, costing the City lots of money and much embarrassment.
Despite all the confusion to the contrary—much of it created by Mr. Moore–the only issue to be decided was whether the City would agree to share 50% (<$7000) of the costs of 4 installed traffic calming devices—a cost it has shared with 8 to 12 (estimates vary) other subdivisions, without any drama or debate at Council. White Columns HOA had followed—with a few insignificant deviations–the City’s process and satisfied all of its City’s criteria. This was a matter that deserved little attention from staff (apart from standard due diligence) or Council, but which has consumed vast quantities of time from both and will certainly end up costing the City many multiples of the $7000 at issue (making a mockery of Council Member Mohrig’s assertions that he cares about taxpayer money). This cost to citizens includes some/all of Paul Moore’s legal fees; City Attorney fees; and the mounting costs of the 3-judge ethics panel—never mind all the additional staff time that has been invested in this issue. The ethics complainant will be blamed for the costs associated with the ethics charges, but it must be understood that the ethics panel has already ruled that sufficient evidence existed to justify an ethics complaint. Rather the blame lies first and foremost with Mr. Moore and Mr. Krokoff, but some blame also rests with the 4 council members—Morhig, Verhoff, Jacobus, and Cookerly—that have indulged Mr. Moore’s crusade against his HOA board. Does any rational citizen really believe that this minor issue would have made it onto Council’s agenda and received so much attention if not for the fact that Council Member Moore and City Manager Krokoff both live in White Columns?
This cost-sharing issue never should have been a standalone item on Council’s agenda. And originally it was NOT a standalone item, but rather was appropriately consigned council’s consent agenda, where perfunctory issues are lumped together as a single agenda item and voted on without any debate. This is historically how these cost-sharing agreements—and there have been many—have always been handled. So the question that has been asked, but not yet answered, is why Mr. Krokoff, who lives in White Columns and is also conflicted in this matter, chose to transfer the WC issue from the consent agenda to Council’s agenda for discussion and debate? Was Mr. Krokoff lobbied by Mr. Moore? Or did Krokoff’s own prejudices in the matter come into play? And these questions beg bigger questions about how much Moore and Krokoff—both conflicted in this matter—have colluded and are colluding? I think the City’s silence in this matter speaks volumes. Remember that it is decidedly NOT Mr. Krokoff’s job to dispense legal advice to Council Members; rather it is the City Attorney’s job . . . never mind Mr. Krokoff’s own conflict of interest in this matter. Milton deserves (much) better from a City Manager on the job for 6+ years. Maybe the time has come for an intrepid citizen to file an ethics complaint against Mr. Krokoff in this matter . . .
Unfortunately, once this cost-sharing issue returned to Council for consideration last week, several council members continued Mr. Moore’s quixotic quest to micro-manage the affairs of White Columns and second-guess the decisions of a duly elected and properly chartered HOA board that had worked for many months with City staff, which had granted WC its needed permits. Council Member Rick Mohrig—cluelessness personified—led council in last week’s assault on common sense and good judgment. Unfortunately, Mr. Mohrig was assisted by recently elected council members Andrea Verhoff and Jan Jacobus. (Mayor Jamison and Council Member Johnson once again wisely remained mostly silent during round 2 of this City Hall circus.) Completely lacking situational awareness and lost in the weeds, Ms. Verhoff and Mr. Jacobus ignored long-held wisdom that when you find yourself in a hole, you should stop digging. Ms. Verhoff even furrowed her brow about the placement of one sign and wrung her hands about minor process discrepancies, while seemingly blind to the bigger picture process issues relating to conflict of interest, formulation of council agendas, and sensible prioritization of real issues facing the city. Unfortunately for these council members, facts are stubborn things (John Adams). The (four) hurdles Council had erected at the May Council meeting to derail a routine approval process were easily cleared by the WC HOA Board. A new (a 2019 study wasn’t good enough) traffic study confirmed the need for traffic-calming devices. And a survey of WC residents revealed that 63% supported the traffic calming devices. Council’s attempt to move the goal posts had failed miserably. At the May 3 Council Meeting, Paul Moore asserted that should the HOA board clear these new hurdles that we should “let the chips fall where they may.” Well, it seems an avalanche of chips fell on Mr. Moore. Despite his being on Council and his efforts to bend council to his will, Mr. Moore failed in his attempts to do an end-run around HOA’s democratic process and ended up looking quite foolish. Mr. Moore clearly is not well regarded . . . even in his own subdivision—perhaps early indicator of how he may fare in a re-election bid. As for the Council Members that indulged Mr. Moore (and I believe were easily led astray by him), they have many questions to answer. Is this level of intrusiveness in minor HOA affairs justified and can we expect more of the same in the future? Is Council comfortable with Moore and Krokoff’s perceived conflicts of interest? How will Council explain the funds and resources that were wasted to decide whether to approve a routine <$7000 expenditure? Why was this issue even taken up by Council in the first place and should there be more rigor and transparency around the drafting of Council agendas? And lastly and perhaps most importantly, what does Council’s dithering on this issue say about Council’s mis-prioritization of much bigger issues facing Milton . . . what important issues are not getting addressed because Council so easily gets lost in the weeds and caught up in politics?
I hope this issue and others like it (that seem to arise on a regular basis) prompt citizens to engage and perhaps recruit smarter candidates for Council that will uphold the rule of law and citizen prerogatives (vs. pursuing personal agendas and granting favors for friends). I hope this matter will prompt citizens to demand the highest standards of integrity from both elected and appointed officials . . . officials that will strive to not only do what is legal but more importantly what is right.
(My next post will address Paul Moore’s ethics hearing on August 2nd . . . suffice to say, things are not looking good for Mr. Moore.)
Advocating for good governance,
Note: I want to again emphasize that I am not taking sides in the White Columns dispute. The residents of White Columns need to decide what is best for their community, without interference from the Milton City Council. Council needs to let the democratic process work in White Columns.