Council has some explaining to do

By all indications, Kathleen Midstokke was more than competent in her duties as city clerk.At no time had she denied this newspaper access to public records, including commission minutes, campaign finance statements, agenda memorandums, council member travel expenses, salary information and all the other documents newspapers rely on to accurately report on City Hall. If she didn't have the information we sought immediately at hand, she most certainly had it before we checked out for lunch. Former Mayor Anne Bayer, a Downey council member from 2002-10, similarly gave Midstokke high marks, noting that nothing in her personnel file warranted her abrupt dismissal last week. So why did the City Council fire Kathleen Midstokke? And why was it necessary to terminate her employment at a hastily-called Thursday afternoon council meeting (after this newspaper had gone to press)? Why did the City Council agree to continue paying her full salary while she stays home and does nothing, pending her retirement in June? Council members are not talking. "With personnel issues, it's one of those things we can't comment on," said Mayor Luis Marquez. "We can't comment on that." What about the timing? Why not take it up at a regular council meeting? "I can't comment on that," Marquez said. It's all rubbish, of course. Council members had no problem speaking on the record about former city attorney Ed Lee, whose association with the city of Bell rightly made Downey council members nervous. The council also fired Lee in a special meeting, but at least they gave their reasons. The Downey City Council, well-known for its penchant to shoot from the hip, suddenly is tight-lipped. And that's scary. No one is saying anything negative about Midstokke, so residents are left to ponder rumors and innuendo. Perhaps Midstokke was the victim of political retribution, retribution for what we're not exactly sure, but most likely Midstokke was the victim of a new-look council flexing its political muscle. To be clear, the issue here isn't the council's decision to let Midstokke go, but rather the secretive nature in which it was done. When elected officials evade questions and fail to be held accountable for their actions, citizens have every reason to be suspicious.

********** Published: February 03, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 42