Letters to the Editor

June 08, 2012

The unprofessional treatment of Chief Steve MacKinnon

To the Editor:

I want to add my voice to those of many others in Santa Paula who are more than disheartened and dismayed by the very shabby treatment accorded our Chief of Police, Steve MacKinnon.

Chief MacKinnon is by far the most highly educated, highly qualified and well-regarded person to ever hold his position in our community. His law enforcement management experience, both in other small cities and internationally, as well as his untiring commitment to the civic arena in Santa Paula are unprecedented. During his tenure the perceptions here and in greater Ventura County of improvement in Santa Paula’s public safety have given us something we have not enjoyed for many years: the respect of law enforcement at all levels and the public in general. In opposition to the Council and City Manager, he is supported by the majority of his officers, and by people in every segment of our community.

To quote Gary Nasalroad who spoke recently to the Times, “The $15,512.01 cost of the investigation makes that amount supposedly run up by our chief - charges and timesheets that must have been signed off by higher ups - pale in significance. And I am sure the investigation costs will continue to increase.” I am appalled that, in an era of fiscal struggle, the city would waste such a significant amount of funds on such an egregiously specious affair. When the matter is concluded, it will be interesting to learn what the total cost of this mess has been, not only in terms of dollars wasted, but also in the currency of civic esteem.

The unprofessional manner in which Chief MacKinnon has been treated has once again opened our community and its electeds to ridicule, not only by our own citizens, but also in far reaching corners of the region. In what adult organization is an exempt department head ever required to complete hourly time cards? Management employees are expected to work enough to meet the demands of the job, no matter how many hours a week it takes to accomplish the task. Chief MacKinnon has, for the past six years, clearly demonstrated a willingness to spend far in excess of 40 hours a week making this a safer, more equitable community in which to live.  

Who are the city officials who approved what are apparently recently discovered incorrect time sheets and expense statements? My expectation is that as the City Manager, Mr. Fontes would have been the executive tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the administration of department heads. Why has he not been called to account? Why was this not handled, as are most personnel issues, by administrative action, without the humiliation of an honored public servant? There seems to be no truly rational, justifiable reason for all of this, and certainly it has raised a firestorm of the first order in the community; so it begs the question, what is really going on behind the scenes? Is there an as yet unseen, unspoken issue worth the political risk undertaken by the City Council and the City Manager? Who gains by these actions? Certainly not the community…. As an old advertisement said “Inquiring Minds Want To Know.” There are many of us voters in Santa Paula with inquiring minds watching to see the outcome.

Marsha M. Rea

Santa Paula

Were you there?

To the Editor:

Before 2005 or so we didn’t know who some people were. Never saw them at community activities and/or meetings and/or working towards enhancing our community, and starting in 2005 the only time we saw them was at the Council Meetings at the dais or letters to the Editor disparaging someone, some group or the past council. Always criticizing someone else to make their opinions look good.

Well, someone truly looks good when they earn it and because of actions, not just lip service. Don’t criticize others to look good, be good with actions and others will recognize you.

Were you there when the previous council set up a reserve account that our City didn’t have and in addition set aside contingency budgets for contracted projects until the City approved them as complete? The previous council was.

Were you there when the previous council started and worked hard on the water recycling and sewer plant and much time and energy in saving us from millions in penalties? The previous council was. And, does the community know that we were in line for possibly requesting federal assistance with the plan, but the council instead went to a Design, Build, Operate and Finance plan instead that cut off such funding opportunities? This plan has proven to be beyond our means. We now pay a BASE sewer rate of $77, more than Fillmore whose rates were used widely to “sell” this bad deal to the public. And, we no longer own an essential community facility and the plant owners continue to hit our pockets with high sewer fees… were you there? Yes, there you were, supporting this monkey on our economic backs that holds us hostage to higher fees.

Regarding our Chief Steve MacKinnon, a recent letter stated the media coverage as “overdone.” No, it is that the community has decided to take our City back. It is sad the media has to use legal request documents to help make some sense of this terrible loss of our Chief. No, not because he is “popular” but because he earned it! Yes, the community is requesting an “unconditional reinstatement.” Why? Because a MAJORITY of the community feels this was overkill and could have been handled in another manner.

We were “noisy fans.” Wrong – we are community members who feel compelled to speak out on this poorly handled matter. We want transparency and we need to measure the investment versus the return. We are not a “mob” as accused, we are the movers and shakers that volunteer to make this community a great place to live. These are the people that truly care about our total community, not just a selfish interest. We do not carry “pitchforks” as commented. That is not an insult, but laughable. We are not “racist” as implied – a statement even more laughable. We see our community as a well-diversified group and work hard to keep a fair balance.

Our Chief has been accused of “promoting our actions.” That is totally false and just one of your many marginal assumptions that also brings laughter. This group was immediately formed in shock and disbelief by those that truly care about our community. The Chief did not promote it. WE the community united because of this action and how pathetically it was handled.

We feel the expense of an investigator was not necessary.

This issue could have and should have been resolved quickly, professionally and immediately without the loss of our Chief and without trying to ruin a person’s reputation and career. We all know this. Past incidents have been resolved behind closed doors, why not for this Chief who so greatly deserved this respect? What else is behind this? We wonder. This has caused great dismay in our community.

Were you there when our Chief worked 80+ hours per week and only reported 40? The Chief was.

Were you there when 41+ major accomplishments were formulated and put into place? The Chief was.

Were you there when the Chief worked with our community as a whole and was enriching it? The Chief was.

Were you there working on community projects side-by-side like so many that are dismayed, until your legs and feet felt that they would fall off? The Chief was.

Were you there when the Chief helped to establish a foundation, to support Police and Fire Departments, which has raised more than $250,000? The training programs, higher morale and so much more that benefit our police department and our community as a whole? The Chief was and that’s why his department publicly offered their support.

I could go on and on… we – the community – that support our Chief came with facts and not marginal assumptions. This community is united in and in harmony with “Bring MacK Back!”

The Silent Majority? I remember government officials who were later disgraced, scandals involving conspiracies and financial improprieties, coined the phrase.

Why was our Chief not given the same opportunity that we know others have had?

A few council supporters try to make people think things are “great.” Someone is great when they actively do good things and not try to shine by criticizing others. Our Chief was and is great.

Anita Pulido

Santa Paula

Re: Larry E. Sagely Letter to SP Times 6/1/12

To the Editor:

In response to your letter, I again see marginal assumptions, criticizing others and a general attempt to cause mistrust in others actions if they don’t agree with your thinking.

Citizens Committee Supporting Chief Steve MacKinnon as well as the community at large believe due process is clearly missing in this situation with our Chief. Yes, administration is obligated to pursue, but not hire investigators when issues can be resolved at City Hall where concerns could have been expressed, amended, clarified, etc. Administration should have addressed their concerns and resolved in private without wasting additional taxpayer dollars. City administration needs to do their job and not hire others to do it for them at our expense. This matter should have been solved promptly without this horrible disruption to the positive energy that was building in our city.

Administration has had our Chief for six years, who was asleep at the wheel? Why was this not resolved within that time, promptly and administratively, doing the job that would justify the praise you sing for them. This fiasco did NOT need to happen.

The employment letter states “A city issued vehicle for city and personal use.” If there were “big holes in the letter” as you imply then administration has the responsibility to address.

Insurance for personal use of city vehicles can be clearly spelled out by guidelines, policies and procedures that should cover this. If not, administration should have addressed this in the last six years, why let something like this go? Especially as a city employee, a non-emergency responder was arrested for drunk driving following a minor accident in a city issued car almost two years ago. Shouldn’t that have prompted a review of policy? And, Chief MacKinnon’s employment letter did not state he could not drive outside city limits.

Frankly, the community is tired of hearing “The past this and the past that,” always used to criticize others to make your claims look good when in fact Wally Bobkiewicz was highly respected and deservedly so. It is no longer tolerated and rather than being accepted as fact such comments are causing people to check facts, not misstatements meant to mislead. 

Take the chief’s car for example and the fact that his not receiving the STANDARD $350 a month car allowance saved the city $7,000 over the 20-month period questioned. No, that would be a positive comment, and not raise suspicions, would it? Please tell it like it is. Again, give credit where credit is due.

You bring up Mary Ann Krause, from six years ago, c’mon, the mayor doesn’t control these decisions (although do they now?). These are city administrator responsibilities. You know these were not Mary Ann Krause’s decisions. Or, do we blame our current mayor and current city manager for losing such a valuable employee. You seem to imply that would be under their control? Is it?

There was no reason for our Chief to insist on anything he and his employer mutually agreed to and he was giving up more than he took. And typical of Chief MacKinnon, he gladly did so.

If city records are available and current, costs for documents should not incur additional costs. We are all interested in city finances and business, not just Peggy Kelly who actually obtains this information for the public that has the right to know. This research is the job of a reporter when we have such a drastic decision made that affects the real majority of Santa Paulans, not the silent minority you claim to represent and are the sole spokesperson for. 

It is evident that you have a pipeline into (or should I say out of?) City Hall. If you are talking about costs of documents legally available to the press and public as well as staff time required to obtain them then obviously this will be an issue. There are numerous statements in your letters that become reality, which is highly suspicious. Obviously, City Hall is only silent for the true majority, the citizens. 

You are right that personal feelings should not enter this picture, but this situation implies that it certainly did at least on the side of those that conspired to humiliate our chief.

Oh yes, behind closed-door resolution my foot. If so, why not resolved, instead of ruining a man’s career who so much deserved to be heard? We will not know until this is over.

There has been no need for “Megaphones” because all can hear loud and clear how severely our community has been affected by this decision. “You’ve got to be kidding!” is resounding in our community, Ventura County and from all that worked for and with our Chief.

Those you attempt to insult by calling a “Fan Club” are THE community that truly has the best interest of all at heart, not just a self-proclaimed few.

There is no “Propaganda” as you imply, just fact that the community is addressing loud, clear and frequently - BRING MacK BACK!

For the Verbal Majority,

Anita Pulido

Santa Paula

Sagely Letter

To the Editor:

Mr. Sagely’s letters to the editor disgust me. I may be prejudiced but my husband, Steve MacKinnon, is one of the most honest, ethical people I’ve ever known. He is far from the criminal Mr. Sagely would like him to be. As I sit here and re-read this investigation (aka: “The Witch Hunt”) brought on by Jaime Fontes and the City Council, it makes me sick. Not once was the Chief ever asked by Jaime Fontes anything about the accusations; if the City Manager did his job and spoke to his employees, it would have saved the city over $15,000 of taxpayers’ money. The Chief has not denied or omitted anything. Is it too hard to require the city manger to do his job? If anything, this man should be terminated for failing to carry out his duties. What’s wrong with the Mayor and City Council? 

For your information the three allegations are:

1. Personal Use of the City vehicle. No explanation needed, it was in his contract.

2. Using the City gas credit card to fuel the city vehicle. I can say yes, he did. I also saw his research of our bank accounts showing we paid at least $500.00 for gas for the city vehicle in the last 12 month alone. I wonder why the investigator didn’t include this fact.  

3. That the Chief cheated on his time sheets: this is my favorite. First off, he’s a salaried employee, if he leaves early or walks in late it shouldn’t matter as long as he puts in 40 hours. The city claims he “stole” approximately 112 hours. Anyone working in or around that Police department can verify the Chief (my husband) was there more than 100 hours a week!! For example, figure out how many council meetings he had to attend over the past 6 years. My most conservative estimate alone suggests he worked an additional 480 hours just for attending these meetings. Do I really need to go into the hours he’s spent working with the cops and covering shifts? How about the mornings when he was out at 0400 doing search warrants? I could go on forever. Why didn’t the investigator speak with members of the PD or pull other time records (former Chief, fire Chief, former City Works Director etc.)? Why didn’t the City Manager ever bring up his concerns since he approved the Chief’s time sheets every week?

I would also like to say your city council is not being truthful. The investigation state’s Council member Rick Cook knew about the Chief using the city vehicle for personal use for the past 5 years, but felt he couldn’t bring it up because he was not a member of the council? Why not bring this matter up at the time of his reelection in 2010?

The council claims no involvement but they directed a citizen to be an outside facilitator to contact the Chief and try to work things out? Phone records and emails can be supplied.

Is it a coincidence that the Chief wrote a memo to the City Manager Jamie Fontes requesting to speak with the council about Fontes inabilities, only to be placed on admin leave right after the next council meeting?

Is it a coincidence that the Chief was placed under investigation when he began asking Jaime Fontes about $36,000 missing from a Trust Fund for exclusive use for public safety? Maybe Fontes will answer if the community asks, but his history shows he doesn’t answer too much.

Mr. Sagely encouraged citizens research my husband’s career in Arizona. I personally experienced the upheaval my husband’s actions created. You would have seen that the Chief fired several cops due to felony misconduct, and a new 30-year-old City Manager with no skills to deal with the corruption the chief brought forward. That same City Manager also demanded the termination of an officer that was HIV positive and the Chief refused. After the Chief left the taxpayers got stuck with a $500,000 settlement when that officer sued the city. 

Prior to my husband being hired in Santa Paula, City Manager Bobkiewicz had a thorough investigation completed that included visits to every agency the Chief  led and included a polygraph. The fact that the Chief was hired after all that speaks for itself.

I personally like your statement “Do you see any indication of a pattern or trend here?” I sure do, CORRUPTION, and not from the Chief.

Mr. Sagely claims he speaks for the silent majority, but all the evidence I have seen in these past weeks clearly suggests otherwise.

Dianna O’Connor


The most important word

To the Editor:

The long-vacant storefronts along the north side of Santa Paula’s East Harvard Boulevard offer an excellent example of what not to do. Built about 14 years ago, most have never been occupied because they front directly onto a busy street, violate commonly accepted principles of planning, and severely lack quality. They were approved by then Mayor Mary Ann Krause and the same council members who tried to force the Fagan Canyon fiasco upon us. These council members were rejected by voters, but their legacy remains.

Changes now proposed by the owner are the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig. Demolition offers a more responsible course. Along with “improvements” to this project, the owner now proposes a 3-story 5,555 square foot apartment building on the small lot next door. This would fit right in with what he has already brought us. But if this is the best we can do, why spend millions on planning?

Responsible planning principles call for gradual elimination of strip commercial development, moving it into shopping centers with off-street parking, planned ingress-egress, reasonable signage regulation, landscaping, etc. The above proposal stands in direct violation of these principles.

It’s sometimes difficult to realize, but Santa Paula has one of the most desirable physical locations on earth. We desperately need quality commercial and industrial development but projects such as that under consideration drive away those which we most need. If we are ever to attract quality, we must learn to insist upon it. Failure to do this will result in permanent second-class status for our community. It is well to remember that “No” is the most important word in any language.

Planners in communities such as Westlake, Camarillo, and Santa Barbara would laugh themselves silly over a project such as this. And has anyone noticed where the money goes?

Delton Lee Johnson

Santa Paula

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.