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Lingering questions after City Attorney exposes Bonusgate

A FAMILIAR SCRIPT WAS AVAILABLE

I conclude with three points.

First, from a tactical standpoint, what might have happened had Sloan unilaterally given the raises/bonuses as prearranged and let other folks deal with any fallout?

Here’s a guess.

The Transparency Act, suddenly on everyone’s minds, would have worked its magic.

Sometime in the cold weather months, perhaps right before Christmas, Council President Baines and City Manager Rudd would have added an item to the council agenda: “Transparency Act Workshop.”

The updated salary/bonus numbers would have unfolded in a Power Point show.

Explanations for the three-year memory lapse by mayor and council would have been delivered with suitable humility.

Tut-tutting over the size and timing of executive branch bonuses would have echoed throughout the council chamber.

There would have been brief chatter about amending the Transparency Act to require council approval of executive branch bonuses, but this posturing would have faded quickly (neither branch wants the other branch trending on its charter-sanctioned turf).

The top chiefs in the city’s unions would have beefed about the bonuses outside the council chamber to any reporter they could find, but the effort would be more bark than bite because these City Hall veterans know full pots of taxpayer money in good time always find their way into the appropriate pockets.

Finally, everyone would go home.

Second, Sloan by all accounts has been a fine city attorney. He was frank and gracious in our phone interview.

I suggested that the City Charter and the council’s OK at the budget hearings gave him all the power he needed to give the raises/bonuses without going to Rudd.

“Legally, that’s correct,” Sloan said. “But I wanted to be a team player.”

Sloan admitted that “in hindsight” he should have first talked to council members about his plans to meet with Rudd on an issue that belongs to the council.

Sloan said the job of city attorney is “95% legal, 4% watchdog and 1% political.”

I suggested that even 1% political is too much for a city attorney who is hired to leave politics to the politicians.

Sloan said what he did in Rudd’s office “is perfectly appropriate.”

I asked Sloan if either he or anyone in the City Attorney’s Office had a “tickler file” – a date-labeled collection of folders for time-sensitive documents.

“Not for that,” Sloan said of the Transparency Act. “But we do now.”

George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

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