Two recent Voice of OC stories made quite a lot out of a 2008 e-mail between Public Works Director Natalie Meeks and then-Mayor Curt Pringle. The e-mail didn’t live up to the hype. Anyone with some understanding of the issue could tell there was no “there,” there.
The origin of this e-mail tells its own story about shenanigans inside City Hall.
The official version is the e-mail appeared in response to a public record request from Tait-ally Cynthia Ward. According to the first Voice of OC article:
Ward says she received a tip from a City Hall source that the email showed the supposed misrepresentation.
“I had a piece of information passed along to me from an anonymous source that indicated that,” Ward said. “But I was never given any proof I could go to anybody with to force the issue, so I’ve been forced to just sit and wait and see if that piece of information turns up when they finally released the documents.”
Ward requested on Dec. 13 a slew of records related to the streetcar project, including emails and other communications between OCTA and city officials from 2007 to 2012.
This is the relevant text from Ward’s December 13 request:
I would like records of email or other written communications between Natalie Meeks, and/or OCTA’s Darryl
Johnson, and/or Kris Murray (both in her capacity as OCTA staff and current capacity as City Council member),
and/or Marty Desollar, and/or former Mayor Curt Pringle. This request includes personal email accounts used to
communicate regarding this taxpayer funded project.
The time frame is August 2007 to October 24, 2012, and the subject/search parameters are any communication related
to the “ARC” and/or “ Fixed Guideway” and/or “Alternatives Analysis” and/or “Go Local” project. I trust someone still
has records of former Mayor Pringle’s emails and written com
Ward obviously had a precise idea of the e-mail she was looking, thanks to her “City Hall source.”
According to other City Hall sources, the tipster is Mishal Montgomery, Mayor Tom Tait’s assistant. The e-mail itself is strong evidence of this. When the Voice of OC published the e-mail, it erased the print-out identifier at the bottom. Click here to see the unredacted version, which shows it was printed out on January 3 of this year from a Yahoo e-mail account.
Four people are on the e-mail chain’s distribution: Pringle, Meeks, External Affairs Manager Marty DeSollar and Danny Wu (who was city transportation planner at the time). Except for Pringle, each received the e-mail at their City of Anaheim e-mail accounts.
Notice that in response to Ward’s request, the e-mail wasn’t produced from the city’s database, but from the personal e-mail account of someone who was not on the original distribution list.
Anyone who has interacted with the Anaheim mayor’s office for the last several years knows that Montgomery primarily uses her Yahoo e-mail instead of her City of Anaheim e-mail. It’s hard to avoid concluding Montgomery is feeding Ward the information on which to base her public record act requests, which then ultimately produce media stories depicting people and projects opposed by the mayor in a negative light.
This was an especially deplorable instance of this pattern, since the Voice of OC practically accused Meeks and new OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson of breaking the law. It is an untrue, irresponsible allegation. That is clear to anyone with any understanding who reads the e-mail itself. But the unfair damage to their reputations is already done.
Transparency and the Public Records Act are valuable, beneficial tools. But manipulating the process to settle political scores and falsely injure reputations is wrong.