The following is the text from a March 13, 2015, memo from West Hollywood City Manager Paul Arevalo to newly elected councilmembers Lindsey Horvath and Lauren Meister outlining issues with the city council deputy system. The memo has been mentioned in testimony by Arevalo and others during the Michelle Rex vs. City of West Hollywood trial now taking place at L.A. County Superior Court.
Fundamentally, I understand the desire to hire the support staff of your choosing. However, I would be remiss if I did not call your attention to some of the inherent challenges in the current Council support staffing role, the Council Deputy. Further, given the amount of community concern, media coverage, and scrutiny, I would be doing the City and City Council a disservice if I did not raise some of the key concerns and issues. With that being said, ultimately the Deputy who serves you will be your choice (based on their meeting the minimum qualifications set forth in association with the MOU).
As you likely know, functionally, a City Council Deputy is supposed to assist elected officials in managing various organization functions, including: receiving and resolving constituent complaints/concerns; analyzing policy; coordinating special events, projects and programs; and analyzing and making recommendations regarding agenda items. All of these are supposed to be under the direction of the City Manager.
In practice, however, Council Deputies have been accountable only to their respective Councilmembers. Direction from individual Councilmembers can contrast considerably from Council Office to Council Office. So, although Deputies have identical job specifications — depending on the direction from a Councilmember, Deputies’ roles, responsibilities, and duties can vary greatly. Current practices create critical flaws in how City Council support staff functions, in the public’s and media’s perceptions of these roles, and in the level of service the City’s stakeholders receive. Additionally, hiring political campaign staff can create a lasting obstacle for that staff member’s credibility regardless of job performance.
Another pressing consideration is the amount of negative publicity and public outrage stemming from allegations from current Council Deputies pitted against one another. The intensity of media and public interest is still evolving and the controversy revealed many of the concerns and issues raised in this Memorandum. The allegations from these Deputies, in addition to other allegations of sexual harassment, have now raised issues that have festered within the community for some time: salaries, accountability, availability, responsiveness, partisanship, temperaments, and profile.
Some of the criticism originates from the unique role of these positions in municipal government. No other city has a role in its staff ranks like a West Hollywood City Council Deputy. As reported in multiple news outlets, there are no comparables to point to in order to justify, to the media and to the public, the specific role of a City Council Deputy.
We are a small city with a part-time, at-large Council. Other similar Westside metropolitan Los Angeles communities such as Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Culver City utilize staff pooling to support Councilmembers in similar manners with constituent services, scheduling, the preparation of reports and analysis and other similar tasks. Where we have been able to draw some comparables, “Deputies” in Compton, Inglewood and Pasadena are paid considerably less and have vastly different reporting structures and roles.
There have been more than thirty articles, opinion pieces, and radio broadcasts from local, regional and national media outlets about the current Council Deputy controversy and the coverage has been critical of the Council Deputy system. The reach of these hits on social media is far and wide. Publications that allow for comments on online sites have been inundated with observations ranging from constructive criticism to excoriating indictment of the Council Deputy system.
The system as it exists today has opened the City up to liability and scrutiny on a host of levels. We are looking at threats of litigation from multiple parties and the City’s brand and reputation have taken some considerable damage. If the trend continues and the Council and the organization does not address the issues raised in a comprehensive manner to overhaul the Council staffing structure, then the threat to the organization’s reputation and liability will continue to grow.
Recognizing that it would be best to have a strategic conversation regarding the Deputy function when the City has a full five member council body, I will wait until the beginning of the next fiscal year to present a detailed proposal that would create a Legislative and Community Advocacy Program that reinforces the grassroots nature of the City Council staff, with a stronger ‘in the field presence’. The new concept will have geographical and technical specialties and would be a resource of pooled support staff to all Councilmembers. The program should spot light the best of the old, while creating an improved system that is accessible at the personal level, but utilizes technology for transparency and efficiency.
The primary goal of the Program will be to provide community advocacy and customer service as well as legislative, technical, analytical and administrative support to all Councilmembers. The work product will include dispute resolution and community and business ombudsman services, policy research and development, project coordination with City departments and general community engagement. The Program will ensure centralization and streamlining of all Council requests for constituent services and staffing oversight, which will regularize hours and responsibilities. This will allow for the enhancement of public trust, the promotion of ethical practices within City Hall and the Community and the effective and respectful handling of public issues in a timely and efficient manner. In the meantime, I will work with both of you to fill your current deputy position.
The following are social media reach/influence metrics and clippings of media coverage from January 24, 2015 to date. Nearly all coverage of “Deputygate” and allegations by council deputies against one another includes coverage critical of current Council Deputy compensation, accountability, responsiveness, hiring practices and more. Overall, the tone on social media and in news articles on the current Council Deputy system range from critical to ridicule.
SOCIAL MEDIA TWITTER
Below are some of the larger reaching twitter accounts. The addition of the NY Daily News brings an estimated reach of 660,000+. That’s immediate reach. To this number we can conservatively add another 10% to cover all the 50-500+ follower accounts that retweeted. So, 679,000+ is a realistic number. Unfortunately, we can only gauge further engagement rates for our own tweets, that means retweets are not part of estimated reach It’s really hard to nail a number down.
@Trixy WH 1,838
We can see that the articles listed were shared directly from the articles themselves approximately 1,200 times on Facebook. We cannot see who shared them or how many people may have seen it.
MEDIA COVERAGE NATIONAL MEDIA
Los Angeles Times: Daily Circulation: 628,910 Sunday Circulation: 944,795
The New York Daily News: Daily Circulation 516,165 Sunday Circulation 644,879
The Advocate: Bi-monthly newsmagazine Circulation 175,000
REGIONAL AND LOCAL MEDIA
KABC Radio: “Mid-Day LA with Jillian Barberie & John Phillips”
WeHoVille: Daily, hyper-local news website, 100,000 unique visitors per month
LA Weekly: Free weekly, Circulation 160,128
The Beverly Press: Free weekly, Circulation 13,000
The Canyon News: Free weekly, Circulation 20,000
Frontiers Magazine: Bi-Monthly newsmagazine, Circulation 270,000
WeHo News: 80,500 visitors per month