Mea Exculpa

City Hall's only rule in the Bolton mess is "Not me!"

When he was deposed two weeks ago, Ronquillo's own lawyer made a point of getting Ronquillo, her client, to say on the record that he had never officially been asked whether Bolton's plan was legal.

"No, ma'am. I was never asked to render research or give an opinion or a second opinion or anything of that nature..." Ronquillo testified.

So later on, Martha Hardwick, the lawyer for several of the demoted cops, says she understands that Ronquillo was saying he never rendered a formal written opinion on the legality of Bolton's plan, but she wonders if Ronquillo ever discussed it with Bolton at all.

Chief Bolton may need a good lawyer to represent him in his dealings with his lawyers. (The lawyers already have lawyers.)
Peter Calvin
Chief Bolton may need a good lawyer to represent him in his dealings with his lawyers. (The lawyers already have lawyers.)

Ronquillo answers: "We had--we had discussions, very informal, you know, conversation or discussions in terms of whether there was a problem or an issue, and I told him there was no problem or no issue with respect to implementing the plan."

Now, I happen to have a copy of Mr. Ronquillo's bill to the city--the bill you are paying for with your taxes--and I thought I might share with you some detail on the chats that he had with the chief in the days before Bolton did his big festival of demotions.

On October 26, 1999, Ronquillo prepared himself for a meeting with the city attorney, followed up by calling various police department officials, and then had a long meeting with the chief. That took him just under five hours, and it cost you $1,225.

That same afternoon, he had another meeting with police department officials that lasted under four hours. You paid him $950 for that one. Over the next few days, he talked on the phone a lot and met with people, for which you paid about $2,355.

The day before the demotions, some folks called him from City Hall. $180. Then, the day of the demotions, he came over and attended a news conference. You paid him $337.50 for that.

In the months ahead, the cash register kept ringing. I don't have a total yet, but you can see the rate at which it adds up.

I called Ronquillo's office several times over two days and left detailed voice-mail messages about what I was going to write. He did not return my calls.

The point we're supposed to get, I think, is that Ronquillo had only "very informal" discussions with the chief on the legality of the demotions, but he never gave him a formal opinion; so, naturally, he, Ronquillo, would not be formally to blame for anything the chief did.

If Tonto had thought like this, the Lone Ranger would have been barbecue in the first episode. (Tonto: "I may have been of the opinion, very very informally, that certain unknown persons appeared to be sneaking up behind him, but I never formally provided him with that information as an official advisory. Now, if you don't mind, I need to lie down on my back and catch my breath.")

Several months ago in an executive session, a few city council members began making pointed demands on Bolton. I'm paraphrasing, but the questions were along the line of, "Who told you that you could do this this way? When? What did they say?"

Mayor Kirk jumped down their throats. He said it was "city policy" that council members are not allowed to berate or interrogate staff members. I called Kirk's office and asked if he really thought this was city policy, that an elected representative of the taxpayers is not allowed to ask a damned paid staffer to explain what has turned into a $5 to $10 million blowout.

Kirk's representative called me back and said that the mayor never responds to questions about executive sessions, but the mayor wanted to refer me to the city's "Code of Conduct," Chapter 3, Section 3.1, paragraph C: "City council members shall not berate or admonish staff members."

Look, Kirk wants to run for the U.S. Senate. All he wants is no bad news. He doesn't care about your $5 million. He only cares about his own PR.

Can you believe we've got $5 million on the line, and he tells the council members they are not allowed to question their own employees?

By the way, I have a very strict policy that public officials are not allowed to berate or admonish me, so any officials who may be thinking along that line need to stuff it.

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