By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
So I asked the city attorney's office if the Bolton hearing will be quasi-judicial. The answer was no. The thing on the 15th is just "a hearing," as in: "You speak; I hear." It changes nothing. The only thing Bolton and his lawyer can do at the hearing is talk. The only thing the mayor and the council can do is listen and maybe ask some questions out of sheer curiosity. But the council can't rule or overrule or actually do anything.
Bolton can't "clear his name" in that kind of proceeding. Tell me how? And the council won't be "fact-finding," because it won't be making any decision for which it needs facts.
Some of the demands from the Bolton camp have included a call for a better deal on pension benefits. But that's crazy. The guy's been fired. You can't bring him back into the pension plan now. If you could do that, you could give city pensions away to favorite cousins of city council members. (Why did I say that one out loud?)
Benavides could rehire Bolton on his own. And then--given the way Bolton has behaved since getting fired and given the mood in most of the city--Benavides himself would be fired the next day, and the day after that Bolton would be re-fired. I'm not saying that wouldn't be interesting. Maybe my favorite Mexican restaurant, Matt's Rancho Martinez, which has a tendency to give its dishes interesting names, would introduce a new menu item called Re-fired Bolton. But the point is that Benavides will not rehire Bolton.
I tried a couple of times to reach Hinton, Bolton's lawyer, and he wouldn't call me back. Hinton has a reputation for being sharp, and I'm going to assume he knows very well that Bolton cannot be reinstated as a result of this hearing.
So now here's your question. I can hear it coming. If the council can't do anything, and if the plaintiff can't really get anything done, and if the city manager isn't going to do anything, then what in the world is this hearing for?
You know the answer. The purpose of the hearing is to pack the peanut gallery with people from Bolton's church, bring in the hair shirts and the firebrands, the open-mike gang, wait until the TV cameras are cranked up and then blister the mayor and the council to a crisp. Look, I hate to seem like I'm publishing bomb-making instructions here, but the truth is nobody needs me to tell them: The way you get things jumping is to have people chain themselves to seats, disrupt the proceedings and get right up in the face of the mayor so that the police will have to haul people out in restraints.
There will have been time by the 15th for a couple more Sundays of Bolton in the pulpit doing his fist-in-the-air foot-stamping Mussolini imitation: "I deed notta bow down! I shall notta bow down!"
At the August 28 city council meeting, the day after Bolton was fired, the council chamber was like a wet Fourth of July: There was some smoke, but the verbal bottle rockets wouldn't quite ignite. This time around we might really see a display. I'm not the only one thinking this.
And this is out of anger? Mmm, maybe for some of the bit players. But anger won't pay Robert Hinton's bill. And anger won't make the chief's wallet any fatter. For that you need greenbacks.
The only real outcome anybody smart could possibly anticipate from this proceeding would be entirely behind-the-scenes and sub rosa: People on the council could get really nervous about the proceeding itself. In an effort to head it off, they could start leaning on the city manager and the city attorney to toss Bolton some cash.
The purpose of demanding this hearing, in my humble opinion, is to scare the council into giving Bolton money. And I can see that happening. I can actually see the council members creeping into Benavides' office one by one, whispering, "Ted, is there anyway you could throw a garbage bag-full of some of that tax-money stuff out the window to see if it makes the scary people go away so we won't have to have the scary hearing? Or, if that doesn't work, could you maybe throw out another bag-full?"
Benavides could offer a cash settlement. The council could affirm. They would call it a settlement in lieu of litigation. But Bolton has nothing to litigate. So it would really be a settlement in lieu of a real bad scene.
It's your money. You tell me: Is it worth it?