Kick him when he’s down

At their September meeting, the New Buffalo City Council members appeared agitated with residents who weren’t satisfied when the council voted to force an early retirement on Police Chief Pitchford because they legally could without comment or debate, strongly suggesting they had fully discussed this in advance.  Pitchford intended to retire in November so City Manager Richards’ rush to push the Chief out now because he is ‘moving the city in a new direction’ rings hollow since this week Richards advertised for a new police chief, same position, new personnel.  Perhaps it was simply part of the City’s recent austerity measures to save the City some cash on a gold watch and retirement party for a well respected employee of over forty years but most likely it was something else entirely.

Street Supervisor Tony Ashbaugh appeared to have Chief Pitchford in his sights since he first submitted to City Manager Rob Anderson a Request for Investigation  on September 29, 2016 that began a $10,000 ethics investigation into Pitchford’s behavior on the job.  Ashbaugh Request for Investigation  And although Pitchford was cleared of any and all wrongdoing by Attorney Sara Bell and a vote by Council members, there are many people who believe the forced early retirement of the Chief was a byproduct of some unresolved resentment toward the Chief.

On September 2, 2017, Berrien County Judge Wiley reaffirmed his previous ruling made a month earlier that the incriminating videos of Ashbaugh were public property. But Ashbaugh always blamed the police chief for handing the damaging public surveillance videos over to City Manager Anderson as evident by filing a baseless federal lawsuit against the Chief for illegal wiretapping after the ethics complaint failed.  Knowing that lawsuit will become moot when the videos are made public on Monday, Ashbaugh used his time on TV 57 to his advantage.

downloadDuring a TV 57 news segment on September 2, 2017, while Ashbaugh held a pity party for himself, he couldn’t resist kicking Ptichford one more time.  While interviewing Ashbaugh, the reporter held up an August 26, 2016 memo from City Manager Anderson to Pitchford reprimanding him for questionable behavior in his handling of the public surveillance videos.  The interesting aspect of this memorandum was it was supposed to be expunged from Pitchford’s personnel file after the City Council accepted the results of the November 2016 investigation presented by Attorney Sara Bell clearing Pitchford of all wrongdoing.  Sara Bell’s Report (note page 6 of the report)

How was it that Ashbaugh had a copy of Larry Pitchford’s expunged reprimand?  If it had been left in Pitchford’s file, Ashbaugh would have had to complete a FOIA request for it just like any other citizen.  But as of June 20, 2017, only myself and Rusty Geisler had requested a copy through a FOIA request and although I received the document, I knew it had been legally expunged and that I shouldn’t have been given it.  After reviewing Bell’s report, the mayor ensured the document was no longer the part of a public record.

I only requested the document because I was being hounded by a man identifying himself as ‘oldsmokinman@aol. com.  He had a copy of Pitchford’s reprimand memo and was insisting that I put it on my blog.  I would not publish the memo but tried to determine this person’s identity by completing the FOIA request. How did old smokin man and Asbaugh receive a copy, and why did they want to share it with the public  since the City Council voted in November 2016 to accept that Pitchford had acted ethically and according to the standards of City policy? Ongoing grudges most likely.

Below is one of the email threads between me and oldsmokinman@aol.com. After I sent this email, I never heard from him again.

From: sgotfried@comcast.net
To: oldsmokinman
Date: July 16, 2017 at 5:41 PM
Subject: Re: Your hypocrisy is as great as your partisanship.

As I said, I need to know how you got Larry Pitchford’s reprimand before I post it.  I am not going to post a document that was illegally gained.  There are only three ways you could have gotten a copy, one being through a FOIA request; you didn’t get it that way, two; you are a city employee and took a copy out of his file’ or three; you are a friend or relative of an employee of a city employee and they took a copy out for you.  Only one of these three ways are legal.

Since this dialog started between us, I reviewed the video from the November 15, 2016 city council meeting when Attorney Sarah Bell stated that after her ten thousand dollar investigation, she found that Chief Pitchford had completed his job duties according to established city protocols and that she found no behavior that was considered unethical or unprofessional – after that, Rob Anderson was supposed to expunged it from Pitchford’s file.  The reprimand did not accurately reflect the Chief’s performance according to Ms. Bell.  The city council voted unanimously to support her and the contents of her report, this means they agreed that Pitchford had done nothing wrong in the way he handled the video and followed the correct protocol as established by the city since the video equipment was first installed.  There are two ways that the reprimand has continued to be in the Chief’s personnel file.  Rob Anderson never took it out as directed by the vote of the city council or an employee of the city made a copy of it when during the two and a half months it was in his file and put a new copy in his file after Anderson removed it.

I invite you to watch the video of November 15, 2016 for your own confirmation of the findings of Ms. Bell.  She was quite explicit that Pitchford did his job correctly and ethically.

The risk management company attorney representing the city in Ray Kirkus’ FOIA court case recently conceded that the videos made through the public surveillance equipment last August are public information instead of their previous position that the videos were a private conversation – now they are claiming that the refusal to release them to the public is due to the privacy clause of the Freedom of Information Act.  I have no doubt that this will be ruled against because even Ashbaugh stated in a public document that the conversation was absolutely work related – work related conversations by city employees within city hall, whether documented on a video, through an email, or even if texted are public property.  It is only time before you will be able to view Ashbaugh and Lembrix on a you tube that will be all over the internet.  And perhaps there is nothing on those videos that is bad behavior although Ashbaugh was reprimand by Anderson for his behavior on the public videos.  (By the way, Ashbaugh would have included Anderson in his lawsuit against me and the others if Anderson had used an illegally recorded conversation as the basis of a reprimand.  Ashbaugh’s omission of Anderson supports my defense).

But since the city attorneys who first maintained the videos were private conversations are now conceding that they are actually public helps me since Ashbaugh is maintaining that it is an illegally recorded conversation.

Do you really think I have an obligation to give praises on my own blog to a man who is suing me for $210.000?

On July 16, 2017 at 4:48 PM oldsmokinman wrote:

My latest “submittal” which I’m sure you’ll have a very ethical reason not to post.

 

8 thoughts on “Kick him when he’s down

  1. Susan Gotfried Post author

    The City Council wouldn’t review Donna Messinger’s ethics complaint against TA because of the ongoing FOIA lawsuit yet while they continue to claim the suit hasn’t ended, not complying with FOIA requests, they allowed TA to go on TV giving ‘his side of the story.’

  2. george dobie

    am waiting to read of the chiefs testimonial dinner speaker of the good deeds of the last 40 years. Who will write these down and share.???
    gnd

  3. george dobie

    What ‘pity party’. My invite must be lost in the mail. Also my thread of the last post is also lost. Me thinks that we ought to spend this energy on the dreaded ‘jap knot weed’ that is eating New buffalo. The experts said there are over 300 sites in Berrien Cunty. And they did not know of the one in my back yard. Watch out for weedzilla.
    See you all at the ‘harbor fester” on Sat. 10/7 gnd

  4. Susan Gotfried Post author

    Well, well, if it isn’t old smoking man. How about sharing with the readers how you got a copy of Larry Pitchford’s reprimand? It could be an exclusive on my blog – you could finally tell the story you haven’t told yet. Addresses of real people never made public. What difference does it make for a pretend person with a pretend email address? If you tell me who you are, I swear on the $210,000 that Ashbaugh is suing me for that I will not reveal your email address.

  5. Susan Gotfried Post author

    Well said. When the videos are made public, the only people responsible for the cover up are the council members. Not one of them bothered to review the videos to understand if two lawsuits with Ashbaugh in the center were worth the time and money being spent by the City. Although the council pretended that the private federal suit by Ashbaugh against me, Messinger, Pitchford and his assistant didn’t exist, I pulled them into the suit through a third party action because they are the reason for both suits so they too are victims of Ashbaugh’s legal attack. And it is interesting that the mayor and council members maintain their vigilant protection of the videos because Attorney Sara Bell recommended they not be released until a court orders the release (which it did a month ago) even though the videos are truly public property while they continue to allow ‘city leader’ Ashbaugh access to the Pichford reprimand that Bell expunged through her report. We should have access to the public videos while the reprimand should have been wiped out of public records. The council should be very concerned that Ashbaugh continued to drag Pitchford’s name through the mud again on TV using the document that was expunged from the publi. The council members have righteous indignation toward residents who voice concern about their leadership but do nothing about the language used by Ashbaugh or as you suggested, the videos must represent the values of the city and the council members or they would have taken more interest in the contents and the lawsuits.

  6. Rubia Jasinevicius

    The only person running the city, pulling strings and calling himself part of the city’s leadership is Ashbaugh. He has stated repeatedly he is above the law and untouchable, and Richards is too clueless to understand FOIA, and continues listening to everything Ashbaugh whispers in his ear. Hence, the reason the MMRMA has spent thousands of dollars supporting the City in Ashbaugh’s frivolous lawsuits.

    Eventually, the recordings and their ugly nature will be released.

    Sadly, this appears to mean all those who rallied behind Ashbaugh to protect his allegedly vile oratory (the tabloid paper, city administrators, most planning commissioners, city council members, some DDA members) MUST share his disposition and same point-of-view as on the recordings. It would seem Ashbaughs’ recorded oratory must paint an accurate picture of their true innate nature, would it not?

    Did the same that rallied with, find themselves allied with Ashbaugh to target Chief Pitchford, his assistant, Donna Messinger and Susan Gotfried? I don’t recall any coming to the their defense. They only defend Ashbaugh’s recordings.

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