Where are the values in "evaluation?"

Something is happening in this town that is straight out of Washington, D.C., politics.

As I write this column Tuesday afternoon, our city attorney, Christi Hogin, is undergoing a performance evaluation by the Malibu City Council. In itself, there’s nothing unusual about a performance evaluation of a city employee. All cities do it. It’s done in executive session to protect the employee’s right of privacy, unless a formal accusation is made and the employee demands an open public hearing, which he or she has a right to do.

What makes this evaluation different is that recently she’s been evaluated five times. Today’s evaluation is the fourth time in the last three weeks, and no one knows if this is the last. Initially, she was evaluated in November 1998 at her regular evaluation. Then, in January, at least three members of the council agreed to do a special evaluation of Hogin. We know it was at least three because it takes three votes to put it on the agenda. The Brown Act also requires that there be public notice of the meeting, even though the meeting is closed, and for the last few weeks I’ve been getting faxed notices of each one of these evaluation meetings.

On Jan. 27, with Hogin present, they met and talked. There was another evaluation Feb. 8, when they met without Hogin present. They met again on Feb. 12 without Hogin present. Now, they’re meeting again, this time with Hogin present.

No reportable actions were taken, no charges officially proffered that I’m aware of, nothing in writing, no public statements, just a continuing investigation.

In my view, this is no longer an evaluation. It’#s crossed the line. It’s a campaign by Tom Hasse, Carolyn Van Horn and Walt Keller to attempt to intimidate and harass Christi Hogin until she finally gets disgusted enough to resign. I called Keller this week to ask him what was going on. He wouldn’t talk about what was said in the closed session, as is proper; however, he said, “It’s not a plot,” and “It’s healthy,” and when I asked specifically about the investigations, he said, “It’s unrelated to any investigations.”

There are currently two ongoing campaign violations investigations, one by Hogin and the other by the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Both relate to alleged campaign violations in the last City Council election.

Rumor is that both of those investigations are coming to a conclusion, and that means that Hogin has to make a decision about whether or not to file criminal charges against certain people. It’s no secret that the people under investigation are friends and allies of Hasse, Van Horn and Keller.

Some time back, at a council meeting, Hogin asked to bring in an independent counsel to do the investigation, but she was blocked from doing so by Keller and Van Horn, who voted against it. Hasse recused himself because this related to people involved in his campaign, which left the council split and tied 2 to 2 and denied Hogin the approval. She has carried on with the investigation as they mandated.

Hogin, the FPPC and the council have refused to talk about the investigations; however, rumors leak out. We do know that the state’s investigators have been in town and taking statements under oath from many of the principals involved. I suspect that all have been telling the truth. I’m sure no one wants to take a campaign violation, which usually means a fine, and turn it into a felony perjury, which as we’ve all learned lately can get very serious.

To my mind, the timing of this assault on Hogin is too coincidental to be coincidental. I watched months ago when a parade of loyalists from the Hasse/Van Horn/Keller team came to the City Council and berated Hogin for even conducting the investigation. Then, several on the council wanted her to give them and the lawyers for those being investigated an update on the course of the investigation. She, of course, refused to do this and took a public clubbing from them without a word of defense or protection from Hasse, Van Horn or Keller. One couldn’t help but feel the entire process had been orchestrated.

However, they were picking on the wrong person. Hogin is tough and not easily pushed around. What’s going on is unconscionable.

Christi Hogin is an honorable, hard-working and fair public servant. She doesn’t deserve this kind of bullying, nor should she tolerate it, nor should the citizen’s of Malibu tolerate it.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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