Coun­cil­woman, city clerk tar­gets of re­call at­tempt

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY JULIO MO­RALES Staff Writer

WESTMORLAND — Westmorland City Clerk Sally Tray­lor and Coun­cil­woman Mary Ann Monte Smith are the sub­jects of a re­call pe­ti­tion that al­leges the pair had acted out­side their au­thor­ity, made false state­ments and at­tempted to re­or­ga­nize the Po­lice Depart­ment with­out au­tho­riza­tion.

The pro­po­nents of the re­call pe­ti­tion claim that both Tray­lor and Smith had en­gaged in a se­ries of ques­tion­able acts around the time the city had hired its cur­rent po­lice Chief Perry Monita, in Septem­ber.

The two sep­a­rate no­tices of in­ten­tion to cir­cu­late re­call pe­ti­tions that were pub­lished in Sun­day’s edi­tion of the Im­pe­rial Val­ley Press make sim­i­lar al­le­ga­tions against both Tray­lor and Smith, yet also dif­fer.

Pro­po­nents of the re­call pe­ti­tion sin­gle out Tray­lor for al­legedly hav­ing re­leased the per­sonal in­for­ma­tion of po­lice chief ap­pli­cants in vi­o­la­tion of pri­vacy laws, a charge she strongly de­nied.

Tray­lor is also ac­cused of us­ing city prop­erty for per­sonal pur­poses, an­other charge she flatly de­nied.

Over the past sev­eral months Tray­lor said she had heard ru­mors of the re­call pe­ti­tions be­ing filed against her and Smith. Some of the pro­po­nents of the re­call pe­ti­tions ap­pear to be aligned with at least one coun­cil mem­ber who Tray­lor had pre­vi­ously asked to re­sign, she said.

“I would just hope that cit­i­zens wouldn’t buy into their lies and baloney,” Tray­lor said.

In re­sponse to the pe­ti­tion, Tray­lor has drafted a re­sponse that re­futes the grounds pro­po­nents cite for her po­ten­tial re­moval, one of which al­leges she made false state­ments re­gard­ing Monita’s hir­ing.

“I wit­nessed an un­fair hir­ing process,” Tray­lor’s re­sponse let­ter stated. “I voiced my rea­son­able be­lief of wrong­ful con­duct, and as a re­sult, I was un­law­fully tar­geted, re­tal­i­ated against and ter­mi­nated.”

As part of that al­leged re­tal­i­a­tion, Tray­lor said she had been re­moved from her po­si­tion as the city’s fi­nance of­fi­cer in De­cem­ber.

For her part, Smith is ac­cused of hav­ing re­or­ga­nized the Po­lice Depart­ment in Septem­ber with­out au­tho­riza­tion of the City Coun­cil. Mean­while, Tray­lor is ac­cused of keep­ing the re­or­ga­ni­za­tion a se­cret from the coun­cil.

That re­or­ga­ni­za­tion had tem­po­rar­ily re­sulted in the pro­mo­tion of sev­eral of­fi­cers, and was ul­ti­mately re­scinded by a 4-1 coun­cil vote on Sept. 20.

At the time, Smith had con­fided to the pub­lic that the re­or­ga­ni­za­tion had been a mis­take re­sult­ing from her mis­un­der­stand­ing of her role as po­lice com­mis­sioner at the time.

Smith is also ac­cused by the pe­ti­tion’s pro­po­nents of hold­ing se­cret meet­ings as well as mak­ing false state­ments re­gard­ing the process that re­sulted in the hir­ing of Monita, who had pre­vi­ously worked for the depart­ment be­fore mov­ing on to the Braw­ley Po­lice Depart­ment, from which he re­tired in De­cem­ber 2016.

Pre­vi­ously, both Smith and Tray­lor had spo­ken out pub­licly about con­cerns they had about Monita’s hir­ing, call­ing it a bi­ased process car­ried out partly by fel­low Coun­cil­man Henry Gra­ham and Larry Ritchie.

Pre­vi­ously, both Gra­ham and Ritchie had also pub­licly de­nied the hir­ing process was tainted in any way and that Monita’s hir­ing came at the rec­om­men­da­tion of for­mer high rank­ing lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cials that were part of the screen­ing com­mit­tee.

Smith did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment by press time Mon­day. A voice­mail left with the phone number pro­vided by the one of the re­call pe­ti­tion’s pro­po­nents was not an­swered, ei­ther.

In or­der to qual­ify for the June bal­lot, pro­po­nents of the re­call pe­ti­tion would need to gather 214 valid sig­na­tures, or 30 per­cent of the town’s 714 reg­is­tered vot­ers, the county Elec­tions Of­fice re­ported.

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