What really happened with the Charlie O’Connell Safety Forum?

Anytime I apologize for something I want to try to better understand what happened. In this case I apologized for criticizing the decision making of the new Police & Fire Chiefs based on the Post Bulletin report. As it turns out both chiefs agreed that participating in the event that was mentioned was both inappropriate and they were not willing to do it. A summary of their positions is included below.

Normally I would have contacted the staff directly, however I did not yet have contact information for either employee.

I met with both the Police & Fire Chief to make sure that I correctly understood where they were coming from. Just to make sure, I sent a synopsis of our conversation to both Chief Kerska & Chief Franklin just to make sure that my understanding was correct. Both responded back and did not offer any corrections. Truth be told they; both rightfully didn’t want to continue the conversation because it is a tough situation when dealing with a potential future elected official.

I however view this whole story as something the public should know.

Here are the summary of facts that I sent to Chief Kerska to review.

  • You were aware that Charlie O’Connell was a candidate for office.
  • You did not agree to participate at the forum that was mentioned in the Post Bulletin.
  • You were approached by Charlie O’Connell about 6 weeks ago and asked if you would participate in a public safety forum.
  • You were not aware the the proposed event was going to be promoted using your official title by one candidate for office (as a candidate for office) immediately before a primary.
  • You did not agree to any release of information to the local press prometing the event as it was promoted. (Specifically mentioning a candidate for office and you in your official role).
  • Given the circumstances surrounding the event you would not have participated in an event like this.
  • Public forums by independant groups are something that you would like to be a part of.The Post Bulletin contacted you at your city phone number, however you did not receive that message immediately due to being out of town with a personal conflict.
  • You asked for and received a written correction in the Post Bulletin the following day.

Here is the summary of facts that I sent to Chief Franklin

  • You were aware that Charlie O’Connell was a candidate for office.
  • You were asked to participate in a public forum by Charlie O’Connell at a National Night Out event, and responded similar to “sure, get me more information.”
  • You were never provided any additional information.
  • You were not aware the the proposed event was going to be promoted using your official title by one candidate for office (as a candidate for office) immediately before a primary.
  • You did not agree to any release of information to the local press promoting the event as it was promoted. (Specifically mentioning a candidate for office and you in your official role).
  • Given the circumstances surrounding the event you would not have participated in an event like this.
  • Randy Peterson from the Post Bulletin said that he did contact you looking for comment, but you did not to return his call. Randy went ahead and printed the incorrect article without any confirmation.
  • Public forums by independant groups are something that you would like to be a part of.

I also contacted the Post Bulletin who did call both chiefs for verification, but had not hear back when the article ran. When they did hear back they ran a correction.

I would have run this by Charlie, but he was going to meet with me some time ago and never did, so, oh well..

In my opinion, not speaking for any city employees, it appears Charlie O’Connell attempted to orchestrate a political stunt and sent in an event notification with out agreement from either Chief. The type of event that Charlie wanted to organize is exactly what a Chief would want to participate in. However no way in hell would they do it with a political candidate, who has never had any role in city government right before an election.

The press release to the Post Bulletin was grossly uninformed at best and potentially a dishonest political stunt. Charlie narrowly got 2nd place in the 2018 Mayoral primary and will advance. I will write plenty more about why I will not be supporting Charlie O’Connell in November, but the mere idea that a candidate would even consider putting professional staff in the position is disqualifying. Give the narrowness of 2nd & 3rd place it is very likely that the unearned press made a difference.

Kim Norton on the other hand handled a similar event with much more competency and professionalism. When she wanted to host an event on affordable housing, she did talk with city staff, but they mutually agreed that city staff should not participate with the primary coming. As such she reached out to non-city staff (and retired Gary Neumann) and put on a great event. Unlike Charlie, Kim actually has a current role with the city of Rochester on the Rochester Energy Commission. It would have been more of a grey area if Kim had asked city staff to participate in an event around energy policy (which actually does affect affordable housing). However since the topic was focused on affordable housing, not using or advertising city staff was the responsible route to take.

 

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