The Jake Files

April 25, 2006

Analysis of Chandler City Code on Active Duty Military Service

Geo did some research on the apparent inconsistency when Councilmember Sepulveda continued to receive his City salary while rank-and-file City employees who are called to active duty do not get salary continuation. 

George came to the following conclusion (read the whole analysis) after perusing Chandler city code:

 Hence, by law and by the Council's own agreement, Councilman Sepulveda was perfectly within his rights to continue to serve the council while recalled to active duty and to continue to receive his paycheck for doing so. It was a clear mistake by City Manager Pentz (and City Attorney Michael House who ostensibly advised him) to discontinue Sepulveda's council salary.

Now, I had suggested in an earlier comment that I thought it was inappropriate for a Councilman called to active duty for several months to expect to be allowed to remain on the Council and suggested that his "phoning it in" was unacceptable. However, after my research, I realize that my earlier comments were flat wrong and I hereby retract them.

Based on his analysis, I have to concur, and also apologize for previously drawing the same incorrect conclusion of inconsistency.

UPDATE 2:25pm

Reader Ray (NOT Pilara) emails the following:

For the record, Martin Sepulveda did not participate in council meetings
while serving in Iraq. He did communicate by phone during two meetings while
at Camp Pendleton, Calif. as he was preparing to head overseas, but that's
it. And one of those instances was when he was pushing for Jim Patterson to
be his fill-in (he wasn't allowed to vote on that one). In fact, I don't
think he cast any votes while he was away on military duty.

I can't speak to the accuracy of Ray's update, I just remember that Councilmember Sepulveda did call in more than once.  Beyond that, I'm at the mercy of those with better memories or resources. 

UPDATE Wednesday 04-26 8:25am

Lots of comments on this site and Geo's on this topic!  Here's where I come down after catching up with the details provided by those more knowledgable that myself.

George points to a gray area in the law where Councilmember Sepulveda could have been technically able to retain his salary since the City Council failed to appoint a successor during his absence.  This is a valid point, but it does not comport with the spirit of the law, which is that those called to active duty don't receive their full salary if the military pay exceeds their City salary. 

At the least, there is an appearance of favoritism.  At the worst, it is flagrant hypocrisy to hold other City employees to a different standard, especially when those employees may have a greater need for salary continuance.  It is a gray area, but I don't think, based on what I've read so far, that anyone can or should give the Council cover for this action.  Whether or not it was technically correct (and I make no judgment either way), it was fundamentally wrong to do so.

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5 Comments »

  1. According to the City Council Meeting Minutes (http://www.chandleraz.gov/Content/minuteslanguage.pdf), Councilmember Sepulveda did not attend in any CC meetings (in person or telphonically) between the July 25, 2005 meeting and the February 23, 2006 meeting. This is not to say he failed to participate in any city decisions, only that he was not present at public meetings.

    Comment by Paul — April 25, 2006 @ 3:25 pm | Reply

  2. George should retract his retraction. . . . There was no question as to whether Mr. Orlando was still serving on Council–he was vacating his position temporarily. He knew that, and he was trying to get his friend and business partner, former Mayor Jim Patterson, appointed in his place. http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/index.php?sty=44248 That’s what he was doing in his last meetings before going to Iraq–lobbying for this.

    Comment by A.M. — April 25, 2006 @ 11:44 pm | Reply

  3. Oops–I meant Mr. Sepulveda in my above comment.

    Comment by A.M. — April 25, 2006 @ 11:46 pm | Reply

  4. A.M.,

    That Sepulveda recommended Patterson most certainly is NOT the basis for the controversy as I’ve been hearing it from a lot of people. They’re more concerned, as I was, that Sepulveda remained on the council and continued to receive pay when he was in Iraq.

    That was the basis of my earlier comments about the appropriateness of his remainig on the Council and, once I learned about the law that specifically permits him to do this, why I retracted my criticisms.

    I accept that Sepulveda’s recommendation of Patterson may be the reason you and some others find Sepulveda controversial, though. But does it really have anything to do with the law in question, though.

    Sepulveda may have wanted to recommend his friend and former Mayor to serve the 8 months in his absence, but that’s not illegal nor unethical. Heck, if you or I were going on active service, we also might have recommended the person that we best thought would fill the role.

    And Sepulveda didn’t have the discretion to make the decision in the long run, anyway. The Council did. By NOT choosing either Patterson or anyone else to fill a temporary vacancy for him, they legally assented to Sepulveda’s remaining on the Council.

    With that the case, and Sepulveda’s continued participation telephonically, the Municipal Code specifically allows him to remain an active Councilman while on active duty.

    Indeed, the information and link yo uprovided actually makes Sepulveda look BETTER in my eyes, because he clearly offered to step down and have someone he trusted fill in for himself. That suggests he wasn’t trying to grasp onto power, nor to retain his pay, but trying to do what he thought was the best thing for the city.

    The more I learn about this, the more it sounds to me that people have developed over the past year a seriously skewed attitude toward Martin Sepulveda for a number of reasons which aren’s really based in sound argument.

    Comment by Geo — April 26, 2006 @ 3:27 am | Reply

  5. Also, I’m grateful for your and chandlerwonk’s comments back on my blog and have responded to them there, too.

    You raise some good points, but for reasons I provide, I’m not sure they’re definitive.

    And because I take seriously the admonition to not “bear false witness”, until I learn more or hear a definitive argument, I have to stand by my retraction of earlier criticisms against Councilman Sepulveda.

    Comment by Geo — April 26, 2006 @ 4:26 am | Reply


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