Mayor Moon has been accused by the City Council of potential criminal, ethical, and personal violations to the integrity of City Hall after placing a Ten-Second Blink Camera in his personal office space to record any activity at night, with nothing more than a ten-second recordation upon someone’s movement in the office.
This occurred after Mayor Moon actually conferred with the City Attorney on the possibility that someone may have been tampering with records and/or personal objects in his office, and an admission that he has valuable art objects at hand. The Mayor confirmed the truth of his statements by having an I.T. personnel verify his remarks. This is my understanding of what happened.
I am addressing the City Council after witnessing almost a year of unfairness and spite targeted to the Mayor, but this last week or so on the surveillance issue, you have truly been in your element. I would like to challenge any of you to justify what appears as one of the most unwarranted and cruel attacks I have seen.
Your concern about privacy rights appears excessive and hysterical. It is not supportable by law, either in the criminal courts or in the civil courts, as you have already been advised. I wish any one of your could objectively set aside the intense emotion and watch your behavior on film with the Mayor. It is frightening and upsetting.
The Chief of Police took a position, and you didn’t listen. The District Attorney’s Office took a position and would not prosecute, and you didn’t listen. Mayor Robert Moon explained his actions, and you didn’t listen. At the public meeting, City Manager David Ready and City Attorney Edward Kotkin gave you leads, but you didn’t listen. Edward Kotkin must have advised you eight times or more to let the Mayor proceed with the Point of Personal Privilege, which was his right to rebut an unfair and defamatory accusation, and you didn’t listen.
Mayor Moon must have asserted his privilege to proceed without the need to waive legal rights over eight times, with the support of the City Attorney, and you continued to badger until he gave up legal rights in exhaustion and frustration. It was no accident Ginny Foat was sitting in front staring him down, because this ongoing harassment is a pattern with a purpose.
Privately, it is downright painful for me to see this City dragged through a spectacle of this nature, and justified by a curious expressed devotion to protecting the public interest, or protecting the employee interest, when, in fact, the public interest is no where in sight.
In the last year or two, I have seen the transition from spending more time on social media, with its excess and wild abandon, rather than relying upon the protections and supposed safety of government process. Increasingly, the City Council is associating with factions who don’t mind fueling hatred and personal attacks.
This “social media backed by coalitions” approach affects the campaigns, it affects public testimony, it affects public willingness to comment or criticize – because if someone does, there is a fear the behind-the-scenes coalition goes on the attack. This isn’t just a mechanism involving Mayor Moon, the public has picked up on it as well — it is one big intimidation factor, and it needs to stop!
I see less and less of your humility, reasoned neutrality, and respect for the experience of others. You have made it very evident you want to replace Mayor Moon with a rotating mayoral position. Ginny Foat and Paul Lewin, under the grudge of old offices, and perhaps with ambitions for the future, seem to poke the fires of your passion. But that Mayor has a right to be there, and we have a right to have him as our Mayor without the intimidation factor.
I have attached the entire California Criminal Code Section on Invasion of Privacy and “devices and techniques for eavesdropping on private conversations” (CPC 630-638.55), and I challenge you to find ANYTHING IN THAT CODE that makes the Mayor’s act remotely criminal, or even unethical.
The only restriction the law imposes is that the Mayor cannot “eavesdrop upon or record a confidential communication without the consent of the parties.” (CPC 632). It is clear to all that Mayor Moon was not doing this. A Ten-Second Blink Camera is well outside of the parameter of criminal law inquiry!
The law also imposes absolutely no general prohibition or ethical violation against recordation in the workplace unless it is accompanied by malicious or irresponsible intent that results in egregious harm. As the California Supreme Court so wisely said in Hernandez v. Hill when it rejected a civil employee claim based solely on an expectation of privacy and nothing else, “This case does not involve surveillance measures conducted for socially repugnant or unprotected reasons. [harassment, blackmail, or prurient curiosity].)” . . . . “It reflects the reality that “[n]o community could function if every intrusion into the realm of private action” gave rise to a viable claim.”
The civil tort law requires two findings for third party complaints of injury – (1) a reasonable expectation of privacy in the personal workspace of employees that has been violated (this was the Mayor’s workspace); (2) combined with a highly offensive act that was an egregious violation of social norms, usually coupled with malicious intent and serious and actual damages that result from significant breaches of privacy (akin to recording long conversations in order to extort or bribe, or videotaping someone in a private and inappropriate setting, such as the bathroom or dressing room).
Considering this was a Ten-Second Blink Camera that had no surveillance capability, was not set up for that purpose, and was restricted to the Mayor’s own personal work space, there was no third party privacy expectation, and I highly suggest the City Council return to its business at-hand. I am concerned with the expenditure of public funds for personal purposes.
(Editor’s note: The author also submitted this as a letter to all members of the City Council, the mayor, the city manager, city attorney and police chief.)