PALM SPRINGS – When photos of City Manager David H. Ready surfaced of him in Paris at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Gay Games, more than a few people were ready to pounce.

Some did so quietly; others vocally.

This is a politically charged environment where perception is reality and appearances matter.

Mayor Robert Moon is under investigation for allegedly using secret videotaping and recording devices in his office. He has said some of his colleagues, Geoff Kors and Lisa Middleton, are trying to oust him from office. Now, some of Moon’s supporters are crying foul. They claim Ready is too close with certain members of the City Council as well as former City Councilmember Ginny Foat who said Moon is unfit for public office.

Communications Director Amy Blaisdell issued a News Release in July saying that a contingent of people from the Coachella Valley, christened Team Palm Springs, would travel to Paris, France for the 2018 Gay Games that were held Aug. 4-12.

Among the group were Kors, Palm Springs City Councilmember; James Williamson, president of the Palm Springs Unified School District Board; Foat, former member of the Palm Springs City Council and executive director of the Mizell Senior Center; and David Vogel, founder of Digicom Learning. Blaisdell said all paid their own way.

There was no mention that Ready would coincidentally be in Paris at the same time, which his detractors call “sleazy” and “disingenuous” at best. The blatant omission that Ready would attend Opening Ceremonies with Team Palm Springs undercuts the pledge of full transparency, they say.

Ready told Uken Report he was in Paris on vacation at his own expense.

“I joined the group in the opening ceremony,” Ready said. “However, I was not there to participate or join the events beyond that initial opening.”

No one from the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism was present in Paris, despite reports to the contrary, however they coordinated and provided the materials that Team Palm Springs utilized and distributed to participants such as team shirts, and tourism handouts, Ready said.

Moon told Uken Report he was aware of Blaisdell’s News Release but beyond that knew nothing of Ready being in Paris with Kors, Foat and company. He declined to elaborate.

There is, of course, history between Ready and Moon. In April 2016, Moon proposed firing Ready and later relented after finding he had no support. Moon eventually joined a unanimous vote to keep Ready only to say later he regretted it.

It is no secret the mayor thinks Ready doesn’t like him and at times has excluded the mayor from key decisions. Ready chumming around with Kors and Foat abroad only adds fuel to the fire.

One of Moon’s supporters, Judy Deertrack, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in November 2017, minced no words.

There has been an almost amusing level of social media preoccupation last week with the photographs circulating on local sites as members of the Palm Springs City Council, past and present, and the city’s top administrator, pose in a “fun and politically provocative manner at the Paris Games locale,” Deertrack told Uken Report.

“Of course, this playful ‘convention’ halfway around the world would be expensive and unusual, and is expected to grab the attention of the public, because it assumes an intimacy of contact that raises questions,” Deertrack said. “Who belongs to the ‘in crowd’ and who has been left out?  Is it appropriate for anyone to be left out?”

As a master’s candidate in Urban Planning, and as a land use attorney, Deertrack said she has been steeped in the rigorous training on conflict of interest and public perception of the role of government officials.

There is a decorum that is part of the training in this sensitive field, Deertrack said, because:

  • The Palm Springs City Manager wields enormous levels of administrative control over the various administrative departments at City Hall, as a function of the City Charter;
  • The City Council sits as quasi-judicial officers in offices that are under rigorous inspection for impartiality and independent judgment; and
  • As we have seen with the “Blink Camera Expose,” there is great and sharp conflict among the City Council, with an upcoming race for office of the Mayor and a generous amount of ambition building towards who will become the next mayor.

“In light of all of this, I would expect to see a strict decorum among any of the members of City Hall, elected or appointed, because the levels of political power are just too high to shift so lightly into the jocular world of lighthearted fun and camaraderie half way around the world,” Deertrack told Uken Report.  “Fine for the office picnic, but not so fine and not so harmless if there are political coalitions building that are designed to influence the public – using the prominence of office, and access to a $200 million budget to get one’s way.”

Deertrack said she suggests a strong and independent focus on the business at hand without looking to the right and left to see what power coalitions can be built.

“That gets dangerous and leads not to diversity and democracy, but potential abuse of office,” Deertrack said.  “A 55-member Government Reform Committee convened in 2015-2016 to the ends of empowering the public to make the choices, not to have a deeply entrenched City Administration make them for us through formidable and unbreakable political coalitions that are built behind the scenes.”