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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Publisher’s Notebook

• Is There a Malibu Numbers Game? •

BY ANNE SOBLE

The Malibu blogosphere can be intelligent, witty and, on occasion, even reaffirm one’s faith in the species. But there are times when my email inboxes are so crammed to capacity that I have to selectively delete communications based on the subject line in order to pare the files down to a readable quantity.
At present, there are days when there may be as many as several dozen communications and cross-communications connected with aspects of California State Parks public policy and personnel and the ways that Malibu allegedly is being adversely affected by what are perceived as nefarious conspirings to obtain and benefit from local public policymaking.
Even though there are numerous card-carrying Bar members in the verbal fray, some of the digital discourse comes perilously close to allegations of manipulation of facts and law from which it appears that there are people who think that some Parks players in this game are benefiting financially. If numbers being bandied about are even approximately accurate, the financial benefit can reach the six-figure category.
That behavior in and of itself may be no different than what is acceptable as business-as-usual in the corporate world, but now more and more questions are being asked about people who appear to wear so many hats that they determine who is paid what and where those dollars come from.
There are also allegations that the admittedly already relatively ineffective checks and balances that are supposed to provide oversight on this flow of money by requiring public disclosure statements and other public access to accounting records are being openly ignored or misrepresented.
Journalists have some legal protections when doing this kind of detective work, but in this brave new world of citizen-journalism, these protections must be extended to citizens with the courage and time to take on governmental and non-governmental entities that might have lost their moral compass.
All of the Holmesian-like efforts—by journalists and citizens alike—need to be tempered by due diligence so there is no jumping to conclusions despite what might appear to be patently obvious indications of wrongdoing. If there are individuals abusing their place at the public trough, the time and patience spent developing a solid case will lead to accountability.
Persistent investigation may provide answers to what are still unasked questions. Too many people think there is much more to the State Parks resignations and other indicators of internal agency malfunction than has been revealed so far. The extent to which these circumstances have had an effect on Malibu policymaking should come out in the discovery process.

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