Public officials vs. you and me

Leftovers Column: City’s image takes a beating
By Jennifer McLain and Tania Chatila, Staff Writers
Article Launched: 10/05/2008 11:04:48 PM PDT

It’s been a rough few months for the city of Baldwin Park’s image.

Residents still are concerned about school board member Sergio Corona’s arrest in May on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs and being under the influence of a controlled substance.

He currently is facing misdemeanor charges of vandalism, resisting an officer and driving without a license in connection with the arrest.

Then last month, Baldwin Park Councilman Anthony Bejarano was booked on suspicion of public intoxication.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office said last week week it would not be filing charges against Bejarano, who said he was not drunk the night of his arrest.

Still, the incident has stirred unrest in the community and has brought to light a question that often goes unanswered in the political realm - just how high should the ethical and moral bar be set for our public officials?

We put the question out there and got some interesting responses from anonymous readers of the Leftovers blog.

Here’s a sample:

– “Let’s face it none of us is perfect in our personal lives…, we go through divorces, we have children who occasionally get in trouble, we occasionally say things in frustration or in the heat of the moment that upon reflection we wish we didn’t say, we sometimes get our facts wrong.”

– “Yes, we do hold our elected officials to a higher standard, especially when they are representing us at a public event.”

– “I’m not saying we treat our elected with kid gloves in terms of their policy positions or in terms of factors which might impact their ability to act fairly, honestly and impartially. But I don’t care to know about him having a simple argument with a spouse or that his or her kid got a D on their algebra exam or that (on one isolated) night they may have seemed a bit tipsy…”

– “Character does matter.”

Our elected officials have been in the news a lot lately over questions of ethical behavior among themselves and their relatives.

Pico Rivera Mayor Ron Beilke’s son was recently detained by the sheriff’s department in a case where a reserve deputy’s .45-caliber revolver and vehicle were stolen. Beilke’s son wasn’t charged, but two of the 17-year-old’s friends were.

Last month, the teenage son of former Irwindale Councilwoman and Baldwin Park Chief Deputy City Clerk Rosemary Gutierrez plowed his car through a neighbor’s wall while driving home around 4 a.m.

A police report was not made, no one was arrested, no one was hurt and neighbors decided not to press charges on what was classified initially as a hit-and-run.

Then in El Monte, Mayor Ernie Gutierrez - who is not related to Rosemary Gutierrez – took a lot of heat for allegedly showing up at a city event drunk and shouting vulgarities.

In May, city officials prepared a report looking into Gutierrez’s actions, but concluded the allegations had no merit.

We see this all the time – someone in the public spotlight, whether they be authorities, politicians or entertainment superstars, slips up and all of a sudden their abilities to perform come into question.

Only voter turnout will tell us how much constituents really care.

  • Ron Beilke

    Dear Jennifer,

    The Whittier Daily News did a great job covering the incident with my son and my two employees with front page stories and courtroom pictures. I did appreciate that the paper mentioned that no charges were filed against my son in the case, especially given Sheriffs discovered that he made two 911 phone calls reporting the person with the gun who was later convicted of the crime.

    However, when charges were dropped against my two employees, I couldn’t help but notice that that information didn’t warrant a front page headline proclaiming that the mayor’s employees were cleared of all charges. In fact, no mention of that little fact was even made in this blog that I am responding to here. Of course, I knew all along that charges would be dropped once authorities had time to examine the evidence of the case.

    It is unfortunate that stories are so obvioulsy slanted to sell papers and to create sensational headlines. I would hope that when you do report on incidents you at least give as much ink to clearing the names of individuals as you do when smearing them.

  • unnamed politician

    ROn makes some really good points. I wonder if the newspaper reporters understand politics. I could understand how sensationalized headlines grab attention and the truth is not as glamorous. However, do you reporters understand that once those perceptions are put out there, other politicians use it as fuel. Son in a sense, you are reponsible for allowing sleezy politicians that do and say anything to get elected by reporting in a skew manner. My advice is to understand who really benefits when you are ready to slam a politician.

  • Anonymous

    Again. The guiding rule should be does the the act or conduct impact the official’s ability to act:
    1. Impartially
    2. Fairly
    3. Honestly and
    4. With the greater public interest in mind.

    If not, I likely is not newsworthy.

    Also, the second category of story is the old: “Caught breakin’ the law” narrative. Certainly, a public official breaking the law is newsworthy, especially if it relates to their official work.

    However, there is a difference between being accussed or wrongdoing and actually having committed wrong doing. As the previous poster points out..all to often this paper and other partisans are less concerned about the truth of a story and more focused on its sensationlist value. That’s unethical reporting.

  • A Resident

    Would you vote for someone who exhibited impulsive reckless behavior? How many people would have voted for El Monte’s mayor if his drinking and vulgar behavior had been public knowledge before the election? Our elected officials go to conferences and try to bring new business to our cities. How do they behave when they are out of town? Are they driving the stores and business away?

  • Anonymous

    “Impulsive reckless behavior”. Those are very alarmist words. In some contexts they may be appropriate. In others they might qualify as exaggeration. The problem here is we don’t really know what “behavior” you are referring to. You simply make the conclusory statement that someone at some point exhibited “impulsive reckless behavior” but don’t tell us what it was.

    How do you measure what is impulsive and reckless. I suppose we could all point to some extreme but my guess is that in most cases you are simply declaring something “impulsive” or “reckless” because someone you don’t like exhibited it. If it were someone you like it would not be “impulsive” or “reckless” and you likely wouldn’t even bother mentioning it in this blog.

    Ahh. Such is the state of politics.

  • Anonymous

    In the case of Ernie Gutierrez from El Monte he does display himself as impulsive. Why you ask. His over excessive drinking in public and his hung over condition that clearly show on his person when trying to conduct a city council meeting. Reckless, in that he has been in many truck accidents while intoxicated. His behavior and judment calls are very piss poor and unprofessional and plain bad for the city of El Monte.
    What a terrible thing for the people of that city. To know that your mayor is the talk of the San Gabriel Valley.

  • Anonymous

    Alot of politicians are the talk of the San Gabriel Valley….haven’t you been reading the Baldwin Park, West Covina and Rosemead posts.

  • Anonymous

    Mayberry had a mayor and a town drunk. El Monte is more efficient. The mayor IS the town drunk. Two for the price of one.

  • Anonymous

    Impulsive? Reckless? Reminds me of the senior senator from Arizona! They called him “Ace McCain,” because he lost/crashed five US aircraft all by himself.

  • anonymous

    thats before he was shot down during combat operations and held prisoner of war for years….enduring torture at the hands of our enemy.

    Heck, if you don’t like him that is one thing, but making light of the service and personal sacrifice he made on behalf of our country….well that leads me to believe that you are the one who is “implusive” and “reckless”.