Friday, August 24, 2018

Retaliation the Admitted Reason for Rejection of PSEC Candidates

In Facebook Posts Reported Anonymously, Out of Context, Torpedo Two Nominations to Public Safety Education Commission, I asserted that inappropriate Facebook posts were simply a pretext for rejecting two qualified PSEC candidates, Jon Riley and John Peyton. As I made clear in that post, these applicants were rejected because of their support for Alderman Dean Massey, who, as we all know, is an outspoken opponent of the administration. "These applicants," I wrote then, "would not have been turned down if they had been supporters of the Administration."  

Astonishingly, it appears that certain supporters of the administration agree with me. "Germantown Voice", formerly known as "Blocked in Germantown" (hereinafter referred to as GV), stated: 

The decision to deny their applications was not about someone saying a bad word on social media or even being rude. It was about retaliation. Your fellow aldermen had to do what you lacked the political courage to do. They had to protect the citizens who serve on Public Safety Education Commission and that Commission's integrity from the fringe element in the City that will ruthlessly attack anyone and everyone who dares to question or criticize Dean Massey.

Here is the same quote snipped from the blog: 

Needless to say, I wholeheartedly agree with GV's assessment that the rejections were "about retaliation". GV, it seems obvious, agrees with me that the three aldermen who voted against Messrs. Peyton and Riley were merely feigning outrage when they claimed in the meeting and in emails that the anonymously reported Facebook comments failed to comport with a "culture of kindness". 

And What About That Anonymous Letter?

It certainly was convenient that the anonymous letter transmitting the screenshots mysteriously appeared in the aldermen's boxes shortly before the start of the BMA's 5:30 Executive Session. The letter gave the three aldermen a perfect opportunity to reject the applicants without having to explain that, in fact, their real purpose was to retaliate against a fellow alderman.

We are left to wonder, at this point, who placed the anonymous letters in the boxes. The envelopes containing the letter were not stamped; thus, the letters were not mailed. This leads me to believe this individual was sufficiently familiar with City Hall that he or she would not have looked "out of place" in the secure area where the boxes are located. Susanne Riley, wife of one of the rejected applicants, overheard two women in the audience talking about the letters prior to the meeting (see the email from Ms. Riley that I quote at the end of this post). How, we are compelled to ask, did these women know about the letter prior to the meeting?  In any event, whoever wrote the letter and placed it in the boxes undoubtedly earned the gratitude of the three aldermen who were able to use it as a pretext for rejecting the applicants.

Why All the Focus on Alderman Massey?

I am not sure what "fringe element" GV is talking about. Over 10,000 Germantown citizens voted for Alderman Massey. GV, like the administration it supports, seems obsessed with Alderman Massey. This is evidenced by the fact that its original name, "Blocked in Germantown," referred to Mr. Massey's having blocked a number of political opponents from his personal Facebook page following his receipt of a threat. (He shares this page with his wife.)  This may have been an issue at one time, but within a few weeks he opened a separate page for his posts about Germantown, "Massey for Germantown," and that is open to all. 

The administration's intense hostility stems from Alderman Massey's zealous quest for transparency. He continues to uncover information about development projects with his open records requests. He found a covenant on the Reaves property that City staff had failed to disclose to the aldermen, the Planning Commission, and the Forest Hill residents. That forced the developer into negotiations with the neighbors. He is calling for a forensic audit of the City's books in order to ensure we learn the full scope of any and all questionable financial transactions that may not yet have
 surfaced. I support all of the above, as it shows his commitment to transparency. Does that mean I like everything he does or posts on his Facebook page? Of course not. Do I wish that his "tone" was sometimes less harsh? Yes. He holds a number of strong opinions, and he is entitled to that. Do I always agree with them? No. That he chooses to voice them in ways that I would not personally choose is really not relevant. This is not a referendum about Mr. Massey, nor about my feelings. And his behavior as a liaison to the PSEC while being viciously attacked by the Chair was exemplary. Please see my post which contains the audio from a meeting where the Chair exploded at Mr. Massey-- Why Does the Chair Have A Problem with Alderman Massey?  and you can judge the evidence for yourself.

Let's be clear: The administration is focusing on Alderman Massey to distract our attention from the substantive issues in the campaign -- for example the future of development in the City. For goodness sake, Alderman Massey is not even up for re-election this year. It is much easier, I suppose, to attack an outspoken alderman, even when he is not up for re-election, than it is to change the views of the 94% of citizens who do not want more apartments. (Please see The People Speak on Apartment Complexes.) 

I can just picture the administration's strategy sessions:

"Let's not talk about buildings that are too close to the street and tower over expensive homes, let's not talk about overcrowded schools, let's not talk about residential density levels that are routinely increased by the Planning Commission and the BMA, let's not talk about Small Area Plans that we are ignoring, let's not talk about the fiscal impact of apartment projects, and oh, let's definitely not talk about how the moratorium on apartments ends in July 2019. Let's talk about ............ Alderman Massey."  

The PSE Commissioners Sided with Alderman Massey over the Former Chair. 

I find disingenuous GV's assertion that the three aldermen who voted against the applicants were acting to "protect" the PSEC from Alderman Massey and the "fringe element." Putting aside the silliness of the notion that the adult members of the Commission cannot take care of themselves, the fact is that, when given the opportunity to request the removal of Mr. Massey as BMA liaison, they refused to do so. The PSEC members' refusal to side with the former Chair led to his resignation. 
See my July 7 post. 

In its praise of the three alderman for supposedly "protecting" the PSEC, GV omitted any reference to these events. 
GV's omission of these material facts signifies its recognition of the inconsistency between, on the one hand, its portrayal of Commission members in need of "protection" from Mr. Massey and, on the other hand, the reality that those very members voted to "permanently table" the motion when given the opportunity to remove Mr. Massey as liaison. If you listen to the recording of that meeting in the July 7 post, you will understand that the Commissioners want no part of the political sniping that the former Chair, with the administration's blessing, had initiated. 

Destruction of a Public Record

The PSEC Secretary destroyed a public record. (Please see my May 28 post.) GV somehow justifies the Secretary's conduct by noting that the Commission session in question was a public meeting, and that, therefore, anyone could attend and record the proceedings himself. Guess what? It is the very fact that this was a public meeting that makes the Tennessee Sunshine Laws applicable here. It is true that if John Q. Public wishes to attend and record the proceedings, he may do so; however, his recording is not a public record. The recording would belong to him alone. The recording made by the Secretary, on the other hand, is, because she is a public official, most certainly a public record. The Secretary's recording remains a public record until such time as she is authorized to discard it. On this particular occasion, Alderman Massey specifically asked the Secretary to retain the recording, and she flagrantly ignored his request. How GV can justify the Secretary's conduct is beyond me.

Why do you suppose the Secretary obliterated the record of the meeting after being asked to keep it? That is another thing to contemplate! If the evidence had been favorable to the administration position, you can be assured that she would have kept it.

The Real Victims

The real victims of the vitriol hurled against Alderman Massey are Jon Riley and John Peyton. They just wanted to serve the City as volunteers. I quoted Mr. Peyton's email to the aldermen in my last post. Please read below a portion of the email that Jon Riley's wife, Susanne, sent to the aldermen after the vote:    

"As the wife of Jonathan Riley, I would like to share my thoughts and the reason why my husband wanted to be on the Public Safety Education Commission in the first place, since he was not able to be heard. 

As you all know, Jon was a Military Police Sergeant in the United States Army for over eight years, and after he was honorably discharged, he went on to become a commissioned special deputy with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office.

What you don’t know is he was forced out of his career due to medical a diagnosis that resulted in a back injury at 33 years old. (I will not state the 2 diagnosis because they are his medical records). He had to leave the profession he loved for so many years due to his body not being able to work properly for the intense physical activity on a daily basis that career field often requires. 

He's been working a desk job for the past few years ever since this news and would love nothing more than to be able to use his education, experience, leadership and teamwork to help others in a service capacity. When he saw that there was an opening to be appointed to the Germantown Public Safety Education Commission, he felt that he would have a lot to offer. He quickly and excitedly filled out the application and we talked in depth about how this would fulfill his need to serve and help others. He truly has a heart for service.

Not only am I disappointed in the way this was handled by “an anonymous tip," but by the very people in our community that were elected to be the community voice. 

The fact that two ladies in the audience were talking too loudly before the BMA started about this “anonymous tip” and had knowledge of the screenshots before it was brought up is very concerning. How did they know when it was only given to the alderman in their secured mailboxes just prior to the executive session??

I am very disappointed in the no-votes and even more disappointed the mayor let this go on without calling to remove it and discuss privately or at the very least, let the applicants address the BMA directly in the face of these very selective screenshots. My husband and I, along with Mr. Peyton were both present. Why they weren't afforded an opportunity to explain or defend their sides is beyond me.

This has hurt my husband’s character and was handled extremely poorly. I had higher hopes for our administration." 


  1. If you read the entire blog post (and not just one paragraph), you'll see that the retaliation part was the characterization of how Massey views the vote. That final paragraph draws the distinction -- while Massey views it as retaliation, the reality is that the fringe element (the people who mock, bully, and denigrate their neighbors with foul language and threats on social media) is not a good thing to have in citizen commissions, regardless of which political stance they hold.

    You must read the entire piece and not use snippets or take things out of context, if you're going to understand the entire piece.

    1. I did not read it that way, needless to say. And the rest of the piece was a hit job on Mr. Massey because of trying to make him a campaign issue when he is not even running for anything--meanwhile leaving out material facts such as the PSEC choosing not to follow the lead of the Chair calling for Mr. Massey to be ousted as liaison. Fortunately there at least is a recording of two of the three meetings, and people can listen to the evidence (linked on the various posts about the subject) for themselves.

  2. Dean Massey's vote total in the 2016 election was 10,027 per - previously noted vote total may not have included absentee and/or early vote totals.

  3. Who is the author of GV? Your title "admitted reason" seems to suggest or imply that blog comment, as a source, represents an official or unofficial comment from the administration or one of the BMA members who voted against approval. Is that the case? If not then your blog post title seems a bit deceptive, although that may not have been your intention. I have no ax to grind, juat trying to sort through all the rhetoric, inuendo, and emotion on all sides (much of which appears to be ill informed at best, and much also based on assumptions and suggestions without solid evidence, proof or objective support).

    1. The blog was formed as an opposition to Dean Massey having blocked people on his personal Facebook page, and the people involved are on various commissions that are selected by the Mayor. I assume that the post has the backing of everyone involved. I found it very odd that this blog took the position that retaliation was the reason for turning down the applicants. It was such a rant against Alderman Massey (that was unwarranted, as the PSEC supported him over the Chairman) that I concluded that they thought Mr. Massey deserved such retaliation. I did think it was strange though. Mostly I find their omission of the vote supporting Massey indicative of the blog's lack of credibility.

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