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The Mayor’s calendar, time cards, and the newspaper cover-up

If you’ve been following the controversy involving Modesto Mayor Ridenour and his job activities, you might be somewhat confused. It’s a little complicated to explain verbally.

If you’ve relied on our local newspaper for explanation, you must be REALLY confused. Despite sitting on this story for several weeks, the Bee’s only contribution was short August 12 piece combining equal parts inaccuracy and spin.

First, some background:

The Mayor is a part-time employee of the Sheriff’s Department, and fills out a daily time card.

Earlier this year, the Mayor submitted an “Activities Calendar” to the committee that was formed to recommend new salaries for the Mayor and members of the City Council. This report listed the Mayor’s activities – appointments, meetings, etc. – by date and time. The report covered the first four months of 2008.

Got it so far? Good, because here’s where it gets interesting. When you match up the Mayor’s time card from his Sheriff’s Department with his Activities Calendar you discover the following:

On no fewer than seventeen (17) separate dates, the Mayor’s time card placed him at work on his Sheriff’s Department job, while the activities report had him attending one or more meetings related to his position as Mayor.

This suggests that our mayor has the ability to be in two places at the same time, which is a pretty nifty trick.

Not to worry, though – the powers that be have circled the wagons and have floated an explanation, as follows:

The Sheriff’s Department time cards are accurate. So said Sheriff Adam Christianson, calling it “a whole lot of to-do about nothing.”

The mayor’s Appointment Calendar is also accurate. Well, sort of. City officials offered two explanations for the seeming conflicts:

1. The mayor participated in “agenda review” meetings by phone, while on county time.

2. The mayor didn’t attend or participate in any of the other “conflict” meetings or events listed on his calendar.

Why were they left on the calendar? Oh, not to impress the salary commission – no, not at all. Rather, the mayor said he kept them there “as a reminder of community events” (to quote the newspaper). If you can figure out what THAT means, please let us know.

Now, just for the record, and to give you a visual clue as to how many items we’re talking about, here’s a list of calendar entries that conflicted directly with the mayor’s time cards (the descriptions are taken for the calendar itself):

1/3 6:30 a.m. Group meeting (LaLoma)

1/4 Noon Review of Agenda (Mayor’s Office)

1/16 7:30 a.m. George Radanovich (Dewz)

1/17 6:30 a.m. Group meeting (LaLoma)

1/17 8:20 a.m. Updated: Conference

1/17 8:30 a.m. Review of Agenda

1/31 8:30 a.m. JPA Commission

1/31 11:00 a.m. Review Council

2/7 9:15 a.m. Review of Agenda (Mayor’s Office)

2/7 11:30 a.m. Meet w/ Bob Sasser

2/7 4:00 p.m. Stanislaus Leadership

2/7 5:00 p.m. KFIV (Oakdale Rd)

2/21 8:30 a.m. Modesto Redevelopment

2/21 8:30 a.m. Review of Agenda (Mayor’s Office)

2/28 6:30 a.m. Group Meeting (LaLoma)

2/28 8:30 a.m. Review of Agenda

2/28 2:20 p.m. Appt. w/ Dr. Sulak

2/29 11:00 a.m. Lunch Pastoral (La Morita)

3/5 6:15 a.m. Men’s prayer

3/6 8:30 a.m. Review of Agenda

3/6 2:00 p.m. Meet w/ STANCOG

3/7 11:30 a.m. Literary network

3/20 10:00 a.m. Update: WTE

3/27 6:30 a.m. Group meeting (LaLoma)

3/27 8:30 a.m. Updated: Agenda

4/10 6:30 a.m. Group meeting (LaLoma)

4/10 Noon Carmax grand opening

4/25 8:25 a.m. Speak to Sylvan Elementary

Even if you remove the agenda review items (there are 7 of these, all supposedly ‘attended’ by the mayor via phone), what remains is an incredibly long list of meetings ostensibly skipped or cancelled. You have to wonder: why were all of these scheduled in the first place? Why were they entered on the Activities Calendar?

More to the point, why were they left on the calendar when it was typed up for submission to the salary committee? The mayor’s reminder-of-community-activities explanation doesn’t pass an elementary sniff test.

Neither does his disingenuous statement that he wasn’t trying to influence the salary committee by giving them such a wildly inaccurate and misleading document. His statement is disingenuous because he has publicly complained about all the hours he has to put in the performance of his mayoral duties. The salary committee had requested the Appointments Calendar as verification of the mayor’s claims.

What they got was a work of fiction.

And who’s to vouch for the accuracy of the rest of the calendar? The conflicts listed above only came to light because they conflicted with the mayor’s time cards. What about the other entries?

Several things are certain: You won’t read any more about this in the local newspaper. They’re part of the establishment that’s protecting their own; they’ve printed their spin, and will ride out any backlash in silence.

The other certainty is this: the mayor’s image and credibility have been very badly damaged.

The Sabatino Report