When a resident speaks at public comment during government meetings, they always run the risk of getting interrupted. At the August 23 Morro Bay City Council meeting, my public comment was interrupted by Mayor John Headding as soon as I touched on potential conflict of interest with him and current councilmember Jen Ford. Mayor Headding stated that I was prohibited from even mentioning the names of councilmembers in my remarks, to which I replied that his interruption was inappropriate and in violation of the California Brown Act, a law that guarantees the public the right to participate at meetings. Before I was able to discuss the facts, my mic was muted on Zoom and was unable to deliver the full extent of my remarks.
Because I can’t be interrupted or cut off on my own site, I’d like to elaborate on something residents should’ve heard at the City Council meeting.
Councilmember Ford is co-owner of a Morro Bay-based marketing business called Rock Harbor Marketing (“RHM”). Several years ago, RHM acquired a sole sourced contract with the City of Morro Bay to help train the City on managing their social media. After receiving these contracts, RHM was tapped to manage the marketing for Mayor Headding and Councilmember Addis political campaigns. All of this work was done prior to Ford applying for the council seat, which was vacated by the untimely passing of Robert “Red” Davis. However, evidence indicates RHM is financially involved with Mayor Headding’s 2022 re-election campaign. This raises ethical concerns that undercuts Ford’s claims on the campaign trail that she would be an independent voice on the council. It is my opinion that Ford could cancel RHM’s contract, and remove any and all financial or voluntary association with Headding’s re-election campaign.
Rigorous debate and dissent on the council has given way to cronyism that raises ethical questions. Silencing me from the podium will only add more questions. I’m not here to personally attack councilmembers, as Mayor Headding had indicated when he rudely and prematurely interrupted me. I’m here to hold our officials accountable to the rule of law. And let me be clear: I have nothing against Rock Harbor Marketing as a business. But their professional business should not be so intricately intertwined with government business. Period.
UPDATE: Since I went public with my concerns, the mayor’s re-election Facebook page was taken down. Domain registration records for his website headdingformayor.com, which previously listed RHM as the company that registered and renewed his domain, has now been privatized.