I am officially calling for Morro Bay clients of Rock Harbor Marketing to suspend or terminate services until they commit to improving themselves and eliminating any and all conflicts of interest with the City of Morro Bay and/or their elected officials.
At the August 23 Morro Bay City Council meeting, I attempted to express concerns about a potential financial conflict of interest between Mayor John Headding and Councilwoman Jennifer “Jen” Ford. I uncovered evidence indicating Ms. Ford and her business (“Rock Harbor Marketing”) continued to provide marketing and consulting services for the mayor’s re-election campaign, despite Ms. Ford serving on the council. I was concerned that Ms. Ford had a financial incentive to vote in lockstep with the mayor. Unfortunately, as I was about to express these concerns, my microphone feed was cut. At the next meeting, Mayor Headding falsely claimed I was being uncivil by addressing council members specifically and not the council body as a whole. After correcting him on his lie on the record, Mayor Headding indicated he would investigate why and how my microphone feed was cut. However, I received no follow-up communication in that regard.
Since that incident occurred, I filed a Fair Political Practices Commission (“FPPC”) complaint against Mr. Headding and Ms. Ford. As of this month, the investigation remains ongoing. It’s also important to note that RHM continues to have a agreement with the City of Morro Bay to lease city-owned property at 783 Market Ave. To put this another way, a sitting councilmember is continuing to financially enrich themselves as a result of their relationship with the City of Morro Bay. This likely adds more incentive for the councilmember to vote in tandem with her marketing clients Mr. Headding and Councilwoman Dawn Addis, who is currently running for Assembly. Recently, Councilwoman Ford and her husband Travis Ford were featured in a political mailer that went out to all registered voters throughout Morro Bay.
After filing my FPPC complaint, I was personally attacked by Mr. Ford on the neighborhood-based social media platform. However, after revealing at the City Council meeting that Mr. Ford had inadvertently provided pertinent information for my FPPC complaint, Mr. Ford removed his comments, potentially tampering with the investigation. Unfortunately, Mr. Ford’s antics have not stopped there. Throughout the month of October, I have obtained evidence from concerned residents and Nextdoor itself that Mr. Ford has repeatedly and selectively targeted and attempted to censor residents expressing concerns about Mayor Headding. Mr. Ford was repeatedly and publicly reminded that discussions on local politics are accepted on Nextdoor pursuant to their Community Guidelines. I think it’s a valid question as to whether or not Mr. Ford has pursued these actions at the behest of Headding or his campaign. It’s also a valid question as to whether or not Mr. Ford and his wife on the City Council continue to benefit financially from their relationship with Mayor Headding. However, regardless of the answer and what the truth may hold, Mr. Ford’s conduct is undeniably inappropriate.
Therefore, I have made the difficult and uncomfortable decision to call for clients of Rock Harbor Marketing (“RHM”) to reevaluate, suspend or terminate their services. I will retract that call when the following conditions are met:
- Councilmember Ford assures the public that she will cooperate or is cooperating with the ongoing FPPC investigation.
- Councilmember Ford agrees to conflict of interest ethics training.
- Rock Harbor Marketing and the City of Morro Bay agrees to reevaluate the terms and conditions of their lease agreement with a one-year grace period to vacate the premises at 783 Market Ave.
I am willing to negotiate on the third condition. Every other condition is non-negotiable.
It’s inevitable that people will criticize me for taking bold action against a local business with similar interests to mine. Like Rock Harbor Marketing, I provide marketing services. Here is the truth. Throughout this election season, my clientele have been limited to restaurants in Morro Bay. None of these restaurants are owned or operated by political candidates or elected officials. As a result of my political activism, I made the decision to halt any advertisements or promotions of my services. Any and all of my services are inherently apolitical as my primary focus is business consultation. And I will occasionally work with businesses who are not my clients to recruit potential employees as part of the SLO HELP WANTED organization. My words or actions are mine alone and are not commissioned by any individual or organization.