Last time we looked at the promises made by Lake Forest City Councilman Scott Voigts in 2010 and we compared those promises with what he actually did. Voigts made more than a dozen promises and kept very few of them. In fact, he often did exactly the opposite of what he promised to do, as when he promised “conservative fiscal management” but then acted like a “tax and spender”, or when he promised to oppose the expansion of Musick Jail and then became an enthusiastic supporter. Today our focus is on Voigt’s City Council colleague Kathryn “Kathy” McCullough.
Kathy McCullough has been on the City Council in Lake Forest as long as there has been a City. She still uses her original campaign picture in her official literature, but she’s been there so long now that the picture resembles her grand-daughter. The photo on the left shows McCullough now and the photo on the right is the one she uses for her campaigns.
With time comes wisdom, at least in some respects, and McCullough has survived a half dozen election campaigns by learning NOT to promise anything. Search her campaign literature, you’ll find few promises; instead, McCullough’s strategy is to stress her personal characteristics – “mother of five”, “grandmother”, “wife of a Vietnam veteran”, and “ethical accountable leadership”.
McCullough remains the mother, grandmother, and wife she claimed to be, but we can examine her “ethical accountable leadership” by comparing her behavior with the City’s code of ethical behavior.
The City’s code says –
“1.4 State views briefly and honestly during City Council…meetings.”
On several occasions McCullough has openly lied while seated at the dais. Here is a very brief sample of her lies –
- McCullough claimed the City received “flying colors” and had a “raving report” for website transparency by the Grand Jury when in fact, compared to 11 neighboring cities, Lake Forest came in 9th out of 11 cities.
- McCullough claimed that in her career she never spent more than $27,000 cumulatively when in fact she spent more than $32,000, and that figure is qualified because of irregularities in her expense reports which makes it almost impossible to track (PS – this is a story for another day!).
- McCullough claimed when she goes to conferences on city money, she works from dawn to dusk and never has time to eat a meal, but her receipts showed she rarely misses a meal, and sometimes has 4 meals per day at City expense!
- McCullough claimed she was spending no more than $50 per day when travelling on City business, but in fact she often spent over $100 a day of City money just engorging herself.
- McCullough claimed that Lake Forest was one of the safest cities in the U.S. when actual police statistics showed Lake Forest has a higher crime rate than most of their neighbors. It’s not even one of the safest cities in South Orange County, much less the U.S.
McCullough is famous for her endless monologues and flights down memory lane. By herself she can consume half a Council meeting’s discussion time. Recently she spent three minutes announcing that her comments would be brief, and then went on for another 8 minutes.
In the “old days” when the Council was controlled by Peter Herzog and his “Gang of 3”, McCullough was effectively suppressed, but neither Scott Voigts nor his BFF Dwight Robinson have been effective as Mayors in controlling McCullough, who often appears to be holding court in her living room rather than sitting at a City Council meeting.
There is some down home charm to her misbehavior, but it has wracked havoc on a Council that spends more time doing less than any other Council in recent memory.
TREATING OTHERS WITH RESPECT
The City codes says –
“1.3 Treat everyone with respect by actively listening to other viewpoints, and not interrupting, ignoring or belittling the contributions of others.”
1.5 Refrain from abusive conduct, personal charges, or verbal attacks on the character, motives, morals or comments of embers of the Council, commissions, committees, staff, or the public.”
McCullough is infamous for her bad treatment of speakers. Last year she got into verbal fist-a-cuffs with the OC District Attorney, and this year she called a speaker a “liar” but failed to produce any evidence of his lies. Only a few weeks ago she got into a heated dispute with Mayor Pro Tem Adam Nick, interrupting him and calling on the Mayor to “put chains on him”.
No one in the history of the City has shown such rude and boorish behavior as Mrs. McCullough.
AVOIDING COMPROMISING FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIPS
The City code says –
“2.3 Safeguard ability to make independent, objective, fair and impartial judgments by scrupulously avoiding financial and social relationships and transactions that may compromise, or give the appearance of compromising, objectivity, independence, and honesty.”
McCullough claims she doesn’t take money from “vested interests” but here’s a list of people/businesses who contributed to McCullough’s campaign and who subsequently received votes from McCullough to initiate or renew a contract or to grant an ordinance impacting their property. –
- Waltman Properties – $1,000 (2/2002), $1,100 (9/13/2002), $1,000 (10/14/2010)
- Farino Construction – $1,000 (9/18/2002), $2,000 (10/20/2006)
- Faubel Public Affairs – $1,000 (10/9/2006), Waters & Faubel – $250 (9/21/2002)
- Waste Management – $1,000 (10/13/2006)
- Valley Building – $1,000 (2/2002)
- Rick Goacher – $500 (10/5/2006)
Technically, accepting money from people/businesses and then voting without disclosing this financial interest isn’t illegal because the FPPC allows campaign contributions as an exception to what most people would call a bribe or a payoff. Of course a reasonable person with a pulse understands what’s happening, and the City has a higher standard than the FPPC – the City of Lake Forest demandsthat the behavior should not “give the appearance” of impropriety.
By any stretch of the imagination, McCullough is guilty of violating the City’s code of ethical behavior. Of course, when you put a bunch of vipers in a pit, none strikes because if one strikes, the entire pit will be destroyed. Hence, not a single comment has been heard from Scott Voigts or Dwight Robinson who in their brief time on the Council, have already out-raised money from vested interests than McCullough did in 20+ years.
The City code says –
“2.4 Carefully consider if exceeding or appearing to exceed authority of office for personal and/or financial gain. When in doubt, avoid actions that create, in the mind of a reasonable observer, the appearance of impropriety, ethical lapses, legal violations, or actions inconsistent with the Leadership Principles.”
In a recent investigation of the use of the City’s travel expenses, McCullough appears to have engaged in several illegal actions, most of which revolve around using City money to cover expenses that her husband should pay. For example, when they dine together, McCullough uses City money to pay her husband’s share of the tip, the taxes, the room service fee, etc. Normally, when you share a meal, you share these expenses, but McCullough tends to have the City pick up the entire tab with the exception of her husband’s actual meal. According to the City’s own policy, these actions are illegal. The City has been asked to review these apparent violations but to date the City has filed to respond.
Kathryn McCullough has been in office for 20 years and wants another 4 years to boot. Examining her behavior, she appears to lie, violate the City’s code of ethics, violate the City’s travel policies, and behave in rude and boorish manner. These are hardly the characteristics that should attract voters.
About Jim Gardner:
Jim Gardner is a Clinical Psychologist/Businessman who has been a Management Consultant to Global 500 companies, Police and DEA and is the Past President of the Lake 1 HOA, Co-founder Friends of Lake Forest Animals, Member of the Lake Forest Parade Committee and a Supporter of Breast Cancer Solutions, South County Outreach. He ran for the Lake Forest City Council in 2012, garnering 5,894 votes. He just missed getting elected to the Lake Forest City Council in 2008, by about 6% of the vote.