A special meeting of the Dixon City Council was held at 6 pm on Thursday November 19 due to the appeal of the action taken by city manager Jim Lindley firing well liked and admired Police Chief Jon Cox. The hearing lasted over four hours and was attended by close to 200 people, both members of the Dixon community and from Cox’s church in Vacaville. Support for Cox was widespread amongst the religious communities in both towns as well as community service organizations, such as Dixon Family Services and the Teen Center, of which Cox remains on their boards.
The hearing procedure was outlined by Mayor Jack Batchelor. The city was to give its stance first, explained by city attorney Douglas White, then the attorney for Chief Cox was allowed to speak and call his witnesses. That was to be followed by public comment. Speaking times were limited for the public to 3 minutes, with extensions when requested, but somehow Cox’s doctor, William O’Connor, was not treated as a witness but rather a member of the public.
The supposed point of the hearing was to allow the city council, Batchelor, Steve Bird, Jerry Castañon, and Scott Pederson – all of whom are in the process of being recalled because of their poor decision making ability – and Ted Hickman to hear both sides of the story without having their minds made up and then to decide whether Cox’s firing was justified. The unanimous opinion of those in attendance who stayed for the entire hearing was this was yet another “done deal” as many noticed the prepared statements read by the councilmen when it came time for them to make a decision.
The city’s allegation and accusation against the Chief was that he lied during his deposition in stating he had adhered to work restrictions given to him by doctors due to injury his back on the job in July of 2014. Cox had admitted during his deposition that his job as chief put him in emergency situations where he had to violate these restrictions. The deposition’s questions were focused on Cox’s job with the city, his wife’s antique business, and his home.
The city staff made the leap of judgment that Cox was stating he did not violate these restrictions, other than as admitted, anywhere else such as when helping to load auction material in Vallejo for the Teen Center’s benefit. Cox’s attorney, Steve Welty, countered that the proper question was not asked and the focus of the questions that were asked eliminated any potential perjury on the part of Cox. Excerpts of the video were played for the audience.
The public comment of Dr. O’Connor was focused on the appropriate point that Cox had been trained by O’Connor in how to position his spine so he could function and exceed the restriction limitation put on him. At no time during the hearing nor during the deposition was an allegation made that violation of these restrictions resulted in further injury to Cox’s spine.
Tim Bittle, who identified himself as an attorney, chastised the council for using the deposition as a basis for making this decision. While he also testified as to Cox’s support for church work, Bittle’s main point was this should have been decided in court.
Katrina Meek, a Human Resources professional, said this was not how the system is supposed to work. Local resident Ian Arnold, an SEIU union official who often testifies in court, railed against the workman’s comp attorneys for their obvious intent to defraud Cox of his right to medical attention for a work related injury.
Arnold did not stop there, however. During prior public comments, members of the audience applauded several speakers. The mayor took issue with this and attempted to halt it by saying it wasn’t permitted under their code of conduct. Arnold pointed out that applause is a form of “expression” guaranteed under the First Amendment. The applause continued.
Two closed sessions occurred during this meeting. The first before the meeting began and the other four hours into the hearing. Supposedly no decisions were made or reported out, but after some residual public comment, the council began their statements. Both Hickman and Pederson were unaffected by the doubt cast by Welty about the deposition. When comment got to Steve Bird, he stated he had a compromise but allowed others to finish commenting first.
Bird’s idea was to “reinstate” the chief only to have him put immediately on “paid administrative leave” because he believed Cox “was unfit for duty”. Cox was also forced to retire in the first week of January 2016. All of this had the appearance of attempting to assuage the anger of the audience, many of whom had called for Lindley’s ouster. The end result of the hearing was Cox’s honesty was not vindicated but he was made financially whole. When it came time for a vote, all but Batchelor quickly voted “yes.”
Short Tuesday Council Meeting Ends With Attack On Public
A forty minute council meeting resulted in increased fines for “nuisances” and a call by councilman Jerry Castañon to have the ordinance restricting the right of the city manager to fire department heads placed on a January agenda. Castañon stated he didn’t want to see what happened to Chief Cox reoccur. Others stated that they felt city manager had unfairly taken the brunt of the response to his action.
Also during council comments, Scott Pederson asked for an update and “full accounting” of certain projects because “the truth needs to come out”. Pederson also spoke of 300 building permits and businesses entering Dixon. This turned out to be a prelude to city manager Jim Lindley’s comments at the end of the meeting.
Lindley was upset with the Independent Voice’s columnist Michael Ceremello for selected points he made in one paragraph of one of his past columns. Lindley stated that Dutch Bros’ coffee was proof that there was commercial development and pointed to the continuing residential construction in the Brookfield development as proof of residential development. Much as Lindley broadly interpreted the allegations in Cox’s deposition, he did the same with Ceremello’s statements.
When Ceremello requested to respond, as is his right under the Brown Act to speak to any item on the city council’s agenda, Batchelor told him he had already had his opportunity to speak, perhaps alluding to public comment at the beginning of the meeting. Castañon was no better in also attempting to silence any response when he asked that the meeting be adjourned. Ceremello’s parting shot was to call them “cowards” and “gutless wonders”, totalitarian government at its finest.