Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ann Smith and Judi Italiano: working for the rank and file? Or for themselves?

MEA Attorney Anne M. Smith

Voice of San Diego's Letters column draws a lot of attention. I was interested in this post:

Leanne wrote on July 30, 2007 8:47 AM:

"MEA could save a lot of money by getting rid of the Italiano family trust. Judi gets a director's retirement plus an equal amount in consultant fees from MEA, last I heard, and happily hires family members as additional consultants and staff. If Anne M. Smith threatens to blackmail you by saying that she'll walk if you get rid of Italiano, then kiss her good bye and hire an attorney who is not more committed to Italiano then to the union. MEA has been run disgracefully for years. I cry no tears for anyone except employees forced to pay forced agency fees to a union that has questionable business practices."

Leanne's post triggered an angry response from Kathi Ward:

Kathi Ward wrote on July 30, 2007 4:55 PM:

"Leanne, you speak as if you know Ann Smith, but I know you could not possibly know Ann Smith - not even a little bit. Ann's heart and soul is devoted to MEA and it's members - and she fights her heart out so that you can keep your hard earned benefits. Yes, Ann is there every day - fighting for city employees - even those like you, who seem to resent her. You are bad mouthing the ONLY entity who is in there fighting for YOU! I'm glad I don't know you."

Since I do know Ann Smith, and I know from personal experience how Smith and elected officials cover up wrongdoing, I decided to weigh in. Here's my post:

Maura Larkins wrote on July 31, 2007 12:58 PM:

"Ann Smith is a true friend to union leaders, but she's not so helpful to the rank and file of MEA or other unions. I believe that both the city and the unions need to be operated in a more transparent manner. City and union leaders seem to operate for their own personal benefit rather that for the benefit of the people who pay their salaries--and their lawyers."

I don't usually get direct responses to my comments, but this time I did. Here's what Kathi Ward, who works for MEA, wrote to me:

Kathi Ward wrote on July 31, 2007 3:22 PM:

"Maura, like I told Leanne - you don't know Ann Smith. Everything she does is for the rank and file employees of MEA. Why don't you give up some of your personal time and get involved in your union so you can see what is really going on? Or is it easier to do nothing and sit on the sidelines and just criticize?"

Here's my response:

Maura Larkins writes:

I do know Ann Smith. I spoke with her at length, and corresponded with her, when she was working for my union, Chula Vista Educators. She was helping union leaders cover up wrongdoing.

I believe unions are necessary to the healthy functioning of our economic system, but, just like government officials, union leaders often betray the rank and file because of personal politics and desire for power or money.

I believe Ann Smith would have blown the whistle on the illegal San Diego City pension deal if it hadn't been personally beneficial financially to MEA's president. Keeping quiet about wrongdoing seems to be what a lawyer has to do to keep a job with a union.

That's equally true for lawyers for public entities.

Speaking of public entity lawyers, there is one big exception in San Diego. There is one public entity lawyer in San Diego who is not appointed by officeholders or administrators, but instead is elected by the voters. In the last election, voters chose Mike Aguirre, who DOES NOT COVER UP WRONGDOING BY OFFICIALS. Do we want a City Attorney who will represent only the powerholders? Should the city attorney be a personal lawyer for officeholders? Or should he represent the people of the city? Should he prosecute crimes and file civil lawsuits no matter who is guilty, or should he cover up wrongdoing by employees, elected officials and their friends?

See the whole discussion at:

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