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County Policy Lets Heads Roll When Ideas Flow Too Freely

Lyn Greene writes a commentary for The Times: “Bay Health Controversy Surfaces Again.”

As a result, Greene gets fired as a $30,000-a-year consultant to the San Diego Interagency Water Quality Panel.

What happened to the First Amendment, free exchange of ideas, open discussion of public issues, and all that other civics book stuff?

Answer: It collided with a brick wall called the M-2 policy of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

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Adopted in 1975 and last renewed in 1988, M-2 says people paid by the county can publish their views on county policy only with the approval of their boss.

Kathleen Thuner, county agricultural commissioner, says she fired Greene the day after the commentary was published. She was Greene’s boss.

Thuner said her decision was supported, in advance, by Lari Sheehan, deputy chief administrative officer, and Peter Michael, chairman of the interagency panel.

“Your right to the First Amendment is very important,” Thuner said, “but when you sign on as a consultant to a panel, then write an article in conflict with the panel and without the approval of the panel, then that’s not a First Amendment issue.”

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As a consultant, Greene did not enjoy the warning-counseling-second-chance protections of full-time employees, Thuner said.

Greene, who holds a doctorate in water pollution politics, was hired in May for up to two years at $30,000 a year.

In her commentary, Greene suggested an approach to correcting pollution of San Diego Bay that is more aggressive than the fact-finding role envisioned by the interagency panel.

The commentary, Greene said, “never insinuated that it was the panel’s fault nothing has been done out at the bay, but that’s obviously how they interpreted it.”

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She said she believes she was fired because of her views, not just for breaking the M-2 policy, an assertion that Thuner and Michael dispute.

“I’ll miss Lyn,” Thuner said. “She was a fine consultant, but I support the policy.”

Preparation Is Best Defense

Medium well.

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* Times reporter John Glionna has been besieged by calls since his story last week about cop-novelist Joseph Wambaugh, who just moved to Rancho Santa Fe.

In self-defense, Glionna has developed a conversation-stopper:

“No, I will not give you Wambaugh’s phone number. No, I will not give him your movie screenplay. And, if your idea for a novel is so sure-fire, why don’t you write it yourself?”

* The Marine Corps is having some trouble adjusting to glasnost.

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Take the (belated) front-page headline in The Scout, the Camp Pendleton newspaper: “Soviet, U. S. Relations Improve.”

Beneath the main headline is a smaller, cautionary one:

“Keep Bayonets Ready for USSR’s Uncertain Future.”

* Upbeat stories about local businesses are standard for weekly newspapers.

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Even so, The (Fallbrook) Enterprise’s picture-and-story combo “Car Wash Expands Hours as to Aid Water Shortage” is unique.

A car is shown emerging from the automatic car wash, all clean and scrubbed. The car is owned by the (smiling) owner of the car wash.

The car is a convertible. No explanation given.

Mayor’s Bayonet Was Ready

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The Cold War between Mayor Maureen O’Connor and U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson heated up a bit Tuesday.

O’Connor was mightily miffed to read that, if she endorses Dianne Feinstein for governor, the Wilson-for-governor camp might retaliate with a 1981 videotape of O’Connor saying nice things about Wilson.

O’Connor said the tape was made at Wilson’s request to introduce him to fund-raising audiences statewide, with the guarantee that it not be used as a campaign commercial or endorsement.

If the tape is used, O’Connor said she wouldn’t be shy in telling the public that sending Wilson to Sacramento is not in San Diego’s best interests.

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By day’s end, the Wilson camp declared the issue moot: The tape will not be used.


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