Joe Chow and Tom Braun Are Eligible, Meier Knew It, And
BRAZENLY DECEIVED Addison Voters About It
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)
Joe Chow and Tom Braun are eligible to run for mayor and council. The information released last evening by the city council confirms that there is no legitimate argument to be made to the contrary.
As it turns out, the issue of eligibility was raised months ago, likely by Todd Meier. And, Addison’s attorney, Brenda McDonald, RESOLVED THE ISSUE MONTHS AGO, in a detailed memo that Meier and the council received on February 27, 2017. McDonald concluded that both Chow and Braun were eligible.
All of which means that when Meier published last week’s newsletter, he was in possession of an attorney’s opinion and additional information that he intentionally WITHHELD from Addison voters in a clear effort to dissuade them from voting for Chow and Braun.
By last Saturday, Meier had been in possession of the referenced information for almost NINE WEEKS. During that time, Meier did not publicly raise the issue of the eligibility of Chow and Braun. Instead, Meier waited until the Saturday before early voting began to tell Addison voters half a story in a clear effort to mislead them. Meier knew that by waiting until the eleventh hour, it would be impossible for the other members of the council to correct the record before early voting started. After all, any meeting to address the issue would require at least 72 hours’ notice. So, Meier knew that even if they tried, his ruse would influence voters for at least a few days.
When it became clear that at least four councilmembers intended to act to correct the record and provide TRUTH to Addison’s voters, Meier tried to delay them. Meier claimed that he had a scheduling conflict, and tried to delay the council’s corrective action until next week. Or in other words, until after early voting was concluded. More about Meier’s “scheduling conflict” later.
The depth of Meier’s deceit and his intent to harm the efforts of Chow and Braun to serve Addison cannot be overstated. This is a sitting mayor who acted with clear intent to influence an election by lying to the electorate. Meier’s conduct was unethical and inexcusable. Let’s talk about it.
1. Addison residents voted for term limits in 1993. The wording of the ballot proposition leaves NO doubt about what was intended.
The language of the 1993 ballot proposition is the key:
“SHALL THE ADDISON CITY CHARTER BE AMENDED TO LIMIT TO THREE (3) THE NUMBER OF CONSECUTIVE TERMS which a person may hold the office of Mayor or the office of council member, and to effectuate such amendment.” (Capitalization added).
Note that the question was about the “number of consecutive terms,” not the “number of terms” or the “number of total terms.” The wording of the proposition, with “consecutive” modifying “terms” leaves no doubt whatsoever about what was intended. The question was only about “consecutive” terms. By way of example it precluded four “consecutive” terms, but not four or more terms that were not “consecutive.”
The measure passed, and on that basis, the Charter was amended with this language:
“No person shall serve as Mayor for more than three (3) successive terms of office, and no person shall serve as a council member for more than three (3) successive terms of office. For purposes of this section, the phrase “terms of office” shall not include any unexpired portion of any two-year term.”
In my view, this language is very clear. But, even if you disagree, the language of the ballot proposition resolves all doubt.
2. Meier concealed the ballot proposition, the involvement of Addison’s attorney, and her memo concluding that Chow and Braun were eligible.
Let’s parse Meier’s presentation of the issue, and I think you’ll agree with my conclusions about Meier’s nefarious intent.
First, Meier didn’t include the 1993 ballot proposition in last week’s newsletter, nor did he disclose the fact that the issue had been posed to Addison’s attorney, or that more than nine weeks prior to his newsletter’s publication, the attorney had issued a detailed opinion confirming that Chow and Braun were eligible. Meier had all of it long ago, and he certainly had all of it when he published his misleading newsletter last Saturday. After all, as noted above, Attorney Brenda McDonald’s lengthy memo was dated February 27, 2017, almost ten weeks ago. And, that memo included the wording of the 1993 ballot proposition as a part of her legal analysis.
So, if Meier had really intended to inform the public or answer a question, he would not have concealed this critical information. Which confirms that Meier’s real purpose was not to inform. Rather, Meier’s purpose was to mislead, and to influence the election by presenting a false record to Addison voters.
Second, Meier introduced the subject of eligibility as if it had been a burning question in the minds of countless voters, and that this is what caused him to research it. The information released last evening confirms that this is false. What we now know is that the issue of the eligibility of Chow and Braun was raised – undoubtedly by Meier – more than ten weeks ago. That confirms that none of this was “recent” research by Meier based on “recent” questions posed to Meier. It is now clear that Meier long ago hatched a plan to harm Chow and Braun by misinforming Addison voters on the eve of early voting.
Third, think about the detailed nature of Meier’s newsletter on the issue of eligibility. Meier provided a seemingly exhaustive narrative of “all” that he claimed to have done to resolve this supposedly new issue. Meier included numbered paragraphs and discussions of the Charter language and even a reference to an interview with the last Charter Review Chair. It seemed comprehensive, didn’t it? Meier clearly wanted the reader to believe that Meier’s recitation was complete, and that he had left no stone unturned. And that was patently false.
Meier used a classic technique of deception. It relies on the premise that the more detailed a person is in describing events, the more inclined we are to give credence to what they are saying. So, Meier carefully crafted his faux answer to lead the reader to conclude that he had looked everywhere for an answer, and that he was thoroughly recounting all information he had discovered. Meier went so far as to write: “I checked out our history,” even as he intentionally concealed the wording of the 1993 ballot proposition and the February 27, 2017 McDonald Memo, all of which unequivocally established the eligibility of Chow and Braun.
No one reading Meier’s lengthy recitation would have thought that he was withholding key evidence. Nor would anyone have realized that this issue was raised months ago, and resolved months ago. All of which confirms that Meier’s clear intent was to deceive Addison voters, and to persuade them “determine” the issue “at the polls” by not voting for Chow and Braun.
3. Meier’s efforts to delay the council’s corrective action and the falsity of further spin.
Let’s be clear about what happened last night. The council – without Meier’s cooperation or presence – acted to correct the false record Meier placed before Addison voters last Saturday. The council disclosed THE TRUTH and thereby disclosed the FALSITY of Meier’s narrative.
IN OTHER WORDS, LAST NIGHT’S MEETING WAS A VICTORY FOR TRANSPARENCY.
But Meier never admits the truth, and so he acted to avoid it and is now acting to spin the situation so as to avoid responsibility for his lies. It started with Meier’s efforts to delay corrective action by the council. Meier claimed to be unavailable last night, using a supposed scheduling conflict to urge the council to delay the meeting until next week. Had the council agreed to do that, Meier’s misleading claims would have remained uncorrected until early voting was concluded, which was clearly Meier’s intent. That tells you that Meier has no remorse for his wrongful conduct, including because he worked to perpetuate the harm he caused.
That brings us to Meier’s supposed “scheduling conflict.” You would hope that it was something important and serious, because correcting Meier’s efforts to improperly influence the election with false information was surely important and serious.
So what was the big scheduling conflict? Where was Meier last night? Well, as luck would have it, an Addison resident spotted Meier at the Winspear, attending a show by comedian David Sedaris that wasn’t even scheduled to start until 7:30 p.m. That’s right, Meier went to see a comedian, as Addison’s council was meeting to release information that corrected Meier’s improper attempts to influence the election.
And here’s the thing. Meier could easily have attended a 5:30 council meeting and made it to the Winspear before 7:30 p.m., with time to spare. And that tells us that it wasn’t a scheduling conflict at all. The truth is that Meier tried to delay the council’s corrective action by claiming to have a scheduling conflict. When it didn’t work, Meier was boxed in. If he showed up at the meeting, the falsity of his claimed scheduling conflict would have been exposed. It would have been clear to all that he had lied about his schedule in an effort to keep the inaccurate record before the voters until early voting ended. So, Meier had to avoid the meeting last night.
And the spin continued today. In his latest newsletter, Meier attacked the “unnamed” councilmembers who called for the meeting last evening (Arfsten, Duffy, Angell, Walden, Hughes, hardly “unnamed”) for calling the meeting “without consideration of [his] schedule,” accusing them of being “incredibly disrespectful.” And in what might be called a Freudian slip, Meier called the setting of last evening’s critical meeting as a “low point.” Well, for Meier it probably was a low point, having been caught red-handed trying to defraud Addison voters. You have to wonder, where is Meier’s contrition? Does the man have no conscience at all? Where is his apology for lying to Addison voters?
In the end, the council did the right thing in refusing to acquiesce in Meier’s clearly spurious efforts to delay the meeting. And that led to a great meeting that was truly about TRANSPARENCY. The truth came out, despite Meier’s efforts to conceal it. It was a sign of a new day in Addison.
4. Jumping on the bandwagon.
In the ultimate spin, and with full knowledge that the votes were there to reveal the TRUTH, Meier jumped right on the bandwagon. He’s done this many times before. On this issue, now that it’s all out there, Meier claims he supported the council’s action and sent his “recommendation” to release the attorney’s memos. It’s hogwash. Had Meier believed in the truth, he would never have lied in the first place. His conduct in supposedly supporting disclosure came only when disclosure was inevitable.
Don’t be fooled. Meier lied to the electorate, presenting a false record to influence voters against Joe Chow and Tom Braun. There is no spin that changes the inexcusable, wrongful nature of Meier’s conduct.
5. Meier’s candidates hope to gain through Meier’s misrepresentations.
I have yet to see any of Meier’s candidates condemn the vicious, deceptive tactics that have been used by Meier and others in this campaign. Not once. Ever. They clearly endorse such tactics and unquestionably hope to benefit. That is shameful, but it is also quite revealing. Make no mistake about it: those who endorse such tactics will do the same thing if elected.
It is time for Addison to reject Meier’s politics of deceit and division. I am hopeful that the electorate will see the merit in what the council did last evening, and will help Addison turn the page and begin its journey back to the Addison Way.