June 03, 2014

Dear Supporter of SMCLC,

Unbelievable as it sounds, our city just fired a long-time Santa Monica resident because she engaged in legal and protected political speech EIGHT YEARS BEFORE she was on the city’s payroll.

City Manager Rod Gould dismissed newly hired Elizabeth Riel because she was a supporter of Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City when we took a position in the 2006 city council race.

Elizabeth, who lives in Santa Monica with her husband and three young children, and was the former president of the North of Montana Association ("NOMA"), was hired from over 200 candidates to fill the city's newly created position of Public Affairs and Communications Officer.

She was the most qualified candidate. That is not in dispute. As Rod Gould said when he gave her the job, "Elizabeth blends national communications and public affairs expertise with a deep understanding and commitment to Santa Monica, as a result of raising her family, consulting and volunteering in our fair city."


Then the weekend before she was to start work, Mr. Gould fired her. He did so because of Elizabeth’s ties to SMCLC and our group's involvement in the 2006 council election, when we truthfully shed light on the money-raising practices of Councilmember Pam O'Connor and her ties to a developer.


Like Elizabeth's qualifications, the facts of that 2006 campaign have also never been questioned. Ms. O'Connor took money to retire her previous campaign debt from 13 high-level Macerich executives just months BEFORE she expected to vote on their massive Santa Monica Place project. SMCLC exposed this truth. No one has ever questioned its accuracy. But because Elizabeth was a supporter of ours and eight years ago dared to expose this truth, she was fired.

Rod Gould's precipitous firing of Elizabeth is wrong and unacceptable. It violates her rights, and it was done with a complete lack of transparency.

It is an illegal act by the city manager to fire anyone based on the content of his or her political speech. Does anyone believe that Elizabeth would have been fired if she had, instead, supported Ms. O'Connor?

This represents a new low in our city's decision making. It's an affront to residents who are concerned about the role developer money plays in our election process or who have questioned the pace of development. By firing Elizabeth because she legitimately expressed views shared by many residents, the city is saying that only those who agree with developers are eligible for city jobs.

SMCLC is outraged by the city's treatment of this highly qualified woman and the attempt to chill the free speech of residents who are critical of overdevelopment. SMCLC has served a public records request on the city for documents to try to uncover the truth of who was behind this sordid affair. The city should conduct a full independent investigation into the facts.

If you, too, are troubled by this, please take a moment to send an email to Rod Gould, rod.gould@smgov.net, to City Attorney Marsha Moutrie at marsha.moutrie@smgov.net, and to council@smgov.net and also cc: SMCLC at info@smclc.net. Let them know your concerns about Elizabeth's firing and urge them to conduct a full investigation.


Victor, Diana, Sherrill and Jeff

SMCLC public records request click here