Encinitas resident Steve Meiche believes he's sniffed out corruption in city politics. On December 13, the father of two lodged a formal complaint against Encinitas city manager Phil Cotton and director of Parks and Recreation Chris Hazeltine. Meiche picked up the scent last November, when city councilmembers debated whether to extend the off-leash dog hours at six of the city's parks after more than 20 residents were handed hefty $445 fines for having their dogs roam free during on-leash hours.
For years, dog owners have taken the leads off their pups three days a week, from 6 to 7:30 a.m. and then again from 4 to 6 p.m. During the November council meeting, city staff proposed extending the hours from 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 8 p.m. as well as opening the park on Sundays.
At that November meeting, councilmembers continued the issue until further studies were conducted and until local stakeholders signed off on the expansion of hours.
According to Meiche, a nearby resident of Orpheus Park, that is when city administrators began misleading the city council by stating all the stakeholders in the area had given the command to extend the hours. As stated in his complaint, city officials never interviewed property owners, nor did they interview homeowners associations surrounding Orpheus, Viewpoint, and Sun Vista parks.
Meiche says that extending the hours at Orpheus Park puts the neighborhood kids, including his own, at risk of running into a rabid hound while on their way to Paul Ecke Central School. The same goes for kids traipsing through Sun Vista Park on their way to Olivenhain Pioneer School.
In addition to failing to interview property owners, Meiche asserts that city officials also failed to confer among principals or Parent Teacher Associations at the schools that neighbor Orpheus and Sun Vista Park.
"During Mr. Hazeltine's preparation of the analysis, he failed to perform his duties and responsibilities," read Meiche's complaint. "Mr. Hazeltine violated city practices and procedures in the preparation of his analysis by failing to contact and consult any and all local stakeholders that could potentially be affected by this ordinance amendment.
"The stakeholders that are affected by this ordinance represent a large number of citizens, taxpayers, and constituents. Willfully misleading the public and City Council with intent to deceive is illegal, unethical, violates state and city government policies, and discredits public trust."
During a December 17 phone interview, one day after the city council voted in favor of extending off-leash hours at Orpheus, Sun Vista, and Viewpoint Park, Meiche's says he thinks this is the beginning of what will be a dogfight.