In early 2010, a citizen told the South Pasadena City Council that a columnist had identified Joe Payne as the preselected choice to become the next police chief. Although no official search for a chief had begun, anyone paying attention to what was going on at City Hall knew that the statement was true. Yet Philip Putnam responded, “Don’t believe everything you read in the papers.”
In February 2010, Putnam wrote a letter to the Review explaining that only the City Manager has the authority to fire a police chief. His clear intent was to disabuse the public of what many knew – that it was Councilmen who were behind the move to replace Chief Watson. In response to those concerned that the Council had become a political machine Putnam wrote, “I do not believe that there is a machine in South Pasadena (at least no effective one), although there are many who would like to be. And many who have tried to be. But none successfully. And none will be. Our community is too active and well informed for that to happen.” Yet, when was passed over for mayor in December 2012, Putnam provided the Review with what can only be called a rant in which he referred to what had happened as a “putsch” (which is how Hitler came to power) and “Tammany Hall politics.” There’s no “machine” when Putnam is defending his colleagues, but when Putnam doesn’t like what others are doing, “[there’s] a small group . . . who think they control City Hall.”
In July 2011, the District Attorney found in effect that the November 2009 closed-session meeting (and any other meetings) at which the Council discussed Chief Watson’s performance was a violation of the Brown Act. Putnam responded with a letter to the Review twisting the D.A.’s words beyond any reasonable meaning. Denying that any violations had occurred, Putnam said, “I should also point out that everything complained about occurred while Dr. Schneider was mayor.” This was a colossal distortion because (1) the initial meeting that initiated the violations occurred under Mayor Sifuentes, and (2) Putnam was casting blame on the one Councilman, Schneider, who openly opposed the removal of Watson, doing all he could to expose the facts. Putnam: willing to point the finger at the City Manager or Mayor Schneider, but unwilling to tell the truth. As Mayor Schneider wrote in response, “Mr. Putnam and I know what happened in the closed sessions.”
In January 2013, Chief Joe Payne resigned at the apparent request of the City Manager Gonzalez. Putnam told the Star News, “’. . . I am concerned . . . about why the police chief was supposedly let go when there seems to be no reason for it . . .’ He said he plans to ask the city attorney what power the council has to find out more about the personnel issues involved. ‘When you hear nothing it has got to bother you. . . .’” This was the same Putnam who so vehemently insisted when Watson was under fire that the removal of a police chief is entirely up to the City Manager and that the Council should not interfere. The same Putnam who turned a deaf ear when citizens were clamoring for information about why Watson was being removed. The Star News went on to say that Putnam compared the removal of Payne to Watson's resignation in December 2009. How disingenuous. The removal of Watson was an underhanded political deal -- the removal of Payne was not. By comparing the two, Putnam was both casting doubt on Gonzalez’ action by equating it to one of the most ugly episodes in our political history and minimizing that very episode.Putnam’s own published words show him taking one position when it suits him, and the opposite position when it doesn’t. Rather than tell the truth, Putnam is quick to blame others. He did it again at the candidates’ forum on October 3, 2013 when he incorrectly blamed Watson’s removal on the former City Manager – going so far as to expose highly personal matters about him. Philip Putnam is not the pillar of honesty and virtue some hold him up to be. He’s quite the opposite. The evidence is there in black and white.