Thursday, March 3, 2011

ADDA President Hyatt Seligman Responds to Criticism

We received the following from ADDA President Hyatt Seligman in response to comments raised by our February 17, 2010 post:

"I would like to use this forum as another way to help the ADDA reach out to our fellow deputies and help overcome the legitimate criticism that we have done a poor job of communicating.  That is the subject of my comment.

Board meetings are open to all deputies.  We try and get the word out before every meeting, more on that later, but for years, and now into the future, they are every third Tuesday of the month, starting at 6 PM.  They are held at AFSCME, 514 Shatto Place, LA 90020, near the major cross streets of Wilshire Boulevard and Virgil.  I hope to see 50 of you at the next meeting on March 15!  It's all of our union, not mine.

Equally importantly, I am open to talk to any deputy any time he or she wants.  You can call me at my work in Long Beach in your free time, which as a salaried professional, thanks to your union, is pretty much up to you.  Or you can email me personally at  And, yes, we are gathering signatures for an agency shop election which I am happy to discuss in detail with any deputy or group of deputies openly.

Those that accuse the ADDA Board of trying to hide or do things in secret are off the mark.  We are desperately trying to get our message out on all of the issues of concern to every deputy.  We want every deputy to know what we are trying to do and why so we can do a better job of serving everyone.  That's the simple truth.

I must say, if I thought our Board was controlled by the sinister, secret, manipulative characters that are depicted here by some, I would not support this union either.  After attending one monthly Board meeting, however, one would be disabused of such notions immediately.  The meetings are full of diverse and deeply felt opinions.  No one person or group controls anything or anybody.  Every decision made, good or bad, is approved by the Board, and normally by large, nearly unanimous numbers.

Have you ever tried to herd cats?  How about 21 lawyers, most of whom think they know everything?  That's not a criticism of my fellow Board members.  It's just crazy it is to think of the Board in dark, conspiratorial terms.  The Board and I are committed to transparency.

Our most fundamental problem is communications.  It is embarrassing that in this electronic age, our union is hamstrung in getting its word out, but let's not lose focus as to why, good people.

The office has an electronic email system, Lotus Notes, that would be perfect for our union to communicate with each and every deputy in our represented unit instantaneously.  Since we are under a fiduciary obligation to represent all deputies, union and non-union, we have asked management for years to use Lotus Notes for that legitimate  business purpose in the interests of better morale and comity.  This was most recently requested, again, at our first Joint Labor Management Council meeting about two weeks ago.

Unfortunately, the County and management have a very narrow interpretation of the phrase "County Business."  So they have said no, so far.  We believe the law and good, common sense is on our side, so we are trying to reason with them to agree or find a suitable alternative.  It's all part of the process of better labor relations which we are pursuing.  Nevertheless, the main reason we can't just touch a keyboard and instantly message our deputies at this time isn't because we don't want to or are trying to hide what we are doing.  It's because management won't let us use the best available tool for it.  Hopefully that will change.

So it's left up to us, right?  So let's look in the mirror.

Our own website is in need of dramatic improvement, a fact long recognized, but here is the rub.  We need a union member to volunteer to keep it updated and maintain it with all the bells and whistles like Facebook and Twitter.  The person tasked with it now, frankly, is overwhelmed with other duties.  I would welcome those who wish to help out in this area.  If one critic would volunteer to do so, he would make a tremendous contribution to our union and all deputies.

In the meantime, we are left to use email addresses voluntarily given to us by deputies with their permission or to use the worksite, snail-mail, addresses provided by management, which frankly, are often wrong.  This means, regrettably, that our message, actions, notices, and requests are not sent to every deputy.  It is this unintended vacuum of information that allows misperceptions about our union to sprout seed and to weaken it, thus damaging all of the deputies in this great office.

I hope this comment is the start of a productive dialogue.  I want to address each of the serious issues raised here, one at a time, as long as I am allowed to do so.  As always, I welcome constructive criticisms or suggestions from any deputy.

Hyatt Seligman
President, ADDA
March 3, 2011"

So, take this opportunity to have an open dialogue with the ADDA by commenting here, either anonymously or use your name. Either way, it's time the majority of DDAs who often find out too late that something has been done in their name, got involved.

If you want to let the ADDA know your thoughts on the Agency Shop, there's also an unofficial online survey at the Los Angeles League of Independent Deputy District Attorneys where you can also have your say.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your response Hyatt, to the woeful lack of communications from the ADDA, but surely it has dawned on you that so long as you and the rest of the ADDA board insist on using inflammatory rhetoric boasting and bragging about "federal lawsuits" &c. &c., you are hardly likely to get the County or the DA's Office to allow use of Lotus Notes.

But lack of communications are only one of many failures by the ADDA. The idiotic endorsement of John Eastman for AG was another shot in the foot, wasn't it? How can you expect us to take you seriously when you engage in conduct that belongs in a 6th Grade schoolyard?

If you had the guts to issue a personal and sincere apology to all DDAs and Cooley for that irresponsible and reckless abuse of the ADDA's endorsement power, perhaps you might have a chance and winning some support from the silent majority. In the meantime, I suspect a recall campaign will be the next step, with a change in ADDA rules to prohibit any member engaged in a dispute with management, from serving as a board member or officer. Then at least DDAs might believe that the ADDA represents their interests, not the personal vendettas of a bunch of malcontents.

Also, this whole debate started because of the ADDA's loss of a major lawsuit. Once again, it was foolhardy action in violation of your own bylaws that caused the loss, and then a meritless appeal added to the losses. Why no explanation of that?

Perception is reality Hyatt. As an accomplished trial lawyer, you should know that better than anyone else. And the current perception of the ADDA is lousy.

Anonymous said...

Cooley needs to apologize to all DDAs, union and nonunion, for his continued reckless behavior, idiotic comments, and abuse of power. The union should endorse candidates in all elections or remain irrelevant. Everyone should get to vote and everyone should welcome the opportunity to participate. If Cooley wasn't engaging in illegal behavior along with Lacey and the rest, they wouldn't have a law suit against them. By the way, the rumor is that the Employee relations third review of the evidence brought against Cooley and friends has shown, again, some flagrant criticism of illegal behavior. Berger, will you look into that and post the ERCOM's comments verbatum? Thanks. For someone who wants the truth out there, you will surely take this as an opportunity, won't you?

Anonymous said...

10:35AM - You are making the very point that 7:21AM makes. You are too obsessed with your personal beefs with the office, and just want to use the ADDA to suit your purposes. That is the main reason why DDAs don't get involved in the ADDA - quite simply you do not represent us, you represent your own agendas.

The issue with the Eastman endorsement is bullshit plain and simple. It was done deliberately to annoy Cooley. Well how did that work out for you? All you succeeded in doing was making ADDA even more irrelevant than before.

I support the recall movement, and I hope the few good people on the ADDA will resign and join the recall. That way we might end up with a union that we trust. Despite everything that Hyatt said, it's clear that there was a lot he did not want to say - like the Peter Burke lawsuit loss and the Eastman endorsement. Also, we heard a rumor that after failing to win enough votes to be elected, Steve Ipsen was nevertheless appointed to a vacant ADDA board seat. Is that true? If so, why the secrecy?

You know as well as I do, that as long as Ipsen and his followers have anything to do with the ADDA, the vast majority of DDAs will not get involved. So start acting like adults and shake off the crap from the past.

As for the lack of access to Lotus Notes, I think Berger has shown that where there is a will to communicate, there is a way. Clearly the ADDA is not as transparent as Seligman says, otherwise he would have answered some of the more important questions. As I see it, recall is the only option, and a completely new board and officers who are impartial and will represent us.

Anonymous said...

12:57 - I am not part of the ADDA, but like what is happening and always have. You are obsessed with Ipsen and think he controls everyone. Cooley's problem is that the ADDA has become so relevant that he is losing control of power so he has to send out people like Berger to try to gain some negative momentum. Doubt it is going to work, but that is why we have a democracy and we have a vote.

Anonymous said...

2:52 - It's high time we had an open and frank discussion about the ADDA and suggesting that Cooley sends people to gain negative momentum is ridiculous.

Hyatt himself said that communications are a problem and he welcomed this forum as a place for the exchange of views. Are you suggesting that Hyatt and Berger are in cahoots? That's ridiculous and you know it.

It seems that you regard any criticism of the ADDA and it's association with Ipsen as having to come from Cooley. But it is a fact that there are many DDAs who do not approve of the way that Ipsen handled the ADDA, especially over the endorsement of John Eastman.

Ipsen said he was resigning because he realized that he had become the problem, not the solution, so why is it not a legitimate question (which has so far gone unanswered) as to whether or not Ipsen was appointed to board after he failed to win the election?

How about an answer? The silence is defining.

Anonymous said...

3-3-2010 @4:22 touched the same issue that has bothered me ever since I was asked to sign the agency shop petition. Whenever any of us has criticism of the ADDA or Steve Ipsen, the ADDA vilifies them as part of the big secret sinister management conspiracy. Then they ask for our signatures and money. Yeah . . . right.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 5:32

I took the survey on the ADDA, I wish you could add one more question:

"Would you support an Agency Shop if the current ADDA board and officers resigned and were replaced by neutral DDAs, freely and openly elected?"

I would. So for what it's worth Hyatt, you need to understand that the vast majority of DDAs do not trust the current ADDA leadership and never will until there's some change we can believe in.

The way that anyone who questions ADDA actions are immediately condemned as a "management plant" just isn't cutting it with us. That sort of rhetoric might work in some grey and miserable industrial town where 'management' and 'labor' are historically enemies. But that's not the LADA's Office where everyone in management, without exception, started as a Grade I and worked their way through the trenches.

We don't change when we become managers. We've done what you do, and oftentimes with a lot less. But the one thing we had that carried us through things like the hated "County Run" was a sense of camaraderie and esprit de corps. The ADDA has done more to destroy goodwill and good relations than any DA ever did.

Ever since Ipsen got ahold of the ADDA, he's used it divisively to advance his own agenda. We are not enemies with our managers any more than our managers regard us as the 'means of production to be exploited.'

Now the County is another matter, and yes, we need a strong representation to fight for rights that management cannot provide. But instead of partnering with management to present a united front, Ipsen created division, just so he could brag about federal lawsuits. And you are now perpetuating that division, and instead of bridging a gap, you are widening it.

You can hurl abuse at those who question the ADDA as much as you like, but the reality is that the more you do it, the more you prove what the critics say to be true.

If you cannot answer a simple question about Ipsen's appointment to the ADDA board, I think that says all that needs to be said about why the ADDA leadership is not fit to be trusted.

Anonymous said...

I am glad Ipsen ignores you. He should keep it up. Why don't you pick up the phone, call him, get your answers, and blog about it. Most of us are happy with the ADDA which is probably why it has continued, by our vote to go in the same direction, the right direction, and the lawful direction. You are the one that claims no one is telling you anything all while you don't participate. Will we see you at the next meeting? Then you can spout the same boring stuff all over again, and blog the same boring stuff all over again. Yawn....

Anonymous said...

P.S. Frank already answered your questions in the last series. Yawn....

Anonymous said...

Despite what the opponents say, the ADDA is not Steve Ipsen. While it is true that without Steve we would not have had the ADDA turned from a tea and cookie club into a true union with untapped power that scares management and the County, but he has done invaluable work on behalf of all DDAs.

The best way to change the ADDA is to get people to join and vote. Only with participation can we move forward together. This idea of a recall is ridiculous, especially since when we recently had a full election in which Steve Ipsen was not even running for president, we did not even have enough DDAs to run to fill the full board. Most people got elected by default.

People can't complain that they did not want to be part of the ADDA since they did not like the leadership since the whole leadership was up for election. In fact Frank Tavelman and Hyatt Seligman ran against each other, and each contacted members to vote.

Are the naysayers really saying that electing either Frank or Hyatt would be electing an Ipsen puppet? Anyone who thinks so clearly never attended any ADDA meeting.

Instead of complaining about the problems be part of the solution. Volunteer to make things better or simply shut up.

Anonymous said...

Hey 10:01, do you really think telling people to "shut up" is going to get agency shop support? Each ADDA election seems to bring a growing chorus of people who are concerned about the tone. Then they get ignored under the din of even worse commentary from the ADDA. This agency shop push is beginning to founder on those ignored concerns. And the response: "Yawn" & "shut up."

Anonymous said...

11:40PM is Berger. Listen up and shut up. The union doesn't need people like you - we've got the votes we need for the Agency Shop, like it or not.

Anonymous said...

AND 12:05am is . . . the real ADDA. If what you said was true, you wouldn't be trolling here. And if you were really concerned about the rest of us, you’d set aside your current tactics and listen.

Anonymous said...

1140 - You seem to pull my comments out of context. The point I was making is simply that if people want change they need to get involved. Those who simply complain are not helpful to anyone. I complain as well I just do it at board meetings. I also choose to get involved in positive ADDA efforts. The truth is that people shun the ADDA not because of the leadership but fear of the Administration.

You conviently avoided the discussion about the change of leadership. At every turn independent fact finders - two hearing officers selected by the County, the Employee Relations Commission appointed by the Board of Supervis
ors and a Republican United States District Court Judge rule over and over and over again that the DA's Office and the County violated County Code, the Government Code and the United States Constitution. The ADDA does a lot more for DDAs then make some mistakes and pick on the Administration.

Anonymous said...

Please don't ignore the above advice about tone. We've all seen our co-workers roll their eyes when the union comes up. If your supporters are known as the guys who are always shouting people down in public or on message boards, do you really think we want to sit in at a board meeting with them or give them our support?