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Deborah Edgerly's Unused Vacation Pay Not A Benefit; Edgerly's Character Defamation Continues

Look, I'm not writing this to defend fired Oakland City Administrator Deborah Edgerly' entire performance, but to act as a reasoned corrective. Phil Mattier and Andy Ross' column today listed what Edgerly was entitled to in the way of monetary compensation:

The bennies include:
-- Nine weeks of vacation.
-- Two weeks of management leave.
-- Three weeks of executive leave.
-- Ten weeks of sick leave (paid out at 33 cents on the dollar).
It's a grand total payment of $90,024, city officials confirmed.

Right. But what "city officials" forgot to tell Matier and Ross is that because Edgerly worked so many hours, she didn't take sick leave or management leave, or vacation pay. I like Phil and Andy, but I have to not only disagree with the way they present this information, but point an accusatory finger at the "city officials" who confirmed this information, because they could have took effort to tell Matier and Ross of the nature of the compensation and said nice things about Edgerly -- if only to protect the City from a lawsuit.

This City of Oakland's public relations behavior in this episode has been nothing short of stupid. The City of Oakland has served as the source for information leading to Chip Johnson's columns and in general was the instrument for painting Deborah Edgerly has being a bit worse in her job performance than the hot light of review would reveal.

Look, she's certainly made a rash of errors -- no question about it -- but the way she's portrayed in print and in the media has pushed reasoned analysis to the sidelines and smeared her in the process.

The City should have instituted a "talk nice" policy on this matter, so that it does not come away looking like the bad person in this matter. But it's too late for that. Miss E has an enemies list a mile long, many of them in different part of the City of Oakland. But to let emotions run away from common sense in how one presents information on someone else is grounds for punishment in my view.

But it may be more than "my view." The City of Oakland could be setting itself up for a "defamation of character" lawsuit. Here's the criteria for such a legal approach:

Defamation is a "tort," not a crime. This means that it is a civil wrong as opposed to a criminal wrong.

Defamation of character can relate to spoken derogatory statements (slander) or written derogatory statements (libel).

Insults are not considered to be defamation of character.

Courts of Law tend to believe that an opinion is not the same as a stated fact, regardless of the content.

For defamation of character, there has to be an identifiable victim.

For a good defamation case, the slander/libel must be false. It also must expose the victim to hatred, contempt or other harsh situations.

If the defamation affects you in your occupation, you may have a good case.

The protection of Free Speech (First Ammendment) is the main obstacle in winning a defamation of character case.

Actual damage must be proven as a result of the defamation. Just being upset about something that was said or written is not enough to constitute a defamation of character lawsuit.

Many defamation of character lawsuits are settled privately before they reach an actual court trial. This is usually in order to avoid any further damage from publicity of the incident.

If it is proven that you gave permission for the statement in question to be made, you have no case.

If you do decide that you want to pursue a defamation of character lawsuit, consult an attorney experienced in this type of law.

Your attorney can answer questions, tell you if you have a good case and give you the next step to take.

If you are planning on filing a lawsuit, gather all documents and evidence that has anything to do with your incident.

In your lawsuit, be sure to ask for punitive damages, as well as actual damages incurred.

Public officials and figures have a harder time winning cases of character defamation. For public officials and figures, it must be proven that the defendant acted with actual malice.

Private individuals have more protection from being defamed than public officials and figures.

The bottom line is that Edgerly would have a hard time winning such a lawsuit. But there's a possible window: First, her occupation was impacted. Second, it seems on many occasions that the "defendant" which is the City of Oakland, did act with "actual malice" and that could go back to statements by any number of City officials over this episode.

Look, there's one thing that the City of Oakland could learn from the "way" of the National Football League and that's to "nice you to death." The NFL has a policy of never issuing publicly damaging or attacking statements on individuals. Thus, while people from any one of the 32 member organizations may do this as they're separately ran, the NFL itself remains an oasis of "nice speak" that started with that PR genius, the late Commissioner Pete Rozelle.

Take note Oakland, before more mistakes are made.
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