WatchSonoma Watch

WSC comment spurs ethics complaint in Cotati

Mark Landman


Robert Coleman-Senghor, the Cotati councilman and former mayor who died April 9, continues to be a flashpoint in the city’s contentious, often sharply personal political scene.

An ideological foe of the former mayor has accused Councilman Mark Landman of violating the city’s ethics code by disparaging people who criticized Coleman-Senghor when he was the council.

Greg Karraker, who often confronted Coleman-Senghor over issues from patriotism to the budget, filed his complaint with the city Wednesday. He singled out Landman for comments he made on The Press Democrat’s Watch Sonoma County website.

Landman wrote, among other things, that Coleman-Senghor accomplished what he did “while being constantly harassed, reviled and attacked for the most base and political of motivations by this small (in all senses of the word) and bitter group.”

Karraker said Landman violated a section of the code that says councilmembers “shall refrain from…written…attacks on the character or motives of…the public.”

He said Landman also is “smug and arrogant” during meetings and asked the council to reprimand him “and demonstrate to the public that City Council is a place where differences are welcomed, not sneered at.”

The council did not respond officially at the Wednesday meeting where Karraker spoke.

But Landman, after asking Mayor Janet Orchard’s permission to comment, later said from the dais, quoting New York Yankee great Yogi Berra: “It feels like déjà vu all over again.”

Coleman-Senghor was himself accused of violating the ethics code by residents who said he verbally attacked them, belittled others and used ethnic slurs — he freely acknowledged the latter, saying he was making a point about the power of language.

The council did not act on those complaints until Coleman-Senghor dumbfounded his colleagues by pushing for an investigation into the charges.

He was found not to have violated the code, which he helped write.

At that time, Landman said: “Personal attacks — that is what I am seeing here tonight and that’s what we have to get past.”

This week, the day after the complaint was filed, Landman said he didn’t really want to talk about it.

Asked if he might do as Coleman-Senghor had done and request an investigation, he said: “You’ll remember that Bob Coleman got to that point after he’d been harassed for months and hopefully we won’t need to get to that point.”

Orchard on Thursday said the complaint would likely be placed on a future council agenda, and the council would  decide how to proceed.

12 Responses to “WSC comment spurs ethics complaint in Cotati”

  1. out-of-the-loop Cotatian says:

    It sure would be helpful to have a character diagram and quick plot summary to be able to decipher what the ____ this is about. I live in Cotati, and miss and admire Robert Coleman-Senghor who gave his time and energy for the benefit of all.

  2. sheryl judge says:

    Code of Ethics in Cotati? That’s funny!

  3. Ken Coleman says:

    Clearly the Ethics Code was made pre-Landman for certain councilmember. It was Landman’s choice to sign it or just say no. I believe Mr. Karracker should have called the Press Democrat. Hell, the Liberal’s called Channel Seven news for god sakes regarding a past member of the council. I am guessing according to your statement Graeme Wellington, we should not stoop to thier level by using the press? The quote” Landman has to be heaped in with the guy from PG&E. Since Landman is part of the public, can’t Landman now complain that Karraker is violating the same rule by criticizing Landman?” We the public didn’t sign the ethics code, our City leaders of Cotati did.

    This next statement is to the person ” Not A Chance”. My name is Ken, not Kenny, g money, the watchdog, or maybe even Republican. If and when I do die, How am I going to hear and appreciate it from the coffin? Is someone going to wake me up from death to let me know who was mourning my passing?

    God Bless America

  4. Graeme Wellington says:

    Mr. Karraker you’ve just erected a straw man to knock down rather than the actual point regarding the attempt to censor Landman with an “ethics” complaint. I never said a word of criticism concerning your ideas to improve Cotati.

    Clear the air for us… Did you tip off the Press Democrat about making an ethics complaint against Landman?

    I want to make one further point. It has to do with “code words.” Every black man and Latino knows about code words used to disparage them. When it’s rich white guy versus rich white guy the code words “smug and arrogant” are what you use when you lose an argument with someone who did a particularly good job of winning the argument.

    Since Landman didn’t kiss your behind and gave you his straight answer on the issues, all you got in the quiver is “smug and arrogant.” This is the catchall of all complainers when their actual statements are recorded on tape or some written record and they can’t actually come up with some specific statement to hang their hat on.

    Mr. Karraker just call whoever you called in the first place and withdraw your complaint. Settle the issue on the field of ideas and cease this attempt to bully your views and your ideas on people who disagree. How you accept and address a “no” is just as important as how you handle a “yes”. There’s plenty you can do.

    When Lincoln was first elected he had scads of enemies that eviscerated him during the campaign. Much worse than what you have done. The press asked him what he was going to do as president to those political enemies who said and did all those terrible things. He said, “I’m going to destroy them. I’m going to make them my friends.”

    This is the kind of spirit you need to actually accomplish anything in the People’s Republic of Cotati. The minority has the right to convince the majority that the laws should be changed. All your ideas are good and there are ways to accomplish all of them. But the bullying tactic has poisoned your own well.

    Silencing Landman won’t accomplish your goals. It has now empowered him and compelled him to entrench in his position against your ideas no matter what new information or argument is made.

  5. Greg Karraker says:

    I’m not going to comment further on the ethics complaint until the ethics subcommittee, comprised of Janet Orchard and Susan Harvey, make a decision, which I hope they do quickly.

    But just for Graeme’s sake, here are my views on how to make Cotati a better place, which differ sharply from anything I have ever heard from Councilmember Landman:

    1. Declare the Rancho Adobe Fire Station at the corner of Old Redwood Highway and East Cotati Avenue a partially blighted structure, and appropriate the $50,000 needed to repair its facade.

    2. Scrap the wasteful spending to Daily Acts for their water conservation program and eliminate the preposterous Cash For Grass program, and return the money to citizens in the form of lower water bills.

    3. Find a way to lower the Measure A Administration Fee. $80,000 to administer sales tax revenues that were supposed to net $700,000, but will likely net far less?

    4. Scrap the Downtown Specific Plan. Instead of waiting for $73 million in grant money to build this fantasy, make it easy for legitimate businesses to open their doors in Cotati.

    5. Invest the $6,500 it takes to support Koda, the city’s police dog, every year. Asking the citizens to have bake sales for such a vital function is preposterous.

    Those are just a few of the suggestions I have made, and will continue to make. So before you accuse me of having no vision, Mr. Wellington, do your homework.

  6. Not A Chance says:

    This will go down in flames.

    And Kenny its hard to take you serious as a threatening tough guy when your picture is you holding a hamster. Just saying.

    Ken if you’re colleagues defended your name after you died I’m sure you’d appreciate it, show some respect to the dead and their mourners.


  7. Phil Maher says:

    The Code of Ethics has always been a sadly vague and nebulous document that was never worth the time it took to prepare. Too easy to violate, too open to interpretation, simple to ignore when convenient, and really crafted to deal with personal differences, more than designed to regulate the general behavior of the entire council. I’ve personally seen it violated more times than I can count…by everyone. It was a typical feel-good cop out from a council that generally lacked the courage to stand up and deliver anything of substance from their own mouths. When Bob and I had a problem, we didn’t play games, we got right in the others face. We spoke our minds and didn’t bother with the dancing.

  8. Graeme Wellington says:

    I want to make one other important point on this topic. Note that it is not the government eroding your first amendment rights. It’s not big brother forcing Google to filter what you can read on the Internet.

    The suppression is coming from your friends, neighbors, colleagues at work, political enemies — regular people who disagree and just want to shut you up.

    The very reason the first amendment came about is exactly what is happening now. All those Latino activists that were calling everyone racists… same thing. They want to shut you up and censor you. And you know what? It’s working. Most everyone reading this never says a word on this forum.

  9. Graeme Wellington says:

    Landman has to be heaped in with the guy from PG&E. Since Landman is part of the public, can’t Landman now complain that Karraker is violating the same rule by criticizing Landman? Where does it end?

    Why doesn’t Karraker come on here and air out his own views and take on Landman with a better idea of his own or a more cogent expression of his own ideas and how they are better than Landman’s?

    I think the reason is because Karraker just does not have the ability to do that. What other explanation can there be to this blatant attempt to silence your critics with petty complaints like this?

    Chances are Karraker himself tipped off the Press Democrat about his complaint. So, the issue is in the newspaper ripping Landman a new one. A free cheap shot.

    It’s no different than the racist newspaper inserts. Someone goes to a newspaper box and slips in a racist pamphlet into real newspapers. Then, they complain to the Press Democrat about the racist pamphlet they found in the newspaper. The Press Democrat goes to the same newspaper box and they get their own copy of the pamphlet.

    Next day the story is how pranksters put a racist pamphlet into Press Democrat newspaper boxes. Of course, to tell the story properly, the Press Democrat has to reproduce the actual pamphlet in the real paper — distributing the racist message to every reader in the real paper.

    The Press Democrat did this same thing with all the attack ads from the last election. They reproduced every one of them as “news” that the ads existed.

    Karraker’s complaint is literally the same kind of thing. He’s manipulated the media and got all his complaints about Landman printed in the regular paper. It makes no difference whether they are true or false. This story had no critical analysis. The story just printed the criticism uncritically.

    The idea is that the newspaper was used as a weapon against a political enemy to silence an opposing view. Thanks for keeping up your journalistic standards Press Democrat. This is why the first amendment is being eroded.

    Don’t the editors ever think about this kind of manipulation? Why is it so easy? The Press Democrat has printed in full several fake inserts just as I said and they did print the attack ads in full and now look at this. What the…?

    Come on Press Democrat! The old guard would never be so easily used. Is the new group of reporters and editors doomed to repeat history?

  10. John Hudson says:

    What has happened to the First Amendment that it is “unethical” to criticize others in the realm of politics? The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly said that Free Speech is the highest value of this society. This “Code of Ethics” is absolutely contrary to our most cherished right.

  11. BigDogatPlay says:


  12. Ken Coleman says:

    Go ahead Mark, I dare you to say anything that might be offensive again. You are held to the Code of Ethics, which really gives your First Ammendment away when you optionally signed it. It was more intertaining watching Janet Orchard protect her young by trying to quiet George Barich during citizen business. I smell a few more comming.