On Friday, April 9th, the City of Fort Bragg received a letter from the Service Employees International Union. SEIU represents nearly two million workers in the United States and Canada, including many employees of governmental entities. This particular communication was signed by Patrick Hickey, field representative for SEIU Local 1021 and Alden Ramos, President of the City of Fort Bragg Chapter of SEIU Local 1021.
The letter is addressed to the Mayor and city council members, with a heading about “harassment of City of Fort Bragg staff.”
The letter itself: “We are writing to express our concern regarding the ongoing harassment and borderline stalking that city staff have been enduring at the hands of a community member, Jacob Patterson, who has developed an unhealthy fixation on the city staff members.
“This individual's obsessive and unrelenting actions should raise alarm bells. It appears that this individual has gone so far as to visit city staff's homes and taken photographs of their houses. His rambling missives to the city cite fictitious organizations that seem to exist only in his imagination, leading many to be understandably concerned about his mental stability.
“The past year has been particularly challenging for staff, with furloughs and restrictions brought on by the pandemic. But city staff has performed admirably under these difficult circumstances.
In addition to their normal work, staff have had to deal with exhaustive and frivolous public information requests, insulting emails, and attacks on their integrity and professionalism from Patterson. This is a waste of scarce city resources and the time of the small but dedicated staff.
“We understand that as a public entity, the city is obligated to be transparent and open to the scrutiny of the citizenry, and we fully support this. But in this instance, the individual [Patterson] is using this openness as a weapon and a way to torment, belittle, and attack hardworking city staff members. As City Council members, you have an obligation to keep city staff safe.
“We ask that you send a clear message that this sort of behavior will only serve to undermine this individual's positions and quixotic goals.”
The letter was cc-ed to Fort Bragg's city manager as well. Writing publicly to criticize someone's behavior is not a matter to be taken lightly. Believe me, I find it an onerous task, particularly because most of us live in figurative houses constructed from something akin to glass. For a service worker's union to publicly criticize an individual citizen, and an attorney at that, that union certainly must believe they possess something very much like just cause.
Seeing this letter from the SEIU is not an out of the blue surprise to this observer of coastal politics and government. Eight to nine months back I had conversations with someone, not a council member or staffer, who had personal knowledge about the Patterson situation. This person alleged that Patterson was “bullying” city staff. The same person claimed that Patterson had sent “over 500 emails” to Fort Bragg City staff and council members in little more than half a year's time. This person added, “The sheer number of PRAs [Public Records Act requests] that he does, along with the emails, calls, and texts… have cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.”
That same source also stated, “I assume you know that he [Jacob Patterson] did the same thing when he lived in the city of Claremont.”
Having heard the same claim from at least two other fairly reliable sources, I contacted someone in Claremont familiar with Patterson and city government goings-on there several years ago. The Claremont citizen verified that Patterson went through a prolonged period of inundating the city government and city staff with similar requests to the point that the city created a new rule specifically based on Patterson's pattern of harassing behavior. In that scenario, Patterson's requests were filtered through the city attorney before council or staff responded to those requests deemed meaningful enough for action. The Claremont citizen indicated that the city council seemed to be forced to expend an exorbitant amount of time dealing with relatively petty issues raised by Jacob Patterson in public and closed session.
Patterson presents a further problem for Fort Bragg government. His mother, Michelle Roberts, sits on the Fort Bragg Planning Commission. Jacob doesn't seem to hesitate to criticize city staff. Case in point can be found in the April 10th AVA online comments section. After a hearty slam of city staff he goes out of his way to state, “Luckily, we have a good Planning Commission who have been serving on a check on the questionable work of the City planning and engineering staff.”
There are those in the county's second largest city who see these examples of the son slamming a professional staff that has to turn around and work with his mother as troubling.
A bit of counterbalance is due here. I am aware of at least one situation in which Jacob Patterson has gone somewhat out of his way to lend his legal services in an effort to assist a working class citizen to get what was due them from an organization apparently taking economic advantage of the worker. This just goes to show that, as with most folks, there are dark and light as well as gray areas in many a personality.
It can also be said that Jacob Patterson attends a wide variety of public meetings that most citizens don't bother to pay any attention to. He has been seen in person or Zooming into meetings of the Rec & Park District, the local healthcare district, the harbor district, along with Fort Bragg City Council meetings. I don't even attend all of those anymore, even when teleconferenced or Zoomed, so it cannot be said that Patterson doesn't pay attention to what is going on.
The fault, alas, may be that he pays too much attention.
*During the public comments section of the April 12th Fort Bragg City Council meeting, the SEIU letter was read aloud by the city clerk.