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The Sun: Online Spat Raises Questions about SB Chief of Staff

By   /   May 7, 2014  /   Comments Off

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SBSun.com-SAN BERNARDINO >> A heated online argument between Mayor Carey Davis’ chief of staff and a former elected official raised questions in the mind of some about the appropriateness of the staffer’s behavior, while others said it was a reasonable response to a political opponent’s intentional provocation.

Former San Bernardino councilman and county supervisor Neil Derry, who is now senior vice president of public affairs at Desmond & Louis Public Relations in Yucaipa, posted a series of private messages between himself and Davis chief of staff Michael McKinney to a local political blog and to Facebook on Sunday.

“You’re mouthing off making an accusation about a conflict without any proof,” McKinney said in one message. “Which is a accusation of a felony that is libel. Now if you’d like to relive that money-laundering charge online ‘buddy’ I would remember your house isn’t exactly clean. I just have the common decency to not be a dirt-bag (expletive).”

The confrontation came after Derry questioned whether McKinney has a conflict of interest because he works as Davis’ chief of staff while remaining president of the public relations firm MICA-PR.

Derry and others have been asking that question — despite McKinney’s statements that his attorneys looked into any possible conflict and found none — since before the April 21 vote to appoint him, which passed over the objections of Councilman Fred Shorett.

It’s question, not a threat, Derry said by phone Monday, and McKinney’s response to it is troubling.

“I just want people to understand that Mr. McKinney flat-out threatened me,” he said. “He knows I do business in the city. … If this is the way the mayor’s chief of staff is going to react in private with constituents, I would have a great deal of concern.”

The two continued their discussion in online comments Sunday and Monday, and McKinney didn’t back off when reached by phone.

“The bottom line here is that Mr. Derry is trying to be relevant, and he’s not,” McKinney said. “It’s part of an old guard that is itself scandal-ridden and quite frankly does not need to be involved in the city’s rebuilding.”

Asked whether the tone of his comments was consistent with Davis’ message — he campaigned in part on an end to “toxic politics” — McKinney said it was Derry’s choice to post private comments and that his “question” was in fact an accusation.

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