(Note: Updated 2 p.m. Thursday with quotes, information.)
It was a case of meet — sorta — and definitely no greet on Inauguration Day at the Vista office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-49th District), according to representatives of 26 constituents in a group calling itself Courageous Resistance Encinitas who tried to deliver a letter protesting Donald Trump’s installation to staff there.
Newfound public political action met a locked door and refusal to meet from Rep. Darrell Issa’s Vista staff on Friday. Jan. 20, according to constituents.
Issa’s press spokesman said the office was closed due to “a federal holiday” and one of the woman in the group “later returned during business hours that day,” met with the office’s political director and had a productive 20-minute meeting.
For the record, according to the Federal Office of Personnel Management that establishes public holidays for federal employees under Federal law (5 U.S.C. 6103) Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 was NOT a federal holiday although federal employees in the Washington D.C. area may take off the day. Postal delivery was made Friday and banks were open.
However, it was Inauguration Day, a day now-President Trump subsequently proclaimed “National Day of Patriotic Devotion,” although all federal employees not in the D.C. area were required to work normal hours.
Calvin Moore, Issa’s press spokesman, pushed back Thursday on the characterization of the federal holiday through a series of emails, saying, basically, that Issa gave his staffers the day off to observe Inauguration Day.
“You should really remove all references to OPM and strike that paragraph from the article,” Moore said. “Otherwise, you mislead your readers. OPM guidelines do not apply to Congressional staff.”
Coincidentally, or not, after word went public Wednesday of the closed door incident, Issa’s web site featured an invitation to a newly called telephone town hall meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30.
Issa said: “On Monday, January 30th, at 2:00 PM PT, I will be holding a telephone town hall meeting to hear from constituents about your concerns and priorities for the new year. I’d love for you to participate!
“Telephone town hall meetings start with a call from me inviting residents of California’s 49th Congressional District to participate in a live conference call. (To find out if you are in the 49th district, please click here).”
For more information and to sign up, visit here.
However, posting on social media, some constituents questioned the efficacy of a telephone town hall meeting.
“From previous experience” Vista resident Joe Dusel said, “it seems that they select the questioners ahead of time, and screen for those that are on their side.
“I found it pretty aggravating,” Dusel said. “The time I was on many of the callers were bashing President Obama. This time it will likely be people loving on Trump. I am not hopeful. It would be much better if it were an actual town hall meeting.”
This is what happened, according to Karen Abrams, who was with the group of about two dozen people at the office Jan. 20.
“Friday morning, while President Trump was being inaugurated in Washington D.C., 26 North County residents braved the elements to protest the new administration outside Congressman Darrell Issa’s office in Vista.
After standing in the rain for about an hour-and-a-half, a handful of those present went inside to deliver a signed letter to their congressman, but Issa’s staff refused to acknowledge them. The constituents, who were assembled in the hallway, could hear the voices of the staff members inside the office, but in spite of their continued ringing of the doorbell and repeated knocks, Issa’s staff refused to answer the door.
After about 30 minutes, I volunteered to stay behind to deliver the letter while the others in my group left. I waited in the hallway for another hour, during which time I continued to ring the doorbell and knock on the door. The voices of staff members were clearly audible and I suspect they were monitoring my actions via the closed-circuit cameras that line the hallway and stairwell of the building.
I decided to conduct a test: If I left the building would they open the door?
So, I placed the letter which contained all 26 signatures on the floor outside the Congressman’s door, and went to my car to retrieve my phone charger. When I returned five minutes later, the letter was gone.
So, I rang the doorbell again, and this time, a man opened the door.
I thanked him for answering the door and for receiving our letter, to which the man responded, “What letter?”
“The letter I left here five minutes ago,” I said.
“I don’t see a letter,” he responded. “Why would you leave a letter outside the door?”
“Because we rang your doorbell and knocked on the door for an hour and a half and no one answered it.”
“Who’s ‘we?’ the man asked.
“The constituents I was with earlier, who left because you wouldn’t answer the door.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. We’ve been here all morning.” he said gesturing to the woman, whose desk was right by the door.
“Yes, I know. We could hear you from out here.” I turned to the woman behind him and asked if she picked up the letter, but she just smiled sheepishly, shrugged her shoulders, and nodded her head “no.”
This exchange went on for several more minutes, but suffice it to say they were trying to gaslight me. It was insulting and infuriating.
When I called Issa’s office on Monday, Jan. 23 to ask why no one had answered the door on Friday, the staffer simply stated that they had been there all day.”
When asked for comment, Calvin Moore, Issa’s press spokesman, sent the following email:
“As I’m sure you are aware, January 20th was a federal holiday and our offices were closed when the group arrived. One of the women in the group later returned during business hours that day and was able to talk with our district director for about 20 minutes or so about her concerns on several issues and deliver a copy of their letter to us in person.
“I’m told they had a very productive and pleasant conversation. We, of course, are always happy to accommodate constituents who want to meet with us to discuss any issue. We encourage groups and others interested in meeting with us to reach out in advance so we can schedule a meeting at any time that is convenient to them.
“Scheduling meetings in advance helps us be respectful the constituents who have calendared time out of their day to meet with us for appointments, help with casework or other scheduled meetings to share their views and ideas.”