In a recent column by Marin IJ Reporter Stephanie Weldy, the Novato Marriott Courtyard Hotel General Manager, Tim Howard, admitted he was personally involved in establishing a social media hit piece on Facebook whose sole purpose is to incessantly attack senior Novato City Councilmember and current candidate for re-election Pat Eklund.
Howard is not a resident of Novato. And, this has now become a problem for Marriott as well in that one of its General Managers has become a controversial and very public outsider participant in a local political campaign. Marriott deliberately and publicly maintains a non-political local presence serving the whole community, but its General Manager, keep in mind, does not reside in Novato yet has deliberately initiated an extraordinarily negative social media hit piece via a very one-sided vicious Facebook page driving division within the community. Marriott is quickly developing an image problem here locally.
Public corporations zealously guard their reputations in communities, especially when they rely on all segments of that community for indirect financial support, local promotion, and maintenance of nearby roads and police services benefitting that business. When a non-resident Marriott employee publicly makes a very partisan attempt to become an influential and prominent player within a Marriott hotel’s local political arena, alarm bells go off in its corporate public relations office.
As a private citizen, that employee has every right to participate in political campaigns. However, when that employee publicly leverages her/his position within the Marriott corporation as a pulpit for public comment or as a platform for public comment, the Marriott corporation is ineluctably and publicly linked to that individual’s actions and commentary – something considered extraordinarily risky for the reputation of a service business such as a hotel.
More problematic for Marriott is Mr. Howard’s suspicious public refusal to reveal the identities of the other participants involved in the establishment of the nefarious media hit piece. A logical conclusion is the other co-conspirators have something to hide, or feel they would suffer public condemnation if their identities were known thus revealing their media hit piece as a political “dirty trick”, i.e. an “underhanded unethical political activity or action designed to discredit an opponent.”
The Novato Chamber of Commerce is inescapably tied to this sordid political mess as Mr. Howard is a recent past President of the Chamber as is Denise Athas, another past President of the Chamber who is running for re-election. The voting records and patterns of Chamber-endorsed members of the Novato City Council confirm the Chamber’s continual self-serving involvement and dominating influence on City policy and Council decisions as well as the Council’s conformance to the Chamber’s economic agendas.
Marriott would do well to figure out how to extract itself from direct association with a contentious local political smear campaign. Mr. Howard may be a good person, but because of a serious error in judgement on his part his Marriott employer is linked with his destructive deceitful political activity. This does not make Marriott look good.
Smear tactics are an ugly side of overly aggressive snarky political campaigns. The hit piece media page established in part by Mr Howard and his unidentified accomplices is unceasingly being used to dishonestly hurt the reputation of a dedicated, experienced, and very capable public official.
Novato and Marriott should not tolerate such unclean political behavior, particularly by an employee who continually refers to his position at Marriott when making comments for public consumption.