For those who may have been visiting the International Space Station for the past couple of years, here’s some news: Fillmore City Hall is in crisis.

Not only are we technically bankrupt as a city, the incompetence of our city manager and her four council cohorts could soon make that bankruptcy formal.

Most of our council members, with the exception of Councilman Steve Conaway, attend meetings in a state of unpreparedness. This is obvious by the questions asked and statements made.

The crisis we face is fiscal, clearly seen in efforts being made to cobble together a budget, approval of which is mandated in early July. We haven’t had an accurate and honest budget since 2008-09 shortly before Finance Director Barbara Smith, and City Manager Tom Ristau were muscled out by the new régime. That was a time of political upheaval for Fillmore, when our newly installed City Clerk, Clay Westling (mentored by former failed mayor Gary Creagle) insisted on attending Ristau’s staff meetings (which Ristau refused to abide). A time when Barbara Smith (20-year city employee) was disgracefully treated by our rent-a-manager, Larry Pennell and his Katzenjammer minions. A time when Patti Walker (of censure fame) and Pennell traveled to check out the bona fides of Yvonne Quiring (who had been a city manager for about 15 months before having her contract bought out for more than $300,000). A time this was when Jamey Brooks was convinced that the budget was bogus, and who thought $85,000 a year was a good salary for any Fillmore city manager. That transition cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Citizen Brian Sipes joined Brooks and Walker in condemning the budget and most of the city staff, especially Ristau and City Engineer Bert Rapp (another 20-year exemplary employee) together with former City Manager Roy Payne, who built the city again following the Northridge quake.

They all had to go in order to “take our city back”, according to Walker, Brooks, Sipes, Cragle, and company. That budget also had to go. Pennell would have a buddy come in and make a more attractive budget, with colorful pie charts and new categories.

Well, from that time on everything was scrambled. That effort produced an abortion that was never properly scrutinized and didn’t balance. Humpty Dumpty couldn’t be put together again – though to be fair, Finance Director Glenda Jay is making a strong effort today. The nearly 40 percent city reserves, painstakingly built-up by previous councils (now referred to as “one-time money”) has been squandered, and the gap between revenue and expenses does not close.

Brooks defends Quiring because she will do his bidding, and he will never criticize her. Sipes is Quiring’s landlord (nothing illegal here) and also supports Quiring’s bungling incompetence. Our appointed Mayor, Washburn, tags right along, while constantly seeking to quiet Conaway’s objections and questions.

The city needs to undergo a thorough, objective audit by an independent company. Something is very wrong, which shouldn’t surprise anyone with any knowledge of the characters running city hall.