Google doth make experts of us all

A response to Councilwoman Washburn’s letter

Ms. Washburn,
Before the last election, when I (mistakenly) endorsed now-Mayor Patti Walker, I explained in an email to you why I could not endorse you for the council. I stated that, while you have a great facility for digging-up facts, you seem incapable of understanding or properly applying them.

The actions you have taken during your first few weeks on council corroborate this assessment. Your most recent letter also reflects the problem. As with so many previous alleged statements of fact, your statement that Mr. Payne’s duties under his contract with the City of Fillmore “...have been completed” is false. Four of the seven commitments are on-going, such as use issues with KDF; bond issues (new variable interest rate bonds as low as .4 percent, substantially less than the present 4.3 percent) available; the sewer rate pro-forma; and miscellaneous tasks (always in play) remain now and at the time of Mr. Payne’s resignation. You should have known this.

Your other objections (cell phone, computer workstation and office) seem childishly petty. The phone was used continuously on city business. It would be ridiculous to demand that Mr. Payne pay for communications with the city in the course of his city work. The city should provide the tools to complete city work. Payne’s job was, basically, to save the city money (like the $814,000 he did save). Was that worth a cell phone, computer and work station? Reasonable people would say yes. After all, you asked these things for our new city clerk who is paid $25.00 per month and saves the city nothing.

You state that you “disagreed” with Mr. Payne on “some” issues. I can’t think of any major issue on which you agreed with him. Your nagging insistence that PERC should be the builder of our water treatment plant, when they have never before constructed a membrane bio-reactor (a specialty) is indicative of your misplaced self-confidence. Would you have someone build your house who had never built a house before? Then, why a $30 million, state-of-the-art plant? You stubbornly opposed our Design, Build, and Operate (DBO) contract for the same plant – until Santa Paula used that model for the construction of their plant – which caused you to change your mind.
You have the audacity to dismiss the complexity of the sewer rate proforma, constantly being refined, as something you could easily do because you “know how to use an Excel spread sheet”! Do you suppose Finance Director Barbara Smith flies through her city budget and taxes with an off-the-shelf Excel spread sheet and Turbo Tax program?

I don’t expect you to have passed a class on the law of contracts, Gayle, but we expect council members to understand the basic elements of a contract – which Mr. Payne had with the city. What did you expect to negotiate with him? It’s too obvious that you have never had an understanding of Payne’s true value, because you don’t understand his achievements during the past 20 years.

Both you and Mr. Brooks come to the council with an extraordinary, agenda-driven arrogance. What have either of you accomplished that would place you in a position to judge Mr. Payne’s professional achievements for the city?

You both have questioned Mr. Payne’s ethics by accusing him of having a (city created?) conflict of interest. You have both questioned the quality and value of his performance, when he has saved (most recently) $814,000 for the city.

You, Brooks, and Mayor Walker, together with that merry band of mischief-makers that supports you, have caused more than a year’s delay of the treatment plant, and wasted more than $1 million in unnecessary expense by your incessant, repetitious (asked and answered) questioning of expert opinion of the highest order. Your questions have often been foolish, such as “Can’t we save a little money by not using this non-reactive concrete?” You do a lot of loose research, but seldom sufficient homework.

You have essentially fired the winning quarterback at half-time. Now you had better see who’s left on the bench. Maybe you can Google-up someone.