Three issues are prominent this week: the state of the budget, efforts to hire a new city manager and finance director, and the city’s recent victory in the lawsuit filed against Fillmore by the cities of Livermore and Industry.

Thanks to the chicanery, incompetence, unlawful activity, and incivility of our newly appointed Mayor Patti Walker, efforts to hire a new city manager have become confused and delayed. It would be helpful if our city council would decide exactly what salary would be paid to our new manager. However, Councilmembers Jamey Brooks and Gayle Washburn campaigned on the promise to cut the salaries of top management. Brooks insists on unspecified but significant cuts. But the employment brochure sent to prospective applicants for the job of city manager is misleading, mentioning nothing about this contentious issue. Very little time remains to hire a new manager – and find a new finance director. Right now, things are adrift.

The budget remains in utter disarray. Although former City Finance Director Barbara Smith left a balanced preliminary budget, except for tax and other information unavailable at that time, attempts by the interim finance director and interim city manager to complete an accurate and timely budget have, to date, failed. While much time has been spent on reformatting the budget (using a spread sheet which is easier to read), erroneous balances and transfers of funds to the new format have rendered it wildly inaccurate. These erroneous balances caused our interim city manager to proclaim that the city would be broke in 18 months without implementing drastic budget cuts. This proved to be untrue, thanks to the errors uncovered by Councilman Steve Conaway. Time for the production of an accurate preliminary budget is of the essence because the employment contracts for our interim city manager and finance director will expire in a matter of days.

Everything is being rushed, especially any meaningful analysis and deliberation by our city council. It is obvious that four of the five council members are not up to the task of evaluating the work. Only Councilman Conaway has shown a grasp of the problems. Although he had only a day to compare Smith’s preliminary numbers with the newly formatted preliminary budget numbers before the last council meeting, he discovered hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of mistakes – many glaring. In fact Conaway found 37 serious errors, with less than a day to quickly check about two-thirds of the new preliminary budget. The other council members were clearly unprepared to assist in this evaluation because they had not done their homework before the meeting. It appears that the new preliminary budget has been prepared with too much haste.

Had Conaway not attended the meeting I fear the other four council members would have assented to the preliminary budget formulation with only minor changes. This is truly alarming. Incidentally, Conaway had secured a commitment from former (recently retired) Finance Director Barbara Smith, to come to city hall and assist in the transfer of funds from her preliminary budget to the new format – free of charge! This proposal, presented to Mayor Walker, Mr. Pennell, John Wooten, and Bill Bartels, was rejected out of hand. How’s that for cooperation in the interest of city business – as Brooks, Walker and Washburn promised during the last campaign? This is another example of how these council members put personal feelings ahead of city business. In private business they would all be fired.

Lastly, the Cities of Livermore and Insustry have lost their lawsuit against the City of Fillmore. Our twelve demurs were affirmed. That’s like having the court say, “I understand the facts you present in your complaint, but you don’t state a cause of action”. The suit even accused us of RICO crimes! The lawsuit was bogus from the beginning.

Maybe this will finally shut-down those loudmouthed Katzenjammers who have been shouting about the “unethical” contract the city entered with Virginia-based Owen & Minor, which has enriched city coffers by millions. We not only won the case, we may very well get attorney’s fees.

I recall the meeting when former City Manager Roy Payne presented this fantastic offer from Owens & Minor (one of the country’s largest medical supply companies) which brings in over $800,000 per year in sales taxes. This 20-year contract still has about 18-years to go.

Payne explained the contract in great detail and answered many questions. The contract was then scrutinized by our legal counsel and proclaimed valid and lawful. Only recently have the Katzenjammers (like Bob Stroh) gotten sentimental over alleged issues of “ethics.” Ironically, the idea of ethics has been shunned by Mayor Walker, as she has steadfastly refused to sign the city ethics code. Stroh went so far in his support for the (then Councilwoman Walker) as to proclaim that signing the ethics code would violate Walker’s First Amendment rights.
Isn’t politics great?
We should remember in November.