Once again the Gazette has received a flaming letter from Bob Stroh, replete with the usual falsehoods, inaccuracies, and slurs. Again he wishes to visit his indictment of Councilman (and former Mayor) Steve Conaway for the trip Conaway took to Washington D.C. for the purpose of making a presentation at the US Conference of Mayors.

This is a bogus issue which has been exposed as such and addressed several times before. I cannot permit Mr. Stroh to monopolize the opinion page every week with witless opinions designed to fool the public. Therefore, I have deleted most of this most recent of his redundantly witless letters.

But I can already hear the whimpers and sobs from that handful of determined Katzenjammers who think this is somehow unfair, and a dark plot to keep them from expressing their opinions.

Next week, however, I will respond to Mr. Stroh’s accusations, provide a final, definitive explanation of Mr. Conaway’s trip, and explain to our readers what exactly the new city council has done, and intends to do, with our city government. At that time I will publish Mr. Stroh’s letter in full – and for the last time on this subject. I am truly tired of arguing with the emotional nitwits responsible for furthering the new city regime’s agenda.

For those of our readers who really want evidence of the abysmal incompetence of our newest councilmembers, Gayle Washburn and Jamey Brooks, I urge you to view the Channel 10 video of last week’s council meeting (6:30 p.m.). It’s bad enough to be found incompetent, but to be repeatedly unprepared for council meetings (Jamey Brooks), incapable of understanding the agenda (Gayle Washburn), or (habitually) incapable of preparing staff reports for council consideration (Bill Bartels) is a tragedy for city taxpayers. But there seems to be no shortage of giggling and laughter on the dais between Brooks, Washburn, and Walker, or lengthy closed-door meetings.

Former Finance Director Barbara Smith (23 years at city hall – before leaving because “That gentleman (Bill Bartels) does not know what he is doing”) left a balanced preliminary draft budget. Even with the numbers ready to go Mr. Bartels is unable to produce a timely city budget – maybe for the first time ever. In my interview with Ms. Smith, she expressed extreme frustration over Mr. Bartels refusal to meet, answer her telephone calls, messages, emails, and written requests. He simply refused to communicate, even though he knew Ms. Smith was about to leave office. How can this disrespect and lack of common sense be explained?

On four recent occasions the council has been asked to make decisions though staff, under Assistant City Manager Bartels, had not prepared reports – despite a recent 10 percent pay raise, promotion to Assistant City Manager, and an assistant to help him do his job. I don’t know to what extent our new temporary city manager assists in the day-to-day work load. We now also have a temporary Finance Director, but still no budget. Budgets can always be amended, why the delay?

These are a few of the problems which goad me to public revelation. The new majority on the council has succeeded in deconstructing city hall. In my opinion we are now, and have been for several months, in free-fall.
This is what I hope to explore next week.

 

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In my 20 years as a resident of Fillmore I have not seen such anger, hatred, disrespect, and suspicion in and around city hall as I do today. This almost complete loss of civility and cooperation was caused by a very small group of highly organized and determined people who desired to take over city government.

That take-over necessitated, in the minds of these activists, the winning of two council seats (giving them a council majority with Patti Walker) and the replacement of key, upper echelon (mostly long-time) city employees. The plan was to promote the candidacies of political fellow travelers Gayle Washburn and Jamey Brooks, long-time associates of the group. If this could be achieved, Walker would be appointed mayor and Washburn mayor pro-tem, with Brooks locking-in the majority.

Enter non-resident (and failed ex-Mayor) Gary Creagle, campaign manager for Clay Westling, candidate for city clerk. The position of city clerk was to be radically changed. Westling had a lengthy list of changes he intended to implement, including giving orders to city staff and presiding at staff meetings. The existing city manager refused to let this happen, and shortly thereafter resigned. Westling has become, many believe, a mere go-fer for the new majority.

This new crew had fought for more than five years against the north Fillmore general plan. It promoted Measures H and I. They succeeded in achieving both goals. They also succeeded in driving-off the city’s four top employees, who refused to work with the new management.

They failed in their many attempts to destroy plans for the new water treatment plant, however. That plant, and the Design, Build, Operate method which was employed, exceeded everyone’s expectations – on time and under budget, by millions.

But the new hard core political city management drives on. For a splendid example of just how clueless Brooks, Washburn, and Walker are, Fillmore residents should be sure to view Channel 10’s video of Tuesday’s council meeting (views at 6:30). It’s my impression that Washburn got the ear of our temporary city manager and succeeded in convincing him that last minute changes should be made to the remaining 2 percent of treatment plant construction. Despite the truly beautiful job the present contractors have done, Washburn, Brooks, and Walker feel the need to make last minute changes; new bids for remaining work are contemplated.

It appears that only two objects (targets) remain on the political agenda for the new city leadership: a wish to chase away our Director of Public Works, Bert Rapp, and City Planner Kevin McSweeney. Both are very long term, distinguished employees of the city. The first effort by the new majority to further this goal was to deny requested contracts by these two worthy employees, who fear for their jobs. This decision was made by a supporter of the new majority, Bill Bartels, who has been promoted to Assistant City Manager by the group, given a 10 percent raise, and two assistants to help him do his job. If we should lose Rapp and McSweeney the new management will have won a clean sweep of all top management at city hall, and with it the loss of 60-some-odd years of institutional memory and talent. Winning control was not enough. They could easily have changed council direction without chasing-off talented, long-term employees.

Some of the new management’s political camp followers contribute mightily to the cause through at-council statements and letters to the editor. Among those is Bob Stroh, with whom I have debated these past three weeks.
The Gazette has published his latest pathetic letter this week. It’s about what I expected after he could not provide a reason for his June 19 letter condemning Councilman Conaway. He asked for examples of his unfair and untruthful tactics. I provided the first example; he could not answer. This was a clear, recent example. Why waste more time supplying the others?

This nasty dialogue would not have been necessary if the new management (Washburn, Brooks, and Walker) had not implemented such a scorched earth policy from the beginning. I believe it’s my responsibility to point out to Fillmore residents the injustice, favoritism, and gross ingratitude of the new council, as expressed against the loyal staff and employees at city hall.

This new group has done incalculable damage to city government. They also completely ignore the great accomplishments of the old council and employees. Above all, they are simply incompetent.

I have absolutely nothing to apologize for.

 

The City of Fillmore is looking for volunteers to help with Coastal Cleanup Day this Saturday September 15th from 9am-12pm. The Coastal Clean Up volunteers will meet at Sheills Park & take a short walk over to our Sespe Creek bed to do our part in keeping our waterways clean. For more information/to register 805-524-1500 ext. 713 OR email recreation@ci.fillmore.ca.us


 

This is my third consecutive response to letters from Bob Stroh. The thread is wearing thin, especially where Mr. Stroh attempts to distance himself from the Katzenjammer Party line.

Mr. Stroh’s most recent assertion that [I haven’t] accepted the challenge, and his confident denial that he has “been a regular, outspoken supporter of these views…,” has, in his words, "turned into something like, it may take [me] a few weeks of searching to find the evidence."

This is a challenge to my integrity which will not go unanswered. However, I cannot turn this paper into some kind of Bob and Martin show. Believe it or not, Bob, not everyone shares your enthusiasm for this pointless contest. You now apparently deny any expressed sympathy for the Katzenjammer view that certain high level employees have been so wrong in their support and implementation of plans for the development of north Fillmore, the new water treatment plant, and several other undertakings, that they should be replaced. Also, that former Mayor Conaway, and former Council Member Cuevas should not be re-elected.

Your denial of having expressed any demand for the “unconditional termination of a group of city employees” is as hollow and disingenuous as your phony explanation for your letter of March 19, that readers may have “assigned a meaning unintended by me.” A meaning unintended by you? You sound like Letterman dodging his recent outrageous “unintended” joke. “Unconditional termination"? This strident term is an invention of yours, Bob, not mine, or anyone else that I am aware of. This sort of clinical specificity is an effort on your part to deflect the main accusation, i.e., that you are, and have been, methodically sympathetic to the views of those who have been sufficiently critical of certain council members and high-level city employees as to contribute to their untimely departure.

I would be surprised if you voted for Ms. Cuevas or Mr. Conaway. I would be equally surprised if you failed to vote for our new City Clerk, Clay Westling. I would be surprised if you agreed with our Director of Public Works Bert Rapp, or City Planner Kevin McSweeney, or, for that matter, former Management Analyst Steve McClary or Finance Director Barbara Smith. Would my surprise be justified? I think so.

Did you support the water treatment plant, as implemented? Did you support the second north Fillmore development plan (700 houses)? Did you support Measures H and I? Did you vote for Gayle Washburn and Jamey Brooks? Do you support the policies of Mayor Patti Walker? Did you express any displeasure with the outrageous bluster of Washburn’s (and Brooks?) interloping campaign manager, (failed former Mayor) Gary Creagle?

These questions are designed to cut to the chase and save a lot of dance time. Would you be so good as to answer them? In this way we can decide if you are sympathetic to the policies and strategies of the Katzenjammer Party membership.

To satisfy your curiosity about your own statements on these issues, Bob, I will attempt to publish some of your past statements. Last week you finessed your comment about Mr. Conaway’s trip to D.C. I’m hoping for a more forthright explanation for this week’s evidence.I will not devote so much time to your statements in the future. Very few readers have an interest in this debate. But, I’ll make a quick attempt to answer some of your most recent questions, and ask a few of my own.

That now famous trip to D.C. has been vetted to death. No private plane or fancy hotel were involved. Mayor Villegas signed the American Water contract. Please provide any evidence of Councilman Conaway’s lack of objectivity concerning this project. Vertreat, Micromedia and PERC all failed to participate in the bidding, and are, therefore, irrelevant to any discussion. Do you still agree with Gayle Washburn’s conclusion that one of these companies should have built our plant?

Do you agree with Washburn’s belief that Fillmore’s decision to use a Design, Build, and Operate process for the treatment plant was the wrong way to go? Fillmore saved 15 percent using this process, and Santa Paula followed suit with their DBO process, throwing away about $3 million in engineering plans to follow Fillmore’s lead. Likewise, the county tossed about $1 million in plans to do the same for Piru. Did you oppose the DBO, Bob? Delays in re-bidding plans for Santa Paula and the county cost them millions in inflation and permanently higher sewer rates. Conaway was right.

Fillmore’s final sewer rate will be about $89 per month and Santa Paula’s rate will be about $88 per month ($77 plus $1.12 per unit of water or about $88 per month) for a typical Santa Paula family. Actually, Santa Paula’s rates should be significantly lower than Fillmore’s because they have twice the number of customers and have an advantage in economy of scale over Fillmore.

Fillmore’s sewer rates could easily have been $10 per month higher than Santa Paula’s without former Mayor Steve Conaway’s leadership.

 


 

Although the Gazette has not received an obituary or other official notice, I have learned on good authority of the death of former Fillmore Herald editor, Terry Timmons. My condolences to Terry’s sister and any other family members on his untimely death.
Rest in peace, Terry.
***
Although I am about to launch some criticism of Mayor Walker in the following comment, I want to (sincerely) commend her for the professional way in which she conducted Tuesday’s council meeting. It was, no doubt, an unhappy decision for her to name the Fillmore Gazette newspaper of record for the city when the Gazette has sharply criticized her on other issues in the recent past.
Unlike the (characteristically) childish verbal tantrum Councilman Brooks displayed before voting against the award, because of my editorials (he actually stated that his vote was entirely “political” while complementing the Gazette’s over-all quality) Mayor Walker acted with the calm and control expected of the city’s top official. Thank you for that, Mayor.
A second response to Mr. Stroh’s letter:
Bob, for the second consecutive week your letter has rung the bell.
In order to answer your attacks and challenges, I have to do some research. Receiving your letter a day before press time didn’t leave enough time to finish the job. I note that you may be the Gazette’s most prolific letter-writer. The record will show your reputation for accuracy matches your pretense at truthfulness.
The sheer volume of your correspondence is the challenge I face. A quick search of your letters alone shows it would be impossible to compress this cartload of distortion to a manageable size this week. It may take a few editions to complete the job, but I will make the effort, as you request. As for your past remarks at the council podium, retrieving video of your performance would be too time-consuming.
It’s important for readers to understand that you are sympathetic to the agenda urgently proposed by a small but highly vocal Fillmore group. I estimate the core membership of this group to consist of about 20 passionate activists (of placard-waving PETA intensity) who advance very slow (or negligible) development in the City of Fillmore. They have shown themselves to be dynamically opposed to our new state-of-the-art water treatment plant, the north Fillmore residential plan, and other major city improvements. In their pursuit of support for the cause they engage in gross misrepresentations of fact and produce contradictory results (i.e. housing density). They are also heedless of ultimate costs and consequences.
To facilitate their agenda they have targeted those city employees most responsible for completing on-going projects. At the head of this movement are three city council members (Mayor Patti Walker, Councilwoman Gayle Washburn, Councilman Jamey Brooks, and a fourth, Rumpelstiltskinian, former Councilman (and failed Mayor) Gary Creagle (no longer a Fillmore resident).
What’s most important is that Fillmore residents understand that this group is, in essence, acting like a political party – without portfolio. Nothing like this has been seen in Fillmore’s history. By replacing the City Clerk, promoting Gayle Washburn and Jamey Brooks, and creating a poisonously micromanaged atmosphere for employees and staff, they have taken over city hall and caused many long-time employees to flee the scene.
My preamble to this response has taken too much space so I will give just one example of your corrosive propaganda. By next week I will be better prepared to meet the challenge – with more examples.
Bob, for the Lie of the Week you state: “Regarding council member Conaway’s trip to Washington D.C.: I emphasized that I did not think for one minute that Steve did anything to benefit himself personally. My only worry was whether he could remain objective when the council was considering matters pertaining to the sewer plant. This was a legitimate concern particularly after discovering that American Water utilizes a tactic of nurturing relationships with elected officials so they can do their bidding for them. I was well aware of the details of trip...”
With respect, Bob, this is pure BS. And I’m shocked – shocked, to learn there are lobbyists in Washington trying to influence action. But the trip happened after the contract was signed; how could they influence Mr. Conaway? Here’s what you had to say on March 19, 2009, and elsewhere more than once:
“...Does that mean Washburn, Brooks and Walker cannot be independent representatives? Not at all. And you can bet that they will not accept an all expense paid trip to anywhere from a contractor being paid by Fillmore people. Conaway can’t say the same.”
It doesn’t take a genius to understand the import of your statement, which does not agree with your explanation. And your factual “details of the trip” are completely wrong.
But, I’m way over my word limit. However, this vein is too rich to walk away from, Bob. I will continue to answer your challenge with examples of your past statements and representations.
By the way, and I speak from experience, lots of curry powder and pepper makes the crow go down a lot easier.
Stand by.

 


 

This is a response to Bob Stroh’s letter.
I want to thank you Bob for simplifying my targeting decision this week. I should have responded to you long ago, when I still had some respect for your opinion. I will answer your list of whimperings one item at a time.
“For many years” (25, to be exact) I have indeed provided my opinion on candidates. But you can’t flatter me into believing my comments have the power to “affect outcomes at city hall” - and my “attacks” are not purely personal. However, critical examination is vital to good democratic government, and the pages of the Gazette have always been open to your own vitriolic rebuttals. Over the years I have been criticized for being either too friendly or too hostile to city hall. I guess the mix is about right.
We know how badly things can go when the wrong people slip into office (just think of the embarrassing fiasco Gary Creagle provided when he managed to get in). Some people listen to my opinions, others just laugh – or frown. It makes no difference to me as long as the opportunity for independent expression continues. I sign my name to the column; its truthfulness and accuracy are permanently placed for everyone to examine and debate.
You use words with such slovenliness, Bob, that you seem incapable of distinguishing a lie from a disagreeable opinion. Only liberal, politically correct sheep feel compelled to complain about the tenor of my columns.
In typical hypocritical-liberal style, you have shown few qualms about repeatedly using this paper for your own sharp, lying attacks upon others. For example, you delight in accusing Councilman and former Mayor Steve Conaway of having committed a wrongful act by traveling to Washington D.C. for a mayor’s conference to which he had been invited. You repeatedly maintain this lie (trip was unethical, possibly unlawful) in the face of numerous explanations by Mr. Conaway to set the record straight. This is a true lie because no reasonable person could continue to make accusations such as yours after learning of the facts, repeatedly clarified. People can and often do make mistakes; this does not necessarily mean they are lying.
Other examples of egregious lies emanating from you and those 20-something gadflies residing in your Politically Correct playground, affect the professional reputations of ex-City Manager Roy Payne, ex-Finance Director Barbara Smith, ex-City Management Analyst Steve McClary, City Planner Kevin McSweeney, and Director of Public Works Bert Rapp, outstanding employees all. And all this because of disagreement with past city policy on the water treatment plant, north Fillmore development, etc.
As to Mr. Bartels, you deliberately confuse the issue. I have expressed, and continue to express, great personal respect for Mr. Bartels. At issue, as far as I am concerned, is the fact that he recommended contracts be denied to Mr. Rapp and Mr. McSweeney, despite the fear expressed by these two long-time city employees that their jobs were in jeopardy without such protection DUE TO THE EXPRESSED AGENDA of the two new council members and our freshly appointed mayor.
You are either woefully ignorant of the fact that Walker, Washburn, and Brooks have openly, often obnoxiously, voiced their intention to get rid of these employees, or you are, again, a liar. You have been a regular, outspoken supporter of these views, in print and at the dais. Rather than simply take office and order a direction change through normal employee channels (the new majority is in charge you know) the new council decided to eliminate each employee who had differed with them in the past over a successful policy which left the city with a $2 million SURPLUS. This was a pure, announced, vendetta which has seriously harmed city confidence. In my OPINION Mr. Bartels is facilitating this disgusting policy by perhaps assuring the early departure of Mr. Rapp and Mr. McSweeney.
I don’t come to these issues and personalities recently. I have known all these people for many years, and have had official and unofficial meetings with all of them. I know where their sympathies lie regarding public works and policies. I know that many top level city employees expressed extreme concern to me (before and after the last election) about the welfare of the city in the event Brooks and Washburn were elected. Each told me that they did not wish to continue as city employees if these two were elected and attached themselves to Walker, pushing their extreme hard-line agenda. Brooks and Washburn got in and the employees I speak of have left, for that express reason; more are sure to follow. They are leaving because of the new council’s troublesome micromanagement style and the obnoxious atmosphere of personal disrespect for our experienced, competent, professional staff.
I do not say that Mr. Bartels is a formal “member” of any political group. I know nothing about Mr. Bartels’ formal political leanings, and could not care less. I do know, however, that he has gone along with the Walker, Brooks, and Washburn plan to deny much-deserved contracts to Rapp and McSweeney, and has, curiously, put off any performance evaluation until the magical moment arrives when a new permanent city manager is inaugurated. I do know, from past conversations with Mr. Bartels, of his interest in becoming city manager. At one time I even recommended it. He may have changed his mind. But the thought of having a new city manager (or a subordinate) “evaluate” the work of veteran employees like Roy Payne, Bert Rapp, Barbara Smith, or Kevin McSweeney, is ludicrous. What would that person know of their work? Enough is known of their work by the present council to evaluate it; that evaluation has actually been on-going by the Katzenjammer Kids for several years. Waiting for any fairness in this situation is just laughable. I don’t for a minute believe that Mr. Bartels failed to consult with his bosses on the issue of granting the contracts – and the decision was inescapable in view of past attacks on Rapp and McSweeney.
Your disingenuousness shows, Bob, when you try to make much of my reference to Mr. Bartels’ work with Mr. Payne on the north Fillmore plan. Surely you read Mr. Payne’s remarks on that issue (see responses online under editorial), and my correction. Political “sympathies” are what I worry about, insofar as they agree with the new Triumvirate’s agenda.
As for “correlation” between the jobs Ky Spangler and Bartels are doing, I would remind you that Mr. Payne didn’t require an additional $25,000-helper to get the job done. Maybe it’s time to “evaluate” Mr. Bartels’ job? Barbara Smith thought that might be a good idea.
I am deeply impressed with your acknowledgement that “owning a newspaper doesn’t give [me] license to harm people.” My intent is never to harm people, Bob. But that doesn’t mean needed criticism never “hurts”. My intent is to tell the truth as I discover it. If that happens to hurt, so be it – that’s the nature of politics and editorials, and politics is what this new group has brought to this little town, in spades.
If Mr. Bartels decided to deny contracts to Rapp and McSweeney on his own volition, I question his judgment. If the decision was made under the influence of Brooks, Washburn, and Walker, I question his judgment.
Bob, you question my honesty, accuse me of damaging “our city’s image,” of being a “bully”, and of being (God help us) “contentious”. I hope always and everywhere to be contentious where there is something worthy with which to contend.
You may be a liar, Bob, but you’re not a coward. I respect the fact that you stood-up to wrongly insult me. As for any “license” you claim I am abusing, you’re dead wrong. The opinion I express operates under a protected sacred right, a right codified in the First Amendment of our Constitution, which reads: “Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...”. I take that right very seriously every week. I also recognize the fair exercise of that right as a duty.
As for being a little contentious, there are important American precedents for that, like Payne, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, real opinionated troublemakers all. This newspaper may be small, but I live by those words and by that example, as do thousands of other publishers of small weekly newspapers.
And finally, Bob, check your pants; they’re on fire.

 


 

Fire Chief Bill Herrera stepped down from his position during Tuesday’s regular council meeting. We owe him a debt of thanks for the good work he did during a particularly difficult transitional period for the department.
Bill has been replaced by Rigo Landeros. Rigo has been with the department since 1992, and is highly respected by his fellow firefighters. Congratulations to both of you for your distinguished work.
***
Deputy City Manager Bill Bartels succeeded in getting the council to appropriate an additional $12,000 to pay for his assistant. Ky Spangler will assist Bill (at $100 per hour) while he learns his duties as Deputy and anticipates his elevation to the position of city manager. Ms. Spangler has justly received high praise for her work on the north Fillmore plan for SunCal. [I have deleted this sentence due to my error in stating that Mr. Bartels opposed north Fillmore development. Please refer to Roy Payne's blog comment, and my response.]
I guess the question now is: who will assist Bartels in his expected transition to Roy Payne’s old job as city manager.
Oh, brave new world.
***
The Gazette has battened her hatches, awaiting a squall blowing from our newly elected city council. As I understand it, this expected action will demonstrate once again the new council’s true character – malicious, mendaciously political, and hypocritical. However, no tactic remains that could possibly surprise us – and no explanation can deceive. The mystery will reveal itself within two weeks.

 


 

The heated dispute between the Fillmore Unified Teacher’s Association (FUTA) and the school board and district continues. The Gazette has published the letter from Fillmore Unified School District Board President John Garnica, this week. It was received too late for publication last week. I think it raises some questions that should be answered.
Mr. Garnica was “disappointed” to read the “article” which ran two weeks ago. In fact it was not an article, it was an official statement, indicated as such, from FUTA. It was FUTA’s statement of facts, not opinion, and all statistical information was provided by the District. This information can be viewed at http://www.fillmoregazette.com/front-page/fusd-board-president-rebuts-fu....
FUTA, and others, would ask whether it’s accurate to state that “...the administration was the first to feel the pain.” The pain referred to by Mr. Garnica concerns the decision not to fill the position of Technology Director. However, last year, well before the budget crisis, the man filling that position decided to leave. The position was left unfilled. It’s difficult to see the pain here, especially in view of employees and families who actually lost wages.
The other position lost to the District had to with an unidentified “quasi-administrator”. What exactly is that position? How many days were cut from administrators? Was the pain here comparable to that felt by teacher aids, librarians, school site library clerks, with cuts ranging from 5 to 33 days?
I think it is disingenuous for the Board or District to claim a 25-percent cut under the circumstances. Also, administrative cuts were actually the last to be made. And who besides the quasi-administrative person was actually cut?
It’s past time for FUTA, the District and the Board to meet again and straighten-out these differences – and seek to identify the ghost caller who peddled so much false information in an effort to discredit individual FUTA members, Scott Duckett and The Fillmore Gazette.

 

Are you ready to Trunk-or-Treat?! Calling all groups, clubs and organizations that are interested in partaking in a FREE family-friendly Halloween activity! On September 24th the Parks and Recreation Department will be hosting an informational meeting at City Hall in the Council Chambers from 5:30pm-6:30pm. We invite you to join us on Monday September 24th to answer any questions and accept registration for spots available at our Trunk-or-Treat event.
Registration packets are available for pick up at City Hall on the 2nd floor in the Parks and Recreation Department. Feel free to call 805-524-1500 ext. 713 or recreation@ci.fillmore.ca.us for more information.


 

REALITIES
The Gazette has found itself in the middle of a heated controversy between the School District and the teachers union for the past several weeks.
This week we have begun to focus on this confrontation with a story which is expected to continue for several more weeks. At question is the fairness of school district budget cuts, relating to teacher’s salaries and lay-offs.
I regret that a letter by Fillmore Unified School District Board President John Garnica, received this morning, was too late for publication.
Mr. Garnica’s letter is a rebuttal to statements made by teacher’s union President Theresa Marvel in last week’s Gazette. Garnica, challenging some facts, claims the article is only biased opinion, not news, and that neither the school board nor the District were provided an opportunity to counter Marvel’s claims. He denies the accuracy of salary figures in Marvel’s statements as well as well as claims of unfairness in salary cuts and lay-offs.
The Gazette may have been negligent in failing to provide a formal invitation to respond, but the opportunity was certainly there, and every District and Board member knew of the story.
My apologies to Board and District members who feel this was unfair. The Gazette was dealing with some bizarre issues while interviewing a number of parties to this story. In any event, the Gazette encourages all members on both sides of this debate to contribute to a better public understanding of the issues. Many facts remain in dispute.
Mr. Garnica’s letter raises several issues of fact itself, and will be published in next week’s Gazette.
***
At Tuesday’s Council Meeting, Ms. Ann Ray, a resident of Riverwalk, complained that speeding traffic on Burlington Street was endangering the lives of many children who play in the adjacent area. She also told the council that the park was badly maintained. Sprinklers were broken, causing a swamp-like condition which was a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The grass area was in very poor condition as well, with rocks and weeds.
An inspection Wednesday proved her complaints to be correct. Something should be done to clean-up the area.

 


 

Councilwoman Laurie Hernandez has voiced objection to my description, in last week’s Realities, of the condition with which she is struggling. I had characterized her problem as an “addiction”. The problem is more accurately described as alcoholism.
I agree with her objection. I also apologize for the inaccuracy. It was not my intention to emphasize a particular condition. My intent was to demonstrate a problem of judgment. A council member should have, among other essential attributes, good judgment. This problem, in my opinion, has impaired her usefulness on the council.
I also attempted to show examples of poor judgment on the part of each of the new council members. Councilman Brooks met with me this Tuesday, at my invitation, to express his displeasure with my choice of words referring to an alleged example of his poor judgment. I guess we agreed to disagree after a very civil discussion.
My criticisms of Brooks, Washburn, Walker, Hernandez, and now Mr. Bartels, are intended to show that a series of bad decisions by this group has led the city into serious, long term, trouble - fiscal, legal, and as far as city staff goes, psychological.
The deconstruction of city government has gone according to plan, perhaps much faster than planned.
We should remember that Roy Payne, Tom Ristau, Steve McClary and Barbara Smith, were all targeted by the new council majority. Now, due to actions by a thankless Bill Bartels (denying employment contracts), probably Director of Public Works, Bert Rapp, and City Planner, Kevin McSweeney will also be forced to resign. This is a clean sweep of all top management, an unprecedented, engineered disaster.
It’s clear to me that the new council’s search for a permanent city manager is pure theater – a public charade. They appear to have every intention of finally appointing Bill Bartels as city manager. Mr. Bartels, well educated gentleman that he is, is not competent to take on this demanding job. He lacks the essential management skills to effectively direct the daily activities of staff – this was revealed by Finance Director Barbara Smith’s statement that, “This gentleman doesn’t know what he is doing.” However, with his recent 10-percent raise, and the help of a $100-per-hour assistant, maybe he will last until the permanent city manager is appointed (himself?). Pretty nice plumb.
I leave you with my last prognostication: card-carrying Katzenjammer, Brian Sipes, will be appointed to replace Councilwoman Laurie Hernandez. Brian is a Councilman-in-Waiting. He has been warming-up in the wings for quite a while and friends on the Katzenjammer Council provide him special privileges, such as passes to attend employee meetings. As a person of interest he is interviewed by the Ventura Star and receives a full council agenda packet. Surely he is in the fast track to join Katzenjammer fame and council cluelessness.
To the council: Quomodo Una Nocte Facta Tam Turpis Es?

 

Well, the plot thickens at city hall.
I really felt sorry for Public Works Director Bert Rapp, and City Planner Kevin McSweeney having to explain why they sought contract protection at the last council meeting. Councilman Steve Conaway was absent due to work demands.
Bert asked for an extension of his present contract, which has one year to go. He explained that, due to the unprecedented number of high-level departures and retirements during the past two months, he believes his position, after 20 exemplary years of service, is in jeopardy from the new, politically radical, council majority.
McSweeney also told the council he feared for his job. He is facing a growing number of complaints and implied threats over decisions he is duty-bound to make, such as zoning. For this reason he also asked for a contract of employment which would protect him. He reminded council members (Jamey Brooks, Gayle Washburn, newly appointed Mayor Patti Walker, and Laurie Hernandez) that he had a family to support and that job security (following 15-years of service) was critical to his family’s wellbeing.
Brooks wanted to know what was so critical about a contract. Washburn stated that both long-time employees were doing a good job. And, Walker made vague reference to how much their work was appreciated. Hernandez almost jumped out of her seat to emphasize that no employee had been fired; they had all left of their own volition. They unanimously refused to grant the contract requests, even though, in the case of Bert Rapp, it would have cost the city nothing.
Each council member stated that the recommendation of the new interim City Manager, Bill Bartels, not to grant contracts until the permanent city manager should be chosen, possibly up to a year from now, was the best way to go.
Time is short. I no longer have the patience to maintain silence in the face of such council mendacity and hypocrisy.
Here’s the reality at city hall today. We have Brooks, Washburn, Walker, Bartels, and (now) Hernandez, passing judgment on Rapp and McSweeney. What standing do these five have to make such judgments?
Brooks’ judgment is so poor that he was recently bounced out of his position at a local Christian school. Washburn’s judgment is so poor she clings to her preference for Vertreet and PERC to build our water treatment plant. Walker was censured for unethical conduct by a previous council, and has adamantly refused to sign a council code of ethics. Hernandez’ behavior on the council has been nothing short of bizarre, do most likely to the addiction she formally admitted. Despite great forbearance by the council for treatment, she continues to be an embarrassing presence. As for Mr. Bartels, he has coveted the office of City Manager for years, the office his grandfather once occupied. I have refrained from commenting on Bill’s activities at city hall till now because I was not sure what was happening. Now, however, I see that it was he who refused to grant contracts to Rapp and McSweeney, until a permanent manager can come aboard. I also see very clearly now that Mr. Bartels will likely be placed in that position by his long-time friends Walker and Washburn, with Brooks and Hernandez tagging along. I will be surprised if this does not happen.
Mr. Bartels is not qualified to take over the job that Roy Payne had for 20 years; he has neither the education nor the experience for the job. But this didn’t stop him from requesting a pay raise after recently receiving a new job title as Interim City Manager, from Deputy City Manager. Not only did he quickly receive a 10-percent raise, he talked the council into providing an assistant for him in his new job, because, in Finance Director Barbara Smith’s words, “This gentleman doesn’t know what he is doing.” His assistant will receive $100 per hour.
I have to close with: None of these council members and pet administrator knows what they are doing.

 

The early retirement of Fillmore Finance Director, and one-time Assistant City Manager, Barbara Smith, was not announced during Tuesday’s regular council meeting, at her request. Please watch the meeting on Channel 10 – 6:00 p.m.
Barbara has been with the city for 23 years. She is the fourth member of Fillmore’s top and mid-management to leave office during the past two months. First to resign was former City Manager (for 19 years) and Special Projects Manager, Roy Payne. The second was City Administrative Manager, Steve McClary. And the third, former City Manager Tom Ristau.
Each of these distinguished city employees chose to leave rather than deal with the two new council members, Gayle Washburn and Jamey Brooks. The combination of these two, with recently appointed Mayor Patti Walker, has created a poisonous, radical, agenda-driven, environment.
I was absent from that part of last night’s council meeting where the council refused to grant a contract to City Planner Kevin McSweeney, and Director of Public Works Bert Rapp. Both of these exemplary management-level employees (each on the job for about 20 years) seek job protection following the recent landslide loss of so many other long-time employees due to the new council agenda.
Walker, Brooks, and Washburn revel in the loss of these people after having targeted them for several years. All of the above mentioned employees have been viciously opposed by Walker, Brooks, and Washburn because of differences of opinion on city development. Heading the charge to rid city hall of any vestige of past management is former (failed) Mayor, Gary Creagle. Creagle no longer lives in the city, but was campaign manager for Brooks (and Washburn?) in the last election cycle. Creagle, a lying, ill-tempered blowhard, claimed at the March 22 WRP Memorial Building workshop: “When I was on the Council the City had $7 million in reserves”. He knows better. Records show that when Mr. Creagle started as a Councilmember the City had approximately $1.5 million in the general fund. When he left office in 1988 the general fund had less than $600,000. The general fund decreased by $900,000 during Mr. Creagle’s tenure as a Councilmember. But, Mr. Creagle has many old axes to grind, and scores to settle, and was able to fool a sufficient number of the Fillmore electorate (500 over the top) into believing that existing city management was doing a terrible job – though it maintained a substantial general fund surplus and achieved remarkable things in the way of city improvements – harmoniously.
Creagle is also the man who barged into city offices with newly elected City Clerk Clay Westling in tow, demanding to know where the office for the new Clerk was, and telling another staff member that “That’s OK. Your job is safe.”
This group’s plan has succeeded beyond its wildest dreams, and the city will pay the price for a generation. Nothing like this has ever happened in the city before. With the exception of Councilman Steve Conaway, we now have an ignorant, arrogant, incompetent, and thoroughly obnoxious city council. They have lost all (or will soon lose all) institutional memory, professional talent, and staff good will. They are like the dogs that chased the car until they finally caught it. Now, let’s see what they will do with it. Let’s see what happens to the general fund.
I have had to write this bit with substantial distraction an hour before deadline. Much more needs to be said. I will try to expand my description of the mess the City of Fillmore now finds itself in, online at fillmoregazette.com, tomorrow.
This infamous group has brought us to a truly sad day.

 

Publishing a website, can sometimes be a real pain.
Take the video of Thomas Paine now showing on the “Politics & Government” page. The content reflects many of Mr. Paine’s views, as one of the most outspoken of our founding fathers, and author of Common Sense. The video addresses the issue of coming together as Americans, as our motto urges “E Pluribus Unum” (from many, one).
I just realized that other, objectionable, videos were linked to this particular one. For anyone who may have been offended by the others, my apologies. We make a strong effort to monitor the site, but it is impossible to catch every objectionable post as quickly as they may be imported. The fillmoregazette.com website is designed to provide a valuable, user-friendly, and quick method of communication for Gazette readers and Fillmore residents, in particular. The site also attempts to vigorously support a traditional, conservative, Judeo-Christian based ethos, without apology. This certainly does not mean that opposing opinion may not be strongly expressed. To the contrary, all opinion is welcome, providing it complies with the forum’s common sense rules and regulations.
***
The Katzenjammer shenanigans continue unabated at city hall.
Having inspired the resignation of former City Manager and Special Projects Manager Roy Payne, former Management Analyst Steve McClary, and former City Manager Tom Ristau, the question arises: who’s next?
New council members Jamey Brooks and Gayle Washburn, teamed-up with newly appointed Mayor Patti Walker, have succeeded in gutting city staff with all deliberate speed. The problem has become, who is left to do the work? Interim City Manager Bill Bartels, nice guy that he is, has little city manager experience, and there is no one around him with more experience than he himself.
City money is now being squandered to search for a permanent city manager and to pay the cost of implementing Measure I, authored and promoted by the Kids. Waiting in the wings is another political wannabe, Brian Sipes. He is a card-carrying member of the Katzenjammer group, targeting Hernandez’ seat on the council. Should Sipes somehow defeat Hernandez in the coming election, it would be four to one, with Councilman Steve Conaway the last man standing for experienced, professional leadership.
Because of the Katzenjammer group’s successfully implemented agenda to rid city staff and council of all meaningful opposition, and to proceed with the misbegotten Measures “H” and “I”, the City of Fillmore stands to lose up to a half-million dollars ($500,000) from the general fund. Walker, Brooks and Washburn were surprised to learn that their poorly “crafted” Measure “H” now actually permits the Steiger development to build 100 units, rather than the 80 intended.
Then there’s the long anticipated still-in-the-works Business Park plan, and our new state-of-the-art water treatment plant (under budget and ahead of schedule) which the Katzenjammers all vehemently oppose.
What will the City of Fillmore look like after the Katzenjammer ambush? They have promised so much. Let’s see what is delivered, besides the bluster, lies, and animal antics of the leader, Gary “Hothead” Creagle.
Fillmore electorate: You have made a terrible, expensive mistake.

 

Before I forget, for about the fifth time, I want to thank the staff of our Santa Paula Hospital for its exemplary work.
Several weeks ago I was admitted for emergency treatment. I can honestly say that I have never experienced such friendly professional medical attention in my life. After, rather foolishly, driving myself to the hospital, I was immediately ushered to a place where my condition was monitored with state-of-the-art equipment.
The doctors, nurses, Emergency Medical Techs., and other assistants, were superb. Even breakfast the following day was great!
What sets Santa Paula Hospital apart from any other I have visited is the truly friendly, home environment, supported by a top-notch staff.
My apologies for being so late to recognize all the good folks responsible for making Santa Paula Hospital run so smoothly, and for my quick recovery. Thank you all. You do a great job. We can all be proud of this great, important, little hospital.
***
Our new Skateboard Park is a singular phenomenon! Its grand opening last Saturday was fantastic.
Kids and grown-ups from far and wide came to Fillmore to see and use this custom designed, state-of-the-art park. I was really impressed with the polite behavior of the hundreds of young people who skated, watched the professionals, perused the many commercial booths, and lined-up to enjoy the IN & OUT burgers. It was great to see so many parents with small children enjoying the fun.
Councilman Steve Conaway Fireman Patrick Maynard, and former Councilwoman Cecilia Cuevas, in particular, deserve high praise for their hard work to oversee a successful opening. I understand someone from Nebraska came to skate the park. The internet is filled with praise for the facility, and is bringing many out-of-towners to Fillmore.
Landscaping and other final touches are being completed. Now, let’s keep the Park clean and safe for all.
***
I urge everyone to be sure to view the video of Tuesday’s city council meeting. The video begins at 6:00 p.m. every day.
This meeting has everything, comedy, tragedy, and melodrama, and a dose of industrial strength, asinine, cynical arrogance by the Three Amigos – Brooks, Washburn, and Walker.
As they prepare to squander possibly as much as a half-million dollars from the general fund, they do so with a chuckle. The Three Amigos are aligned with a truly nasty group of people. Take the behavior of one supporter for example, that of Gloria Hansen. She shouted at former Councilwoman Cecilia Cuevas to “Shut up.” Not very ladylike!
This is all too colorful to elaborate here. Check out Channel 10 at 6:00 p.m.
***
Congratulations to our Sheriff’s Department for a substantially reduced crime rate in Fillmore. This is directly due to the extraordinary diligence of the Department, and personal, hands-on attitude of Chief Tim Hagel, in arrests, gang sweeps, and quick response to calls – less than three minutes on average. Fillmore is a very bad place for gang members to hang out; they keep getting arrested. We have a robust police force here with sub-station, many mobile units, helicopter assistance within 15-minutes, motorcycle officer, and the full back-up from the county Department. Not good for gangs.
***

 

Let’s all remember to turn out for the grand opening of the Skateboard Park, Saturday. It is a thing of beauty, as it should be for a $million-plus. Even before opening it has become a hugely popular gathering place for kids from all over the county.
***
Several calls to the District Attorney’s office were unavailing in my efforts to discover the status of the case pending against Fillmore’s former Fire Chief, Pete Egedi. The case continues to be under investigation.
***
I watched in amazement during last night’s council meeting as Jamey Brooks, Gayle Washburn, and Mayor Patti Walker danced around the important issue of when and how to begin addressing the problems created by the passage of Measure I last November.
The Measure was designed and promoted by these three council members in an effort to severely curtail the development of north Fillmore. Several approved plans are on hold pending the implementation of Measure I.
This was the most important issue on the agenda for last week’s regular council meeting. Council was ready to go forward until Councilwoman Washburn stated she was unprepared. She had not had time to study the agenda after returning from vacation.
The Gazette has learned Ms. Washburn returned from vacation on Thursday preceding the regular Tuesday meeting. She had 5 days to study the agenda.
The truth is that the 40 pages (see document attached below) documenting the consequences of implementing Measure I reveals the city will now have to pay at least $300,000 from the general fund to comply with state housing guidelines.
No one wants to deal with the financial aftermath of these mistakes which Councilman Steve Conaway warned would result from the passage of Measure I.
Ms. Washburn gained a two-week extension by claiming she was unprepared. Jamey Brooks asked the council to break-up the agenda and discuss the issue piecemeal because, otherwise, it would result in a meeting which would last “too long”.
The triumvirate is about to reap the whirlwind.

 

During the past year or so several people have stopped me and asked whether I had read what was being published on a particular blog. A couple of times I checked it out only to discover a lot of trash talk by a small group of obviously damaged personalities who cover their libel with pseudo names. But this was quite a while ago and I don’t usually bother with blogs, with the occasional exception of the Gazette’s.
Out of curiosity, I revisited this particular site over the weekend. It had been referenced on our own site a couple of times. Frankly, the vile intensity of what I read disgusted me. So many good people continue to be libeled with gutter-level attacks. Expect the owner of this blog to pay a high price when the time comes for a formal and public outing.
Americans enjoy a constitutional right to free speech; this should not be confused with license. I was so disgusted with the low-life, cowardly commentators on this hysterical blog that I am considering the elimination of user names on the Gazette blog, and requiring the use of true names. However, this probably won’t happen as long as a proper level of civility remains.
People are welcome to express even very strong opinions about personalities and issues as long as they don’t cross the line.
***
There was a great deal of anticipation leading up to Tuesday’s council meeting. The most important issue on the agenda was 9A, a discussion about how to implement Measure I. This included costs for necessary amendments to the General Plan and zoning ordinance amendments.
Since Council Members Gayle Washburn, Jamey Brooks, and Mayor Patti Walker fought long and hard to create and promote the passage of Measure I, one would think they would be eager to share the consequences of their success with the residents and taxpayers of Fillmore.
This was not to be. Councilwoman Washburn was unprepared for the discussion and asked that the item be carried forward to the next meeting, in two weeks. Washburn stated that she did not have sufficient time to review the agenda since returning from vacation.
Councilman Steve Conaway noted that this was the most important item on the agenda and that everyone else was prepared to go forward.
Councilman Brooks seconded Washburn’s motion to continue the item, and with Mayor Walker’s vote, this was done.
It appears that the chickens have come home to roost, but the chicken pen door is closed for the next two weeks. The fact is, Washburn, Brooks, and Walker have laid a giant egg in the form of significant costs to implement Measure I. A conservative cost is estimated to be $250,000. For months prior to the election warnings issuing from responsible sources concerning the cost of passing Measure I fell on deaf ears.
I wonder what excuse will be offered for a second continuance of this issue in two weeks.
Does anyone remember Roy Payne’s phone number?
***
Speaking of new costs, city council was provided some more sobering information, Monday. Since the city is now without a manager, a helpful, volunteer group (ICMA Range Rider) has been called in to rescue the situation. Mr. Edward G. Wohlenberg, speaking for his organization, addressed the council in an attempt to assist in the city manager selection process. Mr. Wohlenberg spoke with great authority derived from long experience as a city manager, now retired. As I watched several somber council member expressions during Mr. Wohlenberg’s highly informative discourse, I wondered what Mayor Walker, Councilwoman Washburn, and the absent Jamey Brooks must be thinking. I wondered if they regretted their arrogant disrespect for both former city managers Roy Payne and Tom Ristau, which caused both to resign. I wondered if they already missed former Management Analyst Steve McClary, as well. Did they think: Well, that’s OK, we’ll use the second string. Darn! We don’t have a second string! And I could swear I heard Washburn’s thoughts: Who cares! I know things about spread sheets!
I’m not a mind reader, but I can read simple numbers. According to Mr. Wohlenberg, it could take up to a year, and cost up to $25,000 to have a firm locate a permanent, experienced city manager.
And now for the bad news. Ooops, no more time.

 

I have too much to cover in the half-hour remaining to finish this column, so I’ll have to be brief.
City Manager Tom Ristau has resigned and has been hired by the City of San Fernando. He is the third high-level city employee to abandon ship since the new triumvirate has taken over city hall. Tom was with the city for 19 years, and city manager for about 5 years.
Sometimes criticized for various decisions, especially by the Gazette, Tom, nevertheless, leaves an enviable record for fiscal responsibility. How many California cities, of whatever size, can brag about having more than a 40 percent SURPLUS in the general fund these days? That’s what the record is expected to show this year. Tom also supervised the planning and construction of our beautiful new swimming-tennis complex, which is ready to open any day now.
Congratulations Tom. We wish you much success in your new position.
***
I wish I had time to elaborate in my response to Councilwoman Gayle Washburn’s letter which appears in this week’s Gazette. I did take the time to review emails between Ms. Washburn and myself which pertain to her arguments in favor of other water treatment facilities. I went back to early 2007, covering about 50 communications. This exercise only corroborates my conclusion that Ms. Washburn is far too long on confident proposals and far too short on comprehension of critical facts.
I am alarmed after re-reading the pedantic assertions she repeats over and over again in the face of solid, repeated explanations by experts which completely refute her mistaken conclusions. This habit of mind continues to clog the normal flow of dialogue at council meetings. Coupled with the stupefying, negative antics of Councilman Brooks (Mr. No), it’s not surprising that meetings have gone well into the wee hours of the morning, even when covering short agendas.
Ms. Washburn, I would be happy to post the entire content of 2-years-worth of emails between you and me, covering the topic of our new water treatment plant, if it takes that to prove my point. Maybe I will anyway. It would prove beyond a doubt that you (and your followers) have been foolish, and woefully ignorant, and fundamentally wrong in your insistence that City Engineer Bert Rapp has made a mistake in choosing the companies he has to design, build, and operate our plant. Maybe more to the point, you and yours have caused more than a years delay with plant approval and construction, which cost the city more than $1 million in wasted time and effort.
This reminds me of the utterly false statements your group leader, Gary Creagle, has made concerning the fiscal condition of the city immediately following his tenure as mayor of Fillmore. There appears to be no credibility in your group. Maybe it’s time for a little show and tell?

 

The city owes a debt of gratitude to those individuals and institutions which have followed through with the Military Banner Program honoring Fillmore’s men and women presently serving our country. Thanks to the work of Fillmore School Board member Virginia de la Piedra, with the City of Fillmore, Fillmore Unified School Board, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9637 and the Fillmore Sunrise Rotary, we can appreciate the new banners displayed from light posts on Central Avenue. This is a bold statement of the pride the residents of Fillmore have in our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guard service men and women.
***
The Gazette also wishes to extend its thanks to our departing City Management Analyst, Steve McClary, for his many years of diligent work. Steve has accepted employment with the City of Ojai as Assistant City Manager. He was also the Gazette’s editor, with the paper for about four years, before, during, and after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. His assistance was critical to the survival of the newspaper after the office was destroyed and production had to be divided into several locations. He is, among other things, a great photographer and writer, and has been one of the best communicators the city has ever had. As a natural multi-tasker, Steve handled many different jobs for the city under various titles with professional enthusiasm.
Although always quietly loyal, Steve, IN MY OPINION, is the most recent member of Fillmore’s City staff to flee the arrogant foolishness, and radical agenda, of the two newest members of the Fillmore City Council. Actually, the council problem can be best understood as the culmination of several years of careful, group planning to take over city government. The newly hatched council triumvirate (Jamey Brooks, Gayle Washburn, and Patti Walker) incubated by former (and failed) Mayor, Gary Creagle, is succeeding beyond its wildest dreams. The exodus of targeted staff is well under way. The plan? The plan was to create such utter frustration among the most experienced and important staff members that they could no longer bear to work with the triumvirate.
Well the plan is destroying confident management at the highest levels of Fillmore’s city government. This arrogant triumvirate has become so unreasonable and obnoxious that no one wants to have anything to do with them, no one except their followers.
As this is a situation that has been deliberately created – the consequences will fall on the heads of the big three. Let’s see what happens to the business park, the water treatment plant, and other projects financially critical to the welfare of this city.
I predict a recall movement within a year - after this group has cleaned-out all competent hi-level members of city management and replaced them with friends and political associates.
So, thanks again Steve for all those good years with the Gazette and the City of Fillmore. I’m sure you are headed for a more enlightened environment in Ojai. Our loss, their gain.

 
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.

 

Those of us who know of the extraordinary work Fillmore’s former City Manager Roy Payne has done during his 20 years on the job, and how essential his talents and experience have been to the smooth operation of business park plans, and the water treatment plant, also know how much his presence will be missed now that he has resigned.

Mr. Payne submitted his resignation Tuesday. Mark that day on your calendar and take note of where city development stands today. Check city development progress six months from now; I predict a dramatic and expensive downturn. Why? Because there is no one with Mr. Payne’s talents, experience, integrity, and institutional memory to take his place. The blind forces of arrogant stupidity have inflicted enormous damage to city development through its gratuitous, unremitting stream of disrespect for Mr. Payne.

Watch closely the cost in time to be lost and treasure to be wasted in attempts to fill Mr. Payne’s shoes, all because three intellectual pygmies on council (and two off) persistently and deliberately chose to ignore the advice of legal and business experts, and took disagreements personally.

Read Mr. Payne’s letter of resignation thoughtfully. It is also posted on fillmoregazette.com. For me, it brings back vivid memories of the past 20-plus years in Fillmore. It evokes memories of Fillmore before and after the catastrophic Northridge earthquake. It also illuminates the achievements of the man who rebuilt this town from the scattered bricks and massive, post quake confusion. He gave us hope – he gave us a sparkling new town!

Roy Payne was the man who orchestrated our recovery, who found the grants, ordered the work, and hired the people necessary to get the job done. Ask the opinion of any previous Fillmore City Council member about Mr. Payne’s achievements. They all agree (except for Gary Creagle; see intellectual pygmy reference) his work has been indispensable to our success.

Goodbye Mr. Payne. Thanks for 20 spectacular years of hard work.

(More on this next week)

 

Having to write a column on Tuesday night council meetings has always been a challenge because we go to press Wednesday around noon. This leaves little time for patient analysis.

From one standpoint, however, our two newest council members make analysis a little easier. By now, those who attend council meetings, or watch them on Channel 10, should know what I’m talking about. Council team members Gayle Washburn and Jamey Brooks have entered the arena: Jamey as the sword-swinging budget enforcer, and Gayle the super confident number-cruncher. I would feel more confident if either one of them had a clue to what they are doing.

Both were elected to council positions by promising dramatic changes. The target of most of their displeasure is our Special Projects Manager Roy Payne. They seek to have him removed from his present duties which include overseeing the construction of the new business park. They would also like to get rid of our Director of Public Works, Bert Rapp, and City Manager Tom Ristau.

Without exception, I have had issues with all three in the past. But it would be unusual indeed to agree with every decision made by city management.

There’s no doubt in my mind that team Washburn and Brooks bring a stubborn determination to the council which is focused on cutting just about all spending at any cost, for any project. They have already distinguished themselves at the first two meetings by voting NO on several projects critical to the health, safety, and welfare of Fillmore’s residents.

The Washburn-Brooks coalition voted (incomprehensibly) “no” at first efforts to purchase acreage in the Highway 126 bridge area, which ultimately will cost the city nothing, and would guarantee Sespe Creek storm flow in perpetuity. This would save hundreds of homeowners from having to purchase expensive flood insurance.

Then there was the issue of accepting a GRANT of $315,000 to acquire (from the Fillmore Irrigation District) a few acres at the northeast area of the bridge over Highway 23. The city would have to come up with 10-percent to make the deal go. This acquisition is critical for the completion of 415 feet of the bike path, and the completion of the levee to the northeastern abutment of the bridge. This was a grant from CalTrans. Washburn and Brooks voted no. Thank God Councilwoman Patti Walker understood the importance and joined with Steve Conaway to explain the importance of the CalTrans Bicycle Transportation Account Grant, or the path and levee would remain unchanged.

Then there was the effort by Washburn-Brooks to cancel Roy Payne’s contract to facilitate the business park and other work. After Conaway, and KDF Community Manager Rod McDonald explained how critically important Payne’s assistance has been, and remains, to the timely completion of the park, an ad hoc committee was formed to look into the terms of the contract. Again, Washburn and Brooks exhibited their ignorance of facts, but an eagerness to vote.

The last two council meetings have been extraordinarily long, ending at 1:45 a.m. and 11:48 p.m. due to the naive combativeness of these two.

My intentions were to say a few words about Clay Westling as our new City Clerk, and the curiously intense efforts by the Washburn-Brooks group to puff-up the job’s responsibilities. Westling appears happy with the outcome and is now seated comfortably at the council dais. He was mislead by overzealous Washburn-Brooks supporters and has now learned that, for example, he cannot attend executive and/or staff meetings, and cannot have all city records under his immediate control. Anyway, what I hear is that Clay is a genuinely nice guy and everyone seems to get along well with him. Amen.

With the new city council now easily able to vote contrary to what might have been expected of the old council, it is gratifying to see Mayor Patti Walker’s common sense and experience swinging the vote in the right direction on critical issues. We should all hope this sort of common sense prevails into the future.