Well, the grand finally response to Mayor Walker, Bob Stroh, and Brian Sipes has come and gone, not with a bang, but a whimper (apologies to Mr. Elliot.) I’m betting that Mr. Sipes will be appointed our next City Clerk.

This lack of response tells me that not only are readers fed-up with this political sniping and counter-sniping, but those who have accused me of making false statements are left with a bad case of egg-on-face.

To Mayor Walker I would say, since you now have a four-to-one majority on the council there is no need to continue to disrespect Councilman Conaway, and there is a need to let him speak. He’s the only one left to provide any balance to the decision-making process.

Since I still have serious concerns about the competence of the council majority, the damage it has caused to city staff morale, and the as-yet incomplete budget, I will continue to comment on relevant issues. As always, readers are invited to contribute their opinions as well. Also, dangerous and ugly things are being done to our republic – congress is about to admit the first true racist to our Supreme Court bench since Reconstruction times; the nation is bankrupt; national defense is under attack by liberals, and our Christian heritage is about to be all but destroyed by the radical left Obama has led into government – etc.

***

If anyone has a photo of me being sprayed during the swimming pool complex grand opening please sent it in and I will post it online. It was great to finally see the new pool open. The Community Swimming Pool Wet Play Area is now working. It will be on during Rec Swim 1:15-3:30pm and Family Night 6:00-8:00pm (on Friday nights).

***

The Showmanship event at the School Farm was great, in sunny weather. Photos of pre-County Fair work-up can
be seen here http://www.fillmoregazette.com/school/school-farm and we hope to have information on winners, etc. soon.

 


 

Due to the number of questions, the search of our data base to respond to the letters of Mayor Patti Walker, Bob Stroh, and Brian Sipes, has taken several hours. I don’t intend to turn this newspaper over to political groupies who have united in support of our new city council majority. And I don’t intend to bore our readers with an endless debate about city politics.

The rebuttal information is voluminous. To complete a truly satisfactory result would take weeks and I will not drive away readers to satisfy this tiny, tightly-wound cabal.

My thanks to former Fillmore City Manager Roy Payne (19-years on the job) for his numerous, articulate, and accurate responses to the many false charges made against him and the Gazette. I have referred to his letters and blog responses (fillmoregazette.com) in order to save time and avoid repetition. After all, he has been the consummate insider; I’m always outside trying to see in.

Martin Farrell
Publisher
The Fillmore Gazette

Answering the questions.

Patti Walker’s questions and challenges
Madam Mayor:

As to Mr. Creagle, I refer you to Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Report Number 08-11953, taken by Sheriff’s Deputy Rodriguez (#3591). The report includes statements from me and two eye witnesses. Three separate contemporaneous written statements also exist. Maybe Mr. Creagle should speak for himself in this matter. Why do you mention Westling? He was not cited. He just stood by like a deer in the headlights while the spectacle grew louder.
As to statements concerning Brian Sipes (4-30-09), they are true and correct (as most recently amended). As you tacitly admit, at least one council member has approved admitting Mr. Sipes to staff meetings (plural). Any reasonable person would recognize the word “pass” in this context to be synonymous with the word “assent, permission, or invitation” because permission is required. No reasonable person would understand the word “pass” in this context to mean some sort of plastic, bar-coded physical ticket to attend the “event”.

Sipes has sought permission and has been granted that privilege (or was it a right?) on several occasions. Nothing wrong here, but it tends to indicate more than average interest in city government affairs at the local level. This may explain why the Star interviewed him (May 28, ’09 issue) as I photographed that event.

Mr. Sipes does indeed attend nearly every council meeting, and other city meetings as well. I applaud his civic interest. He has an above average, keen interest in the workings of city government which leads me to believe he may well be preparing to seek public office. Again, I applaud him for his interest but would not endorse his candidacy.

After telling me that “Mr. Sipes is in attendance throughout most council meetings” you add, “Can you say the same?” I’m surprised you ask; the answer is, of course I can. I’ve attended about every city council meeting for the past 20 years. I notice you have been absent a number of times during your tenure on the council. While I may only stay an hour or two, the Gazette’s reporter always stays to the bitter end.

As is customary, the Gazette receives a full copy of the agenda in order to inform the public of what the council is doing with its money. I may have been mistaken about Mr. Sipes having received a full agenda packet. If he had I’m sure he put it to good use. If not, I imagine he uses a partial agenda. The thing to note is that he is well and regularly prepared, which is a good thing. It doesn’t hurt to have fellow Katzenjammer, City Clerk Westling, around to assure his preparation.

For your information, a complete copy of the agenda is not available online. Please refer to Roy Payne’s letter of July 22. Mr. Payne has eloquently and accurately addressed this issue. With that, we’ll give you a moment to compose yourself.

You quote me: “It [past emails] 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.”

I’m surprised to find you apparently agree with this statement, except for the last sentence. This statement is based on a professional assessment (made known to you) of time lost due to Ms. Washburn’s dithering, repeated demand for answers to irrelevant questions, and her ignoring of reports from engineers expert in the field. On these issues, please refer to Roy Payne’s letter of 7-9-09 (paragraph 3) – fillmoregazette.com. Washburn and company burned up most of two years trying to convince experts that her chosen water treatment construction company, Vertreat, was the way to go. At one time or another she favored several other unsuitable water treatment methods; each of her favorites was rejected by experts in the field. She presented herself as having expertise in the field. And, to the exasperation of those true experts, she continued to insist on these unworkable ideas. The most recent estimate is set at a range of between $700,000 to $1 million. My statement was true.

Washburn also strongly opposed Design, Build, and Operate (DBO) which is now favored all over the country. All this stubbornness (before the election) to fool voters into thinking she knew what she was talking about. Washburn and company were out to save the city tens of millions of dollars with their hair-brained alternatives. And the cost of the plant, without her changes, she told everyone, would be catastrophic. It appears today that Fillmore’s water rate may end up slightly lower than Santa Paula’s. We had to build the plant. Bert Rapp’s guidance was right. We now have a great plant, millions below budget and finished on schedule.

Then there was the war over development in north Fillmore. Six years of expense and intense planning went down the drain as Measures H and I were finally voted in. Again, the public was fooled. Business development, such as Keller Classics, has been killed-off in north Fillmore, thanks to the foolish Measures that Washburn, Walker, Brooks, and company urged on to passage.

Today, thanks to these Measures, Fillmore will have to spend at least $200,000 from the general fund to fix our problem with state housing compliance. We don’t hear much about that now, but you and your group were warned, repeatedly.

Support for the new Business Park.
After listening to Ms. Washburn contemplating the completion of the business park, whimsically say: “It’ll probably fail anyway due to the economy” I question her enthusiasm for development. After expressing that kind of support, a vote for a Community Facilities District sounds empty. When I recall her ideas and activities regarding north Fillmore, I know how very little she supports business growth.

The water treatment plant:
“use the citizen’s money (taxes) in a careful and effective manner” ”…no disgrace [to use a council person’s vote] in opposition to what they believe is a misuse of public funds.” MISUSE OF PUBLIC FUNDS? A (mandated) perfectly completed project, on time and below budget is a misuse of public funds? This doesn’t deserve a response. Talk about an example of clueless ingratitude!

I wonder how our friends in Santa Paula (using Washburn’s vaunted PERC) are doing. Oops: Please refer to the front page of the Santa Paula Times – online, July 20, 2009 (massive roof collapse). Wow! And then there was Washburn’s total rejection of world-class MBR technology. It is a disgrace, Ms. Walker, to habitually deny that your ideas have been wrong regarding this plant, north Fillmore – or that Bert Rapp and the last city council were ever right. They did the right thing – splendidly. I can certainly admit my mistakes, Ms. Walker, when they are brought to my attention, something you have failed to do thus far.

Answers to questions from Bob Stroh

The Gazette has received so many letters from you Bob I’m going to answer randomly.

You say “it was all about a recall”. Not really. Though the damage was anticipated, it has taken several months to understand just how bad the management of city government (new council majority) is, and how quickly the freefall consequences happened. I refer you to Roy Payne’s letters.

It will save much time here to refer to Roy’s many letters, in the paper and on-line letters and blog responses that he has already provided. I am now so wary of the present council majority’s incompetence, I have decided to just collect the evidence and see if Fillmore voters wish to consider a recall. It’s an expensive, time-consuming way to reorder city government so I’m not sure it would be an attractive option. I will contribute nothing but information to any such cause. Maybe the voters agree with the present council majority. It’s up to them. I don’t intend to push the idea.

Answer: It was not about recall. It is about sounding the alarm. It is about warning the people that city government is heading over a cliff.

You’re concerned about “financial stability”? One answer – Despite several warnings from several sources, including the city attorney, Measure I was pushed forward by Washburn, Brooks, Walker, and the full compliment of Katzenjammers. Its passage will now cost the City of Fillmore $200,000 “to correct the violations of state law” (which mandates placement of 900-plus new homes) created by Measure I. This sort of conduct can only be described as stupid. What do you intend to do about this, Madam Mayor? What do you think about this issue, Bob?

The Gazette “not providing a place for the free exchange of ideas”? As I sift through a pile of your letters, Bob, this is clearly another of your characteristically phony charges. I probably publish three times as many letters criticizing my opinion as those agreeing with me. Read last week’s Realities for a complete answer. For years you have used this venue, at my expense and indulgence, to vent your ideas and beliefs. As the great philosopher, Jack Nicholson, once said, “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to people who rise and sleep under the very blanket of [the Opinion Page] I provide and then question the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just say “Thank you” and went on your way.”

Do you really deny your consistent and persistent support for Walker, Washburn, and Brooks? Do you deny your agreement with their opposition to our new water treatment plant, MBR, DBO, cost of land for the plant, etc.? Do you deny your support for Measure I, and Measure H? Do you deny your repetitious condemnation of Steve Conaway for taking a trip to D.C. to speak about plant technology and construction method? Do you deny repeatedly lying (or failing to get the facts after being shown your error) about who paid for that trip? Have you ever been critical of any member of the Katzenjammers for anything?

Your habitual style is to parse words and meanings until they lose their significance in the context they originally occupied. My comment “…have been a regular, outspoken supporter of these views” is pretty well proved by the stack of letters, and blog postings, with which you have besieged the Gazette. The comment speaks of plurality, not a singular example. You have been a long-time ardent and faithful supporter of the views of that group I have characterized as the Katzenjammers, for the mischief they have caused. Do you now repudiate these views?

Lastly, why would you object to be identified (with many others, by several people) as a member of this political group? I commend political activity and citizen participation in city government – I just deplore the tactics and end results this group is responsible for and the casual use of false statements. Actually, there is nothing essentially wrong with attempting to get rid of political rivals, or diminish the influence of those with whom you vigorously disagree, as long as it is done lawfully and ethically. While there is certainly no illegality here, I strongly question the rationality and ethics of the cabal – especially where leaders of this group refuse to sign an ethics code. This is not an example of “guilt” by association. It’s merely an example of political identification by association.

Bob, did you really say “…signing the code of ethics violates freedom of speech” on 2-26-08? Very Katzenjammerish. Did you really say, in council, on 2-12-08, “American Water paid for his [Councilman Conaway’s] lodging and other travel expenses.”? Was this true?

You persist in bringing in the issue of Bill Bartels’ ability as Assistant City Manager. This became an issue for me only after he refused to give employment contracts to Kevin McSweeney and Bert Rapp. Then there were statements from former Finance Director, Barbara Smith: “That gentleman doesn’t know what he is doing”. After that, her interview statements to me detailing serious disrespect and complete refusal to communicate with Smith, which precipitated her early retirement, creating a budget crisis (as yet unresolved?). Then there was the extra management assistance he received, the 10 percent raise, and a serious absence of staff reports for the council’s consideration. There are other issues as well. Find an “error of fact” here.

Next you resurrect the ghost of (former failed mayor) Gary Creagle, campaign manager for Jamey Brooks, Clay Westling (and Gayle Washburn?). Refer to my previous response to Mayor Walker. Obviously five (5) former Fillmore Mayors evaluate this man as a mayoral failure, in a paid political ad they ran in the Gazette (October, 2008). His conduct in barging into city hall shortly after his candidates won the election, telling some staff members that “Your job is safe” and demanding to know the location of the new Clerk’s office, in a characteristically loud voice, shows he’s a jerk as well as a failed former mayor. “The campaign manager for the city clerk came into city hall and told certain staff that their jobs were safe.”(from city council minutes, 1-13-09, quoting City Manager Ristau.) I can’t wait to hear your rebuttal on this one. Note: Creagle isn’t a city official, nor even a Fillmore resident.

You accuse me of being Councilman Conaway’s “surrogate”. Mr. Conaway has my support because he is right on the issues and he has no hidden agenda. He has taken numerous insulting slights from the new majority. For example, being denied a chance to comment on a council issue by Mayor Walker, and having to leave the dais, fill out a speaker request card, in order to speak as a private citizen. When he is wrong I will oppose his decisions, and have. Right now, he’s the last man standing of the last council. He has integrity, something the new majority can hardly imagine. “Something to hide”? Don’t be such a child, Bob. Don’t be such a coward. Tell us what you suspect.

“Steve Conaway attended the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Water Council because he knew Fillmore saved 15% on the Water Recycling Plant using the Design Build Operate process and wanted other Mayors around the country to know about the cost saving process. The Mayor’s conference paid for Steve Conaway to attend, not American Water. No city money was involved. American Water is only one of hundreds of members of the Mayor’s Conference.”

That Mayor Walker has not defended Conaway against this false accusation (though she voted not to investigate the trip and knew the facts) is a billboard of her true hypocrisy and polarizing presence on the council. Hypocrisy in spades. Review this issue on fillmoregazette.com where it has been exhaustively explained by me, Mr. Payne, and Mr. Conaway – as you well know.

Bob, you bug-out at the thought of answering Roy Payne’s excellent letter to the editor. No one in the City of Fillmore has a more detailed file on the facts and issues. No wonder you are afraid to take him on.
By the way, was it you who made some sly remark awhile back about Roy’s comfortable retirement? Correct me if I’m wrong (please) but aren’t you a retired Ventura County Fireman? If so, are you comfortable? Didn’t you advocate the elimination of our volunteer fire department at one time? Again, forgive me if I’m wrong; I have gotten of the track a bit.
Your statement about a restaurant going out of business when its sewer bill went up to $24,000 per year is false. Prove me wrong.

Answers for Brian Sipes:

Alleged lies:
1. Brian is a “political wannabe”.

2. Brian is a “Katzenjammer” i.e. politically allied with a group I have characterized as Katzenjammers. This group includes the new council majority, Gary Creagle, Bob Stroh, Brian Sipes, and others. Members of this group voted for or support the above mentioned council members and their goals: implementing Measure I, deploring our new water treatment plant and the methods and engineering that created it. They also oppose Councilman Steve Conaway, and greatly dislike ex-City Manager Roy Payne, and Director of Public Works Bert Rapp. According to the victims themselves, each and every (recently) former holder of a top city management position was driven away by this group’s statements, attitude, and penchant for severe micromanagement. Whew!

3. Brian is targeting Ms. Hernandez’ seat on the council.

4. Sipes (due to my prognostication) will be appointed to Ms. Hernandez’ council seat.

5. Sipes receives “special privileges” from council friends.

6. Sipes receives full council agenda.

Accusation number 1:
Mr. Sipes. I’ll take your word for it. You are not a “political wannabe”. However, every famous and successful politician was once a political wannabe. Think about it. But, if you don’t wannabe a wannabe, that’s that.

Accusation number 2:
I’m sorry Mr. Sipes, but your very long association with, political and financial support of, and vocal defense of this group qualifies you as a Katzenjammer. Only a true Katzenjammer would pay for a full-page election advertisement (corrected twice for false statements) which endorsed Gayle, Jamey, and Clay. I hope you reported this campaign contribution.

Accusation number 3:
Again, I take you at your word. Anyway, my most recent prognostication (since I got my new turban) reveals you will be Fillmore’s future City Clerk. Watch out, Clay! But, I’m no Johnny Carson as The Great Carsoni.

Accusation number 4.
Refer to prognostication number 3 (as revised). You can’t hit what you don’t aim at.

Accusation number 5:
Unless you have an undisclosed “right” to attend city staff meetings, and other meetings, and in fact do, Mr. Sipes, you are exercising a “privilege”. I find it peculiar that you insist that you have neither asked for, nor received an invitation to attend such meetings, yet I know you were there. Are you crashing meetings?

Accusation number 6:
My apologies for suggesting you receive a full council agenda, as you deny this. As you know, this would not be unlawful – just unusual. I guess it was a partial agenda I’ve observed you using at council meetings. You sure do go to a lot of meetings.

 
 

This has turned out to be an unusual week. The Gazette has received three angry letters to the editor from Katzenjammers hostile to this column. Our newly appointed Mayor Patti Walker, with Mr. Brian Sipes and Bob Stroh, have demanded their letters appear in this week’s Gazette, with confirmation that the letters have been received. In the case of Mayor Walker (who indicated the time and date of submission to insure that her letter satisfied the publication deadline) she authorized its publication as an advertisement at her expense.

Mayor Walker’s concern was that her letter slightly exceeded the standard limit of 250 words – by about 1,250 words. In this situation I would have made a special effort to publish the letter because it is highly critical of me. However, her letter was accompanied by the Sipes letter (730 words) and Stroh’s (660 words). That’s nearly 2,800 words or 2,050 words over the limit. To complicate matters, the letters all came down from 8 hours (Stroh) to two hours (Sipes) to 15 minutes (Walker) before deadline.

This has happened before with the same group. It was clearly an orchestrated maneuver designed to have me drop everything and research answers to a stream of questions and accusations. Fortunately, I am not a city staffer who must labor thanklessly to satisfy their demands.

But answers they will have, in full, to each question and accusation. It’s time to set the record straight and defend against the false allegations of “lies.” There is a whiff of a threat in these demands, particularly in the confused screed from Mr. Sipes. Truth and full disclosure is the best medicine here.

Answers to this broad range of accusations and demands for answers involve several years and various issues. Since there is insufficient time to provide them on such short notice this week, space will be created next week for all questions and issues. I will research each and every question and issue, providing necessary quotes, references, names and times.

Mayor Walker, Mr. Sipes, and Bob, now is your big chance. Make sure your questions are in order and intelligible. You have till Friday, noon, July 17, 2009, to add any new questions or sharpen-up those already asked. Please, no fuzzy allusions, hearsay, innuendo, or obfuscation. Ask your questions directly and expect direct, authoritative answers. I’m going to take the time to do this, I expect you to take your time to make your best case. Frankly, it’s my intention to make a case for the recall of Councilman Brooks, Councilwoman Washburn, and our newly appointed Mayor Walker, among other things.

 


 

Well, it’s finally happened; a perfect storm of letters flagellating the publisher for his editorials condemning the city’s new council majority and its core of minions has landed. The issue immediately before me is: how do I respond to four recent letters and last week’s screed from Kazenjammer sympathizer Bob Stroh. Stroh’s persistent and creative criticisms have taken-up a lot of space for a long time. But never, it seems, enough for him.

Since I have to keep my promise of last week and respond to Mr. Stroh’s last letter, as well as his letter this week, forgive me if I’m beginning to feel like this is the Stroh that threatens to break the camel’s back.

I’ve decided the only way to address all of these complaints is to do so piecemeal. I will try to answer each charge or question individually, as briefly as possible. and add some questions of my own. Oddly, I don’t ever remember receiving an answer to any of my questions, questions which are the basis of my criticisms. Let’s hope my luck will change beginning this edition. If I happen to run too long I will finish-up next week. But no further questions will be taken from Mr. Stroh on the bogus “issue” of (then) Mayor Steve Conaway’s trip to Washington D.C. This has become one of Stroh’s pet red herrings (sorry for the funny metaphore) and as such (and having been thoroughly answered numerous times), I will put it last on the list.
Mr. Stroh’s letter of this week:

As to the allegation that I have devoted “over 300 column inches” to criticizing all council members. I only regret that 300 appears to be insufficient to halt your wild and fallacious accusations, Bob. It’s my business to criticize political activity when I believe it is damaging city government.

Please be specific about your accusation that I have “slandered” anyone, or made “grossly fallacious claims”. Please give due respect for legitimate hyperbole; this is, after all, a place for opinion, not a place for scientific speculation. Again, show me the statements; it’s impossible to reply without them.

You have made a great deal out of the fact that I omitted Mr. Bartels’ assigned work on the north Fillmore plan. This was Mr. Bartels’ assignment as an employee of the city. That fact in no way changes my conclusion that he has been sympathetic to the new council membership. As far as I know, sympathy is not a crime, nor does it in any way “besmirch” Mr. Bartels, who, as I have acknowledged, is a gentleman I have known for many years. You paint with wild colors, Bob – try getting more on the canvas and less on yourself.

Answers to questions concerning AECOM bids will have to wait for next week. They have, however, been answered before by our Director of Public Works, several times, as well as explained to the council at its last meeting.

Bob, why don’t you save yourself embarrassment by not demanding an answer to the “emails released by the city”? Would any thinking person find anything, anything at all wrong with this stream of correspondence? These people are traveling to a conference, paid for by the conference, for the purpose of providing evidence of the usefulness of the Design Build and Operate (DBO) system for the water treatment plant – AFTER the contract was signed, with full knowledge and approval of city council, legal counsel, and after much discussion. Why should this sound so spooky to you? It was not an issue then; it is not an issue now (to reasonable people). This is why I question spending any more time explaining this “issue” of yours. Questions about Conaway “being objective”? Please provide evidence of any non-objectivity! How many other bad activities do you suspect Mr. Conaway of doing simply because you have no evidence of them having occurred? It would be equally credible to believe that you and I have conspired (“good ol’ boys club”) to sell newspapers by causing this useless debate to drag on for so many months. And, you know, Bob, maybe it does.

“It’s the people’s money Martin...” This part of the last sentence of your June 30 letter is one of the facts I worry most about. Our former City Manager Roy Payne has spelled-out the fiscal dangers of government by the new majority. He should know, after more than 20 years with the city. If you’re thanking God for this new leadership, please show us ANY progress they have made since taking office. I can show the damage. Please refer to Mr. Payne’s article in this edition of the Gazette. He speaks of facts, Bob, not empty, emotional platitudes. Please point out any error in his remarks, or in any of a half-dozen other of Mr. Payne’s letters and blog posts. I dare you to – double dog dare you.
This ends comments on Mr. Stroh’s June 30 letter.

Next, a letter from a member of a distinguished pioneer family, Donna Voelker. I hesitate to argue with a Voelker, since my parents were long-time friends many years ago. So, let me provide some answers to these questions: “Rehash old issues? What good does that do? There are so many positive aspects to our Fillmore community that could be featured in the space you are taking up with your attacks on each other. Why not spend the time and energy expended attacking each other and rehashing past events that cannot be changed, in coming up with positive solutions to the problems currently being faced. My grandmother always said a house divided cannot stand; is this what we want for our community.”

Why spend the time? “Rehash old issues?” “What good does that do?” “...events that cannot be changed.” All good questions. After observing city government close-up for 20 years I believe great damage is being done by the new majority on the council. Again, please refer to Mr. Payne’s article in this week’s edition. When considering city development most of the issues are always “old” but still vitally important. When changes are whimsically made, disregarding enormous financial consequences, the city loses many millions. “Attacks on each other”, as far as I am concerned, are not personal, they go the heart of the problems, which are caused by individuals making very bad decisions. Any good this may do stands to save the economy and standard of living in Fillmore for decades to come. I will continue to point out these problems until they are corrected, or become beyond correction. That’s the job of a local community newspaper. I have only one voice, but the paper is always open to numerous, differing opinions both in print and online.
Thank you very much for your opinion.

Remember, the campaign war cry of Washburn, Brooks, Westling, Stroh, Walker, and (former failed Mayor) Creagle, was “Take Back Our Town!” As Mr. Payne’s letter demonstrates, they have taken it back from success and a bright future, and are proceeding to destroy what was built over so many years by their ignorance, inexperience, and incompetence. Watch the last council video again (Channel 10, 6:30) it’s very instructive; “That’s option four.”

Now to Ms. Washburn’s personal letter of July 7.
Gayle, I have watched with great interest your words and actions since you became interested in running for a seat on the council. At first I saw promise. Then it became apparent that you were driving a hard-line agenda which ran contra to virtually all existing city plans.

You claim some expertise at understanding city accounting. Why didn’t you assist with attempts to finish this year’s budget? - still not done despite the fact that former Finance Director Barbara Smith left a completed, balanced, preliminary budget, and could not find anyone to meet with her to finish the job before leaving. We still have no Finance Director – at least none has appeared at council meetings as Ms. Smith did for about 20 years.

You argued loud and long against the use of a Design, Build, and Operate (DBO) method for the water treatment plant knowing nothing about it. You later changed your mind and supported it, after both Santa Paula and Piru followed Fillmore’s example and adopted it.

I listened to many of your insistently argued, inane, and uninformed statements against the present plant, its engineering, and cost. Example: “Couldn’t we save some money by not using this non-reactive concrete?” You have been on the wrong side of just about every critical decision the city has had to make. This doesn’t inspire my confidence; neither does your habit of holding numerous, lengthy, closed-door meetings with other Katzenjammers and staff. Is this the “open government” you folks promised?

My editorial comments are not “malicious” Gayle; they are designed to point-out dangerous ideas and decisions taken by an incompetent new council majority. I have never heard you “abuse” a staff member by “written or spoken word”. Staff can be abused, to the point of having to leave their positions, by the noxious atmosphere created by a newly minted council majority. Top city management has fled precisely because of this ignorance, and inexperience, coupled with insufferable micromanagement policies, and a refusal to extend job protection to long-term top employees after they publicly expressed fear for their jobs (because of the new majority). You, and the other Katzenjammers, insult key employees by insisting that some new city manager in a year or so will “evaluate their job performance.” What would a new manager know about properly evaluating employees on the job for 20 years? Again, please refer to Mr. Payne’s article. It is this outrageous attitude of disrespect and the unfriendly environment it creates that has killed cooperation at city hall. You permit campaign manager Bozos (and a failed mayor) like Gary Creagle to invade city hall and intimidate staff? This is the “abuse” to which I allude.

You find my opinions “shocking, hateful and disruptive to the community”? My column is entitled “Realities.” You should not be shocked if you had a clue to the reality of the free-fall you, Mr. Brooks, and Ms. Walker have brought to city government. “Hateful”, never, though you may hate to hear the truth so frequently. It’s not so much that you get things wrong so often, Gayle. The thing is, you tend to cling to your mistakes for dear life in the face of reality, the reality of you being wrong. The problem is your inability to admit mistakes.

“Work together?” This is an example of your hypocrisy. Where was your sense of togetherness when you refused to provide reasonable contracts for the only remaining two top-managers, Mr. Rapp and Mr. McSweeney, after they have worked for the city successfully for an average of nearly 20 years? Visit Mr. Payne’s article, again.
“Lies?” I challenge you to find any lies in my editorials. I’m not infallible, but any errors of fact are always corrected. A lie, as you Katzenjammers should know, is an intentional falsehood. Find one!

“Divisive?” Wasn't it your fellow council curmudgeon who opened his first meeting with the warning: "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword"? The new council majority has caused a division of historical proportions. Just ask the several former city top-management personnel who have fled the city expressly because of treatment by you and Brooks and Walker. I was forewarned of this well before the election.

What you need is not a “retraction” Gayle; what you need is further reflection on the mess you and your cohorts have made of city government, finances, and future plans.

But don’t take my word for it, read Roy Payne’s article this week, and the many others he has had published during the past several months. You may also wish to re-read the paid political advertisement (November of 2008) by FIVE former mayors of Fillmore, expressing their fear of a Katzenjammer coup.

It’s late. I’m not finished. If I am unable to finish this response for this issue, I will continue into next week.
Ms. Washburn’s expectations will remain unfulfilled. But, my hope for a recall begins to bloom.

 


 

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.

 


 

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.

 


 

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.

 

Click here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H9SHK55 to get your free eBook today.


 

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.

 

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?