City Attorney Discussions Continue at Top of City Council's Agenda
Mayor Washburn (right) seemed to give contradicting statements regarding a legal matter between Dylan Snow and the City of Fillmore regarding the Equestrian Center. When asked what was happening, the Mayor responded, “There is no ongoing litigation with Dylan Snow,” and when asked again, she replied “We cannot discuss legal matters. It is on our list to discuss, but not very high on our list.” Mayor Washburn has also yet to clarify why she banned the City Attorney from attending City Council meetings, an action that many people believe she had no right to do.
By Dick Diaz — Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
The Tuesday, July 10, 2012 City Council Meeting began slightly later than the scheduled 6:30 P.M. posted time partly due to a scheduled 5:30 P.M. Special Meeting held just prior. According to the Agenda Packet for the regular scheduled Fillmore City Council Meeting the earlier meeting was to be a “Closed Session” involving ongoing discussions about the continued employment of current City Attorney firm, Myers, Widders, Gibson, Jones and Schneider, L.L.P.
Items on the Agenda included Item “5. A.” the annual presentation to the City of Fillmore of the framed 2012 Ventura County Fair Poster by Ventura County Fair representative(s) Chris Garmon, Alexus Galassi of the Ventura County Junior Fair Board and Amanda Vassaur, of Fillmore who was the second place winner in the Ventura County Fair Poster Contest. This year's Fair theme is; “Rides, Ribbons and Rodeos” and the colorful winning poster was submitted by the First Place Winner Sam Coultas of Ventura. The Ventura County Fair begins August 1st and runs through August 12th. As always this year the Ventura County Fair is intent on providing good family entertainment to enjoyed by all!
Another item of interest was Item “5. C.” and an update by Film Commission Chair Catherine Frias and Chamber of Commerce Member Cindy Jackson on the Palm tree removal on Central Avenue from approximately Santa Clara to Sespe Avenues. The primary reason for removal is for the purpose of enhancing the attractiveness of the downtown for future filming. The removal of the 26 Palm trees was a joint effort of the City, Film Commission, Chamber of Commerce and volunteers to keep the costs of removal to a minimum, and at no costs or future financial burden to the City. The $3,900 costs to remove the trees will be shared by the landscape contractor and from other sources including volunteers. Tree removal is scheduled to be overnight beginning Friday, July 13th at approximately 8:00 P.M. and continue until Saturday morning July 14th. All businesses and residents in the area have been notified of this tree removal to minimize any inconvenience to them. After the trees are removed colorful plants will be planted in their place. The new landscaping will be maintained as part of the landscape district for the downtown area at no additional future cost to the City.
Fire Chief Rigo Landeros and Police Chief Monica McGrath provided the City Council with a joint oral report on the Fourth of July police and fire responses. Chief McGrath reported that the police department fielded 9-extra police cars, some of which were unmarked police cars, throughout the City to respond to complaints of the use of illegal fireworks. As a result of this enforcement effort 13 citations were issued for the use of illegal fireworks. Each citation, if convicted, could cost the person cited up to $1,100 in fines. As a comparison the Chief said that in 2010 15-citations were issued, 2011 12 were issued and the 13 this year was inline with what was expected. Approximately 20-30 percent of those cited were residents of Fillmore with the remainder being people living outside of Fillmore said Chief McGrath. One of the problems with enforcement was the inability of emergency vehicle to travel expeditiously around the city due to the high use on city streets to display fireworks. Chief Landeros stated there were no serious injuries directly related to the use of either legal or illegal fireworks in the City and that only one dumpster fire was reported. The Chief stated that the fire was possibly due to someone discarding expended fireworks that may have been still hot enough to start a fire. Both Chief(s) warned the public that the use of fireworks must be done responsibly and under the supervision of a responsible adult. The City Council asked if increasing the fines and signage at the entrance to the city would deter the use of illegal fireworks and it was the joint opinion of both chief(s) that increasing fines would not, however, they both supported the use of the electronic signs like those used by the City of Moorpark as you enter Moorpark's city limits.
As always the Public Comments portion, “Item 6”, of the Agenda provides some of the more stimulating and passionate presentations of the City Council Meeting by citizens living in and around the City of Fillmore. Mayor Gayle Washburn gave her admonishment to each of the potential speakers to be courteous and respectful during their presentation, but made a specific, scolding finger waving, admonishment to the Fillmore Gazette Publisher to not interrupt any speaker, or he would be removed from the meeting. The time allotted for “Public Comments” is limited to 5-minutes, however, it seems that this limit is not strictly enforced and adds to meetings becoming slightly longer than should be expected to conduct the Meeting Agenda. With that the speakers came forward:
Local business owner, former city council candidate and local resident Alex Mollkoy spoke very passionately about the Fillmore Unified School District's (FUSD) purposeful use of the sprinklers on the baseball field near his home to prevent Fourth of July celebrants from using the field. The actions of the FUSD forced the celebrants into the street to use their fireworks. He felt this was non-supportive of the City's stance to allow community service groups to conduct their largest annual fund-raising event and created a greater danger for the person(s) legally using fireworks and for the driving public. Mollkoy requested the City Council meet with the FUSD School Board on this topic, but was directed by Mayor Washburn to address the FUSD Board himself. This comment by the Mayor appeared to only increase Mollkoy's passion for this topic and he was eventually asked to move on to any other issues he wanted to address to the City Council. Another of his issues was what he believes is a “gray area” of ongoing litigation between the City of Fillmore and Dylan Snow involving the Equestrian Center. The Mayor responded, “There is no ongoing litigation with Dylan Snow,” and when pushed by Mollkoy, “We cannot discuss legal matters. It is on our list to discuss, but not very high on our list.” From the Mayor's response it still seemed unclear whether there is, or is not, ongoing discussions regarding any legal action between Dylan Snow and the City of Fillmore.
The next speaker was Anna Frutos-Sanchez the local area representative for Southern California Edison (SCE). Ms. Frutos-Sanchez made the City Council and community aware of the variety of brochures SCE has to better assist the community in the event of an emergency. Those brochures were left with the City for any citizen interested in their content. Ms. Frutos-Sanchez, again representing SCE's position, later spoke out in opposition to Item “9-A” SB 843, “The Community-Based Renewable Energy Self-Generation Act” when that item came before the City Council.
Finally the last speaker was former resident and City Council Member Gary Creagle. As is customary for Mr. Creagle when he approaches the podium he paused for a picture taken by the Fillmore Gazette. He prominently displayed the 1960's era “peace sign” while smiling for the camera. Mr. Creagle's comments began with, “Since 1992 we have not had the kind of City Attorney that helps you (City Council) solve your problems!” The remainder of his comments were primarily directed towards the closed session agenda item involving the City Attorney and what he believes was a lack of representation that protects the City Council. Mr. Creagle gave his opinion that the City Council spends more time protecting themselves than doing the public's work. He said, “The City Attorney should do that and the City Council should do the work they have been elected to do. The City Council should serve the public.” Mr. Creagle went on to outline what he believes were some of the failures of the City Attorney to protect the City; the MPS Group, involved with the City in what he described was, “Clearly a tax shelter,” the sewer plant which he described as, “A pain in our posterior with costs going up and up,” and the firing of former Fillmore Fire Chief Pete Egedi,” by the then-mayor. His last concern later prompted Council Member Eduardo Gonzalez to request City Manager Yvonne Quiring to provide the City Council with the “promised” monthly updates on Egedi's litigation with the City.
Other Agenda items were involving the Consent Calendar, Items “7.-A.-B.-C.” Mayor Washburn stated she would be appearing before the Grand Jury, at their request, to discuss the City of Fillmore and the recommendations the Grand Jury had made in their report on Graffiti within the City of Fillmore. Mayor Washburn said the Grand Jury made this request because of their limited knowledge of the City of Fillmore. Item “7.-C.” involving the application for the replacement of vehicle charging stations was addressed with the City Council indicating that they would support this item if it was at no costs for operation to the City. Quiring indicated she was still sorting out who would be responsible for the operating costs; the City, or the consumer.
Item “9.-A.” Resolution No. 3343 was also addressed by the City Council with the SCE Representative opposing SB 843 in its current format. City Council Members Gonzalez and Steve Conaway also opposed SB 843 as it is written, with Council Members Gayle Washburn, Brian Sipes and Jamey Brooks supporting SB 843 since they believe the changes in language in opposition have already been made.
The City Council having finished their Agenda adjourned into Closed Session. The City Council will meet next on August 28, 2012 at 6:30 P.M. at the City Hall, 250 Central Avenue.