City Manager Resignation Timing Questioned
At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting the city recognized Public Works Supervisor David Smallwood (left) and Mark Avila (right) for their Aquatics Center maintenance efforts. Also pictured Mayor Gayle Washburn.
By Jean McLeod — Wednesday, September 12th, 2012
The September 11, 2012 Fillmore City Council open meeting began with recognition of those who put the extra effort needed to keep the Aquatics Center in proper order, a recap of Public Safety’s Annual September 11th Observance and Drug Enforcement Agency Take Back Day. Other agenda items included a report from the Police Chief, a proposed winter closure of the Aquatics Center and announcement of the new City Attorney. But what was of greatest concern to many of Fillmore residents was the abrupt announcement by the Council that City Manager Yvonne Quiring has resigned and the Finance Director will also be leaving in a few weeks. Council Member Steve Conaway was not in attendance.
Two important staff positions are being vacated in the coming weeks with the timing less than two months before the November 6th election. Three City Council seats are up for election and those elected will need to get up to speed quickly, making this a bad time for a departure of these two vital positions.
Quiring, who served as Fillmore’s City Manager for three years, will be leaving to take a job as Financial Director and Assistant City Manager in the City of Davis. Quiring gave three weeks notice of which two weeks are paid vacation and will be starting in Davis on October 1st. Financial Director Glenda Jay has chosen to retire and will be leaving on November 3rd. Jay explained her departure is due to concerns that she secure her retirement which could be effected by the November 6th election. She believes the tax initiatives on the ballot will fail and as a result it would have a negative impact on her retirement.
Another item of concern was the firing of the former city attorney and the hiring of a new firm. It was announced that the Council has hired Tiffany J. Israel with the law firm of Aleshire & Wynder out of Irvine, California to represent Fillmore. The contract is for three years at a cost of $155 an hour up to 75 hours per month. Special legal advice such as labor negotiations are billed at a higher rate. Existing present litigations will continue to be handled by Fillmore’s previous law firm, Myers, Widders, Gibson and Jones, L.L.P. Israel will attend all future board meetings and give legal assistance of the Brown Act and other routine legal services along with being involved in future litigations.
Police Chief Monica McGrath announced on September 29, 2012 the Fillmore Police Dept. will be participating in the National Take-Back Day sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency which provides an opportunity for the public to surrender expired, unwanted or unused pharmaceutical controlled substances and other medications for destruction. Collection will take place from 10:00 am to 2:00pm at the Fillmore Police Department. Prescription and over the counter solid dosage medications, such as tablets and capsules are accepted. Intra-venous solutions, injectibles, needles and illicit substances will not be accepted. In addition this event there is an ongoing collection site. The police station has a prescription drug drop receptacle located in the front lobby that can be used to drop off expire, unwanted or unused pharmaceutical controlled substances, but the same restrictions of needles and syringes are not acceptable.
McGrath also explained the benefits of the $250,000 Cal GRIPS (California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention) grant which Fillmore has already received. The grant required a dollar-to-dollar match of funds and provides avenues for counseling, youth outreach and education with an emphasis on funding programs that have a proven and validated success rate. There are five components associated with the grant: Community mobilization, youth outreach, public education, faith-based leader involvement and law enforcement participation. The objective is to reduce overall gang related violence, reduce the number of weapons on the street and in the hands of gang members, reduce recidivism, and afford opportunities for those at risk kids to plan for a future in the job market, not the gang lifestyle, so they can become productive citizens.
Organizations such as One Step A La Vez, which received $25,000 (10%) of the grant, and targets the age group 12-19 yrs. by providing early intervention, job training and counseling at risk youth. The City Impact received $100,000 (40%) and law enforcement suppression efforts received $125,000 (50%) of the grant. The grant period will be for two years, January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012. In three weeks McGrath will be sending a report on the success of the programs that the grant provided to County Supervisor Kathy Long. McGrath told the Council that she could not apply for next years Cal GRIPs Grant because Fillmore does not have the stats or/and matching funds required.
The Council recognized Publics Works Supervisor David Smallwood and Mark Avila for their Aquatics Center maintenance efforts. Both men have experience in water treatment but Smallwood refused to take the credit stating Avila did most of the work, “Avila would meet me at the pool at 5:30 am and we would both work on the pool together, but most of the time Avila did the maintenance by himself doing most of the upkeep.”
Fire Chief Rigo Landeros addressed the Council with concerns of the public’s preparedness in the event of a catastrophic event such as the Northridge earthquake. Landeros warned of the potential of public services being overwhelmed and that people should take personal responsibility in being prepared. He spoke of what the citizens can do to help by taking advantage of Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) and the need for Fillmore to be self sufficient and know about the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Landeros commented that Patrick Maynard, Fillmore’s IT support, has done an outstanding job of compiling a binder for the Council and emergency response persons with all the documents need for submission after a disaster, along with other vital information. Fillmore has a volunteer fire department with only four full time employees and in case of an emergency, those employees will first be busy securing their own families needs before addressing the town’s needs, so it is vital that citizens take some personal responsibility in the first few hours. One item that most residents have not taken advantage of is VCAlert. Landeros informed the Council that to date only 240 Fillmore households have signed up to this service. Waiting until the last minute could mean the difference between knowing where to go and what to do and not having a clue. It doesn’t take much more than a few minutes to sign up and the cost is free.
Another agenda item was the winter closing of the Aquatics Center. Monthly 424 (repeat) people use the pool, but that reduces when school starts. City staff offered two different dates (Monday, October 22, 2012 thru February 4, 2012 or Monday, November 5, 2012 thru February 4, 2012) and asked what closure date the Council wanted. There was some talk of extending the open time until November 9. Mayor Gayle Washburn asked what the added cost for the four days would be and was told about $800. She then offered her travel fund stipend be used to cover some of it and Council Members A. Eduardo Gonzalez and Brian Sipes agreed to donate theirs also. So it looks like the pool will be closing on November 9th and reopening on February 4, 2013.
There were a number of people who addressed the Council during public comments and about specific agenda items. Some thanked Quiring and Jay for their time and service to Fillmore, while others questioned the timing of their departures. Alex Mollkoy, a business owner and City Council candidate, asked what the savings would be in changing law firms and would there be any added cost in the change. The Council responded, but did not specifically answer the question. To which Doug Tucker, who is also running for a Council seat, addressed the Council and said, “The question wasn’t answered.” Tucker also told the Council that he felt the resignation of the City Manager should have been on that night’s agenda and discussed in open session, stating, “Public has a right to know.” Manuel Minjares, who is also running for a Council seat, questioned the abrupt departure of the City Manager and Financial Director. This was the last council meeting that Quiring will be attending. Her last day of work will be Thursday, Sept. 13. Quiring responded by recommending a workshop to discuss the City Manager position.
Often during the meeting the City Attorney cautioned the Council on responding to public comments and other items. Laurie Hernandez, a former Council Member, addressed the Council on what she considered a Brown Act violation and asked why two seemingly identical items were both on the closed session and open session. She also asked why public comments on specific items were not asked for and questioned the confusion of placement on the agenda.
As to future agenda items, Gonzalez asked that the questions Hernandez brought up be put on a future agenda so they could be discussed. To which Council Member Jamey Brooks said, “I do not want to answer any of her questions.” Sipes then responded saying he wanted to answer them and a vote was taken to put it on the agenda. The vote was 3-1 with Brooks the only No vote.