Letters to the Editor
July 23rd, 2009

To the Editor:
Martin Farrell is not the only one watching this new council; I have observed their campaign and almost every meeting so far. I think Martins got this group pegged dead on. Their a little machine that has skill sets that lack anything to do with good leadership. They are on the council by organizing years of constant never ending attacks and criticisms of a council that was actually providing good stewardship for the City of Fillmore. During their tenure I’ve seen nothing but destruction and incompetence. They sure can dish it out so let them take a little heat. Keep it up Martin your on the right track.
Roger Keller

To the Editor:
I would like to thank Patrick Maynard, Fillmore’s Disaster Control Coordinator for helping the residents and volunteers of El Dorado Mobile Home Park’s Emergency Block Captain Program to achieve a greater level of awareness and performance necessary in the event of a severe emergency or disaster. With the cooperation of El Dorado Manager Helen Rosette, the Board of Voice of El Dorado Mobile Homeowners Association activated the Emergency Block Captain Program last year. Understanding its potential value, many HOA members as well as non-member residents have worked very hard to keep this program front and center.
Fillmore’s Fire Department along with Maynard at the helm held a very interesting and informative Emergency Training and CPR seminar on Saturday, July 11. Forty-three persons, mostly from El Dorado, attended the 4-hour session. On Saturday, July 18, Maynard and the Fire Department coordinated a live practice-run complete with mock victims with numerous injuries, smoke, darkened conditions, and emergency supplies. Twenty-three attendees successfully rescued, triaged and treated their 24 “young victims” with mock minor to critical injuries. Future classes and practices will be planned for the near future.
Many others including Allan Hair of El Dorado, The Gazette, The Sespe Sun and The Ventura Star also deserve a big “thank you” for helping to make the Emergency Block Captain Program a reality. Space is limited and you all know who you are.
Thank you again,
Paul Schifanelli

To the Editor:
Mr. Farrell, you commented that it is your business to criticize the activities of the council. If you were criticizing the activity you are correct, it is yours and the communities business; but that is not what your column is doing.
You also wanted to know who or whom you had slandered. Do not forget that slander means “false and defamatory statement concerning another”. Point in fact, on 11-13-08 you said in your Realities column“... Mr. Creagle was cited by a Sheriff’s deputy.” I personally communicated with Police Chief Tim Hagel. As of this date, he has confirmed that there is no record or document to show that Mr. Creagle was cited for this or any other matter that would be under the purview of the Ventura County Sheriff or the Fillmore Police Dept.
On more than one occasion you have indicated that council members have allowed one member of the public, Brian Sipes, to attend employee meetings. At least that is what you said on 4-30-09. Let me refresh your memory. You said “He (Brian Sipes) 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.” Mr. Farrell. If you can prove that “passes” were given to Mr. Sipes to attend employee meetings by a council member, I suggest you provide that proof. If he was in attendance, it would have been only at staff’s recommendation or request. If you’d like to attend employee meetings, I am sure, if approved, it would be allowed. I am not sure where you are getting your information (though I have a suspicion). If you believe all you hear (which is indicated by your column) you may want to find a new informant.
With respect to Mr. Sipes, I do know that he is very interested in city government, a trait that should be applauded, not ridiculed. Mr. Sipes has chosen to be involved in the matters before the City Council. He made time to attend one of the open sessions relating to interviews for the Transitional City Manager. This meeting was properly noticed and he was the only “public member” to attend. Mr. Sipes is in attendance throughout most council meetings. Can you say the same? Your paper also receives a full copy of the council agenda packet. If Mr. Sipes does I am sure it is one he pays for or obtains from the city website. Again, can you say the same? For the community’s information, a complete copy of the council packet is available on line for the reading pleasure of anyone who is interested.
You have repeatedly targeted Mayor-Pro-Tem Gayle Washburn over her concerns and stance on the cost of the water treatment plant. Your July 9 editorial challenged Ms. Washburn to find any lies in your editorials. You allow for your “lies” to be “errors of fact”. So be it. Well, Mr. Farrell, I will provide you with an opportunity to correct an “error of fact”. On 03-05-09, you stated, “Ms. Washburn ... 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 year’s delay with plan approval and construction, which cost the city more than $1 million in wasted time and effort.” I took the time to delve into this “error of fact” and spoke to Mr. Rapp and as of this date there isn’t any information or documentation to support your assertions that there was a year’s delay or a $1 million additional cost as a result of Mayor Pro-Tem Washburn, or any of her “followers” in the plan approval or construction of the water recycling plant.
Then on 3-26-09 you said in your Realities, “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.” In order to correct your “error of fact”, on March 24, 2009, the support for the formation of a Community Facilities District to fund the infrastructure of the Business Park was unanimously supported by the current City Council. As for the water treatment plant, it is the responsibility of the council to use the citizen’s money (taxes) in a careful and effective manner. There is no disgrace if a council member uses his or her vote in opposition to what they believe is a misuse of public funds. And keep in mind that Fillmore’s sewer rates went up on July 1, 2009.
Your “Realities” column is not always based on reality, other than your own perception of reality. I know for a fact that many of your comments have not been fully researched. Some of which I have outlined in this commentary. You indicate that Ms. Washburn is not able to admit her mistakes, can you?
In the current column, you said that no finance director has appeared at council meetings since Barbara Smith retired. Obviously you were absent because the interim FD, John Wooner, did appear before the council on June 23, and he presented, at council’s request, a new format for the upcoming budget. Go back and look at the council meetings from the point Ms. Smith tendered her retirement notice and her last day. You will note she was not in attendance.
It is important to note that staff is a recommending body; not decision makers. As for Mr. Payne’s comments in his column last week, he, Tom Ristau, and Barbara Smith were all paid handsomely for their work. These employees fulfilled their obligations for the position they held. Some of their names are on the plaques that adorn various community buildings.
It would be shortsighted for a decision maker not to ask questions which are fiscally sound. Mr. Farrell and Mr. Payne believe it was fiscally sound to purchase property for the current site of the water treatment plant using public funds without so much as an appraisal or comparables to determine if the amount is just!
As for those employees who left they submitted their resignations or notice of retirement prior to any discussion by the council of any request by employees for an employment contract. It should be noted that it is rare for city employees, other than city managers and attorneys, to have contracts. Also for clarification, Mr. Rapp currently has a binding employee contract. Speaking of employees, as for patting past employees on the back, Mr. Payne in his recent column failed to give credit due to Steve McClary as he was the employee who penned “The last best small town in So. CA”.
I personally would like to know what you meant when on 4-30-09, you said, “My criticisms of Brooks, Washburn, Walker, Hernandez, and now Mr. Bartels, are intended to show that a series of bad decisions by the group has led the city into serious, long term, trouble, fiscal, legal, and as far as city staff goes, psychological.” Look at the items that have recently been listed on the executive session portion of the agendas. Most of these items were items the new council inherited. Are they the bad decisions you speak of?
Gayle, Jamey and I were the top vote getters in the past two elections. The question to be asked is why? Is it due to the fact that the home and business owners in Fillmore saw their sewer rates almost quadruple in two years? Is it because over 1500 citizens said they didn’t want 700 homes on 100 acres in North Fillmore and their elected officials ignored them? The people have a voice and it is their vote. They expect their vote to remain their voice.
Martin Farrell and Roy Payne are allowed their freedom of opinion; a freedom which I fully support as I have expressed repeatedly on my position on First Amendment Rights. Regardless, there may be members of the community who will take their comments as gospel. For that I could not remain silent.
Patti Walker

To the Editor, July 22, 2009:
On July 8th 2009 I penned a letter which the Fillmore Gazette ran under the title “Take Our Town Back?”. In that letter I closed by stating that the faction of Walker, Washburn and Brooks have been Deceitful, Hypocritical, speaking in Half-truths and I asked what does this cabal really believe, what do they really want and what have they really accomplished?

On July 19, 2009 Ms. Walker wrote a lengthy letter to the Fillmore Gazette and in that letter she listed what appears to be her three reasons as her justification for the election of the Walker, Washburn, Brooks cabal. Those three reasons were 1) executive session items that the “new council inherited”; 2) “the fact that the home and business owners in Fillmore saw their sewer rates almost quadruple in two years”; and 3) “citizens said they didn’t want 700 homes on 100 acres in North Fillmore and their elected officials ignored them”. Ms. Walker also stated in her letter “It is important to note that staff is a recommending body; not decision makers”.

Let’s look at the three reasons that Ms. Walker uses to justify “taking back our town”. First, Ms. Walker as you suggested to determine what executive session items the “new council inherited”, I have reviewed online the City’s website (Ms. Walker incorrectly alleges that “a complete copy of the council packet is available on line”…this is not true, staff reports are regularly missing from the online packets). It appears that from January 13, 2009 to July 23, 2009 the City Council has held 24 “behind closed doors” executive sessions. At thirteen (13) of those behind closed doors meetings the City Council discussed the appointment of a new City Manager. Ms. Walker the new council did not inherit that issue, they created it. At two of those meetings the City Council discussed the appointment of a new Finance Director. Ms. Walker the new council did not inherit that issue, they created it. At three of the “behind closed doors” meetings the City Council discussed the Sales Tax Sharing litigation. Ms. Walker, you were on the City Council and voted for those Sales Tax Sharing agreements, so I guess you are taking the blame for that litigation? Litigation was discussed at 14 of the behind closed door meeting, but no specific litigation is identified on the agenda so it is difficult to determine if the “new council inherited” those items and how many different cases are involved. So Ms. Walker, it looks like the majority of the executive sessions items were of your own doing and not something you inherited.

Second, you said in your letter “keep in mind that Fillmore’s sewer rates went up on July 1, 2009”. What have you and your cabal done to try and lower the rates? Answer, nothing! Your city council cabal did not even review the sewer pro forma this year to see if any sewer rate reductions could be achieved. The cabal simply passed on it and let the $80 per month sewer rate that was adopted by Ordinance 08-809 on June 10, 2008 (which Ms. Walker voted for last year) go into effect without even placing it on a council agenda for discussion. Cabal member Washburn claims to be an expert on the sewer pro forma spread sheet and it should have been a simple matter for her to review it in an effort to reduce the sewer rates. So I guess the “new council” is not as concerned about the rates as they led the public to believe when they were trying to get elected to office.

Third, regarding the 700 new homes in North Fillmore, why is the new council hiding from the public the fact that the passage of Measure I has rendered the Housing Element noncompliant with State Law and will require an unnecessary expenditure of city funds (estimated by the City Planner to cost $200,000) to correct the violations of state law? And why has the new council buried the draft Housing Element after the City paid a consultant $86,000 to prepare the document? Is it because the new council does not want to face the fact that they have no idea where to locate the 985 new housing units that must be planned for in the new Housing Element, plus the 350 units that were removed from the North Fillmore Plan by the passage of Measure I?

Ms. Walker in her letter attempts to discredit me by stating “Mr. Payne believes it was fiscally sound to purchase property for the current site of the water treatment plant using public funds without so much as an appraisal or comparables to determine if the amount is just!”.

First, remember what Ms. Walker stated earlier, she said “It is important to note that staff is a recommending body; not decision makers”. So let me remind Ms. Walker that the City Council and the City Attorney approved the purchase of the land, not me.

Second, the price of the land has very little to do with the sewer rates (the land cost is less than 1% of the total cost of the new water treatment plant).

Third, there are very few places you can place a sewer plant, it needs to be at the lowest elevation of the city because effluent runs down hill (Ms. Walker where would you put the plant?).

Fourth, we had a willing buyer who offered to sell us the land at a reasonable price and rather than use condemnation to secure the land, a mutually agreed to price was set, saving the city the cost of an appraisal and potential litigation (and time).

Fifth, the value of the land today is about 3-4 times what the city paid for it. Sixth, the purchase of the land helped to jump start the new business park which the new council cabal claims is one of their highest priorities.

Ms. Walker in her letter also attempt to discredit me by stating “Mr. Payne in his recent column failed to give credit to Steve McClary as he was the employee who penned ‘The last best small town in Southern California’ “. Ms. Walker again does not have her facts straight. The quote was first provided to the city by Mr. Dave Wilcox of Economics Research Associates in a report he prepared for the city in 1993 about the Downtown Specific Plan. After seeing Mr. Wilcox’s quote, I had it inscribed on a small promotional memento that was handed out to a group of developers that were invited to a developer meeting that the City hosted in late 1993 to get developer feedback on the new downtown specific plan and to try and recruit new businesses to our downtown. Following the January 1994 earthquake, Fire Chief Pat Askren had the slogan posted on the marquee of the Towne Theatre to help pump up citywide morale. Mr. McClary was not even working for the city when these three events happened.

In closing, Ms. Walker states in her letter “there may be members of the community who will take Mr. Payne’s comments as gospel”. Ms. Walker says “for that I could not remain silent”. Ms. Walker, you should have remained silent.
Roy Payne

Letter to the Editor:
RE: The Bob Stroh - Martin Farrell Saga
It's with deep regret for Fillmore,that Martin Farrell's deceptive comments will never come to fruition. I commend Bob Stroh for standing up for truth and common decency. In point, Bob Stroh is absolutely correct in one of his assertions that Martin Farrell's "Realities" section has harmed private citizens names within the community for malicious intent, nothing more or less. For example, Martin Farrell has lied when my name was shuffled into his loony tunes "Realities" section of the Fillmore Gazette--April 1st & April 29th.editions. I'll take this opportunity to clarify and put to rest these erroneous lies and constant bamboozlement of attacks arrowed at me.
Lie # 1
Martin Farrell, April 1, 2009, states:
"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."
Clearly at this point of time, I'm not targeting any council members seat. The next city council election is well over a year away. Right now, we as citizens need to encourage our Mayor and City Council to legislate forceful decisions that will spur our local economy to enhance our livelihood in Fillmore. Thus so far, in my opinion, we have seen thoughtful and proactive measures that intend to secure the succession of the future business parks and the current City Council has become supportive partners with our local downtown mercantile. Despite what we hear and read in the press; progress is being made at City Hall.
As for Councilman Conaway, the "last man standing for experienced,professional leadership" as Martin states, this satement is visibly and largely inaccurate.I'll write a letter some other time explaining Steve Conaway's lengthy efforts that have brought down the morale at the dais as well as stifling a collaborative, working relationship amongst his fellow colleagues on the council. Differing opinions is expected, but thwarting efforts of conducting City business within a diplomatic approach is wrong.
Lie's #2 ,3 and 4
Martin Farrell, April 29, 2009, states:
"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."
Councilwoman Hernandez has not resigned and from my knowledge, Hernandez has no intentions on resigning, hence, I cannot be appointed..period. However, if a resignation does occur, then there is a stringent process that must be undertaken to comply with city and state codes. We as a City experienced this in 2007 when former Councilman Ray Dressler resigned over health concerns.
Moreover on the stated accusations; I have never received or inquired for certain "Special Privileges", "Passes to Attend Employee Meetings" or a "Full Council Agenda". All of these outlined accusations are boldfaced lies that Martin Farrell has emblazoned in his editorials with a slimy quest to subvert my reputation as a private citizen and business owner in the community.
Another nonsensical accusation that Martin Farrell has lied about is that I am some sort of puppet for Mayor Pro-tem Washburn, Councilman Brooks as well as Mayor Walker. The truth is very simple to explain. Never once has Martin Farrell ever questioned my stances on any such local issues. Martin Farrell precluded his judgment as to what my opinions are instead of doing his research so that the truth can be echoed accurately.
So I ask the public; Doesn't Fillmore deserve responsible and ethical journalism? In fact I do, and hopefully Fillmore will discover other credible venues to receive their local news. There are choices out there.
To conclude my letter, I ask the public to faithfully question all accusations made by Martin Farrell and the Fillmore Gazette in the future, so the truth will be unequivocally clear.
Brian N.Sipes,
resident of Fillmore

To the Editor:
Re. Martin Farrell’s nineteenth Realities column attacking any and/or all of the council members except Steve Conaway since the election: Although he didn’t print my last letter Martin asked me to be specific in naming anyone he has slandered or made gross fallacious claims against – easy, how about me? Realities 6-3-09, you told your readers that I “have been a regular, outspoken supporter of these views (to get rid of the city employees Martin specified), in print and at the dais.” You were asked to prove it (Letter 6-10-09) and you said you would (Realities 6-10-09); it could be accomplished very easily by reading my letters to your own newspaper just back to the election. No need for “scientific speculation”; everyday common sense will get the job done. Obviously you couldn’t prove it because it never happened. As you intimated, what may have been an honest “error of fact” becomes a lie when allowed to remain uncorrected. You’ve never retracted or corrected the false claim; hence, you lied to your readers about me. I occasionally see Kevin McSweeney and Bert Raap and would appreciate it if you set the record straight.
The same applies regarding your claim that Bill Bartels is not up to the job of city manager, you offered as evidence the need to hire two people to assist him. It was pointed out to you in Roy Payne’s recent piece that the only people hired were the ones to do the jobs of the vacant positions; they were not hired as Bartels’ assistants. You chose to let that “error of fact” (or was that “legitimate hyperbole”?) remain uncorrected making it a lie thus besmirching Bartels’ reputation.
You are entitled to your opinion about Gary Creagle’s time on the council but I certainly don’t remember it as you label it, were you in Fillmore then? I seem to remember that he served for four years and didn’t seek reelection. On the council during his tenure was Deloris Day, Pat Quinn, Roger Campbell, I think Hub Cloyd and some I don’t recall. It’s irrelevant but you go ahead with your rant against him, he’s a big boy and can take care of himself.
Martin asked me to “provide evidence of any [of Conaway’s] non-objectivity [as a result of his trip to Washington D.C.] First off, Martin, you may not be helping Conaway by acting as his surrogate because you’re getting some facts wrong thus giving the impression that there is something to hide. You said that Conaway took the trip “with full knowledge and approval of city council, legal counsel, and after much discussion” (Realities 7-8-09.) You are wrong. Council minutes for the Jan. 9 and 23, 2007 meetings show that at the end of each meeting Conaway announced that he would be traveling to Washington D.C. to make a presentation at the Mayors Conference. The presentation was made two days later. There was no discussion and no vote of approval or disapproval. Nothing more was said publicly about it until sometime after Mar. 7, 2007. Upon his return Conaway gave no report to the council, as is the custom and full details of the trip were made public by an international watchdog organization. At that time we were told that the city attorney had given his okay. Remember, Conaway spoke at the Mayor’s Water Council – American Water is one of only four full members on the board. Hundreds of Fillmore citizens asked for help in lowering their sewer bill and the idea of reopening the bidding process was discussed; Conaway stood firm in his support for American Water’s contract and was not in favor of reopening the bidding process. Some may believe that a trip like that would have no bearing on a council member’s objectivity; I’m not one of them.
Martin also asked me to comment on Roy Payne’s column(s) but I don’t have room this week.
Bob Stroh

To the Editor:
Bob Stroh needs to get his facts straight. His latest letter to the Fillmore Gazette is a prime example of the half-truths, hypocrisy and outright deceit that he and the council cabal have been engaged in for the last 3-4 years.
In his letter he says the city’s sales tax revenue is being held by the state because of a deal that I made. As I have pointed out time and time again and as Walker recently stated “staff is a recommending body; not decision makers”. If the truth be known the only way that the agreement could be entered into was for the City Council to approve it and Walker voted for the sales tax agreement that is under litigation, but Stroh and his cronies don’t want the public to know that so they try to shift the blame to me. Further, to my knowledge, the only sales tax money that is being held by the State is the sales tax revenue related to the Sales Tax Agreement, not the general city-wide sales tax revenues.

If the City Council cabal is relying on the Sales Tax Agreement revenues being held by the state to balance the budget, then they have been making foolish unwise decisions about the use of city funds. When the Sales Tax Agreements were initially approved, it was clearly the policy of the City Council to only use those monies for one-time expenses and not to rely on those revenues to balance the budget because it was assumed that the revenues would be temporary in nature. The City never used those monies to balance the budget when I was City Manager.

Regarding the $85,000 per year savings that the City Council presumably is saving by not filling the temporary position that I held, again Stroh speaks in hypocritical half-truths. In previous letters Stroh has argued that I was paid by developers and not by the City for the work I was doing and now he wants you to believe that the City used city monies to pay me for my work and that the city will be $85,000 ahead which is not true. You can’t have it both ways Mr. Stroh. Developers reimbursed the city for about 50% of the work I did for the city each year (the same way the staff at city hall is paid when they work on developer projects). The reason for this is to save the taxpayers of Fillmore money and not have the taxpayers paying for development projects within the City. So there is no $85,000 per year savings to the City.

Regarding Stroh’s claim that “$1.5 million front money for a mandatory well for the new business park was cut in half (by the new city council) while still fully supporting the park’s development”, my intent and approach with the developers was to have them fund the entire amount of the well and no front money required by the City. If you read my resignation letter of February 3, 2009 you will see that I stated that I “Led the effort to perform an updated Water Assessment Study to secure $1.2 million in funding from the Business Park developers (if CFD 8 is formed) for the construction of Water Well 9”. The City Council did not want me to finish my work on the Business Park and questioned my integrity and my value to the City and said I had no right to speak out on issues affecting the City so I chose to resign rather than to work for the new council.

If I had been able to continue, then there would have been no cost to the City for a new well. So if Stroh wants to give the new council credit for spending $750,000 of taxpayer money for a Water Well that is the responsibility of new development then go for it, but don’t claim I had anything to do with the City spending $1.5 million or $750,000 because I did not.

Last, regarding the City budget, the new City Council has made no efforts whatsoever over the last six months to try and anticipate the impacts on the city budget of the global economic downturn and more specifically the state economic downturn. The City Council is just going to use the prior management at city hall as the scapegoat for any shortfalls in the city budget instead of taking responsibility for their failure to act in a timely manner. Does anyone really believe that the City should have spent the last 3 months and paying an outside consultant $36,000 in trying to change the format of the City budget to make it look prettier? Walker, Washburn and Brooks need to try and explain that expense!
Roy Payne