Letters to the Editor
October 1st, 2009

To the Editor:
The employees of the Fillmore Unified School District and members of the community are disappointed that the Board decided to create a new position for an employee about whom there are so many unanswered questions. It seems that the problem is more encompassing than we thought. Many are asking if other District personnel could be implicated. If the Board considers her so competent, why is it not appropriate to keep this employee in her former position instead of creating a new one at added expense? The Board is depleting its exchequer, the financial resources of our School District.
Speaking of depleting the financial resources, there is still a great deal of anger among the employees of the Fillmore Unified School District as a result of the District Office reorganization. Director positions were elevated to Assistant Superintendent positions with enormous increases in salary. Other new positions were created in the District Office while some school staff positions were eliminated and others had their hours cut. The Assistant Superintendent of Personnel position received a reported 48% salary increase. The Assistant Superintendent of Business received a reported 31% increase. What other benefits were included in this sweetheart deal? How many back room deals are being perpetrated now?
The employees are also upset about the questionable hiring practices in the Fillmore Unified School District. It seems that favored people don’t even have to apply whether or not they are fully qualified. Other deserving people are not considered for reasons that are not professionally legitimate. Credit is often not given where credit is due.
The representatives of both employee unions, FUTA and CSEA, are often frustrated with the apparent lack of contract knowledge exhibited by District negotiators. School District attorneys are constantly consulted, presumably at added expense, because the contracts have not been thoroughly read or followed. If one lacks the capacity to read, follow, or understand the contracts, then that person should not be negotiating and should not be employed in that position.
Does the Board know that someone representing the District [is alleged to have made] intentionally false statements under oath to an Administrative Law Judge in a Labor Board matter? If our school officials are capable of lying and perjury, what else are they doing? How much potential legal liability has our school district been exposed to because of this and other questionable and possibly illegal actions? The financial cost would mean a greatly reduced ability to educate our children. In this time of fiscal crisis, the Board must take action and become more informed to avoid serious legal and financial problems. The Board must begin to show more leadership and do a better job of dealing with the problems created by the District Administration.
Mary Ford,

To the Editor:
Clarification on the September 24, 2009 edition of the Gazette
The article by Carol Wilson concerning the September 22, 2009, Fillmore City Council meeting did not include key parts of the dialogue between the council members and staff regarding the proposal for a new City Auditor. To borrow from Paul Harvey, “Here’s the rest of the story.”
City Manager Larry Pennell promptly brought this matter forward for council discussion and decision when it became apparent to him that to wait for replies to the distributed request for proposals (RFP) would not allow for the city to timely file state fiscal reports. Ms. Young had been the assistant to our previous finance director for many years but was not able to complete the reports to be filed as she had not been mentored or trained by her supervisors to do so.
Ms. Wilson was incorrect in her statement that the RFP was distributed to just one accounting firm. As I stated at the council meeting, it was sent to the previous firm as I read from an email from one of that firm’s partners who acknowledged receipt of the RFP.
Ms. Wilson also left out that the budgeted amount of $32,000 is from the general fund with an additional $15,000 budgeted for the audit from the Redevelopment Agency funds as Mr. Pennell pointed out at the council meeting. The proposal to do the audit, including timely submittal of the reports due in October, is $40,920 and is well within the budget. This proposal is just over $900 from the previous firm which, by the way, raised its price approximately $5,500 from last year’s audit.
Patti Walker

To the Editor:
Mr. Sipes stated in his September 24, 2009 letter to the editor that he is a fiscal conservative and he is against salary increases. I could be wrong, but I do not recall Mr. Sipes standing up and taking issue with the 6% to 20% city management salary increases that were recently approved by Walker, Washburn and Brooks. Nor do I recall Sipes standing up and taking issue with the 18% increase for the new City Manager which raised her salary to $156,000 per year and a total compensation package of over $240,000 per year. Sipes claims that this is the worst time for hefty increase in sewer and water bills, but where was he when the current City Council allowed the current sewer rate increases to go into effect without even putting the matter on the City Council agenda for discussion? It does not appear that he is as concerned about people staying afloat in these rough economic times as he would like you to believe. Where was Sipes when interim City Manager Pennell claimed the City was going to run out of money in 18 months and that $1.8 million would need to be cut from the budget and at the very next City Council meeting the City Council adopts a $69.8 million expenditure budget, the largest in the history of the City with huge salary increases and no cuts in expenditures or revenue enhancements? Sipes says he wants to help make Fillmore the most financially secure City in the County, but I guess he wants to wait until an election year to start, rather than criticize those who Sipes campaigned for; who are now in office and spending the city’s money like there is no tomorrow.
I believe Mr. Sipes served on the Board of the Fillmore Chamber of Commerce for a number of years. Can Sipes tell you what he accomplished there to make that Board the most financially secure Chamber in the County?
I think it is hypocritical of Sipes to criticize Ken Smedley for pointing out Sipes’ position on matters and to say that Ken has never spoken to Sipes on these matters and then for Sipes to turn around and criticize Ken and Cecilia Cuevas when I know Sipes has never inquired of them as to their opinions.
I recall the campaign promises of Brooks and Washburn to cut management salaries and to get rid of out of town managers. Well, they failed on both counts. Salaries have increased significantly under their watch and out of town managers are still being hired. By the way Brooks and Washburn conveniently voting no on the $156,000 salary for the new city manager after the Council went into closed session to count the votes to make sure that the salary would be approved and Washburn and Brooks could maintain their political cover by voting no on the salary increases was a typical politician CYA maneuver and anyone with a lick of common sense (even Sipes) could see right through it. Sipes, along with Brooks and Washburn talk a good story and will say anything to get elected.
Roy Payne

To the Editor:
I am asking the voters of Fillmore to help me defeat Measure F at the polls on November 3, 2009. My wife Joyce and I have lived in El Dorado for more than 5 years, and we believe that our community is one of the nicest and friendliest of all the places we have lived in. Here are just a just few reasons to vote NO on Measure F.
Upon subdivision (condo-conversion) the park’s owner will retain total control until 51% of the spaces are sold. In my opinion, that will not happen soon, partially due to the economic environment, but mostly because historically, space prices have been highly inflated in other parks undergoing condo-conversion, devaluing the equity in the mobile home.
Those extremely low and very low-income residents, that do not buy, would have a “one time only” opportunity at inception of condo-conversion, for very limited rent control under Measure F, however, County and State Rent Control Ordinances offer more comprehensive protection. For the rest of us, God only knows what kind of hardship we could be forced to endure. Currently, many of us are paying some of the highest space rents in a senior mobile home park in Ventura County, as Fillmore is the only city in our County without any type of rent stabilization. Although Measure F is presented by the park’s owner as “The Fair Rent and Homeownership Initiative”, all 135 responses, representing over 200 residents in a recent park-wide HOA survey on Measure F, was NO! There were 0 affirmative responses.
A converted park becomes a hodge-podge of renters, owners, and speculators. Instead of “one for all and all for one”, it is everyone for him/herself. WHAT A NIGHTMARE! Does this sound like a community in which you would want to invest?
It came to my attention recently, that former Mayor Roger Campbell, was hired as a consultant by the park’s owner, and management, to promote Measure F. Knowing Mr. Campbell (not an El Dorado resident) personally, and having worked closely with him on issues regarding El Dorado and Griffin Industries, I asked him why he would support a measure that benefits the out of town park’s owner, with potential to financially harm many of his friends and former constituents. His answer was that in his opinion, it would be better for the people of El Dorado if Measure F passed. After discussing several items in Measure F, Mr. Campbell admitted that I had given him quite a few things to think about, and that he would do some research regarding those items, and also on possible future ramifications if Measure F passes.
I would like to take this opportunity to invite Mr.Campbell to attend a Voice of El Dorado HOA Board meeting on Sunday, October 4, 2009 at 6 P.M. in the El Dorado Club House. The first portion of the meeting is an Open Forum for all El Dorado residents. The park’s owner, Nancy Watkins and Star Management’s Mike Cirillo have been invited both to HOA Board and General meetings to answer residents’ questions why they think Measure F would be good for El Dorado, however, neither have attended.
Thank you for printing this letter in its entirety. Please, vote NO on Measure F!
Paul Schifanelli,

To the Editor:
A few years ago a previous city council member told me The Fillmore Gazette was a “rag” and that she didn’t read it. A couple of weeks ago the Gazette’s owner, Martin Farrell, was invited to cover a meeting about Measure F at the El Dorado Mobile Home Park and instead of an honest report we got an attack piece directed toward a council member who was invited to attend. Based on the letter last week from the El Dorado Homeowners Association it seems they were a bit surprised by Farrell’s behavior, they must have been expecting fair and honest reporting.
I’ve been reading The Fillmore Gazette for as long as Farrell has been in business and in my opinion it is the last place one should go if they want honest reporting and thoughtful editorials. If you can’t attend or watch public meetings then you will be closer to the truth by having no information then if you read about it from Farrell. It’s difficult to find an argument against that former council member’s assessment of the Gazette.
Bob Stroh,

To the Editor:
Mayor Walker and Interim City Manager Pennell should be embarrassed. Walker's letter to the editor of October 1, 2009 is intended as "Clarification" on the September 24, 2009 edition of the Gazette regarding the article by Carol Wilson concerning the September 22, 2009, Fillmore City Council's hiring of an auditor. As Walker stated, when Washburn pointed out that the City had only budgeted $34,000 for auditing services, Pennell quickly stated that he thinks the budget has more money for the audit as the Redevelopment Agency also contributes to the cost of the audit. And guess what? At the meeting they bought Pennell’s explanation and now Walker is repeating it as if it is gospel! Problem is Washburn got it right, there is no extra money budgeted for the audit, $34,000 is all there is. Page H-15 of the budget shows $34,000 budgeted for the annual City Audit. This page also shows all of the transfers to help pay for the $34,000 budgeted audit including the $10,000 transfer from RDA Central Project and the $5,000 transfer from RDA Housing. There is no "extra" $15,000 of RDA funds as Walker and Pennell have claimed. So Pennell and Walker are either intentionally misleading the Council and public when they claim the budget has more money budgeted for the audit, or they do not know how to read the expensive budget that they just foisted on the public in the name of transparency.

Walker attempted to keep this transparency argument going at the September 22, 2009 meeting when she stated that last years budget raised concerns because of a zero balance in the General Fund; that there were budget transfers that were hidden; and there was improper funding of city operations with RDA funds that needed to be addressed. All of these claims by Walker are false and just shows she did not know how to read the old budget and she does not know how to read the new budget. For many, many years, the objective of the City Council was to make sure the General Fund was balanced (i.e. revenues matched expenses) and any extra funds were transferred to the General Fund Reserve. This is how the past administration was able to build up the General Fund reserves to over $3.8 million as reflected in the 2009-10 budget as the July 1, 2009 beginning cash balance. Walker should know this because she pariticpated in the adoption of those past city budgets for 6 years! The 2008-09 budget that she alludes to as being troublesome because it has a zero balance in the general fund; in reality the general fund balance is $8,073 and is shown in the Summary of Funds page of the adopted 2008-09 city budget.

Regarding Walker's claim that the old budget had "hidden transfers", these so-called "hidden transfer" are clearly shown on pages K-1 thru K-4 of the adopted 2008-09 city budget. In fact, without this page for guidance, interim Finance Director Wooten and interim City Manager Pennell would not have had a clue as to how to include the transfers in their new "transparent" budget. Regarding Walker's claim that there were "improper funding of city operations with RDA funds that needed to be addressed"; the new budget shows $9.2 million of RDA funds used for city operations and the old budget shows $7.1 million of RDA funds being used for city operations. So, I guess the way Walker and Pennell addressed the "improper" use of RDA funds was to increase the amount of RDA funds used "improperly by $2.1 million.

Remember it was Pennell who stated to the City Council on July 23, 2009 that the City at its current rate of spending was going to run out of money in 18 months and on July 28, 2009 Pennell stated that in order to balance the General Fund budget he would need to cut $1.9 million. Well, on July 28 the General Fund budget was $12.9 million and on August 25 the City Council adopted a $13.3 million General Fund budget; an increase of $400,000. Pennell never produced the $1.9 million in cuts that he said were needed to balance the budget. In fact, the budget that Pennell convinced the City Council to adopt is $2.6 million greater than last year’s General Fund budget.
Roy Payne