Letters to the Editor
September 3rd, 2009

To the Editor:
On August 16 our son Jason passed away after fighting cancer for over 2 years. It was a long valiant fight.
During those two years he had a lot of prayers and support from those who knew and loved him from Fillmore and other parts of the country.
His mother and I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all those out there who not only prayed but called and encouraged him.
We would also like to express our gratitude to Skillins-Carroll Mortuary for what has to be the kindest, most professional, and compassionate care I have ever witnessed. From the young men that came and took charge of our son, to the director that we met with to handle the service and everyone else that participated in his service they were professional, compassionate, and extremely kind. Their attitude helped us tremedeously in this trying time. Vince you have done a fine job and have a staff you can be proud of.
We would also like to express our gratitude to all that came out to support us and to see Jason off in style.
Especially his classmates that not only came to pay respect but have called us, e-mailed, posted messages online, etc.
They also started a memorial fund for Jason at Santa Clara Valley Bank to help us with the expenses.
When you go out to Barsdale to visit Jason and you see his headstone, when it gets delivered, I want you to know that it came from all those out there that loved Jason and who contributed to help, it was paid for in full by you. Thank you.
Thanks to all of you again,
Mike and Phyllis Steel

To the Editor:
In response to Payne’s 941 word letter (the rest of us only get 250 words).
I never “pronounced a steadfast commitment to …salary reductions”. Here are my answers to the Gazette’s questions on that issue:
9/17/2008: My response was …”the City has a big payroll. While our management salaries and benefits are high, I am more concerned with our consulting payroll. We paid enough money to Boyle Engineering over the last couple of years to hire over 50 full time engineers and assistants. “
9/23/2008: How will/would you vote on the current city staff salary increases and why?
“I would vote to put a freeze on management salaries for at least 6 months. There is currently a crisis in financial markets that will have an impact on our future revenues. “
This is what happened last Tuesday. The proposed budget was adopted without salary increases or decreases (other than represented employees) with the exception of the Assistant Finance Director – of which I voted “no”.
While we are on the subject of salaries, I was shocked to see that the management salaries that you went to great effort to justify by benchmarking with other cities, did not include the City Council salaries, leaving our Council members paid 400% less than Santa Paula’s and 900% less than Ojai’s. While we are clearly not in this for the money, I find it self serving of you to look after your staff but not the residents, i.e. Council.
Nearly every sentence of your current and past letters contains twisted mistruths and misleading statements. What a disservice you do to the community that nurtured and paid you for years and made it possible to pay you over $100,000 per year for the rest of your life. I would hope that you would behave like a professional and respect the opinions of the voters and citizens (like me) that have provided a comfortable life for you at our expense.
Gayle Washburn
Fillmore Councilmember
[Ms. Washburn, if you had read The Gazette in the past few months you would have noticed that your statement “the rest of us only get 250 words” is false: Patti Walker 08/27--479 words, 07/16--1,392 words; Bob Stroh 07/23--399 words, 07/16--655 words, 07/02--441 words, 06/18--344 words, 06/11--517 words; Brian Sipes 07/16--655 words. It always helps to come to the editorial page and council meetings prepared. Martin Farrell]

To the Editor:
Well the duplicity of Brooks and Washburn and their budget-wage-cutting sword was in full political double-speak action this past week. As you will recall, both Brooks and Washburn on several occasions before and after the last council election, have pronounced their steadfast commitment to management and mid-management salary reductions; to cuts in employee benefits; and to reductions in expensive management compensation contracts. In fact on June 3, 2008 Brooks said he had come to create division and not peace and that the City was paying too much for the poor city management and mid-management that we are getting.
So what have they done to put your money where their mouth is? On last Tuesday, they adopted the most expensive budget in the history of the city. Management and mid-management salaries were increased by 6% to 20%, and overall budget expenses were increased by $1.5 million. Not only did they adopt a budget with 6% to 20% increases for management and mid-management employees, they unilaterally reduced the salaries for public works employees and custodians in violation of negotiated contract agreements with those employees. But they did not stop there; they also violated Section 54954.2(a) (2) of the Brown Act by taking up a matter that was not on the agenda in order to grant a special raise to the Interim Finance Director. Hypocritical? You bet. Political double-speak and duplicity? Their political effrontery is only matched by their political incompetence.
And while they were on their janus-faced roll, they held another meeting last Friday to discuss the proposed terms of an employment agreement with the new city manager. This discussion proved to be quite interesting and revealing. Mayor Walker started the discussion by pompously emphasizing that the proposed employment agreement with the new city manager was based upon the previous employment agreements for retired city manager Payne and resigned city manager Ristau. This in the face of previous pronouncements by Walker, Washburn and Brooks that the previous city managers were overpaid and their contracts were too expensive for the community of Fillmore. So they proceeded to review the contract for the new manager to make sure that each and every benefit that was granted to the previous managers was provided to the new manager! When it came to the salary discussion, Washburn and Brooks weakly whimpered that they would like to see the starting salary at $128,000, but they quickly wilted to the prodding of Mayor Walker who said the new manager deserved to be paid at the same $133,000 rate as former Manager Ristau (who Brooks had said on several occasions in the past was vastly overpaid). Mr. Brooks what has happened to your salary cutting sword? When it came to city manager benefits, Ms. Washburn glibly stated that Fillmore’s benefit package was very generous and above and beyond all other cities. Ms. Washburn then proceeded to support the inclusion of the full Fillmore benefit package for the new city manager. Both Brooks and Washburn were also fully supportive of a “cooling off” provision in the contract which prohibits a future duly elected council from terminating the city manager for a period of six months after a council election. This provision is so hypocritical as to be laughable. You may recall that both Brooks and Washburn wanted to review Mr. Ristau’s employment agreement as their first act of business after they were elected. Given the pre-election rhetoric of these two individuals, there is no question in any logical person’s mind that their intent was to terminate Mr. Ristau. But now that they are in office, they do not want a future elected councilperson to have that authority.
So how did Brooks and Washburn justify their actions to grant management salary increases, generous benefits and a contract for the new city manager that is equal to or better than the one they opposed for previous city manager Ristau? They did what all good politician’s do, they did their best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation and “kicked the can down the road”. Better than that, like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, they handed off the responsibility for cutting management and mid-management salaries and benefits to the new city manager and will allow her to be the heavy with the city staff in this matter. Speaking of the Wizard of Oz, I will address Mayor Walker’s Brown Act and ethics codes shenanigans of the past week at a later date, once I do a little further research.
As you will recall Brooks and Washburn back in January 2009, as one of their first orders of business requested copies of all employment contracts. So they have had that information for over 7-months, but you would have to wonder if they ever read the stuff based upon the questions they asked at the meeting on Friday. They did not have a clue as to what General Leave is; how much life insurance the city manager receives (it is clearly spelled out in the contract); and how much deferred compensation the city manager receives (also spelled out in the contract). They also had to ask who has the authority to cut salaries, the city manager or the city council. The City Attorney had to advise them that the City Manager is responsible for recommending yearly individual and merit/step raises, the City Council has the discretion to deny all salary increases, excepting mandatory Union negotiated raises. Too bad the City Attorney did not tell them last Tuesday night that they had no authority to adopt a budget that reduced Union negotiated raises. How many ways can you spell Hypocrisy and Incompentency?
I am off to research the Wizard.
Roy Payne

To the Editor:
Stroh wrote, "Farrell claims that Mayor Walker has shunned ethics, 'as she has steadfastly refused to sign the city ethics code." A reminder, nobody signs the city ethics code because there isn't one."
In 2006 when Patti Walker was elected, the City did have a Code of Ethics, which carried the weight of law in Fillmore. Patti was elected while the Code was in effect and she refused to sign it. Her actions speak for themselves. I was the member that made the motion to toss out the Code as it was my belief that it was tearing the council apart. Better to toss it out and start fresh. Perhaps the recent Ralph M. Brown Act violation would have not taken place had a code been in place.
Previously you wrote "in spite of the rosy projections given by the last city manager and finance director just a few months ago, even the most casual observer of the state of our economy and the housing crisis should have foreseen the trouble we find ourselves in." Many did. A year ago people (including Jamie Brooks, Gayle Washburn and then council member Patti Walker) were urging the past council to exercise restraint in handing out pay raises for top managers to no avail. Now we are told that at our curent rate of spending we will be out of money in eighteen months; the cost-cutting will have unfortunate consequences for many people." Are you surprised that the projections by the last city manager (Ristau) and finance director (Smith) have been proven true? The new budget reflects increased revenues, higher spending and increased reserves. Thanks to past City Managers Payne and Ristau and Finance Director Barbara Smith. Today's council reaps the rewards for past decisions.
At last Tuesday night's council meeting Walker successfully led the effort to hand out a wage increase for one individual. So much for exercising restraint. Be careful all, no one is watching how fast these new council members in charge are spending the money, we (former councils) work so hard to build, with virtually all projects dead in the water...what will happen when they burn through all the reserves? Unfortunately, most don't notice until services are cut. I hope WE CAN TAKE OUR TOWN BACK in one year from those who are running it into the ground!
Cecilia Cuevas
Former Mayor Pro Tem