To the Editor:
HYPOCRISY, INCOMPENTENCY OR BOTH?
On May 13, 2009 Mayor Walker hired an outside consultant at $80 per hour to "help prepare the cityâs 2009-10 fiscal year budget". Walker said the contract would "terminate on June 30 if not sooner". Two weeks later, Mayor Walker was quoted in the Ventura Star (May 28, 2009 after the resignations of City Manager Ristau and Finance Director Smith) of stating "we are on track, on board to have a budget before the council before the end of June, and we have cohesiveness at the dais." Retired Finance Director Smith had submitted a draft of a balanced budget to Interim City Manager Pennell on April 14 before her retirement on May 14. So the interim City Manager, city staff and the City Council had a working draft of the budget a full 2 Âœ months before the June 30 budget adoption deadline. But instead of the outside consultant getting the budget done on time, the Walker led council majority decides to change the budget format to make it more "transparent" and tells the council that the budget won't be done on time, and that the outside consultantâs contract will need to be extended for at least 45 days beyond the June 30 deadline. It is now August 25 and the financial consultant is still under contract.
For the first time in Fillmoreâs history the City Council was unable to adopt a budget on time and extended the budget adoption date to August 25, 2009, 56 days beyond the June 30 deadline.
The city council held three budget workshops to discuss the ânewly formattedâ budget. At the first budget workshop on July 28, the interim City Manager tells the City Council and the public that the City will need to cut $1.9 million from the budget and that the City will run out of funds in 18 months. At the second budget workshop on August 11, Councilmember Conaway finds 37 errors in the budget document prepared by Pennell, sending Pennell back to the drawing board to revise the budget document. Then a revised budget document appears on August 24 giving the public one day to review a $69 million expenditure plan and 192 page document.
The August 24 version of the budget corrects the errors found by Councilmember Conaway and low and behold, instead of running out of funds in 18 months Pennell finds that the budget is balanced and the City has almost $5.3 million in reserves! Revenues are up $14.3 million in the revised version which tells me that the version that had the 37 errors was totally out of whack and that Pennell unnecessarily (intentionally or unintentionally) raised the alarm about the need for $1.1 million in cuts and the forecasted going broke in 18 months. If you look at the expenditure side, expenses in the revised are UP $1.1 million, so instead of CUTTING $1.9 million from the budget Pennell ADDED $1.1 million in expenditures.
While other cities in Ventura County (Santa Paula, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, and Ventura) because of the state of the economy and the state takeaway of funds from cities are cutting their budgets and eliminating job positions from their budgets, Fillmore has increased its expenditures and has added four new job positions to the budget.
Walker and Washburn state that âthe City Council, the Interim City Manager, staff and financial consultant have spent many hours of effort in budget revisions and project deferments to try and balance the budget and still maintain services.â In fact, they have wasted many hours and spend over $100,000 to âreformatâ the budget which caused the budget to not be adopted on time, extended the number of hours that consultants had to be paid, resulted in numerous errors in the budget, misled the public into thinking that the city was going to run out of money in 18 months and misled the public into thinking that $1.8 million would need to be cut from the budget when in fact they ADDED $1.1 million in expenditures, and failed to provide the public with adequate time to review the budget.
But it is not over; the latest draft of the budget contains significant raises for management and mid-management employees. Raises that I hope are errors and not real raises of 6% to 20%. It is difficult to discern how much each management and mid-management employee is actually making and how much they are getting in raises because the Council and Pennell refuse to include a summary of payroll costs in the budget. This payroll summary had been included as a part of the budget document for the past 20+ years, but with the decision to âreformatâ the budget; this information was intentionally omitted from the budget. By the way, Washburn, Walker and Brooks think that they as City Council members deserve a raise because of all their hard work. What have they done to justify a raise in pay?
So with these latest errors in the budget, the finance consultantâs contract will probably get extended again, along with Pennellâs contract. Pennell has already chewed up 800 hours at $110 an hour in just 4 months. Thatâs a total of $88,000 for four months of work and the financial consultant was paid $25,000 for about three months of work.
If the previous city management (Ristau and Smith) had made these kind of budget blunders and misleading statements and had released a budget document with only one day for public review, you can bet that the cabal of Walker, Washburn and Brooks would have called it malfeasance, intentional avoidance of transparency in government and demanded their resignations. This cabal used to cry, snivel, wring their hands, gnash their teeth, because THEY weren't individually, each and every one of them, notified about whatever was going on at City Hall. From budgets to the sewer plans to the North Fillmore Specific Plan, they would moan that there wasn't enough notice given so that they could each and every one of them review and comment...so, they take power, and what happens?
It will be interesting to hear how they justify their own acts of incompetence and lack of transparency.
Responce to Roy Payne from Mayor Patti Walker:
By unanimous vote, the council hired Larry Pennell as the Interim City Manager on April 22, 2009. John Wooner was brought in as a consultant to bring a budget forward in May, 2009. At that time, the consultant was given, again by unanimous vote, the daunting task of reformatting the budget to make it more transparent for the citizens.
Of the items Council Member Conaway brought forward some were formatting errors - wrong map was shown, incorrect wording of budget items and the like. He did make a request to include over 200 transfers within the specific fund line item which was supported by council and a request to use RDA funds for payment of stipends (which we have learned from our RDA attorney we cannot do). Of the 37 comments he had 33 were questions (some were duplicates) and four were suggestions for the councilâs consideration.
The budget calendar submitted by Ms. Smith and approved by the council on March 24, 2009, showed department budget requests were due by April 23, Mr. Pennellâs second day on the job. The Preliminary Budget was originally calendared for adoption on June 23, with the Final Budget up for consideration and adoption on September 8, 2009.
The council was able to retain employees, something all should be thankful for and celebrate. The new employees are maintenance personnel for beautiful new pool and Two Riverâs Park. The council was the entity which increased expenditures by the hiring of three paramedics to be added commencing January 1, 2010, an additional $400,000 for special litigation (a request by the city attorney regarding the ongoing sales tax agreement litigation), and the possible purchase of software to provide better public access to the city in the sum of $22,000. It was through the working relationship of the department heads and Mr. Pennell that a total reduction of over $865,000 was located, all the while not reducing services to the community. Mr. Pennell also located an additional $750,000 in property taxes and $435,000 in motor vehicle in-lieu tax, for a total of $1.185 additional revenue.
This is the first time in the cityâs history that the budget has been available, throughout the entire process, on line for public viewing. And as noted by Mr. Payne, it was a venue he utilized and provided his input by way of his letter. I and Mayor Pro Tem Washburn submitted a notice to the community which was published on the front page of the Gazette on August 20, 2009, urging the community to attend last nightâs council meeting and view the draft budget at the cityâs website. I was personally contacted by members of the community, which I acknowledged last night, providing their input and comments. As stated last evening by Brian Sipes the new format is âprogress.â
I appreciate the opportunity to respond to Mr. Payneâs comments.
Patti Walker, Mayor
REBUTTAL TO Patti Walker by Roy Payne: Submitted by Roy Payne on Wed, 08/26/2009
Ms. Walker's response to my letter regarding the Hypocrisy and Incompetence of the City Council just reinforces the hypocrisy that I discussed in my letter. Ms. Walker fails to mention that the draft budget that the City Council approved last night was not available on-line to the public until August 24, giving the public only one day to review the 192 page document. Ms. Walker attempts to fool the public by saying the budget was on line during the entire process instead of acknowledging that the version the City Council approved on August 25 was only available for one day. Ms. Walker defends this lack of public notice rather than agreeing that transparency in the budget process was circumvented. This is hypocrisy at its finest given Ms. Walker and Ms. Washburn's past track record of demanding open and adequate advanced notice and advanced copies of important city public documents. Ms. Walker has also demanded in the past that the City Council be given agenda items on the Wednesday preceding the Tuesday council meeting. However, of late, including the August 25 budget meeting, agenda items are not available until Friday or Saturday. Why the change of heart Ms. Walker?
Ms. Walker attempts to confuse the public about the budget adoption process by stating that the budget calendar submitted by retired Finance Director Barbara Smith called for adoption of the preliminary budget on June 23 and the final budget on September 8, 2009. However, Ms. Walker fails to acknowledge that for the first time in the history of Fillmore that a preliminary budget was not adopted by June 30 and that the preliminary budget was not adopted until August 25th. Ms. Walker provides no plausible reason as to why she stated on May 28 "we are on track, on board to have a budget before the council before the end of June".
Ms. Walker stated that "Mr. Pennell also located an additional $750,000 in property taxes and $435,000 in motor vehicle in-lieu tax, for a total of $1.185 additional revenue". Ms. Walker, you just don't "locate" $1.185 million in revenue, it was always there, it's just in the city's haste to "reformat" the budget it was overlooked by your paid consultant's and city staff. Why did it take from April 23 to August 10 for Mr. Pennell to locate this money (it did not show up until the August 10 draft). And where did this money come from? I believe it came from the hard work of previous administrations who worked diligently to improve the economic vitality of the community by supporting controlled and planned development in the community. Again, neither you or Mr. Pennell created this $1.185 million of new revenue, it does not just drop out of the sky, it takes years of hard work to grow the revenues of the city.
You state that Brian Sipes stated that the new budget format is "progess". What makes Mr. Sipes an authority? Isn't he one of your avid supporter's? And isnt't he planning to run on your platform for City Council next election? I think it is highly inappropriate for you as an elected offical to use your office to promote council candidates.
Ms. Walker, one thing we do agree on is that the City's finances appear to be in excellent shape, but it is not because you and your crew "reformatted" the budget. It is because of the prudent fiscal practices of prior administrations and the planned growth development plans that are finally coming to fruition. Again, you, Pennel and Wooten did not just invent $1.185 million in new revenues and you did not just invent the $5.3 million that is in reserves. This money did not fall out of the sky and I doubt that their is a money printing press at city hall. The money is there (even without the funds from the Sales Tax Agreements and the expense of defending those agreements) because of what was did in the past. You and your crew are now responsible for seeing that it is not mishandled in the future. A good place to start would be to take a close look at the generous salary increases you have included in your budget (another example of hypocrisy when the pre-election battle cry was that managers/mid-managers were overpaid and that their salaries should be cut). You may also want to look at your auditing and appropriation practices. I cannot find where or when the City Council ever appropriated any funds to pay Mr. Pennell beyond June 30 and that may be a problem for the auditors (even with the hand-picked auditor you and the Council will be selecting).
One question I forgot to ask
Submitted by Roy Payne on Wed, 08/26/2009 -
One question I forgot to ask Ms. Walker; why was it so important for you, Washburn, Brooks, Stroh and Creagle to report how much I made as a consultant when you were trying to get rid of me and it is not now important to disclose Mr. Pennell's cost to the city? By my calculations, Mr. Pennell has charged the city $100,000 for 4 months work. This equates to $300,000 per year which is 3-4 times my consulting cost for a years work. I guess if someone is willing to do your bidding, then the cost does not matter.
To the Editor:
Re. Martin Farrellâs 26th Realities piece since last November expressing his undying fondness for council member Conaway and his disdain for all the others:
Farrell claims that Mayor Walker has shunned ethics âas she has steadfastly refused to sign the city ethics code.â A reminder, nobody signs the city ethics code because there isnât one.
This brings us to the ethicality of the sales tax scheme. Thank goodness the judge ruled in Fillmoreâs favor. We didnât break the law but did we act ethically? Farrell thinks so. The schemeâs front man, Roy Payne thinks so. Payne went so far as to justify the deal by invoking Karl Marx â âFrom each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.â He said that Fillmore needs the money more then Livermore; a plausible argument but Payne, a Marxist? Who knew? Because of our scheme the cities of Livermore and Industry lose roughly $5.3 million per year combined. Fillmore sees about $800,000 of that, the company collecting the tax gets back roughly $2.26 million as does the out-of-state broker of the deal (not a bad days work). Does Payneâs Marxist justification work here too? No. In fact Payne has tried to run from his culpability in the matter; after taking all the credit for his list of accomplishments he tries to lay the sole responsibility for the sales tax scheme on the council. They do deserve some but Payne is the primary owner, it was his baby.
Itâs been reported that Fillmore is the only California city to do this and we succeeded in bringing the state legislature and the governor together in a rare bipartisan effort to pass a law forbidding the practice in the future. If only Payne had applied the Golden Rule instead of Karl Marx, or how about common sense? If every city and business adopted the practice the sales tax revenue for every city would be reduced by 85%.
Payne did raise an interesting ethics question; should we now give the money back? Itâs called the âwhoreâs dilemmaâ; ashamed of the practice but canât feed the family any other way â what to do?
Responce to Bob Stroh from Roy Payne:
Well, I see Bob Stroh is at it again. Bob, what can I say about the Sales Tax Agreement that has not already been said? I will rely on the judgment of the Superior Court rather than your warped judgment to determine the appropriateness of my actions. Judge Michael L. Stern (Los Angeles Superior Court) stated in his ruling, âThe evidence submitted by plaintiffs for their argument is tenuous.â And, ââŠthere is no showing of any malfeasance or bad intent.â Judge Sternâs ruling also entitles Fillmore to an award of attorneysâ fees.
Oh Bob, I am also glad to note that after harping on this issue for almost a year now, you finally acknowledge that the City Council (including Walker) were the ones who approved the Sales Tax Agreement, not me; which makes your whole argument about ethics rather tenuous. On the one hand you want to condemn my âethicsâ for supporting the sales tax agreement, and on the other you want to defend Walker for not having enough ethics to sign the city ethics code, but do not condemn her ethics for supporting the Sales Tax Agreement.
On August 19, 2009 Fillmore Mayor Walker said, âThe ruling of the court only confirms the city's position on the agreements. This is a tremendous victory in more ways than oneâ.
By the way, I never once said that Fillmore needs the money more than Livermore, so do not try to put words in my mouth to justify your own convoluted logic. I stand by my remarks of June 11th 2009 when I stated âIt appears Livermore certainly needs it more than Fillmore to pay for the 179 Livermore city employees whose salaries exceed $100,000 per year and to maintain their cost of per capita services at a rate twice that of Fillmoreâ.
Bob, I know you are disappointed that Fillmore won the law suit, and I know you are going to be even more disappointed that the City budget does not require cuts in expenditures and in fact the City is adding three full-time paramedic positions to the great volunteer Fillmore Fire Department (which you tried to get dismantled). How many other things (including your rabid opposition to the new Sewer Plant) are you going to be proven wrong about?
To the Editor:
Another week and another letter from Bob Stroh
Collectively Fillmore yawned.
Fillmore City Councilman
To the Editor:
Nancy Pelosi - AMERICAâS BETTER STIMULUS PACKAGE
You must read the following quote from the Speaker of the House carefully.
'We need to raise the standard of living of our poor, unemployed and minorities. For example, we have an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in our country who need our help along with millions of unemployed minorities. Stock market windfall profits taxes could go a long way to guarantee these people the standard of living they would like to have as 'Americans'.'
It is more than evident that the elected representatives in Washington in general and California in particular are morons of the first degree, not even educated enough to know the definition of âillegalâ. There is no intelligent reason for American citizens to be taxed to support illegal aliens or immigrants who have chosen to come to America without proper documentation. These misfits must be removed from office, and my suggestion is that we start first with Nancy.
Consider the immediate financial benefit received from such an action.
We save the American tax payer approximately $6,500,000 per year which is spent for her personal travel. These funds could be used to hire many more policemen. Their primary duty would be to round up illegal, undocumented aliens and deport them. This action would save the tax payers more than $100,000,000 per year, probably much more, as medical costs and insurance premiums would be reduced, costs that are charged to citizens that pay their bills.
The above are only the immediate financial benefits. Jobs would be created that are now filled by âillegalâ aliens. Jobs could be created to patrol our harbors and borders to insure that they do not return. Possibly the more important benefit would be that the American citizen can send a message to our elected representatives that they must shape up or prepare to ship out.
Nancy Pelosi should be allowed to find a job and work 20 years for her retirement. She should be allowed to be covered by the same inferior government sponsored medical coverage that she proposes for the citizens. Her private transportation should be taken away and she should be allowed to âthumbâ her way home to California. If we are fortunate, she might not even come back to California. WITHOUT ANY DOUBT, WE MUST ISSUE A RECALL FOR THIS IDIOT.
To the Editor:
Fillmore Unified School District First Day
I am so very pleased with Fillmore Unified School District. What a great place for kids. The first week of school has been outstanding! I work with some of the staff in a part time position and hold my co-workers in the highest esteem. However, my greatest appreciation comes from what I see on the outside as a parent looking in. My biggest concern was my child entering Fillmore Middle School.
For the last 8 years I have participated in many school committees, parent groups and advisory boards. I have worked closely with Fillmoreâs district administration on several occasions and been apart of the âbig pictureâ. I have heard the good and the bad, been there for the setting and completely of goals and also witnessed the district handle a number of serious challenges. I have wanted to be apart of my children's education as much as possible. I wanted to know everything about the district, I wanted to be prepared for the looming roomers of how bad everything was going to be. Interestingly enough, the more I learned the more devoted to the district I became.
Today, I speak only as a mother, though I have knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes itâs what my childrenâs experience that is most important to me. My son walked on to has elementary campus as if he was returning home. He was greeted by his principle and then into the room of his very devoted teacher. My son is enjoying the unique experience of having the same teacher at two grade levels. The respect he has for his teacher is second none, a very traditional relationship of mutual adoration. My middle school student was greeted in the same comforting manor. As we walked together around the campus in a constant flow of children, I was as nervous as she was. Strategically placed for quite a distance along the path, we encountered middle school administration. With welcoming encouraging words each staff member greeted all the children they could. Balloons flew above the entrance gate and below the principle tried his best to welcome enthusiastically every one of his students. What a perfect beginning to such a huge mile stone in a childâs life. My daughter came home from her 1st day of middle school more excited than she has ever been the first day of school. My son was the very same way. I realize that no school is perfect and there will be bad days and good days. But the first day of school could not have been better. Thank you Fillmore Unified for caring so much and starting the year off right!
To the Editor:
BARDSDALE 4-H THANKS ANIMAL BUYERS
Twelve members of Bardsdale 4-H raised and sold large animals at the recent Ventura County Fair. This weekend they will hold their annual Appreciation Banquet to thank the generous buyers who purchased their animals at the Junior Livestock Auction held August 14th, 2009. Nine members raised pigs: Brooke Aguirreâs pig bought by Fruit Growers Lab, Chris Berringtonâs pig bought by Rigo and Laura Landeros, Natalie Garnicaâs pig bought by Santa Clara Valley Bank, Adrian Gonzalesâs pig bought by Beylik Farms, Daniel Gonzalesâs pig bought by Burns Equipment Services, Sonya Gonzalesâs pig bought by P.W. Gillibrand Co, Jessica Manginelli-Beylikâs pig bought by Quality Ag, Inc., Jessica Mayhewâs pig bought by AAA Propane, and Michael Mayhewâs pig bought by McKnight Farm Labor and Clint McKnight.
Lambs were also sold by three members: Timmy Klittichâs lamb purchased by Burns Equipment Services, Samantha Manginelli-Beylikâs lamb purchased by Rigo & Laura Landeros and Quality Ag, and Tabitha Tuckerâs lamb purchased by Rosalie Meyer of Ventura.
The 45 members of Bardsdale 4-H also had over 100 other prize winning entries at the fair including table settings, crafts, sewing projects, posters, poultry, succulent dish gardens, pygmy goats, woodworking projects, eggs, and produce. Everyone did a great job and learned a lot in their projects throughout the year. A special thanks to our patient adult leaders for teaching the members new and interesting skills and knowledge!
New member and project sign-ups will start at our next general meeting on September 28th at 7 p.m. at the Memorial Building. Contact Cindy Stines (524-0650) or Cindy Klittich (524-4466), Community Club Co-Leaders, with any questions.
Thanks again to our generous buyers who make raising an animal for fair worthwhile!
Reporter Sought - The Fillmore Gazette is looking for someone to cover City Council and School Board meetings. Call 524-2481 if interested. Congratulations to Mariandrea Mueller, our out-going reporter, on her new position as a Junior Litigation Paralegal in Century City. Andrea, thank you for all the great coverage this past year.