Monthly Archives: October 2013

Mayor to Speak at Free Speech Day Event

So, I had planned to stick to my Into the Weeds posts for awhile, but yesterday morning’s Chico Enterprise-Record article on Free Speech Day compelled me to switch gears temporarily.

Here’s part of the article:

A spokesman for the group says Mayor Scott Gruendl, Police Chief Kirk Trostle, Melissa Daugherty from the News & Review, and Sue Hilderbrand from KZFR will be speaking at the event.

Under other circumstances, I might have laughed about the Mayor speaking at that event; however, he has made such a mockery of free speech rights in recent months that the irony did not elicit so much as a smirk.

As you may know, we were unable to attend the October 15 Council meeting. Rather than remaining silent about our absence, the Mayor felt obligated to comment on it after the conclusion of Business from the Floor. A true defender of free speech, this guy is.

Here’s what he said (watch the video clip):

I forgot to honor the, for the nice business from the floor we had tonight, too, as well, so it’s a break. So I appreciate that for the folks listening at home. Thank you for giving us the break as well. Um [giggle] I mean that in a sincere way I mean, it’s been a long time since we haven’t had to address such serious concerns so um.. Not that we don’t address serious concerns on a regular basis. I’m really digging myself a hole, so with that um [giggle] so with that we are adjourned…

But wait, there’s more!

Here is the full text of the Mayor’s September 3 press release addressing free speech and access to public records:

Press Release from the Mayor (12:45 PM, 9/3/13)

Chico faces extraordinary times and our success lies in the strength of our citizens. Seeking truth and civic involvement are critical, yet some utilize protections of democracy in a selfish and counterproductive way. City hall has seen an unprecedented number of public information requests with many from the same party so it appears the intent is not to discover truthful information, but to punish those implementing measures necessary to keep our city solvent and serving the public.

Many requests relate to meeting minutes not yet completed. When an information request is received, the same officials responsible for the minutes are legally mandated to respond to the request, but are not mandated to produce the minutes. One can see how certain members of the public, while appearing to appropriately use a powerful democratic tool of democracy, may actually have harmful intent, that becomes evident when the very information sought is available on the Internet immediately for all to see and hear at their own desire.

I am a vanguard of the public’s trust, so it is difficult for me to make the claim that the very systems that are available to enhance this trust appear to be abused by some. My intent is not to limit the voice of our community or access to government, but when these sacred instruments appear to be used as tools of abuse, my oath of office requires action.

City Council meetings are used by some to attack the city’s administration. Some have grievances due to separation from city employment and others falsely believe that the city’s financial calamity was caused by the very people hired to fix it. The truth is that this administration has taken action that no predecessor would and the total salary cost is significantly less than past executives whose failures resulted in the extraordinarily difficult times we experience today.

As Mayor, let me be perfectly clear, speech is a protected freedom, but when speech is used to bring physical and emotional harm, it is an abuse of freedom’s sanctity and a disservice to all that have given to protect it. Just because speech is a protected freedom, does not make what is said right. Civility, character, and intent define a discussion in a way that can be meaningful debate. Hate, vitriol, and racism define a discussion that can be criminal.

What defines a Chicoan? Must one be born here, lived here long, or own property? We are defined by civic involvement, willingness to protect and enhance our community, and desire for what is best for this special place. There is no other place like Chico and most want this city to prosper to its full potential. I cannot be the judge of what truly defines a Chicoan, but I do judge those that hide behind the good work of our great citizens throughout history for the purpose of discrimination and breeding hate.

What defines who is right or wrong? Who determines whether the financial distress of the city was caused by present or past employees? Who makes the choices necessary to assure local government remains a viable servant of the public? The duly elected representatives of the people, sworn to an oath to protect the public, in conjunction with all community members, do. It pains me greatly that certain citizens that I have come to know and trust, do not trust me. What these very persons believe to be the truth is actually a campaign of misinformation that is merely selfserving and their efforts are causing more harm than good and this harm appears to be with intent.

What is the truth? The truth is found in the 2012-2013 Butte County Grand Jury Report. The truth is in video posted to the city’s website. The truth is in the information collected and analyzed by expert third parties that will report their findings in the coming months. The truth is in very detailed minutes that were initiated by the City Clerk responsible for access to information, that some citizens appear to be using to paralyze our city, which is as great a threat to Chico’s long term success as is the financial mess these individuals deny exists.

Well, harumph!

But there’s even more…

We have written several previous posts about his abuse of the power of his office to attempt to quash dissenting opinions. For instance, he blew his cool at the September 3 Council meeting and interrupted me mid-sentence. Here is another post that contains some excerpts from a rant on the Mayor Scott Gruendl official Facebook page. If you haven’t read the full rant, it is quite revealing. You can find it here.

And last, but certainly not least, there are the threats the Mayor has made in order to attempt to silence us.

Just my opinion, but surely the Free Speech Day event deserves speakers who are true believers. The Mayor only believes conditionally.

We thank you for your continued readership and welcome any comments or questions.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!


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Into the Weeds: Funds and Departments

In attempting to understand the budget structure, the first thing you will need to learn is the difference between FUNDS and DEPARTMENTS. Some budget activity occurs at the Fund level, while other activity occurs at the Department level. This is an important distinction.

(I will be using capitalization throughout this series of blogs to identify terms that have a specific meaning within the City Budget.)

You can think of Funds as separate bank accounts. For instance, you likely have a primary checking account into which your paychecks are automatically deposited, and out of which your monthly expenses are paid. In terms of the City budget, this would be the General Fund (F001).

You might set up a second checking account if you have a side business doing lawn care, for example, in order to keep your earnings and business-related expenses separate. Unlike your General Fund account, the revenue for this account comes from fees for lawn service, and you would restrict expenditures to those related to conducting your operations. Because your lawn service business might fluctuate seasonally, there may be times when the account is flush and other times when you might need to supplement the fees with dollars from your General Fund account. City Funds that operate as businesses are known as Enterprise Funds. A good example of an Enterprise Fund with fluctuating revenues would be the Private Development Fund (F862).

If you own rental properties, you might have a third checking account. Again, unlike your General Fund account, the revenue for this account comes from the monthly rents paid by tenants, and you would restrict the expenditures from this fund to items such as mortgage payments, repairs and maintenance, and improvements to the properties. A good example of an Enterprise Fund with a more predictable revenue stream would be the Sewer Fund (F850).

For unplanned emergencies, such as loss of your job or an illness that resulted in uninsured medical bills, you may have money set aside in a savings account. You might calculate the cost of 6 months’ worth of household expenses and then make deposits into your account as necessary to keep it at the desired balance. The City also has Funds like that; a good example is the Emergency Reserve Fund (F003).

You could also set aside money in a separate savings account for known future events, such as a family reunion in Ireland every 10 years. You would likely identify the cost of the trip, and then make periodic deposits to the account so there would be enough money saved up to go and have a blast. One example of a City Fund of this nature is the General Plan Reserve Fund (F315). And, just as you might decide to contribute money from both your General Fund account and profits from your lawn care business to fund your trip, the City’s General Plan Reserve Fund receives its contributions from both the General Fund and the Private Development Fund.

These are just a few examples of the many Funds in the City budget. Here is a complete list for your reference:  Fund Listing_City Funds

If Funds are bank accounts, then Departments would be categories within those accounts. For example, in your General Fund account, you might categorize expenses as household, vehicle, medical, education, and leisure. Since you know approximately how much you will spend in each of the categories, you can budget for them with reasonable accuracy. In the same way, the City’s General Fund contains Operating Budgets for various Departments. Some City Departments that operate primarily within the General Fund are Police, Fire, General Services, Administrative Services, City Manager, City Clerk, City Attorney, and City Council.

In your lawn care account, you might categorize revenues by how frequently you work at each location (weekly, monthly, or one-time cleanups) and track costs separately for each of your crews. Similarly, the City’s Private Development Fund supports Operating Budgets for three divisions of the Community Development Department (Planning, Building, and Development Engineering).

In your rental properties account, you would likely categorize both revenues and expenses by individual property. You might also decide to budget a portion of the money to buy or build additional properties. In the City budget, money set aside to buy or build the property would be considered a Capital Project, rather than an Operating Budget. The City’s Sewer Fund is similar to your rental properties account in that it supports Operating Budgets for several Departments, as well as funding for some Capital Projects.

In your emergency savings account, you might occasionally make a direct payment (for instance, if your wacky aunt drove her car through the front of a local business and you needed to bail her out of the pokey); however, for a job loss or temporary disability, you would be more likely to transfer enough money from the emergency savings into your General Fund checking and continue paying your expenses that way. In this instance, as with the City’s Emergency Reserve Fund, there may or may not be an Operating Budget.

Finally, your family reunion savings account might have no direct costs whatsoever. You would probably just cash out in traveler’s checks and be on your way to the Emerald Isle! This is similar to what happens with the City’s General Plan Reserve Fund; the dollars accumulate until it is time to update the General Plan, and then the money is used to fund that Capital Project.

I have used only a few examples of City Departments. Here is a complete list of from this year’s budget:  Department Listing_City Departments

Well, that’s enough for one day. While this is not a perfect analogy, I hope it made the relationship between Funds and Departments fairly clear. Next on the agenda will be more about Operating vs. Capital, and Revenues vs. Transfers. Nothing but fun!

We thank you for your continued readership. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. You can comment below, or email us at

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Into the Weeds: City Finance 101

Well, the time has come to get down to the serious business of City finances. Over the coming months, the City Council will be addressing some very important concepts that will impact how and when the General Fund recovers and the existing debt is repaid. All Chico citizens and taxpayers should strive to be as informed as possible, in order to be able to make their voices heard while these critical decisions are being considered.

As we have written before, we are about fact finding and truth telling without regard for politics or personalities. During our journey, there may be collateral casualties; however, we have accepted that as the price of finally having the freedom to daylight what happened and why, and and to address publicly what steps need to be taken (or avoided) to right the City’s financial ship. We have decided to push forward despite the cost because, in our view, the consequences of keeping silent while we watch the ship continue to sink are simply unacceptable.

Municipal finance is complicated stuff, but having a basic understanding of all the moving parts is important, especially while the City is in such dire financial straits and services are being slashed. Explaining the big picture will require a series of posts on numerous components, but we are committed to making it as understandable as possible and ask you to bear with us. If you will diligently follow along with each consecutive post and ask questions as necessary, then learning about the City’s budget will be a far less daunting task.

In order to keep these posts together, we have created a separate tab that will contain a table of contents by subject and date. In that way, you will be able to go back and reread as necessary. Whenever possible, we will include sample documents, charts, and illustrations that can be printed and used as reference.

This information is intended for your benefit, so we are very interested in your feedback. If we are unclear, or moving too quickly, or skipping over concepts that need further explanation, or even if you just have a specific question about something you have heard at a Council meeting, please let us know and we will do our best to incorporate suggestions or answer questions. You can either comment directly below any post or email us at

We would also ask that you share our website with your Chico friends and family. The Council is making decisions that will affect all Chico citizens and taxpayers, and unless we commit ourselves to being well-informed and participating in the process, those decisions will be made without input from the silent majority. And then, we will all have to live with the outcome. This is important.

So, put your thinking caps on and ready yourselves for our journey into the weeds. I can’t promise it will be fun, but it will be worth it. Look for the technical posts to begin tomorrow. Whee…

Thank you for your continued readership. As always, we welcome any comments or questions. (And don’t forget to tell your friends and family!)

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!


Tonight’s Council Meeting

Unfortunately, we ladies at Truth Matters, Chico! will not be in attendance at tonight’s City Council Meeting. Between a family emergency and a head-cold gone bad, we cannot be present in our usual force and therefore will be missing in action.

For those of you who can attend, tonight’s City Council Meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at 421 Main Street.  Here is a link to the agenda:

If you have never attended a council meeting before, please know that there are typically plenty of seats, and you can come and go as you like. It’s okay to just come and observe — no need to speak unless you are so inclined. However, if you are so inclined, there are speaker cards in the back of the chambers, and it’s as easy as filling out two fields and placing it in a basket.

During these troubled times, it is more important than ever for citizens to exercise their civic rights and participate in local government.

Telling it to the ER

In another move that appears to support our theory that the Chico Enterprise-Record is guzzling Nakamura’s kool-aid, the editor seems to have begun selectively queuing up those pesky little Letters to the Editor according to whether or not they fit his agenda. We thought any letter submitted that conformed to the ER’s 250-word limit and included all of the writer’s personal identification for authentication would be included in the queue and published in the order received. Apparently that is not the case.

Now, I know the death of the “Tell it to the ER” column probably resulted in an increased number of letters; however, if their publishing queue operates in a manner such that all submitted letters are treated fairly, it would operate as a ‘first in, first out” queue.

Just what am I blathering about, you ask? While I was thrilled to see Mary’s recent letter to the editor published yesterday, that served as my notification that a letter I had submitted 10 days prior to Mary’s would not be published.

I wonder why the ER would not want to publish my response to the recent editorial entitled “An unfortunate sign of the times.” Could it be I hit a nerve by calling out what I suspect is a lack of interest in investigative reporting?

Here is the letter I submitted for publication:

In response to the recent editorial, “An unfortunate sign of the times,” while I would like to respond to your statement that “former employees…don’t like this sudden rush of fiscal oversight [and] have stirred some hostile feelings,” I feel like I have become a broken record; telling you over and over again to stop making assumptions.

So, what I will discuss instead is the statement that “Nakamura…has been accosted in public and his car has been vandalized.”

As a City of Chico employee, my first introduction to Nakamura was when he and his wife attended a second floor staff meeting. Having him introduce himself and then commence a banter with his wife was uncomfortable, as though a skit was being performed for staff, but it was a learning opportunity as well. What did I learn, you ask? Why, I learned that in Hemet, both Nakamura’s and his wife’s car were broken into and vandalized. He also mentioned his son’s car being keyed. His wife told of drivers running him off the road while he was riding his bike, and about the overall general threats he apparently received on a regular basis. None of this seemed to bother the Nakamuras, as the tales were told with a hefty dose of laughter.

So, do these problems follow him from city to city? Has anything even occurred in Chico or is he just retelling old stories to rile people up? This just does not sound like the Chico I know and love.

We are interested in your thoughts about whether or not the Chico Enterprise-Record has been dealing fairly with both sides of the story about the goings-on at the City over the past year. It seems to us they have planted themselves firmly in Nakamura’s corner, cheering him on with no concern for the issues we have raised.

We thank you for your continued readership.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Layoffs in the New Chico Way

Fair warning, readers, I am mad as a hornet and this post is a pure rant, full of my own personal observations and opinions. Alicia and Quené are innocent of this; I own every bit of whatever is written. I will get back to the routine technical stuff once I get this off my chest, but for now, Katie bar the door.

It never ceases to amaze me that the Chico Enterprise-Record continues to be nothing more than the mouthpiece for the City’s new regime. What has happened to true journalism? Today’s seemingly innocuous article, “Two Chico city employees eligible for layoff bump decline to do so,” finally set me off.

Here’s a quote from the City’s nice-guy ambassador, Assistant City Manager Mark Orme:

“Once again the city had to unfortunately lose a vast amount of knowledge, know-how and amazing employees due to the financial situation we are in,” Orme said. “It’s a devastating hit to the city and we look forward to the day we can look back upon this time and hopefully never have to repeat it.

First of all, what exactly does that last phrase mean? It’s just more of the same feel-good, meaningless babble from the top. Here’s more of Orme’s double speak: an email sent to City staff about the layoffs. The person who sent it to me wrote, “Well, that sure makes me feel better.” Yeah, especially the part about looking for someone to blame; that’s real class right there. And I’m pretty sure the employee quotes in the final paragraph either came from his own imagination or a couple of other Executive Team members. I call BS.

Just prior to the first round of layoff notices being issued, while we were all waiting to see who would get the axe, I found myself in the elevator with Nakamura, Orme, and Presson. Presson was regaling the other two with an apparently hilarious tale. They were yukking it up and knee-slapping like it was the funniest thing ever, and they continued their hilarity after they exited the elevator into the main lobby, and on out into the parking lot where they all three climbed into one car. It’s really too bad they couldn’t drum up enough true compassion for their employees, who were still worrying about whether or not they would soon find themselves in the unemployment line, to keep their raucous antics behind closed doors. That’s the way it is with this bunch. Disgusting.

Secondly, the current regime has intentionally rid itself of institutional knowledge, beginning with former Assistant City Manager Rucker in January 2013, and continuing with a broad swing of the scythe across department heads and other staff who were knowledgeable about the City’s financial history. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but Nakamura told former Building & Development Services Director McKinley (in my presence) that the Council did not want to know what happened. Very telling, that little tidbit, particularly in light of the current barrage of disinformation being put forth by that same Council.

The current round of layoffs includes former Capital Project Services Director Tom Varga. Nakamura unofficially but publicly demoted Varga, in front of roughly 45 other employees, the same day McKinley vanished. That happened months before the “rightsizing” had been approved and implemented. Nakamura and Public Works Director Ruben Martinez have been toying with Varga since then, alternately promising retention and threatening dismissal. They needed him for awhile, to get the capital budget prepared (since Martinez can’t even figure out his own department’s operating budget without help) and later to take the blame if the Highway 32 project fell through. Varga never really had a chance of being retained, though, since he can actually explain what happened with Fund 400 and the overhead. That just doesn’t fit into the new ‘Chico way.’

City Attorney Lori Barker, the final member of the current Executive Team with full knowledge of the events leading up to the City’s current financial crisis, is also jumping ship. We can only hope she is leaving on her own terms and not being forced out. It must be terribly uncomfortable for her to watch in silence while this campaign of defamation based on a false narrative is carried forward.

But I digress. Back to the article:

An assistant civil engineer decided to retire and an associate civil engineer decided to accept the layoff, in turn allowing two other employees who would have been bumped to retain their jobs. 

The Assistant Civil Engineer who ‘decided’ to retire had already announced his retirement, to be effective at year end. Would it have ‘destroyed what is left of the City’ to have simply allowed him to stay on board through December? Given the level of shenanigans witnessed so far, I suspect the regime hoped he would go ahead and bump the Engineering Tech II. Then, once he retired, that job could have been eliminated as well. Instead, he chose to do the honorable thing and retire before he was quite ready. Kudos to Mr. Gillispie for his personal sacrifice on behalf of another.

There is also a very touching personal story behind the Associate Civil Engineer who accepted the layoff rather than bump the other Assistant Civil Engineer. I won’t go into details, except to say that as with Mr. Gillispie, Mr. Green chose honor over personal financial gain. These are just two of many stories about the people who truly make the City a family, and there is nothing the current regime can do to destroy the bond the employees have carefully built and nurtured over the years.

So, here’s the portion of the article that shoved me over the edge:

Some of those to be laid off contacted by this newspaper declined to talk. 

Excuse me, but what the hell did they expect? The City employees have watched what happened to Alicia, Quené, and me when we spoke publicly: The Mayor openly attacked us both personally and professionally; the City Clerk showed our home addresses to a television crew; we were labeled as ‘disgruntled former employees’ and tied to alleged incidents of racism and violent threats by nearly every media outlet; and all the while, the Enterprise-Record has continued to run with Nakamura’s party line and editorialize about us without ever even bothering to speak to us.

After all that, does the Enterprise-Record really believe there is another City employee who would dare speak out to one of its reporters? I think it’s pretty much a given that the only talking employees will be doing in the foreseeable future will be to truthmatterschico, where their voices will be heard without the filter of Nakamura’s BS.

Okay, I’m done now. Thank you for your continued readership. I welcome your comments.



Conflating: The Big Con

For those of you who have been following City Council meetings and/or reading the media coverage of them, the recent discussions surrounding Fund 400, the Cost Allocation Plan (CAP), and the User Fee Study must leave you terribly confused. We would be surprised if you weren’t.

The City’s Executive Team and the Council are conflating three issues and presenting them as one big slap at prior staff. For instance, in a recent Chico News & Review article that we mentioned in a previous post, Councilmember Sorensen made the following comments:

“Councilman Mark Sorensen noted that the city had paid the consultant some $37,000 for work on the [User Fee Study] report with the goal of better aligning revenues with actual operating expenses. He noted that it came to light only this past February.”

This is false. As I informed the Council during its October 1, 2013 budget discussion, via a reading of the Finance Committee minutes, the User Fee Study was brought forward in February 2012. Since the Mayor and Council waited to respond until after I had left the podium, as usual, I will have to use another 3-minute free speech session to remind them of one tiny little fact they seem to have forgotten:

Once the Study was presented to Finance Committee, the Committee had absolute authority to direct staff’s actions. The Committee could have directed us to use the Study to build a bonfire in the municipal parking lot; or hold the Study for revision once the economy settled and more accurate staffing levels and project volumes could be developed; or take the Study forward to the full Council in its existing (arguably indefensible) condition; and that is what would have happened. Period.

In the nauseating, saccharine tone Councilmember Goloff typically reserves for dealing with us, she asked Nakamura to prepare a timeline of the project. Since there is not a soul left on City staff with first-hand knowledge of what happened, we eagerly look forward to seeing it.

“Sorensen had done some investigation on his own, and explained that he believes the study was deliberately not brought to the council because it indicated that the general fund was going to take a $2.5 million hit…”

The $2.5 million hit to the General Fund was a result of the CAP, not the User Fee Study. The CAP is a completely separate document, prepared for the Finance Department. Its only relationship to the User Fee Study is the dollar amount of citywide overhead costs it identifies as attributable to departments/divisions within the scope of the Study.

“…since the city could not possibly charge enough for the overhead getting dumped on Fund 400, among other funds.”

Fund 400 has absolutely no connection to the User Fee Study. Again, the overhead being ‘dumped’ is related to the results of the CAP.

“It would have severely slowed our accumulation of debt in those funds, and I think that’s why it was withheld—so the city could continue to rack up the debt,” he said. 

The final comment is so absurd as to not even merit a response. Does anyone really believe staff’s agenda was to intentionally run the City into further debt?

As we move forward, we will be writing more detailed posts explaining the three separate but equally important pieces of the City’s financial puzzle, but for now, we simply want to sort them out for you.

Cost Allocation Plan (CAP): This plan looks at citywide costs for indirect administrative support services (overhead) from ‘provider’ departments (City Council, City Manager, City Clerk, City Attorney, Finance, Human Resources & Risk Management), and then distributes those costs, via a very complex matrix with multiple allocation bases, to each ‘recipient’ department. The ‘recipient’ department costs are tallied by fund, and that amount is allocated to the General Fund to pay for each fund’s share of the indirect overhead costs. If the City opts to use a CAP to distribute indirect costs, it must be completed and adopted by Council before the User Fee Study can be updated.

User Fee Study: This study identifies and quantifies the true cost of services provided by the City’s Planning, Building, and Development Engineering divisions, including citywide indirect overhead as determined by the CAP. Some of those costs are recoverable by fees, which are calculated within the Study, while other costs are unrecoverable and must be funded by another source, typically the General Fund.

Fund 400: This fund is used to collect and hold most Capital Projects costs, including direct charges to specific projects, direct administrative support, and citywide indirect overhead (via the CAP). These costs are subsequently allocated out to other City funds, based on each fund’s relative participation in the overall activity in Fund 400.

For everyone’s sake, we hope someone on City staff will be able to separate and provide the Council with a better explanation of these three very different components of municipal finance. We did not set out to embarrass the Council, either collectively or as individuals, but the ongoing stream of misinformation being provided during public meetings and in the media cannot continue to go unanswered.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!


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More Monkey Business with Admin Layoffs

Well, we called this move. In our October 1 tag-team presentation to Council during Business from the Floor, Alicia, Quené, and I closed with these words:

While it is clear that none of this will undo the wrongs that have been done, perhaps bringing it into the light will prevent similar bad acts from occurring during the impending layoffs. And we certainly hope we do not see elimination of the additional Admin Assistant positions created to protect the new HR Analyst. That would be the Executive Team’s ultimate backhand to the rules set forth in the Municipal Code. As Councilmember Stone would say, “Disgusting.”

Sure enough, the following day, the new layoff seniority list was published. And what did it include? Elimination of one of the two brand new Admin Assistant positions created in July to protect the least senior member of the citywide admin staff. The net result is that yet another senior admin staff member will take a double hit, from Admin Analyst I to Admin Assistant to Police Records Technician II, complete with a second pay cut. The protected employee is now two full classifications higher than her.

Here is an old chart showing the various positions within the Administrative Career ladder (we do not have the new one, if it even exists) so you can follow along: Admin Career Ladder

We suppose the next logical move will be to reclassify the remaining ‘extra’ Admin Assistant position to Office Assistant, to get back to a zero sum game. But stand by, there’s more…

Also notable among the current admin layoffs is the elimination of the two remaining Office Assistant III positions. The more senior of these two employees will be transferred from Engineering and demoted to an existing .74 FTE Office Assistant II position in Fire; this will reduce both her pay and her hours.

(As an aside, the current occupant of the position in Fire was just bumped in July from Admin Assistant in Planning, down two full classifications to Office Assistant II, with a double pay cut and a bonus 26% reduction in hours. She will be bumped all the way out the door during this round. Nice…)

The less senior Office Assistant III currently serves as receptionist and clerical support for the City Manager and City Clerk. In fact, after the July layoffs, she is the only general clerical employee on the entire 3rd floor. The new layoff seniority list demotes her to Office Assistant II and reduces her from full-time to half-time, resulting in a reduction of both pay and hours, but leaving her in her current job.

Now, we know and like all of these women, so our opinions about the position shifts are not intended to be personal. We are, however, going to go out on a limb and make a call as to what will come next with that 3rd floor position.

This gets a bit convoluted, so please bear with us. If you are trying to wrap your head around the not-really-very-fun games that are being played internally, this is important stuff.

Here’s the first question: Do any of you believe that a single half-time, low-level clerical employee can provide sufficient support for both the City Manager and City Clerk offices? Something is beginning to smell…

Because we are former employees, we know where to look for information that might appear meaningless to anyone on the outside. We requested and received the current year’s Personnel Allocation Worksheets (PAWs), which are documents used to prepare the budget. These documents do not reflect current staffing; rather, they anticipate staffing as it will exist at some point during the fiscal year.

There is no Office Assistant position whatsoever in either the City Manager or City Clerk PAWs. Instead, there is a brand new job classification of “Executive CSA” that we think probably means Customer Service Assistant or something of that nature. The Executive CSA is budgeted 50% each to City Manager/City Clerk, as is the current position; however, the budgeted salary is 5% higher than the top pay for the Office Assistant III classification. The smell is getting worse…

So you might be asking yourself at this point, why demote the only 3rd floor general clerical employee and cut her hours by half? The answer lies in the personnel reduction rules set forth in Chico Municipal Code Section 2R.72.

Had the 3rd floor Office Assistant III position been left intact, the more senior of the two employees would have had bumping rights to it [a position she previously held for many years], and the less senior employee would have been bumped out to Fire. Of course, that would be unacceptable in this new era of personalities before positions, so the 3rd floor position had to be adjusted, at least temporarily, to be less desirable than the position in Fire. That would be the only way to achieve the desired effect of keeping the less senior employee on the 3rd floor. Have you caught a whiff of it yet?

After the July layoffs were completed, we watched in dumbstruck awe as the least senior admin employee in the entire City, who had been protected from layoff by creation of additional Admin Assistant positions, got promoted without notice or an opportunity for others to compete. As we mentioned in our earlier post, this move put her in a higher classification than other qualified employees with far more seniority.

Our guess is we will see that happen again, once this round of layoffs is complete. We bet five bucks the 3rd floor position will be restored to full-time and reclassified to the new “Executive CSA” position, from which the incumbent cannot be bumped. That would really stink.

More of the new efforts at transparency and morale building….


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No Grievance, No Problem?

At the October 1 Council meeting, after my colleagues and I raised the issue of improprieties that occurred during the first round of layoffs, Mayor Gruendl engaged the City’s Executive Team to hear ‘their side’ of the story. The City Attorney stated that no grievances had been filed by the CEA administrative staff during the initial layoff process  (note CEA is only one union group of the nine existing within the City); in response to which the Mayor implied if no grievance or labor practice complaint was filed, then there must have been no issue with the layoff procedures.

The idea of measuring the ‘correctness’ of layoff procedures by whether or not grievances were filed is absurd.

As laid out in our recap of the administrative layoffs (linked above), City employees were witnessing the new Executive Team targeting specific individuals by laying aside adopted personnel rules to enact favoritism. While some employees were rewarded with promotions and raises for demonstrating a ‘yes-man’ personality and not questioning management’s actions, most employees were experiencing a very different, extremely uncomfortable, environment. In this more common and negative environment, we wonder, what employee who needed his or her job would be willing to stir the pot by individually filing a grievance, an act equivalent to placing a target on their chest? It had become all too clear that those not willing to keep their heads down and mouths shut would find themselves in danger of being demoted, or even more devastating to their personal and family welfare, terminated from employment.

In light of the new round of layoff notices delivered last week, employees who have been impacted by improper layoff procedures may want to consider whether filing a grievance is now in their best interest. If we are to believe the Mayor, filing a grievance or labor practice complaint may be the only way the Executive Team will be held accountable.

Section 2.72 of the Municipal Code requires Council adoption of personnel rules, and states in part, “High morale shall be maintained by fair administration of this chapter and by every consideration of the rights and interests of employees consistent with the best interests of the public and the city.” Your Union Steward can provide you with additional information on the grievance process.

These back-room deals on layoffs, reclassifications, and promotions should cause concern to every Chico citizen. The Executive Team’s willingness to come up with a ‘legal’ work-around that violates the spirit of the Municipal Code and Administrative Policies and Procedures should send up a large red flag. This time, the victims were employees, but what could be next? Possibly a loophole to obtain a tax increase by calling it something else . . . perhaps a solid waste franchise fee levied on citizens via their garbage service bills?

Only time will tell. Remember, just because the government has the right to do something, does not make it the right thing to do.

PRR Update: ACM Salary Comparison

It’s been a whirlwind first month for Truth Matters, Chico! Thank you to everyone who has stopped by to check us out, shared, commented, and otherwise helped spread the word about our little grassroots effort. We have had a mind-boggling 12,000+ views of our 33 posts in just over a month, yet we are only getting started in all that needs to be told.

One of our early posts included images of the 20 Public Records Requests (PRRs) that we submitted to  the City on August 21. Now that we are spending less time defending ourselves from personal attacks by city leaders, I have time to update our readers on the status of these requests.


This PRR was for the salary review of comparable sized cities used to establish the new Assistant City Manager’s baseline compensation. It was part of the March 5 debacle, and the justification for ACM Orme’s $185K salary. It seems like this should be a very simple request to fulfill; after all, the research and analysis were supposedly done prior to the March 5 council meeting. Just attach the file to an email and press ‘send.’

Alas… As of October 6, no response. That’s 30 working days. Three times the ten working days allowed for a response.

I’ll be sending the city clerk an email about this PRR today. Just for fun, here is your chance to anticipate what her response will be.

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