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Beyond Hypocrisy, Indeed

At last Tuesday’s Council meeting, Chico Police Officers Association (CPOA) president Peter Durfee addressed the Council regarding the $25,000 Supplemental Appropriation for the City’s labor negotiator. (Quené also addressed the item, but I want to leave that for a separate post, since my comments will differ significantly.) When we posted the meeting notice, we mentioned that Durfee had also commented on the original appropriation to hire the negotiator, saying in part that $80,000 would certainly not be enough money to complete negotiations with all nine bargaining groups and asking, what then?

So, on Tuesday, Durfee spoke again saying, “I told you so” and calling the City’s negotiator a “hired gun.” Here’s the brief video clip of his comments:  Durfee_Hired Gun

Quené followed him at the podium, and after she finished speaking there was a discussion among the Councilmembers, during which Mark Sorensen opined that complaining about the City having a hired gun when the CPOA had one of its own was “beyond hypocrisy.” Here’s the video clip containing that comment: Sorensen_Beyond Hypocrisy

Newsflash: The City has three top Executive Team members, each with a six-figure salary, whose job descriptions include “labor negotiations.” The CPOA does not. Now, I’m not saying one way or another whether I agree with some of the tactics used by the safety groups during negotiations. I am saying, however, that comparing CPOA’s resources with the City’s is the height of hypocrisy.

If the City’s Executive Team does not have someone qualified to negotiate, among the half million dollars plus in salaries it pays to the three who are supposed to be doing it, perhaps the citizens should take another look at who should be filling those positions rather than dipping into the Emergency Reserve Fund (and the taxpayers’ pockets) to fund an additional six figure contract to correct the deficiency in internal talent. Just sayin’…

We thank you for your continued readership and welcome your comments and questions. Please continue to share our posts with your fellow Chicoans. Nothing we do makes any difference unless we can get the citizens and taxpayers involved.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

hypocrisy_meter__a_graphic_for_facebook_and_forums_by_askgriff-d5myy33

Image: deviantart.com (by askgriff-d5myy33)

Update: Stoning a Cop

Since last Friday, when we published our original post regarding Councilmember Randall Stone’s public accusations of racism and homophobia against Chico Police Officer Todd Boothe, new information has been steadily developing. We want to keep you updated, because Stone must be held accountable for his outrageous and irresponsible behavior. If the Council will not hold him accountable, then the citizens must hold the entire Council accountable at election time.

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, during Business from the Floor, Chico Police Officers’ Association (CPOA) President Peter Durfee and Chico citizen Stephanie Taber spoke out against Stone.

Durfee asked that Stone be removed from the Chico Police Department’s Community Advisory Board; that Stone recuse himself from any and all Council matters related to the CPOA and its members; and for a formal apology from Stone to Officer Boothe, his family, and the members of the CPOA. Perhaps his most compelling comment was, “This Association protects your streets, your families, and the City. It’s hard to protect from the front while you are getting stabbed in the back.”

Stephanie Taber echoed Durfee’s call for the Council to remove Stone from the Advisory Board and specifically identified the policy he violated when he publicly aired what was clearly a confidential personnel matter. She also said, “By taking his concerns regarding what he found on a Police Department employee’s personal Facebook page and publicly describing them as racist, he has undermined his position as a positive link between the community and the Police Department.”

We could not agree more.

The entirety of Mr. Durfee’s and Ms. Taber’s comments are transcribed here, or you can watch the short video clip from the Council meeting.

After the City Council meeting, Action News Now reported that “Several issues were decided at tonight’s Chico city council meeting but it was an item not on the agenda that may have people talking. It was the first city council meeting to take place since Councilman Randall Stone publicly called out a Chico police officer accusing him of posting racist pictures on his Facebook page.”

You can read the report and watch the video here: Police Officer Association Asks Stone For Apology

On Wednesday, Action News Now reported that Stone had not attended that evening’s Chico Police Department’s Community Advisory Board meeting, due to a scheduling conflict. [I believe that, don’t you?]  The report also stated that City Attorney Lori Barker is investigating Stone’s behavior to determine whether he violated policy or law by making an internal investigation public.

So, Ms. Barker will be investigating Stone, her boss, right after an unprecedented number of Closed Session “performance evaluations” over the last few months. We hope her upcoming retirement will permit her the freedom to be neutral, rather than being persuaded to look the other way, which seems to be the MO at city hall these days — It’s the new Chico way

You can watch the entire news video here: First CPAB Meeting Since Councilmember Accuses Officer of Racism

KRCR-TV also reported on Wednesday, saying in part, “We tried contacting Stone but he referred us to city attorney Lori Barker for comment. We tried calling Barker but she declined as well saying this is an ongoing investigation.” Durfee was quoted as saying, “Where does it stop? Can we not publicly criticize our public leaders anymore?  Can we not criticize the President of the United States if we don’t agree with our [sic] policy?  Can we not criticize our city council people?”

Haven’t we read that somewhere before? Why, yes, yes we have! In our very own blog! This is just another instance of a strict zero-tolerance policy on criticizing the Council or Executive Team.

You can watch the entire news video here: Police Officers’ Association demands councilman’s apology

While all of that is interesting and relevant, today’s Chico Enterprise-Record article, “Flap over police post continues,” contained some astounding quotes from Stone. Here is a personal favorite of mine, because it really gets to the heart of Stone’s attitude and belief system. “The police community advisory board is just a press conference,” he said. “It’s like lunch with the chief; not that it doesn’t have value, but I don’t know what it does.”

Who is this guy, anyway? He doesn’t know what the Advisory Board does, yet he openly devalues it, and then he refuses to step down. I personally sort of hope the Chief serves up a a sh#t sandwich for Stone at his next luncheon. (Or maybe a huge crappy rock cookie would be more appropriate.)

Our advice to Stone is to step down quietly, apologize for his misbehavior, and hope the citizens will forget about this debacle before election time rolls around. He is an embarrassment to the City Council and the community. (Disclaimer: That is just my opinion… On the other hand, I do think I’m correct in my assessment, having closely observed him in action since he was elected and seated.)

Since we linked to bloggers in our last post, here are the latest posts from Mike Maloney and Chico Taxpayers Association, with very different opinions:

What’s next Randall Stone? (November 19, 2013)

Trostle needs to GO! (November 21, 2013)

Thank you for your continued readership. As always, your comments and questions are welcome.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Priorities: Upper Management versus Police Officers

The City of Chico is in a financial mess; there’s no arguing with that.  In fact, cast my vote among those who say that it’s been a mess for quite some time.  I’m also among those who believe that crime is on the rise, and a larger police force is needed; but that’s just my opinion.

When times are tight for my household, as they are now, we have to weigh priorities.  If I took a survey of my household, the individual wish list items might look like this:  hire a cleaning service, pay insurance, buy more Legos, get faster internet.  We could try to do it all, but that would cause us to live beyond our means, so the decision makers (my husband and I) would need to put that list into some sort of order, dividing the items into luxuries versus necessities.  Insurance protects our family – necessity.  Internet is needed for school and work – necessity, but maybe we can’t afford the fastest option.  Cleaning service and Legos – luxuries.

The City of Chico experienced turnover in the position of Assistant City Manager (ACM) in 2013.  All of the following numbers come from documents received from the City, which are linked throughout this post.  For fiscal year 2012-13, ACM John Rucker was budgeted with a salary of $158,462 and benefits of $64,860, for a total of $223,322 (Rucker_PAWs_12-13).  It’s important to note that 50% of Rucker’s salary and benefits were budgeted out of the General Fund (Fund 001): $111,661.  For fiscal year 2013-14, Rucker’s replacement, Mark Orme, is budgeted with a salary of $190,318 and benefits of $100,104, for a total of $290,422 (Orme_PAWs_13-14).  100% of Orme’s salary and benefits are budgeted out of the General Fund.

That turnover cost the citizens of Chico $67,100 in cash, at a time when the City is crying about being cash poor.  But what’s even more painful is to realize that it cost the General Fund – the fund that pays for Police, Fire, Parks, and street repairs – a whopping $178,761. 

Almost $180,000.  Let’s pause for a moment and reflect…

Before I dig into more numbers, I’d like to take a little side trip, because while this post is really about numbers and facts, there’s also a whiff of something stinky, just below the surface.

On December 11, 2012, the Press-Enterprise reported that Hemet employee Mark Orme, who had been appointed as the Interim City Manager after Brian Nakamura left Hemet for Chico, was being “returned to his previous position as assistant city manager.”  I know that Chico’s current Mayor has a beef with believing what’s printed by the media, but here’s the link so you can decide whether or not that’s a believable moment in history.

http://blog.pe.com/news/2012/12/11/hemet-city-council-decides-to-make-change-at-the-top/

Less than 30 days later, on January 8, 2013, Chico’s former Assistant City Manager seemingly vanished into thin air, without a single word from Nakamura to staff, ever.  The Chico Enterprise-Record finally ran an article on January 15, reporting that Chico’s ACM John Rucker had “abruptly retired.” Yep, he went out for coffee and said to himself, “I guess I’ll retire right now.”  Interesting that it took a full week before the media got wind of it, and we suspect staff must have finally leaked it. (There was quite a bit of that going on at the time, in an attempt to get someone to pay attention.)

Here’s the link to that article:  http://www.chicoer.com/ci_22374396/chicos-assistant-city-manager-abruptly-retires

So Mr. Rucker “abruptly retired” on Tuesday, January 8, and the recruitment for his replacement was announced internally on Thursday and published a day or two later, approximately January 12.  The application deadline was February 1 ­– a three-week recruitment period for the new Assistant City Manager.  Doesn’t sound to me like Nakamura already had someone in mind to fill that spot, does it to you?

At approximately 8:30 a.m. on February 14, Nakamura responded to a direct question from an employee about where the City was in the ACM hiring process by saying the recruitment had yielded 50+ applicants, roughly half of whom were qualified, and assured staff he would keep them posted as the process moved along. By 9:00 a.m. the top four candidates had not only been culled from the herd, but lo and behold, they were being interviewed.

In Appendix B-1 of the fiscal year 2012-13 budget, the ACM’s maximum salary was $172,383 (12-13_Budget_SalTable). At the March 5, 2013, Chico City Council meeting, the Council was asked to adopt a resolution establishing compensation for department directors, and it included an increase in the maximum salary for the new ACM to $185K.

Here’s that document: 2013-03-05_CM Agenda Report with Resolution

There was quite a bit of discussion at that meeting about the supposedly not-yet-selected ACM, including a specific question from Mark Sorensen verifying that the maximum was just that – a maximum, not necessarily the compensation at which the new ACM would be hired.

The next morning, March 6, the Press-Enterprise ran another article on Mark Orme, this time noting that he was leaving behind his $180K position in Hemet for a similar one in Chico, where the maximum salary had just been increased to $185K. 

Here’s that article: http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/hemet/hemet-headlines-index/20130306-hemet-assistant-city-manager-resigns-post-with-city.ece.

Nakamura was meeting with his department directors when the original article hit the web Wednesday morning (it was subsequently updated to the time currently shown). Staff had suspected that Orme would be hired, so by 11:30 a.m., most of us had already heard the news. When the department directors came out of their meeting with Nakamura, imagine their surprise when they were told about the hire by their subordinates. We guess Nakamura was not expecting the Hemet press to pick up the story, so he had not told the directors during their meeting. That is ‘the new Chico way’ inside City Hall; everything is secret squirrel until someone else leaks the news and Nakamura is forced to fess up.

The Chico Enterprise-Record did not pick up the story until the next day, March 7, and I agree with their decision to list it under “Weird News.”  How embarrassing for the Chico paper to be a day late on the story. 

Here’s the Chico ER article: (http://www.chicoer.com/weirdnews/ci_22736113/assistant-city-manager-from-hemet-will-fill-chicos.

Let’s recap that timeline:

  • Nakamura leaves Hemet to become Chico’s City Manager.
  • Orme is appointed as Hemet’s Interim City Manager.
  • Orme is bumped back to ACM, and replaced by a different Interim City Manager.
  • Rucker “abruptly retires” as Chico’s ACM.
  • Chico City Council, at Nakamura’s recommendation, sets the ACM maximum salary to $185K – a whopping $26,538 higher than Rucker’s actual salary, and $12,617 higher than the former maximum.  Perhaps not so coincidentally, it was also exactly $5K higher than what Orme was making in Hemet. 
  • While Nakamura cited a salary survey that was conducted to establish that maximum, we have yet to receive any response whatsoever to our August 22 PRR for it.  Which seems strange, because you’d think it would be a simple matter of attaching an existing document to an email and pressing ‘send.’  Unless maybe that document doesn’t exist, because the only salary that really mattered was that of the Hemet ACM?
  • Orme resigns from Hemet and comes to Chico.

Although the Chico ER didn’t capture the entire timeline, they found enough of the timing suspicious enough to note that it had “damaged trust,” as expressed in the following editorial:

http://www.chicoer.com/opinion/ci_22758464/editorial-salary-setting-swift-hiring-raise-suspicion.

Now, maybe it really is just a string of coincidences.  Or maybe it’s irresponsible cronyism that Chico taxpayers are being forced to fund.  I’ll leave that to our readers to decide for themselves.  But, either way, at this moment of financial stress for Chico government, does it not seem like a luxury to have an Assistant City Manager at all?  Throughout the city organization, when employees have left positions, those positions have remained vacant whenever possible.  I could go on and on about this, but instead I will refer you to a blog written by former Chico Chief of Police Mike Maloney, who makes a reasonable suggestion as to how to fill that staffing gap.

http://mikemaloneymusings.blogspot.com/2013/06/budget-and-police-in-chico.html

As a citizen who is concerned about what I perceive to be a rise in crime in Chico, I was interested in knowing how many Police Officers the city could fund if it wasn’t employing ACM Orme.  Referring again to budget numbers provided to the City, I see that in fiscal year 2013-14, the least amount budgeted for a Police Officer was a salary of $55,865 and benefits of $33,663, for a total of $89,528 (13-14_PoliceOfcr).  I’m assuming that amount is representative of an entry-level officer, which seems reasonable based on their MOU’s starting pay of $25.55/hour, times 2090 hours in a year, which would be an annual salary of $53,400 (CPOA_Salaries_MOU).  The variance would be due to POST or other specialty pays.

So, if one entry-level Police Officer costs the citizens $89,528, then two would cost $179,056.

Whoa! ACM Orme’s General Fund impact (over what ACM Rucker was costing the same fund, which pays for Police as well) is $178,761. Could the Police Department find $295 in savings elsewhere in its budget, and then add that savings to what would be saved by paying an ACM at Rucker’s pay and distribution, and end up with two new Officers on the streets of Chico? 

Or perhaps the City could trade in the entire ACM salary and benefit cost of $290,422 for THREE new Police Officers (at a cost of $268,584) plus have $21,838 left over for Caper Acres?

Please know that, as Nakamura has said many times, this opinion is about positions, not people.  I do not know ACM Orme personally, but he certainly seems like a nice enough person.  Here he is, visiting with former watchdog Stephanie Taber during a break at a recent council meeting.  Afterwards, near the parking lot, he came up and put his arm around her.  I can’t say that’s ever happened to me after a council meeting!   

Taber-Orme

During these challenging financial times, having a $290K nice guy downtown seems like a luxury that doesn’t actually contribute to improving Chico’s safety.  For my money, hiring more Police Officers seems like the necessity in this priority comparison.

As always, we thank you for your continued readership and welcome any comments or questions.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

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