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Seen or Unseen: 03/11/2008 Finance Committee Meeting

Next up in our Seen or Unseen series, where you, the reader, get to decide whether your local politicians are dishonest or merely incompetent… The March 11, 2008 Finance Committee meeting!

As before, let’s start with the minutes, so we can establish who the players were: 2008-03-11_Finance Committee_Minutes. Lo and behold, in early 2008, the Finance Committee was still being chaired by Scott Gruendl, with Mary Goloff (aka Flynn) and Larry Wahl rounding out the party.

(As a point of information, note that the Finance Committee minutes are prepared as a memorandum to the full council. This is standard procedure, so whatever information is contained in the minutes gets passed along to each and every council member.)

The first item on the minutes: Consideration of Deficit Reduction Strategy Implementation. According to the minutes, the council adopted a balancing strategy on December 18, 2007. So, why all the hoopla at the December 17, 2013 council meeting about the new-and-improved Executive Team “breaking new ground” by addressing deficits?

Want proof? Here are the minutes from that meeting: 2007-12-18_City Council Minutes_re_Finance Committee

I took the liberty of highlighting some fun details, such as Gruendl specifically calling out that “a significant reduction in costs totaling $912,323 has already been realized,” and seconding a motion that, among other things, reduced the Fleet Replacement Reserve by $300,000 for the next four years and reduced the transfer to the Private Development Fund [oh no he di’int!].

That intentional reduction in the Fleet Replacement Reserve should be kept in mind for a later blog post, which will delve into the Administrative Services Director’s shocking revelation to the 2012-13 Grand Jury about the decline of Fund balances over the last several years. The Private Development Fund deficit, always a council sweetheart, was clearly part of these discussions and the General Fund contribution to it was intentionally reduced. Yet now we’re being asked to believe that this is all news to the current council, including Gruendl and Goloff.

(As an aside, these minutes also demonstrate that Larry Wahl had to disqualify himself from downtown issues, along with Ann Schwab. So why all the recent flap about Schwab’s disqualification from the Sit/Lie Ordinance discussions?)

Now, back to the March 11, 2008 Finance Committee meeting. Next up on the minutes is a Financial Status of All Funds. Of particular interest is the following passage: “…as of 6/30/07 a total of 12 funds were in a deficit position.” [audible gasp] But I heard at a recent meeting that no one ever told them there were negative Fund balances!

While the Mayor has routinely snarked over the last few months that he didn’t like the flashy power point presentations provided by former staff, I’m finding them to be PRICELESS. Here are a few of my favorite slides; Gruendl and Goloff obviously nodded off and missed them.

The 12 funds in a deficit position as of June 30, 2007, and the two types of deficits: 2008-03-11_Finance Committee_Deficit Funds

The Private Development Fund’s existing and structural deficits, explained and with solutions offered. Wow! Does one of those bullet points read, “To resolve existing deficit, the City needs to transfer funds from the General Fund”? I thought no one ever told them the negative Fund balance was a General Fund obligation! 2008-03-11_Finance Committee_F862

The impacts of deficits, including the statement that “large deficits negatively impact the City’s cash flow.” But wait! No one ever warned them of cash flow issues! 2008-03-11_Finance Committee_Deficit Impacts

Want to flip through the entire presentation? Happy to oblige: 2008-03-11_Finance Committee_Status of all Funds

So, do we have convenient memory lapses, or intentional false accusations against prior staff? Ultimately, the council is responsible for all city actions, and plausible deniability doesn’t work when there are public records to dispute that plea.

Hey, Council — Here’s a suggestion: Learn the true history, and start paying attention to the lies you are being fed. Question the sudden need for drama, and what the underlying agenda — that someone else is setting — is really all about.

Hey, Readers — We appreciate each and every one of you. Doubly so when you share our blogs with a friend.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Cant_hear_you

Photo credit: snorgtees.com

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Seen or Unseen: 10/22/2007 Finance Committee Meeting

Most people have probably heard that quote about the conquerors writing the history books, and I think we have a massive case of that in Chico’s current council and administration.  At every council meeting, I hear another hostile pronouncement about how bad the City’s finances are, and how no one ever told council, or the bad situation was being hidden, or how no information was provided, blah, blah, blah.

That rhetoric is getting a lot of buzz, especially with the help of the Chico Enterprise Record.  But here’s the deal, folks:  My memory is long, and my tolerance for this grandstanding has grown short.  Luckily for me, there’s a solid paper trail to dispute the history that Chico’s conquerors are attempting to write.  Unluckily for some of those council members, public records demonstrate that they are either lying now about not being told, or were too incompetent to be paying attention at the time they were told.  Either way, I hope Chico’s citizens will keep that in mind when election time rolls around later this year.

Let’s start with the October 22, 2007 Finance Committee meeting.  You’ll want to take a peek at the minutes — trust me, this is pure gold in our search for truth about who told the council what and when: Finance Committee Minutes.

Who was on the committee at that time?  Mayor Gruendl was the chair, along with Mary Goloff (then Flynn) and Larry Wahl (now a Butte County Supervisor). The first item in the minutes clearly explains that this was the first of three evening meetings to discuss topics relating to the General and Park Funds’ structural (annual) deficit.

Following are excerpts from the Finance Director’s presentation to these city leaders:

The General Fund has had a structural deficit (annual expenses are greater than revenues) since 2001: Structural Deficit;

Revenues have been inadequate to meet demands for service, with a steep downward trend, since 2001: Revenue Trend; and

Deferred maintenance (specifically on roads) has been an ongoing concern, since the City has been transferring gas tax funds to the General Fund since 1990: Roads.

But no one ever told them, until our hero Nakamura came along! 

Want to see the entire presentation for yourself? Understanding City Finances

Much, much more to come…

Thank you for your continued readership, and please help us spread the truth by sharing this blog with your family, friends, neighbors, and baristas.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Credit: wallpaperhere.com

Credit: wallpaperhere.com

An Open Letter to the Chico City Council

Mayor and Council,

It is my sincere hope that by now, you have all taken the time to review the video of the March 5, 2013 Council meeting and realize the error you made in approving the minutes as submitted on September 17. If you have not, the section of the March 5 meeting in question can be viewed at approximately the 01:00:00 mark and runs for approximately 30 minutes.

Here is the link, for your convenience:
http://chico-ca.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=373

I respectfully request a public apology from the city clerk at your October 1 meeting, prior to your consideration of the consent agenda. The apology should be delivered with the same fervor as her September 17 denial of the true and correct facts, and the Council should revisit the minutes and revise per my request. If it does not happen, rest assured that I will be demanding it from the podium.

Further to that, and something I did not mention in my remarks, are the comments by both the city manager and the Mayor that some of the information contained in the March emails was confidential and could have been known only by an insider, and suggesting an ulterior motive of sabotage. Three points on that:

(1) None of the information contained in the memorandum was confidential. As I mentioned to you on August 20 during Business from the Floor, the city manager had announced the candidate information in more than one open meeting. If it was confidential, he is solely responsible for the breach. The remainder of the email questions addressed the Hemet budget and the lack of transparency in the city manager’s agenda report and attached resolution, all of which were posted to the web.

(2) Most of your employees are Chico citizens, and all are Chico taxpayers, who have the same rights as anyone else to address wrongdoing and lack of transparency. In fact, if the emails did come from employees who felt the need to disguise their identities for fear of retaliation, what does that tell you about what was going on inside the organization?

(3) As I asked in a previous letter, is it the new Chico way for Councilmembers to speculate on the motives of those who correspond with them and openly suggest they are attempting to sabotage Council’s agenda? For that matter, is it the new Chico way for Council to carry forward an agenda that can be sabotaged simply by asking for truthful answers to salient questions?

One final note on the March 5 meeting: The city manager said he had not had an opportunity to check his figures with Finance between Sunday night when he received the emails and Tuesday afternoon, which is absurd on its face. (Finance has a spreadsheet into which the proposed salaries could have been inserted, and it would have immediately calculated the benefits.) Then, in the Mayor’s closing remarks, he stated that the Council would have received the salary tables with or without the citizen emails. If so, why did the city manager not have sufficient time to involve Finance? Which is the truth?

As Ms. Hansen, Ms. Meyer, and I have stated publicly and written in our blog, our goal is unrelated to politics or personalities. We want the entire truth told, without regard for anyone’s agenda. While there have certainly been some past decisions and practices that were less than wise, and there is no doubt they should be identified and corrected, they pale in comparison to what is being said and done during this city manager’s “rightsizing” effort. I realize that it will cost you nearly a quarter million dollars to correct your mistake; however, continuing to deny the truth in the face of irrefutable evidence that this city manager has repeatedly lied to and otherwise misled both the Council and the citizens will ultimately prove far more costly. We will not stop until full transparency is achieved. If you are going to air the City’s dirty laundry, it should not be limited to that of prior administrations. The current administration has a far bigger load than the prior three combined.

Among us, we have a full and complete working knowledge of municipal finance, coupled with institutional knowledge your current Executive Team lacks. Unlike you, however, we do not have unlimited time during the Council meetings to carry on and on; we have three-minute intervals during which we can put forth the facts. It would behoove you to listen, rather than summarily dismissing us. What we have to say will become important as we begin to reveal what really happened, and who was responsible. No one will be exempt from our truth telling.

Regardless of whether or not you approve of what we say during your meetings, we deserve and expect the same courtesy and consideration afforded other members of the public who criticize or disagree with you. The ongoing disdain and condescension displayed by the Mayor, coupled with his not-so-subtle threats from the dais and in the media, are unacceptable, and until they stop, we will continue to aggressively comment on them at meetings and publish commentary on our website.

And, as an aside, if any portion of our personnel records ever sees the light of day, the Executive Team would be well advised to concurrently submit an additional Supplemental Appropriation from the Emergency Reserve Fund to pay for the cost of the litigation that will ensue.

For those of you on the Council who consider yourselves conservatives, where is your passion for the truth? Have you abandoned it in favor of the politics of personal destruction, in furtherance of your political careers? I was among a handful of supporters you had in City Hall, but I am so very ashamed of your recent behavior. You should be fighting for our right to be heard, regardless of the political fallout, rather than standing in a show of support while the Mayor publicly attempts to quash dissent. That’s what conservatism is about, after all. I do hope you will re-examine your recent behavior and begin standing up for what is right, rather than what is politically expedient.

Finally, I recommend that you make certain your microphones are off before making snide remarks such as “disgusting,” which is clearly audible on the September 17 video recording after Ms. Hansen and I addressed the Fund 400 agenda item. You are not dealing with amateurs. We know the processes and the facts, and we are watching everything you do. We will hold you accountable, in public, and let the citizens decide your fate at the ballot box.

Sincerely,
Mary Fitch

Sent on 9/26/2013 at 7:33 p.m. to the following recipients:

to:  Mark Sorensen <msorense@ci.chico.ca.us>,
Scott Gruendl <sgruendl@ci.chico.ca.us>,
Mary Goloff <mgoloff@ci.chico.ca.us>,
Sean Morgan <smorgan@ci.chico.ca.us>,
Tami Ritter <tritter@ci.chico.ca.us>,
Randall Stone <rstone@ci.chico.ca.us>,
Ann Schwab <aschwab@ci.chico.ca.us>
cc:  Brian Nakamura <bnakamura@ci.chico.ca.us>,
Mark Orme <morme@ci.chico.ca.us>,
Chris Constantin <cconstantin@ci.chico.ca.us>,
Debbie Presson <dpresson@ci.chico.ca.us>,
Lori Barker <lbarker@ci.chico.ca.us>,
David Little <dlittle@chicoer.com>,
Robert Speer <bopob@comcast.net>
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