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Who to Watch in 2014

Thank you to the Chico News & Review for including Truth Matters, Chico! in yesterday’s article, “Who to watch in 2014.”  The article pulls quotes from the August 6, 2013 Chico City Council meeting, the first time Mary and I spoke during Business from the Floor. Quené was sitting in the audience with us that night, silently cheering us on, and decided to throw down the gauntlet with us from that moment forward.

We sincerely appreciate the support our little grassroots effort has received from the community, and hope that more citizens will join us on this journey in the months leading up to the November 2014 election.

Following is the prepared speech referenced in the CNR article.  (Actual wording varied slightly, but this is how I originally intended it to come out!)

____________________

I’ve worked under four City Managers at the City of Chico.

One who under-funded replacement funds and required double-dipping timecard entries that were covered by the Cost Allocation Plan in order to find a couple million dollars under the sofa cushions every year end. The same one who, shortly before retiring, recommended that Council add an additional half million dollars to the Police budget at mid-year, which they were allowed to use to increase staffing (which translated to over a million dollars of ongoing annual costs); he negotiated for contracts that tied salary increases to revenue, which resulted in nearly 10% increases some years; and left behind a six million dollar structural imbalance for the next Manager to address.

One who decided that the organization should be flatter, and recommended that Council reorganize the City into more departments (and department heads), even though that created a Housing and Neighborhood Services Department for which there was insufficient funding. The same one who determined that our reserve funds were carrying too high of balances, and recommended that transfers to those funds be reduced so that money could be actively used rather than just sit around, gathering dust; and who sent forward to Council an unaffordable six-year MOU with the Fire union.

One whose priority was to preserve services to the community despite the greatest recession to date, with a goal that it would be like a duck floating on the water: to the outside eye, all would appear calm and controlled, while under the water, the duck is paddling like crazy. He also believed in the importance of maintaining local jobs, and tried to reduce City staffing through attrition while encouraging creative solutions to maintain those services with less staff and resources. And it appeared that the Council at that time agreed to put our community first, and to put dignity, respect, and integrity at the forefront.

And finally, one who rolled in from out of town, without any attachment to what Chico means to us locals. Whose priorities appear to include giving out fat raises and one year severance packages to “yes men,” handing out layoff notices, and looking to contract out core City services. And this Council, with one notable exception, seems to be co-signing that. Why not protect jobs for Chico citizens? Provide internships for Chico State students? Is contracting out for solid waste, info systems, city attorney, safety, and who knows what else going to grow Chico’s economy, or some other community’s? And how do some of you face yourselves in the mirror after whining about previous City Managers who weren’t keeping you informed, while allowing a current Manager to ask forgiveness rather than permission? (Did that new Assistant City Manager end up below the salary cap after all?)

I know that you all have a very difficult job as City Councilors, but as a citizen I am seeing way too much finger pointing. Please remember that when this current era has passed, if you aren’t asking questions and demanding honest answers, using your own powers of analysis and common sense, then the fingers that are pointed next will certainly be at you. And no amount of dramatic tears or admission of inadequacy* will get you off the hook with the citizens who are seeing diminished quality of life in Chico.

* For those of you who would like to see the tears and admission of being ineffectual, please click here and go to time stamp 02:30:10.

____________________

As always, we thank you for your continued support and welcome your questions and comments. Please continue to share our posts with your family, neighbors, and friends.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

WHO_TO_WATCH

Photo credit: newsreview.com
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Is Council Abusing Closed Session Exceptions?

As we have previously discussed, California Government Code §549501 et seq., commonly referred to as “the Brown Act,” specifically identifies what matters are permitted to be discussed in Closed Session. It is critical to understand that allowable Closed Session items are narrowly defined exceptions to the open meeting law; they are not a series of broad loopholes available to allow staff to meet privately with the full Council and circumvent the public’s right to participate and be heard regarding its deliberations.

We have become increasingly concerned about the frequency with which the Council is meeting in Closed Session for Public Employee Performance Evaluations, under the Personnel Exception. According to the California Attorney General, the Personnel Exception exists to “…avoid undue publicity or embarrassment for public employees and to allow full and candid discussion of such employees by the body in question… Accordingly, the Act provides for closed sessions regarding the appointment, employment, evaluation of performance, discipline or dismissal of a public employee. (§54957.)”

We expressed concern in a previous post about the four back-to-back Closed Session performance evaluations scheduled for the City Attorney. On tomorrow night’s City Council Agenda, it appears that sufficient direction was provided to her during these Closed Session evaluations to prepare a staff report detailing several options for contracting out City Attorney services upon her retirement. This has occurred despite there having been absolutely no Closed Session Announcement regarding the Council’s direction (although we did predict this would happen in the post linked above).

Now we are seeing recurring Closed Session performance evaluations for the City Manager on 11-05-1311-19-13, and again tomorrow, 12-17-13. Because we have been watching Council agendas carefully since Nakamura was hired on September 1, 2012, we know that this has been a frequent occurrence, so we went back and counted. Nakamura has had nine Closed Session performance evaluations in 16 months. Again with no Closed Session Announcements.

(In fact, if you review the Council minutes over the past year, what you will find under every single Closed Session Announcement is “No Action Taken.”) Interesting — and highly suspicious.

So, just how many performance evaluations does Nakamura’s contract with the City require? Section 4 states that Nakamura is to have an annual evaluation commencing in April 2013 and every year thereafter as long as he maintains employment.

That’s right. One performance evaluation per year is what is contractually scheduled, yet Nakamura is coming up on his ninth since December 2012.

That begs the question: If the Council is taking no action requiring a public announcement, what, exactly, is going on in these private sessions with Nakamura?

Are they discussing next steps in his grand rightsizing plan? Not eligible for Closed Session.

Are they discussing plans for further budget or staffing reductions? Not eligible for Closed Session.

Are they discussing how to handle public criticism of their agenda? Not eligible for Closed Session.

Whatever they are discussing, it clearly falls outside the narrow scope of the Personnel Exception.

This needs to stop. The Council appears to be using these Closed Sessions to plan and deliberate away from public scrutiny, and the public should be outraged.

In the Chico Taxpayers Association’s December 14 blog post, Sustainability Task Force meeting a lesson on “open meetings” law, Chico City Clerk Debbie Presson is reported as having commented, “[The Brown Act]… was designed to ensure the public has a chance to participate… to hear your deliberations… In other words, the public needs to know what or who influenced the decisions that are being made by our public boards and commissions… a small group behind closed doors precludes the chances of the public being able to participate…”

So, can we all agree to follow her rules?

Again, we urge you to get involved. This is your community, and being informed and engaged is crucial to keeping these elected officials in line. They work for you, so make your voice heard. Write letters, attend meetings or watch from home, ask questions and make comments on our blog posts, and hold the elected officials accountable at the polls.

Thank you for your continued readership. Please also continue to share our posts with your family, neighbors, and friends. As always, we welcome your comments and questions.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

closeddooraward

Photo credit: southdacola.com

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!

City Attorney Announces ‘Retirement’

Today’s Enterprise-Record ran an article announcing City Attorney Lori Barker’s upcoming retirement.

Wow. Another City executive is jumping ship. Sheer coincidence? We think not.

While we have no direct knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Ms. Barker’s retirement, we do have intimate knowledge of Nakamura’s methods and the Council’s recent statements and actions to support him. We wonder whether she was ‘invited’ to retire, rather than getting the Monday night hammer, to allow the Council an opportunity to find a suitable replacement for this critical role.

Consider these points:

(1) Ms. Barker is fairly young, perhaps early to mid-50s, and she is ‘retiring’ after 24 years of service. The City’s pension formula for existing employees is 3% at age 60. If we guesstimate her age at 54, and she retires in 2014, her pension formula drops to 2.4%, multiplied by 24 years of service, rather than the full 3% at 30 years if she had chosen to stay another 6 years. That is a huge chunk of change that will affect her family’s finances forever.

Here’s a rough calculation using our age guesstimate:

Formula:      Salary x Percentage x Years of Service
Year 2014:   $185,440 x 2.4% x 24 = $106,813
Year 2020:   $185,440 x 3.0% x 30 = $166,896

That’s approximately $60,000 difference in annual pension payments, for the rest of her life, to hang in there a few more years… Something smells.

(2) Ms. Barker is the sole remaining member of the City’s former Budget Reduction Strategy Team. She knows the facts and circumstances surrounding every action the City took to address the impacts of the recession and its accompanying loss of sales tax revenues, the loss of Redevelopment Agency funds and Vehicle License Fees via State takes, and the subsequent defeat of Measure J (the cellphone tax) that resulted in refunds of prior years’ revenues. We suspect that her narrative about what actually happened differs significantly from the Council’s recent public statements, and we wonder whether she was quietly attempting to correct it, to her ultimate peril.

(3) Ms. Barker is a direct report to the Council, not Nakamura, in order to ensure her ability to serve the public interest unfettered by the administration’s agenda; however, since the Council appears relentless in its defense of Nakamura, despite the growing list of public concerns about his methods and actions, that must be taken into consideration.

We noticed that Ms. Barker had back-to-back performance evaluations on the Council’s Closed Session agendas for 09-17-13 and 10-01-13. [Update: Closed Session performance evaluations for Ms. Barker also occurred on 10-15-13 and 11-05-13, for a total of four back-to-back meetings.] Had she spoken up in opposition of Nakamura’s behavior once too often? Had she told the Council that what we have been saying in open sessions is true? Had she taken away the Mayor’s fun by telling him he could not continue to threaten us without exposing the City to potential litigation? We will likely never know, but we find this highly suspect, and that is a shame. Someone needs to be speaking the truth from the inside and reining in the recent bad behavior of both the Council and the Executive Team, and she was the only one who could have done that.

(4) We have had our suspicions all along that the City Attorney function would be contracted out, which should be cause for public concern. A City Attorney who is a public servant has a duty to the citizens. An outside law firm hired by the Council might not operate within the same constraints, and we believe a conflict of interest might exist if there was no duty to faithfully put the community’s best interest above the Council’s direction. We don’t like it and hope it does not happen, although the Mayor mentioned it in the final paragraph of today’s article: “Gruendl said the council could decide to fill the city attorney position or consider options for contracting out.”

We guess we’ll wait and see whether the two remaining employees in Ms. Barker’s office get pink slips. If so, someone owes Alicia five bucks for having called that play months ago.

Whatever happened to inspire Ms. Barker’s early retirement, we wish her every happiness and success in her new life. We can only hope that yet another of Nakamura’s old buddies won’t be hired or contracted with Chico’s tax dollars. Even if what is done is legal, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is the right thing to do for the public good.

In matters of government, perception, like truth, matters.

City Budget Issues

Photo credit: Chico Enterprise-Record

CNR gets the Scoop

The Chico News & Review picked up the story we told at the October 1 City Council meeting and ran a detailed article in today’s issue. Many thanks to Melissa Daugherty for her fair treatment of what we had to say. We will be responding to Councilmember Sorensen’s remarks in the article in the coming days.

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

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

CNR_Constantin_Fields

Photo credit: Chico News & Review

The Truth behind the Admin Layoffs

As we have written and said before, this is neither personal nor political. It is simple truth that will not be revealed unless those who witnessed it stand up for what is right and tell it.

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.”

Those personnel rules are codified in Chapter 2R.72 of the Municipal Code, and include the Council-adopted process for reduction in workforce, based on seniority and displacement rights.

One can only hope that it was Council’s ignorance of, rather than its complicity in, the flagrant disregard for those personnel rules that allowed Nakamura and his Executive Team to put personalities before positions during the July layoffs.

While there were examples of favoritism across City Hall, the most blatant and harmful to morale occurred in the reduction of the citywide administrative staff. The key to what happened lies in understanding the Administrative Analyst I and II positions.

The Administrative Services Director’s HR and Finance Analysts and the City Clerk’s Analyst were among some of the most junior in the citywide admin pool. Had the personnel reduction policies set forth in the Municipal Code been properly followed, all four of them would have been bumped. There were senior Analysts qualified to work in all of those positions. They simply weren’t the favored employees.

When layoffs first began to be discussed internally, Mr. Constantin stated openly in a staff meeting that he would be reclassifying his HR and Finance admin staff to protect them from bumping. Word spread quickly, since removing them from the bumping order would impact every single move within the admin layoffs.

On May 9, a memorandum went out from an HR Administrative Analyst II to the Confidentials unit proposing the “additional job descriptions” of Finance Analyst, Human Resources Assistant, Human Resources Analyst, and Sr. Human Resources Analyst and “separating [them] from the more general job titles of Administrative Assistant and Administrative Analyst.” Her title on the memorandum was HR/RM Analyst, not Administrative Analyst, which bears out the assertion that she was being protected. The attached job descriptions had minor changes specific to their work, but nothing of any substance. (2013-05-09_HR_Finance_Reclass)

When Mary spoke to her department head, Community Development Director Mark Wolfe, he was incensed. He stalked away saying, “They can’t do that. I’m going to go and talk to Chris.” Well, needless to say, someone shut him down and Mr. Constantin moved forward despite the personnel rules, with the City Clerk following closely behind.

On May 16, the law firm representing CEA, the employee group to which most of the administrative staff belong, wrote a letter to the City, which stated in part:

“I have received notice that the City Finance Director proposes to re-classify four Admin Analysts in a manner that would separate them from the Citywide pool of Admin Analysts, thereby removing them from being bumped by Admin Analysts in our unit…. If you take unilateral action to change the classification plan… you in essence change the already negotiated layoff procedure.”  (2013-05-16_CEA Letter to City)

That letter resulted in a meet and confer session with representatives of CEA, Mr. Orme, Mr. Constantin, and City Attorney Lori Barker. Staff’s concerns were discussed, without resolution, and CEA’s request for a seniority list was met with a claim that it had not yet been prepared, since the City was still trying to interpret the rules regarding bumping.

On May 29, during a follow-up CEA meeting, Mr. Constantin took the CEA representative aside and said that the reclassifications would be changed to “internal recruitments,” a move clearly intended to reduce pressure, but which only further inflamed an already angry staff. Everyone knew what the result of those “recruitments” would be.

The next day, staff received an email from Mr. Orme. He made several points, one of which was that “some in the organization… feel it necessary to create an environment less than pleasant” and asking that “anyone who is endeavoring to create rumors to stir the pot…to please stop. False information and speculation does nothing but create an environment of fear and frustration (and at worst, a hostile environment)…” Really? What did he expect, when the endgame was already being revealed bit by bit?

His email also stated “employees that may be impacted… will be informed by their department Director by the end of the work day tomorrow.” (2013-05-30_Orme)

The next day, a memo similar to the May 9 memo went out to all employee groups, still showing the title of HR/RM Analyst for the Admin Analyst II, further revising the job descriptions and adding new positions of Deputy City Clerk and Executive Assistant, both of which had starting salaries in excess of the Administrative Analyst II classification. This memo confirmed Mr. Constantin’s statement that “recruitments” would be held to fill the positions and noted that “While the employee groups have a right to comment on the proposed changes…. the city manager has the sole authority to modify the classification plan.” (2013-05-31_Proposed New Positions)

It was a flagrant end run around the Code, and employees citywide were disgusted to see it happening just days before layoff notices were scheduled to go out. Again, we all knew what the results of the recruitments would be, and it was shameful.

The official seniority list was provided to CEA on June 3 (2013 Seniority List_ORIGINAL), and then amended on June 4 (2013 ADMIN Seniority List_REVISED) to reflect a new development that would further alter the admin layoff order. Everyone was scrambling to understand what would happen, but as it turns out, the Executive Team wasn’t finished manipulating the system yet.

On June 5, the city manager sent a letter to CEA that included a list of employees being laid off, and these words: “Due to actions being taken in regard to both the restructuring of departments and the budget reductions, the number of positions within some job classifications are being reduced, a few positions are being reclassified, and the number of positions in a couple of classifications is being increased.” (2013-06-05_Nakamura letter to CEA)  Hmmm… there’s that reclassification word again.

On June 7, CEA wrote to Nakamura in response to his letter. It says, in part,

“Creating new job classifications during the current layoff process that are custom-tailored for existing junior staff members appears to circumvent the layoff and displacement rules under 2R.72.140 of the Chico Municipal Code, and may be in violation of Section 2R.72.070.A.

“Creating these new positions will result in the elimination of existing administrative positions that would otherwise be subject to displacement by employees… with seniority in the respective job classifications…

“There are members of the City Staff that have occupied the “new positions” being created… If they possess the skill set for which the ‘new classification’ is being created, and have more seniority than a member that is being moved to that position, then it seems only logical that they have a right to that position…”

The letter continues, “Layoff notices have been sent out, so the seniority and bumping rules are currently in play. With the new classifications having such narrowly tailored job descriptions… so as to heavily favor the incumbents in these positions, the net result will be… more senior employees in the administrative career ladder will end up being laid off… This situation makes a mockery of the concept of seniority and bumping rights as established in 2R72.140.F, is inconsistent with portions of the declared … personnel policy as codified in 2.72.020, and violates the basic concepts of fairness…

“We are very concerned… that the actions by the City in accomplishing this reclassification does not disenfranchise any of our members, who would then have grounds to file an Unfair Labor Charge against the City based on precipitous and aggressive actions… [that] seem absolutely timed to protect certain employees and discriminate against senior employees.” (2013-06-07_CEA_Letter to City Manager)

On the same day as the CEA letter, a memo from the HR Administrative Analyst (whose title had now been changed back from HR/RM Analyst) announced “In-House Recruitment Opportunities” for Deputy City Clerk and Finance Analyst. (2013-06-07_In-House Recruitments)

A separate memo from Mr. Orme announced similar recruitments for one HR Analyst and two Senior HR Analysts. (2013-06-07_Recruitment for HR Positions) That was a Friday evening, and on Monday, Mr. Orme emailed staff to revise the recruitment to eliminate the one Human Resources Analyst. (2013-06-10_ORME_Revised HR Recruitment) We have been told this was because of a City Attorney opinion that this one would not pass the smell test.

On the very same day, a new clerical chart was revealed that changed the number of Admin Assistant and Office Assistant positions. (2013-06-07_Original Clerical Chart)

Once Mr. Orme had rescinded the recruitment for HR Analyst, however, the chart would have resulted in Mr. Constantin’s Admin Assistant being bumped all the way out the door. But don’t worry, they figured out how to protect her later on…

So, the “internal recruitments” went forward, and although more senior staff who were qualified to hold the new positions applied, the incumbents all remained in their positions. Imagine that. None of the senior Admin Analysts retained their classification; they wound up demoted, with a pay cut.

On June 26, CEA was provided a revised clerical chart, increasing the number of Admin Assistant positions by exactly the number needed to protect Mr. Constantin’s employee. (2013-06-26_New Clerical Chart) Had they created one additional position, not a soul would have been bumped out the door. What a coincidence.

But perhaps the most galling incident of all occurred shortly after the layoffs took place. Mr. Constantin promoted his Admin Assistant to HR Analyst, with an accompanying pay raise, so that the least senior member of the entire citywide admin pool is now in a higher classification than one of the most senior Analysts, who had been bumped down two full classifications and took a 25% pay cut. Mr. Constantin surely has mastered the art of creating a hostile work environment.

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.”

The Emergency Reserve Fund and the $80,000 Labor Negotiator

On September 3, the City Council Consent Agenda included a request to approve an $80,000 Supplemental Appropriation from the City’s Emergency Reserve Fund to pay for a labor negotiator. The Consent Agenda is reserved for matters considered routine, and all items on the list can be approved by one motion; in other words, there is no public discussion unless someone requests it to be pulled from the list.

Quené and I had questions, so we asked to pull it. The Mayor didn’t seem very happy, but even Councilmember Schwab questioned Nakamura about paying someone from the outside when we have highly paid staff that should be able to do it — thankfully, she has continued to ask him about things that don’t make sense. Nakamura said some stuff, and then Councilmembers Sorensen and Stone made some excuses.

Quené was very concerned that this request had somehow made its way onto the Consent Agenda with absolutely no public discussion beforehand. She also noted that Administrative Services Director Constantin had recently said there was no cash in the Emergency Reserve Fund. She asked, “If there is no money, where is the $80,000 really going to come from?”

When I first read the agenda report, three more things caused me concern:

(1) In an attempt to justify the new Administrative Services Director’s $160,000 salary, supporters of Nakamura’s “rightsizing” efforts have repeatedly said that Constantin is doing four people’s jobs, including Human Resources Director.

I went back and pulled Nakamura’s February 19 agenda report (which, perhaps not-so-coincidentally, is no longer on the web), wherein he described the new departments and attached directors’ job descriptions for Council’s approval. Quoting directly from Attachment_A: Administrative Services Director, he is to “…act as Chief Negotiator.”

Then I went to the City’s website and looked up the official job description that was effective July 8. Lo and behold, that phrase is absent!

(2) This request was not included in the recently approved budget and required a Supplemental Appropriation. Didn’t the Executive Team know it would want a labor negotiator in addition to its $160,000 executive? So, will we be seeing an $80,000 pay cut for the City’s Administrative Services Director?

(3) The money for the labor negotiator was being taken from the Emergency Reserve Fund, which, in addition to having no cash, is restricted by Budget Policy E4a(2): “The purposes for which funds could be allocated from the Emergency Reserve Fund include, but are not limited to, payment for compensated employee absences and other emergency needs as determined by the City Council.”

How is failure to hire an Administrative Services Director who is qualified to “act as Chief Negotiator” determined to be an emergency?

Peter Durfee, President of CPOA, also expressed concerns. He pointed out that three members of the Executive Team have labor negotiations in their job descriptions and asked why they can’t negotiate. Then he pointed out that $80,000 would surely not be enough money to complete negotiations with all nine bargaining groups and asked, what then?

Finally, Emily Alma read letters from two individuals with additional concerns.

So then, we find out that the Council had already interviewed negotiators and selected a top candidate. When did that happen? It obviously happened without any public discussion, and it was pretty clear that the entire Council was aware.

As usual, the Council went barreling forward and approved it, once they convinced themselves they might not really even need the money… Right.

Nakamura’s Doctoral Thesis

We have requested this document from the USC library and will provide an update once we receive and review it. Interesting topic…

Nakamura Dissertation

P.S. Many thanks to our reader who pointed this out.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

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>

The ‘racist’ email we’ve seen…

If you’ve been keeping up with the media, the Mayor, and Nakamura lately, or reading our posts, you’ve likely heard much about racist emails and threats of violence resulting in the need to add security to protect staff on the 3rd floor of the municipal center. I responded to that over the weekend, and since most of the comments we received on that post call for the emails to be made public, we thought we should share with you the only incident of which we are aware.

Normally, we would never release any email from our readers; however, since it has become clear that this guy (Dylan) is ‘playing dirty’ and copying the media and members of the Council, we feel it is appropriate to at least share the content.  We won’t release his full name or email address, because we know how crappy that feels, having had our personal contact info recently released to the public.

On September 4 we received Dylan’s original email, in which he used one racial slur in his last sentence. We discussed it and decided to ignore it, since even jerks have a right to question and criticize the government, so we simply responded to his request for information. He replied back, with an expletive, but no more racial remarks. And there were no threats whatsoever.

In the meantime, we got word that Nakamura had a hard copy of the email and was waving it around, showing it to staff in an attempt to hold us responsible for the words of another. We, of course, realized that Dylan must have either blind copied or forwarded to someone within the City; otherwise, there was no way Nakamura could have had it. We have an idea who this Dylan character is, but no proof, so we’ll just skip that issue for the time being.

So, we decided to just wait and see what happened next.

On September 19, we received two more emails from Dylan, this time openly copying the media, the Mayor, and two Councilmembers. These emails offered up specific opportunities for us to engage in character assassination, including what appear to be court cases and a link to one of Juanita Sumner’s blogs that described some previous unpleasant encounters with the Mayor.

Wow. What is this guy’s agenda?

So, last night we decided to ‘reply all’ and hopefully bring this whole thing to an end. As we have repeatedly written, our only interest is in exposing the truth behind the shenanigans at City Hall. We have no interest in personally attacking anyone involved; we just want them to be held accountable for their actions that have affected, and are still affecting, Chico’s citizens and taxpayers.

Here’s what we wrote last night:

Dylan,

Unfortunately, you have mistaken the intent of our website, truthmatterschico.com. We have no desire to ‘play dirty’ with anyone; we are simply seeking to expose the entire truth about the goings on in Chico’s administration, regardless of the political fallout. The three of us hold varying political views, but our determination to inform the public remains firm and is what binds our team together.

We are sure you know that we have been excoriated in the media as a result of the racial slur you used in your original email to us. Because none of us is your mother and therefore not responsible for correcting your behavior, we chose to ignore the slur and simply respond to your request for information; however, you should know that one of us has four stepchildren of Asian descent, and we disapprove of your use of the derogatory reference to the city manager’s heritage, as we disapprove of any racial, religious, or other personal slurs.

Since it has become clear that your agenda conflicts with ours, and your writings have become an obstacle to accomplishment of our goals, we ask that you refrain from contacting us in the future. We did not make the decision to speak out without thoughtful consideration of the risk to our personal and professional reputations, so this is not child’s play to us. Any further correspondence from you will be deleted without response.

Alicia, Mary, & Quené
Truth Matters, Chico!

Here’s the entirety of the email exchange, redacted as necessary to prevent further spread of Dylan’s ideas on ‘playing dirty’:

DYLAN_EMAIL_REDACTED

Again, under ordinary circumstances, we would never release any email exchange between our readers and us, but Dylan is playing an extraordinary game that could have dire consequences for all parties involved, and we aren’t going to play.

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

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

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