It’s Payback Time!

free_tripFrom September 28 through October 9, 2012, then Mayor Don Schweitzer, MPT Brett Murdock and City Manager Tim O’Donnell took a vacation together to Anseong, South Korea and Hanno, Japan and stuck Brea taxpayers with the bill.

Aren’t those our Sister Cities? Yeah, so what?

Under the ruse that the number of official duties outstripped the Mayor’s ability to respond, Schweitzer convinced Murdock and O’Donnell that they should come along to help pick up the slack. Really? I’ll bet that took a lot of arm twisting.

Another thought, did O’Donnell charge his time to the taxpayers on this trip anticipating that Measure T, which disallowed payment for work done outside the country, was likely to pass and this was his last chance to sock it to the taxpayers before Measure T took effect?

Let’s back up and look at the facts.

Brea Matters has discussed this twice, on September 20 and November 6 – please take the time to read these again to put what follows in proper context.

The invitation, from the International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folkarts (CIOFF), could have easily been turned down without international incident by simply replying, “While we would be honored to join you, we are not in a position to budget for a non-commercial cultural event.”

troupeThe CIOFF, according to their own mission statement, purposefully focuses on cultural activities and as an NGO (non-government organization), does not get involved with developing commercial opportunities. The fact that O’Donnell originally characterized the junket as one exploring commercial connections between Anseong and Brea is completely bogus.

At no time has there been acceptable explanation of this junket’s benefit to Brea sufficient to consider it justified in any way. Particularly the side trip to Hanno, Japan. It was an abuse of power and authority using public funds without public approval to pay for a vacation.

So, what did this cost us?

money_buriedThe product of a difficult and protracted public inquiry, this Expense Report accounts for lodging, airfare, ground transportation and meals. It also reports how O’Donnell’s time off was allocated.

All three happy travelers cost the city about $3,115.00 each for reimbursed expenses. I believe that’s more than Movies In The Park or our summer concert series costs. One person’s expenses are at least double the cost of “Gotta Have Art” which annually benefitted Brea kids all across the city and produced the amazing banners you see hanging down at the Community Center. A program, by the way, that has been cut.

O’Donnell adds insult to injury.

politician_liar_150If that nine grand was wasted, wait until you hear what’s next. Tim O’Donnell charged off three days as “regular paid work days” and four days as “paid administrative leave.”

Are you kidding me? I would love to see a detailed itinerary for these days that justified bilking the city for the expense.

Based on the unconscionably enormous salary we pay O’Donnell, these expenses are roughly equal to the travel expenses of all three combined! Yeah, I believe it comes to almost another nine grand!

Hey, I’m a reasonable guy. If O’Donnell wanted to charge off his time against “paid vacation” I would have no problem with reducing his accrued vacation. If he earned it, it’s his. But don’t stick taxpayers with this… it’s like double jeopardy.

It’s grossly unfair, and seems equally unethical, to make us pay you now and then pay you again when you’re terminated. You read that right Tim, terminated.

There is a simple answer.

In the court of public opinion, you’re all guilty as charged.  Unfortunately it requires an act of contrition on your part to bring this to a positive conclusion.

Here’s what you should do… pay it back. All of it. All three of you.

It was unethical. It was unapproved. It was without excuse. At least five former Mayor’s have clearly expressed that they feel the same way. Three shared their opinions during Matters From The Audience and they were basically ignored.

Don, Brett, Tim… write a check to reimburse the city, and Tim, reclassify your time in Anseong and Hanno as “Paid Vacation” and be done with it.

I would much rather see the three of you step up and do the honorable, the honest thing… for once. Then put a review of travel budgets on the agenda and ask folks what they think they ought to be.

While we’re at it, how about taking a hard look at our League of Cities memberships and participation in the Energy Coalition too. Many of us are still trying to figure out what sort of benefits we get from these and similar groups.

Finally gents, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” so save yourself the trouble of wagging the dog on this one… it’s far too late for damage control now.

 

4 thoughts on “It’s Payback Time!

  1. Rick,

    Thanks for the update on this. I think a lot of Breans may feel that it isn’t worth it to make a big issue out of $9,000. Some may even feel that Schweitzer “earned” the junket. I am no longer one of those Breans.

    I know you remember, there was a time when I would argue with you on the Orange County Register, openly defending Tim O’Donnell, John Beauman, Don Schweitzer and Ron Garcia. However, when I started looking at the long string of “little” indescretions over a period of time, it became impossible to justify my apologist position.

    I hope that other Breans see this as I do. The city manager, the city attorney and the council have burned through any goodwill they may have once had with me.

    Where does John Beauman’s blog stand on this issue? It seems he only posts on his blog when he has an issue that he thinks he can use to sway voter opinion and help our city manager maintain the coucil majority. Where are John Beauman’s blogs in between elections? Where is John Beauman’s blog defending this junket? Where is John Beauman’s blog defending Schweitzer’s failed “Green Challenge”? Where is John Beauman’s blog defending the last council reorganization?

    I certainly hope that anyone (like me) who used to read Mr. Beauman’s blog, considering it a valid source of information to use when making election decisions, remembers that Mr. Beauman is silent when it comes to these “little” indiscretions that seem to be repeatedly popping up. The pattern, and the intent, are obvious.

    Thank you again Rick for providing me with the opportunity to share my views with fellow Breans, whether they agree with me or not.

    • Stephen… The $9,000 tip of the iceberg is deceptive. The full extent of the matter, including O’Donnell’s inappropriate charging off of his time, another $9,000+, and the trio’s unsanctioned if not felonious misuse of the public’s tax dollars and trust, makes this battle well worth waging.

      I do remember locking horns with you. You were a tough opponent because you relied on facts and articulated your position well. Unfortunately the facts came from Punxsutawney John. Now, with opened eyes, we do seem to be on the same page more often than not.

      Punxsutawney John rebuilt the content of his original blog as “The Spirit of Brea” some time ago and hasn’t posted anything since last October when he was wildly pitching against Measures T and U on behalf of his Old Guard buddies.

      Like Mayor Mumbles, Punxsutawney John’s rants were unconvincing and, as you said, he squandered what little political capital he may have had.

      I’m guessing (hoping) that he’s seen the error of his ways and will remain silent. Certainly O’Donnell, Markman and their hired gun Communications Director Cindie Ryan are perfectly capable of carrying on with their misinformation campaign without his help.

      I had hoped that when Lynn Daucher, Bev Perry and Glenn Parker raked them over the coals that they might also demand our money back. Maybe that was too much to expect.

      Anyway Stephen, thanks for your insights and kind comments.

  2. Markman’s Measure T “analysis” is on tonight’s agenda; looking forward to seeing if he uses “plain” English or reverts to “legal speak” in his presentation. There is no transcript link on the agenda – interesting.

    • As Measure T became law when adopted last December, I’m not sure what Markman thinks he needs to explain. Until events trigger application, there are no grounds for objection, appeal or litigation.

      That said, the City may already be out of compliance. In a letter dated 01/30/2013, it appears that the City is being challenged on two fronts, documentation of median income for comparative purposes and overpaying council members Simonoff and Marick.

      What do you bet that Markman skips over this little glitch?

      I note that, per tonight’s agenda, that Matters From The Audience follow’s introduction of the Mayor’s Theme. It will be interesting to see, on channel 3, what sort of stand-up improv nonsense Mayor Mumbles presents as his theme and if anyone jumps on it right away.

      I’m betting that the power outage at the Superdome will prove to be more entertaining than Mayor Mumbles.

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