No Loophole Left Behind.

Leave it to lawyers, bureaucrats and politicians to take full advantage of every loophole they discover… or create. With a Mayor that appears to embody all three vocations, it comes as little surprise that loopholes abound down at city hall.

Madrona falls off the radar.

Madrona-yes-1If you were looking for the next (final?) act in the Madrona comedy of errors on tomorrow’s Council agenda I’ll save you some time. It isn’t there.

At the last meeting Murdock and Marrick blindsided everyone with a wish list of new considerations. Turns out the two largest financial windfalls they were trying to orchestrate are illegal. Yup, against the law.

The attempt to extract an additional $3.2 to $5.4 million to acquire additional Cal Domestic Water Co. preferred shares is, you guessed it, illegal. Their request for $742,875 in supplemental park-in-lieu fees in addition to the statutory $1.6 million park-in-lieu fees the city was already getting turns out to also be, yep, illegal.

Solution? Buy a little more time.

christine_talksLooks like our budding barrister blew it. Now Murdock and Marrick need another two weeks (minimum) to do damage control, to find a new gambit for getting blood from a stone.

Not satisfied getting 9 out of 11 conditions approved Mrs. Marrick? You got your un-snooty un-gated community and your snooty custom estates approved. Seems to me you two are being more than a little greedy.

City Attorney Markman, when I asked about the missing agenda item, responded, “… there was and is no legal requirement for the matter to be on tomorrow’s Council meeting agenda.” I’m pretty confident he would deny the presence of any loophole.

More agenda skulduggery.

brett_praysTucked in amongst trivial housekeeping items on the Study Session agenda is a request from Murdock to take a trip to sister city Lagos de Moreno to help celebrate their 451 year anniversary.

This sounds eerily similar to the junket he took with Schweitzer and O’Donnel to Anseong and Hanno a couple of years ago. Can you say Koreagate?

What part of no don’t you understand?

The precedent for 45 years has been for Council members to pay their own way. On only two occasions was this not been the case.

Once, when Roy Moore was hit with two foreign travel obligations within one year, the City Manager suggested the city would be able to cover at least the airfare for the second trip. Moore paid the balance.

The second deviation was the vacation Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell took at taxpayer’s expense. A contentious issue yet today, the matter has been swept under the rug and remains unresolved. Certainly no new precedent has been set.

Sneaking this in under the radar by slipping the matter onto the Study Session agenda demonstrates just how unwilling some are to transparently conduct the city’s business.

If you feel so “justified” Mr. Murdock, at least have the juevos to review the pros and cons of the Lagos de Moreno request when the public is able to attend and the discussion will be part of the video record.

all-of-the-people

Let’s put an end to weaving one loophole after another and get down to conducting the people’s business without all of the hidden agendas.

 

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others.

Lets wrap our heads around three things that, on the surface, don’t immediately appear to be connected. The Senior Lunch Program, Council travel expenses for unofficial junkets and the Sister City Program.

Senior lunch program starved for funding.

lunchThanks to federal sequestration, the supplier of our senior’s lunches (SeniorServ, Inc.) took a funding hit that costs us 3,300 lunches a year and resulted in a staff cut of 20%. Estimated at a value of $2.50 per lunch, that’s $8,250 a year. Who knows what the staff cost is?

Is this item making it onto the study session agenda? No.

Lets talk Koreagate again.

stewardessTaxpayers coughed up around $9,450 to send Schweitzer, Murdock and O’Donnell on an unofficial sightseeing junket to Anseong, S. Korea and Hanno, Japan. Though hammered publicly for over a year, subjected to an investigation by the Orange County District Attorney’s office and supported by various current and former Council members, we’ve not seen a penny reimbursed.

Is this item making it onto the study session agenda? No.

Sister Cities groups up for review.

commend_200Brea’s two Sister City groups, the original Lagos de Moreno/Hanno group and the newly formed Anseong group are up for review. The question is, after fifty plus years, is it time to ease them out of the nest and put the $6,000 stipend back into the General Fund to support other causes?

These organizations are certainly capable of being self sufficient. And, by severing the ceremonial ties once and for all, there should no longer be a question about paying those hefty travel expenses for Mayors and other elected, appointed officials or city staff.

Yup, you guessed it, this is the one that is on tomorrow’s study session agenda.

Adding insult to injury.

bowtie_garciaMayor Garcia is currently invited to the Anseong Namsadang Baudeogi Festival, an annual event dating back 100 years. The festival consists of tightrope walking, Korean folk drumming, plate spinning, acrobatics and gymnastics on a straw mat, puppet plays and masked dance drama.

All artforms that I’m sure our Mayor mastered years ago! Unfortunately, there isn’t any provision for amateur stand-up comedy or competitive eating.

Mayor Garcia is wondering if the city will pick up the tab for him to attend?  Nope!  Not until Anseong’s Mayor sees fit to come to Brea specifically to help us celebrate our Country Fair. They seem comparable in scope, if not equally antiquated.

So, what is the common thread? Your tax dollars.

Council needs to decide what is more important, sending public “servants” on all expenses paid vacations, funding private nonprofit cultural exchange organizations or giving our seniors a decent lunch five days a week.

Hands down, the seniors get my vote. What do you think?

 

The jury is still out – Part One

On January 25th, Council Member Roy Moore published Issue 597 of his Brea Net newsletter.

In it he chronicles the events surrounding the raise Council gave themselves back in June, especially the fiasco following and the eventual reversal of that decision.

As of today, all Council Members except Brett Murdock have arranged to pay back the $3,600 they each received in retroactive pay.

To put everything I’m about to say into context, I highly recommend you first read Roy’s full newsletter by clicking the link above.

Roy Raises Important Issues.

Within Roy’s explanation of events, which I personally find to be the most credible thus far and consequently the most believable, are several important issues that have not been adequately or publically addressed.

These issues include nominally related matters being lumped together as consent items providing a convenient means of masking the serious nature of the topic, items that would be more honestly addressed independently and within formal public hearings; the continued poor, sometimes incomplete preparation of staff reports; the wrongfully diminished authority of the Mayor and Council Members, particularly in the matter of the Mayor’s managing and setting of agenda discussion items; personal and political agendas taking precedent over the will of a majority of the community.

And, finally, procedural policies and protocols that provide numerous opportunities for Council and staff to, inadvertently or willfully, commit malfeasance in the course of carrying out their duties with little or no opportunity for public oversight or intercession.

My next few blog entries will address these issues in more detail, beginning with…

The Misleading Nature Of Consent Items.

In his report Roy points out, “At the June 7, 2011 council meeting the Consent Calendar consisted of seven consent items.

The Consent Calendar is where multiple items, mostly routine, are considered and passed by a single vote without discussion.

Item 12.7 consisted of three separate elements: 1) The contract memorandum between the City of Brea and the Brea Fire Management Association, 2) salary range increases and a flex benefit increase of $450/month for city executives, and 3) part time employee salary increases.

I pulled Item 12.7 off of the Consent Calendar for separate discussion and vote.  The three elements were also separated for separate votes. Elements 1 and 3 were unanimously passed.  Element 2, after discussion, was passed on a 4-1 vote with me dissenting.”

Though it may be somewhat more convenient to consolidate similar matters, minimally discussed at study sessions, into single consent items in order to shorten meetings, the public is denied the opportunity to fully follow and understand the matters in question, to make public inquiry for clarification or make public comment to make Council aware of what their constituents would prefer.

Closing thoughts.

I believe the people of Brea would be best served if Council would put the subject of Consent Calendar items on the agenda for discussion, not at a study session but during a regular televised meeting, so that the public might weigh in on the matter. It is long overdue to revisit what should and should not be designated as justification to put an item, or collection of items, on the Consent Calendar.

Next time on Brea Matters.

Flex benefits, who knew what when and were there any ethical breaches or laws bent or broken?