Treasurer Selection Not An Easy Choice.

Study SessionEveryone, Council, staff and followers of local government, were surprised when eleven Breans applied for the City Treasurer position vacated when Glenn Parker was reelected to Council. Most had expected no more than three or four candidates to emerge.

In a meeting that began on Friday, January 23 and was continued to Tuesday, January 27, Council managed the arduous task of interviewing all applicants and then pressed on to reach a consensus selecting a new City Treasurer. For those interested, the meeting’s agenda and all applications are available on the city’s website.

Applicants, in order of interview were Don Parker, Michael Becher, Marlan Merhab, Roy Moore, Jim Grosse, Gary Terrazas, Joseph Galligan, Bill Christensen, Phil Anton, Gill Realon and Kenneth Palmer. An interesting note, as the interview conflicted with a long planned holiday, Council agreed to allow Bill Christensen to teleconference his interview from Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Thinning out the list.

If you’ve looked over the City Treasurer applications, you’ll have some idea of just how tough job Council faced. Every applicant was well qualified with decades of executive level experience. Council’s first step was to agree upon a tight set of criteria, opting for someone with a strength in managing major investment portfolios over CPAs with mostly P&L and budget management background. As Brea has an average of $50 million at stake in the investment pool at any one time, I have to agree.

This focus made it possible to move five names out of contention. Mayor Simonoff then asked for each Council member to list their top three choices. All but Glenn Parker were able to do so. Glenn seemed to be advocating for a single candidate but later acquiesced and added one more name. Pressing on, the lists merged to provide a basic ranking and animated discussion followed.

I must say that, as I observed this process for a little over seven hours, I was elated to see Council engaged in a friendly, respectful, open and productive way. I hadn’t seen that sort of behavior with previous Councils going back through several regimes.

There were a couple of delicate moments when signs of personal favoritism and possible political ties slipped into the dialog but Mayor Simonoff and the other Council members skillfully defused the situations and productive discussion moved on.

The finalists emerged.

After an hour or so, Gill Realon, Bill Christensen and Phil Anton made the short list. Discussion continued comparing the merits of each to the objectives set at the beginning of the meeting. TreasurerUltimately, after another half hour, Mayor Pro Tem Marick moved to approve Bill Christensen as the Treasurer and the motion was quickly seconded by Council member Vargas.

A voice vote was taken and Council voted unanimously to appoint Bill Christensen. Mayor Simonoff’s suggestion that the City Clerk contact the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia to inform Bill Christensen of Council’s decision was met with a chuckle and the meeting was adjourned.

A closing thought.

One of the applicant’s suggested, given the depth of the applicant’s talent pool and their willingness to serve, that Council put more of them to work by creating a citizen’s advisory or oversight committee to help keep an eye on city finances.

Great idea! First assignments should be evaluating whether restructuring of Brea’s Fire Department, twice, has produced the savings promised by the City Manager… conducting an audit of the solar energy program to establish whether or not it is paying for itself as promised and finally, developing the framework for a “Get Out Of Debt” plan that would eradicate Brea’s unfunded pension and medical liabilities.

Other views in the news?

Doubtful, the only non-city person in the room besides myself was the pool boy’s pet wannabe blogger, Greg Diamond. Greg DiamondNo one from any reputable newspaper felt it worth covering I guess.

Arriving late, well over two hours after the meeting began, Diamond berated the City Clerk for allowing Council to move expeditiously through the interviews (as if that were her job) and then set up his tripod and camera which he fiddled with periodically throughout what was left of the evening.

While I suppose he captured most of the final three or four interviews and perhaps a bit of the Council discussion that followed, his constant preoccupation with his phone and incessant texting took his attention off of the meeting. He spent 90% of his time focused upon posting his signature lengthy rants to whatever blog he was bombarding.

Anyone who has watched a Council meeting on TV and attended the meeting live will tell you there is no comparison. You take in so much more by being in the room and paying attention than what you could possibly get watching disjointed video clips captured on a static camera or two.

Greg DiamondWatching video clips instead of actually paying attention so severely hampers Diamond’s take on the meeting I question how faithful to the truth his reporting could possibly be.

I’m sure his longwinded poison pen version will be laced with invectives, condemnation and unfounded criticisms that are nothing more than malicious attacks… instead of providing credible journalism or making any honorable effort to inform citizens or positively impact public policy.

He seems to be working out his own self esteem issues at the expense of others. This would explain why he and the pool boy are such tight buddies, they share so much in common… starting with delusions of grandeur and acute narcissism.

8 thoughts on “Treasurer Selection Not An Easy Choice.

  1. Rick,

    You know that for many years, I have been a big proponent of having OCFA contract services to the City of Brea. Back when this was looking like a possibility, that would have saved the City over $1 million dollars a year; a far cry from the pittance we are saving now.

    The time for an oversight committee of citizens is far overdue and I would whole heartedly push for that type of committee.

    • Paul… We’ve both had our doubts, for a long time, over how much, if any, savings were produced by O’Donnell’s heavy handed manipulation of the department.

      Define pittance. Does pension reform fit into your picture?

      No one seems willing to address the topic of reduced service levels either. We have a right to know these things and need to encourage the new Council to develop more robust checks and balances… especially before spending tax dollars or signing long term contracts.

  2. Rick, great article! I was very pleased with the process and outcome. This is the atmosphere we had all hoped for with the BREA City Council.

    As far as our new blogger, I was included in his mailing list. The first read was clear that this author had no clue of what was going on here in Brea.

    I also struggled to find out who wrote this hogwash. That clandestine approach led me to suspect ties to Murdock. After doing more digging, and with your help exposing this kook, I quickly blocked his e-mails.

    I simply don’t need this noise in my life and I would encourage you and your readers to do the same.

    • Kevin… Many of us who participated in the true grass roots side of Operation Clean Sweep harbored high hopes. Watching Murdock’s numbers plummet on election night was seen by many as a sign of better days ahead. My first observations of Council in action reinforce those same hopes. They worked well together Tuesday and reached unanimity selecting a promising new Treasurer.

      Like a bad penny, Diamond isn’t likely to go away… blocking him may be your only solution. On a more positive note, he seems to have pointed many new readers to Brea Matters who find his content and style abhorrant.

  3. I met Bill Christensen and had a lengthy conversation a few years at the Brea Community Center. He had just retired. He impressed me with his knowledge of the financial markets and I’m happy to see that he was selected as our new Treasurer.

    I’m sure you remember that I disagreed with outsourcing fire services to the OCFA. I didn’t care what that deal looked like on paper, their handling of the Triangle Fire in November 2008 was a travesty for Yorba Linda residents and their excuse making over water pressure never sat well with me when you can open “google earth” and see just about every house in the Hidden Hills has a swimming pool.

    It’s also been disclosed that the OCFA is several hundred million dollars behind their on their own pension funding. In my opinion, there won’t be cost savings of police and fire unless there is REAL PENSION REFORM. Since we’ve lost the police services contract with Yorba Linda, I doubt you’ll ever get the BPOA rank and file to ever agree to that.

    As far as a new blog in Brea goes, I am always willing to read another opinion because I’m willing to trust my own brain to make critical judgments. The worst that could happen is that Mr. Diamond could be a late night remedy for insomnia.

    😉

    • Stephen… When O’Donnell convinced Council to pass on any arrangement with OCFA allowing him to redesign the department as he saw fit, what is your recollection of the savings he suggested would be generated? Ditto when O’Donnell decided to merge command staffs with Fullerton, what do you remember were O’Donnell’s promises then? I assume you would support a financial review of the Fire Department expenses.

      Pension reform is number one, most folks agree on that I believe. Reaching agreement on how to mitigate that is a whole other matter. If Council would create and empower a Financial Oversight Committee, do you believe this would get us there any sooner?

    • I have very little hope that anything can be done with regard to lowering costs with police and fire. Their unions are 1) too stubborn and 2) too strong. Any council person who tries will be publicly vilified by the unions PR machine. It’s going to take a unanimous city council to agree to take that battle on. Plus, Tim O’Donnell has no incentive to lower pensions since he is slated to receive one himself. It’s going to take a gutsy city council to do it. I haven’t seen a gutsy council anywhere in Orange County.

      Consolidation of adjacent fire agencies may lead to some improvement in operational efficiency, but in my opinion, it makes the rank and file stronger too. Smaller agencies have less leverage (again, in my opinion).

      One question. Is a cop in Brea deserving of the same pay as a cop in Compton or other high crime areas like Santa Ana? To me that is the problem. Cops in high crime areas are underpaid, and cops in places like Irvine and Brea have nowhere near the problems that a cop in south central LA has to deal with.

      • Stephen… Yours is an opinion shared by more than a few but rarely voiced. Not the most popular position to take publicly. Pension reform has not been high on union’s to do lists. Sooner or later it’s inevitable that unions will have to help contribute to pension reform, the alternative is unthinkable… bankrupt municipalities defaulting on their pensions.

        You’re not going to suck me in on the “what’s a cop worth” rabbit hole. Call me a coward if you wish, but I don’t have the data to turn to and an emotional response would be quickly dismissed. Surely someone out there will respond.

        I will point out this however, both police officer and fire fighter associations withheld donations and endorsements during the last election. It seems both groups see little or no value to be gained by dabbling in politics anymore. They are redirecting their resources towards public service projects. I take this as a welcome sign.

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