City Council takes a drubbing from those who offer pubic comment

March 18, 2011
Santa Paula City Council

The City Council took a drubbing at the February 22 meeting when several people questioned recent actions - or inactions - and one speaker questioned finances.

Delton Lee Johnson noted that although he is “confident nothing is missing,” he said an audit is needed. “The current situation makes me uncomfortable, and it seems obvious,” he told the council, “that some of you have doubts of just where the money has gone.”

Johnson noted the council was told in November it had a $1.2 million General Fund reserve expected to remain through the June 30 end of the fiscal year, but several months later the council learned the funds were spent and there is a $1.8 million end of fiscal year deficit looming. “It comes up to a $3 million loss,” he noted.

Johnson said although he is confident there is a “rational explanation” of finances, “It is in the interest of all citizens” as well as the council and city staff to determine “just where the money went.”

He urged the council to arrange for “an outside firm or state agency to audit all of our finances, especially to include the refuse agency... I have heard conflicting reports of how much money is on hand at this agency.” And once a report is completed, Johnson said the auditor “should report directly to the council and to the people... there is an obvious need to avoid even a hint of bias in selecting the auditing agency.” Johnson said that although he has confidence in the council, “Anything less than a complete, unbiased audit seems likely to leave doubt in the minds of our people, including me.”

Danny Carrillo, SEIU unit chief negotiator for city employees, said he wanted to go on record with concerns and “thoughts we’re having... to try to help the city balance the budget and meet this shortfall.... We’ve always stated in the past and continue to say we’re here to help in a manner both fair in equity and parity, but unfortunately that hasn’t been the case,” with SEIU members being particularly hard hit by past council actions.

Carrillo said members have “suffered the brunt” in the past through layoffs, the elimination of the street division last year, and in recent weeks the contracting out of residential trash services that will cause six employees to be laid off. “True equity,” he noted, would be to have all employees pay into their retirement “as SEIU members do, all but one percent...  that’s true equity.”

Carrillo said that he was taught in boot camp that leaders are taught “not to ask of those in your command to do what you would not do yourself... true leadership leads from the front, not from the back, not from the side.” He noted the City of Ventura’s city manager took a cut above and beyond others, while that city’s mayor made the decision that all on the council would also take cuts.

Resident Lynda Lloyd said she is “worried about Santa Paula, our town is going dead... what are we going to do about it?” Lloyd also said the council has waited too long to tackle the financial situation.

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