Fair game: employee salaries

The Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District is going to consider yanking Bill Robinson on Tuesday from his appointed post on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California after he questioned whether the labor unions are immune from budget cuts.

In the meantime, Irwindale City Manager Robert Griego said that he will meet with the police officers union and managers union on Wednesday to inform them of possible ways to control cost measures such as controlling overtime, modifcation to different benefit programs, and modifying things like tuition reimbursement to reduce operating costs.

Diamond Bar politicians ‘go after everything’

Diamond Bar is celebrating its 20th birthday, and during that time, politicians have been playing hard-ball, Bethania Palma Markus reports.

Former Councilwoman Eileen Ansari, who served on the council from 1993 to 2001, has first-hand experience, as do many who have run for City Council.

“They were saying I went to Pakistan and went to meet with al Qaeda,” she said of a City Council election she lost eight yeas ago. “They go after people’s kids. They go after everything.”

UPDATED: Council districts, sewer fees and anti-Roger

West Covina City Council is meeting tomorrow. Among the topics on the agenda:

1. The city is considering raising sewer fees 63 cents a month per household, which could generate $200,000. The money could only be used for sewer maintenance and operation.
As public works director Shannon Yauchzee said, 63 cents “isn’t bad.”

2. The council will give direction on Tuesday regarding the Fred Sykes and Co. proposal to divide the city into voting districts. The county recently OK’d the signatures signed on a petition. There are enough signatures to qualify for a general election, but they failed to meet their goal to get enough signatures for a special election.

3. Good news for street paving: The council will vote on $1.3 million worth of street improvement projects.

4. Councilman Steve Herfert has requested that the council discuss Mayor Roger Hernandez’s request to be quoted in all city issued publications.

UPDATED: Funding the races

So, Cedillo’s people were the first to send out a press release stating how much has been raised so far in fundraising. He’s at $568,000.

Then, Emanuel Pleitez announced that he has raised $152,777.

And that latest to send her information was Judy Chu, who raised $770,167.

Here’s some of Chu’s press release:

The breadth and strength of Judy Chu’s campaign for Congress was demonstrated again today as candidates reported their first fundraising numbers for this May 19 special election.

In the first three months of 2009, Judy Chu collected an impressive $770,167, over $200,000 more than her nearest rival, State Senator Gil Cedillo.

Judy Chu, Vice-Chair of the California State Board of Equalization, reported a strong $577,609 cash-on-hand figure at the end of the period.

From Pleitez’s press release:

LOS ANGELES – Today the Emanuel Pleitez Campaign for Congress announced that it has raised $152,777 in campaign contributions through the first quarter of 2009. That surprisingly large figure, coupled with a ground force of 25 full-time volunteers engaged in technology, finance, communications and grassroots outreach efforts, places the 32nd District candidate squarely in the middle of a three-way race for the vacant Congressional seat.

“Our field and fundraising efforts have exceeded expectations, and we have proven that we are contenders in this race,” said Pleitez. “But the financial reports only tell part of the story of my campaign. We’ve got 25 full-time volunteers who are donating their time to this effort, and it’s impossible to calculate their value. Not only are they giving us their expertise, they’re also contributing their enthusiasm for the political process and their determination to bring new leadership to the 32nd District.”

“I’ve heard from countless voters that they are tired of politics as usual, and they are ready for new leadership. We have the most robust team on the ground talking to voters every day, and that’s what is going to secure our victory in this campaign,” Pleitez said.

And here’s a portion of Cedillo’s press release:

State Senator Gil Cedillo today reported having raised $568,000 in the first quarter of 2009, with over $441,000 cash on hand.  Cedillo officially entered the race for the vacant 32nd Congressional District in late January, giving him just over two months to raise money prior to the first fundraising disclosure deadline.  The FEC quarter one deadline was on Tuesday, March 31st and the reports are made public today.


The Cedillo campaign has publicly stated an ambitious goal of raising $750,000 prior to the May 19th Special Primary Election.  The strong quarter one fundraising numbers mean the campaign has already raised 75% of the desired budget.

Maximum Cedillo exposure


So it seems everyone is still buzzing about this Los Angeles story documenting $125,000 in campaign money Sen. Gil Cedillo has used for shopping sprees, lavish hotels and gourmet food.

The Times’ Hector Tobar followed up with his own take on the story and the Latino politico circle Monday.

Our own Rebecca Kimitch is working on a story as well.

Of course, why does the San Gabriel Valley care? Because Cedillo is going up against a host of other candidates for the 32nd Congressional District seat. He’s considered by many political analysts as the only other “real” powerhouse candidate, aside from State Board of Equalization head Judy Chu.

What do you think? Will this hurt his chances?

Congressional race heats up

There was a great story in the paper yesterday looking at the 32nd Congressional race, written by Rebecca Kimitch.

What I found particularly interesting is that Monterey Park Councilwoman Betty Tom Chu is throwing her name in the hat. I wonder how badly that will pull the vote away from Judy Chu, who is the Board of Equalization Chairwoman. Judy Chu’s consultant called the move by Betty Tom Chu, who will drop the “Tom” on the ballot, as a dirty trick.

Tom Chu said she is running to represent Monterey Park at the federal level. As a side note, Judy Chu is a Monterey Park resident and started her political career by serving on the Garvey School District and then on the Monterey Park City Council.

Kimitch also mentions Sen. Gil Cedillo’s spending, which the L.A. Times details.

The La Puente employee mystery solved

So Monday’s closed session meeting to “CONSIDER PUBLIC EMPLOYEE DISCIPLINE/DISMISSAL/RELEASE” had nothing to do with City Attorney James Casso, city officials tell me.

Apparently, an employee who was “released not too long ago after a long history of reprimands,” made an appeal to the City Council to get his job back, Mayor Louie Lujan said.

It didn’t work.

“It had nothing to do with any department heads or any management staff,” Lujan said. “It’s someone within the Parks and Rec Department … Someone in the capacity of like a groundskeeper.”

Meanwhile, Casso’s job could be on the line.

The city is seeking out proposals for legal services, but it has nothing to do with the employee evaluation the Council did last week on Casso, Lujan said.

Apparently during that closed session evaluation last month, the Council decided on a 3-2 vote to seek out proposals from other firms — something the city hasn’t done since Casso came on board in 2001.

“We owe it to our residents to allow the market to show us what is out there,” Lujan said. “We can take whatever action is necessary as result of what was discussed in the review process.”

Lujan said Casso was amicable about the process, and the move is in no way a reflection of Casso’s performance. Instead, it has to do with a recommendation made to the city by Management Partners — the firm hired to go over processes at City Hall.

So is Casso on the outs? Not necessarily.

“All options are going to be laid on the table and we’re gonna weigh each option and determine which option is the best one for the city,” Lujan said.

Need medical coverage? Just move to Irwindale

Jennifer McLain reports today that the “Jardin de Roca” or “Garden of Rocks” city has been offering subsidized medical and vision coverage to residents for 30 years. The price tag: $1.

The plan cost the city $1.1 million last year.

In many cases, the coverage is better than what some residents get from employers, said City Manager Robert Griego.

Residents in the 2008-09 fiscal year paid $3 for a 34-day supply of generic medication. The $3 refills were unlimited.

Glasses frames less than $55 were free. So were lenses. And for a $25 deductible, a resident could get contact lenses.

“Our program should be the last resort,” Griego said. “Unfortunately, residents are turning to this program first.”

The city is looking to trim the program back a bit, but the coverage will still be there. Nice perk for simply being a resident.

Today’s Leftovers column

In Rosemead, the price of change comes with a $330,000 price tag.

Oliver Chi, who served as city manager for two years, was dismissed Tuesday from the city’s top executive position and is expected to be replaced temporarily by Jeffrey Stewart, a former Rosemead city employee and former city manager of El Segundo.

Chi’s severance package comes just two years after Andrew Lazzaretto received a nearly $250,000 paycheck after the council fired him. But such severance packages are not unusual for city managers. At least, not any more.

About 20 years ago, very few city managers had contracts, said Bill Garrett, executive director of the California City Management Foundation. The theory behind not having contracts was because city managers worked at the will of the council the council should decide when the city manager should leave.

“As time when on, it became apparent that there really needed to be some protection from just an arbitrary firing without any compensation,” Garret said. T

oday, nearly all California city managers have contracts, and the primary reason is for the severance package.

California state law limits the amount of severance package to no more than 18 months, which is what Chi and Lazzaretto negotiated. “I would suggest that it is typical these days for city manager contracts to have from nine to 12 months,” Garret said, “because it probably takes about that time to get a new job.” *


Diamond Bar got a $20 million settlement this week from Industry over Ed Roski’s proposed NFL stadium and entertainment complex.

Under the agreement, which rules out a lawsuit from Diamond Bar, the city will receive more than $20 million to deal with traffic, noise and light effects from the stadium, Bethania Palma Markus reported.

But Industry still has two more outstanding lawsuits to deal with: one filed by the city of Walnut and the most recent suit filed another filed by a Walnut citizen group. T

he group, Citizens for Communities Preservation Inc., said it wanted to make sure there was a lawsuit just in case the recall effort targeting Walnut Councilman Joaquin Lim, Councilwoman Nancy Tragarz and Mayor Mary Su is successful.

And still no word on what team — or teams — could be coming to Industry.


It’s hard to paint a rosy picture when unemployment and deficits in area cities are the highest they’ve been in years, but new Covina Mayor Walt Allen tried his best to have a positive outlook when he delivered the state of the city address Wednesday.

“All in all, I am extremely optimistic about Covina’s future, and I have no doubt that we will be able to enhance the quality of life in Covina,” he said.

Among the city’s goals over the next three years are to improve and promote customer service, enhance financial stability and improve and expand parks, library and recreation services.

Allen highlighted some of the city’s accomplishments over the past year, including a balanced budget, the ability to stave off the closure of departments and layoffs and getting voter approval to extend the user’s utility tax.