Hug it out, West Covina representatives

An editorial tackles Mayor Roger Hernandez’s accusations that the City Council is engaged in a gift of public funds. The editorial conlcudes:

There is every possibility that there might be something to Hernandez’s suspicions about too much money being paid for the property in question. Too much in the way of public funds are spent on redevelopment projects all the time, with little of the proper haggling and due diligence that goes on in the private sector when it’s a person’s or a business’s hard-earned money in play.

So these are legitimate questions, ones that local politicians need to ask more often, in the public interest. And it’s not news that the West Covina council is, sadly, a very dysfunctional family indeed, with no love lost between Hernandez and his colleagues.

But we deserve more from our politicians than the empty gesture that was Hernandez’s stunt.

Speaking of dysfunctional family, some of the behavior seen at City Council meetings is seen among the West Covina commissioners. On Tuesday, the City Council is going to adopt a code of ethics for its commissioners, who have apparently been acting rudely toward city staff and among one another. Among the items on the code of ethics are to be polite to one another, not say comments that could be considered heresay and not direct staff.

So what’s the answer for the West Covina City Council members and its commissioners? Here’s a light hearted recommendation: Watch this video and hug it out.

Chargers refuse new staidum in San Diego, Majestic Realty refuses lawsuit negotiations with Walnut*

Majestic Realty terminates negotiations with Walnut over proposed NFL stadium
By Amanda Baumfeld, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/28/2009 10:00:20 PM PDT

WALNUT – Majestic Realty has terminated negotiations with Walnut over a proposed NFL stadium, saying city officials requested a “wish list of tens of millions of dollars” that had little to do with the project.

As Walnut and Industry parted ways Thursday, San Diego Chargers officials rejected a bid for a new stadium in San Diego. The Chargers are among four teams being courted to move to Industry.

In Walnut, members of the City Council have adamantly opposed Majestic’s proposal for a 600-acre, 75,000-seat stadium complex near the 57/60 freeway interchange in Industry. The project was proposed by billionaire developer Ed Roski Jr., who owns Majestic Realty Co. and is close friends with the Spanos family, which owns the

Read the letter from John Semcken regarding the failed negotiations with Walnut. Chargers.
Roski wants to buy part of a team and move it to Industry.

Majestic Vice President John Semcken on Wednesday night presented a letter to the Walnut City Council outlining his complaints.

On Thursday, he said negotiations with Walnut were over.

“They put together an enormous wish list of items that have nothing to do with project or the impact of the project,” Semcken said. “As a result, until they come back with realistic negotiations with the impacts we hereby terminate all negotiations.”

Some of Walnut’s requests included an aquatics center, a banquet facility, citywide landscaping, a 48-acre park and work to make Meadow Pass Road a through street, according to Semcken’s letter.

“What was in that letter was the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg,” Semcken said.

Jan Chatten-Brown, an attorney hired by Walnut to deal with the stadium issue, said Semcken is “mischaracterizing the conversation.”

“Walnut in good faith tried to quantify the amenities to offset the adverse impact on the quality of life,” Chatten-Brown said.

The city will go to court to challenge the project, she said.

In San Diego on Thursday, Chargers officials turned down developer Perry Dealy’s proposal to build a $1 billion stadium as part of a redevelopment of the land surrounding Qualcomm Stadium.

Hours before the project was to be announced, Chargers attorney Mark Fabiani sent the developer a letter saying the team wanted him to stop referring to the Chargers when promoting the project.

The Chargers in January hired a marketing firm to drum up interest for the team in the Los Angeles area.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

Consultants, Colton and Covina

Covina’s newest City Manager, Daryl Parrish, is scheduled to begin on June 1.

In this story, which ran in The San Bernardino Sun, it discusses a “perception problem” that may have been created when Parrish used $15,000 from Cotlon’s discrentionary funds to hire a consultant to work for the city.

Meanwhile, Covina was using the same consultant to interview city manager applicants. In the end, Parrish was selected for Covina.

Councilman Kevin Stapleton, however, said that Covina used the consultant back in the 1990s when they first hired the previous city manager, Paul Philips, and that the consultant had no say in their selection of Parrish.

Here’s the story:

Colton consultant also worked for Covina, which just hired Colton ‘s city manager
Sun, The (San Bernardino, CA) – Monday, May 25, 2009
Author/Byline: Michael J. Sorba, Staff Writer
Section: News

COLTON – A consultant hired to provide ethics training and other services for the City Council is the same man the Covina City Council used to recruit its new city manager.

Colton City Manager Daryl Parrish was one of 59 applicants who vied for the Covina job and ended up being Covina’s top choice.

The recruiter who narrowed the field from 59 to about 15 is Bill Mathis, a psychologist that specializes in management psychology. Mathis is one of about seven recruiters in the state that helps cities find candidates for high-profile job openings.

In October 2007 Parrish used his $25,000 discretionary fund, which doesn’t require council approval, to award a $15,000 contact to Mathis to aid the council in developing a “norms and ethics policy,” goal setting and provide other services until April 30, city reports say. In August, the council voted 4-3 to extend the contract to June 30 and increase Mathis’ compensation to an amount not to exceed $50,000, reports say.

The situation has raised the eyebrows of some residents who say Parrish and Mathis should have disclosed the issue to the public to avoid any perception of backdoor dealings.

“My understanding is that he ( Parrish ) has been looking for a job elsewhere for a while,” said Frank Navarro, a resident and member of the political group Colton First, which is often critical of city leaders. “It raises questions for anybody who has an interest in the community. Did he use taxpayer money to improve his chances of obtaining a job elsewhere?”

Parrish denies any ill intent in hiring Mathis. In the wake of scandals involving former councilmembers – including Ramon Hernandez and Donald Sanders – Parrish said Councilman David Toro directed him to formulate some sort of ethics system the council would follow and the idea was supported by Mayor Kelly Chastain.

Toro said his intent was to implement a policy that would set consequences if elected officials engaged in unethical activity, but such a system never came to fruition.

The recommendation to use Mathis for ethics training came from the city’s law firm, Best Best & Krieger, city reports say.

Parrish has stated in public that he has applied for city manager jobs in other cities. In 2006 and 2007 he was a finalist for city manager openings in Hemet and Redlands, respectively. Mathis was not the recruiter for either city.

“I think people in the marketplace know that I’m a senior manager,” Parrish said. “There was no premeditation on my part to hire Mathis so I could use him as my personal executive recruiter. The Covina council will attest to that, I’m there because I won the race.”

A hiring committee made up of Covina Mayor Walt Allen and Councilman Kevin Stapleton took the 15 applicants Mathis selected from the entire pool and reduced the field to six finalists. Parrish was unanimously selected by the five-member Covina council, Allen said.

“He (Mathis) had nothing to do with the final selection of the candidate,” Allen said. “There was just no comparison. We had some stellar candidates, but he ( Parrish ) just had what we were looking for.”

Mathis said he didn’t notify the Colton council he had selected Parrish as a candidate from the pool of applicants in Covina because “all of the city managers who were applying were guaranteed by me confidentiality.”

Mathis said he didn’t personally recruit Parrish and he learned the job was available and applied for it on his own.

Jessica Levinson, director of political reform for the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, said applicant privacy is a valid reason for not making the job search public, but public officials should take special care to avoid creating a situation the public could view as unethical.

“It’s the perception problem here,” she said, “of making it look like public officials are going behind the backs of the public and engaging in dealings for their own benefit.

“Whether that was going on or not, the way to avoid that is to be as open and as transparent as possible, especially when you have a city that has a history of scandal. When the public starts to lose faith in their public officials it hurts the integrity of the governmental process.”

Thanks, but no thanks, remaining Rosemead commissioners

Rebecca Kimitch writes that the City Council will replace the entire planning commission, the board that votes on planning related issues in the city:

ROSEMEAD – The City Council voted Tuesday to replace all five members of the Planning Commission because of their support last year of controversial planning changes in the city.

The change marks the latest move by the city council, elected in March, to remove all traces of the former council majority.

Members voted to place Nancy Eng, William Alarcon, Diana Herrera, Victor Ruiz and Joan Hunter on the commission.

The terms of the current five commissioners will be up June 1. Commissioners Daniel Lopez, Todd Kunioka, and Allan Vuu had had applied to be renamed to the commission but were denied because of their support last September of a controversial new general plan – a blueprint for development – in the city, Mayor Maggie Clark said.

Council members also objected to the current commission’s vote last November to allow a chicken slaughterhouse to continue operating in the city, Clark said. The council later reversed that decision.

Though new, the new commission is experienced, Clark said.

Alarcon has served on the city council and the planning commission; Herrera has served on the planning commission; Hunter has served on the traffic commission and as president of the Rosemead Chamber of Commerce; Ruiz has served on the traffic commission and has worked on county public works projects; and Eng has served as a neighborhood watch captain and on the Garvey School Board bond oversite committee.

The planning commission will be tasked this year with revising the new general plan. Though the plan was approved last year, the new council majority has vowed to change it because of concerns that it will increase the city’s population.

Up for wiffleball?

A two-hour ground breaking and grant signing ceremony for the city of Industry Water Recycling project at the Big League Dreams was concluded with a pitching and batting duel between the vice chairwoman’s of two state boards.

Frances Spivy-Weber, Vice Chair of the State Water Resources Board, stood a few feet away and tossed a wiffle ball to Board of Equalization Vice Chairwoman Judy Chu. Chu nailed it…the grounder went right back to the pitcher.

Umping the two-minute display of athletism was Tommy Davis, a former left-fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was all in good fun…

These folks were among the nearly 60 people who attended the ceremony honoring the work of Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipla Water District. Among the elected officials there was Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, West Covina Councilman Steve Herfert, Industry Mayor Dave Perez and at least a dozen elected water officials.

District Attorney receives West Covina complaint

Dave Demerjian, head of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division, said on Tuesday that it received a complaint filed on Friday by Mayor Roger Hernandez, who is alledging that West Covina City Council is gifting public funds. Hernandez himself voted for this development deal, but later tried to change his mind. He failed because there was no quorum. (Background here.)

Demerjian said the office is reviewing it, which is how all complaints all handled. He wouldn’t say whether he thinks there is any meat to this complaint. Will follow up if the D.A. decides to prusue or dismiss it…

City Manager gets $203,490 per year, plus free car, plus free rent, plus 20 days vacation time, plus…

The contract for Covina’s newest City Manager, Daryl Parrish, is going to be approved tonight. Here what he’s getting, according to the contract on page 186 of tonight’s staff report:

1. Annual salary: $203,490, subject to an annual 5 percent bonus pay. Base salary is $199,500, but htat is increaesd because of a 2 percent educational incentive.

2. City Car: Parrish will get a fully equipped sedan capable of seating at least 5 people. Insurance and maintenance paid for by the city.

3. Time off: 75 hours per year of administrative leave, 20 days of vacation leave, same holidays and sick leave accrual as all other city employees.

4. Retirement Benefits: CalPers/PARS benefit totalling 2.7 percent @ 55; plus $250 a month paid by city in a deferred compensation plan.

5. Free Rent: The manager can live at the city owned 125 E. Italia Street property on a month-to-month basis. When the property will be needed for redevelopment purposes, the city will offer housing assistance payment of $1,000 per month.

6. Severance: If the City Manager is fired, he gets a 12 month severance pay ($199,500).


Open Forum: What sacrifices have you had to make as a result of the recession?

It’s clear from some of the responses about Irwindale Police Department that either:

a.) You support the Irwindale Police Department and feel that they have sacrificed enough, or

 b.) You think the Irwindale officers should suck it up and forgo their cost of living adjustment this year.

But whether you’re a police officer, a public employee or work in the private sector, it seems that every household is suffering somehow as a result of the recession.

Open Forum: How has the bad economy affected your take home income?

For example, have you had to take furloughs, a reduction in hours, suspension of holiday pay?

Irwindale Police Union: Their side

Irwindale Police Officer and Union President John Fraijo could not be reached by press time when the story about the budget deficit in Irwindale ran over the weekend.

Police officers refused to forgo their 4 percent salary increase, as outlined in their contract that expires next year. the city asked all employees to forgo their cost of living adjustment this year in light of a projected deficit.

When I spoke to Fraijo today, here is what he had to say about the recent article, reaction and negotiations with the city and the 34-member police union:

“Unfortunately, the article has unfairly damaged the reputation of our members. The article makes it sound like we are the reason the city is in a deficit, when in fact our cost of living adjustment, the 4 percent, is only equally to $160,000, and the city’s proposed budget has a $1.6 million deficit built in it.

Our 4 percent is equal to $160,000, and the city’s proposed budget is $1.6 million — which is 10 percent.

We are not demanding a raise, we are only going forward with terms of 2 year contract that the city mutually agreed to only a year ago. The 4 percent cost of living adjustment was a concession on our part even after the last salary survey completed showed our salary ranking was eight of the ten local surveyed cities. Our members are not being greedy; we sat down with department administrators and city officials approximately three months ago, when they said the city’s projected deficit continued to rise to over $1 million because of mismanagement.

We sat down about three months ago when city’s deficit was projected to rise. At the time, they asked us to work with them, change the schedule, and agree to a change in our contract that would lower the amount of officers assigned to a shift.

This was not an agreement to cut back on overtime, and instead of the city acknowledging our contributions toward lower costs, they publicly stated that they could have imposed the changes even if we didn’t agree to it.

Although the city manager pointed out the cost of services are rising in the article, he also publicly, in front of council, advised the council against the change to Sheriff’s. I can assure you that my members are completely committed toward providing a quality service to both residents and members of our business community.

Obviously, the budget deficit was not created by one department in particular.”

Irwindale police demand raise, council members hold on to health benefits

It looks like Irwindale city employees with be foregoing their 4 percent cost of living increases as part of a proposed 2009-10 budget proposal. Well, not all of the employees – the police officers are still demanding their raise.

In response, the City Council on Wednesday with a 3-2 vote called for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to prepare an estimate of the proposed cost savings if the city of Irwindale got rid of its police department and instead contracted with the sheriff’s department.

Another budget cut that finance administrators recommended were that planning commissioners and city council members ditch their health benefits, which would result in a cost savings of more than $200,000. Council members expressed hesitation on that one, and will decide at a future meeting whether they want to sacrifice their health benefits to save the city money.