Some thoughts on the breaking news out of Montebello, Monterey Park

The news out of Montebello and Monterey Park today is pretty astounding.

First in Monterey Park we learned that former Police Chief Jones Moy cashed in $372,559 in unused sick, vacation and holiday pay before he retired last year.

And for the cherry on the cake, he filed for workers compensation benefits in the months before he left.

Cashing in benefits like this by department managers is going to be an issue in the future, I predict. So many cities are appealing to candidates with large benefit packages, such as a months worth of vacation that can be saved year to year. Plus, many of these same managers already get a certain amount of administrative leave hours (often more than two weeks a year like Glendora’s new chief will get) so they can take a two week vacation and not have touched their paid vacation time.

Work for a city for a city for 12+ years while saving a month’s worth of vacation/sick time each year and suddenly you retire with your CALPERS benefits with the retirement bonus of a year’s salary or more.

Then in Montebello the city depleted its redevelopment agencies budget to refill the general fund budget with a $19.3 million loan. The loan dissenting councilwoman there said the action was probably “illegal.”

Redevelopment money is intended for just that: Redevelopment. The money for such agencies usually comes from county property tax dollars that goes to cities in an effort to fix up blighted neighborhoods. The money is not intended to pay for city salaries, police, services and other general fund expenditures. In fact, as Glendora has seen, if you want a piece of the redevelopment pie, you have to assuredly prove what you are fixing up is blighted. If not, then the gravy train stops short.

It is hard to imagine seeing this hold up.

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Emptying the notes on Glendora’s salary schedule and recent department manager raises

The news came this week that Glendora officials are looking to suspend a recently approved merit increase schedule for managers in an effort to broker a deal for a similar schedule with the Glendora municipal employees association.

Within that story, it was also shown that despite previous representations, Glendora gave raises to three managers PRIOR to the salary schedule being approved, but those raises were reflected within the schedule.

Just to elaborate on this issue are a few facts.

Here is Chris Jeffers, in an e-mail, explaining City Clerk Kathleen Sessman’s salary increases over the last two years, as well as her concessions:

On 10/06/08 received a 2% merit to $8,377. This covered her performance from 2007-08 time period.

On 12/29/08 received a city-wide COLA adjustment of 3% that GMEA; GMA and Directors granted by the City Council to $8,628.

On 7/01/09 Required to pick up 3% of pension for the year.

On 7/01/10 Required to pick up 4.8% of pension and 1.9% sick leave cash out eliminated.

On 7/12/10 received a merit increase of 5% covering the period of time between Oct 2008 and now to $9,064.

So the incumbent’s base salary increase by 10% since 10/08, her total compensation has been permanently reduced by <6.7%> with the action this past July. So the net adjustment is 3.3% increase in compensation in two years.

I will add one thing. That final 5 percent was done in two parts, 2.5 percent the bumped her up to her new step 1 on the approved salary schedule, and then another 2.5 percent, as reflected on the salary schedule, to step 2.

To clear out a few more notes, the big thing about the merit increases was the ability to switch to a more private sector structure of requiring better than satisfactory reviews to get a raise. But within all the department managers’ contracts – prior to the new schedule – was a condition they must receive exemplary performance reviews to get merit increases. What this schedule then does is allow for managers to have a more transparent structure and one that rewards people for longevity.

Given that the city appears to have operated under much of those conditions already, it would seem they wanted this to serve as a model more so than the actual impact it may have on manager salaries and merit increases for them.

Whether or not they will be able to broker a deal is something that remains to be seen.

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Rosedale project gets extension on building fire station

Sensitive to the economy and the housing market crash, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave the Azusa Rosedale housing project’s developers a four year extension on building a fire station for the community.

“We asked them on behalf of developers … if they would consider giving an extension,” Azusa City Manager Fran Delach said. “They had no problem and understood. It’s a good thing that will help Rosedale.”

The developers will have until May 2015 to construct a 6,000 square foot replacement fire station that is contingent on 1,000 homes being sold in the community.

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UPDATE: Azusa school board member faces fine for not properly filing campaign statement

Azusa Unified School Board Member Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez is being fined by the Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to report campaign funds, according to a statement from the commission.

Cruz-Gonzalez, a current school board member, did not meet the deadline for a semi-annual campaign statement for the period between Jan. 1, 2008 and June 30, 2008, according to the statement.

The proposed fine for the failure is $400, according to the FPPC.

In addition to her work as a board member, Cruz-Gonzalez is a well-known anti-mining advocate in the community that has championed an effort to turn down a recent mining plan for the Azusa Rock Quarry.

She has often spoken out regarding the project, but has always said that her role as a board member is separate to her work advocating against the mining project.

UPDATE: Since there was a lot of discussion regarding this post, I did a quick follow up.

Sent a request to the county recorder’s office regarding campaign statements for school board members during the same period Cruz-Gonzalez was fined for not turning in the statements.

Here are the dates each member turned in the statements, according to the county.

Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez 470 Statement 04/28/2010
Barbara Dickerson 460 Statement 07/31/2008
Rosemary Garcia 470 Statement 08/20/2008
John Burke Hamilton 470 Statement 08/18/2008
Ilean M. Ochoa 470 Statement 08/19/2008

UPDATE THE SEQUEL: Got some more information from the county.

The deadline for turning in the statement was indeed July 31 (kudos to David mentioning that below, as I forgot). Following failure to meet the deadline, the county sends a notice to each person that allows an additional 10 days to turn in the statement. If there is no response from that notice, a second specific notice is sent to each person that allows for an additional 15 days to file.

“If they don’t respond after that notice, then we refer them to the FPPC,” said Josefina Arvizu, who works for the Campaign Finance Disclosure Section of the county registrar’s office. “After we send it to FPPC, that is out of our hands.”

MOST EXCELLENT NEWS: Bill and Ted looking to make third feature film

San Dimas High School Football Rules!

Bill and Ted and their most awesome ways may be back for a feature film that would turn the popular stoner comedy into a trilogy, says “Ted” Theodore Logan actor, the one and only, Keanu Reeves.

I remember reading some time back about Reeves wanting in on another Bill and Ted movie but his agent wanted none of that. Well, it looks like Reeves has his own agenda (which is cool that he has cast the wise career advise aside to pay homage to a cult classic).

The original film was set in San Dimas (despite being filmed in Arizona) and featured Raging Waters in the movie. The city recently stole the movie’s slogan “Excellent Adventure” for its 50th anniversary celebration.

Honestly, what better news could there be today? Seriously? What? I can’t think of anything.

And take some advice from Rufus and be excellent to each other today.

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SGV Mystery: The case of the canceled Azusa referendum fundraiser at the American Legion

Too much with the headline? I thought so too.

Anyway… If you are involved in the referendum issue in Azusa regarding Vulcan Materials’ mining project, you are probably aware of the most recent fundraising snafu.

If you aren’t, here is the short recap: Azusans Against Mining Expansion planned a fundraiser for the referendum effort at the Azusa American Legion.

Upon public notice (including a brief in the Tribune) of the event, the legion people got spooked because they feared people thought they were endorsing the referendum effort. Despite another public announcement (another brief in the Tribune) which stated the legion was a neutral party, the event was still canceled.

On the surface, the episode seems to border on the absurd while it sits in the realm of over reaction. Most people know that American Legions, VFWs and other community groups with event halls often rent out those spaces as a way to make a quick buck. In this case, the American Legion was more a location than an entity.

So why the fuss?

For the American Legion officials to react in such a way means their decision became controversial. The question is, how?

Was it public outcry? Possible.

The issue is contentious and the legion is a public facility meant for military personnel of varied political affiliations in Azusa. Maybe they had some angry residents make an issue out of it.

But that’s unlikely.

While the Azusa Rock Quarry is controversial, most of the public outcry has been against the project with support coming at a more tempered tone and often from public officials or pockets of community members.

What is more likely is pressure from public officials. City Council, staff, business partners, Azusa business officials, someone with clout came forward upset with the legion’s decision to host the event. That pressure spawned the political issue and thus the event’s cancellation. Is that true? As of yet, I have nothing to suggest it is besides a whisper here and a grumbling there. But it seems like the most likely reason.

UPDATE: Spoke with councilman Uriel Macias, who has had his own events at the Legion and is a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, and he said he knew nothing about the issues with the Legion and AAME except what he read in the paper.

He said he heard rumors that he called the legion to pressure them out of the event, but called that assertion “ridiculous.”

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We’re going back in time…

I imagined the song from Back to the Future when I wrote that headline. Sadly, all I have to show for it is weekend in review.

This story is a bit older than the weekend, but I wasn’t here to post it. Cal Poly Pomona’s iconic CLA building may be on its last leg. Officials are seeking to get rid of the pointed structure and replace it with a more efficient building. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I graduated from Cal Poly Pomona. The building is the face of the university. It is hard to believe it would be gone, but as a friend said “at least I still have the Gattaca DVD) (NOTE: The building was used in the movie Gattaca.)

Crystal Lake Campground is struggling to survive without Highway 39 (is there a theme running here?). With the highway project stalled, the campground is near shutting down.

And to brighten your spirits, the annual Route 66 Parade passed through Duarte. Check out the photo gallery when you get a chance.

UPDATE: I forgot to add. D Club is D Closed.

Glendora councilman Doug Tessitor’s apology

Glendora councilman Doug Tessitor was caught with his foot in his month last month when debating the merits of imposing a new set of contract restrictions on the general employees association.

Tessitor had said it was “BS” when the association claimed the police officers association and others made concessions to help spare the general employees association. It later came out – from the POA – that it was actually quite true.

To his credit, Tessitor owned it. He did so in the Tribune and made remarks at Glendora’s council meeting Tuesday admitting his mistake. (Relevant discussion is at 33:30)

The one gripe I might have is that Tessitor says that POA President Mike Henderson told him the city rejected the POA’s offer of taking a bullet for the GMEA.

When I spoke with Henderson, his characterization to me was that the city accepted their proposal, only to renege later in an effort to have equal cuts.

Henderson’s words to me were: “After we made the concession they still pursued 3 percent and we found out that it was desired to have every group in the city give up the same amount.” (italic emphasis added by me)

That doesn’t exactly jive with Tessitor’s recap of what happened.

League of California Cities releases a survey of city manager salaries across the state

The League of California Cities (doesn’t the name make it seem like a superhero group?) released a survey today of city manager compensation from cities across the state. Of the 468 cities asked to participate, about 90 percent responded, according to a statement from the League of California Cities.

If you want to see the survey, click here.

The survey includes notes on additional benefits, but nothing detailed. The salary totals are the total income for the manager from their 2009 taxes, rather than a base salary.

Some immediate things that jumped out at me was Daryl Parish’s income from 2009, which was a whopping $328,830. That sum includes a cash payout of sick and vacation time from a “previous employer” (probably Colton) of about 1400 hours over an 18 month period.

The city manager of Glendale, Jim Starbird, manages a city of more than 200,000 people and made $251,000 in 2009. Duarte’s City Manager Darrell George manages a city of about 22,000 people and made $215,440. Glendora’s City Manager Chris Jeffers made $234,000 for a city of 52,000 people. Robert Griego, Irwindale’s former city manager, oversees a city of 1,717 and made $235,502. Don Hannah, La Habra’s city manager made $171,903 with a city population of 62,822. Fran Delach, Azusa’s city manager, made $252,000 for a city of more than 48,000. Santa Ana’s City Manager David Ream makes $240,000 in a city of 357,000 people.

I don’t see West Covina or Whittier on the list. CORRECTION: Whittier is on the list. A gap on the list fooled me into thinking it was the end. I feel like I finished a school test before everyone else, turned it in, only to later realize there was a back side I never knew about. Anyway, Whittier is $283,346 for Stephen Helvey.

Are any other local cities missing?

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Duarte mayor uses Azusa Rock Quarry comparison to argue against marijuana dispensary

I am asking for trouble writing about this, so here is a warning:

This post is Vulcan related.

I covered the medical marijuana dispensary public hearing last night in Duarte where the Regional Planning Commission rejected a plan for one in an unincorporated county area in Arcadia, which is near El Monte, Baldwin Park, Duarte and Monrovia.

The first speaker was Margaret Finlay, mayor of Duarte, who compared the issue of the dispensary to that of her city’s battle against Vulcan Materials Co.’s Azusa Rock Quarry mining plan.

“People that are for this are those who are doing to make money off of it,” Finlay said of the mining plan. “I think this (dispensary plan) is a similar situation.”

Leon San Blas, the applicant for the dispensary, said he was opening the business not to make money, but out of the goodness of his heart. San Blas, wheel chair bound himself, uses medical marijuana to relief pain.

I don’t think too many people bought the “it’s marijuana to help the community” business plan.

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