South El Monte Mayor says marijuana dispensary issue is done

Spoke with Mayor Louie Aguinaga about the South El Monte vote on changing its city ordinance on marijuana dispensaries to limit the amount in the city to just one. The previous ordinance allowed for two.

The council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the new ordinance, but a second reading and vote is still necessary. I was skeptical this was the end of the road for the ordinance since this issue has changed so often when it seemed the council was leaning in one direction.

When I asked Aguinaga what he thought, he said “It is the end of this one. It is done.”

We will see if that holds up come September. More to come on this story in tomorrow’s paper and online.

Glendora, El Monte and South El Monte council agendas

It is Tuesday, which means numerous council meetings are tonight.

Glendora: Big items include a discussion about the end of the Redevelopment Agency via its 2017-2019 sunset date and a presentation on the city’s strategic plan.

El Monte: It is another special council meeting with the only item on the agenda concerning a resolution to apply for a grant under Prop. 85 – “THE SAFE DRINKING WATER, WATER QUALITY AND SUPPLY, FLOOD CONTROL, RIVER AND COASTAL PROTECTION BOND ACT OF 2006.”

South El Monte: The big ticket item is a vote to put on the November ballot a resolution that would change the city’s municipal code to limit the number of marijuana dispensaries to one. The current code allows for two.

Reporter Thomas Himes a finalist for CNPA award

San Gabriel Valley Tribune Staff Writer Thomas Himes is a finalist in the public service category for a statewide journalism contest for his reports on legally questionable police checkpoints and vehicle seizures in the Los Angeles suburb of Baldwin Park.

The California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) notified the Tribune Friday that Himes was selected as a finalist in the 2010 Better Newspapers Contest. The first place winner will be announced at CNPA’s annual banquet April 16 in Los Angeles.

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune is one of 21 newspapers in the 25,001 to 100,000 daily circulation division, Contest Coordinator Terri Vanderveer said.

The Baldwin Park City Council suspended police checkpoints last year and drafted more lenient vehicle impound policies after Himes wrote a series of articles on the checkpoints and the $1.2 million police netted in vehicle impounds.

Would you take $484,000 in unused leave time given the opportunity?

Glendora Mayor Ken Herman made an interesting appeal to the audience at Tuesday’s council meeting in defending City Manager Chris Jeffers’ 2007 cash out of $484,000 of unused leave time when he left the same post in Monterey Park.

Herman was critical of the tone of the debate (and, I assume, the reporting of said actions) that Jeffers had done something wrong (he said something about extorting, which has never been said in this paper). In addition, Herman has often defended Jeffers actions by saying he benefited from policy not created by him.

At the same time, he often doesn’t talk about the fact that Jeffers negotiated and helped write his contract that allowed him to acrrue vacation time at a rate of one day off every week during his final year of employment, according to documents and officials.

In Jeffers defense, Herman said Tuesday that “there is nobody in this room that wouldn’t have done the same thing. He took what was rightfully his.”

It isn’t an uncommon argument to make when someone is either defending an action taken by themselves or someone else. Appeal to people’s emotions and have them reevaluate themselves. If I would have done it, one might think, I shouldn’t judge someone who did.

I don’t think the objection by most people is that Jeffers did something illegal (some might, and there have been allusions to Bell. I will leave that to others to justify those positions), but I think the major complaint comes in the form of distrust in those stewards of the community whom we have bestowed the responsibility of leading our cities and overseeing our bank accounts.

Did Jeffers earn (by not taking it) many days of vacation over his years of employment and merely followed city policy in cashing out those left over days? Yes. Should he be exonerated because he was, in a sense, just following the rules?

The problem is, I suspect, from the community is that when there is a public in place that clearly abuses public funds, they expect those at the top to correct it, not take advantage of it. Jeffers, as the city manager, and the council members above him, are – in the eyes of the public – there to make sure such policies don’t exist, and if they do, find them and correct them. Jeffers didn’t do that in Monterey Park (while, some argue, he did correct that policy in Glendora) and that is where the distrust is found.

With that said, I think Herman has a point. We live in a society where money is good, making a living is great, and being rich is admired. Everyone hopes to make more money.

If you had the opportunity to cash your vacation time at work and you accrued a month or more of that time a year, would you have done the same?

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A city manager’s worth: Glendora considers new contract for Chris Jeffers amid criticism

Posted this online earlier:

GLENDORA – On the eve of consideration of a new long-term contract with their city manager, a new survey of employees calls into question the leadership abilities of Glendora’s top administrator.

The City Council will consider a new four-and-a-half-year contract tonight for City Manager Chris Jeffers. The city manager, who makes about $202,000 in base annual salary, has worked for the city since 2007.

Also on tonight’s agenda is a survey of city employees that showed an overall satisfaction rate of 73.2 percent, but many of the comments submitted by workers were critical of Jeffers.

“He has been publicly outed on more than once occasion and yet he continues to have a job,” wrote one commenter. “Will all employees be forgiven for lying should they too be found out?”

More than 40 comments were critical of Jeffers directly or cited problems with the city’s leadership. There were 313 comments total on six questions. The survey was compiled through responses from 136 employees out of 206 that were asked to respond.

Jeffers could not be reached for comment.

“We are pleased that employees are satisfied with their jobs and believe they are an important part of our service delivery,” said Mayor Ken Herman in a written statement. “In these tough financial times and with the city’s recent pension reform and benefit reductions, we expected that we would receive some sharp complaints. Overall
the results show the satisfaction to be on par with what other agencies that perform these obtain.”

City administrators and general employees have been battling in recent months after contentious negotiations with the general employees association.

The city was asking the association to take less benefits, while also shifting policy to have employees pay a full portion of their CalPERS pension benefit.

In the end, an impasse was declared and the council imposed new contract conditions on employees.

During the process, an attorney representing the association was critical of Jeffers and said he was dishonest. The attorney, Wendell Phillips, wasn’t surprised at the critical comments for Jeffers.

“I think (employees) love the city and I think they love the residents, but I think they are totally frustrated with the lack of leadership from the city manager,” Phillips said. “Here is a guy who regularly lies to his bosses and their response to him was to give him a multi-year deal with a $200,000 buy out. That is insanity.”

Jeffers has been strongly supported by members of the council, as well as those seeking election. Councilwoman Karen Davis defended the long-term contract as one that creates stability by keeping Jeffers in house for years to come.

In previous discussions, all seven candidates running for council in March said they support Jeffers as the city’s top executive.

Jeffers contract, as well as the employee survey, are on the agenda for tonight’s meeting at 7 p.m. at Glendora City Hall, 116 E. Foothill Blvd., Glendora.

Glendora candidates meet with Tribune editors

Remember that story the Chicago Tribune did about their editorial meeting with the candidates for Mayor where all the candidates ganged up on Rahm Emanuel and it was a pretty testy meeting?

Well, we had our Glendora candidates editorial board meeting (which I sat in on, but I am not part of the editorial board) and it was … not like that meeting at all. In fact, everyone was really nice to each other and Doug Tessitor kind of encapsulated the tone of the meeting in his comments.

“The exciting thing about this whole discussion … this is the first time one of these meetings that I have been excited about the people running for local government,” Tessitor said of his fellow competitors.

Most of Monday’s discussion with the board centered around pension reform, local development and leadership styles, not unlike the recent candidates forum.

All the candidates agreed on the idea that employees need to pay a full share of the CALPERS pension benefit. Currently, three employee groups pay a full share of the employee portion of the pension benefit with police union negotiations upcoming.

Any differences on the subject came in how the change should be implemented as most candidates favored a tiered system while a few said a full-switch was needed.

I will have more on those topics and more in a story this weekend.

Various candidates will be meeting with our editorial board for the next month, who will in turn endorse candidates for the March 8 election. I will have something on Azusa later this week.

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Part of a well balanced breakfast, don’t forget to add some weekend links!

I saw the Social Network yesterday. Good film, if not wholly accurate. Aaron Sorkin’s writing style – and the dialogue that follows – may not be for everyone, but I always enjoy it. Only a few more films to see before I got all the Oscar nominated films covered.

Anyway, you didn’t come here for my film ramblings (oh, how I wish you did), but here are some weekend links you might have missed while watching “The Rite.”

A 230-foot tower is getting planted next to some homes in Duarte. Naturally, they had a few concerns.

Glendora became another city trying to keep Gov. Jerry Brown and the state away from their redevelopment dollars.

No new taxes, is the familiar cry of many elected officials. But increased fees? That’s totally different.

New contract for Glendora’s chief cuts benefits

Went over the new contract for Glendora Police Chief Rob Castro who was approved by the council Tuesday.

Highlights include:

– No administrative leave time
– Base salary of roughly $180,000 a year
– Vacation capped at 200 hours, will accrue at the rate of 176 hours
– If he is terminated, will receive 6 months severance.
– Will pay full share of the employee portion of CALPERS.

Background: Former chief Montoya cashed out $80,000 in unused leave time when he retired in 2009. He credited the ability to use administrative leave in place of vacation in order to save it.

Full story in tomorrow’s paper.