The jury is still out – Part One

On January 25th, Council Member Roy Moore published Issue 597 of his Brea Net newsletter.

In it he chronicles the events surrounding the raise Council gave themselves back in June, especially the fiasco following and the eventual reversal of that decision.

As of today, all Council Members except Brett Murdock have arranged to pay back the $3,600 they each received in retroactive pay.

To put everything I’m about to say into context, I highly recommend you first read Roy’s full newsletter by clicking the link above.

Roy Raises Important Issues.

Within Roy’s explanation of events, which I personally find to be the most credible thus far and consequently the most believable, are several important issues that have not been adequately or publically addressed.

These issues include nominally related matters being lumped together as consent items providing a convenient means of masking the serious nature of the topic, items that would be more honestly addressed independently and within formal public hearings; the continued poor, sometimes incomplete preparation of staff reports; the wrongfully diminished authority of the Mayor and Council Members, particularly in the matter of the Mayor’s managing and setting of agenda discussion items; personal and political agendas taking precedent over the will of a majority of the community.

And, finally, procedural policies and protocols that provide numerous opportunities for Council and staff to, inadvertently or willfully, commit malfeasance in the course of carrying out their duties with little or no opportunity for public oversight or intercession.

My next few blog entries will address these issues in more detail, beginning with…

The Misleading Nature Of Consent Items.

In his report Roy points out, “At the June 7, 2011 council meeting the Consent Calendar consisted of seven consent items.

The Consent Calendar is where multiple items, mostly routine, are considered and passed by a single vote without discussion.

Item 12.7 consisted of three separate elements: 1) The contract memorandum between the City of Brea and the Brea Fire Management Association, 2) salary range increases and a flex benefit increase of $450/month for city executives, and 3) part time employee salary increases.

I pulled Item 12.7 off of the Consent Calendar for separate discussion and vote.  The three elements were also separated for separate votes. Elements 1 and 3 were unanimously passed.  Element 2, after discussion, was passed on a 4-1 vote with me dissenting.”

Though it may be somewhat more convenient to consolidate similar matters, minimally discussed at study sessions, into single consent items in order to shorten meetings, the public is denied the opportunity to fully follow and understand the matters in question, to make public inquiry for clarification or make public comment to make Council aware of what their constituents would prefer.

Closing thoughts.

I believe the people of Brea would be best served if Council would put the subject of Consent Calendar items on the agenda for discussion, not at a study session but during a regular televised meeting, so that the public might weigh in on the matter. It is long overdue to revisit what should and should not be designated as justification to put an item, or collection of items, on the Consent Calendar.

Next time on Brea Matters.

Flex benefits, who knew what when and were there any ethical breaches or laws bent or broken?

Politics in Brea are all about getting even.

Though interviewed and recommended by City Treasurer Parker and senior Council member Simonoff, one of Brea’s most trusted and long standing financial advisors, Phil Anton, was rudely dismissed during study session last night without cause and replaced with a comparative amateur.

Over the years, Phil has given this community countless hours of volunteer time, shared his unrivaled expertise and supported numerous philanthropic and charitable programs. Here is his emailed response, without edit, sent to a substantial number of Brea’s leading citizens and, of course, to the politicians as well.

“City of Brea Investment Advisory Committee, Council members, and staff,

I would like to thank all of you for the opportunity to serve as your City of Brea’s Independent Investment Advisor for the past several years.  It has been my privilege and pleasure to volunteer in having a hand in the sound financial management of our City and Redevelopment Agencies’ investment portfolios and policies.  However, I am bewildered as to the direction our local politics appear to play in the decisions being made in our city, and I would like to elaborate some.

I feel that I am among the most experienced and qualified investment advisors in the City of Brea and have the specific knowledge required to look after our city’s investment funds.  I have personally managed the investment portfolios of both the County and City of Los Angeles, and of the L.A. Unified School District while working as Senior Portfolio Manager & Regional Vice President in Bank of America’s Southern California Investment Division.  My investment record while managing these fixed income portfolios has been lauded by all three of these entities.  I, also, ran B of A’s growth stock fund as portfolio manager during my tenure there.  I was later president of a regional securities broker dealer with offices in 11 states.

I believe experience counts when handling or looking over city investment funds, and if we had this type of back up looking over Bob Citron’s shoulder several years ago, I do not believe the County of Orange would have fallen into bankruptcy.

For three City Councilmen to remove me (I did not resign) from the position I held on this committee, and to appoint an experienced investment professional with the savvy and experience to replace me is one thing, but to remove me to appoint a replacement member without formal investment portfolio experience to assist as a watch dog of our city’s portfolios demonstrates to me and others that the three of you are more concerned with personal petty politics than you are the fiscal well-being of the city.

I am pleased and proud that others in this community wish to serve, however to forgo experience and knowledge only demonstrates that three council members would jeopardize the city’s financial well-being.

I want to thank our elected City Treasurer Glenn Parker, Council member Marty Simonoff and Council member Roy Moore for their support and confidence in my ability and experience.  To the remaining three elected officials in Brea, I pray that you correct your ways of bringing politics into city decisions, and remember that you are here to best serve our Brea citizens.

Sincerely,

Phillip R. Anton”

Closing thoughts.

Thankfully, City Treasurer Glenn Parker was wise enough to ask Phil if he would be willing to continue assisting the committee in an unofficial capacity and Phil, typical of his willingness to pitch in and help, has agreed. Frankly, I think we all can sleep a little easier knowing that we have an advocate keeping an eye on the money for us.

How long we’re going to continue to let Council get away with keeping this sort of behavior out of public view by hiding it in the study sessions is beyond me. If we can’t move study sessions downstairs to be televised and recorded, or at least schedule them at a time when most Breans might be able to attend, the only remaining option is to put into office “politicians” who, as Phil put it, “…are here to best serve our Brea citizens.”