Archive for February, 2011
Has the mayor and council members adopted the elephant? They want to sweep the $73 million under the carpet.I have been told that the elephant’s name is Civic Corruption.With today’s mentality, the Fox will continue to guard the chicken coop
In agreement with a west valley editorial post for Surprise, AZBut the community should expect its leaders to demonstrate they’re acting purposefully and to articulate where the city is heading. Otherwise, conspiracy theories, conjecture and innuendo fill the void left by the absence of a clear definition of “new direction.”
It is my view that a city watch group can successfully accomplish their goals if they stay on the issues and not attacking individuals and the realization that they are not a news organization.
Pasadena Star News
What’s going on in Montebello?
That is the question heard on the streets of this city of 64,000 people in the southwest of the San Gabriel Valley.
From our staff’s investigative reports, we know that so far the shenanigans include the discovery of two mysterious, off-the-books city bank accounts; loans from the redevelopment agency to the General Fund have been made to stave off bankruptcy; misused federal funds; what some are describing as forged signatures on federal documents.
The District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division has opened an inquiry.
In short, Montebello is starting to look like the next Bell, poster child for civic corruption.
Not so far from Montebello, former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo has been in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom for a hearing to determine whether or not he will stand trial for allegedly forging documents and misappropriating taxpayer funds.
This is a fate no one would wish on the citizens of Montebello. But while new City Council member Christina Cortez vows to get to the bottom of the funding mysteries, she also warns “this is the tip of the iceberg.” Meaning things might get worse in Montebello before they get better.
One solution could come from an independent audit done by John Chiang, the state controller. He recently told us his office was working on audits of several cities’ redevelopment agencies at the behest of Gov. Jerry Brown, whose budget proposes to dissolve city CRAs and transfer uncommitted funds to the state treasury.
The Montebello situation should take precedence.
The fact that the city was unaware of a bank account that once contained $900,000 but now has only $5,000 raises way too many red flags. Money as big as that nowhere in the ledger books can’t be written off as an oversight.
Red flags are raised as well by the call the city received last month from an official at Banco Popular, a bank the city does not normally use, saying a “dormant account” opened by the city containing $240,000 would be transferred over to the state as unclaimed property unless the city acted - fast.
The city launched its own investigation as to why this account was left off the books. But that is like the fox guarding the hen house. The residents of Montebello need to hear from an independent source exactly what’s going on.
Which brings us to the issue of the role of a city treasurer. He or she is supposed to go over the books and sign off on all accounts, as well as report any improprieties to the City Council. Since Geri Guzman, a Montebello School Board member and the city’s treasurer from 1999 to 2007, has not returned reporters’ phone calls, we don’t know what she knows or when she knew it. The same could be said about her successor, Norma Lopez, who resigned recently.
It’s not clear what role these two played, if any. But we are concerned about elected treasurers who come into these positions by political means and then disappear just as quickly. Shouldn’t they be held accountable? What is the real reason to elect a treasurer rather than appoint a trained financial manager?
But we’ve also been told stories about treasurers in other small and medium-sized cities in the San Gabriel Valley who have no power to ferret out irregularities and bring them to light. Most often, these cities are run by appointed managers who have the final say over what information gets released to the public and when - public records act be d**ned.
Montebello’s troubles serve as a warning to other cities. City treasurers must be given access to all financial records and the autonomy to question any account activity deemed irregular. Financial information should be fully released to the public in a timely manner - including information dealing with redevelopment funds and reserve funds.
A good place to start in getting completely transparent with financial records in this time of overwhelming citizen skepticism and anger about how their money is spent would be posting all such records on our cities’ own websites.
Taken from the comment column of The Arizona RepublicMark Coronado is interim City Manager and part of the original problem.. Surprise still does not get it.
ICM Coronado has been here since day one, he probably knows the whole story_
Prosecutors Probe Missing Money in City
Officials have discovered off-the-books accounts, and
say they don’t know why they exist.
Feb 23, 2011 … L.A. County prosecutors said they will investigate the city of Montebello over reports that city funds have been mismanaged or drained from …
I told you the Council at your meeting on the 22nd of February that some or more persons must be held accountable.
Why not in the City of surprise, where $73 million we are told was misallocated. That now the City of Surprise is a high audit risk and that 50% of federal money must be audited.
Feb 23, 2011 … L.A. County prosecutors said they will investigate the city of Montebello over reports that city funds have been mismanaged or drained from …
Feb 23, 2011 … MONTEBELLO (KTLA) — The city of Montebello could soon be under investigation over mismanaged funds.
Saks Fifth Avenue partners w. Caring for Canines for Charity Auction
On March 10, 2011, Caring for Canines, a non-profit animal rescue, will host a Bachelor/Bachelorette Charity Event in Saks Fifth Avenue at Biltmore Fashion Park. The evening event will include a charity auction to win a date with one of our wonderful bachelors and bachelorettes, including; former NFL and MLB players, physicians, and fashion models. Entertainment includes live music, a champagne toast and a private shopping experience at Saks Fifth Avenue, including special discounts for attendees! In addition, the silent auction includes sports memorabilia from hockey, football and baseball.
The event starts at 6:30pm, with a champagne toast at 7:15pm and the Bachelor/Bachelorette auction starting at 7:30pm. The silent auction and the evening will end at 9.30pm.
This is the first year “Caring for Canines” has partnered with Saks Fifth Avenue and we are so pleased to provide a wonderful evening to all our generous attendees. All proceeds from the event will be used to rescue abandoned dogs and puppies throughout the Valley.
Surprise, Arizona and their $73 million mystery
California State Wire section
Report: Redevelopment cash used for other purposes
The Associated Press
State Wire section
Montebell probed over mystery bank accounts
The Associated Press
Bill Lipscomb’s statement to the Surprise City Council meeting of 22 Feb 2011
* Mayor Truitt left the dais right after the preceding workshop and did not attend the regular council meeting. No reason given for his absence.
Good evening Vice Mayor Hall* and members of this council.
My name is Bill Lipscomb. I am proud to be a 23 year resident of the City of Surprise, and I am also proud to be associated with a group of concerned Surprise citizens called ORCA.
I come before you this evening to – again – express a serious and continuing concern of not only mine but of many others.
On April 24 of last year, your I-GOV (Intergovernmental Relations) Director came before this council and “intentionally” tried to mislead you with statements which he knew were false. This fact was disclosed when a contracted person filed a Notice of Claim against this Director, certain members of this council, and certain members of city staff. When commenting to the newspapers regarding his false and misleading statements made to the council, in particularly in response to questions asked by Councilman Hall, this Director stated, “Could I have answered the question better? Absolutely.”
Upon learning of this deception, only Councilman Hall expressed his resentment of being lied to by this Director. However, the rest of you seemed to have simply shrugged it off as if it were no big deal, and – unfortunately – that appears to be your lethargic and cavalier demeanor even today on this issue.
You may not appreciate this, but let me share this with you anyway: When any employee – especially a Director of a Department – intentionally lies or purposely tries to mislead any of you, he or she is in fact lying to me and to the face of every citizen in this city! Don’t forget, you are representatives of the people. You are us, and we are you.
Referencing the City of Surprise Employee Manual, Section 9.1., General Rules of Conduct, subsection A.3.(i), it describes this violation as, “Dishonesty or dishonest actions, including but not limited to: lying, deceitfulness, making false statements.”
Policy 10.1, Corrective Action Principles, states: For a violation of Group One, false testimony/statement, the progressive corrective action for a first offense is, “Disciplinary action, including termination of employment.”
The city’s employee policies were created to identify and publicize acceptable and unacceptable behavior and performance of employees and the actions that could be taken against those committing violations of policy. Those in positions of authority, including this council, are to ensure compliance with these policies by all employees. However, is it apparent that this council seems to be selective in just how these policies are implemented, who you will hold accountable to these policies, and how you will go about administering corrective action – or not, as appears to be your response to this violation.
As has been publicized recently with reference to the recent “whistleblower” ordinance proposal, a particular employee came forward to inform her superiors of serious violations of professional misconduct, ethics and polices by this Director. Instead of being applauded for having the character, sense of responsibility and personal integrity for coming forward, she stated that she was ostracized and suffered retaliation, retribution and humiliation by her superiors and certain council members until she simply could not tolerate the hostile work environment and quit.
As you may recall, during the council meeting of December 9th, 2010, I spoke to this council and asked seven (7) questions concerning the behavior of this Director. Of course, I did not expect any council member to answer my questions since I spoke during the “Call to the Public.” Nevertheless, we (ORCA) left copies of our prepared statement, as requested by the mayor, containing these seven questions with the city clerk. As you know, none of you replied to our questions.
Subsequently, on January 27, 2011, Mr. Chetkauskas, Chairman of ORCA, sent a letter addressed to each of you on council, the city attorney, the city manager, and to the Director of Human Resources again requesting answers to these seven questions. With the exception of Councilman Woodard and City Attorney, Michael Bailey, not one of you had the professional decency to reply.
What about “trust?” Ask yourself …. In the future, when you – as a council – need this Director to provide you with important and factual information regarding his department, will you be able to trust his validity?
Allow me to share a couple more thoughts: Each one of you on council has stressed during your campaigns, during your district coffees, and during other political-social venues, the importance of listening to your constituents and to citizens of this city. You emphasized the important of the people being involved with their city government. However, it appears that the only words you care to listen to are those which are complimentary to you and to the operations of the city. But when citizens have real concerns and legitimate criticisms, and come to share those with you at this microphone, your demeanor often changes to one of annoyance and sometimes even anger. Such demeanor is not conducive to a participative council-citizens city government.
Also, realize this: Just as you have a civic responsibility to carry out your duties as the people’s elected representatives, we, too, have a civic duty, and that is to watch over those who govern us. If things are going well, we should applaud your performance. If, however, things are going wrong, “we, the people,” need to convey to you our discontent and grievances. Again, that’s “our” civic responsibility.
In closing, it is sad to say, but this “Director-false statements issue” does call into question as to the degree by which this council and our city government is being responsive, ethical, transparent, and most importantly, “accountable.”
I wish you a congenial and productive session. Good Evening.
The City of Surprise, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, the Arizona Commerce Authority and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council will participate in the announcement of a major renewable energy company coming to Surprise.
WHEN: Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Surprise City Hall- courtyard, 16000 N. Civic Center Plaza, Surprise
The project will create hundreds of new jobs and bring a new industry to Arizona.
Parking is available in the parking garage, located just west of City Hall.
NOTE: Media large vehicle parking will be available in the horseshoe drive on the east end of City Hall, across from the Surprise Public Safety Building.
DIRECTIONS TO LARGE VEHICLE PARKING: From Bell Road, turn south onto Litchfield Road, turn west onto Statler Drive. Continue straight at the stop sign, through the Public Safety Building parking area. You will see the horseshoe driveway at the east end of the City Hall structure.
The Surprise City Council has approved creating a committee to review the door to door solicitation issue in Surprise and possibly recommend a new ordinance.
Surprise AZ (January 13, 2011) The Surprise City Council unanimously approved creation of a committee to review so called “Whistleblower” ordinances and consider recommending a similar ordinance for Surprise.
Surprise AZ (January 13, 2011) The Surprise City Council unanimously approved launching a process to recruit a City Manager, beginning January 24. The council also approved a four-week recruitment period.
El Mirage Police Chief and former Executive Assistant Phoenix Police Chief Mike Frazier was named Surprise Police Chief at a news conference today at City Hall.
Surprise, AZ (February 8, 2011) After months of listening to input from city residents, the Surprise City Council unanimously approved a Strategic Plan at its meeting Thursday night, setting out action steps for five community-wide goals.
As public meetings on Strategic Plan input wrap up, residents still have an opportunity to offer their thoughts on the plan via an online or mail-in survey.
Residents can access the city’s interactive web site by clicking on the Strategic Plan button, located on the right side of the homepage at www.surpriseaz.gov.With proper estate planning you can preserve your assets and provide for your loved ones long after you are gone. Residents are invited to register for a free Estate Planning workshop on February 24.
For information or registration, call Ruby Sitea at 623.222.3242 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please register early as space is limited. Door prizes and refreshments will be provided by Credit Union West.Surprise, AZ. (February 9, 2011) The Surprise City Council has approved a text amendment to an ordinance Tuesday night that sets parameters for where medical marijuana dispensaries can operate within city limits.
Last November, Arizona voters approved Proposition 203, which allows the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Cities and towns are permitted under state law to determine zoning for medical marijuana dispensaries and off-site cultivation facilities.
The Surprise City Council selected District 6 Councilmember Skip Hall as Vice Mayor at their meeting this evening. Hall will serve a one-year term as Vice Mayor.
Hall has been a City Council member since 2008. Before his Council service, Hall served on the Surprise Planning and Zoning Commission for three years.
Join the City of Surprise at the 9th Annual Fan Fest and welcome back the 2010 American League Champions Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals for 2011 Cactus League Spring Training baseball in Surprise. The fun begins at 9 a.m. on February 20!
For more information, call Community and Recreation Services at 623.222.2000 or visit www.surprisespringtraining.com.The next Small Business Q&A Discussion Group meets on Wednesday, March 9, at Surprise City Hall.
For information or registration, contact Ruby Sitea at 623.222.3242 or email@example.com. The City of Surprise has launched a web site where residents can list the attributes they believe the next Surprise City Manager should possess. A public meeting is also scheduled for February 28, providing another input opportunity for residents.
The link to the City Manager site can be found on the right hand side of the City’s web site, www.surpriseaz.gov.
Residents interested in solicitation activities in Surprise are invited to a public meeting Thursday, February 24 to express their views in a facilitated discussion setting.
The event will take place at Valley Vista High School’s Performing Arts Center at 6 p.m. Village Vista is located at the northwest corner of Greenway Road and Parkview Place.
Entrepreneurs, business professionals and the public-at-large are invited to attend and AZ TechCelerator Open House on Saturday, February 12.
The innovative-based businesses operating at the AZ TechCelerator, the city’s business incubator, have created nearly 50 new local jobs in over the past year. Interested in learning more? The Open House, at 12425 W. Bell Road, is scheduled from 10 a.m. – Noon.
Call 623.222.3300 for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the AZ TechCelerator at www.aztechcelerator.com.New Surprise Police Chief Mike Frazier will appear with Councilmembers Sharon Wolcott and Richard Alton at the Sun City Grand Town Hall meeting Thursday, February 17 from 9:30-10:30 am in the Sonoran Plaza Sagebrush room, 19753 N. Remington Drive.
Good morning, as an FYI, Sun City Grand informs that Thursday’s Town Hall meeting featuring Police Chief Mike Frazier is open to Sun City Grand residents only.
Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.