by Doug Partello
Most folks now know of the decision in the case of the IUF (Infrastructure Use Fees). The City began siphoning off about $7 million/year in 2014 and continued even after the judge told them to stop. They had to return $36.5 million to the utility funds. They were given three years to do this. Now, they are offering a credit on utility bills for the 40,000 ratepayers who were overcharged on their water, refuse bills. The $36.5 million was limited by a three-year statute of limitations, and the time in the court case. The $7 million refunds include just one year, of the almost seven years, due to the one-year statute of limitations. Neither of these things would have occurred were in not for the diligence, and personal initiative of Aaron Starr. The refunds came about as a concession to the impending threat of a class action lawsuit by Mr. Starr, and the reality that they would surely lose that case, after the judgement on the legality of the IUFs.
Now, Aaron Starr, and a small group of watchdogs have uncovered another scheme: ReNew Oxnard Program. This is a campaign, started in 2019, to convince residents in LMDs (Landscaping Maintenance Districts) to switch to Mello-Roos, i.e., CFDs (Community Facility Districts). It took funds from the LMDs to fund NBS/CivicMic, an outside vendor, from Temecula, to run this program. Their contract was for $403,650, all from the LMDs. Using these funds from the LMDs is illegal. The 1972 Landscaping and Lighting Act stipulates that those funds are exclusively for the actual maintenance costs, with only incidental expenses allowed. Oxnard claimed that the ReNew Oxnard Program was using “incidental expenses” for this purpose. Of the $1.6 million in assessment money collected, it is hard to call $400K “incidental”.
As Oxnard will not back down from another blatantly illegal scheme to fill the overspending gap in the General Fund, with assessment dollars, it is now in the court. Other than the obvious question of why they would do these things that are illegal, there is the question of why it is seen as necessary by our City leaders to meet the obligations of a city for services. The short answer is they do not know how to run a City with the revenue we are able to give. So, they must scheme to fill the gap, using illegal means to do so. The other question now becomes, what other schemes are they doing, or have done? We need a forensic audit of ALL financial transactions, contracts, invoices, purchase orders, the “whole enchilada” to see what is being done with our hard-earned tax dollars, and if there is more illegality to be uncovered. Please give your thoughts, and suggestions.