Oxnard City Hall Continues To Scheme To Fill General Fund Gap

OPINION

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.


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Dotty Pringle

So Alex’s words are empty!!
Too bad you didn’t join Carmen Ramirez the other night at Waterside, still plotting more schemes from Supervisor seat!
What next Carmen?

You screwed us on electricity, water and now you don’t think guns are pretty!
Are you really a licensed attorney? How’s your husband Roy Prince, the Architect, any more under table contracts for him too?

Tom

The City Council meeting of 6/1/2021 included agenda item I.1 Gratitude Program for Grocery Store Workers (0/10/10) with a recommendation that the City Council:
1. Receive a report on “Hero Pay” for Grocery Workers;
2. Adopt a Resolution establishing a Gratitude Program for Grocery Store Workers (“Program”);
and
3. Authorize the City Manager to utilize up to $2 million in America Rescue Plan Act funds to implement the Program.
According to news reports the council did not vote on agenda item I.1 as published by the city before the meeting.

“The Ventura County Star reported on June 3, 2021, that “Grocery and drug store workers will see an extra $1,000 in their wallets now that Oxnard has approved the spending of $2.5 million in federal COVID relief funds.”
“The original proposal was for $2 million to be distributed only to full-time grocery store workers. After a discussion, the City Council agreed to increase the relief funding to $2.5 million so part-timers and drug store workers could be included.”

The Tri County Sentry reported:
“Oxnard– The city council, Tuesday, June 1, adopted a resolution establishing a gratitude program for grocery store workers and authorized City Manager Alex Nguyen to utilize up to $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds to implement the program.
The motion was amended from $2 million originally, but additional people will receive gratitude pay, so the beneficiaries will increase. Staff will review the request for other workers and report back to the city council.”
 
The Sunshine Ordinance SEC. 2-224. AGENDA REQUIREMENTS FOR REGULAR AND SPECIAL MEETINGS.
(A)    Twelve days before a regular meeting of the city council, and seven days before a special city council meeting and any meeting of all other policy bodies, THE POLICY BODY SHALL POST AN AGENDA CONTAINING A MEANINGFUL DESCRIPTION OF EACH ITEM OF BUSINESS TO BE TRANSACTED OR DISCUSSED AT THE MEETING. Agendas shall specify for each item of business the proposed action or a statement the item is for discussion, information, or receive-and-file only. These time requirements shall apply to posting on the internet.
 
 
 

Ray Blattel

Now the city staff is proposing to take $2M of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) monies for premium pay for City employees working on the front line during the pandemic. How many of the city employees were directly engaged or directly interacted with customers? Look up the definition of front line worker and you yourself determine which city employee fits this definition. [Grocery workers do fit the definition, by the way.]

I recently submitted a public access request for the planned names of the city employees, position/title, and amount received for this $2M. Of course the response came back that there is no public record available. Why is this? They have no plan for this $2M expenditure? They have no idea who is to get the money and how much for each? It’s like they are saying “we are taking $2M and we’ll figure out how to distribute it later.” Seems like there should be a plan. If no plan, how do they know $2M is enough? And why isn’t $1.5M enough? Perhaps the $2M figure came from the original amount planned for the grocery workers – thinking, if they themselves are getting $2M, why not us?

The city already was reimbursed $1.4M for public safety salaries from the CARES Act. How much is enough?

I petitioned that the real people who deserve this money are the health care workers in this city. These are the people who directly interacted with the public – and this public was definitely infected with the COVID-19. These are the people who had to wear the full, head-to-toe protection garb to protect themselves while at the same time striving to save the lives of those infected with the virus. And these same people oftentimes elected not to go home in order to not infect their families just in case they themselves were infected by the patients that they cared for. And, perhaps not in our city, but in other cities, these same people who cared for those infected gave their lives. Of course, unlike the grocery workers, the unions representing the health care workers did not petition the city for any cut of the ARPA monies. However, I think these people are the front-line workers and deserve consideration other than “thanks”.

Douglas Partello

They are proposing $2M to be given to City employees, from ARA monies. They do not say to whom will be given these funds, nor the positions they hold, as there are restrictions placed on who is eligible. At the last City Council meeting, a pharmacy employee asked when they might expect the money promised. Alex Nguyen stated they are working on it.
When American Recovery Act was passed, did they really intend for some of that money to be given to government workers, or the community they serve? They seem to not really have a plan, but are set on giving money to staff. One City official said to me, “We have to keep loyalty.”, as the reason they are giving ARA money to staff. Transparentcalifornia.com shows that the compensation they already receive is more than adequate. We have a large agricultural pool of workers, here in Oxnard, who put food on our tables, and worked all through the pandemic, at low wages, and difficult work conditions. Instead of giving ARA money to those with some of the best jobs in Oxnard, give that money to field workers, and others who suffered far greater than City staff.