Simi Attorney Baxter Resigns, Whiteface Specific Plan amendment approved, SEIU seeks CalPers health plan

SimiLogoBy Debra Tash

The Simi Valley City Council accepted the resignation of City Attorney, sick Marjorie Baxter in a closed session at their September 9th, price 2013 council meeting.  The City Attorney has two open investigations against her, including a defamation claim filed by Assistant City Attorney David Caceres on July 17 requesting $100,000 in damages. The Council gave Ms. Baxter six months’ salary with full benefits as severance. They also awarded her $7569.99 to settle a personal injury damage claim. It was stated in the City’s press release that, “she felt recent issues that have been publicly reported have become an intense distraction to the day-to-day business that the office needs to conduct, and she felt that retiring at this time would be in the best interest of both herself and the City.”

Deputy City Attorney Sonia Hehir will take the interim position of Acting City Attorney for six months while candidates are vetted to fill the vacancy.

Marjorie Baxter has worked for the City Attorney’s office since 1979 and has been City Attorney since June 2012.

A switch to the CalPERS Health Benefits Program was petitioned for by members of SEIU (Service Employees International Union) 721 in the Public Comments section of the meeting.  Councilmember Steve Sojka said when the item came up for review, “The things that have jumped off the page for me is that health costs have tripled…What I can’t get over is giving lifetime benefits.”  The city would be putting monies into an irrevocable trust that will be used to pay for retiree benefits. Full action on this matter will be taken by the Council at their September 30th meeting.

The most contentious item of the September 9th meeting was the second reading of the Whiteface Specific Plan Amendment.  This is the 7th plan for the area.  The developer, Lost Canyons LLC has proposed to build 364 homes and undertake the privatization of the current public golf course and the expanse of its club house. Ron Coons, former Public Works Director for the County of Ventura, spoke against the amendment to change Tapo Canyon Road from a four lane roadway on the General Plan to a two lane thoroughfare. Tapo is also used for P.W. Gillibrand Co. which generates 1000 truck trips a day from their quarry.  Lost Canyons LLC argued that there was too much grading involved along with the moving of trees and condemn homes in the proposed right of way.  Kuntz stated the proposal would create a “pinch point” at Walnut and Tapo.  Keith Mashburn stated, “I think it would be less if they had an area of four lanes when people are thinking they can pass and then it’s two lanes.”  Councilmembers expressed the desire for slow growth and to not widen Tapo Canyon Road. Mayor Huber disagreed with the other councilmembers that widening the road would be growth inducing. He said, “There’s no more dirt out there.”  He did not want leave Tapo a two lane road.  The vote passed 3 to 2, with Mayor Huber and Councilmember Judge dissenting.

Search terms: Simi Valley City Council, City Attorney Marjorie Baxter, Whiteface Specific Plan, Ron Coons, Councilmember Steve Sojka, resignation, Tapo Canyon, lost Canyons LLC, SEIU

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Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of Citizensjournal.us, past president for Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, business executive and award-winning author living in Somis.

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Greg Litster
Greg Litster
7 years ago

I fully agree with Susan K. No accountability of the City Council’s actions to the taxpayers. I’ve lived in Simi Valley for 5 years, and only recently started taking the VC Star (long-time LA Times reader). I was clueless about the Baxter situation. Not anymore. There needs to be accountability for this bad hire, and not just to the taxpayers. The City Council and the mayor need to explain this situation fully, acknowledge how they messed up, and publicly apologize to the citizens they represent.

Start viewing or attending the Simi Valley City Council meetings, beginning with January 13, 2014. Every City Council session is videoed and is on the City’s website to view. This is the link to the correct page:

http://www.simivalley.org/index.aspx?page=278

Scroll down to the City Council meetings. Select the date, and click on the video link on the right.

Questions are going to be asked, and asked, and asked again, until the City Council gives the taxpayers a full explanation of what and why the Baxter situation came about, and how much it cost the taxpayers.

Susan Kline
Susan Kline
7 years ago

Great article! It really makes one wonder how much money is being wasted on employees like Baxter who have held a position in a gov’t job for 34 years and no one is being held accountable for their job performance and spending.