Going by, almost unnoticed, at the being of the March 4th Eureka city council meeting, there was embarrassing bumbling presentation by Coroner Dave Paris. He identified himself as Chairmen of the Financial Advisory Committee. Paris, who Jager has rumored to have handpicked as his successor, reported that they had met with staff, and essentially the Committee gave their blessing to whatever staff had told them(there were no specifics). Paris said spent funds were “in line with the goals and objectives of Measure O”.
That was it, for the very less than detailed report. Then Mayor Jager asked him to name the members of the committee. Paris couldn’t, and had to ask for help has he stumbled though it. He would have taken a seat but at least Linda Atkins asked a question, “Could you give us a broad brush on how Measure O funds were spent this year?”
Paris referred to a report (not publicly released) from the Finance Director which detailed how the money was allocated, as opposed to whether it was actually ever spent. This was a very common tactic during the reign of Dave Tyson. Past Chairs of the Finance Advisory committee, Leo Sears and Dave Ogden, used to refer to this as the “Shell Game”.
The Shell Game works like this; create a new position in a department worth X amount of money, never fill the position, and then X amount of money goes back in the general fund to be spent elsewhere. For the police department, several new positions were created last year for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They are short staffed and can’t fill the positions. Now the good ol’ boys can spend money on pet projects, while still claiming to have approved lots of $$$ for public safety.
A real audit (required by the voter passed measure) would look at how and where the money was actually spent.
Wording straight for the ballot measure:
“A citizen’s oversight committee shall be established to conduct annual audits of all expenditures generated by the tax to ensure fiscal accountability and public participation.”
A pledge made in the ballot Arguments For Measure O;
“Accountability: A citizen’s oversight committee will annually review the City’s expenditure of these revenue generated by the tax; and the City post to their website, a detailed spending plan and an annual report from the City of revenues collected and how the funds have been spent.”
Signed by Council Members Jeff Leonard, Mike Jones, Linda Atkins and Frank Jager
Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of Audit: a complete and careful examination of the financial records of a business or person – a careful check or review of something – a formal examination of an organization’s or individual’s accounts or financial situation – a methodical examination and review.
The Examiner has taken a look at how measure O promises and pledges have been kept.
Let see how the City of Eureka has done:
A citizen’s oversight committee shall be established …FAIL
Review the City’s expenditure of these revenues generated by the tax…..FAIL
Annual audits of all expenditures generated by the tax……FAIL
Ensure fiscal accountability and public participation…..FAIL
City post to their website, a detailed spending plan and an annual report from the City of revenues collected and how the funds have been spent……FAIL
The bottom line is clear, Measure O was intended to support public safety. One look at the Police Dept staffing (about 15% down) and you can see Measure O money is not being spent on the Police Dept.