Finance Director is still defending the complete failure of accountability

gold bars

Eureka’s Finance Director Paul Rodrigues responded to our post on Measure O last Friday.  In his comments, he attempted to refute almost all of the questions we had put forward.  However, the answers he gave still don’t address the questions we asked.  In fact, they raised new questions.  Although we are thankful for his responses, the fact is the City Council and City Staff have failed in their jobs as stewards of the Measure O tax revenue.

Rodrigues wrote, “The ordinance, as written specifically names the Finance Advisory Committee as a viable Oversight Committee, as opposed to creating another committee.”  Wrong.  The ordinance is below, and it does have an added sentence that wasn’t included on the ballot information.  However, it’s pretty clear to us that this Council is not following the spirit or letter of the law.  Instead, they have used a loophole to keep the public in the dark.

“Consistent with Eureka’s value to be transparent, a Citizens Oversight Committee shall be established to conduct annual audits of all expenditures generated by the tax to ensure fiscal accountability and public participation.  The Oversight Committee may be substituted with the City’s existing Finance Advisory Committee.”

Rodrigues also tried to assert that the rubber stamp acceptance of his reports by the Finance Advisory Committee counted as an independent “audit”.  That sounds pretty similar to how Enron used to operate.  That is so ridiculous that no further comment from the Examiner is needed.

Paul tried to answer our questions regarding how the unspent funds were being handled.  He wrote, “Again, the reserves are set aside and designated as having come from Measure O. For fye 6-30-13,the amount transferred and was almost one million dollars….this will allow the Council in the coming years to build up some Measure O reserves and accomplish some long term projects and…they would be most likely, public safety projects like a new fire station…”.

Wow.  Almost a million dollars put back into the general fund last budget cycle that will “most likely” be spent public safety.  Quite a guarantee.  I guess that’s what the City considers accountability.  On top of that, Rodrigues wrote that about 79% of Measure O funds were “budgeted” for public safety.  If they didn’t spend 25% of the funds, then that puts the actual figure of Measure O public safety spending at around 54%.  In other words, when you get through all of the double speak, public safety only received about half of the Measure O funding in the last budget cycle.  And that’s only if we take the City’s word for it, as there is no clear information on the City’s website for us to review.

Paul also wrote, “Police did not take a “pay cut”.  This is completely false.  Entry level police officers now start at a lower level of pay then they did in 2012.  All cops and dispatchers now pay a higher percentage toward their health insurance.  For families, this can be over $200 more deducted from their paycheck every month.  Additionally, they also pay more toward their retirement.  They didn’t get pay raises, so now their take home pay is less than it was in 2012.  That is most definitely a pay cut, no matter how the city wants to package it.

What’s this all add up to?  The city hasn’t been transparent with how Measure O funds are being spent.  There hasn’t actually been a Citizens Committee formed to audit the fund.  Millions have gone back into the general fund with no guarantee that they will be spent on public safety.  And to top it all off, public safety is paid less than they were in 2012.  This all adds up to one word: Failure.

The Examiner wonders what the voters will do when the city comes back with hat in hand and asks for an extension of this tax?  Only time will tell, cause the ‘good old boys’ aren’t gonna’ want to give up this pot of gold.

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14 thoughts on “Finance Director is still defending the complete failure of accountability

  1. Good morning once again,

    I am just going to reiterate that my door is open via email, telephone or dropping by City Hall for anyone to come and see me. I am not going to talk in circles – You apparently do not like the FAC overseeing the Measure O spending, but there is no loophole as you say – that is how the ordinance was written.

    I have explained that monies unspent are transferred for future use that will yes, most likely be spent on public safety. You implied in your first couple of posts that somehow monies are being squirreled away for “pet projects” – again, not to be repetitative, clearly identifying the reserves as having come from Measure O provides transparencey. Of course I say most likely; the sun will most likely come up tomorrow. I am not a policy maker, but when one looks at what has been budgeted and spent with Measure O dollars, it’s pretty clear that a significant percentage of the money goes primarily towards public safety.

    Regarding police paycuts there has been an additional salary step added to the payscale, but the top of the scale is still the same; further, this additional beginning step was also added to Miscellaneous employees’s paycale as well as public safety employees. New employees start at a lower rate, but that is hardly a pay cut. Your earlier post said that

    “EPD just took an across the board pay cut.”

    That is not true. Existing officers did not take a pay cut. New employees city wide start at a lower step – yes, but that is not an across the board paycut.

    I fear that We are both becoming repetitive, but again, I thank you for your time and the opportunity to dialogue. It’s clear that you do not accept my explanations, but I think that folks can see the conversation and draw reasonable conclusions.

    Thanks again,

    Paul Rodrigues
    Finance Director
    City of Eureka
    441-4114 prodrigues@ci.eureka.ca.gov

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  2. Here’s a simple question Paul.

    How much is being spent on the Zoo annually this year compared to ten years ago? How about a simple answer?

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  3. BOLD THOUGHT, Why don,t we cut off giving City money to the Chamber of Commerce each year. It seems crazy that a Pro Republican organization like the Chamber needs a “free hand-out” from the city. Why don’t they live what they preach and work on a budget that they can live with….

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  4. Roxy that would be very interesting if we can get a straight answer.
    Old Sam your right we need to cut them off. tough love.

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  5. Old Sam, I don’t think you are right? The city doesn’t run the Chamber, or give money to run it. There is no way Mike Newman or Mr. Hockaday would take handouts from the city who is facing such budget shortfalls. I believe it is solely run on donation and fundraisers?

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  6. Yea it’s funny now that Mike Newman is on the city council. As a former Director or president of the Chamber I’m sure he will keep the pipeline of money open for his buddies back at the ole Chamber. Kind of cool for the Chamber to have their own “private” lobbyist in a public position advocating i guess for them ?.?. It’s over 100K per year they get I think..

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  7. Paul-

    No guarantee where the money will be spent. No comment on why the wording was changed from the ballot. Finally, saying there wasn’t a pay cut to police, but failing to mention the higher deductions for insurance.

    Your political way of failing to address the issues brought up is exactly why there needs to be a independent committee and audit of measure o!

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  8. They are always running their pie holes about private enterprise and experience running a business.

    What kind of job could Hockaday get if he weren’t subsidized by the taxpayers teat? Maybe a shoe salesman at Payless.

    Let’s get real.

    The vast majority of Chambers in California receive NO subsidy from local gov

    Eureka is the corrupt exception.

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  9. Is this true? Can someone besides Old Sam verify that we are really giving that much money to the Chamber without any follow up as to where the money is going? I thought the Chamber was self supporting? This doesn’t seem right? I have always supported the Chamber. If this is true, it makes me think what else is going on? I don’t think the folks from the Chamber would take money from the City budget.

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  10. I think this is an example of how politics and governance is kept murky.

    Each side decides the definition of the words they use and go at it. What to some of us is a pay cut to others of us is a readjustment of pay scales and benefit packages. Both are right, both are wrong… it depends on who’s dictionary is being used.

    I had a question for Mr. Rodrigues in the last post that I don’t think has been answered. He had said previously that so far 79% of Measure O funds were spent on public safety (who’s dictionary do we go to for looking up “public safety”?). I asked where was the rest of the money? I would like an answer.

    I also noted to Mr. Rodrigues that since C of E police wages were low and there were currently 6 vacant positions that it would be wise to make the police wages more attractive to lure in more new (and better) hires. Instead the C of E, despite the additional money available, made working for the C of E police even LESS attractive by introducing a new lower rung to start at.

    I would appreciate a response from Mr. Rodrigues on the above. And when doing so please use the good old Merriam Webster dictionary so I have a chance to follow along.

    I think it is very brave of Mr. Rodrigues to reply to the TulEx (TE to the rest of us). He could very easily have ignored (or at least not responded to) this blog like the rest of local government has done. In fact, it would have been in his best interest to do just that. So despite how things are turning out at least I respect Mr. Rodrigues for trying to be forthright.

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  11. Old Sam councilman Newman would never restrict funds for his buddys at the Eureka CoC

    Paul- you’re correct we the public can see the conversation and my reasonable conclusion is you’re not being honest or transparent about the issue

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  12. The older I get, the more I realize just how much things are manipulated behind the scenes and how some of the folks we trust to make sure things are being done correctly are the same folks who are not trust worthy. We should be able to trust the people we elect to do the right thing for their constituents..

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  13. The last I knew, the chamber got free rent and the city owns it. I don’t know if they receive any cash money now, but they used to get about $100,000 yearly, also from the city. Must be a lot of gold bars in a safe at city hall.

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