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Sunday, March 24 , 2019, 1:14 pm | A Few Clouds 60º


Ron Fink: Councilman Mosby’s Trivial Pursuit Costs Money, Yields Him Nothing

During the Nov. 21 Lompoc City Council meeting, the council received a detailed staff report from the city attorney regarding the city’s compliance with reserve policies. The facts presented in this commentary are derived from that report.

The Economic Uncertainty Fund was established by the Management Services director in the city of Lompoc in 1994 “to be used exclusively as a reserve for the continued operations of the City, when severe economic conditions deem it necessary.”

There would be $2 million set aside to cover unplanned fiscal events throughout the budget cycle (two-years). Since expenses can never exceed revenues, this allowed flexibility as the budget cycle progressed and allowed the city to pay its bills on time.

In 2014 the council further amended the policy to state the city will “strive to maintain” an unrestricted fund balance equal to 90 days of cash flow; and “Whenever the City’s General Fund unrestricted fund balance falls below this target, the city will strive to restore reserves to this level within five years.”

Note that these statements allow considerable latitude for the city manager.
In 2016 Councilman Jim Mosby thought he found a smoking gu” worthy of exploitation. His theory was that the city manager was improperly using the reserve fund to operate the city. Mosby thinks of himself as an expert in public finance.
During an Oct. 31, 2016, presentation on the status of the reserve fund, Mosby asked, “Are we operating with the economic uncertainty money?”

The city manager replied in the affirmative saying, “during the course, routinely as we’re moving along, we use it. At times we have more than $2,000,000, and at times we go below.

This day-to-day use of the fund seems to meet the “strive to restore reserves to this level within five years” a metric established in 2014.

But Mosby wasn’t satisfied, so in a later meeting he produced a chart to explain his concern.

The information on the chart was accurate. However, it only demonstrated the policy was being followed as intended; a fact he either purposely or erroneously overlooked during his analysis and implication that the EU fund was being used illegally.
City Manager Patrick Wiemiller pointed out the graph showed at the end of every fiscal year (i.e., June), the General Fund balance is positive. It is also true, each year on the graph, except 2016, the balance was greater than $2,000,000 in June.

It seems Mosby has a penchant for misrepresenting the facts in many situations. This is just another example of his inability to grasp the technical aspects of city fiscal management.

Because of his position as a councilman, his distortions often cost a significant deployment of staff hours to either verify or refute his claims.

In this case, I am sure the city attorney and his staff spent a considerable amount of time to review multiple city policies, find and transcribe specific video recording clips to determine whether he was right or wrong.

At the end of this review, the city attorney concluded, “If a court were asked to decide whether the City has violated any policy relating to use of the EU Fund, our opinion is the court would find there has been no violation.”
And, “even if the 1994 Resolution was intended to mean the City must place $2,000,000 in cash ‘in a safe‘ and not touch it without City Council authorization, use of the EU Fund for City operations still does not violate any reserves policy currently in effect.

“The City Manager has the authority under the 2011 Policy to determine the EU Fund may contain less than $2,000,000 at any time during the year.”

So, once again Mosby’s interpretation of the facts didn’t stand scrutiny and his smoking gun turned out to be an empty water pistol blowing barn dust.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am getting tired of this councilman wasting so much of the staffs’ and public’s time playing trivial pursuit. All his analysis and assertions during the budget hearings proved to be false just like this one.

Whether by design or simply out of the cognitive inability to understand what he is studying, one sure thing is that Jim Mosby is consistently wrong.

Maybe it would be better if he concentrated on managing his family’s many vacant and seedy commercial properties; he seems to excel at that.

I have it on good authority that Mosby has requested the billing records for the city attorney’s firm’s efforts to support the city.  Much of this effort has been spent to respond to Mosby’s many requests for information.

Maybe he thinks he can determine how much it should cost for competent legal help, but more than likely it’s just another example of his efforts to misrepresent information he can’t comprehend.

At some point, I hope a council member requests an analysis of just how much taxpayer time and money have been wasted in his efforts to discredit the city staff and specifically outgoing City Manager Patrick Wiemiller, but I won’t hold my breath.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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