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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 11:59 pm | Fair 45º


Ron Fink: Lompoc Council’s Bad Boys

Lompoc City Council meetings have been tense affairs for the last several months primarily because of one very disruptive council member.  Two issues are at the forefront of numerous confrontations; first is the budget and second is the performance of the city manager.

The budget: Somehow, Council Member Jim Mosby feels he is more qualified to prepare a municipal budget than any of the city staff professionals with decades of experience in these matters.

He has consistently questioned every item in the budget, sought employee reductions, and generally tried to micromanage the process.

A municipal budget has a lot of moving parts. The budget in Lompoc has two distinct components, the tax-supported general fund and fee-funded enterprise funds. Each fund has a distinct set of rules concerning where revenue comes from and how it is to be used.

Revenue comes from many sources, and if it comes from either the state or federal government, it always has strings attached. These folks want to know whether you spent it for the purpose they want you to, and demand extensive reports to assure compliance.

Then there is an array of unfunded mandates, things state and federal politicians think are important, but for which they provide no funding.

Tax- and rate-payers have expectations, too.

They want police, fire and medical services to arrive when they need them. They like well-maintained parks and recreational facilities and programs. They want fresh drinking water, the lights to stay on, and their liquid and solid waste to be disposed of safely.

Mosby, like all other elected officials has no experience at either running an organization the size and scope of the city of Lompoc, nor does he have any experience running a municipality. In other words, he isn’t qualified to determine what is and isn’t necessary in the city budget.

I guess he figures that since he was elected to serve, this one act qualifies him as an expert in public finance. He has asked scores of detailed questions to derail the budget hearings while trying to prove he is the smartest guy in the room.

He has been proven wrong on so many times, we have lost count.

When proven wrong, he retreats to impugning, directly or indirectly, the competence, integrity and efforts of the city staff, and specifically the city manager. He has enlisted the aid of two other council members in his ill-conceived plan.

One of them is Council Member Victor Vega.

Vega demanded and got the city manager, city attorney and assistant city manager removed from the council dais in a move seen by many as both juvenile and a bullying tactic. He also initiated a move to have the city manager's performance evaluated for a second time in one year.

Mosby and Vega recently wanted to have an emergency meeting, which would have violated the requirements of the Ralph M. Brown Act for such meetings, to consider removal of the city manager for cause.

This after the council had just determined for the second time this year that the city manager was meeting his performance goals and performing satisfactorily.

Competent council members would have understood the Brown Act allows for emergency meetings only when “a crippling activity, work stoppage or other activity which severely impairs public health, safety or both” will occur. In this case, clearly there was no emergency.

Neither of these two seems to have either read or understood the principals of council meeting etiquette. When elected, they, like all other new council members would or should have attended the California League of Cities indoctrination for newly elected officials.

The Brown Act is discussed at length, so they should know the rules of the road; so are the limited roles of council members in General Law cities like Lompoc.

They also were provided with a copy of the City Council Handbook, which contains procedural guidelines developed by their predecessors based on their experiences.

The handbook specifically says council members are not to “impugn, directly or indirectly, the competence, integrity or efforts of the city staff,” which both have violated repeatedly.

It is troubling that these two can’t seem to follow the rules and/or claim they are experts at municipal management. Their bad behavior during public meetings is unprecedented in Lompoc.

One of their colleagues finally had enough and said, “There is a level of professionalism that we are expected to bring when elected and the current behavior of the council has been abhorrent.”

I couldn’t say it any better.

— 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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