Monday, March 26, 2018

Echoing the Mayor and Council appears to reap financial rewards for Town Staff

A recent LOVE posting discussed how the Town Manager and Town Staff “control the message.” The staff works for the Town Manager. The Town Manager works for the council majority. (He/She works for the majority because these four members can vote to fire the Town Manager with or without cause).

Other than being rewarded for their compliance by keeping their jobs, is there also a financial reward for echoing the message of the Majority-4 Council members so that they always get their way? Let’s take a look.

Paul Keesler. Community Development and Public Works Manager.
Community Center Traffic Light. He is the individual who was responsible for justifying the traffic signal in front of the Community Center. When asked to present a "Signal Warrant Analysis" for the justification of the signal, his response was, "we didn't do one." Keep in mind that this analysis is a standard practice for the justification of traffic signals regardless of the cost. (Most traffic signals cost at least $500,000.)

Mr. Keesler advised that there were 500 cars a day utilizing the Community Center and that the hill to the south of the entrance was enough justification to warrant a signal. (There are over 23,000 cars using La Canada daily who now have to stop at this traffic signal). Forget the traffic problems at Moore and La Canada. This signal was more important.

Do you think that the mayor and council majority had a self-interest in establishing this signal?

The reward. As of 3/1/17, Mr. Keesler's annual salary was $127,760.80. As of 3/1/18, Mr. Keesler's annual salary is $132,871.23. This is a 4% raise totaling over $5,000.

Bayer Vella. Planning Department Administrator.
Recommending approval of development proposals. The Planning Department has been known to recommend approval of every development request that is heard before Council. Could this be because the developers and builders who are requesting these land use and rezoning changes have contributed heavily in the past to the campaigns of the mayor and the current six council members? After all, the mayor and council need to reward these major campaign contributors so that they will continue to contribute to their campaigns, including this year’s Town Council election.

The mayor and council want these developments to be approved and it appears that the Planning Department simply echoes their desires and recommends approval.

The 5-story building. As you read last week in LOVE, the 5-story Nakoma Sky Retirement Community was allowed at the intersection of First and Lambert after Mr. Vella arbitrarily removed a restriction from the General Plan that prohibited tall buildings in this area.

The council majority at that time (Hiremath-Hornat-Snider-Waters) were supporting the 5-story building and it appears that the Planning Administrator altered the General Plan to accommodate their wishes.

The reward. As of 3/1/17, Mr. Vella's annual salary was $99,188.34. As of 3/1/18, Mr. Vella's salary is $103,155,94. This was a 4% raise totaling over $3,900 and he has not yet received his 2018 performance evaluation and raise.

Stacey Lemos. Town Finance Director.
Community Center. Despite almost three years of continuing losses at the Golf courses and Overlook Restaurant, Ms. Lemos has done everything possible during her presentations at Town Council meetings to spin the purchase of the Community Center property and the ongoing poor financials in a positive light.

Naranja Park. She did all she could to support the need for a property tax to build ball fields at Naranja Park, but when it failed to win voter approval, she now brags about the Town's pay-as-you-go philosophy. In doing so, it appears that she is trying to save face for the mayor and council.

The reward. As of 3/1/17, Ms. Lemos' annual salary was $149,848.82. As of 3/1/18, Ms. Lemos' salary is $155,842.78. This is a 4% raise totaling almost $6,000.