July 25, 2014

Council canditates introduce themselves

council

Photo by Rick Poppitz, kcvideo.com

Video by Rick Poppitz, KCVideo
Special to The Gardner News
WATCH VIDEO At a Feb. 28 forum, candidates for the Gardner City Council provided brief introductions and then answered questions. The forum was sponsored by the Gardner Edgerton Republican Group. USD 231 candidates and mayor candidates are also available online.

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All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. Judith Rogers says:

    Well, it is election time and the politicians are talking about things they should have been talking to the citizens a long time ago along with the bureaucrats who you pay so dearly. In my opinion, citizens certainly very seldom receive all the information they need and, of course, much of that is due to the citizens not doing their jobs in providing the oversight that is so very necessary

    How did we get to the place we are today with our city of Gardner. I say the citizens are paying high taxes thru the nose and a big reason for that is because your City Staff, Mayors and City Councils have been governing for the thieves rather than the citizens who elect them into office and the bureaucrats who the citizens pay well with an excellent benefit package and in many instances, million dollar retirement plans. Your city debt has skyrocketed since 2000.

    Here is an e-mail between myself and Laura Gourley dated April 10, 2008 to give you some idea about city debt and how it has grown bigger and bigger:

    From: 1. jj
    To: Laura Gourley
    Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2008 10:17 PM
    Subject: Re: Request for Information
    I have evidently not made myself clear as to the information I am needing. Next to each of the following years, please state the amount of the city’s total indebtedness at that particular date in time. Thank you.
    1-1-2000 27,260,785
    1-1-2001 28,629,362
    1-1-2002 43,204,362
    1-1-2003 44,009,362
    1-1-2004 45,505,803
    1-1-2005 53,918,494
    1-1-2006 77,342,731
    1-1-2007 88,995,639
    1-1-2008 85,955,517
    Judith Rogers
    Gardner, Ks.

    I have another e-mail from Ms. Gourley dated April 10, 2008 where she forwarded a spread sheet showing the city’s total indebtedness as of 6-20-07 at $89,745,077 which is even higher than it was in previous January. With more e-mails back and forth I find out from Ms. Gourley on April 11, 2008 that our total indebtedness in June 2007 was actually $98 MILLION as a result of change of date and since she then included “lease purchase” arrangements. As a citizen when I talk about total indebtedness I want to know exactly that and I want a listing of that debt, when each debt occurred, the interest rate and when the debt will be matured. Well, she gave me that after dragging all the info from her as best I know but one thing that constantly happens is they are forever transferring money around from one pot to another, refinancing and on and on – the system is hardly, hardly consumer friendly and I think City Hall likes it that way.

    Benefit districts given to developers, business owners, banks, investors, etc. result in much of the debt carried by the CITIZENS along with the RISKS. These entities want the citizens to bankroll them for the costs of such things as streets, water, electric, sewers, etc. along with transferring the risk by having the citizens issue the bonds and being responsible for them if these jaybirds don’t pay their assessments as some of them have done along with getting their slimy “farm appraisals” which totally financially rape the citizens of this community and communities across Kansas.

    A good example of what some entities will do involved in a benefit district is shown to you under Parcel No. CP66930000 0T0E which is owned by Bristol Partners, XVIII, LLC out of Leawood, Ks. I believe the benefit district is headed under the name of Peridian Drive and the total amount of the bonds floated by the CITIZENS and issued for that benefit district was around $990,000. For 2007 Bristol Partners had a total tax bill of $6,127.56 with the city of Gardner getting around $1,100 and the local schools getting around $3,497.

    Well, sometime in 2007/2008 Bristol Partners made a handy dandy trip to see your local County Appraiser, Paul Welcome. For 2008 they get the lovely “farm appraisal” as a result of that trip to Olathe and their total taxes were reduced to $14.47 instead of over $6,000 which they were in 2007. Myself I cannot see any farming activities to deserve that “farm appraisal”. Bristol Partners was planning well because on their tax bill for 2008 they had to start paying their assessments for the 4 different benefit listings on the bill which totaled $22,938.56. What do citizens think of entities like Bristol Partners operating, manipulating and conniving in this manner after you have bankrolled them at YOUR RISK for their wants and needs? Now with their “farm appraisal” they can sure have some extra money to pay their assessments. For 2012 Gardner citizens were only getting $2.14 in city taxes and the local schools were getting $7.82 for this parcel.

    This is just one example of MANY and why I have such contempt for the thieves, the politicians and the bureaucrats. I have brought these types of wrongdoings to the citizens and city, county and state governments and what do they do? NOT A DAMN THING – in my opinion they are still working hard to take care of the thieves and even enhancing their positions more by such things as telling so many of these conniving LLCs they now don’t have to pay any state income tax – THANKS TO MR. BROWNBACK AND LEGISLATORS ACROSS THE STATE.

    So have your city election – citizens are still going to be scammed by the people they place in office and the bureaucrats they pay well based on their words, actions, inaction and voting records since all the candidates say WE ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS. Instead of paying for that new community development manager who will be dealing with these thieves, citizens should demand, get and pay for a Public Information Officer and citizens should be working him or her constantly by requesting and getting information about your city government that you truly need and at NO COST to the taxpayer. It would help, too, if your city started to go paperless utlilizing electronic filing, etc. so that Public Information Officer could promptly give information to the TAX PAYING CITIZEN – about the only entity left out there who knows and meets their financial responsibilities considering all of the wheeling and dealing I have seen for years now.

    I have much more to talk about such as the Russell Family deal, candidate comments, more raiding on taxpayers’ wallets, sorry communication, Gardner Energy, etc., etc. and it never ends…….the cronysim government lives on and on and on……………..now evidently the City Mgr. doesn’t want to be included in salary ranges – hope all citizens are very familiar with the scandal associated with Bell, Ca. and what the Sam Hill that city manager, council members and other city staff were involved in, especially astronomical salaries and retirement plans of which the citizens had no knowledge – they are still in court trying to get them convicted of their wrongdoing and those citizens weren’t doing their jobs either and man are they in big, expensive do-do now. I would say the first thing the Gardner News or any citizen needs to do right now is ask for a copy of Ms. Harrison-Lee’s present contract and ask again in about 60 to 90 days to see if it has been changed again. I definitely want to be reminded at what amount she was hired at which was not very long ago and what salary she is wanting and getting now. Citizens have a right to this information – IT IS YOUR CITY GOVERNMENT AND YOUR TAX DOLLARS. I can’t see where she has done a thing to help me, an average citizen, but I know her VISION project is scaring the hell out of me and what the elected mayor, council members and city staff could bring about when they get to wheeling and dealing with the thieves.

  2. Judith Rogers says:

    Here is a recent article on Bell, Ca. that I have kept track of for a few years now. This tells you just a LITTLE BIT of what was going on in the city government’s back rooms. You always want to know more about what is going on in the back rooms and on the cell phones and e-mails than you do at those window dressing meetings held each Mon. night. Every citizen better be knowing what REALLY is going on with their city government and with the thieves that so many of them pander to and work for. These are my opinions.

    ****************************************************************************

    Bell paid $1 million to boost officials’ retirement
    The payment was made under a CalPERS program that was discontinued this year. The agency has disallowed the upgrades and made the money available to the city.

    By Jeff Gottlieb, Los Angeles Times

    March 5, 2013, 8:51 p.m.

    Bell paid more than $1 million to give 12 city officials — including six former council members now on trial in a municipal corruption case —- substantial boosts in retirement pay.

    The biggest payment, $930,000 for 11 employees, was made under a California Public Employees’ Retirement System program that allowed those it covered to buy as many as five extra years of service time for their pensions. Pensions are partly determined by the employee’s highest salary and the number of years in CalPERS.

    According to CalPERS, employees must pay for extra service credit themselves. In Bell, however, the city picked up the bill and the council never approved the payments, officials in the city said.

    CalPERS has since disallowed the pension upgrades for the officials and placed the money in an account the city can tap.

    Doug Willmore, Bell’s city manager, said he was unaware of how extensive and costly the program had been for the small, working-class city.

    Willmore said the city is considering whether to file a lawsuit against those for whom it paid the CalPERS money.

    The largest payment the city made was $229,241 for Robert Rizzo, the former city manager.

    Others the city paid for included $120,496 for former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and $61,073 for Teresa Jacobo, a former councilwoman. The city paid slightly more than $36,000 for former Councilmen George Mirabal and George Cole.

    All four are among the former council members standing trial on charges of pumping up their annual salaries as high as $100,000 by drawing pay for serving on city boards that rarely met and did little work.

    In a settlement over his pension, Rizzo agreed in January to give up the additional service credits. Still, his pension is $185,364 a year. Cole and former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia are fighting to keep their pensions intact.

    CalPERS established the program in 2004 and ended it at the beginning of 2013.

    Besides the council members, the other six who received service time were among the highest-paid municipal employees in the country. Among them were Eric Eggena, the director of general services for whom the city paid $112,798 to CalPERS; Luis Ramirez, the deputy engineer, $95,288; Annette Peretz, the director of community services; $86,459; Spaccia, $71,085; and Lourdes Garcia, the director of administrative services, $52,624.

    Rizzo and Spaccia have also been charged with corruption. Their trial is expected to start later this year.

    In an advisory decision about Spaccia’s pension, an administrative law judge gave hope to those who received the five-year service gift from Bell. Judge James Ahlers ruled the payments were permissible because in 2004, a CalPERS employee told Spaccia there “would be no problem” if Bell purchased the service time

    CalPERS legal staff is studying the decision.

    Steve Onstot, the attorney who represented Bell at the hearing, said the CalPERS employee was not authorized to make that decision and that regardless, it never was approved by the council, as required.

    The CalPERS board will decide next month whether to accept the decision, send it back to the judge for additional evidence or hold its own hearing.

    In addition to buying service time in CalPERS for some employees, the city operated its own retirement plan, which provided some employees with one of the most lucrative pension plans in the state for non-safety workers. The city also had a supplemental pension plan for Rizzo and Spaccia that would have boosted the then-city manager’s retirement pay to nearly $1 million annually.

    The CalPERS payments were not be the only city money Rizzo used for Bell council members. Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Hassett said that in 2008 and 2009, the city paid $15,500 each year into a 401(k)-like accounts for former council members Victor Bello, Mirabal, Hernandez and Jacobo.

    The city also made a single $15,500 payment into accounts set up for Cole and former Councilman Luis Artiga, Hassett said.

    Cole testified during his corruption trial that he told Rizzo he didn’t want the money, but the city administrator refused to take it out of his account.

    Alex Hannah, a spokesman for ICMA-RC, the firm that handles the deferred accounts, declined to comment.

    Kevin Duggan, West Coast regional director for the International City/County Management Assn., said that although it is not unusual for a city to pay employees’ deferred compensation, he had never heard of a city paying it for an elected official.

    “They’ve taken a not unusual vehicle and are using it in an unusual and unconventional way,” he said.

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