I guess I must admit that I’m still the child who chides his parents for “not doing what you tell me to do.”
For example, at the June 11 Idyllwild Fire commission meeting, President Jeannine Stigall commented that the commission had informed its public of the health care overpayments as soon as the commission learned in April of this $100,000 problem.
She lamented the lack of credit the commission has received for being open and transparent.
So I will acknowledge that the paper has been slow to applaud the commission’s revelation. Part of the delay is simply curiosity about why it took 16 months to discover this and now another two months have passed since the announcement. Yet a resolution has not been forthcoming. How will the money be recovered or will it even be returned? It’s your money being given away, apparently inadvertently. Why shouldn’t you know how the problem may be solved?
One can only wonder why it isn’t in the public’s interest to understand and to know how the double payments will be dealt with. So that tempers my observation of the district’s transparency.
Let me acknowledge another effort on the commission’s part to be “open and transparent.” Now it will accept public comments on agenda items and other fire commission topics near the beginning of the meeting, but not during the discussion of specific items on the agenda.
Do you think your comments or questions would confuse them? One commissioner said it was because meetings were lasting until 10 p.m.
The June 11 meeting lasted that long because the commission went into closed session for 90 minutes. The May 28 meeting lasted that long becasue one person spoke for 20 to 30 minutes and the president asked each employee organization to read its letter to the commission — identical letters.
The county’s Board of Supervisors, as well as the local water districts, listens to constituent comments on board items.
Here’s another example: At the June 25 meeting, Stigall and Chief Patrick Reitz announced at the beginning of the meeting that the financial statements and reports would not be discussed at the meeting.
During the discussion of the 2013-14 budget, Commissioner Chip Schelly asked a question pertaining to the 2012-13 financial statements. So I raised my hand to ask a related question, which I had held earlier since this subject wasn’t supposed to be discussed that night. I wanted to know why the May salary costs had fallen nearly 16 percent. Since they were now discussing a topic that wasn’t supposed to be on the agenda, I should have been afforded the opportunity to ask a question.
Commissioiners Pete Capparelli and Schelly saw my raised hand and told Stigall. But she never recognized me to ask a question, despite entertaining a topic which was not supposed to be on the agenda.
“It’s especially egregious since two others commissionser recognized your intent,” commented Jim Ewert, California Newspaper Publishers Association general counsel.
Finally, let me note another instance of where I believe the commission’s concern for its fiduciary responsibilities continues to be lax, not open.
California’s Health and Safety Code mandates that local fire departments publish a notice telling their constituents that a preliminary budget is available for review and when and where the final budget will be adopted. This notice is to be published in a newspaper in the district before June 30. (Health and Safety Code Section 13893). IFPD chose not to comply with this law.
So if the commission believes it gets too little credit for openness, perhaps reading about some of these actions will explain my reluctance to pat it on the back.
J.P., News Editor