SANTA ANA — The problem for local government entities with transparency is that if you don’t operate transparently all the time, people tend to dig around to figure out what you’re up to. In the tragic case of the Banana Peel Republic of Santa Ana, they keep saying they’re transparent, but their actions say something completely different.
Last week I asked the City a few questions about the search for the City Manager, specifically how the search came to be on hold. What I learned only generated more questions. As I wrote last week, the search was apparently placed on hold by the City Council during a closed session discussion on July 18, 2011. That action was apparently news to at least three of the six members present at the meeting. I should point out that Councilman Sal Tinajero, one of the clueless ones including members Michele Martinez and Vince Sarmiento, was not present during the portion of the closed session that dealt with the City Manager search.
One of the questions I had asked was whether there was a contract, scope of work, and recruitment timeline for the search. I was told by City Public Information Officer Jose Gonzalez that he did not have the contract available to him to answer my question. On Monday morning I followed up with the City Clerk to ask to inspect, and receive a copy of the contract for the City Manager search. To my surprise I was told that no contract had been executed, therefore no contract was available for review.
What? No contract?
That’s odd. Gonzalez had suggested when we spoke last week that the City may have simply added the work for the City Manager search on to the existing contract for the City Attorney search, which maxes out at $25,000. But one would think that such an addition would be in writing, and therefore available for review. So I asked why there was no contract. City Clerk Maria Huizar indicated that the contract for the City Manager search had been sent over to the consultant about 3 weeks ago (around July 18th by my estimate) and the signed and executed contract had not been returned.
So I asked for the Invoices submitted by the search consultant Bob Murray & Associates since May 1, 2011. I got those invoices (here) late Tuesday afternoon. It seems that the fact no contract is in place for the City Manager search has absolutely no impact on the contractor’s ability to start work on the project, and bill for services. Since May 16, 2011 Bob Murray & Associates has billed the City of Santa Ana $6,618.55 for services related to the City Manager search. During the same time period the city was invoiced $10,784.66 for the City Attorney search bringing the total to at least $17,403.21. I say “at least” because I did not initially ask for all of the invoices, just those from May forward. I have since requested all invoices and will adjust my figures accordingly once I hear back.
UPDATE : I heard back from the City Clerk and the contractor has exceeded the allowable costs for his consulting agreement by $5,238.49. The costs for the City Attorney recruitment have reached $23,639.94 of the allowable maximum of $25,000. Any contracted vendor exceeding that amount requires contract approval, in public, by the City Council. That hasn’t happened. The total amount invoiced is $30,258.49
Not the City of Bell?
I’ve got just one simple question; how do you spend public funds on a consultant without a contract in place before work begins? This is the same type of crap that went on in the City of Bell. Without a contract there is no accountability, no work plan, no deliverables. From an audit perspective this transaction would show up as an audit exception. And this City Council says that Santa Ana is Not the City of Bell. You could have fooled me.
And we learned this week that one of these rocket scientists on the City Council (Michele Martinez) wants to represent the people of Santa Ana, and part of Anaheim in the State Assembly. That would be a good example of promoting someone to their highest level of incompetence.
Just another day in the Banana Peel Republic of Santa Ana.