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City Council Not Impressed by Grand Jury

A recent grade given to RSM for compensation transparency is met with scrutiny—and right back at you.

Mayor Tony Beall seemed to savor the moment, delivered to no more than three members of the public in attendance at last week's City Council meeting for Rancho Santa Margarita.

"With respect to the grand jury, their intentions I think are good—I'll give them an A for their good intentions," Beall, an attorney by trade, said with some mocking authority. "But when it comes to their implementation, I really think they can do better. I give them a D."

The comment was made in response to an Orange County Grand Jury report, delivered by director of administrative services Paul Boyer, in which the grand jury graded the City for compensation cost transparency. 

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The grand jury gave the city an A grade for accessibility. And, for content and clarity of the disclosure of compensation for staff executives, the City also received an A grade; however, it received a D grade for the compensation and benefits of "lower level" employees.

Yet Boyer revealed that the information on the city's website that was given a D grade was modeled after the page that was given an A, which left him exasperated much like the council members who heard his explanation.

Additionally, he said, the report was released and cities graded but without their being told what criteria was used for grading. "Until we saw the report, we had no idea what we were graded on or that there was additional information we were being graded on," Boyer said.

All three council members in attendance—Beall, Carol Gamble and Jerry Holloway—had sharp comments about the grand jury's effort. Holloway, who announced he will not seek reelection to a council seat, said he one day hoped to be on the grand jury; Gamble said she hoped he would be on it, too.

"I take offense when the grand jury comes out and assigns an arbitrary grade to our city and others based on criteria that’s never been given to our city," Beall said. "That’s poor form."

"I don't want to get a D, which implies we failed a test that we were never provided," Gamble said. "This entire machination is a giant waste of public money. They just need to tell us what it is and get everyone on the same page, and if you then don’t get on the same page you get a D or an F or a G or whatever letter they want to assign to it. … I’m completely lost. We’ll do whatever you want. We wouldn’t mind finding out what it is before you give us a grade."

Council members asked city manager Jennifer Cervantez to fashion a letter to the grand jury that would have them notify cities of the criteria prior and allow some time for compliance before releasing such grades.

The City has until Sept. 12 to respond to the grand jury, but is not legally bound to come into compliance. The City will comply, however.

Holloway asked Boyer if there was any information that would be witheld from a resident who sought compensation information from the city. There isn't, apart from that which is confidential by law, such as an entire copy of an individual's W-2 tax form.

"The city would not dislcose that information and tie it into a name," Boyer said.

"But if someone came in five years ago and asked what Holloway makes, you'd give it to them," Holloway said.

"Absolutely," Boyer answered.

The dean of students at Santa Margarita Catholic High, Holloway said he thought he would get considerable protest if students walked into class and they were given a grade for something they've not yet done.

"Give me an assignment first," he said. "It's like those (cities) that didn't do it correctly didn't do it intentionally. (The Grand Jury) might have been trying to justify their existence. It's a great idea but oddly structured. There isn't any information the public couldn't get from us."

RSM DAD August 20, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Beall, Gamble, and Holloway complaining about how the Grand Jury graded them about transparency is laughable. Aren't these the same three that have hidden their pay from the public for years? How hard is it to transparent to the public? These funds belong to us and we should be able to see how our tax dollars are spent. It wasn't until the last Grand Jury report in 2010 (where the city received two D's) that we learned our City Council members had been receiving for years a benefits / retirement package worth over $60,000. It seems that our officials ONLY want to disclose just enough to please the Grand Jury but not enough to be 100% transparent to the public.
J.P. August 20, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Nice try RSM Dad, your political smear tactics are bogus and sound identical to the lies that have been circulated by some of the current candidates for City Council (especially Kenney Hrabik). All those allegations were shown to be false during the March 28, 2012 City Council Meeting (Item #7.1) Listen for yourself here: http://cityofrsm.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=97&meta_id=6457 RSM Dad, stop with the lies and get your political smear tactics and dirty politics out of RSM!
RSM Dad August 20, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Hey who is this phony RSM DAD stealing my screen name? Don't confuse him with the Real RSM Dad. AndJ.P has hit the nail on the head. More of Kenney Hrabik's nonsense. The same guy that bilked the city of $50,000 for his bogus lawsuit. He is a loser in all respects and should never be elected to the city council.
RSM DAD August 20, 2012 at 09:19 PM
I think I trust a Grand Jury's report over City officials or bloggers. Please point out the errors of my post? Here is the link to the 2010 report that gave our city two D's. http://www.cityofrsm.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=7999
Dove Canyon Oldtimer August 20, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Well, well, well. It looks like the campaigning is beginning. I think Kenney's chickens are about ready to come home to roost.
Darren Hill August 21, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Complaining about a screen name lol. Anyways that $50,000 was a settlement the City approached Mr. Hrabik and was never taken to the courts just to let you know. There City Council members that have been receiving benefits which has been continuing to be put off. If you guys believe these incumbents (2 of them are trying to get re-elected) excuses as to the poor grades then you guys need to get some fresh air and open your eyes. I too will take an impartial grand jury's report over incumbent politicians trying to get re-elected.
April Josephson August 21, 2012 at 09:34 AM
Welcome to Patch, copycat DAD. Mr. Hill, thanks for backing up the bogus post for your candidate. I enjoy each opportunity that your misleading posts create which allows me to bring the truth to the residents of RSM. The City has addressed and debunked your (Mr. Hrabik's) misrepresentations. RSM's government IS transparent. City Council compensation has always been disclosed to the public: It is posted on the City website—there's a link to it from the middle of the homepage. Plus, it's prominently listed in each annual budget, and reviewed during the budget process—at public hearings. Anyone interested in council compensation has the opportunity to attend and participate in the process. I do. Council compensation has not increased in more than six years, and is nowhere near the dollar amount you claim. In fact, the Grand Jury report confirmed that RSM Council compensation is at the median for all cities in Orange County. The City received a grade of A for transparency in categories other than the format of presentation. Had that format been provided to the City prior to the review (which is a point made in this article), the City would have used the Grand Jury format as well. As to the lawsuit filed by Mr. Hrabik—why would someone who caused such dissension and sued the city—then admitted to wrongdoing while taking money from the city—expect that voters would put them in charge of the city that they took money from? Good luck with your campaign of falsehoods!
Lawrence (Larry) McCook August 21, 2012 at 05:15 PM
I find considerable levity in the many comments posted by the incumbents and their supporters. Even the "real names used" have 97% proven to be phony and after checking the Registrar of Voters Records, these phony names are not even registered to vote. I must admit, very few RSM residents (including candidates for office) bother attend the City Council meetings therefore they are in the dark on many issues. I know the difference in true transparency and if elected to City Council will offer this total transparency to all of the citizens of Rancho Santa Margarita. If anyone has any questions both of a civic or personal nature please feel free to contact me. larry4rsm@yahoo.com or (949) 207-3900
April Josephson August 21, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Larry, which incumbents have posted comments? I don't see them. I guess I am the 3% that is not phony ;-) Also, why would you post your phone number and tell people to contact you about questions of a personal nature? I don't see the relevance...
Lawrence (Larry) McCook August 21, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Yes April, you are one of the most highly opinionated commentors and you have publically lined up in support of The Old Guard Incumbents and their protege(s). But, you are for real and I do appreciate you for this and also the fact that you come to a lot of council meetings! In regard to the phone number, I will openly discuss any issue(s) concerning RSM or my personal stand on any of these issues with anyone that might be interested.
Chris McLaughlin August 22, 2012 at 08:06 AM
I've always kind of wondered why the compensation section of the City website doesn't just name names instead of only having the titles listed. Is that a rule or something? Did that keep us from getting an A+ in transparency?? Figuring out the Council members is fun with the different asterisks, until you realize they're simply in alphabetic order, but the other City Staff making over six figures is really not concealing anything when the same person who goes to every City Council meeting has held the position the entire fiscal year...
Chris McLaughlin August 22, 2012 at 08:15 AM
Two things that don't seem to add up perfectly: The column that includes the mandatory retirement contribution is sometimes a zero for some Council Members. How mandatory can it be if not everyone's contributing?? It's probably done in the first half of the year, so that would explain why the two who didn't get re-elected didn't contribute any, but that doesn't explain how Baric was able to get out if it. (Not that anyone should complain about that, since Baric didn't get paid in a lot of columns.) The two outgoing incumbents didn't receive ANY 'other pay', so no 'fees, deferred compensation, incentive bonus, auto allowance and pay in lieu of time off' either for those two, for their entire 6 months, but despite that, they still managed to pull down exactly half (down to the penny!) of the two incumbents who were on for the whole year??
Chris McLaughlin August 22, 2012 at 08:28 AM
It seems strange that despite some variance in the fees for being on different County-level boards, and different insurance premiums, the Mayor and Jerry had the exact same amounts total comp for the year, exactly double what the two half-year Council Members made. That's just too mathematically tidy and without statistical anomaly to be an accident. Is there an explicit clause about any money you don't happen to get paid in one column/benefit type you reserve the right to get paid in another way?? In that case, we should stop thinking of a monthly salary plus other benefits and just make it simple by saying 'Every Council Member will work the system to get paid their full $22,104 in total comp every year (unless they're Steve Baric making a principled stand against exorbitant part-time benefits because he obviously has health insurance from some other source).' That should really get an A+ in transparency next time, and make it easy to calculate that we will spend a maximum of $110,520 in total City Council compensation this year (5 x $22,104), which would be towards the low end of the top paid City Staff/Executives, a fantastic bargain in my book for the value RSM gets from our City Council.

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