Mayors group meets out of spotlight, spends thousands in taxpayer funds
by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator
Apr 12, 2012 | 3383 views | 22 22 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Apr 12 12 - 03:34 PM

Apr 12 12 - 03:34 PM

Apr 12 12 - 03:34 PM

Luis Molina
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For at least seven years, mayors of Stanislaus County’s nine cities have regularly met out of the public eye, often discussing policy and spending nearly $6,900 on restaurant bills and other costs at taxpayer expense.

That includes nearly $2,385.69 spent by the city of Patterson alone, according to agendas and receipts from Stanislaus County Mayors Working Group meetings that the Irrigator requested from the county’s nine cities.

The city of Patterson showed agendas and bills for meetings hosted nearly annually since 2005, at times including hefty dinner and gift expenses.

The first mayoral meeting in Patterson took place in April 2005, when David Keller was mayor. The mayors convened at the Diablo Grande clubhouse in April 2006 for a second meeting in Patterson to discuss a transportation sales tax and regional infrastructure, among other agenda items. The city reimbursed Keller for their $495.36 bill for 10 filet mignon and shrimp scampi dinners.

Bills during other cities’ meetings ranged from a little more than $80 to more than $600 for meals, and even more for gifts.

Attempts to reach Keller, who continues to live in Patterson, were unsuccessful this week.

While most cities did not include receipts for gifts given, the city of Oakdale showed gift baskets totaling $360 donated by ConAgra foods, on top of the mayors’ meal during their meeting there last year.

Patterson’s most recent bill related to the mayors group was from a Feb. 8 meeting, when $287.18 in city money was spent for dinner and alcoholic drinks at El Rosal in Patterson. In addition, the city paid $148 on gift baskets given to visiting mayors. Patterson Mayor Luis Molina later reimbursed the city for more than $80 in alcoholic drinks. Last May gift baskets handed out to attendees cost the city some $456.

The Feb. 8 agenda for the meeting in Patterson listed items such as “Ag preservation-growth boundaries and LAFCO” and “Countywide Tax Sharing.”

On Oct. 4, Molina presented the rest of the Patterson City Council with what has been categorized as an agricultural land preservation plan the mayors group worked on.

Before the October meeting, the mayors group requested that each council review a map outlining long-term growth areas in the county and areas of agricultural land.

Molina had sought to have the city planning commission review the plan — part of a possible countywide initiative to seek voter approval of a regional plan — by placing the matter on the council’s consent agenda of routine items.

The council shot down the proposal 4-1, however, and the Turlock planning commission rejected the idea the same week.

Molina said the group of mayors was simply “tossing around ideas.”

The mayors meetings went on long before he was elected, and he carried on the tradition, he said.

“I worked with staff, who was in charge of putting the event together,” Molina said.

He denied giving directions to order gift baskets, however.

Patterson City Manager Rod Butler said he was given general direction to make the meeting similar to one that occurred the month before in Modesto.

Gifts were distributed and dinner was served in January in Modesto, but that city’s government provided no receipts for meetings in 2011 or 2012.

While the city of Patterson was forthcoming with all information related to the mayors meetings, that was not the case with all other cities in the county. The city of Ceres produced only agendas and no receipts, while Turlock produced only receipts and no agendas. City officials from Riverbank — the only city that indicated it had no record of Mayors Working Group meetings taking place there — said they had neither agendas nor receipts.

Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueño, who acts as the mayors group’s elected leader, said this week that she hosted a meeting of the group at her house in 2011, but it was private and involved no city workers.

“I never had any (staff) support, never included the staff for these last two years,” Madueño said.

Madueño was one of three county mayors who removed themselves recently from the Stanislaus County Council of Governments policy board, a 14-member group of elected leaders that makes decisions regarding regional transportation issues. Oakdale Mayor Pat Paul and Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh also stepped down. The board consists of members of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and the city councils of all nine cities in the county.

The mayors group came under fire last month from Californians Aware, an open-government advocacy organization. Terry Francke, the group’s legal counsel at that time, stated that the group’s meetings constituted a quorum of StanCOG members, triggering open-meeting violations. He said the public needed to be properly notified of the meetings, and they needed to be open to the public. The group agreed to do so.

Patterson Councilwoman Annette Smith, a vocal critic of the group, said this week that she disagreed with the direction the group had taken.

“I totally disapprove of the agendas and what they’re doing outside of their elected bodies,” Smith said. “It is a gross manipulation of the duties of the offices in which they were elected.”

While calls to Francke and Marsh were not returned this week, Madueño said she did not understand the recent scrutiny, as the group had been meeting for many years.

“If this is too much for the media and public to take, then we don’t need to meet,” she said. “I guess we need to go back to the way things were before, when everybody lived in their individual silos. It’s not worth the headache.”

She said Tuesday that she planned to make her thoughts known during the Mayors Working Group meeting that was slated to take place Wednesday evening, April 11, at Marsh’s Modesto home. That meeting was expected to be closed to the public, despite the group’s pledge to keep meetings open and publish agendas.

Molina defended keeping the meeting closed, saying privacy was sometimes necessary.

“I think we need to meet informally over dinner sometimes,” he said. “We are not a decision-making board.”

Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187, ext. 31, or nick@pattersonirrigator.com.

Comments
(22)
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Observer_of_the_Observer_of_Observers
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April 25, 2012
I've already said I don't really care that Annette is saying what she has said. Let her. It is her right to complain just like anyone of our rights to complain as well and even more so her right since there was nothing but complaining by people (who happen to not be saying a darn thing on this article because it involves Molina) about her being involved with closed door meetings in the past. The shoe is on the other foot now boys and girls. On another note, wish I could have attended last nights workshop. Heard there was interesting things said that negates what certain people complain about at the podium. Ha!

Don't really care what you have already stated. Don't accuse others of having a double standard when it is clear you are applying one as much as anyone else. You have proven it again in your post above. Wouldn't laugh too hard nothing has been negated. Listening to Annette today, sad to say, she sounds like she wants to continue with this suit. If so, hopefully there are three members of the council who will vote to cut of the funding of the legal fees.
ObserverOfObservers
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April 26, 2012


“After review of your complaint, the information you provided is insufficient to establish a violation of (the Political Reform Act),” Winuk wrote. “Public officials are allowed to make decisions affecting their own compensation, including whether counsel is to be retained for his or her defense, payment of attorney’s fees, without violating the conflict of interest provisions of the Act.”

NEGATED!
ObserverOfObservers
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April 16, 2012
Since we like talking about money being spent by this city on certain things....let's talk about the money being spent by these mayor's....
Cuellar.Sergio
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April 17, 2012
Since Annette is so concerned about this money being spent, why did she say nothing while Becky Campo was Mayor? She was also attending and hosting right? Would she have participated and hosted if she was elected as mayor? Given the amount of back door politics that has occured that Mrs. Smith has been a part of i can assume she wouldnt have questioned it and went ahead with the plan!

Observer_of_the_Observer_of_Observers
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April 24, 2012
I am happy to indulge you because you just don't seem to get it Didn say it was okay for Mayor's Group to skirt open meeting laws. They need to make changes. Still dowsnt excuse Annette's behaviour which you cannot address. You are the one applying a double standard and dont see it.
ObserverOfObservers
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April 23, 2012
So if Annette is involved others in closed meeting it is not alright but if the Mayor does then it is ok for him???

Please indulge me in explaining that logic.
Observer_of_the_Observer_of_Observers
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April 20, 2012
Alot of people are starting to care. I heard from a good number of people who are gwtting tired of the divisiveness and petty bickering.
ObserverOfObservers
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April 20, 2012
AGAIN! Who cares! Let her stir it up! It doesn't take away from the fact that money is being spent unnecessarily and there is closed meetings going on. That is illegal! Period!
Observer_of_the_Observer_of_Observers
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April 19, 2012
It seems you just don't get it. It was Annette who stirred this all up. That is why her name is mentioned.
ObserverOfObservers
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April 19, 2012
AGAIN! Who cares what Annette thinks or whether she was on the council while it went on. Everything is Annette...Annette...Annette. It's Annette's fault that the Mayor's group met behind closed doors. YEP!

It's wrong period! It was wrong for Keller to do it, for Campo and for Molina. But according to you it is alright that he is a part of it because everyone before him was to. So I suppose if Keller and Campo jumped off a bridge, Molina would follow suit correct? Gimme a break!

Because the predecessors did it doesn't make it ok for the current mayor to do it. Why on earth would anyone give a crap if past mayor's did it anyway? Luis Molina is our cuirrent mayor and that is what matters! Such a proponent of open meetings as he is, he should have done something about it but no he didn't. Just as big of a joke as the rest of them.
Cuellar.Sergio
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April 19, 2012
The Joke aside from your sad support for a bad leader, Is as the article has laid out, it has been happening since Mayor Keller! Meaning Becky was a part of it, and Annette has been part of the council since then. But NOW all of a sudden its a problem cause Luis is mayor. The second JOKE is that she has the audacity to call people out for spending tax payer dollars, in this case a less than $3,000 over 7 years, when she has cost the city and tax payers, you included, unless you dont pay taxes, $37,000 dollars in a JOKE of a lawsuit!

I think my jokes are a lot funnier and relevant!

ObserverOfObservers
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April 19, 2012
Who cares what Annette thinks or what she would have done here or there? This is happening now and it is a freakin problem! Is blame Annette or talk about Annette the solution for everyone? What a joke!
ObserverOfObservers
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April 25, 2012
I've already said I don't really care that Annette is saying what she has said. Let her. It is her right to complain just like anyone of our rights to complain as well and even more so her right since there was nothing but complaining by people (who happen to not be saying a darn thing on this article because it involves Molina) about her being involved with closed door meetings in the past. The shoe is on the other foot now boys and girls. On another note, wish I could have attended last nights workshop. Heard there was interesting things said that negates what certain people complain about at the podium. Ha!
ObserverOfObservers
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April 16, 2012
Joke!
Observer_of_the_Observer_of_Observers
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April 16, 2012
The money wasted suing the County was no joke on the taxpayers.
Observer_of_the_Observer_of_Observers
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April 19, 2012
Is that all you can say? Joke? The reason Annette comes up is because she was the one who stirred up the pot. That doesn't make what the Mayor's Group did was right. They do need to reform what they are doing.

Still, Sergio is correct this is small fry compared to the amount of legal expenses racked up by the two City Council members and the amount of money reimbursed to John Ramos. Yet, you completely ignore all that. Your sense of proportion is severely lacking
ObserverOfObservers
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April 19, 2012
Apparently your sense of realizing what "THIS" article is about is lacking. Just sayin....
Cuellar.Sergio
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April 19, 2012
The article is about the mayors group spending tax payer money on meeting together and spending large amounts of money in doing so..the article focuses on Pattersons Part..Which sheds light that this has been happening since mayor keller.

It also states this

"Patterson Councilwoman Annette Smith, a vocal critic of the group, said this week that she disagreed with the direction the group had taken.

“I totally disapprove of the agendas and what they’re doing outside of their elected bodies,” Smith said. “It is a gross manipulation of the duties of the offices in which they were elected.”

So my comments are about the article..Step your research game up, and stop the selective reading..Just sayin

ObserverOfObservers
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April 19, 2012
We have our selves a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black here. Perhaps you should step up your research and selective reading in regards to what this article was about because that statement was not said towards you. But I can understand your confusion and all with your selective reading. Just sayin...
ObserverOfObservers
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April 19, 2012
Sergio,

To follow-up what I just said just in case you need a clarification....if you actually read all these comments you'll notice that there is a flow to them. When one person replies to a thread, their reply goes under that thread. If you also notice, your comments on this article were on the thread above this one. So you see when I made the "THIS" article comment, I wasn't talking to you. But then again there is that selective reading again. Just sayin.....
Cuellar.Sergio
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April 20, 2012
Thank you observer of observers or shall I call you Tom Tom for your great navigation skills in the world of blogging? Sorry to have jumped into your battle with observer of observers of observers, but in your selective reading you missed that I was mentioned in this thread. I also was just calling out your bs that this article was not about annette or her spending of tax payer money and that it doesn't matter. So while your blogging gps has you running in circles trying to put out fires caused by your protective and selective reading of what annettes role is in all of this, my deeper analysis makes connections that are clear when you view it with open eyes!
ObserverOfObservers
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April 20, 2012
I don't really care what Annette did or didn't do in regards to this issue that we are discussing. It still doesn't take away from what I said and again I will state it "Luis Molina is our current mayor and that is what matters! Such a proponent of open meetings as he is, he should have done something about it but no he didn't. Just as big of a joke as the rest of them."



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