At the council meeting on Feb 5, during comment section, long after most people had left, Mayor Pro Tem McCullough quoted from a Grand Jury report and claimed that the City of Lake Forest received “flying colors” on transparency. She went on to say that we “got a raving report”.
(You can view the speech here)
“Flying colors”? “Raving report”? “On transparency”?
Surely if the Grand Jury did a report on Lake Forest and gave us “flying colors” in a “raving report” we would have heard about it before now. After all, city staff and council rarely miss an opportunity to promote the city.
So I traced down the report mentioned by the good Council woman and former Mayor. The 2011-2012 Grand Jury assessed how well Orange County local governments reported compensation costs for all employee positions. Their report was issued on 6/14/12 and is available on their website.
The Grand Jury looked at 3 things – (1) how easy was it to find the webpage(s) that dealt with compensation, and more importantly, (2) how clear and comprehensive was the content for executive pay (i.e., people making over $100,000 per year of which there are many in our City) and (3) how clear and comprehensive was the content for all employee compensation.
Lake Forest was rated “A” (excellent) for accessibility (i.e., you could find our webpage), but “C” (average) for Executive Page Content and Clarity and “D” (poor) for Employee Content and Clarity. Now I don’t know about your family, but in my family, getting a “C” and a “D” for the two major components is not what we called “flying colors”.
Here’s a comparison with some of our neighbors. The first score is for accessibility, second for executive content and clarity, and the third is for employee content and clarity. We come in 9th out of 11. Only Laguna Niguel and Mission Viejo did more poorly than us!
• Costa Mesa – A,A,A
• Laguna Woods – A,A,A
• Dana Point - A,A,D
• Irvine – A,A,D
• RSM – A,A,D
• San Juan Capistrano – A,A,D
• San Clemente – A,A,D
• Laguna Hills – A, B+, D
• LAKE FOREST, A,C,D
• Laguna Niguel – B,D,D
• Mission Viejo – A,D,D
Again, I can’t speak for your family, but in my family, coming in 9th out of 11 doesn’t qualify for “flying colors” or “a raving report”.
Not only was her recollection about how well we did incorrect, it was clearly out of context. The Grand Jury report was not about transparency as it was being discussed in the council meeting (e.g., sunshine ordinances), but was limited to how well the public was being informed about city employee compensation.
So, Council woman McCullough’s comments that our City didn’t need to be more transparent in general were completely off the mark. Is Council member McCullough lying to us again? Just a few meetings ago she said that “Lake Forest is one of the safest cities in the U.S.” when we all know that Lake Forest is not even one of the safest cities in Southern California, much less in the U.S. You can revisit my previous blog for the long and sad history of this situation.
Maybe it’s too strong to say that she is lying again. Perhaps her memory is fading and she mis-represents reality. Perhaps all she remembers of the Grand Jury report is that we got an “A” because it was easy to find the webpage, but she forgot about the “C” and the “D” for the far more relevant content and clarity. If that’s the case, then maybe it’s time to throw in the towel. A lot of what a City Council member does is to rely on their memory to help them make decisions that are in front of them. Well, if her memory is getting so poor, maybe it’s time to retire gracefully. Not so long ago she made a decision to institute a ban on sexual offenders in parks and then reversed herself. Before that she did the same thing with a ban on day laborers. Maybe it’s not poor judgment but poor memory that is at work.
Of course Council member McCullough is not alone in deceiving the public. Mayor Voigts and Council member Herzog have both droned on about how “safe” we are, knowing full well how “safe” we aren’t. And Herzog never fails to miss an opportunity to rail against the “outside influences” that are trying to determine who gets elected in Lake Forest, even while he cashes the checks for thousands of dollars from people and businesses that are outside Lake Forest.
Interestingly enough, the impetus for the Grand Jury report was the problem in the City of Bell, which was approaching financial bankruptcy because of their compensation packages. Our city, Lake Forest, is doing fine (thank you) in the financial area. But it is in the moral zone that we are approaching bankruptcy.
Things are pretty depressing when your leaders deceive you and lie to your face. There’s not much we can do. After all, neither lying nor accepting money from people/businesses that appear before you are illegal. We’ll have to wait until next year when Herzog, McCullough, and Voigts are up for re-election. Who knows, maybe between now and then they will see the moral error of their ways and repent. I’m taking bets if you’re interested. Meanwhile I will continue to expose their miscreant ways and hope that you are as outraged as I am.