At Tuesday night’s Anaheim City Council meeting, observers saw what I truly believe to be the last gasp of civility at City Hall for the remainder of the current Council administration. That sounds pretty melodramatic, I know. If we managed to get through the $158 million hotel giveaway, a $319 million streetcar for Disney patrons, civil unrest, a Brown Act lawsuit tied to the hotel giveaway, and another lawsuit tied to District voting, what could possibly be so big that it spells the end of the ability to function as an elected body?
The City Council cut the Mayor’s budget last summer, leaving him without staff before the end of the fiscal year. Further below, I’ll go into an explanation of why his funds should not have been cut. But what I really want to address is the symbolism of what happened Tuesday night, because it is indicative of where our City’s future will be.
Supplemental funding of $30,000 was on the Consent Calendar last night. Council could have approved the whole enchilada without batting an eyelash. Anaheim’s over-$1 billion budget makes that funding gap little more than an accounting error. Instead, Councilman Jordan Brandman pulled the item for discussion. The Mayor shared research on how much other cities spent for Mayoral staff, and how frankly we’re getting off cheap. Several speakers had defied convention (for which they will pay later) and spoke in favor of the funding. No speakers spoke in opposition. (Isn’t that Gail Eastman’s benchmark for spending millions?)
The Mayor made a motion to approve…and waited for a second…and waited. Councilwoman Lucille Kring started to ask a timid question and Brandman shut her up, citing parliamentary rules against discussion on a motion that hasn’t been seconded. Lucille zipped her lips, declining to second. After a heated exchange between the Mayor and Brandman who arrogantly saw himself in the role of chairing the meeting, the motion died for lack of a second. The cowards did not have the guts to even vote no, much less give a reason for their opposition.
Now whether you approve of the spending or not, the way it was handled was a direct slap in the face, both to Mayor Tom Tait, and to the taxpayers of Anaheim. Certainly nobody owes Tom Tait a yes vote, not even Kring with her Mayoral endorsement. What they do owe is courtesy for the process and for those watching the process take place. It’s standard practice, and perfectly appropriate, to second a motion only to later vote against it. The public deserves the discussion of pros and cons that can only take place after a motion has been seconded.
The colleague who makes the motion is owed the general professional courtesy of a second, which may not reflect agreement, but it shows acknowledgment of the individual and the office they hold in making the motion. To refuse to second the Mayor’s motion the remaining Council members sent the message that it was not worthy of their time to even discuss it or vote it down. It was the ultimate slap in the face for a political body to make, far worse than a majority vote opposing. And in refusing to allow their opposing vote to be recorded in the minutes, preferably with at least some explanation of why they were voting no, the Council majority dismissed the very public that put them there. We were deemed not worthy of an explanation and a recorded vote.
In their behavior last night, the Council majority sent a clear signal. Tait was not to be provided even the most basic of professional courtesy. They were, in essence, openly declaring the war they’ve been waging subversively for the last year and a half.
That’s why I say $30,000 signals the end of civility in Anaheim.
Now on to the details. There is a lot of misinformation about this Agenda item, and I will have more to report when a Public Records Request comes in later. For now, I want to debunk some of the “reasons” some have given for not restoring the Mayor’s funding.
The Council majority cut the Mayor’s funding for staff last summer, reducing it to the amount each of the other four Council members are allocated. Their egalitarian excuses ring false, because the City Charter specifically gives the independently elected Mayor more direct responsibility than the others. It stands to reason that he needs more resources. In addition, his Policy Advisor Mishal Montgomery (not secretary, not assistant-Policy Advisor) holds a Masters Degree in her field, putting her into an employee classification that pays more and provides for pension benefits other Council staff with less experience or qualification are not offered.
Anyone with a background with government employees understands the nightmare of calculating classifications, but essentially it means if she wants to opt out of some of those benefits provided within her classification, she has to change classification, and with that change take the resulting pay cut. I’ve seen Councilwoman Kris Murray’s recent email insisting Montgomery ran into trouble for stubbornly clinging to a generous pension and could have made the budget work at her pay grade by giving up her retirement, but her argument appears false. But then Murray’s insistence to me last summer that Montgomery works “nowhere near” 30 hours a week also appears false.
I did manage to catch the Mayor after the meeting, and I’m repeating second-hand information. My attempt here is to fill in some basic gaps to stop a misinformation campaign, while crafting a public records request to confirm the information directly. I will report when I have it. So while what I am about to share is second-hand, I am reporting what the Mayor and his staff BELIEVED to be their circumstances, as related to me by a Mayor trying to pack for a conference.
Mayor Curt Pringle created that budget, hired Mishal Montgomery, and set the work load for the Mayor’s office. Some have referenced a vote Tait made against that budget during his Council service in 2002, but the Mayor’s duties have changed drastically since that time. We also do not compare gas or real estate based on eleven-year time gaps either. Duh.
Mayor Pringle’s budget, inherited by Tait, allowed a maximum compensation rate FOR THE OFFICE not specifically Montgomery, of $100k. The Mayor and his Advisor were of the (reasonable) belief they had not used all of it in the past. I can see Mayor Pringle creating a budget with wiggle room, in the event he needed to bring in extra help for temporary assistance. Mayor Pringle was not the type to ask his colleagues for permission to spend more money when he needs it in his office. Certainly nobody expected that amount to be Mishal Montgomery’s alone. As Voice of OC reports, Mishal Montgomery has collected $39,780 so far this fiscal year (since July) while working the usual 30 hour work week of the past. This is light years from “Bell.”
Even if one calculates her PERS (which appears built into her employment classification status) there is no reason to expect that she was exceeding the budgeted amount.
Every government organization runs a little differently, but in my capacity as a public official elsewhere, if we had spent a percentage of budget beyond the percentage of completed fiscal year, there would be some sort of notice from those who handle these things. Mishal Montgomery is a City employee, not an outside contractor, and an assumption of Human Resources or the City Manager’s office reporting a faster burn rate than time period allows would be credible. While I am reluctant to reach into my bag of hearsay, it is my understanding that either the Mayor or Mishal herself spoke with H.R. not long after last summer’s vote, and received enough informal assurance that neither seemed concerned.
As it turns out the City calculated the rate based on total compensation, not take-home, including employer contribution costs that even Mishal never saw on her paycheck and therefore had no way of calculating. The Mayor appears to have had no idea they were exceeding her allotted pay until it was too late to correct it.
I believe this version of events, because frankly the opposition’s tale of irresponsibility makes no sense!
Mayor Tom Tait is quite aware that he is surrounded by people who hate him. He has watched this same crowd strip Lorri Galloway of her Mayor Pro Tem title, in response to her perfectly legal participation in a perfectly legal process to dispute what turned out to be an illegal Council vote. Nothing is beneath these people. The idea that he would deliberately burn through his budget forcing him to grovel to the very people who reduced it in the first place is insane. That Mishal Montgomery would base her family’s financial future on that premise is even more insane.
We can get into the data the Mayor provided last night regarding what other cities with equivalent budgets spend on staff for the Mayor, but ultimately the only numbers I am concerned with are the Mayor’s own. What did he need in staffing the last two years in office? What did Curt Pringle need in the way of staffing during his eight years in office? Has that work load been reduced? If not, and as long as the money is in the budget, why are we not providing the Mayor of the 10th largest city in California with the tools he needs to do the job we elected him to do?
There is some indignation at the idea that “the Mayor’s secretary makes $100,000 for working part time!” Again, she is not a secretary, and second her “part time” work is 30 hours a week, not the 20 hours we generally consider part time. But I ran some quick napkin numbers. If Mishal Montgomery made $100,000 for the year, take home pay, no deductions, just her and her bank see that check, based on a 30 hour work week, and no vacation because she receives no vacation pay, she would make just above $60 per hour. Check my math, but I think that is correct. Now $60 per hour take home would be a great deal of money, and I might object to that myself. Are we in agreement?
Councilwoman Kris Murray no longer uses City employees for her staffing needs. She has instead outsourced that work to an outside firm, Barrios and Associates. I have an Invoice for services, provided by the always capable City Clerk, Linda Andal.
Arianna Barrios bills at a rate of $100 per hour for her work as Kris Murray’s assistant. That is take home, no deductions. Her experience is not public policy, the Orange Chamber describes her as a “Consultant specializing in marketing, communications, online and social media. Develop and manage online programs and public outreach and media campaigns.”
Her LinkedIn bio is included below. Take a look and tell me if there is anything there to merit twice the pay of a Policy Advisor with a Master’s and decades of experience in her field? How does Murray manage to keep her under budget at that hourly rate? BECAUSE THEY HAVE LESS WORK THAN THE MAYOR!
Kris Murray and her Council cohorts have worked very hard to give the Mayor a black eye, and leave us with the impression that the spendthrift leader is paying his staff obscene sums of money. But comparatively speaking Murray pays her assistant, with less education and related experience, what looks like TWICE the amount she is ripping on Tait for paying Montgomery. Pot, meet kettle.
There is no sense to this soap opera. Clearly the idea of running the 7th floor in the interest of the public good is foreign to these petty children who treat City Hall like the lunch tables of a junior high school. The real losers in this sorry saga, beyond the Mayor, beyond his staff, are the citizens of Anaheim who have been forgotten while the three-member – excuse me, now FOUR-member – Council majority use their elected positions for their own personal revenge. Welcome to Anaheim.
Trustee at Rancho Santiago Community College District
Orange County, California Area
Marketing and Advertising
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Arianna Barrios’s Overview
- Trustee at Rancho Santiago Community College District
- Owner at Barrios and Associates
- Consultant at Faubel Public Affairs
- Marketing Consultant at Taylor Morrison
- Marketing Director – West Region at Taylor Woodrow
- California State University-Fullerton
- Cambridge Elementary School
Arianna Barrios’ Experience
Rancho Santiago Community College District
Educational Institution; 201-500 employees; Higher Education industry
September 2011 – Present (1 year 7 months) Orange County, California Area
Appointed to fill a Trustee vacancy in September of 2011, I will be seeking election to a full term in November 2012.
Barrios and Associates
January 2004 – Present (9 years 3 months)
Marketing and Communications Programs – I work with a variety of companies to assess, create and maximize current marketing and communications programs as well as strategize and create new and unique programs.
Faubel Public Affairs
Public Relations and Communications industry
2009 – 2011 (2 years)
Privately Held; 501-1000 employees; Construction industry
2004 – 2008 (4 years)
Marketing Director – West Region
Privately Held; 1001-5000 employees; Construction industry
March 2003 – March 2005 (2 years 1 month)
Directed regional marketing efforts for high-end homebuilder. Initiated special projects and initiatives.
Director of Communication
Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace
March 2000 – March 2002 (2 years 1 month)