Hurry, call 9-1-1. Larry Gilbert agrees with former Mission Viejo city manager Dan Joseph!

Wow! Files, files, files and piles of documents. Well, as I continue purging my city, county and state related documents I found one that contains a warning from our former city manager, Dan Joseph. I need to copy him on this post.

Saddleback Valley News Guest View dated Friday, March 26, 2004.
Headline of Dan Joseph’s article reads.

“Spending slowdown is urged by former manager.”

“On the surface the expansion of the Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center is a very commendable project and one which would benefit thousands of residents in Mission Viejo.” Skipping ahead Dan says: “Below the surface, though, these projects raise questions about long-term financing of on-going operations of these two programs.” Note: This is a reference to renovation of two MV recreation centers.

He continues by stating “The cost of the expansion of the Community Center is estimated to be approximately $3 million.” Hello out there. Are you reading this?

I chastised the local SV News reporter for her failure to show the true original estimate along with the current cost in one of her recent columns that was never corrected nor was my rebuttal ever printed. By the time this expanded center opens the total costs, including all the F & F that was never discussed, will end up around four times the $3 million dollar cost( as referenced by Dan Joseph) that residents were told as the project was added to the approved project listing. Note. Dan is excluding the $3 million Grant that the city received.

He closes by stating: “I find it ironic that this city council, which freely criticizes former councils for their rampant spending, is on the verge of setting the destiny for future councils by making expenditures without any analysis and setting the stage for future councils to lay the blame for its financial ills at the feet of this council. I urge this council to slow down.”

Sorry to report Dan. This city council/city management staff’s run-away train has no breaks. We must win another award for architecture, landscaping and whatever other awards we can find for this red ink project.

Note: Larry Gilbert was one of several citizens to lobby for the removal of former Mission Viejo City manager Dan Joseph during the 2002 election. However, his crystal ball on this council’s extravagance was clearer than I expected as it relates to their failure to protect our lock box.

Closing thoughts. It is unfortunate that elected officials and members of staff can pull the wool over our eyes. Let me cite a few examples. For expediency I have seen a city manager issue a Contract above his cap without council approval. As Mission Viejo discusses a dog park we have already paid a firm to do the design and spent, so I am told, around $40,000 for two designs depending on which site will be selected. A city document with projected cost data lists a final projected cost for this design at around $150,000. My question. Did we go out for competitive Bids before the original concept contract was issued?
This contractor appears to win every contract requiring his type of services. Hmmm.
If you select the same contractor for every project I would not waste my firms time to prepare a document bid package to submit a response for any future work.

I recall statements in my city where we were told that the staff was unable to get multiple bids. I wonder why?

Let’s look at the allegations against Treasurer/Tax Collector Chris Street where his department issued multiple purchase orders, to the same firm, for the same renovation project, where said orders were just below the radar screen to avoid the need to obtain multiple signatures on said purchase agreements. Hello folks. This is not the private sector where we can cut corners.

I have seen projects in my city where it’s a la carte. Low ball the overall project cost by building it in phases when the public no longer can impact change orders that are found on the routine consent calendar and you are stuck. Dan is right when he mentions a need for this council to slow down.

Let me suggest that when you are questioning your elected officials on any project expenditure you are not in a restaurant ordering a la carte. We must be careful to ask all of the right questions or we will fall under the “acts of omission” where they only provide specific answers at best and will not help you with the correct questions to ask. Example. We were told that the city was building a library and were given the construction costs. Did we ask about related costs for contract management or architectural design? Did we ask about F & F, furniture and fixtures, etc?

PS: As to spending habits. We have $400 to $500 chairs in a conference building that is hardly used, but that’s another story. I’ll let Dan answer for those. We have no one to blame but ourselves if we fail to ask all of the necessary questions and challenge the council before they close these Agenda items.

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