Amended. Reviewing the city of Mission Viejo’s check register

Having just received an email from our city manager on the rental of two RV’s for the Rose Parade logistics support there are some corrections which I shall add in italics below. Let me begin by saying that if the $6,900 expenditure was incorrect he should have corrected the cost when it was questioned at the council meeting. The actual figure is $5,842.20.

While I have a more detailed report in process, one item that I intend to include was flushed out at the Mission Viejo city council meeting on Monday by council member Cathy Schlicht.

For those who attend your city council meetings the first items to be voted on, after approval of the prior meeting minutes, are the Check Registers for the prior month. I visited our city hall last Thursday and, after looking at our latest check registers, made a few notes and submitted a Public Record request for some back-up information.

Cathy Schlicht engaged in her own due diligence over the weekend and was not ready to simply give a rubber stamp to expenditures. Among her promises to the voters in her campaign was to promote transparency.

She pulled check register items 3, 4 and 5 this past Monday. In the Dec 12th check register was an expenditure for $1,150 as a deposit to rent two RV’s. The Dec 26th check register had two payments of $2,346.10 each as the balance due for a grand total  of $5,842.20.

Cathy asked “what was the need for that” to which City Manager Wilberg responded saying “they served as a staging area and formation area for the morning of the parade” adding “during holidays it was cheaper to rent them for the week beginning Dec 26th.”

PS: The city owns an RV which we allow the OCSD to use at major events such as our 4th of July Street Fair. Why wasn’t that RV used for the Rose Parade as it was not being used at that time?

Ironically Cathy owns an RV and said if asked she would have gladly given it to the city for the parade support.

Without seeking cost data on RV rental fees my issue is that mayor Frank Ury told Cathy that if she has questions on the Agenda she should contact staff in advance rather than bringing them up as she did on Monday. Is he afraid that she might expose expenditures that the residents might oppose?

Even with the time spent on her valid questions we set a record on Monday with the entire council meeting being completed in less than one hour. I would argue that, outside of council members, there are probably less than 10 people out of the 100,000 living in Mission Viejo who even look at these Registers.

When the city provides the documentation that I have requested, covering all Rose Parade float invoices and sales proceeds of the T-shirts/sweatshirts and trinkets purchased for the parade I promise to post that data. So for the next week we will simply have to wait and see what is reported to me by the city.

My advise to all watchdogs. Look into your city check registers where you might find some interesting expenditures. The most famous of all for us was former Mission Viejo council member Gail Reavis who discovered our prior city manager spending around $5,000 for a new desk and leather pad.

Without Gail’s exposure, and whereas most residents never enter that office, we would never have learned of that expenditure. Register columnist Steve Greenhut covered Gail’s discovery in the Register a few years ago.

It’s a new day. Fight for transparency. Keep their feet to the fire. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. They were elected to serve you and I.

About Larry Gilbert