In an attempt to counter the growing questions being presented to the city by citizens and the press as a result of the revelation on this site of the October 7, 2012 denial letter from the State Department of Finance to city manager Richard Warne in regards to project Phoenix and the questionable actions of the city. The following information was sent out yesterday at 4:26 PM.
This information has been provided to me by confidential sources and I have redacted portions of the email header that could result in those informants being identified. The email was sent to the members of the Oversight Board, which are Owen Gillick, Jerry Matos, Korina Cole, Liz Meyer, and Dave Price. It was also sent to all council members as well as several members of the city staff and others.
I have my own opinion about the content of this email but that is not why I am posting the email. I am posting the email in order to provide to you, the public, information that needs to be provided to you and is not being provided to you buy a city that now operates in secrecy as opposed to transparency. Again you be the judge:
“Good Afternoon 29 Palms Oversight Board Members:
Given the numerous questions staff has been asked regarding the recent letter from the Department of Finance (DOF) and staff’s actions in filing a Meet and Confer request, we wanted to provide additional information and updates. To-date, staff has not heard back from the DOF regarding the Meet and Confer request. Staff anticipates hearing back from DOF sometime this week and will likely receive a meeting date in Sacramento within the next 10 days. Several questions staff has received have revolved around why staff is filing a Meet and Confer request as it appears the DOF has denied the use of the bond proceeds to complete Project Phoenix. Please understand that DOF has not given a final response yet as to whether the bond proceeds can be used – instead DOF appears to be questions the methodology. While we have been pushing hard to get a final responses from them, we are hindered by having to follow the process that has been laid out in AB 1484 to get final answers. The Meet and Confer process is part of the process we must follow. We note that there are numerous examples that now exist in which expenditures of 2011 bond proceeds were not approved by DOF initially, but ultimately such expenditures were approved after the process played out. At this point we need to go through the process so that the Successor Agency can demonstrates the validity of the obligation, and we fully assume that the DOF will not allow the proceeds to be spent on Project Phoenix until after we can demonstrate this.
As staff reported, an informal meeting took place between DOF staff and successor agency staff (including the Mayor and City Manager) on September 19 to discuss Project Phoenix and the use of the 2011 tax allocation bond proceeds. At that meeting, the two most senior members of the DOF team reported that they did not know about Project Phoenix or the matter of using the 2011 bond proceeds to fund the project. Staff presented a variety of questions and issues regarding the DOF position to-date. As of the drafting of this email, Successor Agency staff has not received anything in writing to address these concerns that staff has raised. For example, if the DOF’s position is that the bond proceeds must be returned to the Successor Agency, what then happens to the bond proceeds? The DOF letter that staff recently forwarded to you does not answer and address all of the issues. If/when staff receives additional information from the DOF and when a Meet and Confer date is confirmed, staff will be sure to get back in touch with you.
If you have any questions, please let me know and I can attempt to answer them. Please keep in mind this is provided for informational purposes only and you should not hit “reply all” to this email. Please be mindful of the fact the Brown Act continues to apply to your communications.