Measure L Oversight Committee — independent or not?

To the Editor:

With respect to several recent statements by Mr. Clark, Mr. Patin and possibly Mr. Holloway (not sure on that one), I have noted what I think to be improper attitude and conduct by these councilmembers toward the Oversight Committee. This would be based on what the committee was voted into being by the voters of Ridgecrest.

Measure L was passed on the city attorney-approved statements that there would be an independent committee to oversee expenditures and report their findings to the public. To date, there have been commendable actions taken by the committee to investigate city expenditures in the past in order to gain an understanding of the historic expenditures for streets and police.

This activity has apparently caused these particular councilmen displeasure, with statements being made that the council should try to insure that the committee was on the right track, and with attendance by two of them at committeemeetings to attempt to interject their desires.

I would strongly suggest that the independence of the committee needs to be better understood. Independence means that this committee operates and communicates entirely separately from the council. It also means that the committee needs no approvals or assistance from any councilmember or the mayor in order to accomplish its goals. The city staff should do all in its power to provide any information needed to the committee, as its own source of authority, given to it by the people of Ridgecrest. I further suggest that any direct communication with councilmembers or the mayor concerning anything beyond information gathering that city staff cannot provide is inappropriate.

Any “discussion” with the mayor or councilmembers about what the committee is doing or how it goes about its business violates this independence. That would mean that the people of Ridgecrest are not getting what they voted for, and that the committee is placing itself under the council and not being independent. In particular, any “discussion” by individual committeemembers with councilmembers or the mayor about the business or goals of the committee is especially questionable.

You all have an important job to do, and you hold the power given you by the people of Ridgecrest to do it. I urge you to freely exercise that power to your best ability. Inappropriate interaction with those you were mandated to be independent from can only harm your ability to do so. I believe you all want to do your best for our city. Please consider what I have to say here.

Addendum: I noted on the agenda packet for this evening (Jan. 15) that they have included the original ordinance for the sales tax, and that it does not state specifically instituting an independent oversight committee, just an oversight committee.

Note the following website info, which was widely published prior to June 5 (2012) in favor of the tax measure: http://yesonselfhelpmea In the last “YES on L” paragraph, it says the fiscal responsibility would include an independent citizens’ oversight committee. Note that this group’s membership included Mr. Clark at the time. He also helped write the argument in favor of the measure. These are the kinds of statements that were used to sell the measure to the public.

Interesting at this point that there now appear to be moves by Mr. Clark and others to rein in the committee. If Mr. Clark does not now want so independent a committee, was it an untruth when he endorsed publicity saying the committee would be independent?

One would also need to ask why past actions of the committee appear to be distasteful to Mr. Clark and others. Is there a threat of too much information being disclosed to the public? Where are transparency and accountability now?

I have to say that it is disappointing that these kinds of inquiries and questions need to even be addressed. Why doesn’t the council just let the committee do its job?

Mike Neel

Story First Published: 2013-01-16