Yes, the clerk certainly does pick and choose what she puts in the reports and minutes

12 Sep

I hate to be a pest, in fact, I won’t tolerate a pest. Yesterday I found rat turds on my garbage can, so my husband went out and bought me a trap! It’s that time of year, everybody’s foraging – but I don’t put up with rats that close to my house.

Yes, I hate to be a pest – mostly because, people will only put up with a pest for so long. I’ve always known I’ve been walking on thin rice paper Downtown, trying to get information out of employees who may or may not like what I’m doing. I’ve had city staffers walk up to me out of nowhere and hand me documents – one woman said, “if anybody asks you where you got this, you don’t remember…” I’ve had them come up and tell me things, call me on my private phone, approach me at my kid’s games,  to tell me things aren’t good Downtown. This has been happening for a good five or six years, ever since I started to criticize the pay scale and the benefits. 

When I needed something from the clerk’s office, I’d ask for it. I’d tell them I didn’t want to be a bother, no hurry, etc. Debbie Presson was always almost too friendly, too cheerful, but I appreciated her cooperativeness. I remember when my neighbors and I had an appeal up before the city, we were told, we had to get it in within “calendar” days, not working days. It was Christmas time, and they counted both Christmas Eve and Christmas in the 15 days we had to turn in our appeal.  Debbie Presson was really nice – when my husband needed help with something, she told him, she’d be down there on Saturday morning, give her a call and she’d meet him at the door downstairs. That bothered me – at the time, I didn’t want her to go to the trouble, now I wonder, was she on overtime? And why can’t she do her job during the 9-5 M-F week? So, I figured – my mom liked to go to her office for the peace and quiet, maybe that’s what Debbie was doing. 

Knowing we pay dearly for Presson’s time, I’ve kept my requests to a dull roar.  But always Presson indicated to me that I could call her or e-mail her office anytime I needed anything! We had personal conversations I won’t repeat here. I started to get too comfortable with this woman because she was so kissy-nice all the time. 

You know me, I can’t swing with a good thing, I always have to shoot a hole in the dinghy. I started to find out, Presson has a lot of discretion. Discretionary rules always bother the hell out of me. Discretionary rules often set up a system by which “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” And sometimes I don’t want my back scratched, and I sure as hell don’t like scratching somebody else’s back. Yeeeeecccchhhhh!  I don’t play those games, I always get thrown out for bitching about stuff.

Below here I have the exchange I’ve been mentioning between myself and Debbie Presson, from December of last year, regarding incorrect minutes from the November finance committee meeting.  One thing I will point out – last year she had those minutes up within a month of the committee meeting in question, that’s why I asked her why she’d left out a whole conversation between me and Hennessy regarding the employee’s share.  

Then she says they will be discussing my questions regarding minutes at the January 2 2013 council meeting – I don’t remember it, and she only posted the minutes for that meeting a few days ago. According to the minutes, my letter was read to council and no action was taken. You have to get up there and call these people out physically if you want something – gee, I guess I had better things to do the day after New Years than go Downtown and try to Matt Dillon some legal propriety out of these idiots Downtown.

This is why I’m getting to the end of my patience with Debbie Presson and $taff and the talking heads we call our “elected representatives” – they play games, they jack me around, they are shysters.

In December of last year, having attended a Finance Committee meeting during which I asked detailed questions about the city retirement system and was given erroneous answers by the Finance Director, I read the report from that meeting and noticed that while another question I’d asked had been included in the report, they’d left the conversation about the pension system completely out, not one word.  So, I felt this was important enough to mention, I wrote the following e-mail to Presson and the council:


>>> juanita sumner  12/12/2012 6:49 AM >>>

Hi Debbie, Council members, 


I was just going over the minutes for  the Finance Committee meeting I attended earlier this month. I see that one question I asked, about the cost of certain consultant reports, was included in the minutes, but not the question I asked regarding what the city pays toward the “employee share” of pension premiums. Jennifer Hennessy stated at that time, “about $7 million.” Later she sent me an e-mail correction – the actual figure was closer to $10.1 million.


I wonder why my question and Hennessy’s answer are not included in the minutes? I asked this question during the discussion regarding the loss of Measure J. I was trying to point out, that while the city is complaining about losing $900,000 on a failed tax measure, they spend millions paying THE EMPLOYEE SHARE of pension costs, in addition to the employer share. Our city’s financial problems would be solved if the contracts were rewritten so that the employee pays their own share. Why isn’t this option coming up in the discussion? 


I also notice, the police advisory board gets verbatim minutes. I wonder, why aren’t all the committee meetings, including the ad hoc meetings, recorded verbatim? 


I’d like this letter to be attached to the next city council agenda as a “communication.” 


I’d also like to thank Fritz McKinley for answering my flood notice question. 


Thank you for your anticipated cooperation, Juanita Sumner


Presson answered right away to let me know she’d received the e-mail:


Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2012 17:34:27 -0800
Subject: Re: letter to council
To: juanita sumner

Hi Juanita….
I have received your email and I wanted you to know that I will check into the minutes as well as place your letter on the January 2, 2013 meeting under Reports and Communications.  I will however be in touch with you as soon as possible.
Have a great evening!


When I didn’t hear anything or see any change in the minutes a week later, I wrote back, wondering if she needed proof – Mark Sorensen was the one who e-mailed me to tell me Hennessy had given me the wrong information. By this time, the whole employee share thing was getting pretty clear, and I felt like I was being pushed back in my attempts to bring it to public attention:

 >>> juanita sumner 12/19/2012 8:28 AM >>>

Hi again Debbie,


I wonder if you’d like me to forward you the e-mail discussion I had with Mark Sorensen and Jennifer Hennessy regarding the question I asked that was omitted from the minutes of the meeting? I’m sure Scott Gruendl and Mary Flynn also heard my question and Hennessy’s answer. 


My question and Ms. Hennessy’s answer (answers?) need to be part of the public record. I’m just wondering, why do the minutes mention the one question I asked, but not the other?  The record needs to be complete. This is another reason people don’t participate. I rode my bike through the park to that meeting, at 7:45 in the morning, just to ask that question, and it’s important to me that the question and the answer are part of the official record. Is it a waste of my time to attend these meetings? A waste of time for the public to pay attention? 


I’ll be at the next Finance Committee meeting, I’d like some kind of resolution to this problem by then  – thanks, Juanita Sumner

Presson answered me that day. She mentions council’s 2001 decision regarding “‘action only’ minutes, with some summary when needed.”  Well, I think what has become apparent in this conversation, is that Presson and her staff are either incompetent to provide proper “summaries” or they are willingly distorting the record. You decide. 


Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2012 19:56:57 -0800
Subject: RE: letter to council regarding minutes
To: juanita sumner

Hello Juanita.

I have researched your questions regarding the discussions that occurred at the 11/27/12 Finance Committee Report (minutes) and found that the report does not reflect all of your comments regarding employee share of pension and benefit costs and subsequent responses by staff. That report is currently under review and once the report is amended, we will provide the Council with the report, with a copy to you as well. Please note, it is always our intent to provide a thorough report from these meetings. The reports however, are typically in summary format. Council’s formal action in 2001 was to direct staff to provide “action only” minutes, with some summary when needed. That motion carried 7-0. 

On a side note, but still related to this topic…. City Manager Nakamura sent you an email following that November Finance Committee meeting which included two attachments pertaining to safety and miscellaneous costs as well as an overview of the range of healthcare benefits that employees can chose from and for which they pay a share of the costs. Would you mind confirming if you did or didn’t receive this information? We would like to make sure he has your correct email address.

As I had mentioned in my 12/12/12 email, your email will be included on the January 2, 2013 agenda under Reports and Communications. At that time, I will be able to address regulations regarding the types of minutes required. Hope that helps. 

I wish for you and your family a wonderful holiday and will see you on January 2, 2013.



2 Responses to “Yes, the clerk certainly does pick and choose what she puts in the reports and minutes”

  1. Mary September 12, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    She also picks and chooses what letters get placed on the agenda. I think you’ve probably seen the letter I wrote to Council about ‘the Chico way’ — If not, it is the second document linked here:

    Here’s what I got when I asked for the letter to be agendized:

    From: Fitchy
    Sent: Monday, August 26, 2013 10:40 AM
    To: Debbie Presson
    Subject: Re: from Council page

    Please include the attached letter on the September 3 agenda, under reports and communications.

    Thank you,

    From: Debbie Presson
    Sent: Monday, August 26, 2013 3:38 PM
    To: Fitchy
    Subject: Re: from Council page

    Hi Mary,

    Your email was received and forwarded to the Council and appropriate staff, which is the protocol for letters being sent to the Councilmembers.

    Thank you and have a great afternoon.


    Deborah R. Presson, MMC
    City Clerk & Elections Official
    City of Chico
    Phone: 530.896.7251
    FAX: 530.895.4825

    From: Fitchy
    Sent: Monday, August 26, 2013 4:43 PM
    To: Debbie Presson
    Subject: Re: from Council page


    What is the protocol for getting my correspondence on the agenda?

    Thank you,

    Thanks for this post, Juanita. I will be copying and pasting her email to you into my second request for the ‘protocol,’ since I never got a response. I don’t expect I’ll be getting “Have a great afternoon!” any more, either.

    • Juanita Sumner September 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

      Thank you Mary. I realize what you’re saying – I used to write letters to council almost weekly, and I never saw them on the agenda. I didn’t ask her to “agendize” my letter last year – I was just making a general complaint about it. I think she was miffed that I criticized her, and wanted to get some kind blessing from council about what she was doing. I imagine that’s just what she got, I wasn’t there. Nobody asked me what I was doing January 2 before they “agendized” my letter. They just do what they want down there, and you can just try to keep up!

      My mom had this little sign over her desk – “I must be a mushroom. They keep me in the dark and feed me bullshit.”

      My mom would have loved this, I wish she was here.

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