Willmann tries to pretend she doesn’t have anything to say about her own salary

12 Sep

I attended the last “informational” meeting hosted by Chico Area Recreation District General Manager Ann Willmann. What’s interesting about these meetings is watching Willmann put her spin on the truth. 

First of all, although this was the least-attended meeting of the three I’ve been to, the folks who did show up seemed a lot better informed and asked good questions. Second, Willmann has had to incorporate more information into her presentation, obviously in response to questions and comments made over five meetings, as well as my letters to the editor, and, who knows what communications she has received from other members of the public. She’s on the defensive, and it’s not just me that’s putting her there.

I almost laughed out loud when she started into her spiel about CARD losing money over the Camp Fire. She started to explain how the county of Butte puts alllllll the property tax into a big pot, or “bucket”. Then they dip  out 1% of the total and divvy that between all the agencies that receive property tax money, including CARD. So what I hear is, towns that have their own rec districts are paying to support CARD. That’s great. 

But another man interrupted her, reminding everybody the state is “backfilling” that lost money, to the tune of $200,000 a year, for the next three years. Willmann seemed to lose a little bit of steam over that, admitting he was right, but adding that, gee, she just didn’t know what was going to happen after that three years. Well Annie dear, houses will be rebuilt, will be worth more than they were before the fire, and property tax revenues will go up. She knows that, but she is trying to tell us the Camp Fire resulted in less revenues for CARD. She really thinks she can bullshit that point – I was glad to hear somebody who has been paying attention pull the cork out of her ass. 

The questions people raised at this meeting gave me hope.  This parcel tax is not a done deal.  In fact, if there was a stronger response from the public, CARD board members might even decide not to put it on the ballot. Yesterday, as I listened to Willmann give more details about the survey CARD paid EMC to run earlier this year, I became more and more convinced the survey was actually more negative than Willmann is letting on.  CARD board and staff members are desperate to make the public agree to put a new 30 year tax debt on themselves.

The board has allowed themselves to be duped into believing a tax is the only way out of their current pension disaster. Willmann has repeated The Big Lie throughout this lecture series of hers – she sounds like an old mobster – once you’re in CalPERS, you’re IN!  She has a mouse in her pocket – “we” have to buy “our” way out. 

Well, I do believe, if they don’t do something, the agency will become insolvent trying to pay their pension deficit. But, Willmann refuses to talk about the best option – the best for everybody, including the taxpayers. The employees need to start coughing up more money out of their own pocket. They need to start paying 50% of their pension now, and that needs to increase to 80% over the next 10 years. The taxpayers already provide these people with more than generous salaries, to be expected to pay double what we pay in salary by way of these pension bail-out payments is way beyond reason, it’s unsustainable. CARD staff have completely forgotten their mission to serve the public, choosing instead to enrich themselves. 

And here’s another important thing they need to do – take salary freezes now, and when the freeze is over, cap raises at inflation. Inflation averages about 2% a year. General Manager Ann Willmann just took an 11% RAISE, from $113,000/year to $127,000. Her old benefits package was about $29,000 – this will go up, what, another 11%? Remember, this woman has bragged about paying 8% of her pension – 8% of her salary, which would amount to $12,000. For a pension of over $88,000/year, with cost of living increase, for the rest of her life.

Willmann says the pensions are out of her hands? Bullshit. She says “this needs to be handled at the CalPERS level and the legislative level…”

But local gadfly John Merz got to the truth when he asked Willmann, “how’s your union representation?” Yes, full time CARD employees, 35 according to Willmann, are represented by 2 separate unions, divided between management and “workers.” Willmann admitted that “classic” or management members still get their “2% at age 55” formula. I can’t explain the 2% – when I asked Randall Stone to explain it to me he was hostile and refused – but I can explain the “55”  – Willmann can retire at 55, with 70% of her highest year’s salary, which at this point, would amount to almost $90,000/year. With an automatic cost of living increase every year. 

But new employees – PEPRA – would have to wait until age 65. Why’s that?  We saw in the last post how different employee groups and different public agencies pay different amounts. When I asked Willmann about this discrepancy between what CARD pays (14%) and what the city of Chico pays (21 – 31%) and then what the different “bargaining units” pay, she  got kind of flustered, told me I’d have to wait for a member of her staff to get back to me. “I don’t want to spread misinformation…” 

Well, there’s obviously bargaining going on here – that’s why they call them “bargaining units”.  Willmann admitted to Merz that the employees are represented by a paid union member.  Who represents the taxpayers in these bargaining sessions? Three  pensioners (Lando, Nickel and McGinnis), a political operative (Worley) and an idiot who goes whichever way the wind blows (Donnan).

So it’s not, as Willmann would have us believe, up to CalPERS, or up to the legislature. It’s between her and the board, in closed sessions to which the public is not admitted. 

Maybe it’s time to start writing letters directly to the board. 

 

 

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