Tag Archives: Ann Willmann CARD Chico

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. 



Government Code Section 8314: It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity

29 Jun

Happy Saturday there atcha. But remember, evil never sleeps, and that means The Government. 

I got a response from Ann Willmann saying my letter to the Chico Area Recreation District Board would be in next month’s agenda – that meeting is scheduled for July 18 at 6pm. 

In the meantime, I’ve done more reading into the illegal use of not only taxpayer money, but any resources, including telephones, computers, office space, etc. How could I have forgotten, my good friend Stephanie Taber, who got in trouble for using then county supervisor Larry Wahl’s office computer for correspondence regarding the ill-fated Measure A? 

From Dan Walters: Government Code Section 8314 is unambiguous, declaring, “It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.”

Note that word, “consultant”.

I know, Dan’s a journalist, not a lawyer, so I looked up Code Section 8314


Straight from the horse’s mouth – (a) It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.

From Section (b) – (3) “Public resources” means any property or asset owned by the state or any local agency, including, but not limited to, land, buildings, facilities, funds, equipment, supplies, telephones, computers, vehicles, travel, and state-compensated time

Wow, look at that – (c) (1) Any person who intentionally or negligently violates this section is liable for a civil penalty not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each day on which a violation occurs, plus three times the value of the unlawful use of public resources. The penalty shall be assessed and recovered in a civil action brought in the name of the people of the State of California by the Attorney General or by any district attorney

So how does CARD get away with using staffers and all their “resources” to float a parcel tax? Because you people are letting them do it.

Seen the CARD website lately? “See how your neighbors benefit from CARD!”


I asked Willmann how much these videos cost but she has not got back to me yet.

In this Los Angeles Times story from 2008, the author describes the use of everything from hats and t-shirts to professionally made videos used by various public agencies to promote their tax measures.


“In the run-up to this year’s election, the city of Lynwood posted a five-minute video on its website discussing Measure II, a proposal to retain a local utility users tax.”

“Lynwood’s website contains a five-minute video of Mayor Maria Santillan discussing Measure II, which would lower the utility tax rate from 10% to 9%. Meanwhile, Pico Rivera’s website features five taxpayer-funded mailers on Measure P, the proposed 1-cent sales tax hike.”

Unfortunately the FPPC does not have power to prosecute for illegal use of taxpayer resources. But, the FPPC does require that any money spent on any kind of political campaign be reported on campaign expenditure reports. They’ve prosecuted other agencies for failure to do so. The important point here is, if they don’t report, the FPPC can fine them, and if they do report, that’s evidence that they illegally spent money on a political campaign. 

This issue is muddled, the worst part being, we are depending on public agencies who benefit from tax increases to uphold the laws other public agencies are breaking. We have to tell people like Mike Ramsey and Xavier Becerra that we want this practice to stop. It’s not just our town, and we’re not the first people to figure out what’s going on. 

“But although such practices can provide a winning formula on election day, they can also produce a political backlash.

Three years ago, the Ventura County district attorney produced a 38-page report on efforts by the Ventura County Transportation Commission to pass the half-cent sales tax known as Measure B. Although the report concluded that no criminal prosecutions were necessary, it described the agency’s use of public funds — including $273,000 for postcards and voter opinion polls — as improper.

Earlier this year, the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission warned that many government agencies are “pushing the limits with public outreach programs clearly biased or slanted in their presentation of facts relating to a ballot measure.” The FPPC is weighing a new rule that would define any public money used to communicate about a ballot measure as a political expenditure, unless it provides a fair and impartial presentation of facts.

Taxpayer advocates have lodged their own protests, saying public dollars are being used improperly to effectively secure more taxpayer dollars. “The brochures are so decidedly one-sided that they cannot be judged as objective,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.”

Today the FPPC is pressing the legislature for the power to prosecute in these cases. Contact Jim Nielsen and James Gallagher and let them know, you want prosecution for these agencies. 



Dan Walters: local government officials throughout California have been thumbing their noses at a state law that prohibits them from using taxpayer funds for political campaigns

27 Jun

In February I read that the FPPC, under new chairwoman Alice Germond, is trying to expand it’s powers to prosecute government agencies who misuse public funding to finance tax increase campaigns. In March the request went to the legislature, as reported here by Dan Walters.


Walters says, “State law very clearly and specifically makes misuse of taxpayer funds for political purposes illegal, but the FPPC has no power to enforce the law. That’s up to local prosecutors and the state Department of Justice, but as the FPPC report concluded, ‘The Enforcement Division is not aware of any actions brought by state or local prosecutors related to those cases.’”

Of course, it seems pretty simple – why would a county employee – like Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey – bite the hand that pays his salary? Would it even be worth contacting Ramsey to report this? Not sure.  The school district is the major offender here, although, in the last bond election, they put up a sham “citizen’s committee” to do their campaigning – a committee that did not have public meetings, keep records, or disclose their membership. 

The city of Chico and Chico Area Recreation District, meanwhile, have both spent 10’s of thousands of public dollars – CARD has spent nearly $100,000 in the past few years – to hire consultants to put forward their tax campaigns. Ramsey must be too busy chasing pot farmers to pay attention. When I looked at his website to see how to file a complaint, the only form that popped up was for pot patches.

Mike, I think you should read a newspaper once in a while. Dan Walters has been talking about this issue for over a year now. 

So, I took some advice from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and wrote a letter to CARD, who has been the most egregious offender so far. I used a form letter at their website for inspiration, but I don’t use form letters, I write my own. Form letters look stupid and put up, and are easier to ignore. I made sure to ask that my letter be made part of the public record, and I included not only the manager Ann Willmann ( annw@chicorec.com ) but the entire board – tlando@chicorec.com, mmcginnis@chicorec.com, tnickell@chicorec.com, mworley@chicorec.com, and ddonnan@chicorec.com

Please Note: I would like this email to be part of the public record.

To Ann Willmann, CARD General Manager, and members of the board, Tom Lando, Mike McGinnis, Tom Nickell, Michael Worley and Dave Donnan. 

I believe Chico Area Recreation District (CARD) is illegally using taxpayer dollars for political advocacy. The Political Reform Act prohibits public agencies from spending public funds in support of or opposition to ballot measure campaigns. 

CARD has hired EMC Research to advise them in placing a tax measure on an upcoming ballot. A quote from their website:


“Great campaigns don’t just happen. That’s why we offer a full suite of political research and predictive analytics to help your candidates, organizations and ballot measures succeed.” 

CARD has paid EMC to conduct a survey.  EMC’s website makes it clear that they use demographics to shape the outcome of their surveys in order to sway public opinion in favor of passing tax measures. This is an illegal use of taxpayer funds. I have contacted the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and they tell me they have successfully sued agencies for this misuse of public money. The FPPC also requires these expenditures to be reported as campaign donations. 

Below I’ve provided links to a couple of recent articles from Cal Matters and the San Jose Mercury News that provide further details and resources.

Thank you for your anticipated responses, Juanita Sumner, Chico Taxpayers Association 

I included the following links to a couple articles Dan Walters has posted:

Finally, a crackdown on misuse of taxpayer money

Walters: California should crack down on misuse of taxpayer money

Yes, these two local agencies are illegally using taxpayer funding to put forward tax increase measures, but unless we call them on it, nobody else will. We have to get this issue out into the newspaper, and then we need to start a serious letter writing campaign to Ramsey, and then maybe the Grand Jury, asking that the city and CARD be investigated. 

In the meantime, write your own letter to Ann Willmann and the CARD board to let them know how you feel about a government agency that breaks the law. 

Why does it take two months to get a simple report out of CARD?

7 Aug

I was looking at the CARD website when I saw a notice of an “Intergovernmental Committee” meeting. I could not attend – it’s not a regular committee meeting, and was only noticed on the website 24 hours ahead – so I asked CARD manager Steve Visconti to send me a report, and to place me on the notice list for upcoming meetings.

From: juanita sumner
Sent: Saturday, June 13, 2015 5:23 AM
To: Steve Visconti
Subject: intergovernmental committee

 Hi Mr. Visconti,

I notice the intergovernmental committee meetings are held on a very irregular basis and not noticed on the website until 24 hours ahead. That makes it difficult to the public to know when these meetings are going  to be held. I notice the last meeting was  a joint session with some members of city council or staff? The agenda is not clear. 

I would like to be notified ahead of these meetings and sent a copy of the agenda. I also wonder – how do I get reports of these meetings? I’d also like to get a report of the last AFAC meeting – it started late, and I had to leave before any discussion or action was taken. 

Thank you for your anticipated cooperation in this matter, Juanita Sumner

It took him more than a week to respond:

To: juanita sumner
Ms. Sumner, you are correct. The Intergovernmental meetings are generally on an as needed basis. The most recent meeting was with the City Manager to discuss a few issues related to the City budget and certain fees they collect that CARD has utilized in the past to construct new park improvements. I will notify our new General Manager Ann Willmann that you would like to be noticed on future Intergovernmental Meetings. She will be starting on July 6th.

 As far as meeting reports, I will notify Ms. Marciales as soon as she returns to the office the week of July 6th.

 Thank you for your inquiry.

 Steve Visconti

Interim General Manager

And that was the end of it, Visconti retired, July 6 came and went, but neither Marciales nor Willmann contacted me. Three weeks later I met Willmann when I attended the July 30 budget meeting at Lakeside Pavillion. At that time I asked her again about the report, which they are supposed to be able to provide on demand, but I didn’t press it at that time because the meeting was about to start and I did not have time to hang around afterward. She gave  me her card with e-mail address and first thing next morning I made  my request again. 

From: juanita sumner  
Sent: Friday, July 31, 2015 5:26 AM
To: Ann Willmann <annw@chicorec.com>
Cc: Jennifer Marciales <jmarciales@chicorec.com>
Subject: RE: intergovernmental committee

 Hi Ms. Willmann,

 I’m glad you gave me your e-mail – as you know, most card e-mail address are first initial, last name. I see where that would be confusing to people trying to get ahold of you.

 As I asked Mr. Visconti below, I’d like to get the report of the last Intergovernmental meeting, which Mr. Visconti had told me Ms. Marciales would contact me about.

 I’d also like to get on the notice list for the Intergovernmental meetings, as I had asked.

 Thanks for your anticipated cooperation, Juanita Sumner

She responded as though it was the first she had heard of my request. 

From: annw@chicorec.com
To: Juanita Sumner
CC: jmarciales@chicorec.com
Subject: RE: intergovernmental committee
Date: Fri, 31 Jul 2015 16:50:13 +0000

Dear Juanita, thank you for your email. I will follow up on your requests and also ensure you are on the requested notification lists. Have a lovely weekend. Ann

I am busy you know, I have a lot of irons in the fire, both personal and this, my “hobby” – so I let that go, telling myself, “she’ll get back to me next week.” 

Well, silly me. God I hate being dicked around. About a week later, I sent another request. I try to be nice, cause you’ve seen the way the city clerk treated me just for wise-assing her. 

From: juanita sumner
Sent: Thursday, August 06, 2015 7:31 AM
To: Ann Willmann <annw@chicorec.com>

Subject: RE: intergovernmental committee

 Ms. Willman,

 should I just come down to the office to get that report (most recent Intergovernmental meeting)? 

 Juanita Sumner

And she responded the way she should have responded to the mail I sent Visconti:

From: annw@chicorec.com
To: juanita sumner
CC: jmarciales@chicorec.com
Subject: RE: intergovernmental committee
Date: Thu, 6 Aug 2015 22:26:33 +0000

Hi Juanita, I have attached a copy of the minutes. If you would like to pick up a printed copy, I am happy to leave that for you at the front desk. If email is sufficient, please let me know.

Once we have the next meeting scheduled, we will email you with the information.

 Thank you, Ann

Why did that take two months?  To attach a one-page report to an e-mail.  For that matter, Visconti could have sent it to me in the first place. Did he think “interim” meant, “half-assed“?  He’s retired at 70 percent of $112,000/year CARD salary, they ask him to fill in for six months or so, and he acts as though he’s being put out when asked to actually do something

Well, excuse me – this is really Jennifer Marciales job, but that woman is impossible, at a salary of over $50,000/year plus benefits. She needs to go.

I know you’re all wondering – what’s this all about anyway Juanita? Just another chicken fight? I’m sorry I let myself get distracted, but I would like everybody to see how these overpaid public employees treat a person who asks a pointy question. Here’s the report – you  read it, and you tell me why they dragged their feet giving it to me.

To: Board of Directors

From: Intergovernmental Committee

Re: Report on Intergovernmental Committee held on June 8, 2015

Committee Members Present Tom Lando

Committee Members Absent

Jan Sneed

CARD Staff Present

Steve Visconti, Interim General Manager

Jennifer Marciales, Executive Assistant

City Staff Present Mark Orme, City Manager

A. Call to Order/ Roll Call

The meeting was called to order at 9:30 a.m., and roll call was taken as noted above.

B. Public Comments

There were no public comments.

C. City of Chico/CARD Discussion of Potential Future Partnerships

Director Lando discussed the need for another dog park in Chico, and asked Mr. Orme if the City has any property available for a potential future dog park. Mr. Orme stated that City staff is currently conducting a review of properties in Chico, and will provide information once the review is complete. Director Lando asked Mr. Orme to review the green space along Humboldt Avenue for a potential dog park and/or bocce ball courts.

MY EMPHASIS HERE: Director Lando asked Mr. Orme if he could provide the total funds available in the Community Park Fund and the Neighborhood Park Fund, and the criteria for utilizing those funds. Mr. Orme stated that he would review these accounts and provide more specific information.

Director Lando asked about the potential for a sales tax measure, and Mr. Orme stated that a community group would need to present it to the City Council.

Director Lando discussed concerns pertaining to the increase in homeless at CARD facilities. Mr. Orme stated that the City is working on a new platform with the police department that will hopefully assist in preserving the quality of life for the citizens of our community.

D. Adjournment

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 10:04 a.m. to the next Intergovernmental Committee Meeting of the Chico Area Recreation and Park District.

I also think that last bit about the homeless problem at the CARD center is very interesting – this is the unstated reason they moved the board meetings to Cal Park Lakeside Pavilion. Lando’s outrage over “quality of life for our citizens” only seems to extend to himself and the other board members and employees of CARD. The board just picked up and moved to Lakeside Pavilion. Abandoning the CARD center was the worst thing they could do. 

This is why they want to do the fancy rose garden – which will be locked to the public and only available to paying customers. They will remove trees right down to the creek, but I’m not sure how far they will encroach on the creek with the wrought iron fence. That’s another reason to attend the month CARD board meetings, hope to see you there sometime.