Tag Archives: Chico Fire

Do our “public safety” unions exert inappropriate influence over our city council? See for yourself.

25 Jan

Thanks Michael Jones for all the digging you’ve been doing regarding city election campaign contribution reports. I’ve seen contributions in past that I thought were inappropriate, and I still remember most of a discussion here in town, years back, to limit single contributions. These efforts were undermined by laws that allow Political Action Committees, such as the Chico Police Officers Association, and the International Fire Fighters Association, to donate much more than citizens. In past elections, the CPOA has been the biggest single donor, followed closely by the IFFA, donating or spending thousands to skew our elections in their favor, making sure to promote people who will carry their agenda of higher salaries and fully paid benefits and pension, like Scott Gruendl, Mark Sorensen and Sean Morgan.

Below Michael Jones has sent us a guest commentary regarding his findings. Thanks Michael! 


Previous Chico City Councilors felt that receiving political donations in excess of $500 for an election might lead “a contributor [to gain] disproportionate access to or influence” over the City Council.  They felt so strongly they banned contributions over $500, and they required that smaller donations to be publicly reported.  (Municipal Code 1.30) 

Supreme Court decisions disallow limits on independent efforts to elect particular candidates. These independent expenditures cannot be coordinated with the candidate’s campaign.  They also must be publicly reported. 

An effort by Councilor Dan Nguyen-Tan in 2003 would have required an announcement at the Council meeting when a major contributor had business before the Council.  This proposal did not pass.  But in the spirit of his concerns, and in harmony with the Municipal Code, we can make those public disclosures. 

Chico Police Officers Association (CPOA) has business before the Council this month.  That business is the negotiations of the union’s contract with the city.  Their contract for fiscal year 2013-14 is for $18,302,883 in wages and benefits, or $143,000 per police employee0.   

Previous Councilors put into the Municipal Code that disproportionate influence might be had for over $500 for an election.  The Supreme Court said the union (or anyone) could contribute more for the election as long as the candidate did not control it. 

CPOA expended $5000.001 for the 2012 election of Sean Morgan. 

CPOA expended $2709.212 for the 2006 election of Scott Gruendl. 

CPOA expended $2709.213 for the 2006 election of Mark Sorenson. 

These Councilors are now in negotiations across the table from CPOA.  It is their job to represent the interests of the people of Chico, not the interests of CPOA. 

0  2013-14 budget p 149, p 253 

1  $500 contribution, $4500 independent expenditure 

2  $2709.21 independent expenditure 

3   $2709.21 independent expenditure 

Note:  CPOA in 2008 expended $8000 for television ads for undisclosed purposes 

by Michael Jones  1/24/14

Sheesh I’m glad we got Mark Sorense watching our bacon!

20 Jan

Tomorrow night council will probably pass the employee contracts. There are improvements,  but only because we are at rock bottom now, would what they are doing look the slightest bit good. It’s not good enough.

Oh Geeshy! The cops and fire are being asked to pay (gasp!) nine whopping percent of their own pensions.  Yeah, they will receive 90 percent of their highest year’s salary – most of them taking home $90,000 to $100,000, some even more, for RETIRING. For not coming to work. Wow, that’s just a gobstopper.

I will predict that Gruendl and Sorensen will lead the kudos team with exclamations about how much money they’ve saved!

Let me put this in perspective. Imagine, you are out in the ocean in a disabled boat,  a week’s float from civilization. You have the city staff in the boat, and exactly enough water to meet their dire need for the exact amount of time it will take to reach land. But, of course, passengers start bickering –  the cops and fire employees feel they should have more water than others, because they can’t stand their own body odor.  Mark Sorensen and Sean Morgan take over the boat and announce they will  give the cops and fire employees more water, cause they need to shower, so the cops and fire start using up all the water. A few days later, Sorensen, under pressure, decides that the cops and fire need to cut their showering by 50 percent. Then he takes a shower to celebrate – “look at all the water we’ll be saving!

Plug this into our scenario – Sorensen’s shower is the $21,000 health insurance package he takes off he taxpayers, for which he pays a Jesus H. Whopping amount of two percent of his council salary – less than $200 a year for a $21,000 health insurance package. He also gets a package from the city of Biggs. I’ve asked him again and again, why does he need us to pay for that $21,000 package? On his FPPC Form 700, he claims his satellite tv business yanks in over $100,000 a year. What’s he need the taxpayers to pay his healthcare bills for? But he won’t answer. He’s a weird bird – if you ask him a question that suits his propaganda, he’ll yak all day. But if you ask him the wrong question, it gets so quiet you can hear a cricket fart.

Maybe we should ask him how much money he’s been taking from the “public safety” unions. I’ll tell you what – you won’t pull that out of him with a tractor. And, as of a minute or so ago, it’s not on the city website either. After all that bitching I did about the minutes not being up to date, I’ve let them get – are you ready for this – YEARS behind on the campaign reports. The clerk doesn’t even have the reports for the last election – and I’m sorry, I know it’s on purpose. They were there and they were taken. Gone. Kaput!

I sent an e-mail to Clerk Presson, City Manager Nakamura, as well as Mark Sorensen …. oh excuse me, that must be “Sorense,” because he’s dropped that last ‘n’ from his e-mail. You know he’s CRAFTY!


That’s Mark Sorensen at msorense@chico.ca.us. Wait! That’s mark.sorensen@chicoca.gov   – see Mary’s comment below, I had forgot about that.   I asked very nicely why the reports aren’t on the website, and where can I find them. We’ll see what we get. 

Christmas is over, time to get back to business

29 Dec

I really don’t know what to think or who to trust these days. Yes, I’ve been testy with Mark Sorensen, and some of my friends are giving me the hairy eyeball over that.  Well, I’ll give it right back at them – why aren’t more “conservatives” questioning Mark Sorensen?  Why aren’t more people demanding to know what’s going on in the contract talks?  At the very least, Sorensen could be more vocal about what he would like to achieve in the new contracts. 

I am surprised to find Enterprise Record Editor David Little saying something about city employee compensation.  I’ve had to wonder if his paper is running some sort of propaganda screen in favor of city employees. In June he ran a story entitled, “Chico officers offer concessions, city says no.”   The headline should tell you, Reporter Ashley Gebb wrote a slanted piece.  She made it look like the police department was really trying to help out! She wrote it as though CPOA president Peter Durfee had the facts, and Mark Orme was just making excuses when he said the proposal would actually cost the city an extra $500,000, not save the city $700,000 like Durfee claimed. An unbiased piece would have started something like this: “City officials and police employees are in disagreement over a proposal by the police department...” etc. Instead she writes it from the police department’s point of view. 

Since then, as far as I can find, there hasn’t been one word run in the Enterprise Record news section about the current contract discussions Downtown, even though it’s been kicked around the letters page. A couple of years ago the city told us they’d “sunshine” these talks, show us everything that came out of every meeting. When I ask Sorensen about it, he simple denies that there is any negotiation going on right now. He treats us like “the kids.” Well Daddy-O, Junior is about to drive your carcass over to Sunnybrook Farms if you don’t get off the stick and do something.  

 Below Little seems to be pointing a ridiculous salaries in cities around California, as if Brian Nakamura’s salary is not so bad! But, Little reminds us, Chico is a small town with small problems – our biggest problem here Folks, is how we will pay our employees! Look at the amount of time they put into that subject Downtown, at various committee meetings. Whenever they are talking about “funding” anything, it’s the salaries they’re talking about, paying salaries and the associated benefits and pension.

Our town just drives itself around in a little circle all day, they never do anything for us, they just perpetuate their own livelihood.  And “they” include seven councilors who take a salary and very nice health benefits to sit up there like the Mad Hatter and his staff of Dormouse and other idiots.  Oh, that’s beautiful – imagine it yourself, Gruendl in the hat, and Sorensen’s butt sticking out of a teapot! 

Meanwhile, as Dave Little says, “An alert reader pointed out this week that Chico’s wages, plus retirement and benefits, ‘are higher in comparison to bigger cities in Marin and Los Angeles counties. Even Beverly Hills.’ Chico?!”

Later he describes our city employee benefits as “Cadillac packages.” I have to agree. And we can’t just point at the cops and fire – it’s Brian Nakamura and the rest of management staff, who have the highest salaries, expect to be paid 70 percent of those salaries in retirement, but pay only 4 percent of the cost now. They are just as bad as the cops and fire, if not worse – Nakamura controls the whole thing, as head negotiator, as if that’s appropriate! 

Where are the rest of you? Sitting at home with your cozies? Hey, Christmas is over, and the New Year is breathing down your neck, holding it’s hand out for more of your money. Wake up and write to council. Tell them to stop giving away the bank. 

Chico Taxpayers will be taking up the new year with a new schedule. We’re meeting on the fourth Thursday of January, trying out a new time – 1pm.  We have a guest for this meeting, County Assessor candidate Alan Petersen. I hope he can enlighten us about the workings of the assessor’s office, and his philosophy for running it.  Incumbent Fred Holland will also be running, so I will try to get him to come in and visit another time. I don’t believe in debates, they’re too hard to run correctly and usually end up skewed by politics. I’d rather give these candidates a forum and the public an opportunity to ask non-political questions. 

Meanwhile, I hope you will all read up on the employee contracts, available here:


You’ll also find some interesting rules for employees and various employee-related procedures, but you won’t find anything about the rules for the contract talks. I look for that and get back to it.

David Little: Salary numbers don’t lie


POSTED:   12/26/2013 10:31:11 AM PST

For an alleged wordsmith, I’ve sure become a numbers geek lately.

Spreadsheets with data fascinate me (well, usually) and the release of new salary information on state Controller John Chiang’s website was a revelation to me this week. I spent four hours browsing it Friday to see what cities, counties and colleges are paying their employees.

It convinced me I went into the wrong business.

We have our own database of public employee salaries at www.chicoer.com/salaries, but it lists only salaries of local governments and schools.

Chiang’s website (publicpay.ca.gov) is fun to play around in because you can compare the local entities to others in the state. I found there’s no rhyme or reason to salary levels.

You’d expect that the highest-paid city manager in the state would be from Los Angeles, San Diego or San Jose. Wrong. Not one of them is even in the top 10.

The top-paid city official in the state is the city manager of Buena Park, who earned $545,394 last year. Really? The home of Knott’s Berry Farm is that tough to manage?

City managers from Carlsbad, Menifee and Temecula are also in the top 10. Without Chiang’s website, I’d never know the fascinating fact that the city manager in Menifee earned $440,415 in 2012. Without Google maps, I’d never know where Menifee is.

The second-highest-paid city official in the state isn’t a city manager. It’s a police sergeant in South Gate who earned $486,044. Must be a dangerous place. No. 3 is the city attorney in Pleasant Hill ($465,209). A lot of litigious people there, I guess. And No. 4 is a fire battalion chief in Milpitas ($461,212). A lot of fires in Milpitas.

Chiang’s website not only lists these people (without naming names, for some reason) but it allows other ways to parse the data. You can see how wages rise and fall. (Hint: They don’t fall.) You can see the positions with the highest compensation. (Hint: You want to be a doctor at the Kern County Medical Center.) And you can see the average employee wage for each local government.

An alert reader pointed out this week that Chico’s wages, plus retirement and benefits, “are higher in comparison to bigger cities in Marin and Los Angeles counties. Even Beverly Hills. Chico?!”

Well, yes. Dive deep and there are plenty of appalling numbers. But there are also reasons to be thankful. For example, be thankful you don’t live and pay taxes in Vernon, where there are 121 residents and 287 city government employees. Those city employees make an average of $98,332, highest in the state. (Vernon, by the way, is right next to Bell. That figures.)

The second-highest wages in the state are in Hayward. Then Sand City. Vallejo is fifth, right after Los Angeles.

Chico, which has some well-documented financial problems, is 44th in average wages at $67,645 out of 478 cities. That’s better (for taxpayers) than Vernon or Sand City, but higher than larger or more expensive cities such as Napa, Newport Beach, Oceanside, San Diego, Sausalito and Santa Barbara.

Even more alarming for Chico is if you filter the results based on the average retiree and health care cost the taxpayer funds. Chico is 14th in the state out of 478 cities, paying $31,940 per employee. That’s almost double the state average. Add it to the average wages, and it’s an average of more than $100,000 a year per employee.

That’s something for City Council members to keep in mind as the city negotiates labor contracts and tries to cut expenses to end this brutal cycle of cutting. There wouldn’t be as many job cuts if the city wasn’t handing out Cadillac benefits packages.

Get a convoluted answer.

4 Dec

I won’t pretend to understand what goes on Downtown. Sometimes I am afraid to ask questions, because they just lead to more questions. When I asked Finance Director Jennifer Hennessy how much the city spends on employee pensions a year, I didn’t know what I was getting into.

First there’s the “employer share,” and that’s a gob-stopper – over $9 million a year. And then there’s the “employee share” – and we pay that too. There’s the terminology – “employer paid member contribution.” And there’s never a straight answer to anything.

When I asked, “how much the city spends,” I meant, in total, all of it. But Hennessy “only recalled” the portion that comes out of the General Fund – about $7 million, she says. She forgot about all the other walnut shells she moves to pay these employee costs.

Ms. Sumner~

At last week’s Finance Committee, I stated that the cost of the City’s pension was $7M, however I was recalling the approximate General Fund portion only.  The estimated cost across all funds is budgeted at $10.1M for FY12-13.
Sorry for the confusion.  Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Jennifer Hennessy, Finance Director


Across all funds“? See what I mean about the walnut shells? They have over 50 funds now, I can’t remember how many, and I can’t remember where I put the blog where I talked about it before. That’s a lot of confusion, and that’s why they do it that way. They can shift money from one fund to the other to pay for stuff they couldn’t pay out of the first fund. That’s like saying, “now that this money is in my purse instead of my 401K, I can’t spend it without consequences!”

Tonight they are installing a new council. I can only predict a darker picture for Chico. Randall Stone and Tami Ritter are two of the biggest pigs who have ever hit the trough.

When I was a kid I lived in the community of Glenn, where my grandparents belonged to various social organizations. We had “feeds” over at the Glenn Pheasant Hall, where everybody would bring a covered dish. With food in it, you know? Except for this one family of enormous fatties – I won’t say their name, they were nice enough people – but they would walk into a pot luck party carrying empty casserole dishes covered with fresh tin foil. They would walk straight over to the table and load their plates with food, several times, and then when everybody else had their fill, both the man and the woman would totter over to the table with those casserole dishes and load them full of whatever was left. The adults wouldn’t say anything as these pigs chatted their way up and down that table, filling those dishes with whatever they wanted, but we kids couldn’t believe it. We weren’t allowed to make pigs of ourselves that way, seconds were for really good children whose mom had brought a contribution to the table.  We’d follow these two up to the table, wide-eyed and gape-mouthed, marveling aloud at the amounts they were able to stuff into those dishes.  In fact, my sister and I used to bolt our food just so we could go and sit across the table from them to watch them eat! It was a-MAY-zing.  Then we’d file along with the rest, watching them load their take-out containers.  The bolder among us would ask, “whatcha gonna do with all that food?” Some kids thought they might have dogs. But the man would just laugh and say, “Eat it!” As if he had nothing to be ashamed of. The adults would all stand off, some of them would cover their mouths and giggle, and they’d all have something to say later, after this couple made their way out to their enormous station wagon with those piled high dishes of other people’s hard work. But nobody wanted to rock the community boat. No, these people were not particularly good neighbors or hard workers, their house was a disheveled eyesore and they never came around in times of need. But in a small community, you “have to get along,” and we did. 

But Chico is NOT a small friendly community anymore,  so  I’m going to say it. Randall Stone is a worthless, soft-handed leech who should not be allowed on council unless he is willing to divest himself from his development business which bamboozled the city out of millions in RDA money to build clap-trap low-income housing that will never contribute anything to the community but another eyesore. He’s wangled the city out of so much money it’s inappropriate for him to sit at the dais. In past when I’ve criticized this guy, he’s tried to smear me on Topix. He’s a cheap, nasty little pinhead, and having him on the dais, while it might have some entertainment value, is going to be a disaster for the city. 

And then there’s Tami Ritter, who has been in one trough position after another ever since she trolled into Chico, with complaints from everybody involved.   She left the Torres shelter under accusations from homeless people who were complaining she ran the place like her own home, picking and choosing who got to stay based on whim. She got FIRED from Chico Green School when she complained she wasn’t getting a big enough salary. From Chico News and Review, September 2012:

Ritter, a well-known Chico resident who quickly won the support of the teaching staff when she assumed her position in July, described some chaotic weeks that led up to the school’s opening.

Tami Ritter lost her job as the school’s part-time principal during the upheaval.


Ritter, a former director of the Torres Shelter, had been hired in May while she completed work in Philadelphia on a second master’s degree. When she returned to Chico in July, she found that no site had yet been selected for the Green School, creating a lot of “organizational tension.” She said she and a few others worked out of the Chico State teaching office of Sandoe, a computer science professor.

The group decided on the Cohasset Road site, set up the school and recruited the students. But Ritter said she soon found herself working 45 hours a week in a position that paid for 20 hours a week. She took the issue to the board of directors, and the board suggested she limit her unpaid overtime to five to 10 hours a week. She and the board often disagreed on how she could be most effective with so few hours.

Then, Ritter said, she defied board instructions to withhold information—specifically the school’s student roster—from CUSD. The Green School board placed her on administrative leave and asked her to show up for a second mediation session.

She said she refused to go through mediation for a second time without a representative, and she then received e-mail notification that she was fired.

There is so much impropriety about the Chico Green School mess,  I don’t know where to start.  Did you get that part where she told them 20 hours wasn’t enough and they gave her 10? That’s because she’s a bitch to work with.   Is this the kind of performance we’ll get from Ritter on council? When I encountered her at an envelope-stuffing party I got talked into  by Maureen Kirk, she was totally weird. Instead of walking over to the main table and getting a pile of letters and envelopes for herself, she just walked right over to my table and sat down next to me without a word, abruptly snatching up my little piles of letters and envelopes  and placing them in front of herself! Then she let everybody at the table know she was in a bad mood and didn’t want to talk. Silence! How can you possibly be productive with a person like that? I predict she will not get along with Schwab, who is quick to let other women know when she feels they are being “too pushy”.   And to top it all off, at her age,  Ritter’s got a new baby – that will make you bitchy alright.  Let’s see how many meetings she excuses herself from because of the baby. That’s why I feel she ran in the first place – she is currently unemployed, and uninsured, and that’s kind of tough with a new kid.  She’s like a pigeon looking for a roost.

Ritter and Stone are snout-nosed trough dwellers. This is a council we really need to keep an eye on. We need citizens to attend meetings, and ask the right questions. We need to get together to compare notes, because as you’ve seen, they’ll FLAT LIE to get  their way Downtown.

And that’s what I’m looking for in a candidate for 2014. Coolidge is still eager to be on council – he needs to make his presence more known. We haven’t heard a peep out of the guy since he got himself on the local news protesting Measure J. Then he posted that blurb on youtube, and never said another word about it. He raised weird non-issues on his website – “Andrew will oppose any elimination of the leaf pick-up program…” ?  There is not one word about the budget or Measure J – just pseudo problems with no specific solutions. He has shown no real knowledge of city affairs.  I have yet to see him at a meeting aside from a couple of council meetings – standing silently and noticeably at the back of the room, just so he could say he was there. He really should have been at that Finance Committee meeting last week. There’s no excuse for not making meetings if you want to be on council. 

I don’t know if Toby Schindelbeck is interested in running again. I can’t help but admire Toby for being himself, but some people didn’t like him for the same reason they don’t like me – he doesn’t eat shit with a smile, he tends to tell people what he thinks. That won’t make you any friends, but it will get you my respect.  The kind of people who voted for Schwab, Stone and Ritter want to hear lies, they don’t have the courage to hear the truth, and they’re too lazy and stupid to do anything about it anyway.

I won’t forget – Toby actually accomplished something really important at the expense of his council campaign – he forced the Finance Director to give the monthly reports she’s required to give under Section 908 of the city code.  That is huge people. Now it’s time for all of us to pay attention. I think Toby has what it takes to turn this city around, whereas the rest of them seem to be worried more about keeping their butts in the chair than anything else. By going to the mat and risking the election – you realize how many city workers vote, don’t you? – he has actually accomplished a monumental task. Now, if the rest of the citizens would only pay attention, we might be able to get our city turned around, back on track. 

Toby Schindelbeck proved that old saying – “If the people will lead, the leaders will follow…” 

Right now, the candidate I’m looking for is willing to say NO to the police and fire employees, and make them pay their own pensions. Hellllloooo?

They’re in the catbird seat now – but the “paycheck protection” initiative may throw public employee unions out on their ears

30 Jun

I was glad to see Wisconsin throw out collective bargaining – a system that specifically denies public participation in the bargaining process – and I’ll be equally thrilled when Californians pass the “Paycheck Protection” Initative. This initiative would prohibit – prohibit! – the government, including the city of Chico, from deducting union dues from government employee paychecks that will be used for political purposes. It will also ban contributions to “candidate controlled” committees by corporations and labor unions. Furthermore – and this seems like a no brainer – it will ban contractors who receive government contracts from donating to the officeholder who awarded the contract. Now, that last one is interesting – remind me to get back to that.

Currently, both Chico Police and Chico Fire employees have union dues collected from their paychecks by the city of Chico paymaster, whether they are union members or not. These fees go to the Chico Police Officers Association and the Chico Firefighters Legislative Action Group, both registered with the city of Chico as Political Action Committees. These fees have, in past elections, been the biggest donations to any candidates. But the romance seemed to fizzle as the council  started to balk at these groups’ salary and pension demands in the face of a deepening deficit.  In the last couple of elections, neither PAC has solidly endorsed any candidate. The CPOA instead produced a slick video portraying Chico as an urban style crime area that was not properly funding it’s “public safety” organizations and released it at election time over youtube and through an e-mail campaign.

I don’t know if these tactics have any effect on the voters, but they sure made their mark on council, who has yet to take a firm stance with either Chico PD or Fire, giving in to wage increase demands and allowing structured overtime to run average salaries over $100,000 a person, with retirement at 50 years of age,  90 percent of their highest year’s pay, including overtime, and paying less than 25 percent of their benefits package. 

I believe large PAC’s have ruined our elections, and the idea that our “public servants” would use forcibly conscripted money to mount campaigns to enrich themselves with public funds is unacceptable.  The other employee unions have also played heavily in the disenfranchisement of the Chico voter – the SEIU and the nurses union were the biggest donors to the “No on Measure A” campaign back in June 2011. They all get conscripted union dues from non-union employees. These employees are NOT considered members and are NOT allowed to vote on these matters. 

This initiative seeks not only to ban conscripted dues but to ban contributions to candidate controlled committees  by these union PACs. Of course, this doesn’t seem to matter, given that these PACs, as illustrated above, are free to mount their own campaign on behalf of or against a candidate. But, it’s a nice thought. 

Now, at the end, it says, “ban contractors who receive government contracts from donating to the officeholder”. Like I said, this seems like a no-brainer. But look – we have the police and fire department and the other employee unions  in our town, who fill the definition of “contractors.” They “contract” with us, don’t they? But they are allowed to donate to officeholders, both as  PACs and as individuals.   I don’t imagine this is what the authors of this initiative have in mind, but I think there could be a good argument made in court that no public employee should be allowed to donate to the campaign of politicians who hire them. 

I’ve been reading some interesting buzz on this issue. According to tax-happy Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Morain, the state’s public employee unions are finding themselves “torn between donations to support the (Jerry Brown) tax hike, and donations to defeat another measure…the “Paycheck Protection” initiative…”  Apparently, they are short of funds to fight both, or at least, that’s what they want us to believe. I  think these unions are LOADED – they’ll pour gazillions into both measures, they’re absolutely DESPERATE to hang on to their position in the catbird seat – and fund their pensions.

Morain believes this initiative would “strip them (the unions) of their ability to raise and spend money on campaigns.”  Strip them? You mean,  force the unions to get their money by asking for it instead of stealing it from people’s paychecks?  You mean, they’d have to support candidates who actually share their views instead of buying them off?

You mean they’d have to compete with the rest of the voters, who’ve lately been shoved out of these elections by the ridiculous price tag? 

I hope Morain is right, I hope the employee unions are going bust, in a handbasket. But I’ll believe it when I see it.  Already, the California Teacher’s Union has put $1.5 million, the SEIU $1 million, the federal and state federation of teachers almost $2 million into the campaign to raise the sales/income tax. According to “ballotpedia”, the “No” campaign for the Paycheck Protection initiative has already raised over $6 million – this mainly from the the California School Employees Association, with only $500,000 coming from the California Labor Federation,  made up of private sector employees.

Let’s talk about this more tomorrow (Sunday July 1) at the library, 11:30 am.