Letter to the Editor
To the Editor,
A very sad but true statement is that “elections have consequences.” My sad tale involves the City of Whittier and some very nice people that ran for city council but then did not know what to do when they got there or how to ask questions that would give them the information needed for good governance. What the citizens of Whittier ended up with is a financial mess and other issues caused by the ignorance of the very nice elected people. Whittier has an operating budget of $2.73i million but has overspent its $150,000ii attorney line item by close to $1,000,000iii. There is nothing to show for the extravagant expense except happy attorneys. During the last regular city council meeting on Aug. 21, 2018, council members Dave Pinquoch and Peter Denmark expressed concern that proper governmental accounting procedures had not been followed and the city budget has not been reconciled since mid-2017. City code requires that the city manager give the city council a monthly financial reportiv. Obviously, the city managers fell down on their duties to the council, but the council also fell down on its duties to Whittier’s citizens.
The sad fact is that if city council and the city manager knew the rules under which they operate, this problem would have never happened. City code 3.32.030 requires that the city manager receive approval from city council for any expenditures exceeding a budgeted amount by $5,000 or more. $1,000,000 for attorney fees is a line item overrun of $850,000. Approval did not happen. Questions were not asked.
Whittier is a “city manager” form of government. That means city council is responsible for selecting a city manager. The city manager runs the city under code guidelines. City council evaluates the city manager.
Council members Pinquoch and Denmark alerted city council to the attorney fee overruns during the Aug. 21, 2018 city council meeting.
At that same meeting, the mayor showed his ignorance of city council procedures and code by introducing an item that would have significant impact on the city that was not on the agenda. The mayor then pushed for a vote to fund a study over the objection of two council members. The study is to look at the creation of a Prince William Sound Borough and award up to $10,000 for Whittier’s part of the study.
Items go on the agenda so council members and citizens have notice of the items, can ask questions and be briefed before the meeting. Becoming a part of a Borough may have negative impacts on our school and on the funds coming from the cruise ships, to name two big concerns. Dave Goldstein, a citizen, spoke about the problems that surfaced with a past study to form this borough and his concern about rushing a study.
Here is the bottom line. The citizens of Whittier were upset with the way the city manager was behaving and took it upon themselves to sign a petition to force city council to non-renew the city manager’s contract. However, there are still good council people not doing good things for the city.
An election is coming up on Oct. 2ed. Let’s replace the two council members up for election with people who know how to read city code and know how to ask questions. Let’s keep replacing council members until we have a council that works for the best interests of the citizens and properly handles money.
Karen Dempster, BA, MED, EDS, JD, Esq., a Whittier City Voter
ii Ibid, General Fund, Administrative Expenses, 01-400-6650, Prof. Fees-Legal $150,000
iii Peter Denmark on YouTube video of Whittier City Council Regular meeting 8.21.18
iv City of Whittier Code 2.16.040