Santa’s Slush Fund….

February 13, 2013

 

… EXPOSED

As I continue to open “gifts” from my recent 18 page document trove, released by the City of Wildomar in response to my recent Public Records Act ( “PRA”) request, I found evidence of a disturbing lack of accountability in the handling of city funds, including cash, generated from the December 15, 2012 Breakfast With Santa event put on by the City of Wildomar.

Unfortunately, despite our specific request for a copy of the receipts that documented the above purchases, the City Clerk failed to include them, forcing yours truly to meet with City Manager Gary Nordquist yesterday afternoon to discuss the shortcomings of City Staff for their conduct anf lack of compliance with the PRA, as well as the mishandling of public funds, described hereinafter.

Nordquist has promised that he will address the shortcomings with the City Clerk and make the appropriate corrections.

According to the documents received, the City of Wildomar fronted or “put up” $286.80 (including an offsetting credit of $76.06 to Smart & Final) to purchase the food ingredients and party supplies for the breakfast event.

The unwitting victims of the City’s unfortunate Health & Safety Ordinance avoidance (See my previous article, below, “Wildomar’s Kitchen Nightmare ….Breakfast With Santa” for the gut-wrenching details) generated a  total of $1084.00 to the City of Wildomar, while the unsuspecting citizens were enjoying their opportunity to mingle their morning fare with a mythical St. Nicolas imposter. (Wildomar’s white-bearded version of Santa was observed to be wearing his favorite Hawaiian shirt under his red bathrobe).

At the end of the event, City of Wildomar officials supposedly counted out $1039 in cash, plus $45 in personal checks, “documenting” $1084 in revenues.

However, the total deposit of funds to the City of Wildomar, as of January 04, 2013, is only $399.00, leaving nearly $400 unaccounted for.

Apparently, after deducting the $286.80 from the total, which left a total “profit” of $797.20, the City official in charge of the event simply, and improperly, divided up the monies and improperly handed $398.60, in cash, to the co-recipient of the largess, Friends For Wildomar’s Parks.

So that there  is no misunderstanding of the implications of what just occurred, nearly $400 in cash receipts, which should have been deposited with the City of Wildomar, were instead improperly diverted directly to the coffers of a city-favored park volunteer group.

(Update, as of 1:00 PM today: Apparently after initiating an investigation into the matter at City Hall, it still remains “uncertain” as to how much, where and how the money went, and who received it.)

For some reason, city officials continue to operate the City of Wildomar as if it is their own non-profit community-based organization, supposedly subject to the laws of the land but somewhat conveniently flying beneath the harsh radar of accountability.

Once again, City Manager Gary Nordquist has promised to confront his staff with these disturbing developments and make the necessary changes in their money handling procedures to prevent a recurrence.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

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Wildomar’s Kitchen Nightmare…

February 12, 2013

 

…. BREAKFAST WITH SANTA

As a result of the City of Wildomar’s response to my recent Public Records Act request, where I requested all of the documents pertaining to the recent Breakfast With Santa, put on by the City of Wildomar on December 15, 2012, I discovered the following dismaying health facts.

What I discovered was recommendations for substandard kitchen practices that would/should turn the stomachs of any goodhearted and festive consumers, who only sought to be supporters of a local holiday event, and instead, turned out to be the unwitting recipients of potentially  contaminated food products.

In an e-mail from Paula Willette, Community Services Manager, dated December 05, 2012, to “K L”(presumably Kristan Lloyd), on behalf of Friends For Wildomar’s Parks, with a carbon copy (“CC”) to Wildomar City Councilmember Bridgette Moore, discussing the proposed food handling procedures for the upcoming event, as follows:

I’m getting there at 6:30 to start setting up. You will need whatever tools you need to mix and cook eggs, sausage and pancakes. The Scouts (past volunteers) mixed everything in 5 gallon buckets with a drill and mixing paddle and it seemed to work out great. They always had a large group, but I’m not sure how many were actually needed. I’m copying Bridgette on this because she was the woman in charge of the food and has a better handle on it.

When I do big breakfasts, I find it easier to precook the sausage ahead of time and then just warm it up.

I’ll purchase the batter and non-perishable things on Thursday and get the sausage on Friday or if you have room in your fridge, I can get it on Thursday for you.”

In a responsive e-mail from Bridgette Moore, dated December 07, 2012, to Paula and K L, the following:

“… are you cooking on grills? (You will) need warmers to keep eggs/pancakes/sausage warm. Cook ahead.”

According to the USDA, the following:

“Foods, including safely cooked and ready-to-eat foods, can become cross-contaminated with pathogens transferred from raw egg products and raw meat, poultry, and seafood products and their juices, other contaminated products, or from food handlers with poor personal hygiene. Most cases of foodborne illness can be prevented with proper cooking or processing of food to destroy pathogens. “

Please click on the following link for additional information:

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FACTSheets/Foodborne_Illness_What_Consumers_Need_to_Know/index.asp

It appears from the aforementioned e-mails that the use of uninformed volunteers to prepare breakfast on a large scale probably did not rise to acceptable standards of food preparation.

As would any normal city, the City of Wildomar has created appropriate food handling ordinances, as follows:

Chapter 8.40 FOOD HANDLERS
8.40.010 Purpose and intent.
8.40.020 Definitions.
8.40.030 Food worker’s certificate required.
8.40.040 Exemption.
8.40.050 Application for food worker’s certificate.
8.40.060 Qualification for food worker’s certificate.
8.40.070 Issuance of food worker’s certificate.
8.40.080 Duplicate food worker’s certificate.
8.40.090 Revocation of food worker’s certificate.
8.40.100 Appeal.
8.40.110 Display of food worker’s certificate.
8.40.120 Violation—Penalty.

Unfortunately, Wildomar went further than most cities  to find a way around their own health ordinances so they have created a global exemption, as follows:

8.40.040 Exemption.

Any person who engages or serves or seeks employment relating to domestic or household work or to temporary, occasional or intermittent functions of bona fide religious, charitable or public service organizations, including fraternal organizations. veterans’ organizations. established youth organizations, parent-teacher associations, or students in public or private schools under the age of 16 engaged in school food operations, and civic or community organizations or groups, the primary purpose of which is the betterment of the cultural, social or economic welfare and environment of the community, shall be exempt from the provisions of Section 8.40.030. (Ord. 18 § 2, 2008, RCC § 8.44.040)”

Based on the above, any person over the age of 16 who participated in food preparation for Breakfast With Santa should have been required to comply with all of the requirements as “food handlers” under Section 8.40.

Perhaps, in the future, the City of Wildomar should learn to function as a government organization, whose obligation is to protect the health and safety of their citizens, rather than being the well-intentioned purveyors of substandard food products.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.


Autumnwood Homeowners….

February 6, 2013

 

…MIS-FRUSTRATED

If you haven’t noticed, Wildomar Magazine is not prone to take sides with  government bureaucrats. I generally prefer to mock them.

However, last evening, as I attended the city-facilitated meeting between the AutumnWood tract homeowners and representatives of appropriately responsive state and county agencies, such as the Air Quality Management District (“AQMD”) and the Department of Toxic Substances Control (“DTSC”) it became clear to me that this is, or should be, the end of this particular road for the homeowners.

As you may know, the two aforementioned agencies have conducted forensic testing in at least three of the homes in the Autumnwood tract, responding to allegations the presence of toxic chemicals and the soils underneath the homes.

Please click on the following link to a recent Californian article for context:

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/jan/31/wildomar-autumnwood-air-quality-study/?page=1#article-copy

After the presentations by the various agency representatives, the homeowners in attendance were given an opportunity to  address the representatives. Not surprisingly, the complaints and allegations by the Autumnwood homeowners were repeated in detail, generally duplicating the complaints and allegations from the initial meeting last month.

I do recall one of the homeowners demanding that the DTSC continue to spend (taxpayer) money until the homeowner allegations have been confirmed.

The ongoing frustration demonstrated by the Autumnwood homeowners is certainly understandable.

 However, in my opinion, the venting of their frustration in the attempt to force the DTSC to continue testing their soils, despite the lack of scientific evidence of the need to do so is comparable to demanding that an ostrich fly because it’s a bird.

These homeowners have pulled all the levers of political influence within their grasp but continue to be unhappy, and frustrated, with the outcome.

Since they already have engaged the services of a law firm, at this point in time, they are free to continue their quest for legal redress through the Courts.

Therein lies their dilemma. Clearly this type of litigation is expert-driven, which is quite expensive.

Rather than continuing to flog these particular bureaucrats into flying “air cover” for their litigation battle, the homeowners should retain their own experts.

Foolishly, all that they have done so far is to create a growing body of evidence that there is no scientific basis for their allegations.

 Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

Personally, I thought that repeatedly addressing DTSC representative and Branch Manager, John Scandura , by only using his surname “Scandura,” was disrespectful and undignified.

Despite the disrespect, Mr. Scandura retained his professional demeanor in his responses.

Please click on the following link to review his personal bio:

http://ebookbrowse.com/john-scandura-bio-pdf-d389161644


Wildomar Officials Angry At Caltrans…UPDATE

February 4, 2013

 

… BUT FOR THE WRONG REASONS

It appears that the Wildomar City Council finally become “angry” activists, crying out against the egregious shortcomings of State of California bureaucracies such as Caltrans.

Please click on the following link to the Lake Elsinore/Wildomar Patch for context, and confirmation:

http://lakeelsinore-wildomar.patch.com/articles/caltrans-brings-86-million-ortega-highway-project-details-to-southwest-riverside-county-commuters

Unfortunately, the activism seems to be fixated on issues of relatively small concern for most of most of the Citizens of Wildomar (the Ortega Highway/Interstate 5 interchange must be at least 40 miles from Wildomar), while entirely missing potentially lethal Caltrans deficits occurring within our city limits.

While I haven’t had to utilize the Ortega Highway for many years, it was only last August when Caltrans installed stop signs on the western end of Baxter Road Bridge without providing sufficient notice to local drivers, which resulted in a high percentage of “blown” stop signs, some of which resulted in actual traffic accidents. To their credit, Caltrans did a better job in January 2013, with their installation of stop signs on the eastern end of the Baxter Road Bridge.

However, despite all of the gleeful Facebook notifications of the opening of the new southern-most lanes of the Clinton Keith Bridge, the actual rollout and access to the new lanes by Caltrans was and is substandard and potentially lethal.

For example, yesterday afternoon during rush hour as I was traveling westbound over the bridge, I personally had to swerve and take evasive action to avoid a small foreign car, driven by an apparently confused elderly female driver, as shewas attempting to make a left turn from eastbound Clinton Keith onto the southbound Clinton Keith offramp.

Fortunately, despite the negligent absence of any “Do Not Enter-Wrong Way” signage, her confusion was stopped from being a life-ending catastrophe by the presence of two lanes of rush hour vehicles stopped for the red light at the end of the offramp, effectively blocking her access to the southbound Interstate while driving northbound.

For the record, I double-checked the end of the ramp late this afternoon and there continues to be no warning signage at that location.

In their haste to provide some additional “reflected glory” for the adolescents occupying our City Council  dais, the bureaucratic numbskulls at Caltrans are failing to protect  the lives and property of drivers who may be confused by the changes in the traffic patterns on the Clinton Keith Bridge.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

Caltrans has one week to correct this lethal deficit before next week’s City Council meeting as I intend to address the matter.

UPDATE; As of noon today (February 05, 2012), Caltrans workers were installing temporary “Do Not Enter-“Wrong Way signage at the top of the southbound Interstate 15 offramp, which will, hopefully, prevent another occurrence of driver confusion.