Internal communication failures delay budget adoption

Incomplete Strategic Plan creates friction within council

Photo by Melissa Diaz Hernandez / The Valley Chronicle
Hemet City Council and staff during the budget discussion. From left to right: Councilman Russ Brown, Councilwoman Karlee Meyer, Councilwoman Bonnie Wright, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Perciful, Mayor Linda Krupa, City Manager Alex Meyerhoff and City Attorney Eric Vail.

■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Reporter

A heated budget debate at the dais revealed frustrations over the city’s internal communication issues, resulting in postponement of the adoption of the FY 2017-18 budget. Obtaining departmental numbers has proved challenging as several council members have requested numbers for several weeks.
Councilwoman Karlee Meyer very candidly expressed her frustration about not receiving the financial data. “I received your [City Manager Alex Meyerhoff] email today with some encumbrances on there. I think that I am more frustrated with the way that this happened than I am with the numbers we have come up with and so, since our private conversation [closed session meeting to discuss Meyerhoff’s performance evaluation], it was taken off of the agenda,” said Meyer. “I talked to you yesterday about asking again for the numbers for the estimates for the year ending June 30, 2017. You were going to ask the department heads again, correct? Because you said it will take weeks to get them. And, so I talked to you again today and you said that you talked to them and cannot get those numbers for me. I do my homework and I talked to some department heads today and I was given more information than I asked for.”
Meyer reiterated her frustration with Meyerhoff, stating “you let our department heads sit out there and listen to what we wanted. Were they asked for them [financial data] or were they not?”
The City Council Agenda item 23 states: “Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2016-17 or Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2017-18 – City Manager Meyerhoff
a. Adopt a continuing resolution for items adopted in the Fiscal Year 2016-17 Budget, the Measure U Allocation for Fiscal Year 2017-18, and the costs of the new Memorandums of Understanding with the Hemet Police Officers Association, Hemet Police Management Association, and the Hemet Fire Fighters Association. Resolution Bill No. 17-045 OR
b. Adopt a resolution adopting the Fiscal Year 2017-18 Budget. Resolution Bill No. 17-039.” “Why is there an option (b) on here when we haven’t even had a strategic planning session to talk about and put forth the priorities of the city?” asked Mayor Pro Tem Michael Perciful.
Meyerhoff responded that he wanted to make sure “that council had a range of options. In talking to council members and staff, we think it is important to have an option to approve the budget as presented.”
Mayor Linda Krupa and Meyerhoff stated that the strategic planning meeting will happen in August, after the anticipated budget adoption. Krupa commented that a consultant should be hired to lead the session. However, Perciful and Meyer both objected, asking why we should hire someone when city leadership knows the city more than a consultant?
Krupa stated that the city has tried having the city manager complete this task in the past and it has not worked out, after stating, “We may not need a consultant to tell us what to do but I definitely suggest a facilitator.” She mentioned that she knew some people in the city that could serve as the consultant. When Meyerhoff was approved for hire on Dec. 22, 2015 by City Council, Krupa was present and voted to approve Meyerhoff’s hire.
Meyerhoff’s contract states the following: “Initial Goal Setting and Strategic Planning… Within One Hundred and Eighty (180) days of the Commencement Date, MEYERHOFF will have guided the City Council through a strategic planning process and developed a strategic plan embodying City Council defined goals, priorities, activities, and programs for the City organization. Within the same One Hundred and Eighty (180) day period the City Council will have met with MEYERHOFF to establish mutually agreed upon objective performance goals for the City Manager. It is contemplated that these objective performance goals for the City Manager will be reassessed and reset annually as part of the City’s Manager evaluation held in accordance with Section 2.2 above [Evaluation].” Councilwoman Bonnie Wright suggested approving the budget with the caveat that items holding up the adoption would be addressed and amended a month or two down the road. Meyer disagreed with Wright because she felt that council should not be trusted to come back and address the issues for taxpayers. Krupa suggested the council go dark at an August meeting instead of the July 25 meeting to work toward budget adoption.

The infamous strategic plan
The City of Hemet has yet to adopt a strategic plan. However, the number of “strategic planning” meetings may or may not be surprising. The Valley Chronicle made a public records act request to the city for the minutes of all strategic planning meetings that have occurred from the beginning of 2010 to March 2017. According to the documents received, the city has held six Strategic Planning meetings since 2010.


CoH strategic planning meetings since 2011

■ Melissa Diaz  Hernandez / Reporter

Jan 29-30, 2011, Simpson Park Meeting facility
Attendees: Jim Foreman, Linda Krupa, Larry Smith, Robert Youssef, Jerry Franchville
Synopsis: Then-City Manager Brian Nakamura addressed goal setting and team building. The city’s ‘Core Philosophy’ was established “To right-size local government so it can provide the most effective and efficient services to its residents and businesses. The core issue for the city council was to ensure the survival of the organization and keep the city solvent. Transparency is also essential to the council’s core mission.”

Feb. 7, 2011, Simpson Park Meeting facility
Attendees: Jim Foreman, Linda Krupa, Larry Smith, Robert Youssef.
Absent: Jerry Franchville
Synopsis: Provided an overview of the prior meeting and council gave the city manager direction to “provide monthly updates on progress.”

July 26, 2014, Simpson Park meeting facility
Attendees: Linda Krupa, Bonnie Wright, Robert Youssef, Larry Smith.
Absent: Shellie Milne
Synopsis: Discussed strategies for eliminating the city’s structural deficit. The strategies were prioritized.
Sell city-owned properties that are no longer needed. Research the feasibility of privatizing or franchising the city’s water and sewer systems.
Develop marketing and economic development strategies; form Blue Ribbon Committee to study city services and finances and advise the city manager.
Conduct managed competitions, but with Council approval of the functions to be competed.
Consider consolidations of functions with other local governments.
Engage labor organizations in ways to reduce retiree medical costs.
At this meeting, a “consensus of those present that the city council would be willing to consider possible tax options in the future if all the above efforts have been exhausted and the structural deficit persists.” Also addressed at this meeting were the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats “as relates to the city’s achieving what it wants for the community.

Jan. 17, 2015, Hemet Public Library
Present: Mayor Linda Krupa, Bonnie Wright, Shellie Milne.
Absent: K. Paul Raver and Robert Youssef.
Synopsis: Meeting began with an overview by then-City Manager Wally Hill of the July 26, 2014 strategic planning meeting. The next agenda item was “Discussion of city financial situation, five-year financial forecast and deficit reduction strategies.”

April 15, 2016, Simpson Park meeting facility
Present: Linda Krupa, Shellie Milne, Robert Youssef, K. Paul Raver, Bonnie Wright
Synopsis: Addressed again were the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. City Manager Alex Meyerhoff revealed that the mission/purpose and vision statements had not been updated since Oct. 18, 2005. The council decided that the core values for the city are “creativity, volunteerism and service, work ethic and equality, equity and tolerance.”
Council also discussed a list of three-year goals without indicating priorities or a timeline. Key performance measures and six-month strategic objectives were discussed at that meeting, per the minutes.

July 6, 2016, Hemet Public Library
Present: Linda Krupa, Shellie Milne, K. Paul Raver, Bonnie Wright
Absent: Robert Youssef
Synopsis: The meeting was facilitated by Aubrey Taylor of Chabin Concepts. Priorities were discussed but no action was taken. A strategic plan is still not completed.

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