City manager is the latest casualty in a city striving for normalcy
■ By Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
The state auditor has hammered Hemet on its excessive turnover of key staff and inability to rein in spending, designating it as a “high risk” entity. In the city’s May 25 response letter, which was due in February, City Manager Alex Meyerhoff wrote of the city’s improvements and progress on the items in question and requested the city’s removal from the “high risk” category.
Unfortunately for Hemet taxpayers, these issues continue, apparently unabated, and State Auditor Elaine Howle stated that the city’s “high risk” designation must remain. The city is scheduled to provide the auditor an update this month.
Meyerhoff is the latest in a growing list of key city officials who have abruptly resigned during the past eight months. Since December 2016, Councilman K. Paul Raver resigned, along with City Engineer Steven Latino. Then came the resignation of Deputy City Manager/Finance Director Jessica Hurst in February. The Valley Chronicle also found out that the city’s Human Resources director hit the road. The recent resignation of City Engineer Derek Wieske was also unexpected, as he was on the job less than two months.
In addition, Administrative Services Consultant Joy Canfield is no longer consulting for the city. Canfield, who works for MV Cheng and Associates, and worked with department heads to prepare the FY 17/18 budget, was absent the day City Council adopted the budget. We were surprised to learn from Meyerhoff at the time that Canfield no longer was consulting for the city and that MV Cheng and Associates was in the process of finding another consultant.
Meyerhoff resigned as city manager Aug. 8, the day of the last Hemet City Council meeting. His resignation was effective immediately and his last “official” day of work will be Sept. 7, but he will be on administrative leave until that date.
If you count interim and acting appointees, no fewer than 10 people have had the privilege of calling themselves Hemet city manager since 2000. The only one who seems to have been fired was Wally Hill in March 2015.
The city soon will have its third city engineer in a year. Well, it’s actually four if you count Acting City Engineer Nino Abad. And at press time, MV Cheng and Associates had not identified another candidate to replace Canfield.
To sum it all up, we have an acting city manager (Police Chief Dave Brown), no finance director (not even an acting finance director), and an acting city engineer for the second time in less than a year. Given this turmoil, the city wants the citizens of Hemet to believe that everything is essentially OK. I wonder how those who have resigned truly feel about their former employer?
Here’s a thought: what if a full investigation were launched into the activities of Hemet City Hall based on the auditor’s findings, the city’s apparent inability to accurately maintain the city’s books (for example: the unbalanced city attorney fund that was not properly reflected), the use of reserve funds to pay for raises and promotions, the city’s out-of-balance FY 17/18 budget, and continued turnover among key city staff — not to mention various apparent conflicts of interest? We could also throw in there – for good measure – the city’s blatant and perpetual lack of transparency.
The issues highlighted by Howle persist at the expense of the taxpayers. A 1 percent general fund sales tax measure was passed by voters in November 2016 to fund public safety and now there is a push among some council members and city administrators to support private security in the form of Hemet Gate Keepers. Why?
We believe it’s high time that the people paying the bills receive answers to their many questions. In short, what the heck is going on? From our viewpoint, and to quote Shakespeare, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”