City treasurer under the gun to defend her investment policies
■ Taj Shorter / Reporter
On Tuesday night at a city council meeting, Mayor Michael Perficiul suggested the implementation of a finance committee to oversee the city’s investment portfolio. The announcement followed by a report by City Treasurer Judith Oltman explaining her position on the city’s investments. Oltman is being challenged by a citizen’s group that is leading a recall of the city treasurer because of their disappointment in her handling of taxpayers’ dollars.
Local Hemet resident Sue Savage and her husband Pat Savage are leading the petition drive to recall the city treasurer published in The Valley Chronicle’s May 17 issue. During the meeting on June 12, Oltman explained her “buying and holding” beliefs in regards to the city’s investment portfolio. “We buy and hold and maintain a safe…investment portfolio that provides regular income and preservation of principal.” She made it clear that her interests lie in keeping the money safe and not as much in the yield. Oltman also explained the misunderstanding about the “missing” reports accusation alleged in the recall notice.
“It takes several months to close the books and reports will run two to three months behind,” she said. “Also, council meetings are occasionally postponed…or are dark around the holidays,” said Oltman in reference to getting reports on the agenda, “They are a monthly report, not necessarily given monthly.”
Following Oltman’s presentation to the council, Perciful suggested that the city have an oversight committee to ensure more transparency on and understanding of the city’s investments. Oltman responded that idea has been talked about for “years and years” and yet nothing has ever been done about it. Perciful’s suggestions of a finance committee would mean an appointed team could work with the council and the city’s treasurer when it comes to the decisions made regarding the investment portfolio. The mayor made it clear during the meeting that he was not insinuating that Oltman was “mismanaging” the money.
Savage countered Oltman’s report, by asking “eleven questions” as she titled it. She urged the council members to look over The Hemet Investment Policy annually to “ensure compliance with new laws” and regulate how the city treasurer is doing her job. She also continued to refute Oltman’s explanations about the investment reporting. “Section Five of The Investment Policy states the treasurer shall submit a monthly investment report to city council. California state code also requires a monthly investment report,” says Savage.
Savage continued by pointing out specific examples emphasizing the issue: “In 2016, council meeting minutes show no investment reports filed in the months of July or August. The “Portfolio Balance as of September 2016” investment report was never filed,” she said. “An end of August report was filed twice with different portfolio balances.” Savage also went on to point out specific minutes from previous meetings where council members questioned the rate of return and voted no when asked to approve the city treasurer’s report.
While Savage was disappointed that some of her questions remained unanswered at the meeting, she was pleased that there was finally a proposal for a balanced budget.
“Outstanding to see Hemet’s first proposed balanced budget (Tuesday) night. We applaud city council and city manager for working together to accomplish such an important milestone. Too many years since such an important event has occurred!” wrote Savage in a note to city officials.
While it is still unclear whether or not the city’s investments are being handled in the most beneficial way for taxpayers, it seems that Perciful’s suggestion may result in a broader group’s overseeing the city’s investment portfolio.