SLO council appoints Barasch to investment committee
October 2, 2013
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
The San Luis Obispo City Council appointed former mayoral candidate Steve Barasch to the Investment Oversight Committee Tuesday, despite opposition from staff and the mayor.
Barasch, who has criticized city financial decisions during regular appearances at council meetings, was the only person to apply for the position. The Investment Oversight Committee meets quarterly to review the management of the city’s $75 million portfolio, and until Tuesday, it consisted only of city managers and an auditor.
Tuesday night, the council voted 3-2 to appoint Barasch as the public representative to the committee, with Councilman John Ashbaugh straying from his usual voting bloc and making the motion in Barasch’s favor. Mayor Jan Marx, who defeated Barasch in her most recent election, and Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson cast the dissenting votes.
After deciding in April to add a member of the public to investment committee, the council chose to abandon its standard approach of designating two council members to interview applicants. The city accepted applications between July 19 and August 16.
After discovering Barasch was the only applicant, Assistant City Manager Michael Codron ordered acting City Clerk Sheryll Schroeder to omit Barasch’s name from the staff report and suggested reopening the filing period for applications.
Two hours prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Codron suggested the council revert back to the standard appointment procedure of having two council members interview new applicants, in a memorandum he sent council members.
Barasch, in turn, brought a stack of rejected advisory body applications to the lectern during public comment and said that he would not reapply for the position.
“I need to know if this was just a just kidding application process,” Barasch said. “I applied in good faith. I expect the council to be respectful of that.”
Marx argued that the city should reopen the position to applicants because, never in her recollection, had the council only received one application for a committee appointment.
“It’s always been a real decision,” Marx said. “It’s never been just one application.”
But, Ashbaugh, who often sides with Marx and Christianson, suggested appointing Barasch.
“I think it’s time we actually take Mr. Barasch’s advice and run with it,” Ashbaugh said. “The fact is this committee has a very limited role.”
Both Councilman Dan Carpenter and Councilwoman Kathy Smith supported appointing Barasch.
Like Ashbaugh, Barasch, too, said he would serve a limited role as an Investment Oversight Committee member.
“It’s a bit of an innocuous appointment because whoever you appoint has no real voting powers,” Barasch saids
The city finance director has the final say on all city investment decisions, and the oversight committee can merely make recommendations.
After a CalCoastNews exclusive Tuesday on the omission of Barasch’s name from the staff report and a failure to publish three quarters of investment reports, Finance Director Wayne Padilla released the city’s most recent quarterly investment report. Staff members still, though, have not posted an investment report on the city’s website since January.
After appointing Barasch, the council selected Marx as its representative to the Investment Oversight Committee. Marx volunteered herself to serve on the committee that no other council member expressed interest in joining.
Investment Oversight Committee meetings will now become public forums subject to California’s open meeting law, the Ralph M. Brown Act.