SLO to spend big on employee supervision

April 9, 2014
Katie Lichtig

Katie Lichtig

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The city of San Luis Obispo is planning a $250,000 rearrangement of city hall that would allow the city manager to more closely oversee the city clerk’s office.

On Feb. 18, the city council approved a staff request to allocate $250,000 to reorganize and remodel city hall offices and to install an elevator in the building. The proposed reconfiguration would place City Manager Katie Lichtig in an office adjacent to the city clerk’s office, which critics suggest is intended to restrict the flow of information.

“They’re remodeling the building at the cost of a quarter of a million dollars so she can be right next to the city clerk and monitor him,” said former mayoral candidate Steve Barasch.

Assistant City Manager Michael Codron said the reasoning behind the rearrangement is to consolidate two public counters into one and to place supervisors and employees together.

“Katie would be over with the city clerk who she supervises,” Codron said.

The rearrangement would place the administration and council offices beside the clerk’s office and consolidate their respective public counters into one, Codron said. Employees, including the tourism and natural resources managers and the city biologist would swap offices with the council and administration.

Lichtig said the changes would improve customer service to the community and enhance city operations by locating supervisors next to the programs they are leading.

She did not explain, when asked, why employees, particularly the city clerk, need more supervision.

In the past three years, San Luis Obispo has had three different full-time city clerks. Neither of the two exiting clerks publicly explained their departures, but both made lateral career moves after short stints with the city.

Former city clerk Elaina Cano left her position in February 2012 for the same role in Pismo Beach. Her move came with a slight raise in base salary.

Cano’s successor Maeve Grimes lasted less than a year, leaving in July 2013 for the same position in Oregon that she left to come to San Luis Obispo. Grimes took a pay cut to return her former possession as the clerk of Clatsop County in Oregon.

Some critics of Lichtig speculate that she instructs the city clerk to withhold certain public information.

Late last month, former planning commissioner John Fowler wrote a letter to the city council explaining his opposition to the renewal of Measure Y, the city’s half cent sales tax. The city clerk’s office received the letter on March 28 but did not post it on the city website until April 1, the day of the council meeting on Measure Y renewal.

Only after Councilman Dan Carpenter requested that City Clerk Anthony Mejia post the letter, did it appear with the meeting correspondence on the city website.

“We inadvertently missed posting it on the website,” Mejia wrote to Carpenter.

However, on March 28, the clerk’s office also received a letter from former city manager Ken Hampian endorsing the sales tax renewal. The clerk’s office posted Hampian’s letter the day it arrived.

Last year, Barasch applied for a seat on the now-public investment oversight committee. Barasch was the only member of the public to apply for the position, but city staff omitted his name in its report on the committee appointment.

Carpenter brought the omission to the attention of then interim city clerk Sheryll Schroeder, who amended the council agenda. But, Codron then ordered her to leave Barasch’s name off the staff report, Schroeder said.

In 2012, Barasch attempted to deliver letters marked “personal” to each of the council members. Barasch left them with the city administrative assistant and asked for them to be placed in the council member’s mailboxes.

City staff, however, intercepted the mail, copied the letters and then shredded the originals. Two days later, staff forwarded copies to the council members.

Lichtig said that staff’s handling of the mail was common practice intended to save storage space and trees.

Barasch said the manner in which city staff handles communications with council members is very suspicious.

“There is clearly a pattern that has developed within the city,” Barasch said. “If there is a negative letter, it is either screened, scanned or misplaced.”

During its Feb. 18 meeting earlier this year, the council voted 3-2, with Carpenter and Councilwoman Kathy Smith dissenting, to spend more than $1 million on the city hall remodel and other new projects. The other funding measures include spending $100,000 on the Mission Plaza Master Plan and contributing $250,000 toward the purchase of property for a new homeless services center.

The resolution came during a hearing in which staff informed the council that it had received approximately $6 million in unanticipated revenue.

Carpenter said all of the excess revenue should go toward paying down debt. The council chose to set aside $3 million to address unfunded pension and insurance liabilities and $1.7 million to save in case voters do not renew Measure Y.

Critics of the city hall reconfiguration consider it lavish spending, especially as the city asks voters to renew a tax.

Codron said it is a capital improvement project.

In recent months, staffers have scrambled to show capital improvement projects the city has completed using Measure Y funds. City staff has been championing street maintenance and storm drain replacement as major components of the city’s capital improvements.

Fowler, who sat on the city’s Measure Y renewal committee, conducted an analysis of how the city spent its Measure Y funds. He concluded that the city spent the majority of the funds on staff salaries while neglecting many desired projects.

Critics also question whether the elevator component of the city hall remodel is a necessary expense. City hall is two stories, and handicap access exists for both floors.

Two-story commercial elevators tend to cost in the tens of thousands of dollars range.

 


Loading...
hijinks

Another $1.35 million reasons to vote against Measure Y. We have an out to lunch city council that lets this sort of stuff keep happening. The clerk certainly does need monitoring :-). We wouldn’t want to go back to the bad old days when the clerk answered to the council, and actually had some positive clout at city hall. No, mam, we want a clerk that’s firmly under the thumb of the manager, and makes no waves.


Mr. Holly

Come on everybody, just another day in politics. Spend, spend, and then spend mostly on themselves. The folks in city hall have to be the happiest of the happy in SLO. This will just keep going on until we the people put a stop to it and/or challenge their misdeeds.


Rambunctious

When it’s not your money you will spend it like a billionaire with 6 months to live. Lets see…I need to make sure this office of public employees are performing their duties so I need a quarter million dollars of tax payer money so I can watch them better. Maybe we should take them away from their fancy offices and put them all in Quonset huts with evaporated coolers out behind Cuesta College so WE! can watch all of THEM! better.


womanwhohasbeenthere

Katie Lichtig is an egomaniac, control freak and if this latest news does not convince the citizens to distrust city hall, well we get what we deserve. There are sidewalks in need of repairs, streets and parking lots needing repaving, parks and open space needing weed cutting, and staff’s biggest priority is an elevator and a remodel of their offices?


Throw all those bums out especially before Katie’s pension is vested here and we are on the hook for it. Pay her off to get her out, take a break from all these taxes, get some competent people in charge, can the other half, make some money on our $90 MILLION in the bank, and then see what happens. It might be a pleasant place to live again. We need more honest people like John Fowler who will tell the truth. At one time this city was well managed. Whatever happened?


kkeene88

Don’t forget the other part about councilmember christine johnson’s husband being hired by irons in slo just a year or so ago to work in her office.


kkeene88

perhaps lichtig applied for the city manager job in morro bay?


SLOBIRD

Not enough money for her. She hit the lottery with SLO and will have to be fired before she leaves.


LameCommenter

Likes and dislikes about Lichtig, as of right now, twenty-five to zip.


Doesn’t that, plus her record of shenanigans, say it all ?


I guess we can all just eat our cake, while SLO city hall lavishes it’s quarters.


hijinks

It’s Malibu-Santa Monica-Bev Hills Lichtig you mean, about the cake?


Pelican1

That’s one expensive babysitter!


givemeabreak

My question ….if Gibson does not get re elected will his mistress/ Administrative Assistant be bounced once again to the city clerks office? Whats her name? Cherie Aspurio or Cherie Mc Kay now.? Think Lichtig is gonna have to keep an eye on her? Oh probably not. They are ALL bedfellows. : (


lakerhater

WAKE UP PEOPLE! The democrats in power are much smarter than you and know what information you need and what you don’t need. They know that the government is there to solve all of your problems and tell you how to think. Opposition, as is resistance, is futile. Once they are in power they will lie, cheat, and steal to stay in power, because, as their mantra goes: “THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS”……….


bobfromsanluis

The unbridled quest for more power, more authority, more control has absolutely nothing to do with whatever political party Katy Lichtig happens to belong to; there is no monopoly by either party on bad ideas, bad implementation and bad intentions. Don’t confuse Ms. Lichtig’s strangle hold over every single department of city staff as anything other than her personal quest to have absolute power. And I don’t think she even considers that she knows better than you or me, she most likely believes that she knows better than everybody else, period. Corruption, greed, lust for power cut across all sorts of barriers and divisions; I for one am hoping that she is not leading us towards some sort of City of Bell scandal with her dedicated restructuring of SLO city hall.


isoslo

Just another example of government corruption. We should all be afraid of our government, they can do lots of damage and none of the people are ever held responsible. The only pressure we can apply is to reduce their finances, which reduces some of their power, vote no on measure Y


TacomaRose

Without a doubt …. Lichtig is destroying SLO with her abusive management style.


She did the same thing years ago when she worked in Malibu until the City leaders ran her off


The SLO City Council had rocks in their head when they hired her.


obispan

No, no ,no. The current City Council majority knew exactly what they were doing and who they wanted when they hired her


OnTheOtherHand

My thumbs down was for your last line. obispan is right.