Sun. May 22nd, 2022

Commentary By Donna Westfall – January 15, 2022

While we are in the midst of repealing taxes every where you turn; City, County, and State, the issue of expenditures of our tax money by our various and sundry government agencies and tracking those expenditures is an important one.

Locally, the City of Crescent City’s 1% sales tax that passed in 2020 has petitions circulating to get it repealed on the June 2022 ballot. Some voters object to the constant lack of maintenance to our streets. I put in a records request to find out more about expenditures and repairs on our city roads. Information should be coming out of City Hall this coming week.

Back in the days when I sat on the City Council, 2008-2012, I exposed enough information and proof about problems with expenditures on the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) to raise the eyebrows of any elected official that took their job seriously. Their response was to cook up a “Code of Ethics” and then use the Code of Ethics to CENSOR me, remove me from all committees until the the WWTP upgrade/expansion was completed. Who cooked it up? Attorney Bob Black.

So, I have a records request into City Hall to get financial information on Attorney Bob Black and Martha Rice for the last three years. That should be coming out of City Hall this coming week.

This morning, there was a Tsunami alert. However, under normal conditions you would hear a siren or get a phone call. Zero, zip, nada. That apparently did not take place. The City is supposed to maintain the emergency system. Well, what happened? The City’s Facebook postings put up after 10 am, when the Tsunami threat was between 8 – 10 am. People were warned to stay away from the Harbor area on Facebook. What’s wrong with that scenario? Does City Hall think everyone is tuned into Facebook 24/7?

Fortunately, no Tsunami hit our shores that could have created a problem.

The other petition circulating in the city/county is to repeal the 1% County Sales Tax. Let’s start with this question. How many employees of Del Norte County have an income over six figures? Do you know when they last gave themselves a raise? Do you think they can operate within their budget? Are they taking care of business? Do they really need another $ million in their budget? Or should they reduce their expenses first before coming to the beleaguered taxpayer?

Regarding the Tsunami Emergency Services: This was posted on Facebook around 10ish this morning by Del Norte Office of Emergency Services:

As we have updated, Del Norte County is currently under a tsunami advisory. Please stay away from the harbor and low lying areas along the coast until a message is sent from emergency officials stating it is safe to do so. At this time, we are hearing that the advisory will remain in effect for at least several hours as surges will continue to persist for some time. Information will continue to be provided as we receive it from our state and federal partners. We repeat, please do not venture into low lying coastal areas, especially the harbor and beaches.

Their next posting around 11ish:

We are aware that many individuals did not receive the Community Alert that was sent at 7:08am on 1/15/2022. The intent was for the message to be sent to all registered users, however through the process of generating the message only a portion of registered users were selected. This issue has been resolved, and all registered users were included in the 9:51am message, and will be included in future messages for this event. We apologize for our error.

County of Del Norte

Department of Information Technology

One of the comments left: “Our alert system seems to be failing. It used to be really good. An alert after the event…..pretty useless”

Who wants to know the financials regarding this agency and why the system failed? I know I do.

The next petition that should be out for circulation soon is to repeal the Fire District Assessment at $74/year to most homeowners, but a $1,000 flat fee to multi-property owners. In effect, the ones that need the protection the most are paying the least. It has no sunset clause, but does contain a cost of living increase.
Let’s look at the problems with our state.

“State auditor finds lots of illegal activity”

By Jon Coupal who is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. He wrote an opinion piece last year on June 24th.

Let’s take a look at it:

“It’s no secret that those who complain about taxes — and who doesn’t — tend to focus on how much money is taken from our wallets and pocketbooks. In California, government takes a lot with highest in the nation tax rates in most categories. But equally insulting is the poor level of service we get for our tax dollars.

Regrettably, some behavior by government employees transcends “normal” government inefficiency and encroaches into actual illegality.

Elaine Howle, the California State Auditor, pursuant to the California Whistleblower Protection Act, conducts an annual review of improper governmental activity. The latest report, released last month, reflects just a small percentage of cases brought to her office for investigation.

The results are depressing to say the least. Here are some of the notable examples.

The first involves overpayments by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to employees. The taxpayers should have been able to recover that money, but it’s not going to happen. As much as $1.5 million in overpayments of salary advances was forfeited by the agency because it failed to provide notice to the employees within a three-year time limit. According to the State Auditor “Inefficiency and incompetency in Caltrans’ division of human resources contributed significantly to its failure to notify recipients and collect on the outstanding salary advances.”

Another problem involves public employees in California running side businesses out of their public office. The annual audit reports that an administrator in California’s Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) broke the law when he advertised his experience with the agency on the website of his private tax preparation and consultation business, and when the administrator prepared private tax returns for clients who had CDTFA seller’s permits. The icing on the cake, according to the auditor, was that he was also “dishonest with CDTFA investigators when interviewed about his improper activities.”

The third example strongly reeks of cronyism. An employee of the Department of State Hospitals lied on his job application, which fooled the agency into believing that the employee met the minimum qualifications for the position. More troubling, however, was that the hiring manager fudged the process to give the employee an unfair advantage.

Taxpayers should be glad that at least someone in state government is trying to uncover and stop waste of public funds and resources.

Public employees who become aware of illegal or inappropriate activity are protected under the Whistleblower Act and should not fear reaching out to the State Auditor to report what they see. An ‘improper governmental activity’ is defined under the Act as ‘any action by a state agency or by a state employee performing official duties that breaks a state or federal law, is economically wasteful, involves gross misconduct, incompetence, or inefficiency; or does not otherwise comply with the State Administrative Manual, the State Contracting Manual, an executive order of the Governor, or a California Rule of Court.’

The State Auditor assures potential and actual whistleblowers’ that their identities will be protected to the maximum extent allowed by law and that “retaliation against state employees who file reports is unlawful and may result in monetary penalties and imprisonment.”

Of course, illegal activity by state employees is a small fraction of the waste in state government.”

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