corruption

THE SISTER CITY BUDGET; IS IT LEGAL?

Submitted By Linda Sutter – December 31, 2019

This is why members of the public should be involved in meetings.

In 2014 a Japanese boat rolled up on the shores of Crescent City. HIgh school students and others refurbished the boat and sent it back to Rikuzentakata, Japan. NO money from the Crescent City Budget was utilized. In return, Rikuzentakata Japan paid to have elected officials come to their city not once but twice, at NO COST to our city.

Mayor Blake Inscore stated he would not use Public money for the sister city but on August 15, 2016 that all changed with Resolution No. 2016-29.

A Resolution of the City of Crescent City rescinding the Crescent City Travel expense and use of public resources policy and adopting 2 new policies, The city of Crescent City Travel Policy and The City of Crescent City use of public funds policy. This includes International Travel.

In 2017 the city begins spending taxpayers dollars on Rikuzentakata, Japan. It was small.

On 3/24/2017  Flag pins were sent to Japan costing taxpayers $ 130.12. There was an $8.76  charge for tax and fee Admin USA and Japan.

On April 28, 2017 Crescent City lapel pins were purchased for $452.00.  These purchases did not serve the Public Benefit and was in violation of the City Council’s own public policy regarding expenditure of public funds which states within the resolution, “Expenditures of public funds for gifts, or gift cards to employees and public officials are not authorized. The purchase of coffee mugs, pens, tote bags, etc. are prohibited.”

Mayor Blake Inscore decided along with the other elected city council members to create a budget for a sister city to the tune of $12,500.00 in 2016 so he and other elected could fly back and forth yearly to visit the sister city. No Public Benefit to the City, but City Manager, ericWier stated it was to learn about their Emergency Systems. That was less than truthful, because there is nothing to support that statement whatsoever. Later on you will see how that plays out from a schedule that was submitted to the city office that details what they actually did on another trip.

In 2018, Blake Inscore and the other city council members elected to add an additional $7,000.00 to the $12,500.00 Sister CityBdget and then informed the Public that the $7,000 was a “grant” the city was supposed to get but never did, however, the grant they never got was $7,000. taken out of the general fund to fund more for sister city. At no time ever did spending Public Funds for this Sister City benefit Crescent City residents.

First Trip to Japan, 06/16-23/2018, on the taxpayers dime was a total of $9,698.48 for four people and this did not include hotel and food.

The following went on this trip:

  1. Council Member Darrin Short,
  2. Mayor Blake Inscore,
  3. Finance Director Linda Leaver
  4. City Manager Eric Wier.

That price includes airfare from Crescent City to Oakland, Oakland to Japan, consisting of the following charges:

  • Surcharge fees of $349.24
  • Plus rail fees of $728.
  • There were additional charges of $552 which was charged to the Crescent City Planning Department. using planning department credit card ending in number 8788.

The City offered no schedule and program that would demonstrate the need to go to Japan, nor how it would benefit the citizens of Crescent City.

In May 2018, the Japanese Delegation cost Crescent City the following; City Council Member Kime told me the community donated all the following;

  • $2,813.75 to reserve Cultural Center. April Delegation 3 weeks reserved
  • Proclamation for $150.96
  • Gifts of custom journals and magnets for Sister City Delegates $78.50
  • Reimbursement to Supervisor Lori Cowan for food and gifts $346.72
  • Reimbursement to Former Chief of Police Ivan Minsal for Starbucks Coffee $115.
  • Mike Selfridge was paid $320.00 for Coffee Cups for Japan Delegation
  • Safeway was paid $77.28 for napkins, plates, etc.
  • Susan Tagudin-Root Received $83.00 for name plates
  • Port of Pints was reimbursed for providing $184.79 for Japanese Delegates event dinner
  • RCTA transit Inc. received $800.00 for Japanese Delegates transportation
  • Nancy Sanders received $426.69 for large framed photos for sister city event
  • Totaling $2,454.05 for a party. Please note some small items totaling around $21.00 from Del Norte Supply was also on this party list.

None of the aforementioned charges benefit the public and were in violation of the city’s own spending policies. This should outrage the public and the City Council should be held accountable to repay these public funds.

The City took and received a grant from Building Healthy Communities of $2,500 to offset what they were spending. This should be looked at because the Elected are taking money from a source that is badly needed in our community for our less fortunate and spending it on frivolous parties that does not benefit this community. Literally taking food out of the mouths of  Crescent City public residents.

It has been consistently held that expenditures of public funds or property which involve a benefit to private persons are not gifts within the Constitutional Prohibition IF THOSE FUNDS ARE EXPENDED FOR A PUBLIC PURPOSE. In this case the gifts that were given to the Japanese Delegates did not benefit the public. The private Dinner provided by Supervisor Lori Cowan did not benefit the Public and she should repay the City funds. Everything listed above did not benefit the Public.

The Constitution states, in relevant part: “The Legislature shall have no power . . . to make any gift or authorize the making of any gift, of any public money or thing of value to any individual, municipal or other corporation[.]” (Const., Art. XVI, § 6.) Courts have interpreted this provision to include all payments of public money for which there is no authority or enforceable claim, even if there is a moral or equitable obligation.

The question to ask, who benefits from these parties and lavish gifts that the city spends on Japan? Not our Community members. How does the Public benefit?

On August 23-24, 2018, Mayor Blake Inscore utilized City taxpayer funds to a Japanese Reception in San Francisco. Total price for Blake Inscore for this excursion was $637.86. No schedule or discussion on how that benefit the taxpayers. Two guests were paid for by the City of Crescent city for his overnight stay at the Marina Motel. The purpose of the reception was to honor the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Mrs. Taro Kono’s visit to San Francisco. How does this benefit our community? Additionally, Mayor Inscore paid for two people in his hotel room, and violated yet one more policy by the city. 75 Cal. Op. Att’y Gen. 20 (1992) (concluding there is no substantial public purpose associated with a public agency paying for a spouse travel expenses.

January 14-15, 2019 Mayor Blake Inscore flies not drives to Sacramento for yet another Sister City event, according to the travel expense report. Grand total for this excursion was $237.. What was interesting on the flight receipt was the fact he did not go to this alleged Sister City event in his official capacity, but as the Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Crescent City. How did this trip benefit the Public?

July 20-26, 2019, Mayor Blake Inscore along with Board of Supervisor, Chris Howard, went once again to Japan. This time the following people from Crescent City went along as well,

  1. Chris Howard brought his family of 4.
  2. Rumiano’s
  3. Duncan’s
  4. Hartwick’s
  5. One other individual named Bob
  6. Wakefield
  7. Baired
  8. Smith

The cost for the City Mayor Inscore;

  • flight charges were $142.80, $2,661.49
  • railpass $182
  • lodging was $174.60 on the 21st. $172.80 on the 26th,
  • for a grand total $3,333.69.

Want to know what they did while they were all there?

7/16/2019 Howard family arrives in Tokyo for private tour.
7/18/2019 Rumiano’s, Duncan’s, Hartwicks and Bob arrives Tokyo for private tour.
7/20/2019 Inscore, Wakefield, Baired, Smith arrive at Narita there is a meeting at 18:30 hours at the Hotel.

7/21/2019 Parties depart from Hotel to Tokyo Station. And arrive in Rikuzentakata by 2 pm. At 6 pm they all have dinner with the Representatives.

7/22/2019 Breakfast served at hotel at 0730 hours and at 0900 hours they are taken on a city tour to see the miracle pine and the seawall. At 10:30 they call mayor Toba. At 11:30 they go to a public bath and have lunch. At 1:30 pm they go to a folklore museum. At 4 p.m. they meet with the Chamber of Commerce. At 6 pm they all share beer and cheese and return to their hotels by 8:30 p.m.

7/23/2019 07:30 Breakfast at hotel. 09:00 depart for oyster and abalone facilities 11:00 am meeting with fishery association, 12:00 lunch at city center, 13:00 pm. Visit information center, 2:00 pm plant redwood trees, 4:00 pm back to hotel, and 6:00 pm dinner with chairman Ito and other city council members

7/24/2019 08:00 Breakfast at hotel, 0930 hours, Asuka Gallery, 11:00 visit seafood processing, 12:30 walking tour and lunch. 3:00 pm visit sake brewery 5:30 pm beer garden event. 8:30 pm return to their hotel.

7/25/2019 0700 check out of hotel, 0800 departure for rail station, arrive in Tokyo at 11:56 Check in hotel, 2:30 pm leave for US Embassy meeting with Michel Turner, and at 4:30 pm courtesy call to Cabinet Minister.

7/26/2019 check out hotel and depart for airport.

Alot of drinking, eating and being merry. Museums, looked at their fisheries seafood processing and that’s about it. How did this trip benefit the Public of Crescent City?

November 3-5, 2019 Mayor Inscore flies to LA to attend US Japan Council Annual Conference. The total price of this excursion $1316.40. How did this benefit the Public?

December 2019, There were approximately 35 Japanese Delegates here again. I did not receive the cost to the city for yet another few parties, special dinners, and gifts. The local newspaper did print a story and the city did donate $15,000 to the Chamber of Commerce for the Winter Olympics in 2020. The county donated $10,000 the Harbor donated $7,500.

Is there a public benefit to this? Only benefit is for business owners and the elected who used Taxpayers precious dollars, there is no benefit to the public. Mayor Inscore needs to repay the Public for misusing public funds.

11 Responses to THE SISTER CITY BUDGET; IS IT LEGAL?

  1. Leslie Barnes Reply

    January 8, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Once again Linda Sutter has shown us just how badly the Taxpayers are getting ripped off! If the Citizens want to go to Japan … GO but don’t take advantage of Crescent City Taxpayers because they are not benefiting one single a bit! You are all taking advantage of the fact that you have been elected to the City Council and are going on the Taxpayers dime! Actually I think you all should be ashamed of yourselves. The money you spent should be spent on Front Street fixing all the pot holes. Also drive around town at night and see how many lights need to be replaced that really affects public safety!

  2. Leslie Barnes Reply

    January 7, 2020 at 7:56 pm

    Thankyou Linda for investigating this for the Taxpayers in Crescent City. These junkets are not benefiting the Taxpayers in Crescent City at all these are personal trips that we the Taxpayers are paying for! In my opinion this is A Taxpayer rip off – Chris Howard took 4 people in his family why if he wanted to go so badly why didn’t he just pay for it himself! This needs to STOP if it’s not beneficial to the Taxpayer it shouldn’t be allowed! Lets all talk about this at a City Council meeting so the general public gets to have their opinions heard instead of hearing about it AFTER the FACT!

  3. Pedro Trejo Reply

    January 7, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    What a crock of steamy b.s. If lived in Crescent City I would be irate. Glad I don’t! If these funds were really mis-spent, the guilty parties responsible should be convicted and punished. If they hold a public office, they should be removed. Those convicted should have to cover legal fees and court costs as well. Just like real criminals.

  4. What The Hell Reply

    January 2, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    Linda, as usual excellent reporting. It is hard to argue the facts. Unfortunately, most citizens here are either intentionally or unintentionally ignorant of what is going on around them.

    With very low voter turnouts and a lack of candidates to challenge incumbents, the people are essentially saying they have given up. Sorry, I call it as I see it.

    It is a shame that a great effort to exchange culture with our students has devolved into vacation junkets and business opportunities for a select few. This should all be done at zero taxpayer expense.

    I continue to admire your dedication and fighting spirit. Thank you again for your continued reporting.

  5. Samuel Strait Reply

    January 1, 2020 at 11:38 pm

    I don’t think that many people think the sister city circus was any thing beyond a benefit/series of mini vacations for certain elected officials, family, and friends. There has been a lot of pretense that the visits have some sort of value to the public, but what exactly the benefit remains to be seen. Typical cronyism in a small town setting where the public is unaware of the corruption until it has past them by, and the money has been spent. Good luck getting the money returned, because there is always going to be some sort of manufactured rational for the corruption. Doesn’t say much for the people involved, but what is new. A politician who doesn’t feather his own best before even considering the public good is truly a rare bird.

  6. J Reply

    January 1, 2020 at 9:18 am

    Arcata has a Sister City relationship with Camoapa, Nicaragua and raises most, if all, of the funding for it with the I Street Block Party every September. The owners of Los Bagels have been the main coordinators of the Block Party as well as creating the Arcata-Camoapa relationship in the late 80s.

    • LINDA SUTTER Reply

      January 1, 2020 at 7:05 pm

      That sounds terrific, however, I imagine taxpayers funds are not inappropriately used for your sister city…

    • Samuel Strait Reply

      January 5, 2020 at 12:00 am

      I suppose the question should be asked, has Arcata and it’s citizens benefited in any way? And if so how?

      • steelhead Reply

        January 12, 2020 at 11:30 am

        Is that what it boils down to Sam. If it doesn’t benefit me then why do it? Have you ever done anything for another human being that didn’t benefit you? If so how did it make you feel?

        • LINDA SUTTER Reply

          January 15, 2020 at 8:10 pm

          In order for the elected to spend taxpayers funds there must be a governmental purpose or a public benefit according to government code. Silicon Valley received a request from China to have 12 mayors come to China to discuss business. The Chinese paid $5,000 per person for travel and room and board. Prior to leaving the County, counsel wrote a letter to Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for advice regarding accepting this donation from the Chinese. The FPPC stated the Mayors could attend a 5 day round table discussion on business matters. The Mayors could attend however, they were not allowed to vote on any matters on an agenda that pertained to China. The problem here in Crescent City is three city council members: Mayor Inscore, Heidi Kime and Darrin Short were all recipients of this healthy $2,940 trip from the Japanese. They are all in violation of FPPC regulations when they voted on a $19,500 budget created by taxpayers funds, when they voted to donate $15,000 to the Chamber of Commerce for the Sister-City relationship promotion during the 2020 Olympics; they voted on a $12,000 budget to fly back and forth on the taxpayers dime so eloquently bragged by Supervisor 2nd District Lori Cowan in the Triplicate newspaper, and the Board of Supervisors voted to pay $10,000 for promoting the Sister-City relationship during the 2020 Olympics when three of the board members could not vote.

          Additionally, three board of supervisors were also recipients of this healthy vacation package. Cowan, Howard, and Berkowitz, they too all voted on anything and everything that came on the agenda pertaining to the sister city which has now resulted in nearly $100,000 of taxpayers money being spent. It should be noted that Lori Cowan (Northwest Grill) also received $324 from the city’s coffers when the city paid her for a private party for the Japanese when they came here, no public benefit there. Another person who benefits from this was Port of Pints owner, Carol White, who provided beer to the Japanese while the City paid $184.00 for the beer. Carol White has a conflict of interest when she voted on the Harbor Commission to spend $7,500 toward the 2020 Olympics.

          Itinerary for all the trips included bath houses, lunch, beer, saki, museums, and the usual for a vacation. At no time was there a governmental purpose or a public benefit. People should be mad.

          In essence, there has been no government purpose and no public benefit but a whole lot of conflict of interest. Complaints will be submitted to the FPPC.

          When you submit a complaint with the FPPC you must send all fact finding materials or they will not look into the matter. I have been collecting all data to support my claims. By weeks end, they will be ready for mailing. Whether anything comes of it or not remains to be seen. But the public does need to know this information.

        • Samuel Strait Reply

          January 16, 2020 at 9:26 am

          Apparently you didn’t understand the question, it wasn’t about me, it was a simple quest for information. Nothing insidious there, just wondering. After all aren’t the sister city relationships developed for some sort of purpose for all that live in the two cities no matter how tenuous the connection is? If not, then what is the point other than some kind of virtue signaling? Good time was had by a few select and “important” individuals? Where exactly do I fit into this in Arcata’s Sister City arrangement anyway? Why would I even be thinking about benefit to me personally. I don’t live in Arcata. And besides, virtue signaling is the last thing on my mind when it comes to benefit.

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