Point Arena Politics

Former Vice-Mayor and Councilmember David Ingham sets the record straight:

David Ingham in his own words.
Sent for publication to the Independent Coast Observor

Dear Citizens:

Please allow me to offer my take on some of the recent opinions expressed in the Independent Coast Observer  Re: My service in Point Arena city government.   Nearly all of  the negative opinions expressed in the paper have no basis in fact and no facts have been provided to substantiate allegations... so I figure there must be an underlying motive.

A few examples:

Open Space Dec 31, 2010: Patricia Schwindt wrote that I mishandled Scott Place with regard to the sewer line. The sewer fund  was in the red over $ 100,000. Prop 1B money could not be used for sewer system improvements scheduled for Scott Place.  Deferring the sewer main piece of the Scott Place project brought the project costs within budget, kept the sewer fund from going further in the red, and ensured the project conformed to restrictions on Prop 1B funding. Mishandled?

Open space Dec 31, 2010: Patricia Schwindt asked readers to ask Chris Campbell about the the Mill Street paving project. Many owners came forth to discuss the project and its impact on their property during the design phase. Arrangements were made to address the concerns of all those who expressed them. Chris did not raise his concerns until after the project was finished.

Open Space Dec 31, 2010: Patricia Schwindt asked “Didn’t David Ingham run for Council on the platform of keeping our sewer fees low?”  Allow me to answer:   David Ingham ran for council when his complaint that City’s sewer fund was not being administered in conformance with California Constitution was all but ignored.

Between 1997 and 2008 in contravention of the California Constitution, sewer fee increases were not properly noticed nor were required hearings conducted. Sewer fees were routinely used for purposes other than that for which the fee or charge was imposed .   For example,  the text of Ordinance 195 restricted the use of funds generated from that 6.45% increase to capital improvements. However, only $2,500 of the over $8,000 generated in 2007 was spent on capital improvements or placed in reserve for capital improvements.” Additionally, in 2004 the City spent $92,533 from the sewer fund on road repairs due to heavy rains. This $92,533 expenditure contributed to a $66,618  increase in sewer fund debt. Prop 218 prohibits charging the sewer fund for services available to the public-at-large like public roadways.

Numerous other conditions and practices continue in violation of both the spirit and letter of Prop 218. These include inequities in the fee schedule and the practice of charging a fixed,  percentage of sewer income for administration rather than the actual cost of administration of the sewer fund.

My intent in running for and now serving on Council remains to do whatever I can to ensure compliance with Prop 218 and avoid a potential lawsuit that could result in an order to refund rate payers as has happened in other cities that failed to comply with Prop 218.

My homework on Prop 218 compliance since being elected has led me to identify numerous discrepancies  in the city’s financial reporting that prevent Council or anyone else interested in the city’s finances to understand them with certainty. Word count prevents me from listing them all here. However , a few examples:

The City’s Financial Statements are prepared using  a basis of accounting other than accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.  And without stating specifically what that system the city is using. Also, the City reported:

2002 audit adjustment , ($375,717) explained only as “audit adjustment after report was filed”.
2003  adjustment ($87,116 ) explained only as “ports and harbors”. 
2003 adjustment ($162,218) explained only as “unknown”.
2004 adjustment ($145,463) explained only as “change in basis of accounting”.
2005 adjustment ($1,780,000) explained only as “Audit adjustments from prior year-fixed assets included as”
2006 adjustment $15,926 explained only as “Audit Adjustments “FY 06/05".
2008 adjustment $122,342 explained only as “Audit adjustment 06/07".
2009 adjustment ($79,582) explained only as “Audit adjustments 07/08".

The adjustments above represents nearly  2.5 million dollars in inadequately explained expenditures over an eight year period. The current Council’s detractors charge those bringing these and other discrepancies to light with financial illiteracy. Conveniently, the charge of financial illiteracy paints the current Council in a bad light and relieves detractors from providing an answer.

I can only guess what underlies the recent effort to discredit the current Council in the press. Statements,  opinions, and accusations have not been accompanied by fact because the facts to support those statements,  opinions, and accusations do not exist.

I find it very interesting that some of the folks that presided over and administered city government during the times when all of the above and more occurred are now bent on discrediting the current Council that has undertaken the task of uncovering and cleaning up the mess. 

Popularity is likely a major component of the political process in a small community like Point Arena, but I hope it is not the only component.

I hope those charged with ensuring good government (you) give facts significantly more weight than opinion and unsubstantiated accusations in making your decisions.

It would be an absolute shame if a hand full of citizens managed to abuse their popularity and trust in the community by swaying their friends and colleagues to unseat a good government in order to perpetuate or conceal actions that occurred  during their term of service.    

David Ingham
Member of the City Council

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