Council Member Objects to Wasting Money

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Russell Betts Says $833 Per Hour Expense Not Necessary

Councilman Russell Betts

Desert Vortex / Scio Media

Councilman Russell Betts

DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – Paying someone $833 per hour seems excessive for a city struggling to pay it’s bills. This is especially troubling for this city dealing with a $4 million budget covered this year only by taping emergency budget reserves.

City Manager Rick Daniels announced plans to hire a facilitator for $5,000 to administrate a six-hour session for the city council to figure what its goals are for the coming year.

Mayor Yvonne Parks has called a special meeting of the city council for February 16, 2013 for the “goal setting” event. The $5,000 expense, or $833.33 per hour, is to pay for one facilitator to coordinate the five-hour single-day event.

The facilitator city manager Rick Daniels intends to hire has not been identified. The city’s current policies and procedures allow the city manager to spend $30,000 without the approval of the city council; however Daniels said the council agreed to the facilitator at budget time last year.

The expense of a facilitator has set off some controversy at city hall. At least one council member considers the facilitator expense to be excessive.

“Taxpayer’s Money”

“I did not budget for a goal setting facilitator.” wrote councilman Russell Betts to city manager Rick Daniels in an email earlier this week. “This is not an expense I agree with and can only be considered a very wasteful use of taxpayer’s money when there are other far less costly options available.”

City Manager Rick Daniels disagrees with Russell Betts over the need for a facilitator. Daniels said the all such goal setting sessions of the council over the last 5 years have used a facilitator. In an email to Betts, Daniels said, “I am soliciting proposals now. In the past this has cost less than $5,000. It is a cost that your Council budgeted for 2013.

Rusell Betts said he agrees with the council getting together to set goals but said the council needs to find a way to do it without the high cost of a facilitator.

“Other Pressing Needs”

“Several community members I can think of are all capable of facilitating such a meeting at no cost to the city if the council thinks it needs this assistance. Or the Mayor or City Manager could lead the session. I’d be fine with that also. I’m not fine with the $5,000 when we have other pressing needs in this community.”

The council does not need a vote of the council to go ahead with the facilitator idea and it appears Rick Daniels is proceeding with soliciting proposals. The item does not appear on the agenda of the upcoming February 5, 2013 council meeting. Councilman Russell Betts said he does plan to wait to address the issue at that meeting.

“I will be asking a question about this expense for the goal setting facilitator at the next council meeting (February 5, 2013) during my council comments.” wrote Russell Betts in an email exchange with Daniels. “Please have a firm estimate of the cost for the facilitator for that meeting.”

Surprisingly, the city manager is unclear about what the goals of the city are. Daniels is paid more than $20,000 a month (salary plus benefits) and has been on the job over five years.

Two city committees are working on solutions to deal with the city’s budget problems. The economic development committee is seeking to enhance revenue and the finance committee is seeking budget accountability. Both committees are made up of citizens, elected representatives and city staff. The committees report to the city council.

top photo courtesy Desert Local News
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Dean M Gray

Writer, Artist & Publisher at Desert Vortex News
Dean started in the newspaper business at the age of nine earning 90 cents a week walking 4 miles delivering a newspaper door to door. 500 miles later he began writing his way out of a paper bag and traveling uphill.

For over 40 years Dean has been published in a variety of small newspapers and magazines. As publisher he founded an alternative city weekly newspaper in 2008 and published over 200 uninterrupted issues over 4 years to over 20,000 readers via 800 locations (and online) before selling the business. Now online with over 4 million readers worldwide.

Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader. He served as Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs from January 2014 to January 2015 when he resigned.

Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Palm Desert, California.
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2 thoughts on “Council Member Objects to Wasting Money

  1. What the hell does a “facilitator” do at a presentation? Present? Referee? Explain the facts? For what do we pay these City Managers hundreds of thousands of dollars ++++ benefits? Lets fie all the employees in our cities and use only consultants. In the long run, it would be cheaper, and obviously these outside consultants know more about our cities than do the staff. Disincorporate! Disincorporate!

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