Town Council passes restructuring, puts onus on police

For two months, they had talked about elimination of seven police officers, but last night three Mammoth Town Councilmen said they really meant a cut in the police budget – a $1.1 million cut.

After more than three hours of talk Wednesday night, the Mammoth Lakes Town Council did approve their government restructuring plan which calls for elimination of positions from town government – including seven police officers as stated in the plan – keeps Whitmore Pool open, backs off from outsourcing IT services, and restores some night time transit service. The plan does not raise taxes or transfer revenue from already approved taxes.

Councilmen Rick Wood, John Eastman and Mayor Matthew Lehman backed off of the position that they specifically wanted to cut seven police positions even though they’ve said that was their proposal for the last two months.

In what appeared to be a way to shift the blame to the police themselves,  Eastman said, “We’re not necessarily asking to reduce seven officers.”  He said $1.1 million needs to be cut from the department somehow.  Mayor Lehman agreed.  He said, “Departments have to come up with the solutions.”

Wood said, “My view is that we are providing funding to a department and charging the department to come up with a different, not a lower, level of service.  Peoples’ views are if the organization is not the same, it will suffer in some calamitous way.  It’s a budget discussion.” Wood said the average police officer costs the Town $192,000.  He said he didn’t begrudge the cost.  Wood said, “The Town can’t afford it.”

Until last night, council members and management stated plainly that the proposal was to cut seven police officers. Their re-structuring plan still says that but also asks the Police Officers Association to “help maintain the existing level of service by reducing the per-officer cost for officers, including salaries, retirement, medical and other benefits.” That would amount to roughly a $65,000 per officer cut to make up $1.1 million.

Community criticism has hit the Council and staff over the police issue.  The Town’s own survey indicated some 65% of those questioned did not support police cuts.

Wednesday night, Fire Chief Brent Harper was one of those.  He made it clear he and his department oppose the “big law enforcement cuts.”  He pointed out that the schedule proposed would mean no police from 3am to 7am.  Chief Harper said when paramedics and firefighters have to respond to calls all night long, they will have no law enforcement back-up.  He called for 24-hour coverage.

Rich McAteer, retired School Superintendent and citizen, opposed the police reduction.  Said McAteer, “Your function is to provide public safety.  I realize your budget is unsustainable, but I disagree with slashing the police department.”

On other issues, Bill Cockroft of Mammoth Mountain told the Council that cuts in transit would mean no night bus service during important holidays and week-ends.  Ultimately, the Council decided to use $25,000 set aside to train volunteers for transit instead and look for a way to pay that back later.

The Council debated the transient occupancy tax increase estimate in the plan which is 14%.  Council member Jo Bacon said previous assumptions were more like 5%.  Marysheva-Martinez said this was not a conservative revenue estimate but that the staff “feels comfortable with it.”  Mayor Lehman agreed with Bacon.  In fact, through the evening, the Mayor objected to shifting money around and not facing the need to pay as you go with conservative revenue projections.

Lehman favored temporary use of Measure R money to keep Whitmore Pool open, but in the end they all spent around $90,000 of road maintenance money for this year to keep Whitmore open. They’ll re-consider the future of the facility in a few months.

Councilman John Eastman once more blamed the courts for the decision that forced the Town to pay off the big lawsuit debt.  He said that’s why “the Town Council has no choice but to make cuts.”  He said a new tax or new revenue would be the only other option.

Rick Wood said he would not sponsor a new tax.  He said the community could bring tax proposals forward, but this would not be considered at the meeting. Jo Bacon agreed.  All five voted in favor of the restructuring plan.

More meetings lie ahead on what officials call alternative service delivery models.  Outsourcing is one of those alternatives. The meetings start January 2nd.

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44 Responses to Town Council passes restructuring, puts onus on police

  1. MJA December 12, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    The solution won’t be found in name calling and blame but rather in finding a way to pay the bills. And it will also not be found in a payment plan to Ballas that is not feasible. The payment plan of 2 million a year for 25 years is not only unjust but obviously unrealistic.
    Agree to pay the failed developer whatever is affordable after and only after the necessities of the community are secure. If that is 100 dollars a month or 1000, so be it,
    The developer might have to get a real job again, so be that too.


    • Big AL December 12, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

      I agree MJA … but the powers to be don’t see it that way, I always said, the dude should have just got his investment, at the most, no more!

  2. Officials no longer represent constituents December 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    Elected officials no longer represent their constituents. Behind closed doors, local officials are willing to trade their official influence for cold hard cash. Local officials, with impunity, try to find jobs for their relatives. Elected officials often take money in return for helping to win county or town contracts or even launder money. Bribery, fraud, when you have something as complex as the airport fiasco, it doesn’t take a superior imagination or fancy law degree to create a plethora of ways to accept palm-greasing and payoffs from one business enterprise, lobbyist or another. And yet we continue to re-elect the same persons and others don’t even have to campaign to find themselves in power positions.

    Where is Skip Harvey, not that we need him most?

    • Benett Kessler December 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

      Do you have proof that local officials have taken bribes? Would like to know.
      Otherwise, it’s just speculation.
      Benett Kessler

      • Local officials taking bribes December 11, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

      • Types of corruption December 11, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

        Favoring relatives (nepotism) or personal friends (cronyism) of an official is a form of illegitimate private gain. This may be combined with bribery, for example demanding that a business should employ a relative of an official controlling regulations affecting the business.
        John Eastman tried in vain to create a job at the infamous airport fiasco for a relative. He was stopped from doing this. No formal corruption charges were ever made against Eastman. Just business as usual.

        • Benett Kessler December 11, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

          We brought the situation to light, interviewed Mr. Eastman and Marysheva-Martinez and Bill Manning. We reported the issue.
          You seemed to say you knew about specific briberies, etc.

          • Why not a thorough investigation? December 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

            With so many unanswered questions, behind-closed-doors meetings, jobs being lost or threatened, lives ruined, etc., perhaps a thorough investigation with sworn testimonies is in order. Nobody is ever going to admit they had their palm greased in someway or another on this airport thing.

            This is not the first time elected officials in California got caught in unethical or even unlawful practices pretending to be acting in the interest of those who elected them.

      • Types of corruption December 12, 2012 at 6:39 am #

        Nepotism and cronyism occurs when elected officials appoint high-ranking managers without the benefit of a specific, lengthy job search.
        Have long-timers Eastman, Wood and other councilmen ever done that?
        If so, that is clearly corruption and a recall should take place.

  3. A corrupt system December 11, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    Does the “industry average” of town councilmen using their power and influence to hire relatives for the airport (Eastman)? Who knows what behind the scenes deals were made for other “projects” (airport). Until it is 100% against the law to accept one thin dime from any outside source, favors, etc,. the system you have in place will be a corrupt one. And now we have a developer on the board. SkiJohn, do you really believe $300 a month is the only incentive for this part time job?
    And don’t get me started on wanting to fire policeman to protect ridiculously high salaries for managers (some don’t even live in Mammoth).

    • SkiJohn December 11, 2012 at 9:31 am #

      A Corrupt System, I completely agree with you in regards to Eastman and even Wood, but the others seem pretty innocent to me. Who really knows but from what I understand, Lehman is an appraiser who happens to own a plot of land somewhere – hardly a developer. The new guy sells bagels so I’m not sure how town council benefits him, and Jo is retired. However, keeping both managers is odd to me, too.

  4. Voluntarily reduce salaries December 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Like the City of Bell, Mammoth Lakes Town Council and their highly paid managers should voluntarily reduce their pay and perks before the citizens will take them seriously when they say they are running a tight ship and watching the budget.

    • SkiJohn December 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

      The City of Bell Town Council members paid themselves $200k+ year. Mammoth Town Council get paid $300 a month. You can’t even compare the 2. Would you do their job for $300 a month? As far as the managers go, isn’t that the going rate in other towns? I’m not sure but I think it is. It’s certainly high, but if that’s the industry average, you can’t argue that.

      • Observer December 11, 2012 at 11:03 am #

        Don’t forget that taxpayers provide full health, vision, and dental benefits to Councilmembers and dependents.

        • SkiJohn December 11, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

          Ok, so then we’re paying them $500 a month. Big deal. You want a 30 hour a week job for $500 a month? I sure don’t.

          • Observer December 11, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

            I’m not sure what planet you reside on but full health, dental, and vision benefits is more like $1,500 to $2,000 per month depending on how many dependents one has…

  5. ferdinand lopez December 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    mammoth needs an enema

  6. For the love of money December 8, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    When the Town Manager was heading up Mono County, he talked his management team into a salary freeze in order to curb county expenses.

    Why the shift in philosophy, Town Manager?
    Why no reduction for town managers?

    There are other town managers in cash-strapped California who are volunteering to cut their own paychecks in order to:

    1. Set an example
    2. Prove they are not greedy SOBs
    3. Curb overall expenses.

    • Just a matter of time December 9, 2012 at 11:03 am #

      For love of money,
      I’ve known Dave Wilbrecht for a number of years. I don’t think he would be the money-grubbing, it’s all about me, person you’ve painted him to be.
      I think its just a matter of time before he announces a reduction of his and MMMs salaries.

      • Mike J December 9, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

        Yeah right! They have both had years to give up some of their salary and/or benefits along with all the other employees. They have not and will not give up a penny of what they have. It’s easier to get it from the employee groups by lieing and intimidation.

      • observer December 9, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

        Okay, but is that scenario really leadership? Leadership is being first out of the gate to reduce one’s salary to set an example for everyone to follow. Sort of seems too little, too late at this point. Tell all of that to the employees who have already sacrificed and given back to the Town.

  7. Frank December 8, 2012 at 5:52 am #

    So when the snowboard punks pillage the Village, who ya gonna call? It’s gonna be an interesting winter.

    • Trouble December 9, 2012 at 10:43 am #

      Barney Five could deal with those ” snowboard punks” you are in fear of. Mammoth has one of the lowest crime rates in the state. Zero murders, can’t get much lower. Putting a camera up at the entrance of Mammoth would prevent as many major crimes as a few extra highly compensated police.

      • Reality Check December 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

        Trouble, you really have no clue as to what you are talking about.

        • Trouble December 9, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

          Reality- I’m not sad our current police state menttality is no longer affordable, if that’s what you are suggesting.

  8. Rob December 8, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    I agree that $192,000 per officer is too expensive, but the council is absolutely full of it. Now they back away from the cutting 7 officers decision? Why have a council if they refuse to actually make decisions? This is pure cowardice and blame-shifting. In many other communities, the police associations manufacture crisis and divert blame in an effort to coerce councilmembers to give them the pay and benefits they want. In Mammoth, they don’t have to – this council is playing games, negotiating in bad faith and deserves recall.

    • Common Man December 8, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      This $192,000 figure includes Vacation Time, Sick Time, average Overtime, Holiday Pay, Health Insurance, CalPers etc. With all publice employees, the Town incurs these costs, not just with cops. When someone takes vacation or sick time and no overtime is used to cover the shft, it costs the Town nothing. Over 90% of the cost of any public entity is personnel costs and Rick Wood knows that.

      The other 10% is rent, utilities, vehicles, fuel, copy paper, radios etc. Rick Wood is trying to distance himself away from cutting seven officers where in reality, cutting 1.1 million from the Police Budget is cutting seven officers since there is no other place to cut. I bet that Wood got an A+ in lying 101 when he went to law school.

      • Rob December 9, 2012 at 3:57 am #

        No doubt those expenses add up – and they are too much. Average benefits in the private sector are a much lower portion of total compensation. The point remains the same – Mammoth Lakes can’t afford $192,000 cops (that is how much the town actually pays), just like it can’t afford multiple highly paid town executives, or a $300,000 chief.

        • Comman Man December 9, 2012 at 9:33 am #

          Rob, that cost is standard throughout the state. To get quality personnel, Towns, City or Counties must compete with each other for the limited pool of available trained and qualified people.

          The reality is, very few people want to, or can become cops. It is close to 1/0th of 1% of the population, if you go by the formula of one cop per 1,000 people.

          • Tim December 9, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

            One of the largest items is usually workers compensation. I know at one agency I worked at they went off of a figure that about 40% of the total cost of an officer was for workers comp.

            Also, remember that the numbers may include such things as needing x% of cars per officers and equipment.

      • Comman Man December 9, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

        Great point Tim. I forgot about the cost of Workman’s Comp. Cops do get hurt a lot and are subject to things that most other workers are not.

  9. Big AL December 7, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Sounds to me like .. they read this blog .. and they have heard comment on recalls and such .. some serious recall comment, made em set up and take notice. I think .. the citizens of Mammoth Lakes should recall them all just the same, don’t give em an inch to backslide.

    • SkiJohn December 7, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

      Big Al, you honestly think they would care?? All but Eastman and Wood would be thrilled to get away from this mess. The rest don’t have mammoth egos like those two idiots who got us into this mess. Recall ’em all you want – no one wants that job. I sure don’t and I would probably be hated on here like the rest of them. No matter what they do and who they are, you guys are going to find fault.

      • happyholidays December 7, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

        There was little to find fault with regarding Skip Harvey while he was on TC….he was a good role model for anyone on TC, yet few, if any, follow his lead….he was humble…it’s as simply as that….but ego, pride, greed, power,… gets in the way of humility.

      • Big AL December 8, 2012 at 1:34 am #

        You’re right SkiJohn, no matter who is in the job .. some people will find something to piss about. But .. yes I do think they care, when it will get too hot for them, it obviously shows, they have backed down on cutting jobs for now. Just remember .. the vote was 5-0 to go ahead with cutting PD officers, against the 65% vote against cutting the positions, according to the TC’s own survery.

        That tells me .. they all voted with these two to cut other people’s jobs to deal with their mess. I think the town can find someone else who can do the job better, if they don’t cut it .. send them down the road kickin horse turds and bring in 5 more .. until people get the message, they need to do a better job of running things.

      • Common Man December 8, 2012 at 10:23 am #

        I agree SkiJohn. It would be like applying for the job of Captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.

    • Online petitions December 8, 2012 at 7:35 am #

      There are websites like that show how to start online petitions.
      Any takers?
      Or is it just business (corrupt) as usual?

  10. Chris December 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    Doublespeak. The Budget Plan Has No Clothes!!

  11. Eastern Sierra Local December 7, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    And John Eastman’s comment about “blaming the courts for putting Mammoth is this position (sic).” It wasn’t the courts who bound themsleves into a contract with MLLA; it wasn’t the court that didn’t fulfill it’s contractual obligations to MLLA.

  12. happyholidays December 6, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    It all started with the “WEB administration”: Woods/Eastman/Barrett…….arrogance, deceit, hikes, etc, etc, etc…..time for W and E to LEAVE!!!!! We miss Skip who spent all his energies to expose these individuals for who they really are! Mammoth deserves better!

  13. Reality Check December 6, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    If there was ever any doubt who or what Rick Wood is all about, that doubt has now been removed.

  14. H December 6, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    At last night’s meeting, Councilmember Wood stated that he does not want to be told what not to do by the community – rather – he encourages the community to offer up suggestions on “what to do”. My recommendation/suggestion Mr. Wood is that you resign your seat on the Council effective the 1st of this year. Your ego and disrespect of the truth is unworthy of our trust in your political leadership. Your revisionist history of your role and culpability with the Airport judgement is shameful. Your bashing/blaming past employees while at the same time touting your past efforts on Council is pathetic. Now, your are blaming the police stating that you only wanted to cut over a million $’s from the Police Department and did not want to lay off 7 sworn law enforcement officers. You must really think our community is either stupid or that community members actually believe in your “lawyer speak”. You have exerted your influence on just about every decision made by the Council which has turned out badly. In following the records of our elected politicians in the last 13 years, you are by far the most dishonest and insincere individual that has ever had a seat up on the dias. So, now you have my recommendation on what to do…

  15. Where's the petition? December 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    Oh, brother!
    The two elected officials who were in power when the airport fiasco commenced, are the same two elected officials who are now saying: “blah, blah, blah, … what we MEANT to say was …blah, blah, blah.
    Haven’t we had enough?

  16. MJA December 6, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Police provide a essential service to the community,
    Ballas and his MLLA provide nothing, not even a condo.
    It is only obvious where the monetary cut should begin.
    Time to get tough and do the right thing.



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