Category Archives: Finances

Pierce County’s “South Sound 911″ – Harsh criticism at the Puyallup City Council meeting

Citizens, city employees, council members and others lined up one after another at the Puyallup City Council meeting on August 16, 2011 to speak their mind about Pierce County’s hair brained idea of taxing the entire county to develop a Goliath communication system that many feel will be wastful and less effective than what we have now in Puyallup. You can go to the following link to view the Pierce County presentation as well as responses from citizens, employees and council members: http://cityofpuyallup.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=288

Mr. Chris McNutt from District III was unable to attend the meeting, so he submitted the following letter:

Hi,
I’m Chris McNutt from District 3. I wanted to say a few things about the South Sound 911 project. I know that we generally oppose this project. Not because it’s a new tax but because we have already paid for and implemented a compliant system, not to mention the probable loss of service quality and jobs. It seems that we were deliberately left out of it’s planning only to have our inclusion used as a bargaining chip later. We’re not really left with any good options, and the potential loss of investment we’ve already made seems to be a primary focus, but focusing on it also detracts from the real problems of this project. As noted in a Pierce County Council meeting last month, the project will cost around $258 million to build and implement, but this new tax will potentially raise $5-600 million dollars. No matter what the stated intent of the associated tax hike is, the result is that Pierce County will get hundreds of millions of dollars which they can use for anything. The issues of public safety and the inadequate existing LESA system is being used as a tool for bottom line revenue generation. At that same Council meeting it was stated that LESA has over $26 million dollars in yearly funding that would apply to the new system and that the new tax would generate at least an additional $12 million. I’m only a mathematics hobbyist but a system which is supposed to reduce redundancy and cost less money to run should not require an additional $12+ million a year. There are other problems as well. The proposed overlord type dispatch center in the South Sound 911 project hasn’t been implemented outside of a Science Fiction novel because it’s simply a bad idea. Not a single communication issue that is being sited would be solved by this new system, for the simple reason that you don’t call for backup until there is already trouble. The facts are that Pierce County or each relevant individual city have had about a decade to come up with, and implement a new system which is compliant with the national regulations, and now, nearly at the 11th hour, they are making a money grab under the guise of the need for safety using over simplified or opportunistic justifications. To gain compliance they’ll need new systems, and they do need to address the existing safety issues, but handing them a brand new system along with a bonus large enough to have been intended for the CEO of a failing bank, is not an acceptable solution. These penny’s are to be taken from all our pockets to help a specific few, the most notable of which is the Pierce County general fund.

Chris

Filed under Finances, Letters, Tax Payers Money Wasted

City of Puyallup Salaries

The News Tribune has compiled a database of salaries for the City of Puyallup.  You can search for any city employee to see how much each made in 2010.

Here is the link to the database.

Note, that according to the database, Mayor Turner makes $133 an hour.  Lucky us.

Filed under Finances

“Just Trust Staff” – The Reason for the Questions: City Attorney Cheryl Carlson

A common phrase uttered at council meetings by particular lame duck council members is “we need to just trust our staff.”  Well, that would be nice but, unfortunately when people with little-to-no ethics are in charge you cannot “just trust staff.”

Here is a great example, current city attorney Cheryl Carlson.  She was hired on August 8, 2007 to serve at Deputy City Attorney for a starting salary of $97,236 and was to start on September 17.  Click here to see her hiring letter.  On December 10, 2007, less than three months on the job, she was promoted to Interim City Attorney and her salary was raised to $112,416 a year.

On July 1, 2008 she was promoted again to City Attorney, again with a raise to $126,565 a year.  One year later she received a grade-increase raise to $132,246 a year. 

Here is a timeline of all the events, with all information gained through public records requests.

Click here to see her personnel action forms, outlining each raise.

Now, here’s where it really gets good.  On September 18, 2009 former City Manager Gary McLean gave Carlson a retention bonus for her “extraordinary service” of 168 additional vacation hours in her vacation bank as of that day.  In addition, she will receive another 168 vacation hours on October 15, 2009. 

Wait, I know, you think that’s it. Nope.

On November 15, 2009 she will receive ANOTHER 168 vacation hours! 

So, in three months she received the equivalent of 63 vacation days, or three years worth of vacation days, as her contract allows for 21 days a year.

Click here to see the vacation hour letter.

So, our taxes have gone up, our library hours have been cut, our street problems continue to be ignored, yet the city attorney has gone from $97,236 four years ago to $140,111 and literally hundreds of vacation hours now.

Yes, let’s not ask questions, let’s “just trust the staff.”

Filed under Cheryl Carlson, Finances

Legal Department Study Conclusions

(This study was conducted by Dave Churchman.  Great, thorough job!)

The Legal Department at Puyallup City Hall has long been a target of concerned resident taxpayers with their string of unwarranted litigation, lost cases and large settlements. So the big question is “is it just Puyallup, or is it this bad elsewhere?  

An independent study has recently concluded evaluating Puyallup’s Legal Department with its opposite number in Olympia (as a sanity check).  A similar study was done last year comparing Olympia’s new city hall complex with Puyallup’s with regard to size, cost and number of on-site employees. It confirmed our worst fears as taxpayers. 

Olympia’s population is 25% larger than Puyallup’s but is similar enough to conduct a reasonable and fair analysis.  The staff at the City of Olympia provided an exemplary and timely response at various levels of detail to assist this study.   

  • The size of each city’s Legal Department is identical (around 9 heads, not counting court staff which are different departments in both cities).
  • Their base budget for salaries and benefits are similar also.
  • However, in 2010, Puyallup expended twice as much ($332K) as Olympia in the outsourcing of Legal Services using companies such as Foster-Pepper.
  • In 2011, Puyallup’s outsourced services are projected and budgeted at closer to five times as much (almost $420K) as Olympia has planned.
  • This does not include the millions of dollars in settlements levied against Puyallup by the courts. (Over $2M in the East Main landfill case alone).  

One aspect is very consistent when describing Puyallup’s outsourced legal help, their performance. Their success rate can easily be expressed in round numbers, very round!  

So the answer to the big question is, “yes, Puyallup is truly the land of generous people, very generous”  

Citizens only recourse to this fiasco is at the ballot box. Why?, only Council Member John Knutsen balked at the continued expense of higher taxes and fees to cover legal expenses that citizens are now stuck with paying.  

Remember that fact as Nicole Martineau who rubber-stamped the fee hikes is the only other incumbent running for re-election this year.  As Martineau is now campaigning for the “At Large” position, voters city-wide can express their gratification for her less than stellar representation in either a Primary or later at the General Election.

2011 Adopted Budget – Legal

Filed under Finances

Foster Pepper Lawyer Bills

Click the links below to see the bills attorney firm Foster Pepper, located in Seattle, sent for work done on the landfill migration fees.

These bills are for two months of work.  $111,000 for two months.

Foster Pepper Bills

Now, here is the city’s resolution that covers Purchasing and Contracting Services.  It says any contract over $35,000 has to be approved by the city council first.  These bills were not brought before the council until after the bills were paid.

Purchasing and Contracting Policy

Filed under Cheryl Carlson, Finances