Tuesday, June 19, 2012

SGVCOG's Budget Shell Game

So here it is from the rulebook. The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) requires Executive Director Nick Conway, under its own Article IV, Item C to:

"Annually prepare and present a proposed budget for the Council to the Steering Committee of the City Manager's Technical Advisory Committee ("Steering Committee") and, after the approval of the Steering Committee, to the Governing Board and, after approval of a budget by the Governing Board, to maintain the expenditures of the Council within the approved budget, as may be amended from time to time by the Council."

This is the situation with the COG and Conway on the budgets issue. The Bylaws require the Executive Director (Conway) to prepare and present an annual budget to the City Managers Steering Committee for their approval. Once they approve that budget it is then presented to the Governing Board for its approval. The notion being that this will provide for a kind of financial oversight since the selected City Managers are experts at this sort of thing. If they approve the budget, then the Governing Board has some assurance that it has been properly done.

This year, Executive Director Nick Conway presented the SGVCOG's budget to the City Managers Steering Committee and got their approval. However, he then supplied a different budget to the Executive Committee for their approval. Presenting a budget to this particular committee, while not legally required, works to Nick's purposes since they are mostly his bobbleheads and will agree to rubber-stamp whatever he wants. It makes for a legitimate looking paper trail and enhances the process.

Finally, Nick Conway presented another budget to the Governing Board, something that was neither the budget approved by the City Managers or the one reviewed by the Executive Committee. Three different budgets, and a full two more than there ought to have been.

To be precise, Conway provided each of these three separate entities three quite different budgets. Something that sabotages the concept of sound financial oversight, and is hardly the kind of behavior expected of an organization that receives and spends public moneys. The result being that each committee believed that they had been shown the same budget, yet ended up approving something rather different from what their two counterparts had been supplied.

Listed here are some examples of the differences between these budgets. They should put you into the spirit of it all.

The budget presented to the Executive Committee is different from the one submitted to the City Managers Steering Committee in a couple of areas. First, it includes an entirely new income source which is called ACE (Alameda Corridor East Project) GANS (Govt Anticipation Notes) ROI (Return On Investment) for $50,000. This is an item that reflects Conway's attempt this year to direct interest received by ACE back to the COG. The justification being that ACE was created by the COG, and therefore deserves it. This became a problem for the director of ACE, who later pointed out that since the moneys given to his organization are for funding specifically designated construction projects, they're shouldn't be used to pay for SGVCOG nonsense.

Also, in this budget under expenses, Conway eliminated a $7,500 cost for "LARWQCB Technical Support." This is money the SGVCOG spent on a staffer for Monrovia Mayor MaryAnn Lutz, who also sits on the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. Among other things.

Added into expenses is $10,000 for a "grants and policy committee internship program." No one I spoke with for this article is aware of the Board even authorizing such a program, but apparently it is part of a pet project run by Gino Sund, a reliable Conway ally.

In the budget provided to the Governing Board, the $50,000 in income from ACE is removed. This budget also reduces the income from the Southern California Edison Local Government Partnership from $150,000 to $75,000. The budget also shows a reduction in the costs of legal services from $65,000 to $40,000, though it is anticipated that the true cost could actually be in the $150,000 range.

It also shows an increased amount in expenses related to media public relations, from $10,000 to $15,000. Oddly enough, in the previous year's one and only budget the total spend was $715. Apparently someone felt the need for a comfortably funded charm offensive this year.

The big difference here is in the expense for Conway's Management Services Contract # 1. (Conway has, for whatever reasons, three service contracts.) What this one shows is a reduction from $105,000 to $52,500 in money paid to Conway's privately owned company Arroyo Associates. Which is the same company that figured so prominently in the famous Caltrans audit that was the beginning of Conway's current woes.

If you read the agenda packet small print, this is not really a reduced cost. Instead Conway simply decided to only include 6 months worth of payments in this budget. The reason being it results in what appears to be a balanced budget. Had the full year amount been included the resulting budget would have been upside down.

This is also a problem since the contract is specifically for work done on three major programs, EnergyWise, CalRecycle and something called Watershed. CalRecycle and Watershed being programs that had already ended.

Last is a reduction in the cost of the Southern California Edison Local Government Partnership. This is downgraded from $20,000 to $10,000.

What we've detailed here shows that a "Let's Make A Deal" mentality was at work in the creation of COG's public agency budgets. Behind each door is something different. Unfortunately that is not how officially established systems of financial oversight are supposed to get done. The Governing Board relies on the technical expertise of the City Managers Steering Committee to ensure that the budget is properly laid out and budgeted. None of this is worth the paper these budgets are printed on if the numbers are not completely consistent.

The documents used to create this article were obtained at meetings held by the San Gabriel Valley of Governments. They are as follows:

City Managers Steering Committee: Agenda packet for May 2nd, 2012. This meeting took place at El Monte City Hall in El Monte.

Executive Committee: Meeting agenda revised for May 9, 2012. This meeting took place at Alhambra City Hall in Alhambra.

SGVCOG Governing Board: Agenda and Notice. This meeting took place on May 31, 2012 at Southern California Edison CTAC in Irwindale.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

60 comments:

  1. Can someone remind me why the City Council sends our tax money to "the COG?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. to help them "balance" their budgets, of course.

      Delete
    2. Ask yourself this, wise guy. What would you do if there wasn't the COG to help you recycle your batteries? Huh? Answer that one!

      Delete
  2. Good God, Almighty.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's a great question 7:08!

    We should all ask our councilmembers just that!

    ReplyDelete
  4. How is the COG any different than our City Hall?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We don't get to elect COG!

      Delete
    2. Bingo! Exactly right, we don't get to elect our COG representatives and we have no idea what they do while participating in this secret organization. Sure we know they are enjoying catered food while at the meetings, and taking lots of photos for upcoming campaign activity, but what do they really do?

      Delete
    3. I believe it is known as "receive and file." They receive the reports, the minutes, the food, the collegiality, and the notes handed out to them (remember Walsh notified us that 'papers' were passed out - not a peep about what they said). And then they file it all for future reference.

      Delete
  5. fan of Crawford manJune 19, 2012 at 8:01 AM

    Dear Editor, this is a sizzling story! I am so proud of all of you. So, I guess that is what is called the Con way of triple entry bookkeeping. What a bunch of shuck and jive feather mocker's Conway and his auditor relatives are.

    I can feel the anal orifice tightenings of the politicians involved in this, the skunky smell of the cowardly enablers by the head turning away poly tickans. Oh man, oh man, heads are gonna roll, for this...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I attended the meeting of the SGVCOG and there really isn't much to report." - Sierra Madre City Councilman John Harabedian, shortly after the Public Integrity Division of the DA's office raided the home and offices of COG Executive Director Nick Conway

      Delete
    2. "The distractions at the COG are over." - City Councilwoman Nancy Walsh

      Delete
    3. fan of Crawford manJune 19, 2012 at 8:21 AM

      He hasn't been there long enough, to get a taste of the grift, besides doesn't he defend white collar fraud as his attorney specialization? Like a dumb fox thrown in a roosterhouse of buzzards.


      Rah ha ha ha, Rah ha ha, hell hath no fury like agencies defrauded on a state and federal level. Talk about throwing a wrench into the cogs of the COGS..

      The Coggle doodle do's are going to be stewing in the pot like the flogging philandering pieces of political poops they are.

      I think the DA is taking his Geritol lately. I am dancing with glee!!!

      Delete
  6. Can the dues paid by the participating cities be the only income for this, that and the other budget? Where does all the money come from actually?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Federal grants, state grants, corporate endowments. All given in the name of reaching out to the 31 member cities of the SGVCOG and getting them to participate in regional actions.

      Delete
  7. They have to apply for these grants and show need, and submit records of spending on stated projects that grants are given for. I am sure there would be a lot of misappropriations in this area, too. When you tell too many lies (as on grant applications) you will have more and more trouble keeping a lid on it all.

    Who are the corporations, what is the focus of the endowments and are they getting what they pay for? Do they care?

    ReplyDelete
  8. fan of Crawford manJune 19, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    Did a quick search on Gino Sund aka Eugene Sund, lots of complaints about the immoral and unethical conduct of this individual. Here is one of many complaints letters posted in the altadenans.com site, about Guito, I mean Gino

    Oct 18, 2009

    Executive Committee
    Altadena Town Council
    730 East Altadena Drive
    Altadena, California 91001

    Dear Executive Committee Council members

    Please accept this letter as my official complaint and request for an ethics investigation of Chairperson Eugene Sund, Councilperson Tesumch Shackleford and former Councilperson Ken Balder.

    1. Misrepresented the Council as a governing body of the community to a County Official.
    2. Submitted false and defamatory statements to a County Official concerning a former Town Council member.
    3. Provided unprivileged publication of the statements to a third party (that is, somebody other than the person defamed by the statement);
    4. Demanding that a disabled, low-income senior citizen and long time Altadena resident, employed through a Federally funded training program be fired from a position at the Altadena Community Center by providing defamatory information to the County Officials.
    5. Defamatory statements caused the removal of above mentioned person from their position at the Altadena Community Center.
    6. Committed actions that are legally considered “Elder Abuse” through harmful and emotionally painful treatment.
    7. Taking actions without notice to elected Council members regarding demand for removal of employee at the Altadena Community Center.

    The slanderous and defamatory actions of the above mentioned council members and former councilmember have caused harm that is detrimental to the person filing this complaint and shows a need for immediate and urgent action.

    Respectfully,

    Camille Dudley. Resident of Altadena
    former Altadena Town Council member

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gino Sund sits on the COG as the representative for Supervisor Antonovich, he is not even an elected official.

      Delete
    2. Antonovich. Didn't he also appoint Bart Doyle to our CRA Dissolution Board?

      Delete
    3. yes, I saw a story where he was bragging about meeting with two of Antonovich's deputies, (I know J. Gomez of El Monte city council is a deputy), and then having a meet with some trash people to resolve something. I saw Doyle, Antonovich, and the other developer graft gods come to bless and baptize the new mayor a while back.

      I just saw a story in the SGV tribune, a few minutes ago about redevelopment agencies and projects, whining and moaning, but one of the lines is that the cities won't be able to recover the monies they "loaned" to them. It said El Monte won't be able to recover 76 million loaned over 3 decades. Leung was going to get 283 million, out of them. Makes me sick.

      Delete
  9. From a story in the SGV tribune Facing DA probe, COg ditches plan for code of conduct, on June 8, 2012, Mr. Sund who looks like he is the author of said code of conduct, aka code of silence:

    To really have any teeth in the code of conduct, you would have to change the bylaws," said COG member Gino Sund, adding that the COG does not have time to tackle the conduct issue with so many other issues coming before the agency.

    King said he saw the code of conduct as a way to silence he and a few other board members who are critical of Conway.

    At Wednesday's meeting, no one said whose idea the code was.

    It was compiled by Sund and Alhambra Councilwoman Barbara Messina. But both of them said at the meeting that it wasn't their idea and that they were only trying to do what was best for the group.

    "It wasn't me who suggested the code of conduct," said Messina, who is a close ally of Conway's. "It wasn't my idea."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Messina is practiced at spin.
      From the San Marino Tribune:
      "Messina insists that the 710 tunnel is a good idea for all and said that opponents of the construction have succumbed to elements of fear. She said, for example, that the tunnel to be constructed would be the safest place to be during an earthquake and that considerations to minimize pollution have been overlooked."
      She's supporting that for the group too. Well, maybe not the people exposed to severe health risks who live around the mouths of the tunnels. But for the group as a whole.

      Delete
  10. How will we ever get to the bottom of all this corruption? Each and everyone of these scoundrels should be removed but the person(s) in charge are bigger scoundrels.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Sund was an Altadena Town Council Member for many years in NE Altadena. It is an elected position, but is really just an "advisory" council to the county without any teeth. As I recall, Sund may have resigned his position on the town council to serve on the SGVCOG.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The COG is snack cake for bottom feeders.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Now c'mon guys, the COG deals with important issues of the day. I mean our region is facing a lot of challenging issues - crippling unemployment, massive foreclosures, rising homelessness, young folks who can't find or afford college classes, well you get the idea. Certainly the COG leadership is dealing with these critical issues.....or not!

    Instead, the COG leadership under President Angel Carrillo of Azusa, has decided the pressing issue for the upcoming meeting is to implement a by law change designed to silence the COG's critics. The plan is to remove former COG presidents from the secret inner circle known as the Executive Committee. Of course, these former presidents are the ones who have some experience and knowledge of how the agency should operate and have seen Conway's shenanigans first hand. Unfortunately they have raised their voice and tried to bring this nonsense to an end.

    So how to fix the problem, well remove the critics is Carrillo's plan.

    Nice to see our officials focused on the real problems of the day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh like they aren't going to eat Carillo, when they are done with him.

      Delete
  14. My goodness John C., I do believe this just the beginning of the layers of dirt. You deserve a Pulitzer!
    Many years ago, when Maryann, Kurt, and I had terminated our city's dues to this organization, it was for very good reasons.
    I guess, (I hope) much of this will eventually come out in the wash.
    Much was hidden from us at these meetings,and while not actually being able to put a finger on it, one could actually smell it. Not unlike the foul odor being emitted from the wash next to the Edison building.
    If the city was at all concerned, withdrawl from SCAG and COG should be seriously considered at the next CC meeting atleast until ALL of this scandal is brought to the light of day. Unless of course, there is another agenda....

    Government needs to stay out of the development business. It always leads to a sad ending...To much money,... too tempting....too many fingers in the pot....No one looking....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Don. I remember when I first started doing this blog I figured it would be for a couple of months, then I 'd have used up all the available material and have to move on. Now I can't make enough room to do all of the things I want to do with it. The Tattler had some growing pains along the way, but I think it is doing what it's supposed to now. So many stories, so little time.

      Delete
    2. Remember when I said certain people should go to jail,... now you know I wasn't kidding....

      Delete
  15. Time to disband the COG or at a minimum each and every city should change their representative to the COG. An Executive Director being investigated by the District Attorney for public corruption, attempts to raid fees from ACE which are supposed to fund important transit projects, different budgets being proposed to different committees, attempts to silence anyone who speaks out against the agency - my god, this agency needs to be shuttered.

    The potential liability to Sierra Madre and all of the member cities is just too costly.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Isn't Carrillo on his way out the door as the COG President? Isn't the COG President going to be Barbara Messina from Alhambra? As I recall, wasn't she hit with a huge fine from the FPPC for illegal campaign activity?

    Nice to see the leadership is filled with people of the highest character and integrity!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thank goodness for the Tattler. Where has the Tribune been? No coverage, no investigative stories, nothing. Sad to see a once important newspaper become little more than a press release outlet.

    Keep up the great work at the Tattler!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thursday's COG meeting should be a no-brainer. Get rid of Conway/Arroyo and try to bring some positives to the COG. One big problem - Barbara Messina, Nick's lead cheerleader with her famous outburst of "Nick is the COG" is now going to be its Chair. If Nick is finally dethroned - Now what Barbara?
    Another interesting item on the agenda - Adoption of Executive Committee Policy - translation - we'll now comply with the Brown Act and stop holding secret meetings. Really????

    ReplyDelete
  19. "Nick IS the COG" - very reminiscent of slogans the Stepford Wives were programmed to say in brain dead repetition.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does have a cult of personality sense to it.

      Delete
  20. I'm not sure that it's possible to bring positives to COG at this point.
    It may require a complete disbanding, and then assess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed. So how will the COG Dissolution Oversight Committee be formed?

      Delete
    2. I think you pour water on them. It was a tactic used with great success in the Wizard of Oz.

      Delete
    3. Careful there... if you're wrong, if it's like gremlins, water is not good. Tread lightly!

      Delete
    4. "COG Dissolution Oversight Committee" that is too funny! Undoubtedly the committee will meet secretly and try to figure out a way to pay Conway a hefty settlement, after all breaking the law has hurt his reputation according to the likes of Messina, Spence, Lutz, Pedroza, Fasana, Gonzales, Carrillo and Sund.

      Geez, what a screwed up bunch of elected officials.

      Delete
    5. What is it about Conway that makes these guys love him so? Does he have some incredible ability to bamboozle money out of dumb bureaucrats, which in turn lines all their pockets? Nobody is this irreplaceable. It has got to be something else. Maybe they have All men bikini parties.

      Delete
    6. Loyalty is one of the qualities cons cultivate the most.

      Delete
    7. Conway doles out plum committee assignments to these stooges. He finds out what issue they are hot on and then creates a committee or gives them the chairmanship of the committee. He even gets the Nancy Walsh's of the world to authorize spending our dough for the myriad of committees, subcommittees, ad hoc committees, working groups, etc.

      For example, the COG pays some $50,000.00 a year to provide a staffer for John Fasana/Duarte.....but it is not for his work with the COG, it is for his position on the MTA Board?

      It really is run more like some type of damn cult than an agency charged with conducting business on behalf of the public.

      Delete
  21. COG = Clandestine Omerta Group

    ReplyDelete
  22. COG - Conways Obedient Guys

    ReplyDelete
  23. This just in from the Tribune -

    The COG will be hosting a gala battery recycling event at the Ritz Hotel, fully catered spread, photos with VIP politicians and private meetings with friends from the pro development San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. The public is not invited.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What are they recycling, handfuls of AA batteries?

      Delete
    2. Yes. It will save the world from something or other.

      Delete
  24. So what is the most corrupt region in the country? Chicago is probably the dirtiest. Would you put the San Gabriel Valley second?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not sure the San Gabriel Valley tops the list with Chicago in second. I can think of several local politicians (who just happened to be representatives on the COG) who have either pleaded or been convicted of corruption charges/wrongdoing. You know, politicians like Martinez from Monterey Park a recent COG Vice President.

      Delete
  25. Does Nancy (and now Harabedian) receive a stipend (other than a buffet lunch) for a COG meeting?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You bet, paid for with your tax dollars.

      Delete
    2. Now there's some real value for your hard earned dollar.

      Delete
  26. Go to the SGVCOG and look at the agenda and packet for the board meeting of June 21 and you will see exactly the same thing. No "packet.". So then you are left with two agendas which mostly consist of committee reports with lots of receive and file. No wonder Nancy and now John H say there was not much to report on, there really wasn't. It is a sham organization!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The real stuff goes on behind the veil. What the elected boobs get is a dummy show.

      Delete
  27. A prediction: I talked to an individual who is not a public official. He did talk to a COG insider. I am curious to see if this is true. The COG will place Conway on PAID leave. He will sit at home and wait to see if he gets indicted. He is the sole owner of Arroyo. His employees will go to work and he will take in his almost $800000 income. Then the COG will hire it's own attorney to help Conway's personal attorney negotiate with the DA. That way get's paid as long as possible, and Conway has an insider attorney at the COG helping his defense team. This info came from a COG Board members who is "chatting" prior to the meeting. I do not have personal knowledge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unless, of course, he is indicted. Then he would be in a breach of contract situation, right? Once he is out of that seat his exposure level starts to rise. After all, the DA could decide he is a dirt bag and make a high level example of him.

      Delete
    2. He has been in breach of contract by being at high risk from Caltrans. It specifically says that he has to comply with all Federal and State regulations. He has been out of compliance for years. That was why Former COG President King tried to fire him.

      Delete
    3. I hate this.
      Such a rotten thing to do with a life - connive and scheme, sell your soul to the devil for a buck.

      Delete