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Montebello City Manager Pasmant Blames ‘Local Paper’ – Hews Media – for City’s Financial Problems

Acting City Manager Andrew Pasmant

 

Staff Report

A letter obtained by Hews Media Group sent to the members of the California State Legislative Joint Audit Committee from Montebello acting City Manager Montebello Andrew G. Pasmant is asking the committee to deny the State Auditor’s request to conduct a full audit of the city of Montebello.

Pasmant listed the reasons for the audit as: 1) city expenses exceeding revenues, 2) the city’s growing pension burden, 3) adherence to 2011 State Comptroller’s audit findings, 4) concerns over internal controls and the impact of Montebello’s directive to freeze positions, 5) the profitability of Montebello’s enterprise funds.

And in an insult to the freedom of the press and investigative journalism, the letter also listed the “bad press” the City received from local newspapers as a reason the Auditor was seeking a full audit.

Vanessa Delgado

“Interesting use of words,” HMG-CN Publisher Brian Hews said, “I guess ‘bad press’ is what Pasmant and the ruling City Council, led by Mayor Vanessa Delgado, call good investigative journalism which uncovered graft and corruption in Montebello that led to the audit.”

“I don’t think Pasmant had much influence in writing the letter,” said Hews, “the letter places blame on everyone except the City Council.”

Pasmant, who was hired last year after Francesco Tucker Schuyler was placed on leave, argued for denial of the audit.

In his letter, Pasmant immediately patted himself on the back, writing in third person, “the City hired a manager with over 30 years experience in city operations and balancing budgets.”

Pasmant cited a housing project that will inject $5 million to City coffers and “one-time” business opportunities that would “increase revenues.”

And in a statement that directly contradicts former city manager Francesco Tucker-Schuyler, Pasmant indicated that City “has $9.3 million in reserves as of June 2016.”

In an April 2016 article, Tucker-Schuyler was quoted as saying, “certain unforeseen revenue decreases would diminish the $8 million in reserves the city built up in the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The city’s surplus is expected to fall to $2.1 million [to $5.9 million] at the end of the fiscal year, June 2016.

“By the end of the fiscal year in 2017, that surplus will turn into a $5.4 million deficit.”
Addressing the pension crisis, Pasmant indicated that the City “has a property tax override to offset pension costs.”

Citing the 2011 State Controller audit findings, a majority of which was not followed by the City Council, Pasmant promised to hire experienced people, and implement the auditor’s findings regarding timely budget compliance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasmant also indicated he would clean up the Finance Department with experienced personnel despite the hiring freeze the City has implemented.

In relation to the profitability of the City’s enterprise funds, Pasmant indicated he is contemplating additional increases in the City’s water rates, after a 30% increase since 2017, and possible increase in green fees at the golf course.

He also projected major revenue increases from the recently approved Hotel Project and cited earnings prior to taking depreciation expense as an argument that the City’s bus line is not losing money.

Pasmant then slammed the local paper for negative press.

“Montebello has been burdened with the same style of reporting from local paper [sic] for years. The reporter has a negative view towards city officials.”

“A lot of residents have a negative view of City officials,” said Hews, “we just report on what is going on in the City, get both sides of the story and let our readers decide. To blame the City’s chronic financial, operational, and corruption problems on the ‘local paper’s negative views’ is ludicrous.”

Pasmant then argued why the committee should reject the State Auditor’s recommendation for a full audit.

Even though he has been at the post for only 4 weeks and most of the high-level financial employees fled under Tucker-Schuyler, Pasmant stated, “Montebello has and will continue to have issues, another audit would only restate what Montebello knows is a problem. This will continue to exacerbate a negative city image, feed political agendas, and contribute to the city’s problems. [sic] Auditor’s preliminary assessment and request adds nothing new and is an unnecessary expense (waste) of taxpayer funds.”

Contradicting all published data Pasmant stated, “the City has been moving forward with many of the 2011corrections.” He also said, “audits only provide direction not necessarily realistic solutions, the real issue is how to implement sustainable solutions, that is what the new City Manager is working on.”

Hitting residents hard Pasmant said, “the City tried to sell the water company, the voters rejected it; the City tried to implement a sales tax increase, unfortunately the voters rejected it.”

“City Council is not ignoring….but voter actions have left limited options. Montebello does not need another audit to tell us what we know.”

An angry Montebello Councilman Bill Molinari told HMG-CN, “it’s unbelievable they would straight-up lie to the audit committee. We all know why they don’t want the books looked at, because there are a lot of issues that would raise serious questions. Just ask Charlie Pell, who resigned after uncovering all the fraud. It is important these issue gets resolved, you can’t lie to an audit committee.”

 

See letter click on image

 

 

 

 

 

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