Challenging your sources (October 29, 2015)

Mr. Emick
[Council member
Town of Apple Valley],

At the October 27th town council meeting, you challenged Tony Penna, general manager of Apple Valley Ranchos, on his statement that adopting Stage 2 water restrictions had enabled Apple Valley to meet state-imposed water conservation goals.

You stated, You just said if we didn’t do Stage 2, we wouldn’t have achieved our goals. My question to you is, that’s total speculation on your part because you don’t have anything to back that up. I think that in the future you should consider treating Mr. Penna in a more respectful fashion, not only because of his position in the community, but also because his company policies have enabled Apple Valley to be the only community in the high desert to achieve its conservation target, not to mention the fact that he had only moments before addressed this very area of concern.

However, it was refreshing to see you challenging someone who was providing information to the council members. I just wish you would do this to your staff, as challenges there are clearly warranted.

At the council meeting of August 11th, for example, the Town’s assistant manager for finance presented the so-called Transparency Report to the council. At the September 22nd council meeting, I revealed to the council seven errors in that report that would be evident to anyone evaluating it. (There are other errors that require outside knowledge for context.) Presumably, you were given a copy of this report beforehand for review, because otherwise you would be commenting on a document you couldn’t possibly have absorbed, especially not while paying attention to the assistant manager’s presentation.

Yet at the conclusion of the presentation of that report to the council, you prefaced your comments with, Fantastic. Excellent job. You yourself then went on to speculate darkly about the motives of concerned citizens in our community who are trying to alert council members to serious issues with the way the Town is doing business, basing your comments on a list attached to the Transparency Report that contains obvious flaws. You followed up by saying, I’m not disappointed in you, Marc [Puckett]. It’s fantastic what you’ve done here.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Town staff (including the Town attorney) are giving council members bad information and bad advice. This creates a two-fold problem for you as a council member, because you are partly responsible for them being on the job in the first place, and you are directly responsible for not vetting their work product and applying your knowledge and common sense. The vetting process involves questioning staff closely, something I’ve not seen being done, and others have noticed this, too.

I would remind you that we residents of Apple Valley did not elect or even have the chance to vote on the hiring of any Town staff. We have no recourse should they not serve our community as it should be served. Therefore, we are forced to rely on you, as council member, to monitor them. It is not your job to coddle or preen Town employees. It is your job to make certain they are giving you complete and factual information so that you may best represent us.

Greg Raven is Co-Chair of Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability, and is concerned about quality of life issues.