By Chris Djernaes/ Solvang City Council Member
The views and opinions expressed herein are strictly my own. I do not speak for the Council or City Management. All information is derived from City sources.
Let’s be clear. The Council majority terminated the Community Resource Deputy (CRD) contract because the exploding cost for non-essential services simply couldn’t be justified. The City is the fiduciary steward of taxpayer funds and not a charity or shill for the antiquated, status quo policies of the past old guard Councils.
The Council Majority was elected by a 2:1 margin with a mandate to: (1) update the vision of Solvang, and (2) improve City operations and “do more with less.” This Mandate is called Solvang 2.0.
Anticipating a recession in 2020, the Council Majority voted 3-2 to terminate the non-essential services of the CRD contract on Feb 10. As the COVID 19 crisis accelerated, the Council hurriedly reiterated its support on March 9, for negotiating a new contract with the County Sheriff’s Office for more essential law enforcement services. At the same meeting, the Council approved the City Manager’s plan to functionally reorganize City operations to replace dysfunctional, costly, crony relationship-based, “paper-and-pencil” systems with new automated, hyper-efficient, transparent and transactional systems – i.e., “do more with less.”
Terminating the non-essential CRD contract will save taxpayers more than $306,000 in fiscal 2021 alone and over $2 million over the next 5 years. Money better spent on essential services.
Let me be blunt; the CRD contract is a poorly written, open-ended contract that is great for the County but terrible for the City. The contract suffers the following fatal flaws:
Mr. Uhrig is only an assigned, independent contractor – i.e., he is not a City employee;
- Contract costs suddenly exploded 36% higher from to $225,000 to $306,056 in 2021, with no added value;
- The COPS grant is not exclusively tied to CRD;
- 66% of total contract costs are for overhead fees;
- CRD Services simply do not meet the City’s functional priorities.
Not a City Employee
At the Council’s Regular Meeting (Feb. 24), an emotional Mr. Uhrig led a group of old-guard supporters in pleading with the Council not to cut his job and finished by berating, impugning, and shaming the Council and City Management for mismanagement, saying:
This council has said over and over about wanting transparency and open communication, but no one other than a select few is told what is going on in this city,” Uhrig concluded. Please before you consider terminating city positions you also weigh the need and the value of the person behind those activities and those duties. Talk with your employees, not at them. You have great employees here. Don’t lose sight of that just making change for change’s sake.
Where to begin? Mr. Uhrig’s politically charged accusations and spurious rant was a violation of the Sheriff’s Office protocol. Mr. Uhrig does not speak for the Sheriff’s Office regarding contract negotiations nor does he speak for the City’s public employee union. What was he thinking?
Moreover, the City does not discuss personnel or contract issues with Mr. Uhrig, who is merely an assigned, independent contractor. In fact, the contract requires the City to discuss all CRD issues exclusively with the Sheriff’s Office – i.e., the Station Lieutenant – and not Mr. Uhrig. As a 25-year veteran officer, Mr. Uhrig knows better and he should be reprimanded for his outrageous behavior toward the Council and the City Manager.
Since 2011, the CRD contract costs grew over 15% per year and will explode 36% higher from $225,221 to $306,056 in 2021 based on a comparable contract offer to the City of Carpinteria. Mr. Uhrig confirmed the higher cost saying he complained to the Sheriff’s Office that it was pricing the CRD services contract “…out of the market.” While services remain the same, the contract costs have become simply unsustainable as shown below:
Mr. Uhrig also speciously argued that the CRD contract is offset by the Citizens Oriented Policing Services grant (COPS). Mr. Uhrig incorrectly stated,
…, if you look at the prior two years City budgets … the CRD position cost the City a total of $27,000 for the combined two years (i.e., fiscal 2017-18 and 2018-19). It didn’t cost you guys anything for … this position… because of grants that are available to offset the cost to the cities. … I don’t know what this next year will cost…, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be over $200,000 because of the offsetting grants.
The COPS grants are not exclusively tied to CRD and should be applied to front-line law enforcement activities. The County currently gives the City the COPS grant as a lump sum check, but it has in the past applied the grant as a credit against the CRD contract creating the misleading impression cited by Mr. Uhrig. At the very least Mr. Uhrig should have clarified this with his superiors before challenging the Council.
The table below shows how the COPS grants were applied to the increasing costs of the County’s contract services: i.e., Community Resource Deputy (CRD), Law Enforcement Contract (LEC) and Law Enforcement Overtime (LEO). The COPS grant is shown separately as it should have been applied to the entire cost:
The CRD costs increased 15.2% annually or 10x the inflation rate and faster than any other contract except overtime. In contrast, Buellton never had a CRD and has applied more than $1.7 million in cost savings and $825,556 in COPS grants to front-line law enforcement services.
Exploding Overhead Costs
Exhibit D outlines contract costs for fiscal years ending 2020 and 2021:
The County Salary Table (2019-20) for Sheriff Deputy Job Class 6905 shows the maximum cost for Deputy Salary and Benefits (DS&B) to be $99,700 which increases 3% with inflation to $102,691 in 2021. Assuming the same 3% increase for all expenses, why does the Deputy S&B Cost explode 38% higher from $206,045 to $283,952? (above) Let that sink in.
The Sheriff’s Office reveals two additional costs: “Patrol Support” and “Other Fees” which must be calculated as they were deliberately buried within the DS&B cost:
Patrol Support increases 3% from $87,750 to $90,464 in 2021. However, Other Fees explode 388% from $18,594 to $90,791, forcing total overhead to explode 62% higher from $125,521 to $203,359. The opaque overhead costs were deliberately buried in Exhibit D, and are typical of government contracts and accounting. These costs simply cannot be justified or explained.
At the February 24 Council Meeting Mr. Uhrig began by saying:
…. I am here to clarify the duties of the CRD and correct some misinformation you received in your staff report from (City Manager) Ms. Bradford, and her description of the CRD’s duties, which I was never asked about.
She said the position relied heavily upon special events, cost the City over $200,000 per year and the CRD wouldn’t be able to help with the City’s need for traffic enforcement.
…. First, the great thing about the CRD position is they can do almost anything that’s needed for the City, and yes traffic enforcement is a part of the duties. So are parking citations, assisting with code enforcement, extra patrol if needed … dealing with homeless issues, panhandlers along with the special events and recreational activities…
Oddly, not one of these essential services are listed or even implied in Exhibit A, Statement of Work, which includes but is not limited to:
- Liaison with City regarding enforcement of laws and City Municipal Codes.
- Coordinate crime prevention information efforts to City residents and businesses.
- Liaison with City residents and businesses regarding neighborhood and business programs.
- Liaison with Recreation Department for youth and community activities and events.
- Conduct presentations to local youth organizations, civic groups and schools.
- Organize a yearly citizen Academy for residents.
- Coordinator of the Sheriff’s Volunteer Team.
- Organize and coordinate large scale events with City and County Staff to ensure Public Safety.
- Prepare a monthly City Crime recap and activity report for Council.
- Prepare grants as directed by Station Lieutenant.
- Attend City Council and City Staff meetings as directed by Station Lieutenant.
- Assist with patrol duties as directed by Station Lieutenant.
Mr. Uhrig also said that he personally created many of the youth and adult programs residents enjoy today because “…that’s what I thought the City needed to do, all the special events and not cost the City anything.” While these are laudable ideas, these recreational programs are non-essential services best done at no cost by the City’s Parks & Rec Department or which can be outsourced for far less than $306,056.
Also, the additional services were never approved by past Councils within the framework of Exhibit A and therefore violate the contract. Did Mr. Uhrig misuse his position and the City’s taxpayer money? We will never know as past City Managers improperly destroyed the original CRD contracts and the County has yet to provide copies. Finally, the added services and contract mismanagement conflicts with the final sentence of Exhibit A which specifically states, “No exemptions and exceptions to the services are to be performed.”
Let’s be clear. The City is not a charity and Mr. Uhrig is not a City employee. Mr. Uhrig is an independent contractor assigned to the City of Solvang. The City is terminating the CRD contract with the Sheriff’s Office – not Mr. Uhrig. As a 25-year veteran officer, Mr. Uhrig knows this and knows better than to try to shame the Council and City Manager. The City has already notified the Sheriff’s Office regarding his spurious and disparaging comments.
The Council Majority – i.e., Mayor Toussaint, Daniel Johnson and myself – voted dispassionately to terminate the CRD contract as: (a) it no longer cost-effectively serves the City’s operational needs, (b) the exploding costs cannot be justified. Finally, the City will save $306,056 in fiscal 2021 and over $2 million over 5 years. In these very difficult times, the Community’s needs come first and all non-essential services must be cut. After decades of cronyism and mismanagement, the new Council is delivering on its promise to “do more with less.”
The COVID19 crisis has greatly increased the need to rapidly implement Solvang 2.0, as the City must first survive, then recover from a historic economic shock. City tax revenues will decline by 30% to $7 million in fiscal 2020. Budget revenue for 2021 will also be lower than average. For this reason, the Council voted 5-0 at its March 20 Emergency Meeting to focus limited and rapidly declining budget resources only on essential services.