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As I observed the several City Council hearings concerning the next two-year budget, council members Jim Mosby and Victor Vega seem to relish publicly demeaning and ridiculing city staff.

Neither of them seems to comprehend the role of the City Council in a General Law city like Lompoc, or how to conduct themselves as described in the City Council Handbook.

Concerning the budget, it is the city manager who has a duty and responsibility to manage the city and provide a balanced budget every two years, not the council.

Public meetings are supposed to be orderly affairs. The Handbook advises that “every council member wishing to question the city staff should, after recognition by the presiding officer, address his/her questions to the appropriate department head or staff person. Such questions should address the substance of a matter and not impugn, directly or indirectly, the competence, integrity or efforts of any staff member or other person.”

That’s the way it’s been for as long as I can remember.

Throughout the entire budgetary process both Mosby and Vega have sought to “impugn, directly or indirectly, the competence, integrity or efforts” of the city staff and specifically the city manager.

Most recently the Record reported this confrontation by Vega: “At one point during Tuesday’s meeting, when employee positions were being discussed, Wiemiller reiterated to the council that his understanding of his job was that he is in charge of personnel decisions, not the council. … ‘It’s simply not gonna happen, and it can’t happen,’ he said of making employee decisions at an open council meeting.

“Councilman Vega questioned the legality of that statement and asked Wiemiller if he recognized the council as being the policymakers who provide direction to city staff.”

The Government Code of the state of California is clear: “The city manager may appoint and dismiss the chief of police and other subordinate appointive officers and employees except the city attorney. When the offices of city clerk and city treasurer are made appointive, appointments to such offices shall be made by the city council unless the city council vests such appointing power in the city manager by ordinance.”

Long before these two became active in politics, the authority over all personnel matters, except for the city attorney, was given to the city manager.

As for Mosby, he has consistently led an assault on every budget proposal made by the city manager. He has badgered, made questionable assumptions based on erroneous information, purposely misinterpreted and otherwise complicated each public hearing on the matter.

One of his latest proposals is to reduce fuel costs by $187,500 a year. That’s approximately 68,000 gallons of gas a year. Since this savings would come from the General Fund, because it’s the fund that needs to cut $1.8 million, we must wonder just which vehicles are being operated unnecessarily to make up this savings. Perhaps Mosby wants to park police cars for a few hours each day.

Each time the staff responds to Mosby’s never-ending questions with factual assessments to refute his claims, he comes up with new ones that further delay the process and unnecessarily create a state of uncertainty among employees and the citizenry.

It’s well beyond time to stop this exercise in trivial pursuit and get on with the business of government.

The antics of these two are particularly disappointing. I would expect this kind of behavior during a school-yard confrontation, not in the halls of city government by two adults.

Grow up, you’re not in middle school anymore.

Ron Fink is a local activist and can be reached at: rfink@impulse.net.

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