I have known Doug Robertson, Apple Valley’s new town manager, for many years going back to my days of being on the Victorville City Council while he was the city manager over there. We haven’t always seen eye to eye.
Most recently — back in 2016 when I was running for supervisor against Robert Lovingood — I discovered that two dozen Syrian refugees had been dumped in Victorville. Neither the city nor the county had notified residents. Even though it is clear that the federal government is required by law to notify local authorities, Robertson, Lovingood, and others argued otherwise.
And there have been other issues in the past. I must be honest and admit that I do have my biases. I believe it is only fair to you, the reader, that I disclose this so that you can make informed decisions.
With all that said, I have also praised Robertson when he has done things that I agree with — like getting rid of former Assistant Town Manager Marc Puckett.
But, it has been an interesting couple of weeks because even though Robertson has criticized me publicly, he has been following my recommended actions when it comes to getting the town’s finances in order.
Back on March 29, the Daily Press reported that the town was facing a $2.6 million budget shortfall. The Council approved Robertson’s recommendations to cut the salaries and benefits of rank-and-file employees resulting in a savings of just $455,000. The same article suggested that Robertson would look to trim services provided to residents to make up the rest of the shortfall instead of laying off employees.
In an April 10 column, I called upon Robertson to start cutting at the top instead. I criticized the fact that we had four assistant town managers in 2016 and argued that a town of our size only needed one assistant. I also pointed out that the top 30 employees all earned in excess of $100,000 per year at a total cost of approximately $5 million.
On April 20, the Daily Press published Robertson’s letter to the editor where he rebuked me and attempted to dissect my arguments. He stated that the town had never had four assistant managers and made it sound like I was manufacturing numbers out of thin air. According to TransparentCalifornia.com, four people held the title of Assistant Town Manager in Apple Valley in 2016 — Marc Puckett earned more than $322,000; Lori Lamson earned more than $270,000; Dennis Cron earned more than $216,000, and Nikki Salas earned more than $150,000. But that isn’t all. Salas also earned $93,000 as the human resources director for a grand total of more than $243,000. On top of that, the director of animal services was the fourth highest paid employee in 2016 earning more than $250,000.
Robertson states that because two or more people can have the same job title during the year due to turnover that official records overstate the number of assistant town managers. Well, then what he is really saying is that some of these individuals above were making six-figure salaries even though they didn’t even spend the entire year working in that position.
Oh, he didn’t say that exactly. Nor did he mean to let the cat out of the bag. But in his attempt to make me look bad in public he exposed the truth. Is it any wonder that Apple Valley is $2.6 million in the hole even during an economic boom, a historic bull market, and all-time real estate prices when we are paying exorbitant six-figure salaries to part-time executives?
I must concede that I overlooked the fact that Cron retired in 2016 and was replaced by Salas. Perhaps, readers will excuse my oversight since I was blinded by the fact that Salas earned nearly $250,000 for the year while Cron earned $216,000. Silly me for assuming someone would have to work an entire year to earn more than $200,000.
While Robertson tries to make it sound like my claims are ridiculous, he fails to acknowledge that we have had three assistant town managers for several years.
You know what else he failed to mention in that April 20 letter to the editor? That at the April 24 Council meeting, he would present a plan that copied my recommendations. His proposal puts his own salary on the chopping block and eliminates seven senior management positions, including two assistant town managers.
If Doug Robertson is going to implement my suggestions, then he can bash me all he wants and I will still praise him for a job well done.
Barb Stanton Cell and Expenses Phone Update
“Obama Phone” Barb is the only Council member that gets her personal cell phone reimbursed by you the taxpayer — about $10,000 worth since 2011. Well, she isn’t happy with me and mentioned my name during comments at the April 16 budget meeting. Go to https://bit.ly/2qUN8yH and skip to the 1:05:50 mark to listen to her whine about how she doesn’t get paid enough to be a Council member and will not give up her free phone.
I will address these comments in more detail next week. Stay tuned folks.
Source: Angela Valles, Apple Valley Review