Mr. Castaldo, What Happened?

Mr. Castaldo, 

What happened at the last Beaumont City Council meeting? 

I know you can’t talk about what happened in the closed session but now that Mr. Aklufi has retired, are you good to go with the City Attorney situation? It seems Mr. Aklufi’s law partner, Mr. Wysoki, will just be picking up where Aklufi left off. There was no action reported out of the closed session. This leads me to believe there was no action to start a search for a new City Attorney. Are you comfortable with this? 

What happened during the workshop on CFDs? 

On June 3rd, a few days after the WRCOG judgment was released it seemed to many of us, by your actions and words, that you got it. That you realized the misuse and mismanagement of the CFDs under Mr. Kapanicas’ expertise was the cause for the $43m judgment. In that meeting you requested, and your colleagues agreed to grant you, a discussion on the following items related to the CFDs:  

  • “hiring an outside management firm to administer the funds and collection of all CFD fees and payments.”
  • “hiring an outside management firm to issue and create any new CFD districts…”
  • “hiring a qualified and accredited accounting firm to perform a forensic audit of the past collection and administration of all bond monies collected and spent from the CFDs.”
  • “hiring an outside legal firm to give a qualified legal opinion of the City’s CFD policies, administration, and resolutions.”
  • “have a discussion regarding a temporary moratorium of creating any new CFD districts until such existing matters have been decided.”  

During Mr. Kapanicas’ presentation last week, he lectured us once again about citizens paying our “fair share.” He listed the reviews and audits of the CFD bonds that he claimed are already performed on a regular basis, none of which are readily available to the public. Then when it came time to discuss, you didn’t ask about any of the above items? It seemed like you were right back where you were before the WRCOG ruling. 

In contrast to your previous concern about how the CFD bonds were being misused, you impressed upon your fellow council members the urgency of moving forward with the pending CFD applications. The council, you included, showed full support for the developers and not one of you argued for developers to begin paying their fair share. Are you still interested in searching for an outside firm to take over the CFD program? Or are you ok with the program that has led to the WRCOG $43 million judgment? 

When the workshop item regarding the City Financials and Internal Control Audit, which I believe was supposed to address your June 3rd request that “upon receiving (the) audit, I ask this council to have a discussion regarding the need for an internal controls audit?” you missed another opportunity. When asked about the internal control audit, your response was something like…I’m paraphrasing here… “There hasn’t been an internal control audit done yet so there isn’t anything to talk about.” Do you still plan to “have a discussion regarding the need for an internal controls audit” once the final version of the audit is received? It seemed to me from your actions last week that you no longer think this even warrants a discussion.

 Finally, in your council member report you implied we should take comfort in knowing that all the council members were very concerned about the WRCOG judgment. Then you argued that, even in the worst case scenario, we will all be ok and very little will noticeably change in the city. Mr. Castaldo, I consider the worst case to be bankruptcy. Do you think the people who rely on city services or the local businesses that are counting on the growth of our city to grow their businesses feel there will be no noticeable change if Beaumont declares bankruptcy? Who will want to move to a bankrupt city and buy the homes and pay the CFD fees you are counting on bailing us out? 

Many of us saw a change in you when you showed courage to step outside your comfort zone and ask for some tough discussions from your colleagues on June 3rd. We finally saw a council member questioning the status quo. You were one against four and many people suggested to me that if I am elected to the Council, I should hope you are reelected. Then I might have someone I could work with to make some positive changes. 

If I am elected, I will work to restore public confidence in our government by accepting responsibility for personal and organizational decisions and for the actions of staff and council. I too believed, for about a month, that you were someone who would work with me on this goal. Now I’m not so sure. 

Many of the citizens who have been speaking your praise since June 3rd also want to know, what happened last week? We aren’t comforted in hearing the one person we thought was waking up, now believes all will be ok even if we lose the WRCOG appeal and in a few years the judgment against the citizens of Beaumont, with interest, is more than $70,000,000.