Editorial – Did Council Members and Administration Withhold Water Bond Debt Information from Other Council Members?

This editorial is the opinion of Bill Coburn, publisher of Sierra Madre News Net and 15 year Sierra Madre resident. It is not intended to reflect the views of any other person or entity with whom I am associated

It was reported yesterday that former City Council Member Don Watts was surprised by the City’s water bonds, and that he in fact believes that facts about those water bonds were withheld from him and from other Council members.  In a letter published online to John Crawford, former Council Member Watts had this to say:  “I have been taken by surprise by this Bond issue, and I’m sure if you talk to Kurt, he would be as well. I could “feel” after Kurt and I were elected, something was not being talked about but I couldn’t put my finger on it. This explains a lot about the body language of Buchanan, Joffe, and some of the administrators. They deliberately withheld this from us. If I had been told about this, I guarantee you it would have been public a long time ago. I now feel convinced the city is in need of major house cleaning. Including the role the local papers have been complicit in. They have killed the public trust.” – Don Watts

I have contacted Mr. Watts to request clarification of his statement, and if/when I receive a response, I will post it. It’s possible that his letter was in response to specific issues regarding the water bonds that Crawford had written about, and not the bonds in general.

I also contacted former Mayor Kurt Zimmerman, to determine if he agreed with Council Member Watts, as I don’t want to allow Mr. Watts’ suppositions as to whether or not Kurt was surprised, to be interpreted as representing Mr. Zimmerman’s position.  If/when I receive a response from former Mayor Zimmerman, I will post it.  I have also asked for a statement regarding Mr. Watts’ statement from our City Manager.  Again, if/when I receive a response I will post it. 

Asked about Mr. Watts’ statement, Council member John Buchanan had this to say:  “Anybody on the City Council who claims that they were not aware of water bonds that have been a matter of public record since 1998 and 2003 was just not paying attention.”

In the meantime, I did a little checking.  I visited the City website, and in the FY 2009-2011 budget, all 326 pages of which can be found here, there is a section on Debt, Section 7.  I’ve reproduced a much smaller file and faster download of those twelve pages here.  This section clearly states the City’s bond debt and payment schedule.  This budget was approved while Council Member Watts was serving as Mayor pro tem.  Also, in the 2007 Audit of the City’s finances, on pages 30 and 31, one can find information about the water bonds.  In the 2008 Audit of the City’s Finances, on pages 29 and 30, one can find information about the water bonds.  In the 2009 Audit of the City’s Finances, on pages 45 and 46, one can find information about the City’s Finances.  Mr. Watts was in office from 2006 – 2010.  So I guess I’m not sure what was being withheld, since just those few quick file checks find information about the bonds, going back three years.  If and when Mr. Watts clarifies his position, I’ll let you know.