Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. —Buddha
Only the spin-doctors at Ventura City Hall would try to convince you of this. They want you to believe that accepting $71,000 of a $500,000 loss is a victory in the Brooks Institute debacle. But, that’s putting lipstick on a pig. Readers of this newsletter know better. The settlement covers only the mistakes the city made by not collecting rents and deposits in the first place.
To err is human. To forgive costs you $500,000
City officials appear pleased with themselves over the Brooks settlement. Undoubtedly, the city wants to put Books Institute behind it. Former City Manager Mark Watkins admitted the city made mistakes. He told the City Council,
“We erred on execution,” under questioning about the matter. Councilmember Cheryl Heitmann publicly berated the city staff for embarrassing the City Council in September 2016 (see the video). Now, City Attorney Gregory Diaz tells the Ventura County Star, “This matter is now closed.” But, that may be wishful thinking.
Members of the city staff hope citizens will forget what the city lost in the Brooks Institute failure. The town sued Brooks for $85,000. They settled for $71,000. They want to convince voters they negotiated to get the most they could from Brooks. What they don’t want the public to realize is how much money they left on the table.
What the city hopes you won’t notice
Firstly, the city hopes the public will not grasp the $71,000 they recouped covers only the back rent the city failed to collect at the start of the lease. In other words, receiving $71,000 only fixes past mistakes the city made as landlords.
What’s more, they don’t want you to consider the other costs they are not collecting. They want the public to forget about the $232,000 in lost rent Brooks Institute was to pay under the lease through 2017. Or the $200,000 it will cost in tenant improvements to return the space to leasable condition. Add to that the undisclosed amount the city spent in legal fees and staff time to reach this point.
We may never get an accurate reporting of what made up the initial amount of $85,000 the city sued Brooks Institute over. Likewise, we may never get an accurate picture of whether the $71,000 covers the legal fees and staff time in addition to the unpaid rent. The City Council discussed these details in a closed session, and the records are confidential and withheld from the public.
The Brooks Institute example indicates the city can’t perform basic tasks under normal circumstances. Today, we’re in extraordinary circumstances with the Thomas Fire recovery. Citizens expect competent performance as the city rebuilds after the disaster. Brooks Institute is a case study in ineptitude. We hope the city will learn from this and improve its performance during the recovery.
Brooks Institute Shows It’s Easy To Spend Someone Else’s Money
Brooks Institute also shows it’s easy to spend someone else’s money. The city has shrugged off a half-million-dollars of taxpayer money. City officials have lost sight of their role. The truth is they’re the trustees of our money. Losing over $232,000 in rents, $200,000 in tenant improvements, legal costs, court costs and staff time is malfeasance. To take a victory lap for settling for $71,000 is unacceptable.
Tell The City Council To Get Out Of The Real Estate Market
Below you’ll find the photos of our current City Council. Click on any Councilmember’s photo and you’ll open your email program so you can write directly to that Councilmember.
Let them know what you’re thinking. Tell them what they’re doing right and what they could improve upon. Share your opinion. Not participating in government weakens our democracy because our city government isn’t working for all of us.
For more information like this, subscribe to our newsletter, Res Publica. Click here to enter your name and email address.