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By Emily Rasmussen

A divided San Juan Capistrano City Council voted no to a resolution on Tuesday, May 1 that would have formally apologized to city staff on behalf of the Council after Councilmember Pam Patterson alleged that the staff “stole $600,000,” at a City Council meeting on July 18, 2017.

The $600,000 was revenue originally allocated toward street projects that came from a landfill agreement on April 19, 2016 with the county on imported waste. However, due to unanticipated expenditure increases—namely law enforcement contract increases, decreased sales tax and delayed development fees—city staff proposed via a budget amendment to address the $1.2 million funding gap for the fiscal year 2017-18, Assistant City Manager Jacob Green said.

“Those adjustments include, among other things, retaining the estimated $600,000 in landfill revenue in the general fund rather than allocating it to street projects,” Green said.

The proposal, which city staff brought to the City Council on June 20, 2017, was approved in a 4-1 vote with Patterson opposed. At the July 18 meeting, Patterson claimed that the $600,000 was stolen by city staff.

Mayor Pam Patterson. Photo: Courtesy
Councilmember Pam Patterson. Photo: Courtesy

“Based on the current state of affairs with respect to our finances, this is just another cavalier decision with respect to the people’s hard-earned money,” Patterson said on July 18. “We just—staff—basically just stole $600,000 earmarked for paving our roads to prop up the general fund. Our roads are in horrific condition. The recommendation that staff made was absolutely not the cheapest recommendation nor the best.”

City Manager Ben Siegel replied that although City Councilmembers are entitled to their opinion, the remarks were offensive.

“To allege that staff is somehow mismanaging the city’s finances and has an interest is frankly offensive and I don’t appreciate it,” Siegel said. “I don’t think it is good protocol and I don’t think it is good for the morale that I always hear is trying to be built and cultivated in this community.”

At the May 1 meeting, Mayor Sergio Farias said he brought forth the resolution to apologize to city staff on behalf the City Council because Patterson has had multiple opportunities to apologize for the accusation but has not; and that a San Juan Capistrano resident has repeatedly asked that the City Council issue an apology to the city’s staff.

Patterson said she would not apologize and would stand her ground. However, she did instead use the word “misappropriate,” throwing out her initial term of “stole.” She added that she felt the funds were misappropriated based on “misleading” information.

“I stand by what I said. I feel like that $600,000 has been misappropriated based on the representation that it can only be used on arterial streets and that turned out not to be true,” Patterson said. “So, I can speak for myself: I’m not apologizing for that statement.”

Councilmember Kerry Ferguson said that city staff did not steal or misappropriate funds because the City Council did vote to reallocate the $600,000.

“If you don’t like that we voted to do it, I don’t blame you that’s fine, you can do that,” Ferguson said. “But to sit here and say that our city manager made the decision is just not true.”

Councilmember Derek Reeve commended Siegel on his work as city manager and said the morning after the July 18 meeting that he called Siegel and apologized to him.

“I apologized for my conduct that I did not jump in and defend staff at that moment. I feel bad about that because–it’s not an excuse–but I told our city manager that I have become so conditioned for what I consider ridiculous comments from Councilmember Patterson.”

Councilmember Brian Maryott called the resolution a “waste of time.”

“If (a politician) says something inappropriate or out of line, if they feel the need to apologize, they apologize. Nobody can have the authority transferred to them,” Maryott said.

The City Council resolution failed 3-2, with Farias and Reeve in favor.

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comments (7)

  • Clint Worthington Reply

    Good for Pam Patterson for standing her ground.

    City staff never apologized to the residents when they intentionally over charged residents 20 million on their water bills.

    City staff never apologized to the residents whose water was turned off because they could not pay the illegal water rates.

    City staff never apologized to residents when they miscalculated the trash rates that were charged by CR&R.

    City staff has never apologized for never requiring the Hotel Capistrano to provide a CEQA report even though it was required by law.

    The list is so long on apologies never given to the residents for their errors, it is pathetic.

    • Clint Worthington:
      “Good for Pam Patterson for standing her ground…”
      I agree.
      She should not apologize unless others who were accused of prove their innocence.

      Disclose the financial record, take the audit, prove the innocence, if you believe you haven’t done anything wrong.

  • So say the Lord about bearing false witness. Shame on you Pam

    Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV

    There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

    Proverbs 19:5 ESV

    A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.

    Exodus 23:1 ESV

    “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.

    John 8:44 ESV

    You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

    Mark 10:19 ESV

    You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”

    Revelation 21:8 ESV

    But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

    Exodus 20:16 ESV

    “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

    Matthew 23:27 ESV

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.

    Matthew 5:33-37 ESV

    “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

    Exodus 20:1-26 ESV

    And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, …

    Exodus 23:1-3 ESV

    “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.

    Ezekiel 13:6-9 ESV

    They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?” Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord God. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord God.

    Jeremiah 23:32 ESV

    Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord.

    Isaiah 30:8-11 ESV

    And now, go, write it before them on a tablet and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come as a witness forever. For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”

    Isaiah 28:15 ESV

    Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter”;

    Leviticus 19:12 ESV

    You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

    1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV

    But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.

  • How one has to apologize for anything that hasn’t been proved either way?
    Why don’t they investigate and make it clear?
    I have suggested having audit of each and every council members(including Patterson) but all of them declined.
    There’s no democracy and transparency in this city.
    It’s not accuser’s obligation to prove the wrong doing of the council members but it’s the obligation of the each members to prove their innocence..
    Claiming their innocence does not convince anybody while keeping their record undisclosed.

  • Thank you Mayor Farias, for demanding mutual respect and decorum in the council..

    Pam Patterson said “Stole”, and even though the heat of the moment has passed, and she has been given multiple opportunities to apologize, she, refuses to even acknowledge that it was and offensive and inaccurate comment..

    Is it asking too much to have adult council members?


  • Pam stood up and told residents the truth about taxpayer money being manipulated from place to place to fill a gap. Residents need to know what our city employees are doing with our tax dollars. Suppose it was money allocated for the retirement fund but, since it is just sitting there why not use it when we need it? It was not an offensive comment that Pam Patterson made, it was the truth. The residents need to hear what our city spending employees are doing with our money. . No one likes to hear this, but it happened, so we need to know. Thank you Pam.

  • Steve Behmerwohld Reply

    Learn to read people. Staff didn’t “steal” or do anything else with the $600K. Council voted (4-1) to reallocate it. “The proposal, which city staff brought to the City Council on June 20, 2017, was approved in a 4-1 vote with Patterson opposed. At the July 18 meeting, Patterson claimed that the $600,000 was stolen by city staff.

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