News

'Budget manager' who missed huge gap is gone

City seeking new budget official, creating 'Office of Management and Budget' to tighten budget controls and monitoring

Palo Alto is completely revamping its budgeting process and looking for a new budget manager after a staff error caused the city to outspend revenues by $4.8 million last year -- without knowing it until months later.

At the same time, city officials are grappling with both the recently discovered $4.8 million budget hole and a looming $5.4 million deficit in fiscal year 2010, which ends June 30.

On Tuesday night, members of the City Council's Finance Committee grilled staff on the error and debated how to deal with the spiraling budget picture.

Lalo Perez, director of the city's Administrative Services Department, apologized repeatedly and said he takes "full responsibility" for the oversight, which staff began to discover in early fall, months after the June 30 end of the fiscal year.

The $4.8 million error reportedly resulted from a miscalculation by the former Budget Manager Sharon Bozman, who left the department in the wake of the discovery -- although she was not mentioned by name at the meeting.

The oversight was responsible for more than $2 million of the $4.8 million overage. The city was depending on "salary savings" from vacancies and related reductions in benefits, and those were falling significantly short of projections during the last half of the 2009 fiscal year.

Had that been known during the fiscal year, further spending cutbacks could have been made before the year ended to compensate for the shortfall in salary savings.

The balance of the gap came from several sources and depended on annual reports from the state, not available to the staff until after the fiscal year ended, according to a detailed staff report.

Perez said on the $2 million gap he was relying on monthly summaries from his budget manager and did not recognize the errors in the details until early fall.

"I take full responsibility for this error," Perez told the committee. "It is a major professional disappointment for myself and I certainly recognize the significance of this mistake, especially in this time.

"I think it has become clear, given the current economic conditions, that these levels of review were not adequate."

Perez said the department has subsequently switched to biweekly reports and is now closely monitoring all details. Each department head now also receives a weekly report on vacancies and budget impacts.

City Manager James Keene said that "in the wake of the 2009 problem" the budget manager who made the mistake is no longer with the city. The Administrative Services Department has also been restructured and now includes a new Office of Management and Budget to replace the budget manager position.

Department Assistant Director David Ramberg is now serving as acting budget manager while the department is recruiting a permanent budget management officer.

How to fill the budget hole is still an issue.

Staff is recommending closing the $4.8 million gap by deferring a transfer to the city's Technology Fund -- money the city planned to use to upgrade radio-communications infrastructure and install radio frequency identification (RFID) chips at local libraries to automate check out of items.

Perez said deferring the transfer would force the city to delay replacing some items and restrict the city's options for any new technological initiatives.

Staff proposed to repay the money to the Technology Fund over a short four years, adding extra strain on future budgets that are already projected to have large deficits.

"It's a fund that cannot absorb, waive or forego these transfers," Perez said of the importance of the quick payback. "We need to put the money back or it will jeopardize the technology infrastructure that supports the rest of the organization."

The Finance Committee voted unanimously to accept the staff recommendation, but directed staff to transfer enough to the fund to assure that the city can make necessary technology upgrades this fiscal year.

Committee members asked for a report back by mid-December on how much is really needed this year.

Several council members expressed disappointment and confusion about the huge discrepancy in the 2009 budget.

Councilman Larry Klein said he wished he had been informed sooner about the discrepancy. Vice Mayor Jack Morton warned that the dismal financial picture would ultimately cut into the city's core services.

Staff had alluded to projected budget shortfalls in early October, but waited until the budget reports were audited before presenting the numbers to the council.

"If this had come out in October, it may have had an effect on Measure A (the city's proposed business-license tax) or the council elections," Klein said. "I think we'd all like to have known what the facts were."

Budget officials also warned of greater financial challenges ahead. Palo Alto's sales-tax revenues and hotel-tax revenues have been plummeting, dropping by $9.3 million from fiscal year 2008, according to a recent staff report.

City officials had previously identified a series of "Tier 2" programs or services that could be cut if the city's financial situation deteriorates. These include the city's shuttle service, the Fire Department's disaster-preparedness program and the Police Department's four-officer traffic team and crime-analyst position.

These cuts, however, had not yet been implemented and city officials indicated Tuesday night that they would like to hold more conversations with the community before eliminating any programs.

Perez said staff is recommending closing the 2010 budget gap through one-time adjustments, rather than structural changes. These include transfers from the Budget Stabilization Reserve, salary savings and a $2.7 million withdrawal from the stalled Public Safety Building capital project.

"We did not anticipate a growing deficit of $5.4 million," Perez said. "Given the deficit, it would be unfair to focus on some sectors of city services and not the whole picture."

The $5.4 million is in addition to $10 million already cut during the budget process last spring for this fiscal year.

Comments

Posted by R, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2009 at 6:31 am

My 6 year old can independently self-check-out books with the current barcode system. What benefit does RFID practically bring?


Posted by qq, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2009 at 7:37 am

"creating 'Office of Management and Budget' to tighten budget controls and monitoring"

The answer to bureaucracy is always more bureaucracy. Sad.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Competence Please, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2009 at 8:04 am

Yet another episode of "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight". New city manager, same result.


Posted by Lois, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2009 at 8:22 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Deputy Dawg, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2009 at 9:53 am

Is there not a possible correlation between the mysterious delay in the annoucement of the '$4.8M hole in last year's budget' and the vote (to hopefully pass)last month for the Measure A business license tax?


Posted by CHinCider, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2009 at 10:23 am

To "Deputy Dawg" -

You might want to check out the background and facts behind the relative timing of the two events before you make such ridiculous and unfounded speculative accusations. The Business License Tax Measure had been discuused for YEARS before it was placed on the ballot by Council action in July of 2009 - well before the year end financial statements were available to identify the budget problem.

For you infer that the BLT measure was a response to this new problem is totally inconsistent with the facts and reality of the situation. Paranoia and conspiracy theories are not helpful in resolving real and complex problems. Unless your intent is just to attempt to discredit everything and everyone by whatever means possible, you might want to try a more logical and productive approach in analyzing issues.


Posted by Koa, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2009 at 10:30 am

Ultimately, the captain has the final responsibility for the safety of his ship, regardless of whose fault it was.


Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 2, 2009 at 10:43 am

So, is the city going to get rid of ALL of the people that make significant mistakes? There are going to be a lot of new people working for the city if they do.


Posted by Al, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 2, 2009 at 11:13 am

The headline of this article is not substantiated with any information. Was this error the only one that this former employee made? Probably not. Unfortunately, "privacy rights" will keep the public from knowing if this person was simply incompetent (as well as how she get the job) .. or if she is being scapegoated by "the Management" in order to cover their own backsides.


Posted by Darwin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2009 at 11:26 am

R-

The checking out of books with RFID I think just scratches the surface of what RFID can do. While I was in grad school and using the university library, RFID allowed the staff to find missing items on the shelves and it also gave real time check in that I could do myself. It is an expensive project to be sure, but it supposedly makes things a lot more efficient with less staff time involved.


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 2, 2009 at 11:29 am

"or if she is being scapegoated by "the Management" in order to cover their own backsides"

If you read today's Daily Post you will see Councilman Klein saying that he was "misled" ( a common excuse by him)--looks like the council is looking for scapegoats.


Posted by Experienced, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 2, 2009 at 11:47 am

In my three years on a committee to review city finances for a particular department, the Accounting Department could never get the correct numbers for us to judge. This budget incident does not surprise me.


Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community, on Oct 26, 2009 at 2:33 pm

The City of Palo Alto is recruiting for a new Budget Manager: Web Link
----------------------------------------------------------------------
The connection between the Business License Tax election date and the announcement of the gap missed by the former Budget Manager is that staff believed that an announcement before the election would ensure defeat of the proposed tax by even a larger margin than occurred in the November vote without an announcement.

The information about the gap was in the supporting documentation sent by the Budget Manager to the Administrative Services Director, but the Budget Manager's summary report did not mention the gap, and the Administrative Services Director read only the summary report and did not read the supporting documentation.


Posted by Janette, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Yet another example of how "city hall / the city manger" doesn't know where the city money is and where it's going. Will this be another excuse the "city hall / the city manager" will use to contiune to make the lowest paid city workers pay for their miastakes?
Let's hope not! The last budget short fall caused the City services workers to see a cut in pay that will start in next weeks pay check. Happy Holiday?


Posted by Competence Please, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Deep Throat's post above makes it clear that the fundamental problem at Palo Alto City Hall is a basic lack of integrity. The culture there favors cronies of top management, makes excuses for incompetence of management, plays games with information, finds scapegoats to cover influential backsides. Bring in people who have high ethical standards and who can actually do the job. Start at the top and work downward.


Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Dec 2, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Time for a little vaudeville at the next CC Meeting.

Have a band play the music to Neil Sedaka's "Who Put the Bump in the.."

Now twist the lyrics to "Who put the gap in the budget...

Who is that man?
I'd like to shake his hand...(not?)


Posted by jack, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 2, 2009 at 2:01 pm

So,

1. "Lalo Perez, director of the city's Administrative Services Department, apologized repeatedly and said he takes "full responsibility" for the oversight...",

2. "Perez said on the $2 million gap he was relying on monthly summaries from his budget manager and did not recognize the errors", and

3. "I take full responsibility for this error," Perez told the committee. "It is a major professional disappointment for myself and I certainly recognize the significance of this mistake, especially in this time.

BUT, "[t]he $4.8 million error reportedly resulted from a miscalculation by the former Budget Manager Sharon Bozman, who left the department in the wake of the discovery."

My question: how's Mr. Perez taking "full responsibility" if the person making the error lost her job, leaving Mr. Perez to repeat the words "full responsibility"?





Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2009 at 2:13 pm

I don't see the fundamental problem as a lack of integrity, but rather a lack of competence and management.

The only reason the city council's finance committee is taking a hard look at the budget now is because of the deficit. For years the committee just rubber-stamped whatever budget the city manager handed over, and the full council added its rubber stamp.

Think of all the problems in the utility department, the CT scandal, the police investigation of the CT scandal.

How about staff's handling of the police audit, reported in the PA Daily 11/28? Audit reports are supposed to be done every 6 months, but the latest one covered nine months (through 12/08) and Council didn't get it until 11/09—AFTER it had gone to the police chief and the city manager.

Who's minding the store?

Instead of solving problems by setting up new bureaucratic "offices," how about some basic responsibility and accountability? How about managers who actually manage people and processes? Maybe Perez is the one who should go.

The city council has long been AWOL on its oversight responsibility.


Posted by Marvin, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 2, 2009 at 2:28 pm

The city council is too busy pursuing their own personal, pipe-dream agendas--climate change, farmer's markets in city hall, sustainability coordinators and never seem to have a problem spending our money in these pursuits.
Then when the ____ hits the fan, we get mock outrage, comments about being "misled", finger pointing at someone else and a lack of accountability. It really amazes me that voters returned Larry Klein to office


Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Marvin--

Not only was Klein returned to office but he was the number one vote getter. What does that say about the electorate?


Posted by Al, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 2, 2009 at 2:48 pm

> but the Budget Manager's summary report
> did not mention the gap

If this were actually true, how could anyone in a key manager's job not raise a red flag via email, or a visit to the Director's office once this became known .. (not to mention including it in BIG RED LETTERS in the summary)?

If multi-million dollar deficits occurred every day .. maybe this wouldn't have been a big deal .. but they don't and it was a big deal.

Perez has lost credibility as a Director .. but probably won't lose his job. However, with all of the SAP software at his disposal, it doesn't make sense how this sort of thing can happen.



Posted by Wonderment, a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Seems like it's time to uncover all the patronage bestowed or favoritism shown on the basis of family relationship in the hiring of personnel in certain departments within the City of Palo Alto. aka: "nepotism"

Could be likely that the discoveries would become perfect fodder for a mini-series writer/producer. Title: "Not so Lonely at the Top."

Finally, it's a large possibility that currently held (and past) resumes and applications have been embellished and falsified by many (friends of friends and relatives of relatives) of the CPA hirees.

Makes one wonder if the head of human resources should or should not pull some or several personnel files for audit and review in a certain city department.

It's not so far fetched to imagine that lots of hiring has been done under the umbrella of "who knows who, and how well the who(s) is/are connected.


Posted by Competence Please, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Wonderment,

But is was during the watch of the same "head of human resouces" that many of the incompetent staff were selected and/or promoted in the first place! Sooner or later, some heads need to roll at City Hall including the "head" of the Human Resouces Department Director.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Wow. A personnel action in Palo Alto City gov't after yet another screwup. I guess $5.4M is different than clear cutting California Avenue, the Palo Alto website, the Children's Theater incriminations,...


Posted by JQPublic, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Cut staff compensation/terminate sufficient numbers to amount to $4.8 million.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2009 at 5:16 pm

> "Ö..with all of the SAP software at his disposal, it doesn't make sense how this sort of thing can happen."

Does staff actually know how to use the SAP software? Seems like consultants are always hired when something needs to be done, e.g., for the $8.8M spent for online utilities billing -- which then required another $224K to make it work properly. Web Link

Whenever I ask for information that seems simple to get from a reasonable information system, I'm told that I will have to pay for the time it will take staff to get it. I always wonder (1) shouldn't council/staff already have this information at their fingertips and (2) why can't it be obtained through a simple online query?

Seems like an audit of the IT department would be a good idea, especially since it spends boatloads of money with not such great results.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 2, 2009 at 5:16 pm

The SAP Information Tech program ( a German company with big offices in the Stanford industrial Park) has been a huge problem for years. WHY does the city still have this program (Google it) when its big competitor, Oracle, is 'just down the road'. Staff has been screaming about SAP problems for years yet 'staff' always renews it. The entire Information Tech budget and personnel must be scrutinized line by line down to the bottom line. It's NO secret.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Wonderment,

The ironic thing in your posting is the fact that HR Director Carlsen is a personal friend of former CM Benest.

Benest hired him without due process. The job was never posted. Benest just gave it to him by fiat.


Posted by Buzz, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 2, 2009 at 6:01 pm

And in the midst of all this, the new police chief is sworn in at a very gala ceremony at Stanford (not even on his own turf!). And what did this reception cost? To whom was it billed? Are the council chambers not "grand" enough for the new Chief? The city keeps spending without regard to its circumstances. If we all did that, we'd be queueing up for beds at the local shelter.


Posted by opus, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2009 at 6:48 pm

how sad that a city manager and city council would place the blame on a staff member long gone. apparently the city manager doesn't read staff reports or isn't able to fully comprehend or analyze information given by managers hired by his staff. why would a council member admit to being "misled"? didn't he read the report and maybe think it was ok to ask educated questions regarding how budget numbers were aquired? it is truely sad that palo alto is being led by this unfortunate group.


Posted by Lady Gaga, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 2, 2009 at 7:02 pm

It's all George Bush's fault.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Kate,

If you really want to know why SAP is in the City, it goes back to the former Palo Alto head of IT, Rod Massey. He is now here:

Web Link

Hope that explains it, and hope someone in the press will follow up on this.



Posted by BPObserver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Am I mistaken, or isn't the Asst Director of Administrative Services the former Budget Director? Seems like he might have noticed the shortcomings in his subordinate's work.
The comical thing about the comment regarding SAP and Oracle is that they both win in Palo Alto. The Oracle database software is used as a platform for the SAP software - they both get paid (but not nearly as much as the consultants who customize the software.)
And who remembers "a staff member long gone", the former Palo Alto CIO who steered us down the road to SAP before doing the same thing in Clark County, Nevada ($50 million pricetag)then went to work as a top manager for SAP?
Who knows what to believe? Are those climate guys in England using SAP software too?
So much to observe.


Posted by John, a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 2, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Better get a second job, because we are all going to be paying more taxes to support the incompetent.


Posted by Ice, a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2009 at 9:10 pm

It is not SAP. It is the people who don't know how to use it! They could do better job with Quick Books! For a whole lot cheaper!


Posted by paloaltomarino, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2009 at 11:05 pm

The SAP software is relatively awful. It was supposed to do so much more than it does and it doesn't do some of the things promised. As a matter of fact, I'm about to spend almost $100K of your money to get yet another system to handle something SAP should've done when we first got it. And for the money we spent, we could've developed something in house, at least that's my opinion.

Mr. Perez has worked for the City for two decades, he's a man of integrity, but, even honorable men need to pay for their mistakes. If he's taking responsibility then he should, indeed, accept consequences.

Lastly, this City Manager needs to HEAR your voices, over and over again until he actually listens to someone. A fish rots from the head down.


Posted by Wonderment, a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2009 at 7:41 am

Question: Was the entire 4.8 mi-mi-million dollars (just say it, MILLION DOLLARS) mis-spent, mis-appropiated or accidently embezzelled?


Remember this line voiced by The Joker in the 1989 Batman movie (played by Jack Nicholson):
"Haven't you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?"

Seriously, while this situation is no laughing matter, the point is laughter may be needed by a few of the many involved. They will need tools to help cope with the reality of a very serious and embarassing situation in one of the nations richest communities.


Lastly and with jest, another line from The Joker:
"And now, folks, it's time for "Who do you trust!" Hubba, hubba, hubba! Money, money, money!"






Posted by Competence Please, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2009 at 7:57 am

Outside Observer,

So Benest did an end-around to hire his So Cal pal Russ Carlsen as HR Director. A maneuver like that seems to have been standard operating procedure for the Benest years.

All the Benest holdovers in top management will need to be booted out when City Hall is finally cleaned up by this or the next City Council. Keene may have to go too if the foul ups and scandals continue. It may be best after all to start with a clean slate, beginning with a City Manager.


Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2009 at 9:45 am

Many of these hiring and promotion decisions were made at the direction of anti-union consultants and law firms and they have negatively affected the operation of the City itself. All for spite.
The situation will worsten as long as the spiteful behavior continues.


Posted by Al, a resident of Community Center
on Dec 3, 2009 at 10:57 am

> Mr. Perez has worked for the City for two decades,
> he's a man of integrity

Integrity and competence are two different things. It is a tragedy (for the taxpayers) that so many of the City's employees have worked here for 20-30+ years. This culture is all that they know. They get comfortable with "yesterday" and become "dismissive" of tomorrow.

Wonder what it is going to take to get the City Auditor to audit the Finance department?

As for the SAP software .. having a full systems analysis in place should have been done before buying any "systems" software. Such an exercise requires the managers to document their "systems" as they are at the time, and to consider changes they would like to see in the next five years. Wonder if the City of Palo Alto has any such plans, on a by-department basis?

If the SAP software is so bad, then why haven't the Department heads gotten a "committee" together to document their concerns and make them available in a public way to the City Manager and the City Council (and the public)? How long can it take for each Department head to write up a 5-10 page overview of the problems that he/she is having with this software, stitch this together into a readable report, and then send it to the CM and CC?

The constant sniping about SAP might well point to real problems, but sniping is not how to document such problems, and start a process to get the problems properly identified and corrections underway.


Posted by Wow, a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2009 at 11:43 am

Many people wondered why the privious head of HR always seemed so stressed and distant. She really seemed uphappy. Does anyone know why she left?
Inquiring minds wish to know.


Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2009 at 11:50 am

The problem with SAP is that it was never properly installed. All salespeople lie, and software salespeople lie more than others because they can get away with it. Certain financial promises were made to Council about the cost of the system. Careers were put on the line for it. When the promised results didn't materialize then the order of the day--and today--is "make do." If properly installed and maintained the system is a "killer" although very, very expensive--perhaps too expensive for a municipality. (City of Richmond declared bankruptcy after installing SAP)


Posted by Timothy Gray, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 3, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Does anyone know if the budget shortfall would have been known, would that have changed any of the management bonuses?

Tim


Posted by Al, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2009 at 2:10 pm

> would that have changed any of the management bonuses?

While the budget shortfall, coupled with an expose in the Daily Post about the bonus program [complete with names and numbers], seemed to have driven the City Manager into a hole and he cancelled the bonuses for this year (anyway) ..

It seemed that the bonuses were a percentage of salary for people above a given level. So .. it's difficult to believe that even allowing this shortfall to happen without detecting it sooner .. would have affected bonuses for those involved.


Posted by Competence Please, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2009 at 3:31 pm

The City of Palo Alto organization's culture set by top management appears to be mired in sliipery ethics, croyism, toadying, and toleration of shoddy performance.


Posted by Competence Please, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2009 at 3:36 pm

The City of Palo Alto organization's culture set by top management appears to be mired in sliipery ethics, cronyism, toadying, and toleration of shoddy performance.


Posted by randum, a resident of Atherton
on Dec 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm

A 10% across the board salary cut would roughly save 11 million. If the source of income to the city takes a hit, so too should labor costs. Why aren't employees volunteering this? Why isn't the union volunteering this?

Reinvest an additional 5% cut to cost of labor to the technology improvement to directly benefit the employees productivity - with attention paid to what will make the employees more productive. (Not on expensive software.)


Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 3, 2009 at 5:51 pm

The SAP blamers are always around when it comes to overspending in the city. Probably Oracle employees.

Blaming SAP is only slightly amusing. Many global companies use SAP and do so quite successfully.

Why not blame Microsoft for wasting employee productivity with faulty operating systems? This was, admittedly, a human error.


Posted by Clean House, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 3, 2009 at 5:52 pm

I was all for hard-nosed bargaining with the union, but we should be taking the same tack with management. It really is time to cut salaries.

We should also be cleaning house. Let's get rid of incompetent people, whether lower down, management, or political. Heads should role over this mismanagement. We should fire anyone involved in this "staff error": This includes staffers and management, including the city manager. Then we need to dump the present board.

The district attorney should also be looking at criminal charges, given that these facts were withheld for political gain (pro-business tax campaign). We should have been told the moment anyone knew a miscalculation had been made, and whoever conspired to hide the facts should go to jail.


Posted by Brian Wilson, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2009 at 6:27 pm

The Director of Administratives Services has admitted to City Council that he is taking "full responsibility" for this $5 million fiasco. Why is he still on the job?


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2009 at 7:52 pm


"Blaming SAP is only slightly amusing. Many global companies use SAP and do so quite successfully. "

Points well taken, but Palo Alto is not a global company, nor do they have staff that can use a product of this scale for it's intended purpose. There was a poster some time back that recommended "quickbooks" Somewhere between the two is the real need for Palo Alto.

"Why not blame Microsoft for wasting employee productivity with faulty operating systems?" Well, that also applies to you and me, doesn't it?

Off subject, but why not have the FEDS go after Microsoft for selling defective consumer products. Would you buy a car from Microsoft? Why aren't the same consumer protections applied to the software industry that are applied to consumer products like cars?



Posted by Bill, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 3, 2009 at 7:55 pm

"The Director of Administratives Services has admitted to City Council that he is taking "full responsibility" for this $5 million fiasco. Why is he still on the job?" Because it's cheaper than paying his/her pension, Perhaps he/she should forfeit his/her pension and reimburse the $5.Million!!!!


Posted by Wow, a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2009 at 9:25 pm

A must read:
Web Link

Title: CITY OF PALO ALTO / Fiscal Years 2010 - 2011 PROPOSED OPERATING BUDGET.

It's lengthy at best. Yet for those who understand technical budget jargon per-chance some questions can be answered.

One thing that may stand out to the reader is the lovely rendering on the introduction page that list City of Palo Alto values following this: page ii

"The government of the City of Palo Alto exist to promote and sustain a superior quality of life in Palo Alto. In partnership with the community, our goal is to deliver cost-effective services in a personal, responsive and innovative manner."

"The City of Palo Alto's Values."

QUALITY - Superior delivery of service
COURTESY - Providing service with respect and concern
EFFICIENCY - Productive, effective use of resources
INTEGRITY - Straight-forward and honest relations
INNOVATION - Excellence in creative thought and implementation

"IT'S A MATTER OF PRIDE"

Most of, if not all of the non-management city workers live up to the City of Palo Alto values. Yet they are pushed and manuvered around like pawns on a chess board by the capricious players.
Unfairly the people who will pay the price of mistakes made by the upper crust players (known as managment) will ultimately be the non-management workers.


Incompetence + dubiousnes = Calamitous results

Nothing left to be said, other that this sorrowful, pitiful budget error situation is calamitous at best.






Posted by Competence Please, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 4, 2009 at 9:05 am

The list of scandals and foul-ups of the Benest years continue in the Keene administration.

The Utilities Department workers' "side jobs" scandal, the Children's Theatre accounting scandal and botched investigation scandal, the Enron settlement scandal, Asssitant City Manager Emily Harrison's inappropriate conduct toward subordinants scandal, the City of Palo Alto web site disaster, the City of Palo Alto SAP accounting system fiasco, the Benest era cronyism in hiring practices, Police Chief Lynn Johnson's racial profiling comments scandal, the California Avenue clearcut foul-up, the $4.8 million "missing" budget gap scandal, the emerging Utilities Department falsified tests scandal, and on into the future.

When will City Hall be cleaned up? When will City Council step up to the plate and fix the mess? When will City Council stop claiming that they were "milead" and do something about it?


Posted by Al, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 5, 2009 at 12:28 pm

> The list of scandals and foul-ups of the Benest years
> continue in the Keene administration.

And this is just a partial list. It could have been longer if the June Fleming period were considered.



Posted by Tired of it all, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 7, 2009 at 9:07 am

HR Director Russ Carlsen had no experience as an HR director prior to being hired for City Of Palo Alto HR Director position.
He is incompetent.

Why else would Palo Alto Hire a 200,000 assistant to James Keene when reorganization would fall under the HR director?

What do Russ Carlsen and Steve Emslie do?


Posted by Follow the money, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 7, 2009 at 10:55 am

As far as budget expertise, City Councilman Jack Morton often describes himself as having an accountant's mind. He's being very quiet.
Where was he when it was time to look at the budget?
Where is he now?


Posted by No council responsibility, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2009 at 11:08 am

In saturday's Daily Post Larry Klein was once again quoted as saying that the council did not know, while Keene claims the council was informed of problem's with the budget. Looks like the typical City council finger pointing to avoid any responsibility--strange that our usual voacl council is absent these days in addressing what they knew and when they knew it. As for Morton, he was probably working on his vitriolic pamphlet or thinking about another apology for Pat Briggs.


Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2009 at 1:55 pm

The earliest indication of the budget problem was the September 8, 2009 staff report to the Finance Committee (Web Link) that was prepared by Joseph Saccio and Sharon Bozman, but was signed on Page 5 of 5 only by Saccio. Instead of Bozman's signature, the report has Assistant Director and former Budget Manager David Ramberg's signature.

The staff report is questionable because it includes only revenues and says that the Finance Committee had requested only a revenue report.

The staff report says on Page 1 of 5, "Staff is not presenting a year end expense analysis at this time. Since accruals and incurred, but not reported, expenses in such areas as worker's compensation and general liability have not been fully booked and allocated to departments, staff believes an expense report is premature and could be potentially misleading."

Now we are told by staff that the were excess and unreported expenses in workers's compensation and general liability.

The absence of Bozman's signature on the staff report and the omission of any expense information makes me suspect that staff knew of the problem in early September.


Posted by Clean House, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 7, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Well, let's insist that this be treated with transparency. Klein and the council should release all documents and minutes of any meetings, and then we can see who is telling the truth and assess who deserves to be fired (or prosecuted).

Transparency. Accountability. Competence.


Posted by the Watcher, a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Deep Throat
[/Quote 1]The earliest indication of the budget problem was the September 8, 2009 staff report to the Finance Committee (Web Link) that was prepared by Joseph Saccio and Sharon Bozman, but was signed on Page 5 of 5 only by Saccio. Instead of Bozman's signature, the report has Assistant Director and former Budget Manager David Ramberg's signature.[/End Quote 1]
[/Quote 2] The absence of Bozman's signature on the staff report and the omission of any expense information makes me suspect that staff knew of the problem in early September.[/End Quote 2]

*********************************************************************
After viewing the signatures on page 5 of the staff report from September 8, 2009, and seeing someone else had signed for Sharon Bozman, that signature it's questionable at best

In the legal world when someone submits their signature for the absentee individual, shouldn't the signee add his/her initials?

Who was the person that signed for Ms. Bozman? Why wasn't that signature initialed by the signee? The signature does not match the writing style of J. Saccio at all. If the signature is in fact rendered by Mr. Saccio, the question is: Why would anyone change his/her writing style to sign for another individual?
(AND) Once again, why was the signature not initialed?







Posted by the Watcher, a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2009 at 5:42 pm

(Opps! please desregard please the Watcher's oversight and error on "David Ramberg's signature)


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