The Brentwood City Council has finally made its decision to appoint three to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board of Directors while Vice Mayor Joel Bryant will remain on the Council for an additional twelve months with an option to continue. Bryant will serve as the council liaison and apparently ensure Brentwood has some “institutional knowledge” on the Board.
For months, it was unknown whether they would appoint one, two, three or even four citizens to the Board—when the process began, Steve Barr was adamant about remaining on the Board. Barr apparently had a change of heart as he flip-flopped stating it was time to move towards a citizen Board of Directors.
“I had less concern than I did four months ago when we started the process. I am in favor of me no longer staying on the Board,” said Barr. “The Board being independent makes more sense. I have no intention of returning to fire board and would replace me with a citizen.”
The committee was made up of Council members Erick Stonebarger and Robert Brockman who recommended at a minimum, the following three applicants be appointed to the Fire District Board as the Brentwood representatives:
- Stephen Smith (term to expire 12/31/2015)
- Greg Cooper (term to expire 12/31/2015)
- Joe Young (term to expire 12/31/2014)
- If no current Council Members wish to continue serving on the Fire Board, the Sub-committee recommends appointing Anthony Bargiacchi (term to expire 12/31/2014) to serve as the fourth member of the Fire Board.
When it appeared like Brentwood would move towards appointing four citizens, Joel Bryant stated he wanted to remain on the Board for the “institutional knowledge”. The rest of the council appeared fine with it from the start with the only real debate being how long he would serve before a transition would occur. It was suggested four-to-six months, but Bryant wanted twelve with an option to continue and the council approved that by a 5-0 vote.
While I can respect what the Brentwood City Council did with the appointments, it doesn’t mean I have to like their decision. I believe a huge mistake was made in not selecting a former Captain of ECCFPD who had to retire due to injury.
Minus Joel Bryant, this talk from the subcommittee about institutional knowledge is silly. Who better to have that knowledge than a former Captain of the District?
As a former captain, he knows the issues, problem areas, and things that could be done better than most people in East County–including the current Board and those appointed. So this talk by the subcommittee about how they tried to give a selection that they thought had the bet ability to understand issues and tackle issues quickly is bogus because the one guy from the District was begging to get on and was rejected before the process even began—remember, Robert Brockman made anti-union and firefighter comments back in July which I will get to in a minute.
While Erick Stonebarger may have played it cool during the meeting stating that they had 11-strong applicants, his timeline was either misstated, incorrect, or he fibbed. He stated one applicant (Whitener) came up with some legal hurdles (due to formerly working within the District) and that they would look into it with legal.
Whitener had his interview on November 26th and received a letter on November 28th stating he was not chosen. Meanwhile, Stonebarger told the public during the meeting he received a memo from legal on Monday (December 10) of what the District would be up against if they went forward or against the selection of Whitener.
So which is it Mr. Stonebarger?
Did the committee wait for legal or did you already rank the 11-applicants because the timeline doesn’t add up? The rankings were provided in the agenda that went out last week which is before you apparently got the memo from legal. I would love to see a copy of this “memo” just to see the determination legal made and the wording used. The full rankings would also be very telling.
The truth is, Whitener was never going to be seriously considered or selected due to July comments by councilman Brockman.
Here is what Ben Whitener had to say this morning on the matter:
I had a gut feeling that I had a very low chance of getting a spot on the fire board, but I still had to give it my best shot. I think they had their minds made up about me before I even showed up for the interview. The interview only lasted roughly ten minutes, and I ended up getting the “thanks, but no thanks” letter two days later. It would be interesting to find out exactly how I ranked among the other eleven applicants, but I doubt we will find out anytime soon. I just hope and pray that the new directors will be pragmatic, conservative, and ready to tackle the huge amount of work ahead. That being said, I may be more effective by not being on the board. I won’t have the constraints a board member has, and I can ruffle all the feathers in the world if the situation warrants–Ben Whitener
For the record, here is a picture of Whitener receiving a $30,000 grant from a few years ago.
Meanwhile, Brockman apparently didn’t like that I’ve brought his July comments during this application process and calling it rigged. He apparently felt the need to make a statement during the discussion referencing this site claiming I’ve made false accusations. Here is what he said.
“There is somebody out there writing blogs making a lot of accusations about us not really being concerned about the fire district and throwing things out there that are actually really false and its really disappointing to see somebody or to read things that people write on the internet criticizing people. If they have issues, I would truly love them, specifically me since I was the brunt of the issue to come speak to me in person and let’s talk about it and I’ll give you the true facts and then I think you would truly understand why the decisions we make are the decisions we do make,” said Brockman.
My response is simple, I’ve restated his own comments and called him out on it for discrimination before the process could even be played out. He made the poor comment mid-summer and has never clarified them in public or offered a further explanation on them. The easiest thing he could have done was redact them and go into the process with an open mind. He was aware of my concerns and could have clarified them at any time. He knew what he meant and he meant it which the results confirm my suspicions all along that a solid candidate was black listed prior to the process even starting.
For the record, a reliable source had informed me a month ago that there was a promise given to a applicant who lived in the Summerset area to ensure they received representation on the Board. This of course did occur with the appointment of Stephen Smith while my source was spot on.
Furthermore, if I am making accusations about Brentwood that are untrue, then lets go a step further in their own agenda where they state the following:
Finally, the Sub-committee recommends that Council direct staff to only provide those support services to the Fire District Board that are in contractual arrangements with the Board. Since the Board was reconstituted in 2010, City staff has been providing various support services to the District (financial analysis, etc.) without reimbursement for their efforts. At this time there is a contractual arrangement for certain Information Systems services to be provided to the District, and the Sub-committee feels it prudent to discontinue providing any additional services to the District beyond those provided for by contract.
The truth is, the subcommittee is being petty and its somewhat coincidence that the moment that three of four on the council are coming off the Board, they want to discontinue services. Look I get it, Brentwood wants to protect itself and that is fine, but this is just par for the course.
On a side note, I will say that Brentwoods City Clerk is wonderful. Margret Wimberly provided me very quickly with with the list of applicants followed by the the actually applications of those appointed along with Whitener. Take a look at it and decide if the subcommittee made a good choice or not. Here is the list.
- Jana Aubert
- Anthony Bargiacchi
- Bruce Bradley
- Harold Bray
- Greg Cooper
- Gabriele Dawson
- Patricia Howe
- Stephen Smith
- Rolando Villareal
- Ben Whitener
- Joe Young
Here is the applications in PDF Form. records responsive to request 12-12-12
In the end, maybe Whitener was not the best overall choice, but he sure as heck was a top 3 choice. Brentwood tipped it’s hand early in the process and that is exactly how the process played out. It’s a shame they continue to think more about their City than they do the District.
With this process now behind us, it’s time to move forward with the Board we do have to work with to ensure the next revenue enhancement passes a public vote.