By Andie King
A frustrated Villa Park resident put the Nov. 17 council meeting in perspective, imploring elected officials and public speakers alike to “stop this silly baby stuff” and “get back to the real stuff” that is important to the city. Karen Goldberg, a teacher with children in VP schools, told the council it was “sworn in to represent the community, not just a few on certain streets, or the old or the young.” Priorities, she said, are now skewed.
Public comments, which open each council meeting, are an opportunity for residents to address topics not on the council agenda.
Though “Health Payment Reimbursement Policy” was clearly agendized as number 17, residents used the open forum to lob barbs at Mayor Diana Fascenelli for late payment reimbursements to the city for family health insurance, and at city staff for “loose management of city finances.” The comments veered to the personal – even dredging up Fascenelli’s stance about the now-dead Featherhill/Dodson parking issue – and called for the mayor’s resignation from the city finance committee.
The brouhaha began at the Oct. 27 city council meeting when Councilman Robert Collacott disclosed that Fascenelli had been delinquent in reimbursing the city for family health coverage. It was noted that Fascenelli had reimbursed the city in full, and that other former city councilmembers, many retired and often traveling, had also been repeatedly tardy in their payments, some for up to six months. But the attacks were aimed at Fascenelli, despite City Manager Jarad Hildenbrand’s assurance that her late payments “did not present a fiscal problem to the city.” Fascenelli was the only one required to pay hefty late fees.
An Oct. 19 letter from city auditor Gruber and Associates noted that two members were a few months late in reimbursing the city for their medical insurance payments. The auditor wrote that “In order to avoid incurring penalties for late payments, we recommend that the medical payment reimbursements be paid timely by members.” By the date of that letter, however, all medical payment reimbursements had been paid and were up to date. Public record requests turned up a letter on city letterhead that was sent to Fascenelli on May 1. The letter, containing an invoice for reimbursement and late fees, was sent under the name of Finance Director Michelle Danaher. But she neither authorized nor signed the letter, and it was deemed fraudulent.
Deborah Pauly, a former councilwoman, decried the need for “ethical and moral” leadership, and accused Fascenelli, Councilmen Rick Barnett and Greg Mills of voting together as a “cabal.” Rick Barnett “very reluctantly” responded to Pauly’s “cheap political shot” that he was a part of a clique on the council. “Don’t you ever lecture me on ethics or legality,” he said, referring to a reported DUI, wherein she "risked public safety."
Pauly slammed Fascenelli for the late insurance payments. She also revealed that executive assistant Bethny Avila is on paid administrative leave, leading listeners to wonder how she knew about that confidential city personnel matter, and how it relates to “ethical and moral leadership” or Fascenelli’s insurance payments. Avila’s absence was not publicly announced.
Pete Moriarty resigned from CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams), after, he said, serving 44 months of his nine-month tenure. The volunteer position is open to city residents; Moriarty urged former volunteer firefighters and Boy Scouts to apply. Approximately 60 have taken the eight-hour awareness training, and will work in their neighborhoods should a disaster occur. The council thanked Moriarty for his service, and told interested applicants to call the city manager.
It was announced that Woody Rickerl has resigned from the Serrano Water Board, effective Dec. 31. An appointee may be designated.