VP council impelled to sweat the small stuff

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.

Real stuff

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.