Parlier City Council delays grant vote

The authorization of a grant gets tabled for next council meeting as Mayor wants assurances city will be reimbursed for past expenditures

Parlier Community Center plaque on the City Hall building on East Parlier Avenue. (Rigo Moran)
Parlier Community Center plaque on the City Hall building on East Parlier Avenue. (Rigo Moran)
Darren Fraser
Published September 26, 2023  • 
10:30 am

PARLIER – After heated and meandering debate at its Sept. 21 meeting, the Parlier City Council decided to hold off on authorizing a grant that the city plans to use to pay for a cannabis officer. The vote to authorize it will be held at the next council meeting.

The funding in question is for operating agreements with partners from the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) Proposition 64 Public Health and Safety grant. Parlier was awarded the $3 million grant in July. 

The grant runs through June 30, 2028 and funds various public health and safety programs associated with the implementation of the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). According to a report to the council prepared by the administration department, the grant funds would be used to pay for a cannabis officer, who would conduct classroom presentations on the dangers of drugs to students ages 5 to 18. 

The report also notes the grant would fund community events as well as provide funding for investigations relating to violent crime spawned by the “drug war in our community.”

Despite receiving the grant this year, City Manager Sonia Hall said the city has yet to use any of the funds.

Hall presented the agenda item to the council. She said services – including a website upgrade – the city received would be nearly covered by the grant. She also noted that money from the city’s opioid settlement fund would cover remaining expenses.

“We will have a nice website paid for by this grant,” Hall said.

However, Mayor Alma Beltran expressed reservations with the item.

STILL WAITING FOR REIMBURSEMENT

Parlier does not have a finance manager. The city does currently have an interim financial manager, but because of a family emergency, she could not attend the meeting on Sept. 21.

“This is why I wanted the interim manager here,” said Beltran. “I wanted to ask her ‘what is the status of the last grant?’ Because I know there is about $300,000 (for which) we have not been reimbursed. The city tends to upfront the costs but not get reimbursed.”

Beltran mentioned the prior grant situation that resulted in a deficit; however, no other details on the previous grant were provided during the meeting’s discussion.

“I don’t know if we should move on with this grant for $3 million if we are going to go back to that (deficit) in our general fund, because we are upfronting the cost every time,” said Beltran.

Beltran added, “Why don’t we wait to see the end result of this last grant? Every deficit I am aware of has all been due to not being reimbursed.”

DELINQUENT

Mayor Pro Tem Sabrina Rodriguez had concerns that because the city has yet to provide what she referred to as backup – which is documentation showing the city used grant money as intended – for its last grant, the city may slip into financial arrears on this latest grant.

“The concern is us (Parlier) not providing the proper backup to get reimbursed,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what happened before with other grants.”

Hall said the city has the proper documentation, but has not submitted it to the state.

ROBERT’S RULES OF DISORDER

Robert’s Rules of Order are the procedures most organizations, including city councils, abide by to maintain order and run meetings. However, anyone who has attended a Parlier City Council meeting knows that Robert’s Rules are marginally enforced, at best, at the city’s routine council convenings.

According to the rules, when a speaker has the floor or microphone, that individual should be allowed to speak without being interrupted. However, this does not appear to be the case at Parlier’s council meetings, as council members and members from the public alike are not able to speak without being interrupted by comments from Mayor Beltran.

An instance of this was displayed during an earlier discussion at the meeting, when a Parlier citizen asked the council why the council agendas were not translated into languages other than English or Spanish. City Attorney Neil Constanza said translations were only required when 10% or more of the population speaks a language.

Beltran suggested that on the city’s website, the agendas should be translated into multiple languages, even if these nationalities are not sufficiently represented, if only to make it convenient for anyone to read. However, Constanza pointed out the difficulty of translating what is said at the meeting with Robert’s Rules are not followed.

“You understand it would make it difficult for them (translators) to do their job when you (the council) constantly talk over one another,” Constanza said.

During the meeting, Councilmember Kathy Solorio repeatedly said, “Point of order,” into her microphone when she believed Beltran was not allowing Solorio or other council members to speak or to complete what they were saying. 

But each time Solorio made this announcement, Beltran rolled her eyes or said, under her breath, “Kathy, please.”

AUDIT

After the council attempted to discuss the situation, Councilmember Juanita Molina turned to Hall and asked the status of the city’s last audit.

“Why are we having so much trouble with the audit?” Molina asked. “When was that audit supposed to be finished? By when?”

“A year ago,” Hall responded.

“A year ago, a year ago,” said Molina. “We still haven’t got it. How many times have we asked? We want the audit to be done. How can we move forward when we don’t even know how the audit looks? Why has it taken so long to finish the audit? Tell me, Sonia. Tell me.”

Hall said the delays to the audit were the result of numerous general entries and by the fact the city had various grants that required extensive documentation. According to her, the audit should be available for review soon. The vote on the grant was tabled until the next city council meeting.

Darren Fraser
Reporter