LETTER TO VICKI VIVIAN
What follows is an email that I sent to Benson city manager Vicki Vivian on January 23rd. I honestly expected no answer and so far that is exactly what I have received. I hope that people reading this letter will understand my view that the Benson city government isnít a well run operation. Most members of the public are on the short end of the proverbial stick.
Paul Lotsof, Manager of CAVE 97.7 FM
January 23, 2020
Along the lines of the emails that we exchanged last week, if I were to name my most serious criticisms of the Benson city government they would be waste and inefficiency, favoritism and a general lack of public information. An uninformed public is an essential ingredient in keeping the waste and favoritism continuing on a perpetual basis. Here I would emphasize that these problems started long before you became the city manager but you have done nothing to improve this situation. As a journalist who has viewed these goings on since 1985 I naturally suspect the worst when a Benson official makes a vaguely worded statement implying a financial crisis.
I have some questions whose answers would tend to shed some light on some public issues that many people are concerned about. Realistically I donít expect answers so I suppose these might be considered rhetorical questions. On the other hand you might surprise me.
The elimination of the call to the public implies that Bensonís public officials donít want to hear from their constituents. Who ordered the call to the public cancelled? Was any reason given? Why no public notice? Is there any indication as to whether it will be reinstated?
The abrupt cancellation of the call to the public last July 22nd resulted in a complaint to the Arizona Attorney Generalís office. A deputy attorney general determined that the Arizona open meetings law had been violated. Why no public announcement? Why was this matter discussed in several executive sessions rather than in an open meeting? How much has the city paid Mesch Clark (cityís law firm) as a result of this matter?
During a meeting last month you mentioned hiring a new manager for the golf course and restaurant. Who is this person and what are his or her credentials? Why no public notice?
Is (finance manager) Seth Judd a CPA? If he is a well qualified financial expert why is it necessary to pay tens of thousands of dollars to Pat Walker? What is her hourly rate?
Why is the list of bills paid in a part of the cityís web site that is nearly impossible for the average citizen to find? Why does it include abbreviations that few people understand? Why arenít salaries and benefits to city employees included in the expenditures?
How much money did the city pay to members of the Moncada Family in the last fiscal year? Include Paul, his wife and his son P.J. if P.J. still works for the city. Also any contract work that Chris has done such as painting the restaurant building.
There also seems to be a need to toss cash at the Battaglia Family. Nothing new here. Does the city come out dollars ahead by employing Ann (Roberts) as the prosecutor? Why is she now an employee rather than a contract worker? Why no announcement of her upgrade? Would the city save money by having the county supply prosecutors as the other communities do? Why does the county get all the courtís revenues?
Why is the fire department a corporation? For years each retired fireman was paid $200 a month? Why? Why has that number been reduced to $100 a month? Why no public announcement?
Why is the fire department in the e.m.t. business? Doesnít Healthcare Innovations have the certificate of necessity for providing ambulance service?
During the community forum last month you mentioned a deceased real estate developer who had plans for Benson. Why didnít you identify him by name? Was it Tom Hartley? Who is presently in charge of the development? Why have all council discussions about this matter been conducted in executive sessions? Why is the public being kept in the dark?
After the lantern festival was rained out, the advertising to promote the new November date was switched from CAVE-FM to KHIL in Willcox. Nielsen rates KHIL about 21st in Cochise County with an audience so small that it is nearly impossible to measure. What was the reason for the switch?
The city likely spends more money on advertising than any private business in Benson spends. Why is there no bidding process for those advertising dollars?
At the Fourth of July and lantern festivals Mike McCuneís company was paid $1,500 and $1,300 respectively to play recorded music. Why is no other mobile music supplier allowed to bid? (Joaquin Haro is also in that business.)
Have you suggested that the Chamber of Commerce boycott CAVE-FM?
Why do we need two work sessions on building codes? The first session appeared to be little more than an explanation as to why building codes are needed. Nobody questions that. Last month David DiPeso got up and commented that the codes are preventing property owners from making improvements. But DiPeso was not permitted to elaborate. Shouldnít his complaints be heard? What about the complaints voiced by Councilmen Dempster and Diaz?
Why are work sessions conducted at 6 p.m. which is an imposition for working people and business owners? They almost always are poorly attended.
Has any attempt been made to privatize the golf course by contracting with a company to operate the facility, possibly with a subsidy from the city? The saving could be enormous.
At last weekís council meeting there was some discussion about lowering Bensonís sky high sales tax rate. Could this be accomplished by reducing waste and inefficiency?
Does the city levy a tax on any service besides advertising? If not why was advertising singled out as the only service that the city taxes?
Final comment: The Benson City Government is a classic example of redistribution of wealth. But instead of taking from the rich and giving to the poor, the city government heavily taxes an impoverished little town and gives the proceeds to people with well above average wealth.