Sunday, August 28, 2016

[Solano County] Council approves response to sister city report

Two months after a civil grand jury denounced the travel of Mayor Osby Davis and Vice Mayor Rozzana Verder-Aliga to Vallejo’s sister cities in the Philippines and Japan, the Vallejo City Council officially responded.
In a 5-2 vote Tuesday night, the council approved the city’s response to the June 2015 Solano County Grand Jury Report, Vallejo — Sister City to the World.
The city disagreed with many of the grand jury’s findings and recommendations regarding the ability of the mayor and vice mayor to approve their own travel and the purpose of the travel.
The grand jury recommended that if the purpose of the travel is economic in nature, the city’s community & economic development director should attend the travel and file a report with the city council.
The city disagreed.
“This recommendation will not be implemented because it is not reasonable to require the economic (development) director’s presence on a trip when she may have more pressing projects,” the city wrote. “The city requires a case by case evaluation of the desirability of the director’s presence at any particular event.”
The city also stated disagreement with the grand jury recommendation that the mayor and/or any Vallejo council member selected to participate in a sister city event which requires travel outside the state or country should recused themselves from voting to approve such a motion.
“This recommendation will not be implemented because it is not an impermissible conflict of interest for a member of council to pre-approve travel expenses consistent with the city’s travel policy,” according to the city’s response. “The vote undertaken by the council was to pre-approve travel expenses consistent with the city’s travel policy.”
The city also disagreed with a finding that highlighted the mayor’s activities during the trip, which included a stay at a sponsored member only country club in Philippines.
“It is reasonable that individuals travelling on city business will take part in some recreational activities,” the city contends. “In addition, tours are a regular part of Sister City and general economic development trips. Staying with host families reduced the city’s expenditures and is not prohibited by city travel policies.”
The city also stated that the Vallejo City Attorney provided the council with written legal documentation which supports a non-conflict of interest opinion regarding the mayor and vice-mayor approving their own travel.
In a 4-3 vote during July 2015, Councilmembers Robert McConnell, Katy Miessner and Bob Sampayan opposed the travel and $3,100 in travel expenditures. Davis requested and received $2,098.76 for travel expenses, according to a reimbursement request submitted to the city’s finance department last year. Verder-Aliga never submitted any reimbursement funds.
During Tuesday’s vote, McConnell and Sampayan opposed the city’s response to the report.
Reached by phone recently, McConnell said he voted “no” because the city should not be funding sister city travel.
“The city is pressed financially,” he said. “It’s not a wise move.”
McConnell added that the council has yet to receive a report on the economic benefits of the travel.
Sampayan could not be reached for comment before press time.
August 27, 2016
Vallejo Times-Herald
By John Glidden

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