Hemet sends selection of vacant District 4 council seat to voters

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The Hemet City Council, in response to the unexpected resignation of councilmember Bonnie Wright, moved to place the election of a new District 4 councilmember on the upcoming Nov. 3 general election ballot. The deadline for candidates to file for the vacant position was Wednesday, Aug. 12.

A total of three candidates filed in time, according to the Hemet city clerk’s office. Also, on the ballot are candidates for four-year terms in District 3, currently held by Michael Perciful, and in District 1, currently held by Karlee Meyer. Mayor Russ Brown and Mayor Pro Tem Linda Krupa remain in the District 5 and District 2 seats for two more years.

The decision to place Wright’s seat on the Nov. 3 general election was made at Aug. 11 city council meeting. The council had three choices: appoint a temporary council person for the vacant seat in the next 60 days; call a special election which would not take place until March 2021 or leave the District 4 seat open and place it on the Nov. 3 ballot with the other two seats.

The candidates for the District 4 seat are Miquel Madrid, who filed July 29 and qualified July 30; Joe Males who filed Aug. 10 and qualified at deadline Aug. 12, and Shinde “V” Vishwazit who filed Aug. 4 and qualified with enough signatures Aug. 7. Each candidate is a registered voter who lives in the District seat they are seeking.

Staff said that leaving the decision to the voters would have no fiscal impact on the city. The council voted 4-0 to leave the seat on the general election ballot.

Earlier in a special workshop session, the council heard a lengthy presentation of the 2018-2019 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report or CAFR. The report, which is required each year by auditors to determine the city’s financial health, was completed by the PUN Group certified public accountants. A representative of the firm attended the teleconference to explain their findings. The council was set to review the report at an earlier workshop, but it was continued when some discrepancies were found. Those were corrected in the Tuesday workshop, according to the city’s finance department.

The corrected report shows that the general fund balance, the most notable measure of the city’s financial health, has a fund balance of $22.2 million. The balance consisted of $21,026,535 in unspendable, restricted or committed resources. These resources included $7,606 in prepaid postage and other inventory; $1,124,865 in public, education and governmental fees; the $11,680,431 Measure U fund balance of $8,213,633; 20% Emergency Reserves; $133,905 in assigned funds for continuing appropriations and $1,085,970 in the unassigned fund balance.

According to the report, “It is important to note that the general fund did end the year with a surplus in revenues, something that has not happened in many years; however, based on the financial model presented to council in January 2020 and the current effects of the pandemic on the economy, prudence must be exercised when considering use of any unassigned funds.”

It showed that while there is a positive balance for the 2018-2019 CAFR, it does not include the figures for the 2019-2020 CAFR to be reported at the end of this fiscal year. The city’s costs in the coming fiscal year, specifically in pensions and other post-employment benefits will “remain a challenge for the city and the effects of the global pandemic will only add to the challenges ahead.”

The discrepancies and corrections on different pages in the report were explained in the city council’s Aug. 11 workshop agenda found on the city’s new agenda “Portal” at https://hemetca.civicweb.net/.

Hemet finance director Lorena Rocha said in the CAFR, “The finance department has had significant turnover in the last couple of years with several tenured employees retiring. The challenges in recruiting quality candidates and the learning curve that comes with new staffing coupled with stay-at-home orders at the onset of the pandemic made it even more challenging to complete the CAFR. However, the finance department now has a strong team on board and is committed to issuing the fiscal year 2019-2020 CAFR in a timely manner.

“The finance department is working on checks and balances to ensure these errors do not occur in the future,” Rocha said.

She also assured the council that any financial reports, before being forwarded to the council, will be read for accuracy by at least two people in the department.

The regular meeting agenda included asking the council’s approval of the CAFR report. The council approved the report with the exception of Meyer who voted “no.”

After a continuation of a discussion on a resolution to approve an agreement with Riverside County in the annual permanent local housing allocation authorizing the county to act as the lead applicant, administrator and fiscal agent for the allocation’s grant funds, the council gave its approval in a 4-0 vote. The allocation provides cities approximately $250,000 each year to help residents buy affordable housing. The grant money is requested on behalf of the cities by the county and distributed to them, when approved by the federal Housing and Urban Development, with only a small administrative fee.

In its final discussion the city council combined and set tentative dates for placing certain issues – 14 in all – or questions raised by the public or the city leaders on the council’s regular agendas hoping to speed up any action to be taken on those issues.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.