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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Small Cities Balk At Paying Equal Share Of ACAP Loan

ALBANY, EMERYVILLE SAY THEY HAVE NEVER RECEIVED BENEFITS FROM ACAP; PROGRAM SET TO DOWNSIZE
By Steven Tavares

A day after receiving a loan from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to pay employees of a struggling anti-poverty organization, city officials from some of the smaller, more affluent East Bay cities are balking at paying an equal share for the bailout.

Earlier this month, the Associated Community Action Program (ACAP), an organization backed by 12 county cities, excluding Oakland and Berkeley, terminated its executive director and her husband and learned it could not meet it Feb. 18 payroll for 28 employees. The dire financial situation led the board of supervisors to approve Tuesday a $75,000 loan to APAC to pay its workers.

During a special meeting of the APAC Governing Board, 12 elected mayors and councilmembers from the member cities challenged the reading of the organization’s joint powers agreement stating every jurisdiction pay an equal share. Delegates from Albany, Emeryville and Union City warned smaller cities who do not receive benefits from ACAP’s services to help fight poverty in the county, will balk at paying an equal portion of roughly $6,000 to pay the county's loan.

“The cities are different,” said Albany Councilman Robert Lieber. “Fremont is not the same as Albany. Over time, I don’t think the city of Albany has ever benefited from ACAP.” Lieber, who spoke by teleconference, was chair of the ACAP board until this month when he was replaced by San Leandro Councilwoman Diana Souza.

Emeryville Mayor Nora Davis agreed and added the allegation of mismanagement at ACAP poses a different situation for member cities. “We have received no services from ACAP over the 20 years I have served on the board,” said Davis. “We never faulted that because we wanted to contribute to the overall well-being of Alameda County. When it comes to what appears to be some serious deficiencies in the management of ACAP, I don’t think you can expect the cities to lay down and say, ’yeah, we’ll reach into our pockets to pay for what may or may not be mismanagement.’” Davis also believes the joint powers agreement lays out a different criteria on equality of members for funds misspent.

Union City Vice Mayor Jim Navarro said he has already spoken with his council on the potential impact of bailing out ACAP saying they have raised the possibility of pulling out of the organization in the future.

Supervisor Nate Miley, who represents the county on the governing body, voiced concern over some member’s reluctance to bear their full share of the $75,000 loan. At one point, he directly challenged the dissenters. “It took everything I could bear to get the votes to get them to approve it,” said Miley.

“If cities pushback on this, I don’t know where this is going to end up," he said, “but it’s not going to look pretty. Either we could go cooperatively or collegially or we can try to do it as sporadically and antagonistically as possible.”

Workers could receive their paycheck as early as today, but the future continues to look dim. Interim Director Sam Tuttelman said the organization was directed by the board to downsize to meet its current financial situation. He declined to elaborate on how many of the 28 remaining employees might be let go out of respect for their individual situations. “I’m very concerned for the employees,” Tuttelman said. “They are bearing most of the brunt of this.”

Pleasanton Vice Mayor Cheryl Cook-Kallio made an effort to dispel the notion members did not foresee impending difficulties for ACAP over the past two years. She said she wanted it to be clear what happened was not a surprise. “While this is shocking, there were a number of people who were concerned how this was working and what should be done.” A favorable audit of the organization in 2009 helped alleviate some concern for ACAP’s future, she said, but concerns still persisted.

Pending an audit of ACAP’s books due in the next two weeks and reports from individual delegates on their cities response to the possible impact of the county’s loan, the governing board may meet before its next session, which is schedulef for March 9.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

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