• Willdan Financial Services
  • Harris.
  • Cutwater Asset Management
  • Bartle Wells

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*Please note that updates are continually made to the Job Board section of the MiniNews (PDF format) after its original release. Check the Job Board regularly.

President’s Message

By: Pauline Marx, City and County of San Francisco

Being a Finance Director in the Alaskan Bush

One of the great privileges of the CSMFO Presidency is the opportunity to attend the state association conferences for the sister states of Alaska, Oregon and Washington. Of course, the most exotic of these is Alaska, with its huge size, vast natural resources and an economy different from the other 49 states. I could fill you with facts about this, but will just cite one set as an example. With a population of 730,000 (up about 50% from when I was last there in 1982), there are 220,000 pickup trucks and 50,000 snow machines registered in the State. To get a sense of the vastness of the state, think of Alaska as being more than twice the size of Texas!

Working as a Finance Director in the State of Alaska has its own set of issues and challenges. This month we hear from guest columnist Keith Greene, Finance Director for the City of Valdez, Alaska.

Guest Columnist: Keith Greene, Finance Director for City of Valdez, Alaska

keith-greeneFor two years, I served as Finance Director to the Inupiat (Eskimo) village of Kotzebue, Alaska. This village is on the Northwest coast, about 30 miles above the Arctic Circle. To give some perspective, we can actually see Russia from our shores on good days, which can be few and far between. The Native Alaskans settled the area nearly 3,000 years ago, and make up over 90% of its populace of approximately 3,200 people, in addition to supporting twelve villages within a 350 mile radius. Because there are no roads to this area, everything must be barged (which is only twice a year) or flown in. The logistics of bringing items and people caused Kotzebue to be named the most expensive place to live in Alaska, at a rate of 65% above Anchorage.

The extreme cold weather (during the 2011-2012 winter, there were 6 straight weeks of -50 degrees) can wreak havoc on sewer and water lines and equipment. If a water or sewer line does burst, there are points where the decision is made to wait until it warms up to -20 degrees so that the line can be worked on. It is not uncommon for cars to completely freeze, despite being plugged in. Heating costs can run upwards of $3,000 a month for a 1500 square foot home during December through February.

image for president's messageMost of the revenue for the City comes in from a 6% sales tax levied on services, rent and purchased items. However, since the $3 million collected doesn’t even meet payroll, the City has relied heavily on state revenue sharing and grants (federal and state) to supplement operations. In 2010, after a vote from the citizens, the City opened a Package Store, making it the first of its kind within the State. In Alaska, each city has a “local option,” which determines if they are going to be dry, damp or wet in regards to alcohol. Thus, in addition to managing the gaming (bingo, pull-tabs), the Finance Department was now responsible for managing an alcohol venue that was heavily cash centric. The biggest challenge was to create a price point that encouraged the customer to buy locally versus ordering from Anchorage, yet maintain a profit margin. As city employees, the retail clerks were getting full benefits, and freight was costing the City nearly $500,000 per year. Through some concentrated efforts, we were able to reduce the overhead cost, and have now used the profits to help leverage a loan from a national bank to construct public use facilities. Plans are in motion to now open a City-owned Bar & Grill.

Over the past 5 years, the typical finance director has lasted less than 10 months due to the extreme conditions and hardship. I was able to stay two years, and have now taken a position in Valdez, Alaska. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my time and experience living where people have, and to learn about a culture far older than mine.

Update on Assembly Bill 279 

At its April 25 meeting the CSMFO Board took an “oppose, unless amended” position on Assembly Bill 279 which was introduced by Assembly Member Dickinson. Our sister organization California Municipal Treasurers Association (CMTA) took the same position, as did a number of Counties.

The bill sought to expand the current law, California Government Code, Sections 53601.8 and 53635.8, to allow municipalities to use a placement service such as CDARS (Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service) for “all deposits” and not just certificates of deposit as the law currently allows. We believed that the negative impacts of the bill were unintentional and offered revised language to correct the deficiencies.

Through several discussions with the author of the bill, proponents of the bill, and various legislative anlaysts, we were able to succeed in eliminating the subsections that 1) require all bank deposits to have FDIC insurance above the $250,000 limit and 2) allow institutions participating in the CDARs and FICA type of programs to avoid the current requirements when reporting to the California Department of Financial Institutions. The bill’s authors were amenable to making changes to address the concerns of CSMFO and CMTA and as a result we were able to withdraw our opposition.

However, we continued to formally express concern, because in the course of discussions we learned that some providers of these FICA (Federally Insured Cash Accounts) were marketing their products as demand deposit accounts (DDAs) and Money Market Demand Accounts (MMDAs), although they do not meet the Federal Reserve’s criteria of either a DDA or MMDA. In addition, the inherent systemic risks associated with obtaining full FDIC coverage on the deposits were not being disclosed to potential investors. Click here to find a copy of the letter expressing this concern.

The bill has now moved through both houses and is on its way to the Governor for signature. I want to thank Michelle Durgy, CMTA President, for her leadership on this issue.


Executive Director’s Message

By: Melissa Dixon, CAE

With the passing of August, we’re officially 2/3 of the way through the year! September is the beginning of the end of 2013, and with it CSMFO’s internal activities start to gear back up.

In September, CSMFO leadership will gather at the Renaissance in Palm Springs to build a new three-year strategic plan for the organization. Fun Fact: Each year, the strategic planning session is held at the following year’s conference host hotel. This allows the leadership to be familiar with the hotel (and act as ambassadors during the conference) but also allows us to taste-test our lunch selections for the conference itself!

By October 1, the CSMFO President has to have appointed a Nominating Committee to develop the slate for the Board elections. During the month of October, nominations will be accepted (let me know if you’re interested in running!).

November brings both the election itself and membership renewal invoices.

With December comes the election results, and the beginning of the current President-Elect making committee appointments for the 2014 year (new committees take effect at the conference in February). Check out the current committee roster and let me know if there’s anything you’re interested in. Membership in associations is never more fulfilling than when you get involved!

More details to come on these as we move through the end of the year, but hopefully this overview will provide you the heads-up you need to make the most of your CSMFO membership!

Annual Weekend Training Seminar

The Annual Weekend Training Seminar is a 2 1/2 day skills-based workshop scheduled for November 15-17, 2013 (Friday-Sunday), at the Hilton LAX in Los Angeles. The training consists of ten different sessions covering such topics as: legislative update for California finances, investing public funds, bond financing, financial analysis & reporting, long-term financial planning, and budgeting.

The seminar has always been an excellent value and that distinction is even more prevalent during these tough economic times.

Class size is limited to 40 participants and fills up quickly each year, so hurry and register! The registration deadline is October 18, 2013.

Please visit the CSMFO website to register online.

*If you have any questions or would like more details regarding the workshop, please contact Mark Uribe, Vice-Chair at muribe@ci.camarillo.ca.us or (805) 388-5358.

Playing the Next Round

2014 CSMFO Conference — Palm Springs — February 19-21, 2014

2014 Logo FinalThere will be many breakout sessions that include:

  • The finance professional preparing for the future
  • Succession planning: how does the retiring person prepare for their next stage and plan for knowledge transfer. What do you do if no knowledge transfer took place?
  • Professional growth: your supervisor wants to be the next finance director. What do they need to know, what skills do they need to gain?

What changes lay ahead for the finance professional and what do you need to be prepared for:

  • Pension reform – the next steps
  • State and federal impacts – economic development or ObamaCare?
  • Bankruptcy – who’s next, what are the impacts on your organization?
  • Regulatory reform – new laws, updated GASB statements and more
  • The new normal – the next generation is now

Plan to join us in Palm Springs for the best CSMFO Conference ever!

Where is the General Plan Financial Element?

By Scott Thorpe

1927 – State creates (requires) authority for cities/counties to prepare a General Plan.
1955 – Circulation and Land Use Elements required.
1967 – Housing Element required.
1970 – Conservation/Open Space Element required.
1971 – Safety, Seismic Safety, Noise and Scenic Highway elements required.
1984 – Seismic Safety Element is merged with Safety Element and Scenic Highway element is no longer required.

By adopting the requirements above, California entered the 20th century and set new planning standards for the many needs of both its citizens and business community. Zoning maps were drawn, circulation plans derived, safety needs including police, fire, storm drainage, flooding and earthquake preparedness were determined, and disaster plans of all kinds were written based upon the unique issues facing each city. Park standards and protection of open space were implemented.

Life became wonderful. As a citizen all you had to do was consult your City’s General Plan or one of its many specific elements to see how great your services were, or actually, what they were going to be. If your General Plan was to hold a press conference, it would probably sound like this:

Life is going to be great in our community. We’re planning for fire responses of no more than five minutes. Not to be outdone, the Public Safety Element says we’re planning for police responses of less than three minutes. With our adopted “standard” of five acres of parkland per 1,000 residents in the Conservation/Open Space element, there will be a park on just about every corner. Traffic jams? That will never be a problem here, because our Circulation Element says we are going to have a Level of Service “C” circulation standard, and you will never have to sit at traffic lights for more than a minute or two. Heavy rainstorms? Not to worry, we are never going to have a flooding problem because our storm drainage collection system has been designed for a twenty-year storm.

Yes, it’s going to be a great community!

But wait a minute, you might ask, who is going to pay for all this? How close are we to attaining these service levels and how are we going to afford to maintain it? Won’t all of this add a great deal to the City’s already underfunded infrastructure replacement program?

Pay for it? Oh, we’re not required to have a Financial Element.

Okay, maybe it’s time to ask that “why not?” question. In my alter ego status (calculating Development Impact Fees that require a level of proportionality), many times I have to deal with lofty but often unrealistic element goals and standards. They are unrealistic simply because the General Plan does not require identification of a substantive financial process or method for financially attaining those goals or standards. So there is little recognition of how close the City is to meeting those goals or standards. Not to be misunderstood, I know that the engineers could design a LOS “C” circulation system and twenty-year flood protection system. Police Chiefs and Fire Chiefs could equip and staff for the three and five minute responses. The recreation people could program five acres per 1,000 residents.

“Could” is the operative word, except for the annual revenues necessary to finance these lofty but unrealistic goals and service levels. In defense of staff, these Plan and Element references have become nothing more than “targets” and are not to be taken too seriously. They simply keep their eyes on the ball and try to provide the best service level that the limited annual revenues can offer. It would be very frustrating to have an element plan you are responsible for and also know you will never see it fully executed. We can all admit that it is far easier to identify a lofty target that we would all like to have than to admit that what we have now is the best we can do. It’s like promising your kids a month-long trip to Disneyworld when you only have a couple of Cleveland bus tokens in your pocket. At some point someone is going to be disappointed. On the other hand, there is a level of equanimity in the General Plan process as every city, either well-off or closer to Chapter 11, can each claim the same very high standard, regardless of the likelihood of ever achieving it.

Regardless, it’s time to consider requiring a General Plan Financial Element that would support the attainment of the defined levels of service in the other required elements, or in the alternative would make them more realistic. In short, I am suggesting putting a price tag on the attainment of each element’s goals and standards. It could start with a progress analysis which shows how close the City is to meeting the many standards, perhaps as a percentage of completion. As an example, if a City General Plan is 58% built-out in storm drainage demand generation, is the storm drainage collection system at or near a proportional 58% completion? Or is it greater or lesser than that 58% of demand rate?

The financial and progress analysis would require a level of realistic pragmatism. An open and frank discussion with the community about what service level can be attained through infrastructure investment (and then maintained) is very important. I am not at all suggesting that anyone is misleading the community, but they certainly are not getting the full story. Most cities provide a very credible and balanced level of service spread over the agency’s many services at the amount the citizenry is willing to pay for, and frankly, staff should be proud of that. It would be nice for staff to have goals that are actually attainable and know if they are in step with them.

Scott Thorpe
Revenue & Cost Specialists

Preserving Digital Evidence

How to Protect a Municipality’s Case Against Fraud

By John Hostetler, Ernie Cooper, & Abigail Stokes Palsma

If you can imagine a set of nesting dolls, an entity’s plan for preserving digital evidence sits inside a much broader and fairly complicated anti-fraud system. The largest structure in the system is the no-tolerance tone that management sets by establishing a code of ethics and designing a host of proactive and reactive processes. Tucked deep inside the system, procedures designed to protect digital evidence may be forgotten the moment they are needed because this reactive system is often out-played by another, more natural reactive system: gut instinct.

The human instinct could be argued as the most valuable tool in fraud detection. It’s the unsettled feeling, the sixth sense that recognizes when something isn’t right, even if you can’t quite put your finger on what exactly is out of place. Unfortunately, following the natural impulse to look further into a suspicious matter could be the most damaging action a government employee can take when it comes to protecting digital evidence.

Create a Hands-Off Reactive Plan for the Moment Fraud is Suspected

When a municipality suspects fraud has occurred, it is natural to want to search computers, email logs and other digital devices to prove wrongdoing. However, if an in-house employee performs a search on a device suspected to hold evidence against fraud, the legal case and the integrity of the evidence discovered could both be fundamentally weakened.

If digital evidence is to be collected and preserved for a proper investigation or for litigation, the digital system in question (computer, laptop, Smartphone, tablet, flash drive, CD, etc.) must be secured immediately and searches should not be performed by you or any of your employees. The validity of the potential evidence depends on this. Think of the digital device as the body in a murder investigation: isolate the body, keep it free from contamination, and photograph the remains for use in the investigation. To protect a body of digital evidence, unplug, secure and properly duplicate:

  1. Unplug the computer:  Do not use the alleged wrong doer’s devices or files in any way. For computers, this includes booting up, logging off and shutting down. When any of these actions are performed, hundreds of files are automatically accessed through internal processes unseen by the user. Date/time stamps are modified regardless of whether a single file or application is opened or accessed, and regardless of the user’s intentions. Conversely, when the system is unplugged from the wall, a forensic analysis will show an abrupt end of usage. This will rule out suspicion of anyone implanting, fabricating or editing files to incriminate the suspect.

Mobile devices, including laptops, tablets and Smartphones, can be shut down without modifying files.

  1. Secure the system:  Digital media should be moved to a locked room or a locked safe. Keep a record of all access to the secured area with a log that documents when the lock was opened, who opened it and when it was re-secured. If your organization does not have a way to secure the system, a Certified Digital Forensic Examiner (CDFE) can take custody of the device and document both the chain of custody and access to the device.
  2. Hire a professional to create a forensically sound image of the digital device: In a fraud case that occurred in Orange County, an employee of the victim organization decided to create an image of the computer used by the suspect so that another employee could carry on with business using this device. The employee had the right idea, but because he did the work himself, the evidence could not be used. Had the organization known to contact a CDFE, the computer could have been used again relatively soon after the fraud was discovered and they would have had forensically sound digital evidence on which to build their case.

CDFEs are specially trained to create an exact image of digital devices that may contain evidence. In a proper examination, the image is an exact, bit-by-bit duplicate of the original and is created in a way that guarantees that neither the original nor the image have been changed. Once a forensically sound digital image is verified, the computer in question can be put back to use, which is good news for an organization that depends on a particular device to run business.

Smartphones and Tablets Have Image Problems: In an effort to protect proprietary information, the newest Smartphones and tablets contain internal systems that make creating a thorough digital image of their contents quite difficult. Often only high-end forensic labs can create a full forensic image, and their services are expensive and time consuming. Both types of devices could hold evidence in email messages, Internet browsing histories, etc. Additionally, phones could contain evidence in text messages or call histories that could reveal a possible accomplice.

An alternative route to creating a digital image is to secure the phone and then request call and text logs from the provider. Companies like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc., store a limited history regarding text and call logs, so it is important to act quickly in order to gain access to the greatest amount of information possible. Be aware that cell phone providers typically will not surrender the actual text messages. In fact, AT&T and Verizon both state that only a government official with a subpoena can obtain actual text message transcripts. They will, however, provide data regarding when texting occurred and to/from what number.  The text messages can obviously be observed from the phone itself after it has been secured. However, if the suspect has deleted messages, the provider’s text history could serve as evidence of interaction no longer visible on the phone.

Create Proactive Plans to Secure Cloud and Server Based Data

Effective use of your municipality’s internal controls will reduce the risk of fraud through proper accounting practices, but there are other precautions necessary related to digital evidence. Clarifying the municipality’s position on fraud may be enough to cause those who are thinking of crossing ethical lines to reconsider—that alone is a good reason to establish an electronic equipment policy and plans regarding digital access and security.

  1. Document Points of Access: Whether digital evidence of fraud exists on computers (laptops/desktops), mobile devices (phones/tablets), or servers (local/cloud-based), a common vulnerability is that organizations do not know exactly what users utilize or access. Documentation is key to tracking devices and points of access. Accurate device tracking means the organization can secure devices or their contents in a timely manner, which is key to avoiding problems and speeding an investigation.

Keep a record of all permissions and methods of network access. No mobile devices should have access to an organizational network without company knowledge and approval. This documentation is important for normal business procedures, such as when an employee leaves an organization for more common reasons, but such documentation is especially helpful if fraud occurs.

In a recent case, the employer could not remember all points of access that had been granted to the suspect. While the employer was trying to remember, the suspect was at home erasing critical evidence through a method of connectivity that had not been shut off. By contrast, if the IT department maintains a checklist of network access, they can use the information to quickly cut off all points of a suspect’s access to the system.

  1. Develop a Policy for Securing Local and Cloud-Based Data: Many organizations store user documents and email on servers, either locally or in the cloud. A plan must be in place for securing documents from these sources. Not having such a policy often leads to confusion and lost evidence. There are many technical variances to the way these systems are configured, so organizations need to understand how to secure contents that are of interest to an investigation.

Many email servers have the capability to save all incoming and outgoing emails regardless of whether the user deleted them. If a municipality has this type of server, the IT department should make sure the email system has the same capability and that the function is turned on. Periodic archiving of user folders on network drives is also helpful to preserving digital evidence. Both strategies have been invaluable to several fraud investigations VLS has conducted.

Clearly state in an official policy statement what actions constitute appropriate usage of municipality systems including email servers, and collect signed statements of acknowledgement from all employees. If the municipality does not have a digital equipment policy, state or local laws regarding the employee’s right to privacy may apply, making email messages off-limits as evidence.

Properly executed proactive and reactive plans allow municipalities to reduce the risk of fraud and to properly respond to suspected fraud if it occurs.

John Hostetler is a Certified Digital Forensic Examiner with VLS Fraud Solutions, the fraud prevention, detection and investigation division of Vicenti, Lloyd and Stutzman LLP. Call John at 626-857-7300 ext. 241 or email him at JHostetler@vlsllp.com. Ernie Cooper, CPA, CFE, JD, is a retired FBI agent and Director/Consultant with VLS Fraud Solutions. He can be reached at ECooper@vlsllp.com. Abigail Stokes Palsma is the Knowledge Manager for VLS and can be reached at APalsma@vlsllp.com

The California Conundrum:

Is water a public resource, an economic good, or a tax?

By Tim Seufert, Managing Director/NBS

Depending on the beholder’s viewpoint, water has been called a public resource, defined as an economic good, and categorized as a “tax,” subject to the rigors of California’s electorate under the rules of Proposition 218. In a local government setting, are water rates set artificially low for short-term political gains in today’s post tax revolt California? Or are they determined by sound analysis on a foundation of “good” public policy choices, such as addressing environmental concerns, fiscal prudence, and fairness?

The positive news from the results of my recent study is that it appears water rates are generally set by good public policy decisions. In addition, over half of the respondents had a water conservation-based rate structure. Fiscally prudent policies ranked highest in the survey, followed by fairness and environmental concerns. However, rate tension and political pressures were also present, especially when a conservation rate structure is in use. In addition, there is a concern that conservation mandates have had the unintended consequences of decreasing the public’s sentiment for conservation, and its commensurate price tag, while undermining overall revenue stability for local water agencies.

Background and Discussion
Are local water rates set artificially low for short-term political gains? Or are they determined by sound technical analysis on a foundation of “good” public policy choices? This research study (a cross-sectional quantitative survey of local water agencies in California, augmented by qualitative interviews) sought to understand this timely question by performing background and literature research as well as directly surveying local public water suppliers in California. For the study, good public policy criteria were defined as addressing environmental concerns, fiscal concerns and fairness.

Amidst these water policy discussions, the anti-tax movement must be considered. Local governments in California have been embroiled in the anti-tax movement since the 1970’s. This was remarkably demonstrated by the voter-approved fiscal constraint measure known as Proposition 13 in 1978. In 1996, Proposition 218 was approved; this established further limitations on local governments’ abilities to raise revenues.

The anti-tax revolt became a significant problem for local water agencies in the most recent decade, as the California Supreme Court concluded in 2006 in the Bighorn-Desert View Water Agency vs. Verjil case that water rates were subject to the initiative powers granted, perhaps unintentionally, by Proposition 218. Was the intent also aimed at the cost of water provision, given that water is an economic good subject to market pricing?

A variety of water rate structures are in use today by public water agencies in California for a host of economic, public policy and practical reasons. These structures range from flat (or fixed) rates to metered rates to conservation-based tiered or block rates. More recently, water-budget rates (or customer-specific allocation based rates) have become technically feasible in California, and elsewhere. A water budget rate is “an increasing block rate structure in which the block definition is different for each customer based on an efficient level of water use by that customer.” However, detractors of water-budget rates have concerns about equity with such a rate scheme, and the motivational structures they can foster (to build a larger home, for example).

In general, calculating and implementing water rates has become more complicated and technically challenging within the California environment. In addition, Propositions 13 and 218 have added a level of politics and complexity. “Over the course of 34 years, California’s law of local utility fees has been transformed. An earlier era of legislative discretion and deferential judicial review meant disputes over rates were more often resolved by political means than lawsuits.” Clearly, the environment of policy decision making on water rate structures has changed. Moreover, the relationship with the public at large has changed significantly, requiring a whole new paradigm of public education and engagement.

Study Results and Conclusions
Over half of the survey respondents had some type of conservation-oriented rate structure (inclining block or water-budget rates) in place. Notably, it appears from the quantitative data that water rates are generally set by good public policies, most notably those policies classified as fiscally prudent. These top public policy motivations, as distinguished by level of importance (marked on a Likert scale as important, very important, or extremely important), were in the following ranked order:

  1. Revenue stability
  2. Repair and maintenance
  3. Basic costs are covered
  4. Fairness/equity in rates
  5. Managing a finite supply
  6. Ease of implementation
  7. Conservation goals
  8. Political pressure/Proposition 218

Economic development and Inter-generational concerns (9 and 10 in the list) were mostly categorized as neutral. However, palpable tension and political pressures were at work, especially when a conservation rate structure is in place – even more so at smaller water agencies. This was evidenced by Chi square and Gamma relationship statistical tests, which in particular showed a moderate relationship between political pressure and conservation and fiscal policy goals. In addition, concerns were raised that conservation mandates have had the unintended consequences of decreasing the public’s sentiment for conservation while at the same time undermining revenue stability.

What this study means for local water districts is a continued and increased need for rate-making diligence, including the development perhaps of an entirely new form of rate structure or even a new paradigm of ways for charging for water. In addition, water providers should enhance the transparency in rate setting and enliven the public dialog on the needs for water conservation and relevant rate structures in order to sustain the effort to manage the aging water infrastructure assets for the long-term benefit of Californians.

CSMFO MiniNews Committee Member Feature

Josh Betta crop

Name: Josh Betta

Agency: City of the New Bell

Committee Chair of: Conference Site Selection

Q: How long have you been in the municipal finance profession? I had the good fortune to work for the San Francisco Medical Examiner (Coroner) beginning at age 18 and I enjoyed the feeling of being part of my hometown. Fascinating experiences. A few years later, transitioned to Southern California, I was on the path to a city manager’s career in Monterey Park – or so I thought — until our less-than-ethical city manager was fired after an 18-month bloodletting. I jumped at an opportunity to transition to the finance side of the operation after that. Finance departments are the safe harbor where fact trumps politics. 

I’ve been a part of six different cities since my start in San Francisco: working, volunteering, and often taking up residence in them so as to become part of a community fabric. This is a fantastic business; my energy has never diminished. And now that my daughter is married off and I’m guarding an empty nest at home, I’ve got more time than ever before…

Q: How long have you been a CSMFO member? Served on a CSMFO committee? I joined the CSMFO somewhere in the early 90’s. My committee work began in 2000 with the 2001 Revenue Handbook Committee, has extended itself to chairing roles with the Technology and Fiscal Policy committees, and also saw a supportive role on Debt, Retirement & Treasury.

Committee work is rewarding in myriad ways, but, truth be told, the purest expression of CSMFO solidarity is participation at the chapter level. Those of us from the proud San Gabriel Valley Chapter, for example, know how to rock a meeting. I had the privilege to chair the Chapter for seven or so years. I co-chaired with Tracey Hause (Temple City) for a few years. She’ll wear a lampshade to your next party.

By way of parentheticals, this a good place to let everyone know that a bunch of us conspiring sorts up in the north end of the Central LA Chapter have started a CSMFO “mini-group.” One of my local government heroes, John Michicoff, recently retired from Downey, got it started with Tae Rhee (Bellflower), Jose Gomez (Santa Fe Springs), Mike Matsumoto (Pico Rivera) and Rod Hill (Whittier) because the geography of the Chapter limits participation, for some, in our neck of the woods. Fifteen of us, at last count, gather together for lunch every other month at alternating locations. Drop me a line if you want to join us: jbetta@cityofbell.org.

Q: What committee are you a part of now? Why did you become involved with CSMFO’s committee(s)?  The Conference Site Selection Committee should be on everyone’s bucket list. Pauline Marx threw me a bone and asked me to chair. I was joined by a real cast of characters: Terrance Beamon (Desert Hot Springs), Past-President Laura Nomura (Riverside Public Utilities), John Adams (Thousand Oaks), David Cain (now rough riding in San Bernardino), Karan Reid (Concord), Melissa Dixon (Smith Moore) and Teri Anticevich (editor: I forgot Teri’s affiliation). Jessie Takahashi (Campbell) joined us in Santa Clara.

After a few conference calls, we met up in Sacramento in March of this year and divided ourselves between two cars. Road trip, baby.

We toured the offerings in Sacramento, Monterey and Santa Clara. It turned out that Monterey is the perfect setting for the 2015 Conference. They offer a seamless linking of the hotel to the conference areas, and our commercial members are going to appreciate the heavily-trafficked location we chose for their booths and displays. The amenities in town hardly need mention. A portion of our decision rested on an assumption that this may be the last opportunity for the CSMFO to conference in Monterey. More growth in our membership and/or conference attendance could size us out of Monterey in the future.

Sacramento has developed considerably as a conference destination: the downtown area near the Capital is bursting with activity. We’ve authorized Teri to continue negotiations with their representatives for 2017. The location for 2016, Anaheim, was already selected.

Q: How did you come to be involved in the leadership of CSMFO? The heavens opened up at the Pasadena Annual Conference in 2000 and the voice of the Reverend Mary Bradley spoke unto me, decreeing my membership on the 2001 Revenue Handbook Committee. Has anyone ever disobeyed Mary? Presidents Barbara Underwood, Anita Lawrence, Janet Salvetti, Tom Fil and Laura Nomura were also generous to me.

That Pasadena conference, my first, was memorable also because I pestered host-city representative Jay Goldstone, whom I hadn’t met, for free registration. (I worked for Mr. Scrooge in Monterey Park back then and wasn’t allowed to attend many CSMFO events.) It took a few calls, but I eventually broke his will; Jay has tolerated my friendship ever since.

Q: What are your goals for the committee for the coming year, and how do they relate to the overall organization’s goals? It’s universally understood that the CSMFO is largely about training and professional development, and that these things are delivered in quantity at our annual conference, so being part of the selection process was an honor for us all.  That said, our work is done for the year.  With conference locations sewed up through 2017, the Site Selection Committee is in sleep mode.  2018, an even numbered year, sees the return to a Southern California location, where the Anaheim/Disneyland site is proving hard to beat.  

Coaching Corner

Webinar: Economic Development – New Strategies and Best Practices

1:00 – 2:30 p.m. PT, Wednesday, September 11, 2013

CSMFO Coaching Program and Cal-ICMA Coaching Program in partnership with
Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Oregon
ICMA State Partners

Advance registration required for this no-charge webinar can be found here.

Panel topics:

  1. Given the elimination of Redevelopment Agencies in CA and mixed results elsewhere, what are the tools and techniques that make sense now?
  2. How can local governments develop winning partnerships and collaborations?
  3. What are some best practices for small, medium, and large population areas?
  4. How are roles in local government evolving to address economic development—e.g. elected officials, senior managers, finance professionals, etc.)?
  5. What resources are available to support local efforts?


* Lisa Hill, Vice President, Community Solutions, Buxton
* Pete Auger, City Manager, Auburn Hills, MI
* Philip Lanzafame, Director of Economic Development, Glendale, CA

Audience: General managers, economic development professionals, finance professionals, up and comers interested in this key topic for local government

CPE Credits: If you are a member of CSMFO and wish to obtain CPE credit, you need to register and attend in your name, respond to at least 75% of the live polling questions, and pay $25 to CSMFO after invoice following the webinar. After payment, CSMFO emails the CPE certificate as a PDF.

Post-Webinar Discussion Questions:

  • How does economic development affect the well-being of our community and agency?
  • What assets and opportunities do we have that we can use?
  • What ideas and strategies from today’s webinar would be helpful for us?

Enjoy the resources and support to thrive in local government.

MORE RESOURCES–See the “Coaching Corner” at  for valuable resources to boost your career. Sign up for the complimentary email list to keep informed of future Cal-ICMA sessions and resources at www.cal-icma.org/coachingList.

  • Click here for the flier, where more information for this webinar can be found.

Don Maruska, MBA, JD, Master Certified Coach
Director, Cal-ICMA and CSMFO Coaching Programs
Author of “Take Charge of Your Talent” www.TakeChargeofYourTalent.com

Welcome New CSMFO Members!

  • Matthew Boring, Galt, Administrative Analyst
  • Hal Beswick, Check Processors, Inc., Vice President/Business Development
  • Agnes Boros, Cucamonga Valley Water District, Accounting Supervisor
  • Janelle Cameron, Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority, Finance Manager
  • Matthew Conrad, Conrad LLP, Managing Partner
  • Stacey Cuevas, Costa Mesa Sanitary District, Finance Manager
  • Tanya Gruwell, Hi-Desert Water District, Staff Accountant
  • Linda Catherine Le, County of Ventura, Assistant Treasurer-Tax Collector
  • Brenda Manriquez, Orange County Cemetery District, Finance Manager
  • Tim Nash, Encinitas, Finance Director
  • Andrew Oftelie, Orange County Transportation Authority, Executive Director
  • Bobbi Peckham, Peckham & McKenney, Partner
  • Melanie Purcell, OpenGov.com, Client Support
  • Neely Shahbakhti, Lake Forest, Controller


Chapter Meetings

Orange County & CMTA Division 9 Meeting – September 12

What Do GASB 63 and 65 Mean to Me?
-Ken Al-Imam, Mayer Hoffman McCann

Inland Empire & CMTA Division 8 Meeting – September 19

Special District Delinquent Property Tax Sales – Getting Your Money Faster
-Brent Mason, City of Riverside & Robert A. Owens

South Bay & Central Los Angeles CSMFO Business Meeting – September 26

State of the State’s Finance and Ongoing Audits of Local Governments
-John Chiang, California State Controller

The Successor Agency Era
-Chris Hill, California Department of Finance
-Andrea Scharffer, California Department of Finance

Sacramento-Valley Chapter Meeting – October 16

Future of Sales Tax and Forecasting Sales Tax Revenues
-Lloyd deLlamas, HDL Companies

Education Opportunities

Intermediate Governmental Accounting, Camarillo, CA
September 11, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

  • Susan Mayer

Power of Fiscal Policies/Long Term Financial Planning, Palm Desert, CA
September 12, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

  • Bill Statler

Intermediate Governmental Accounting, Union City, CA
September 19, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

  • Susan Mayer

Power of Fiscal Policies/Long Term Financial Planning, Lakeport, CA
October 10, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

  • Bill Statler

Power of Fiscal Policies/Long Term Financial Planning, Merced, CA
October 23, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

  • Bill Statler

CRA Bond & Disclosure Workshop: What Does the Future Hold, Irvine, CA
October 23, 8:45 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

CRA Bond & Disclosure Workshop: What Does the Future Hold, Pleasanton, CA
October 30, 8:45 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Intermediate Governmental Accounting, Lincoln, CA
November 21, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

  • Susan Mayer

Career Opportunities

CSMFO provides government finance professionals with numerous resources for enhancing and advancing their careers. Visit the job opportunities page of the CSMFO website for a list of current job openings.