Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

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By Anna Marie Gott

The City of Santa Barbara held budget workshops to review the plans, reports and finances of every Department. One program called the Outdoor Patio Dining Program, under the Public Works Department, was presented as having annual revenue of ~$90,000.00 with ~$76,000.00 coming from the rent businesses paid to operate dining facilities on public sidewalks. Staff proposed eliminating the annual rent for businesses. -  To make it simple this means businesses would not pay $299 per chair annually or $.82 per day for each chair they had on the sidewalk or public right of way.  -  The Council made the change. The annual rent was eliminated.

You would think that would be the end of the story but something happened. A resident who was incensed by the elimination of rent made a public records request on July 10th for the “payment history for the Outdoor Dining Program” and the document he received from the person responsible for running the program showed that the total amount supposedly collected by the City was ~$142,000 with ~ $131,000 coming from the rent.

The difference in what was claimed in the Public Works Departments budget hearings and the report provided is $52,000. – How could the report be this far off?

I wasn’t happy with the document the City provided so I asked for more documents and information. The more I’ve dug into this the more I believe that something is terribly wrong with numbers the Public Works Department provided.

First, no one in the City seems to know what codes/description would be used to bill under the City’s Fee Schedule for the rents charged under the Outdoor Patio Dining Program. After 20 days no one can respond to a request that simply entails at most looking up a past invoice to see how rents were billed. – Staff is still researching…

Second, when I made a request for the documents in a folder where the City stores files on the Outdoor Patio Dining Program the documents I received in no true way complied with the request I made.

Third, when I finally spoke to a Staff member on the phone for 31 minutes last week the

Staff member I spoke with provided one false statement after the other about the program and the way the City invoices in a blatant attempt at stonewalling to deny me any information.

This is what I was told that:

  • NO invoices of any kind were created in any accounting or payment system for businesses in the program,
  • Handwritten payment calculations were provided that detailed amounts charged/owed for 1st time payments,
  • There was NO ability to track any payments received under the program in any software program,
  • The ONLY information on payments made under the program came from an excel spreadsheet that Staff had access to in order to "track" payments,
  • Payments were manually entered into a spreadsheet once a business had made a payment to the Cashier, 
  • Payment amounts could ONLY be verified by viewing a note in the Permit System where a note may or may not state the total amount paid,
  • There was NO easy way to determine what permit number was assigned to any business or payment,
  • Letters, not invoices, were sent manually to businesses in the program informing businesses of the amounts owed, and
  • All payments were required to be made in person at 630 Garden St and none could be paid by mail,

None of the statements above were remotely accurate which any employee who was in charge of the program would know.

I say this not just as someone who understands that the Public Works Department uses basic tools to track information on services, invoices and payments but as fact after having visited the Cashier at 630 Garden St to ask questions after what I can only describe as a distressing phone call.

In a matter of minutes, the Cashier confirmed that everything I was told was incorrect based on how payments are made under the Outdoor Patio Dining Program and the information in the City's payment processing system.

Here is why:

  • To accept payment the Cashier needs to be able to look up a Invoice # or Record #...,
  • Each record has a Fee Item # to describe what it is for billing purposes,
  • Each record can or does link to an Invoice which has detailed information,
  • The Cashier does not enter anything into the Permitting System, and
  • Payments can be made in person or by mail.

Why am I asking for this information? The City Council passed the 2 year Fiscal Budget based upon the information it was provided. The Council assumed the information was correct. What if this information was not correct? If this information was not correct what other information wasn’t?

I have asked for the Annual Financial Reports for the Outdoor Patio Dining Program. I have also asked for financial reports, with every line item, for the Public Works Department and the City. These reports should be readily available. They are run annually.  Staff members know exactly where they are, but no one seems to want to hand them over. Why?

I have my suspicions as to why no one wants to provide a financial report on the Outdoor Patio Dinning Program. Want to know what it is?  The revenue reported as collected wasn’t the amount that should have been collected. Meaning that not all rent was collected as required. This is simply a guess, but I think it is a good one based upon that crazy 31 minute phone call and the document another resident received for the payment history for the Outdoor Dining Program” that doesn’t match what Staff told the City Council.

Do you think the City Council should demand that these documents and financial reports be provided to me immediately? If the numbers don’t lineup with what was reported by the Public Works Department do you think the City Council needs an investigation into the management of the Outdoor Patio Dining Program?  Then weigh in and email the City Council at SBCityCouncil@SantaBarbaraCA.gov.


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45 Comments

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Z Jul 23, 2019 02:34 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

OMG! What fun going through the comments: up vote, down vote, up vote, down vote, down, down, up, . . . Too bad the down voted get eliminated for wrong opinions - it's a bad policy, but I'll use it. AMG is a Santa Barbaran, the DNC and RNC have no say in these pissant disputes, and SB sitty is all our problem.

Flicka Jul 23, 2019 09:55 AM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Who cares where Anna Marie Gott lives. She did a service digging into SB City misdoings. Seems some think if you don't live within the city limits you have no right to dig in to the goings on. We are all in Santa Barbara County and the City is the hub.

VinSB Jul 23, 2019 11:30 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

4:04, not sure if you are the same person who posted the 5/2018 Noozhawk article link, but your comment, "she is notorious for being an undue burden on the Council over petty issues," is a value judgement to which I disagree. From personal observation I can attest that AMG feels very strongly about the issues she presents, and her position is heartfelt. Many feel threatened by her because she aims to expose the truth and make things right. Re. the article, she appears to want existing homes to be used to house SB residents, not be used as vacation rentals - in a climate where the overdevelopment of Santa Barbara has become a real threat. She is exercising her legal right to request records which really shouldn't be that difficult to provide.. That the City's system of records are ill maintained or substandard isn't her fault. If finding records presents such a burden, then the City needs to overhaul its system! However, in my opinion, something else is going on here (hint: they don't want her to see the documents). While I understand that following the rules of democracy can be tedious, time-consuming, and annoying, it is far preferable to the alternative.

a-1566601138 Jul 23, 2019 01:49 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Actually, Flicka, she does live within Santa Barbara. The Los Olivos address is that of her mother and where she grew up. Pretty obviously, she doesn't want to give or use her local address. At least one investigative reporter got a lot of threats and, eventually, concerned about her family, quit reporting. Santa Barbara may still have small town mentality and anyone who grew up in one, as did I, knows how venomous people can be. Venomous and lovely at other times.

a-1566601138 Jul 23, 2019 12:55 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

VINSB - I never said those issues aren't being addressed because of her. I was using them as examples of "substantive" issues in my response to PITMIX. Try reading a little more carefully.

VinSB Jul 23, 2019 12:52 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

12:31, the reason City Council isn't doing more about homelessness, gang problems, widening the 101 has NOTHING to do with AMG wasting their time. Regarding the homeless issue, for example, please watch the famed June 18 Council meeting where (at 1:18:45) Jason Dominguez tries to offer suggestions and is basically shot down.

VinSB Jul 23, 2019 12:40 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

City Council is not "putting aside important issues for unnecessary work to accommodate her demands." I'd say that following the rules and not mismanaging tax dollars are pretty important, and most of her "demands" pertain to this!

a-1566601138 Jul 23, 2019 12:31 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Pitmix - "Substantive" is subjective. Difficulty parking, tables on the sidewalks at restaurants and inadequate outreach on a project that only affects a few citizens are not what I'd call "substantive," especially not if I lived in Los Olivos, where none of these things would ever affect me. You want "substantive?" Try: homelessness, gang problems, widening the 101, etc etc etc..... Sorry, but I just don't see the urgency in her issues that take up our council's time and our money.

PitMix Jul 23, 2019 12:24 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

The last 3 issues from AMG have been substantive- there seems to be some shenanigans going on at the parking garage, there seems to be some discrepancy in the sidewalk table billings, and the City definitely didn't do proper outreach on the little home proposal for the Carrillo parking lot. Why is it up to her to police these programs?

a-1566601138 Jul 23, 2019 10:21 AM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

FLICKA - she is well known for taking up valuable time of the city council and causing them to put aside important issues for unnecessary work to accommodate her demands. This, in turn, is a waste of our tax dollars that are paying the staff. She deliberately tries to rile people up with these almost weekly conspiracies that are honestly, not that big a deal. She's really not performing a service, but rather impeding the council from taking on more serious issues. She's wasting their time and our money and she most likely doesn't even live here. THAT is what is upsetting some of us.

PitMix Jul 23, 2019 08:29 AM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

No surprise that incompetence and waste is present in our City government. In the bureaucratic game, you don't get awards for efficiency and savings, you win by increasing your staff and annual budget so you can justify an increase in your salary and benefits. But don't blame City employees for trying to win the game- they didn't make the rules. All we can do is highlight the stuff we discover and maybe they will change the rules a little.

a-1566601139 Jul 23, 2019 08:19 AM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Thanks again to Gott for watch-dogging City Council and City Staff for those of us failing our civic duty. Thanks Gott for sharing your findings to inform those of us who vote. More, not less, oversight is needed by more citizens. Any criticism of Gott likely comes from the majority of SB workers who are on them government payroll. Over-taxed and over-regulated Private sector workers are grateful for any and all oversight and the reporting of findings. Council votes based of erroneous info presented by staff.

biguglystick Jul 23, 2019 11:15 AM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Nothing wrong with the DNC. It is the Republican party that is ruining our country. Take a look around. I have seen your many comments about the DNC. None of it is substanciated.

a-1566601139 Jul 23, 2019 08:35 AM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Agreed: more not less public oversight is needed. Two City Council members have stated gratitude for WE THE PEOPLE oversight informing the DNC (Sara McCune and Gail -Landis) controlled Council of the disconnect between real facts and what City Staff presents to Council as the basis for their votes. Does the City keep 2 sets of fiscal records? Thanks also to Jerry Robert’s for his well researched article disclosing how SB County and City are controlled by the DNC. Voters must STOP ELECTING DNC ENDORSED CANDIDATES who are owned and controlled rubber stamping as ordered. Vote for smart, independent critical thinkers who inquire seeking actual facts, who read, who study before voting and who can explain why they voted the way they did. Vote thinkers not puppets this November.

a-1566601139 Jul 23, 2019 07:12 AM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Of course, the City could easily show whether AMG is correct or not by providing a spreadsheet of restaurant/ coffee shop records, those provided to the City over a specified period of time, 5years? That should not be difficult or complicated: there are not many that have outdoor, sidewalk seating and State Street, from Cabrillo to Mission St, say, is a limited area. Shouldn’t we, Santa Barbara residents, have the details about income received? I think so and it should be done without there having to be a watchdog watching and barking. Why isn't finance director Samario's office producing these records?

VinSB Jul 23, 2019 08:47 AM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Agreed. These records should be easy to search and provide - this shouldn't have taken long at all. Because certain City employees were hiding something, and because something smelled fishy, is why things took longer than they should have. This is what motivated AMG to dig deeper.

Ehdat Jul 23, 2019 06:40 AM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

LazyV, please give me an example where a restaurant is blocking pedestrians. I will personally meet you at that location and we can review how it is possible to walk on by? Ive never been blocked on state street, only by bums garbage pile on occasion, but usually the sidewalk is plenty wide to walk 4 abreast

Lucky 777 Jul 23, 2019 06:15 AM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Transparency, accuracy, and adherence to sound accounting principles. All the responsibility of the people we pay to sit at those government desks, and whose pensions are breaking the budget.

a-1566601139 Jul 22, 2019 09:59 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

@9:49 - looks like that rumor is true. Just Google "Anna Marie Gott los olivos" and it's pretty clear. How sad that she spends seemingly most of her time fighting the city council in a city where she doesn't even live.

a-1566601139 Jul 22, 2019 08:55 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Yes, one has to wonder how and why Ms. Gott has so much time on her hands to pick through every City Council decision plus time to peruse several other city departments decisions. Does someone pay her to do this? Does she get a sense of satisfaction knowing that she is creating a lot of extra work for city staff members and therefore spending taxpayer dollars?

PitMix Jul 23, 2019 08:23 AM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

We don't have a viable newspaper in town that can do this so have to rely on citizen reporters like AMG. It is our right to make public info requests to make sure that local government is not wasting our valuable tax dollars. I don't agree with everything AMG writes, but I'm very glad she is doing this work.

Arnon Jul 22, 2019 05:52 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

It is disappointing that staff did not correct their erroneous numbers upon which the City Council made its decision. I heard that staff knew for sure their numbers were bogus weeks ago and this is a much bigger subsidy than than they told the Council. The disgusting thing though, is that the City Council thinks that the public's land is theirs to give away with no compensation. That's what prompted a little research which made me realize that this is just one small part of a land rush in progress where the commercial property owners and their business tenants are being handed public right of way like goodie bags at an award show. "Anti-business" my a--, it's an old school mafia bust-out and you are a chump if you own a business and don't grab your slice of free public land for your exclusionary, profitable use. For generations, the City was staffed by people who cared about the land the city holds in trust and who fought for fair compensation to the public for private use of public assets. No more.

biguglystick Jul 23, 2019 11:18 AM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

I agree. I don't care if she lives in Los Olivos... we need people like her to keep the city employees honest and open. It's up to ALL of us to call them out when they are being secretive, unfair, unscrupulous. Thank you, Ms. Gott, for doing this work. I want to see the numbers. It should be clear and easy.

FredMertzEE Jul 22, 2019 04:07 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Also, based on three minutes of research, it appears the fundamental premise of this person's claim is false and she probably knows it. According to both this article and the council meeting agenda it links, the city represented that a proposed change to the program would reduce its revenues by an estimated $76,000 - not that the total revenue of the program was that amount. Notably, this person is prominently mentioned in the article as appearing at the council meeting and opposing the change. And now here she again making claims that sure appear contradicted by contemporary accounts and failing to disclose her personal opposition to the city's decision and attendance at the meeting. Astounding. https://www.noozhawk.com/article/santa_barbara_may_slash_outdoor_dining_fees

a-1566601139 Jul 22, 2019 11:30 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

$75k = lost rent in the "report." Yet the record for the same time period says $131k is the amount of rent collected. That is a big difference.

FredMertzEE Jul 22, 2019 03:47 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Dawn Quixote is at it again. Sadly, she does not seem capable of objectivity and appears to be full of confirmation bias - I think there is a problem, therefore there must be one and everything I see supports it. All I had to do was spend five seconds looking at the document she linked to confirm that it doesn't match her characterization or conspiracy theory. For example, she completely ignores that the document is a year old and many of the businesses listed on the rent projections back then don't even exist any more. Did she ever think that might be a reason why revenues under the program could possibly be lower today? I mean, is it lost on anyone that has walked down State Street recently that there are more and more vacant commercial spaces? I don't know how one person can have so much free time or such an obsession with local government to keep tilting at windmills like this. It makes everything she claims have zero credibility, including the suppposed discussions with city employees. This is especially true when the source material she cites doesn't really support her theories.

VinSB Jul 22, 2019 03:09 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

How the City of Santa Barbara spends our taxpayer dollars is indeed our business. The facts and figures should be readily available to the public and should ADD UP. Why hasn't anybody noticed this before, or even cared to check?

NostraChumash Jul 22, 2019 01:42 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Thank-you A.M. Gott, for your investigative effort!.. Clearly, the answer to your question is; THEFT.plain & simple. The fact that folks would critic you is evident that others are also thieves who don't like exposure. Santa Barbara history is rife, plagued..infested, with crookery in every corner. Please stay the course of the righteous & continue to hold a "Mirror" to the faces of the criminals entrusted to uphold the offices of civility.

LazyV Jul 22, 2019 01:40 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

These discrepancies are very much out of line. City Council should have the right info for the budget. That this program's payments were not set out in a computer program is archaic. This is how it might have been done in the 1970s, but not now! Having applied to the City for a job 5 years ago as an Accounting Assistant II, and the tests required to even be interviewed for the job, the staff would certainly know how at least to set up an Excel spreadsheet with all the info. Kudos to Anna Marie. I hope the Council is informed of these irregularities.

a-1566601139 Jul 22, 2019 12:47 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Anne Marie where do you find the time to get upset about every little thing the city does? Every week something new and urgently "conspiratorial." I envy you for having that much spare time!

VinSB Jul 22, 2019 03:05 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

How Anna Marie Gott spends her time is completely irrelevant. Suspicious of you to ask though, 12:47 ... (appears as an attempt to shift attention from the topic-How Trump-like)

LazyV Jul 22, 2019 01:45 PM
Santa Barbara's Financial Reports Don't Add Up

Really? So you want all the restaurants to clutter the sidewalk, blocking pedestrians? And with no payment to the City for real estate not owned by the restaurant? I would like the City to collect these fees, but good old Cathy and her minions think the City can run with LESS money? Who elected these people? Not me. COLLECT THE SIDEWALK RENT!!!!

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