San Bernardino city officials are not planning to release a budget plan to the public before the City Council votes on it Wednesday because it is part of the city’s bankruptcy proceedings. (Sun file photo)

City Attorney defends process, citing bankruptcy issue
Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 08/27/2012 01:26:47 PM PDT

Special Section: San Bernardino

SAN BERNARDINO – The city manager doesn’t plan to release her recommendations on how to cut 30 percent of the city’s budget until at least Wednesday’s scheduled City Council vote, potentially cutting time for public input.

Budgets are usually released before a vote so community members can give their thoughts, and California law requires they be given to people who ask.

But this document, known as a pre-pendency plan because it will guide the city’s finances for two to three months until another plan is developed, is not a public record both because it is a draft and because it is part of the city’s bankruptcy proceeding, said City Attorney James F. Penman.

“That’s part of litigation,” Penman said, which is a category exempt from the usual reporting requirements. “What’s in a (pre-)pendency plan may not be approved, and we don’t want creditors coming after us.”

Creditors could see that certain cuts were recommended but not taken – or vice versa – and use that in court to challenge how broke the city really is, Penman said.

Residents’ input is wanted at the appropriate time, but the city is concerned about giving fair notice to employees, said Acting Assistant City Manager Gwendolyn Waters, who serves as spokeswoman for Interim City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller.

“They would like to keep it confidential until something is decided on out of respect for the people whose jobs are being discussed for elimination,” Waters wrote in an email.

But that must not represent the city manager’s opinion, because it would be illegal, Penman said.

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