Controversy swirls over timing
Monica Rodriguez, Staff Writer
Created: 01/23/2011 03:36:09 PM PST

POMONA – For nine months, members of Pomona’s Charter Review Commission have been reviewing and developing proposed changes to the city’s charter.

Last week the group learned two commission members have been replaced.

“I was shocked and outraged,” said commission member John Clifford.

Like some other members of the commission, Clifford was troubled by changes to the body’s make-up when its work is to be completed by May.

Councilwoman Ginna Escobar, who was elected to the council in November, replaced Victor Caceres, a commission co-chairman, and Edmund Simien.

In their place Escobar appointed Debra Martin and DeAndre Valencia.

Although Escobar said Friday she had no comment on the matter she did say that even though the Charter Review Commission is close to wrapping up its work, two new members on the body can make valuable contributions.

“There’s new perspectives, new opinions, and new ways of seeing things,” she said.

Escobar appointed new members to various city commissions including the Charter Review Commission this month.

City staff members asked for the opinion of the City Attorney in relation to Charter Review Commission appointments, said Mark Gluba, assistant to the city manager.

The response was that Escobar could make the changes, Gluba said.

Simien said he learned about being replaced through an e-mail and an accompanying letter from City Clerk Marie Macias the week prior to the commission’s Jan. 19 meeting.

The news caught him off guard but it didn’t completely surprised him, Simien said.

Escobar has the right to make appointments to city commissions, he said.

“The only problem with taking Victor and me off is we’re nine months into a one year commitment,” he said. “The new people have no background on what has been discussed or recommended” up to this point.

Making a change at this stage may not be the best for the commission or the residents of the city, he said.

“To me it doesn’t seem like a logical thing to do,” Simien said.

Some of the 15 commission members said the Charter Review Commission is unlike others in the city.

Unlike other commissions, the Charter Review Commission exists for 12 months and must complete its work in that time.

It was empaneled last year as called for by the charter that was updated in the mid 1990s and approved by voters in 1998.

Although the charter called for the council to establish a commission in January 2010, and every 10 years after that, council members did not name panel members until early May.

Commission members must review the city’s charter, produce a report and, if necessary, propose changes that would go to voters for approval in 2012.

Caceres said he would have liked to serve on the commission until its work was done but understands that Escobar wanted to make her own appointments to the body.

Leaving the commission as it was would have been better in order to have consistency, Caceres said.

He added changes at this late stage could slow down the momentum the commission had developed.

“We were doing really good work,” he said. Now “it may take a little longer to finish.”

Commission member Julie Roberts-Fronk said the change was a distraction and “it’s disrespectful to the process” not to mention commission members including those who have been replaced and the newly appointed.

A great deal of research has been completed and the new commission members must now be brought up to speed on all that has taken place up to now so they can participate in the process, she said.

It was to be expected that in the course of the commission’s short life some people would leave and a few have, Roberts-Fronk said.

Changes like that can have an impact on the commission, she said, adding any additional changes only serve to unsettle the pace of the commission’s work.

“It seems prudent to not interfere with the process any more than need be,” Roberts-Fronk said.

Commission member Arturo Jimenez said although he understands the feelings of his fellow commission members the body isn’t about to stop its work.

“I think we should just soldier on,” he said.

Although some commission members may have felt disrespected, Jimenez said he is not among them.

To read entire story, click here.