The Roots of San Bernardino Charter Section 186: A Political Perspective In Two Posts

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

As San Bernardino looks to review and possibly reform its existing charter, last adopted in 2006, this is one in a series looking back at how the City of San Bernardino arrived at this point.

In the last item, the voters of the City of San Bernardino approved (by three votes)  a charter amendment in 1939 that guaranteed minimum raises to certain members of the police department.

A more in-depth look at the political background is found elsewhere, including the political roots of Charter Section 181-A, and the fiscal effect of San Bernardino Charter Section 181-A on the 1939-40 fiscal year budget of the City of San Bernardino.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104,
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

The Roots of San Bernardino Charter Section 186: Chapter One

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

This is the first in a series of articles to help people understand the historic context in which section 186, which currently sets the rate of pay of sworn police and fire employees within the City of San Bernardino.

Before the 1955 adoption of section 186, the people of San Bernardino amended the Charter to include minimum police salaries.

A special municipal election (consolidated with a primary municipal election) was held on March 20, 1939 to vote on Proposed Charter Amendment Number One.

Proposed Charter Amendment Number One read:

It is hereby proposed that Article Ten of the City Charter of the City of San Bernardino, entitled “Police and Fire Departments,” be amended by adding thereto a new section, entitled “Section 181A,” said section to read as follows:

“Section 181A:

(a) That the minimum rate to be paid to the following classifications in the Police Department shall be as follows:

Regular Patrolmen, Relief Patrolmen, Traffic Patrolmen, Special Officers and Plain Clothes Officers–A minimum salary of $135.00 per month, said salary to be increased in the sum of $5.00 per month at the end of each six months’ continuous service until a salary of $175.00 is reached, which salary of $175.00 shall thereafter be the minimum salary to be paid said officer.

Desk Sergeants–A minimum salary of $190.00 per month.

Patrol Sergeants–A minimum salary of $190.00 per month.

Motorcycle Officers–A minimum salary of $155.00 per month, based on one year’s service as a Police Officer, said salary to be increased in the sum of $5.00 per month at the end of each six months’ continuous service, until a salary of $185.00 is reached, which salary shall thereafter be the minimum salary to be paid said officer.

Traffic Sergeants–A minimum salary of $200.00 per month.

(b) That the officer’s length of continuous service elapsing prior to the adoption of this provision shall be included in determining said minimum salaries.

(c) That said section shall not be construed to set out or limit the classifications of members of the Police Department, but is intended solely to establish a minimum rate of pay for those classifications herein referred to.”  Statutes of California, 1939, Chapter 38, Pages 3162-3163.

The results of the election were decided by absentee votes.  The Council canvassed the vote on March 27, 1939 and found: 5,264 votes in favor, 5,261 votes against.  The absentee votes ran 75 percent in favor and 25 percent against.

 

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104,
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

The Notices of Intention to Circulate Recall Petitions in the Proposed San Bernardino Recall 2013

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Below are four of the Notices of Intention to Circulate A Recall Petition, or at least unexecuted and undated versions.  The originals were in PDF format which were printed with the home addresses of the petition signers were crudely redacted using a Sharpie Magnum Permanent Marker, and rescanned into PDF.

City Attorney James F. Penman

The reasons for the recall are listed by Scott Beard, the proponent, Wendy McCammack’s appointment to the City of San Bernardino Planning Commission, Rialto-based developer, and Seventh Ward resident:

The grounds for the recall are as follows: Mr. Penman is the duly elected City Attorney, and as such is accountable for the actions of that office and of his subordinates. Mr. Penman has been derelict in his official duties by failing to properly enforce the law regarding personal use of public property by members of the Common Council. In addition, Mr. Penman’s office’s selective enforcement of City codes and his failure to timely update and codify city codes, ordinances, and other matters lawfully passed by the City Council has created confusion and insecurity in the City’s residents and businesses regarding accuracy of the City’s published law.

Council Member Virginia Marquez, First Ward

The reasons listed for the recall in the Notice of Intention are listed by the proponent, Christian Fernando Flores (who was reported in the Sun as a student at California State University, San Bernardino):

The grounds for the recall are as follows: Council Member Marquez was elected to office
in November of 2009 and has since that time has failed to protect the health, safety, and welfare
of the residents of the City of San Bernardino and demonstrated dereliction to the duties of her
elected office by making fiscally irresponsible votes and by supporting fiscally irresponsible
program leading to the misuse of the City’s General Fund. Council Member Marquez’s actions
and failures to act, have propelled the City of San Bernardino into financial crisis, and have led
to the filing for protection under Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy laws by the City. The City
of San Bernardino is currently the object of nation-wide ridicule as a result of the mishandling of
the bankruptcy and its proceedings.

Further, Council Member Marquez has violated the public trust by repeatedly failing to
reach consensus with the other members of the San Bernardino City Council on basic issues of
City finances, and ignored advice of the City’s Executive Staff for the previous two years
regarding financial concerns. Her actions have led to massive reductions in City services and
police and fire personnel, causing an increase in crime rates, businesses leaving the City, and
contributed to overall blight within the City.

Council Member Fred Shorret:

The proponent of the recall against Fred Shorett, 4th Ward Council Member, Stephen T. Dawson, who is the chairperson of the United  Transportation Union, states:

The grounds for the recall are as follows: Council Member Shorett was elected to office in March of 2009 and has since that time has failed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of the City of San Bernardino and demonstrated dereliction to the duties of his elected office by making fiscally irresponsible votes and by supporting fiscally irresponsible program leading to the misuse of the City’s General Fund. Council Member Shorett’s actions and failures to act have propelled the City of San Bernardino into financial crisis, and have led to the filing for protection under Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy laws by the City.
Further, Council Member Shorett has violated the public trust by repeatedly failing to reach consensus with the other members of the San Bernardino City Council on basic issues of City finances which would allow the City of San Bernardino to emerge from the bankruptcy proceedings and begin revival of its economy. The City of San Bernardino is currently the object of nation-wide ridicule as a result of the mishandling of the bankruptcy and its proceedings.

Mayor Patrick J. Morris:

Scott Beard, also the proponent of the recall against City Attorney James F. Penman, gives these reasons:

The grounds for the recall are as follows: Mayor Morris was elected to office in February of 2006 and has since that time has failed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of the City of San Bernardino and demonstrated dereliction to the duties of his elected office by failing to veto fiscally irresponsible votes and fiscally irresponsible programs leading to the misuse of the City’s General Fund. Mayor Morris’s [sic] failures to act have propelled the City of San Bernardino into financial crisis, and have led to the filing for protection under Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy laws by the City.
Further, Mayor Morris has violated the public trust by repeatedly failing to facilitate consensus with the members of the San Bernardino City Council on basic issues of City finances, and ignored advice of the City’s Executive Staff for the previous two years regarding financial concerns. His action and inaction have led to massive reductions in City services and police and fire personnel, causing an increase in crime rates, businesses leaving the City, and contributed to overall blight within the City.

The original PDFs, which are not the embedded redacted versions you see here, have some metadata that explains a little about the origin of the PDFs that were obtained. The Notice of Intent  involving Mayor Patrick J. Morris was created on April 28, 2013 at 10:04:50 PM, with the application being Microsoft Word 2010, with “Michael” listed as the author.  The Notice of Intent to Virginia Marquez  was titled C:\My Files000 — SanBernardinoMatter\NOI.2013.1stWard(Marquez).wpd, also authored by “Michael.”  It was created on April 28, 2013 at 2:19:17 PM.  The original file was on WordPerfect (as you can see by the extension), but the PDF was created by Acrobat Distiller 9.0.0. The Fred Shorret document was created by Microsoft Word 2010, also authored by “Michael.”  It was created on April 28, 2013 at 3:40:59.  The City Attorney James F. Penman document was also on Word 2010, on April 28, 2013, at 10:00:13.

What does this metadata mean?  That whoever created the PDF (but not necessarily the author of the petitions), was named Michael, and that at least one of the documents was created on WordPerfect.  WordPerfect is, or was, largely used by attorneys. No conclusions can be drawn from this metadata.  The Michael may refer to Michael McKinney, the Orange County-based publicist for the recall proponents.  It could be someone else entirely.

Unfortunately, the petitions to recall Second Ward Council Member Robert Jenkins, Third Ward Council Member John Valdivia, Fifth Ward Council Member Chas Kelley, Sixth Ward Council Member and Mayoral Candidate Rikke Van Johnson and Seventh Ward Council Member Wendy McCammack were unavailable.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104,
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

The Recall Process Under the Charter of the City of San Bernardino

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The current Charter of the City of San Bernardino, Article VII is entitled “Initiative, Referendum and Recall.”  Section 122 of the Charter reads (with annotations):

Section 122. The Recall. Proceedings may be commenced for recall of the

holder of any elective office of this City and the election of a successor of the

holder sought to be removed by the service, filing and publication of a notice of

intention to circulate a recall petition. Such proceedings may not be commenced

against the holder of an office unless, at the time of commencement, the holder

has held office for at least ninety days and no recall petition has been filed against

such holder within the preceding six months. A petition demanding the recall of the

officer sought to be recalled shall be submitted to the City Clerk. The petition shall

be signed by not less than fifteen percent (15%) of the voters of the City, or in the

case of a City Council Member elected by ward twenty-five percent (25%) of the

voters of that ward, according to the County Clerk’s last official report of

registration to the Secretary of State. No signature may be affixed to the petition

until the proponents have served, filed and published a notice of intention to

circulate a recall petition, containing the name of the officer sought to be recalled

and the title of his/her office, a statement in not more than 500 words of the

grounds on which the recall is sought, and the name and address of at least one,

but not more than five proponents. The notice of intention shall be served,

personally or by certified mail, on the officer sought to be recalled, and a copy

thereof with a certificate of the time and manner of service shall be filed with the

clerk of the legislative body. Within seven (7) days after the filing of the notice of

intention, the officer sought to be recalled may file with the City Clerk an answer in

not more than 500 words to the statement of the proponents and if an answer is

filed, shall serve a copy thereof, personally or by certified mail, on one of the

proponents named in the notice of intention. At the time the proponents publish

the notice and statement referred to above, the officer sought to be recalled may

have the answer published at his/her expense. If the answer is to be published the

officer shall file with the City Clerk at the time the answer is filed a statement

declaring his/her intent that the answer be published. The statement and answer

are intended solely for the information of the voters and no insufficiency in the form

or substance thereof shall affect the validity of the election or proceedings. The

notice and statement as referred to above, and the answer, if it is to be published

shall be published at least once in a newspaper of general circulation, as described

in Sections 6000 to 6066 of the Government Code, adjudicated as such.

Seven (7) days after the publication of the notice, statement and answer, if it

is to be published, the recall petition may be circulated and signed. The petition

shall bear a copy of the notice of intention, statement and answer, if any. If the

officer has not answered, the petition shall so state. Signatures shall be secured

and the petition filed within ninety (90) days from the filing of the notice of intention.

If such petition is not filed within the time permitted by this section, the same shall

be void for all purposes. The signatures to the petition need not all be appended to

one paper; but each signer shall add to his/her signature his/her place of

residence, giving the street and such other identification as may be required by the

registration law. One of the signers of each such paper shall make oath before an

officer qualified to administer oaths, that the statements therein made are true, and

that each signature to the paper appended, is the genuine signature of the person

whose name purports to be thereunto subscribed. Within thirty (30) days after the

date of filing such petition the City Clerk shall examine and ascertain whether or

not said petition is signed by the requisite number of qualified electors and, if

necessary, the Council shall allow extra help for that purpose, and the City Clerk

shall attach to said petition a certificate showing the result of said examination. If,

by the City Clerk’s certificate, the number of signatures on the petition is shown to

be insufficient, it shall be returned forthwith by the Clerk to the filer(s) thereof who

shall have an additional thirty (30) days from the date the petition is returned to

them by the Clerk to obtain the required number of signatures. The City Clerk shall,

within thirty (30) days after such additional thirty (30) day period to obtain

additional signatures, make like examination of said petition, and, if his/her

certificate shall show the same to be insufficient it shall be void for all purposes. If

the petition shall be found to be sufficient, the City Clerk shall submit the same to

the Council without delay and the Council shall thereupon order and fix a date for

holding said election, not less than fifty (50) days, nor more than seventy (70) days

from the date of the City Clerk’s certificate to the Council that a sufficient petition is

filed.

The ballots used when voting upon said proposed recall shall contain the

words “shall (title of office and the name of the person against whom the recall is

filed) be recalled?” and the words “yes” and “no.”

The Council and the City Clerk shall make, or cause to be made, publication

of notice and all arrangements for conducting, returning and declaring the results

of such election in the same manner as other City elections.

Qualified candidates to succeed the person against whom the recall is filed,

shall be listed on the ballot, except that the incumbent shall not be eligible to

succeed himself/herself in any such recall election.

In any such removal election, if a majority of the votes cast is for “yes” on

the question of whether or not the incumbent should be recalled, the candidate

receiving the highest number of votes shall be declared elected. The incumbent

shall thereupon be deemed removed from the office upon qualification of his/her

successor. In case the party who received the highest number of votes should fail

to qualify within ten (10) days after receiving notification of election, the office shall

be deemed vacant. The successor of any officer so removed shall hold office

during the unexpired term of his/her predecessor. (Effective March 16, 2005)

Any elected official in the City of San Bernardino can be recalled using this procedure.  The limitations are stated above in which the office holder must be in office at least 90 days, and no recall petition has been filed against the office holder in the preceding six months.  The elected officials of the City of San Bernardino are the Mayor, the seven members of the Common Council, the City Clerk, the City Treasurer, and the City Attorney.

The Municipal Code further gives the procedure for recall elections as follows:

2.56.160 Recall elections.
A recall election to remove an elected officer pursuant to Charter Section
122 shall be ordered, held and conducted and the result thereof made known and
declared in the same manner provided in this chapter for municipal primary and
general elections except as follows:
A. Time for Obtaining Signatures. Nomination papers shall be issued and
verification deputies appointed to obtain signatures to nomination papers of
any candidate at any time not earlier than the thirty-fifth day nor later than
five p.m. on the twenty-ninth day before the recall election.
B. Date filed with City Clerk. All nomination papers shall be filed with the City
Clerk not later than five p.m. on the twenty-ninth day before the recall
election.
C. Not earlier than the thirty-fifth day, nor later than the tenth day before a recall
election, the City Clerk shall publish a notice of the election at least once in
one or more newspapers published and circulated in the City. The notice
shall be headed “Notice of Election,” and shall contain a statement of:
1. The time of the election;
2. The offices to be filled, specifying full term or short term, as the case
may be;
3. The hours the polls will be open.
D. Absentee Ballots. Not earlier than the twenty-sixth day, nor later than the
seventh day before a recall election, any voter entitled to vote by absent
voter ballot as provided in Elections Code Section 14620 [See now §3003],
may file with the City Clerk either in person or by mail, his written application
for an absent voter’s ballot. The application shall be signed by the applicant,
shall show his place of residence, and shall make clear to the City Clerk the
applicant’s right to a ballot.
Applications received by the City Clerk hereunder on or after the
fortieth day but prior to the twenty-sixth day before election shall not be
returned to the sender, but shall be held by the City Clerk and processed by
him following the twenty-sixth day prior to election in the same manner as
if received at that time.

(Ord. 3601 (part), 1976; Ord. 2048 §10, 1954.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104,
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

Measure R Proposed San Bernardino County Charter Amendment Initiative November 6, 2012

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Voters in the County of San Bernardino are voting on two competing charter amendments.  The first, alphabetically is Measure Q, which I wrote about yesterday.

Measure R is a voter-submitted Charter Amendment, but unlike Measure Q, amends more than just Article VI, Section 1 of the San Bernardino County Charter:

County Counsel, as required by the Government Code, created a summary of the charter initiative:

COMPENSATION LIMITS AND BUDGET REDUCTIONS FOR MEMBERS OF THE
COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS. INITIATIVE CHARTER AMENDMENT.
Changes the elected office of County Supervisor to a part-time position. Establishes the
maximum monthly compensation for the office of County Supervisor to a total amount of
$5,000 plus a cost of living adjustment not to exceed 5% annually. Cost to the County
of all County Supervisor benefits, including but not limited to, salary, health insurance,
life insurance, leave, retirement, memberships, portable communication devices, and
vehicle allowances shall be included in the $5,000. Establishes a maximum total annual
budget for each Member of the Board of Supervisors at an amount not to exceed five
(5) times the annual compensation amount for each Member. Limits retirement benefits
for the position of County Supervisor to that of regular, non-sworn-peace officer, County
employees. Eliminates the participation by any County Supervisor in the County’s
401(k), 401(a), or 457(b) Plan.

Article I,  Section 1 of the San Bernardino County Charter would be amended to read:

SECTION 1. The Board of Supervisors shall consist of five members, one from
each supervisorial district. The Supervisors shall be nominated and elected at the time
and in the manner provided by general laws, except that provided that each supervisor
shall be elected by the electors of such district and not by the electors of the County at
large.

The position of County Supervisor shall be considered a part-time position.
“Part-time” is defined as attending a minimum of two regular board meetings per
month. Members may hold full-time employment and must comply with economic
disclosure requirements as set forth in the County Code and the California Government
Code. as required.

Article VI, Section 1 would be replaced and Section 2 would be added:

SECTION I. The total compensation of each member of the Board of Supervisors shall be five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) per month, which amount shall include the
actual cost to the County of all benefits of whatever kind or nature including but not
limited to salary, allowances, credit cards, health insurance, life insurance, leave,
retirement, memberships, portable communication devices, and vehicle allowances. This
compensation amount shall be in full compensation for all services by the respective
member of the Board of Supervisors.
Annually, the compensation of Supervisors shall be increased by the percentage
of increase in the cost of living, to be determined by the County Auditor-Controller as of
November I st of each year as shown in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price
Index for the Los Angeles Region, not to exceed five percent (5%) per year, provided that
such adjustments shall be rounded to the nearest $100. Any amount of increase in the
cost of living in excess of five percent (5%) may be accumulated and applied to increase
in salary in future years.

The foregoing compensation provisions shall not be changed except by a vote of
the people at the time of a general election.

SECTION 2. The compensation amount provided in Article VI. Section 1 shall
not include amounts deemed to be mandatory employer contributions and/or payments
under state or federal law, including, but not limited to, contributions for social security,
workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, Public Employee Retirement System,
and reimbursement for actual expenses.

Measure R would add Article I, Section 10:

ARTICLE I. SECTION 10: BOARD OF SUPERVISORS BUDGET
The total annual budget for each Member of the Board of Supervisors, including.
but not limited to, all office operations, and including staff member salaries, office
equipment, rent, vehicle allowances, credit cards. health insurance, life insurance, leave,
retirement, memberships, and portable communication devices shall not exceed five (5)
times the annual compensation amount for each Member as provided in Article VI.
Section I of this Charter. Compensation for each member of the Board of Supervisors
shall be separate and apart from the foregoing amount.
At no time shall any County resources be directed to supplant this provision
through any other county department or division including the County Administrative
Office.
The foregoing compensation provisions shall not be changed except by a vote of
the people at the time of a general election.

The Measure continues with the addition of Article VI, Section 6 to the Charter of the County of San Bernardino:

ARTICLE VI. SECTION 6: RETIREMENT BENEFITS OF MEMBERS OF
THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
SECTION 6. Upon the commencement of the next regular individual respective
term of each member of the Board of Supervisors, each member of the Board of
Supervisors shall thereafter be limited to annual retirement pension benefits of regular,
non-sworn- peace officer, County employees. Any supplemental retirement allowance
and/or contribution on behalf of the respective Supervisors is hereby eliminated,
including, but not limited to, participation in the County’s 401(k) and 401(a) retirement
plans; participation in the County’s 457(b) plan is eliminated; and any matching
payment(s) on behalf of any or all of the Supervisors by the County.
For each member of the Board of Supervisors who is a participant in the County
retirement system and/or any successor retirement system (“retirement system”), the
earnable compensation amount used to calculate the relevant pension formula shall
consist of wages derived from the respective Supervisor’s hourly rate equivalent. All
other forms of compensation, including, but not limited to, automobile allowance, health
benefits, insurance, portable communication device allowance, and leave accrual cash-outs
shall be excluded.
The Board of Supervisors shall not take any action, by ordinance, resolution, or
otherwise, which increases the retirement benefits of members of the Board of
Supervisors, with the exception of statutorily-established cost of living adjustments,
without first obtaining the approval of a majority of those qualified electors voting on the
matter.
Prior to placement of any proposed increased benefits on the ballot, the retirement
system shall prepare, or have prepared on its behalf, an actuarial study of the cost and the
funded and unfunded actuarial accrued liability attributable to the retirement benefit
changes proposed by the amendment. Such actuarial study shall be available to the
public and a summary of the actuarial study shall be published in the ballot pamphlet.

The effective date is the next term of each Supervisor.  Measure Q, Section 5.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

“Attention San Bernardino Residents Important City Bankruptcy Information”

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

“ATTENTION SAN BERNARDINO RESIDENTS IMPORTANT CITY BANKRUPTCY INFORMATION” reads the first page of a mailer from the San Bernardino Police Officers Association and the San Bernardino City Professional Firefighters.

The mailer is below (scanned with the back and front first, with the interior page below), and arrived August 4th in post :


The back of the mailer says:

SAN BERNARDINO’S FIREFIGHTERS AND POLICE OFFICERS STAND WITH THE RESIDENTS OF SAN BERNARDINO

Dear San Bernardino Residents,
San Bernardino’s Firefighters and Police Officers go to work each day
risking their lives and their safety to protect the lives and safety of the
City’s neighborhoods and families.
We’re in this together with you. We have your back- and we know you
have ours.
Mayor Pat Morris and his administration must be held accountable for
the failed policies that have driven San Bernardino into bankruptcy.
His failures cannot be excused.
Your tax dollars have been squandered.
Jobs have been run out of the City.
Vital city services needed to protect San Bernardino’s families are
facing devastating cuts that will threaten public safety.
We’re willing to do our part and make our fair share of sacrifice to help
the City balance its budget- just as we have for the last several years.
As the City moves forward into Bankruptcy Court we will keep you
informed to ensure that you have the facts about how San Bernardino’s
bankruptcy will affect you and your family.
We thank you for your continued support and are honored to serve you.
Yours truly,
SCOTT MOSS, President
San Bernardino City Professional Firefighters
STEVE TURNER, President
San Bernardino Police Officers Association
Learn more about the City’s Bankruptcy at
www.sanbernardinocitybankruptcy.com

Page Two continues:

WHY DID THE CITY OF SAN BERNARDINO
DECIDE TO DECLARE BANKRUPTCY?
The City claims to have a $45 million budget deficit that will prevent it from
paying its employees and the other bills it owes by the end of summer.-
WHAT CAUSED SAN BERNARDINO’S $45
MILLION BUDGET DEFICIT?
Mayor Pat Morris and his administration failed to make the tough choices
necessary to honestly balance the City’s Budget.
According to an outside independent expert, “San Bernardino faced years
of deficit spending. It’s structural gap, however, was covered-up instead of
addressed. The city sold assets, borrowed from city funds, borrowed from
banks and bondholders, used one year’s surplus to cover the following
year’s deficit, and raided its reserves.”
IS IT COMMON FOR A CITY TO
DECLARE BANKRUPTCY?
No, it’s very rare. Only one or two cities in the entire
nation declare bankruptcy each year. Recently the
cities of Stockton and Mammoth Lakes declared
bankruptcy, and Vallejo declared bankruptcy in 2008.
Vallejo has completed the bankruptcy process but the
financial benefits are unclear. Vallejo spent $13 million
of taxpayer money on legal bills and still does not
have a balanced budget.

Page Three says:

IS THE COST OF THE SALARIES AND PENSIONS
OF FIREFIGHTERS AND POLICE OFFICERS THE
CAUSE OF THE CITY’S BANKRUPTCY?
No. Pat Morris is falsely making this claim to hide the fact that his failures
to stop wasteful spending and balance the City’s budget have driven San
Bernardino into bankruptcy.
The truth is the San Bernardino City Charter, as approved by the voters,
protects taxpayers by limiting the salaries and benefits of the City’s
Firefighters and Police Officers.
Additionally, San Bernardino’s Firefighters and Police Officers have always
been willing to do their fair share to help balance the budget. They’ve
offered and accepted reductions to their pay and benefits for the last four
years that has saved the City millions of dollars.
Unfortunately Mayor Morris and his administration failed to use the money
from these savings to cut the deficit. Instead the money was used for
wasteful pet projects like the SBX line.
WILL BANKRUPTCY BE BAD FOR
SAN BERNARDINO?
The greatest risk bankruptcy poses to residents is in the area of job creation.
The decision to declare bankruptcy will likely make it more difficult to attract
job-creating businesses to the City because they will be afraid to invest in
San Bernardino.
That would likely result in an increase in San Bernardino’s already high
unemployment rate.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104,
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

San Bernardino’s Fiscal Emergency Operation Plan Memo Dated July 23, 2012

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The City of San Bernardino recently released this memorandum.  The authors of the memorandum, dated July 23, 2012, are Interim City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller and Director of Finance Jason Simpson.  The memorandum is addressed to the Mayor and Common Council.

The summary on the first page says:

On July 18, 2012, the City Council directed the filing of a petition under Chapter 9 of the
United States Bankruptcy Code following the declaration of a fiscal emergency in the
City of San Bernardino. These actions were in response to findings that the financial
state of the City is such that the health, safety, and well-being of the residents of the
City will be jeopardized absent Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.
This report proposes a Fiscal Emergency Operating Plan, which will enable the City to
operate while it is under Chapter 9 protection and includes recommendations for various
actions related to the City’s Preliminary FY 2012-13 General Fund Budget, which
combined will represent the City’s Financial Plan for FY 2012-13. This Fiscal
Emergency Operating Plan is necessary for the City to operate until the Pendency Plan
is developed under Chapter 9 and is presented for Council consideration as part of this
staff report.

This report covers the funding and operations of the City’s General Fund and does not
include any special purpose or restricted funds with the exception of capital projects.
The budgets for those funds will be provided to the Council by the end of August 2012.

Some other highlights:

From Page 2:

The Preliminary FY 2012-13 Budget has an operating shortfall of $45.8 million and does
not provide for any reserves nor does it address the estimated $18 million negative cash
balance in the General Fund. At Fiscal Year end, the negative cash is expected to grow
to $59.2 million in the absence of drastic measures to reduce the City’s obligations
through restructuring. The City’s financial situation is dire with no revenue or other
funding sources available to balance the City’s budget and address prior years’ deficits.

 

In bold, from Page 2:

The City must create a plan to emerge from this
fiscal crisis that is truly sustainable, with reliable ongoing revenues covering the
full operational costs, both direct and indirect, and sufficient reserves to weather
economic uncertainty, revenue fluctuations, and emergency spending
requirements.

From Page 3:

City staff will be reducing costs through the realignment of the organization and will
present a balanced budget for consideration by the Council during the coming weeks.
However, the actions to date have been insufficient and without further reduction of
costs through restructuring of obligations and severe service level reductions, the City
will be unable to adopt a balanced budget as required by the City’s Charter and the
State Constitution.

General Fund Negative Cash Balance of $18 million dollars as of June 30, 2012:

Overall, the balance of the City’s total cash and investment portfolio, as reported in the
most recent financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2012, (unaudited) was $27
million. Of this balance, 100% was held in restricted funds (assessment districts,
bonds, trust funds, special revenues, and tax measures), and the General Fund has a
negative cash balance of $18 million. While the City continues to hold investment
balances, the balances are from restricted sources not available for general operations.

City’s Unfunded liabilities of $296 million:

In addition to the City’s bonded indebtedness and lease obligations, unfunded liabilities
total approximately $296 million. Unfunded liabilities include unfunded pension
obligations of $195 million, retiree medical of $61 million, compensated absences of $20
million, general liability of $10 million, and worker’s compensation of $10 million.

Actions for the next three months:

The
remainder of the schedule details the actions proposed to be taken to meet the cash
flow needs of the City during this interim time frame. Measures proposed include:
1. Deferring debt and lease payments due in the First Quarter in the amount of
$3,556,972 until some later date. Debt and lease payments include payments for
Pension Bonds and Infrastructure Bank Loans.
2. Deferring the annual debt payment on the New World system in the amount of
$645,000.
3. Maintaining vacancies resulting in a savings of $531,000 per month in salaries,
$158,031 per month in PERS payments, $53,919 per month in health insurance
costs, and $9,200 per month in other benefit payments.
4. Continuing the employment concessions agreed to by the General Unit, Middle
Management Unit, and Management/Confidential Unit in the amount of
$2,994,764. The agreements with the Police Safety, Police Management, and
Fire Management have not expired, and there currently is no contract with the
Fire Union.
5. Deferring the ARC contribution for retiree health due in the First Quarter in the
amount of $2,219,332.
6. Deferring capital improvement projects for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, these measures are intended to enable the City to meet its obligations
over a 3-month period and will not result in a sustainable, balanced budget. City staff is
preparing a Pendency Plan which will serve as the budget until the bankruptcy court
approves a long-term Plan of Adjustment. Over the next 30 days, staff will work to
prepare a Pendency Plan that focuses the City’s limited resources on sustaining basic
service delivery, addressing contractual obligations, and establishing a fair,
compensation structure so the City can retain quality employees to provide essential
public services. The Pendency Plan will balance anticipated revenues against
expenditures through a restructuring of the organization and service delivery
necessary to reduce expenditures by roughly 30% of the Preliminary Budget.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104,
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

The Wrong Answer to Post-Bankruptcy San Bernardino

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

There is a lot of misinformation out there about the City of San Bernardino regarding proposed reform efforts to the system of government for the City of San Bernardino.

One was a suggestion to transform the City of San Bernardino from a Charter city to a general law city.  There are generally benefits to being a charter city in that you have a modicum more home rule then a general law city.  However, if people think that converting to a general law city will get rid of the ward system they are mistaken for two reasons.  First, general law cities can have elections by district.  Redlands (a general law city), briefly, had elections by district, and Colton, a general law city, still has districts.

Second, when City Attorney Penman suggested a charter measure to do away with the ward system, he was met with challenges from rights groups.  I believe that effort was before the California Voting Rights Act was passed, which makes it easier to prove dilution in an at-large election.

If the City of San Bernardino’s structure (the composite Strong Mayor, Strong City Manager, Strong Council Form of Government) is the problem, removing the Charter gives the residents less choice in creating a government. If this is just an end-run to trying to get rid of the elected City Attorney, the voters have already shown with the resounding defeats of Measures C and M that they do not want that.  Going to a general law council-manager form of government would not have prevented this kind of insolvency, because if there were illegal activities by staff, they council still would not detect it, and if the council refused to listen to staff regarding the need for cuts, it wouldn’t matter if they were elected according to general law or a charter.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104,
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

City of San Bernardino Bankruptcy: What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

We do not yet know the full story about what went wrong as far as misstatements or miscalculations (incompetence) or concealment (fraud) of numbers in the City of San Bernardino that led to the situation wherein the City of San Bernardino had or has, at some point, less than $150,000 in its bank account.

First, from primary sources, City staff (on July 9, 2012) stated that as of April 3, 2012, City staff was still misreporting the fund balance.

The Finance Department of the City of San Bernardino created a report, dated July 9, 2012 , Page 7:

Starting General Fund balance has been erroneously stated for the past 2 fiscal
years

Fiscal Year                                July 1st Audited Fund Balance              Staff Reported Fund Balance
FY 2009-2010                           $2,708,319                                                     $2,557,900
FY 2010-11                               $410,293                                                             $1,770,400
FY 2011 -12                              $(1 ,181,603)                                                       $2,044,100*
*Mid-Year report presented April 3, 2012.

Going back to the April 3, 2012 meeting in the City of San Bernardino’s online archives, I was unable to find any minutes after January 23, 2012.  Here is the April 3, 2012 Agenda for the Joint Adjourned Regular Meeting of the Mayor and Common Council.

In a staff report by Rebecca Garcia, through City Manager Charles McNeely, for Item 3A, the purpose of the workshop was to “Discuss proposed revenue enhancements and cost containment strategies and provide direction
as to measures to be researched and presented for further Council review, analysis and consideration at a future meeting.”  This staff report includes the chart that gives the $2,044,100 opening fund balance for FY 2011-2012, but also has a different number (then in the July 9, 2012 report) for 2010-2011: $2,998,000.

In the staff report by Jason Simpson, Director of Finance, for Item 1A,  on the April 3, 2012 agenda he warns on Page 10:

A major concern that needs to be noted is that the City’ s General Fund continues to be in an
increasing weakening condition and immediate changes need to be made to reverse this financial
condition, build the General Fund Reserve, and stabilize this fund. If these efforts are not made,
insolvency or bankruptcy may result. The Council has an opportunity to resolve the issue and
change the City’ s course. If not, control may be taken out of the Council’ s hands. [Emphasis Added]

However, on packet page 12, Jason Simpson’s report gives the opening fund balance for 2012 as $2,044,100.

Imran Ghori wrote an article published April 3, 2012 at 9:15 p.m., “San Bernardino: City Faces $3.8 millon shortfall[;] The decline in sales and property taxes are hurting the city, a mid-year budget report shows.”  The story starts:

San Bernardino could be headed for insolvency or bankruptcy if it’s not able to get its general fund budget under control, according to a mid-year budget report presented to the mayor and City Council on Tuesday. [Emphasis Added].

The first time the fund balance issue was in the traditional press is in The Sun, “San Bernardino facing bankruptcy if deep cuts aren’t made” by Ryan Hagen, posted online on July 7, 2012 at 8:13:10 p.m. PDT.  In the article, “

“[Council member Wendy] McCammack also said she was troubled by the budget report’s note that the general fund’s starting balance has been erroneously stated for the past two fiscal years.

That reached a peak several months ago, when then-City Manager Charles McNeely said the fund had a balance of $2 million but the audited fund balance on July 1 turned out to be in the red by $1.2 million.

It appears that the first time that City Attorney James F. Penman mentioned, in public, that 13 out of 16 budgets may have been falsified (and I am paraphrasing from the press account) was at the July 9, 2012 Council Meeting.

As far as what did people know and when did they know it, the rest is from press articles. This article, from public radio station KPCC, “San Bernardino authorities confirm probe into city finances” by Steven Cuevas with Nick Roman, posted 6:00 a.m. on Friday, July 13, 2012 says:

Before the San Bernardino City Council’s bankruptcy vote Tuesday, City Attorney Jim Penman announced that unidentified city administrators had cooked the books to make it appear the city had more cash in reserve than it actually had.

The alleged deceit was uncovered during an audit by new finance staff working under interim city manager Laura Travis-Miller, who took over four months ago.

. . .

Sixth District [sic] councilman Rikke van [sic] Johnson said Penman gave a short briefing to council members prior to the council’s emergency budget meeting Tuesday. But he said it was short on details.

“It wasn’t nothing as far as, ‘OK, this year that happened’ or ‘that year, this happened’ or anything like that,” said Van [sic] Johnson.

“There wasn’t no specifics, other than he said that it’s under investigation. And unfortunately, what was said in that so-called briefing should have stayed in that so-called briefing and went to the right parties. Because we’re dealing with an even bigger issue then that that as far as bankruptcy. All the sudden your issue becomes the lead issue when it shouldn’t be.”

Presumably, this information was given in closed session.
This blog piece comes from an interview yesterday with Interim City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller:  The piece appears in the Los Angeles Times Blog LA NOW, posted July 13, 2012 at 7:25, by Abby Sewell and Phil Willon, labled “Criminal Probe

Miller said the city’s financial problems had been evident for many years, but the full scope was not evident until more recently, when she and the new finance director took a hard look at the books.

She said there had been inaccurate financial reporting in the city for many years, which delayed the process of understanding the full financial picture, but she said she had not seen evidence of deliberate wrongdoing.

“I have not found that there’s anything more than negligence, maybe sloppiness,” she said, adding that staffers at the time were stretched thin because of cuts.

Andrea Travis-Miller became acting City Manager on May 8, 2012, but was assistant before.  Jason Simpson began work on March 28, 2012.  So, if the quotes from Andrea Travis-Miller are correct, the problem was found sometime between March 28, 2012 and when the July 9, 2012 report was posted.

Bankruptcy was first mentioned in the April 3, 2012 staff report.  The misstating of the fund balance was found some time after March 28, 2012, but not reported on April 3, 2012 by Jason Simpson in his staff report.  The first public document showing the wrong data for two years was in a report for the July 9, 2012 meeting.  Time will tell  what they knew, and when they knew it.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104,
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

What Charter Reform Measures Might Have Helped the City of San Bernardino Avoid Bankruptcy? An Elected Auditor and an Elected City Prosecutor.

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

We do not yet know the full story about what went wrong as far as misstatements or miscalculations (incompetence) or concealment (fraud) of numbers in the City of San Bernardino that led to the situation wherein the City of San Bernardino had or has, at some point, less than $150,000 in its bank account.  Some political campaigns in San Bernardino County have more than that in their accounts right now.

The Finance Department of the City of San Bernardino created a report, dated July 9, 2012, that blames, on page 1 in the Executive Summary:

. . . the City is still facing insolvency due to a variety of issues including accounting errors, deficit spending, lack of revenue growth, and increases in pension and debt costs.

Something went wrong with the way government is supposed to work, with checks and balances regarding these unspecified accounting errors.

The Charter of the City of San Bernardino has a variety of checks and balances, and there are also external checks and balances in the municipal system of government from California law and to some extent in Federal law.

Within today’s Charter, there are eleven elected officials in the City of San Bernardino: Council members from seven geographical wards, an elected Mayor, an elected City Clerk, an elected City Treasurer, and an elected City Attorney. However, the structure if the City lacks an appropriate check and balance to find either a well-concealed fraud, or even a miscalculation of numbers that appeared on financial reports but did not reflect actual amounts.

Here is the problem, from the same July 9, 2012 report, Page 7:

Starting General Fund balance has been erroneously stated for the past 2 fiscal
years

Fiscal Year                                July 1st Audited Fund Balance              Staff Reported Fund Balance
FY 2009-2010                           $2,708,319                                                     $2,557,9oo
FY 2010-11                               $410,293                                                             $1,770,400
FY 2011 -12                              $(1 ,181,603)                                                       $2,044,100*
*Mid-Year report presented April 3, 2012.

Shouldn’t an audit have found the problem? Maybe, but if there was actual fraud, it can be difficult to find because some skilled in financial deceit can falsify document to make the numbers match up.  Even if a skilled City Council member with a background in accounting exists, they probably won’t find the discrepancy.   However, from these numbers, it seems that an audit did catch these numbers, though it doesn’t say when and who it was reported to.

What about the City Treasurer?    The Treasurer’s Duties are:

The Treasurer shall receive and pay out all moneys belonging to the City, and shall keep an account of all receipts and expenditures, under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed. He/She shall make a
monthly statement to the Mayor and Common Council of the receipts and expenditures of the preceding month, and shall perform all duties required of him/her by law and the Mayor and the Common Council. He/She shall not pay out any monies belonging to the City except on claims presented, allowed and submitted in the manner provided by this Charter.   Charter section 70.

However, if numbers are falsified by members of the Finance Department (which the Charter gives day-to-day supervision to the City Manager), the City Treasurer’s Office may not catch the problem.

What then, is the answer?  Part 1, Create a City Auditor, like the City of Los Angeles Controller, that is elected and has the power to audit, investigate, and request prosecution or discipline according to the needs of the situation.

The Controller in Los Angeles, per the Los Angeles City Charter, has these duties:

BookmarkSec. 260.  Auditor and General Accountant.

The Controller shall be the auditor and general accountant of the City and shall exercise a general supervision over the accounts of all offices, departments, boards and employees of the City charged in any manner with the receipt, collection or disbursement of the money of the City.  The Controller shall be elected as provided in Section 202.

BookmarkSec. 261.  Powers and Duties.

The Controller shall:

(a)     appoint assistants, deputies, clerks and other persons as the Council shall prescribe by ordinance;

(b)     prescribe the method of keeping all accounts of the offices, departments, boards or employees of the City in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, except that any change of the system of accounting shall first be authorized by the Council;

(c)     regularly review the accounting practices of offices and departments and upon finding serious failings in accounting practices, be empowered to take charge of the accounting function, and thereafter assist the office or department in implementing appropriate accounting standards and practices;

(d)     maintain a complete set of accounts which shall be deemed the official books and accounts of the City, which shall show at all times the financial condition of the City, the state of each fund, including funds of departments responsible for managing their own funds, the source from which all money was derived and for what purposes all money has been expended;

(e)     in compliance with generally accepted government auditing standards, audit all departments and offices of the City, including proprietary departments, where any City funds are either received or expended; be entitled to obtain access to all department records and personnel in order to carry out this function; establish an auditing cycle to ensure that the performance, programs and activities of every department are audited on a regular basis, and promptly provide completed audit reports to the Mayor, Council, and City Attorney and make those reports available to the public;

(f)     maintain a reconciliation between the accounts in all offices and departments with the accounts in the Controller’s office, and from time to time, verify the condition of all City funds in the City Treasury, and report to the Mayor and Council thereon;

(g)     allocate among the several respective funds all public money at any time in the City Treasury not otherwise specifically allocated and appropriated by law or ordinance, and promptly notify the Treasurer of the allocation or appropriation;

(h)     report to the Mayor and Council, at times established by law, the condition of each fund, and make other reports as the Mayor or Council requests;

(i)     maintain each fund on a parity with its obligations at all times by transferring from the Reserve Fund as a loan to any fund which may become depleted through tardy receipt of revenues, and upon receipt of revenues sufficient to make an allocation as will restore each fund to parity, retransfer the amount of the loan to the Reserve Fund;

(j)     monitor the level of debt incurred by the City and report periodically to the Mayor and Council on City debt; and

(k)     conduct performance audits of all departments and may conduct performance audits of City programs, including suggesting plans for the improvement and management of the revenues and expenditures of the City.  Nothing in this subsection shall preclude the Mayor or Council from conducting management studies or other review of departmental operations.

BookmarkSec. 262.  Approval of Demands on Treasury.

(a)     The Controller shall, prior to approval of any demand, make inspection as to the quality, quantity and condition of services, labor, materials, supplies or equipment received by any office or department of the City, and approve before payment all demands drawn upon the Treasury if the Controller has adequate evidence that:

(1)     the demand has been approved by every board, officer or employee whose approval is required by the Charter or ordinance;

(2)     the goods or services have been provided, except that advance payment may be authorized by ordinance for specified categories of goods and services;

(3)     the payment is lawful;

(4)     the appropriation for the goods or services has been made;

(5)     the prices charged are reasonable;

(6)     the quantity, quality and prices correspond with the original specifications, orders or contracts; and

(7)     any additional criteria established by ordinance have been satisfied.

(b)     Notwithstanding subsection (a), the Controller shall delegate to the various offices and departments the duties of inspection of goods and services and approval of demands, in accordance with methods for inspection and approval established by the Controller, but the Controller may suspend the authority delegated pursuant to this subsection upon a finding of abuse of that authority or on a determination that the office or department lacks adequate controls to exercise that authority properly.  In the event of suspension of the authority delegated pursuant to this subsection, the Controller shall assist the office or department to achieve adequate controls and standards prior to reinstatement of that authority to the office or department.

(c)     The Controller shall withhold approval of any demand, in whole or in part, if there is a question as to whether it is improper, illegal, or unauthorized, and immediately file a report with the Mayor and Council stating the objections to the demand.  The Council shall promptly consider the report and may overrule or sustain the objections of the Controller.

(d)     The Controller shall keep a record of all demands on the Treasury approved by the Controller and of all demands to which objections have been made and overruled.

BookmarkSec. 263.  Approval of Expenses of Controller.

All demands for the expenses of the office of the Controller shall, before payment, be presented to the Mayor, who shall have the same powers as to approval or disapproval as are exercised by the Controller in the case of other demands. The action of the Mayor shall be subject to review by the Council.

BookmarkSec. 264.  Reduction of Demand on Treasury.

No demand upon the Treasury shall be allowed by the Controller in favor of any person or entity indebted to the City without first deducting the amount of the indebtedness, to the extent permitted by law.

BookmarkSec. 265.  Payment of Bonds.

Nothing in this Article shall be construed as interfering with or preventing the payment by the Treasurer of principal and interest on bonds payable by the City in accordance with the California Constitution, laws and ordinances authorizing the issuance and payment of those bonds.

BookmarkSec. 266.  Periodic Surveys of Proprietary Departments.

(a)     The Controller, Council and Mayor shall jointly cause, at least once in every five years, an industrial, economic and administrative survey to be made of the business and property of each of the Harbor, Water and Power and Airports Departments and shall select an independent qualified industrial engineer or organization specializing in such surveys to conduct the survey.  The cost of each survey shall be paid for from the funds of the surveyed department.

(b)     Each survey shall be made in consultation with the Mayor and City Council to ascertain if the surveyed department is operating in the most efficient and economical manner.

(c)     A copy of the report of each survey shall be transmitted to the Mayor, Council, and board of the surveyed department and shall be made available to the public.

Solution Part 2: Create an Elected City Prosecutor.  The City Attorney in San Bernardino is already the City prosecutor.  However, by splitting the functions, the City will have the best of both worlds.  An elected City Attorney will give advice to the City as an entity without the fear of being fired for not giving advice to the other elected officials in power, and a City prosecutor can prosecute violations of the Municipal Code and the areas of State law given by Charter or state law with the independence necessary, with the independently elected City Auditor, to root out these kinds of corruption.

If an elected City Attorney is an elected watchdog, a City Prosecutor would be doubly so.  The City Attorney’s client is the City of San Bernardino, the entity, and the City Attorney must protect the entity’s pocket book.  The role of exposing corruption sometimes is at odds with that goal.  Adding a separate elected City Prosecutor can rectify that situation and protect, in the long run, the People’s interest without regard to the City’s financial interest.

Of course, the bad numbers shown above do not add up to the alleged deficit, but if Council members were going on the correct numbers to start with, perhaps they would not have made the political choices that led to the fiscal emergency.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104,
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055
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