Receipts requested by the Patterson Irrigator during the past couple of weeks indicate that the city of Patterson has spent nearly $2,400 during the past seven years on mayors group gatherings.
Looking over those receipts, it’s clear what the mayors have gotten out of these meetings. They’ve dined at some of the county’s top restaurants, such as Dewz in Modesto and Diablo Grande and Damasco Fine Food & Spirits in Patterson and received pricey gift baskets from Stewart & Jasper among other places. All of these perks were delivered on the taxpayers’ dime.
What’s not clear is what the taxpayers have gotten in return. How have these expenses benefited individual constituents that these mayors represent?
There’s also a need for public disclosure. Patterson Mayor Luis Molina has argued this is not a decision-making group, and did not need to have all of its meetings open to the public.
But up until Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueño, Oakdale Mayor Pat Paul and Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh recently removed themselves from Stanislaus County Council of Governments’ policy board, members had the power to collaboratively implement policy.
In addition, there’s no question that an ag-preservation plan that the group is working on delves into policy-making, despite protests from members that it is not a policy-making board.
If the group is to discuss policy, it should act in the best interest of the public and make its meetings open to all with proper agendas. In addition, the group needs to spend conservatively on its get-togethers.
It’s true that in light of the city’s current $8.9 million budget, about $1,100 spent within the past year on Mayors Working Group perks may seem like a drop in the bucket. And it certainly pales in comparison to certain federal government-funded boondoggles, such as an $800,000 conference that the General Service Administration recently hosted in Las Vegas, according to Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock’s office.
Nevertheless, the mayors group’s fancy dinner meetings still send the wrong signal during a time when many residents are struggling to make ends meet.
Decreased expenses and increased accessibility would allow the group to achieve its goals without hurting the constituents it aims to help.
We want our elected officials to work together. But they must do it out in the open.