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The Real Costs to Taxpayers of the Claudia Alvarez Community Forum

After three months of repeated requests for public records and information we have narrowed down the costs of the “Agents of Change” community forum to the taxpayers to approximately $4,000.  With no help from the city, we estimated the time spent by staff on the event, factored in their approximate hourly rates of pay and benefits, added in the costs of parking and the video broadcast of the event to arrive at our numbers.

Claudia Alvarez Forum
Claudia Alvarez greets invited guests to closed community forum on race relations and civility. (Photo Dan Chmielewski)

On Tuesday October 27, 2011, the City of Santa Ana co-hosted with Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez a community forum titled “Agents of Change.” The purpose of the forum was to address cultural divisions between the Jewish and Latino communities which came to light after Alvarez compared a local Jewish property owner to Hitler while chairing a meeting of the City Council.

The event was initially envisioned as a county-wide public forum by Councilman Vincent Sarmiento when he proposed it as a compromise to efforts to strip Alvarez of her Mayor Pro Tem position because of her remarks. However days before the forum LiberalOC learned that the forum was not a public event at all. Rather it was an “invitation only” affair for which Alvarez determined the guest list.

When LiberalOC Managing Editor Dan Chmielewski tried to attend the forum, at the verbal invitation of Councilman Sarmiento, he was denied access by Interim City Manager Paul Walters who said; “this Town Hall is a private event.” When asked how an event hosted and partially paid for by the city could be private Walters told Chmielewski; “the event isn’t costing the city a cent.”

Should the city be willing to provide a calculation of their own, we will be happy to publish that information, but based upon their claims that they did not track the costs, I would be surprised if they comment further.

So to recap here is what we know.

  • The city of Santa Ana failed to track the costs of the Agents of Change community forum
  • Claudia Alvarez controlled the invitation list to the extent that certain community leaders with whom she disagrees were excluded from the list.
  • At least five city staff members worked on the event in addition to two staff members from the Video Engineering contractor.
  • The city resisted releasing any information regarding the costs of the event for almost three months.
  • The event, which served only to attempt to facilitate the image repair of Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez, cost approximately $4,000.

I’m left with one final question. Other than the need to conceal the actual costs in order to not contradict the false claim by Interim City Manager Paul Walters that the event “didn’t cost the city a dime,” why the lack of transparency and repeated failure to respond to public records requests in a timely manner?

If the city is willing to go to this much effort to conceal the costs of a community forum, what else are they trying to hide related to their $30 million budget shortfall?


  1. Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski January 23, 2012

    Besides the taxpayers of Santa Ana, who picked up the tab for this community forum on diversity, I feel bad for Councilman Vince Sarmiento. He offered this forum as a alternative motion of stripping Alvarez on her Mayor Pro Tem status and instructed City Staff to make the event happened. When he found out it was a by-invitation only event, he was as suprised as anyone. It’s obvious he was played by Alvarez and City Staff. And its unfortunate, he did not attend. Perhaps the reason is, if he did, the forum would have had a majority of the council in attendance as it would have constituted a Brown Act violation — but it’s not like that hasn’t happened before.

  2. junior junior January 23, 2012

    Your estimate of direct cost to the City seems pretty low. Staff probably spent over 100 hours total organizing and running this event – at $60.00 per hour (including bennies, admin & overhead costs) that is $6,000.00 right there.

    • Jeff Dickman Jeff Dickman January 23, 2012

      Mike, staff is likely closer to $125 per hour if you include the overhead. My guess is to double your estimate to about 12k.

      I’ve been in government for 26 years and that has been my experience.

  3. Kenlaysnotdead Kenlaysnotdead January 23, 2012

    How dare you challenge the great Latino progressive council majority junior. I’m calling Sean Mill right now so he can run your credit report and your deed information so we can use it against you

  4. junior junior January 23, 2012

    Do us a favor kenlay and drop dead.

  5. Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski January 23, 2012

    Careful junior, or he’ll start stalking your business or your Facebook page

  6. Chris Prevatt Chris Prevatt Post author | January 23, 2012

    junior and Jeff,

    We could quibble over the exact number of hours allocated for each staff member. I could also challange the number of people they admitted were actually working the event. I based my figures on what I estimated was the minimum amount of time the identified individuals would have had to spend on the project.

    My guess is that my numbers ar in the ball park, but given the lack of transparency on the part of the city, this is about as close as we’re going to get to the actual costs.

  7. Poor Maria Poor Maria January 24, 2012

    One wonders if Santana city clerk Maria Huizar ever thought she would be working for a corrupt bunch of racist thieves. Poor Maria won’t know what hit her when the FBI is searching throught her desk drawers looking for evidence. Those cockroaches up in city hall will regret ever covering up for the most corrupt group of criminals ever to inhabit that cesspool.

  8. Gil Gil January 24, 2012

    FBI, hurry up and investigate the mayor and council. We are all waiting to see what illegal activities you find.

Comments are closed.