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Councilman criticizes selection of DeBell oversight committee

Scramble for spot on group leaves two council members disappointed.

July 15, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

A committee set up this week to oversee the struggling DeBell Golf Club has been criticized by Councilman David Gordon for being composed of some of the same people who were charged with monitoring course’s financial health in the first place.

The subcommittee — which includes parks director Chris Daste, who has apologized for not bringing the red ink to the attention of City Hall sooner — was formed after a period of jostling on the dais that ultimately led to Mayor Jess Talamantes and Councilman Dave Golonski also being appointed to help oversee DeBell’s return to profitability.

The City Council last month voted to lend the municipal golf course $1 million to help pull the course out of a $718,215 operating deficit. An additional $1 million also was set aside in case it was needed. The action was taken even as the council cut fire and youth services and library upgrades were postponed amid an $8-million budget deficit.

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Gordon, who was the lone council member to oppose the rescue package, took issue with appointing several park commissioners and Daste to the oversight committee.

“They were already on this and didn’t give us an early warning,” Gordon said, noting that the Park, Recreation & Community Services Department oversees the golf course.

He also called on the city to first perform “operational audit” before moving forward with the committee.

In an interview, Gordon said he would prefer to have “outside, independent golf professionals or others with significant experience with golf” on the committee.

“Is the composition of the selected committee ideal? Perhaps not. But [the committee] should hit the ground running and hopefully contribute to resolution to the economic turmoil occurring at this City facility,” Gordon said.

Financial Services Director Cindy Geraldo, together with parks commissioners Tod Layfer and Garen Yegparian, also were named to the committee.

Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy, vowing to press for a financial review and examinations of current vendor contracts, lobbied unsuccessfully for a spot on the committee. So did Councilman Gary Bric, who said he is an avid golfer and restaurateur.

Daste said Gordon’s assessment about the failure of his department to provide an early warning about the course’s budget deficit was fair.

“Some things I would have liked to do differently as a department head,” Daste said. “I take responsibility for that and will make sure that does not happen again.”

An outside golf professional, along with Ray and Shelly Lucero, who run the course’s Clubhouse Grille, will participate as ex-officio members and will not be able to vote.

The subcommittee meetings will be publicly noticed and open to the public. Daste said the first order of business will be an operational audit.
 
 

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