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Michael Warren quits Downtown Lodi Business Partnership, states he is ‘at odds with policies’

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Michael Warren

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 10:38 am, Thu May 12, 2011.

Business owner Michael Warren resigned from the Downtown Lodi Business Partnership board on Wednesday, writing in a statement that he is “fundamentally at odds with the policies and practices of the organization.”

Warren, owner of Crush Kitchen + Bar and the Market at Crush, turned in his resignation about a month after he questioned the board’s finances at a Lodi City Council meeting.

Warren, who was elected to the board in December, questioned bonuses to the executive director Jaime Watts. He centered his remarks around roughly $5,000 in bonuses linked to the farmers’ market.

In a statement he provided to the News-Sentinel, he said he was unable to reconcile with his fellow board members and provide transparency to the public. But he plans to continue questioning the DLBP as a business owner and demand accountability.

“In the wake of these events I can only hope that the city and my fellow business owners who fund the DLBP demand to know where their hard-earned money is being spent,” he said.

It is unfortunate that Warren decided to resign, said Nancy Byer-Hauan, executive board member and president of the partnership.

“After such a brief time on the board, he did not allow himself the opportunity to contribute to the growth of the organization,” Byer-Hauan said in a written statement.

Warren went before the council in early April because he said he reviewed some of the board’s finances and felt they should be public, especially because it involves taxpayer money.

He then was out of town for the next meeting and missed the meeting this past Monday, where Byer-Hauan reviewed a pledge the board members signed when they were elected.

Byer-Hauan specifically pointed to the portion of the code that asks board members to not “engage in gossip, speculation or innuendo about the board members or civic leaders,” she said.

Warren said he felt that as a board member it was his duty to make these finances public. He took his concerns to the council because he wants residents to be able to help shape the organization’s direction. He said it was not about personal vendettas.

“(I) have simply offered the public an opportunity to view what should be in the public record already. It is entirely inappropriate to demand a pledge which furthers the ‘secret society’ that current and former board members have fostered,” he said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com. Read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/citybuzz.

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25 comments:

  • Doug Chaney posted at 9:58 pm on Mon, May 16, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    The below links show the pandering by city council towards the DLBP and the outward corruption that council refuses to investigate and pursue criminal charges if warranted. Could it be possible council gets a take of some of that funding or income, too?

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 9:56 pm on Mon, May 16, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    http://www.lodinews.com/business/article_65ecf762-0310-5910-8525-47d295d3ed2d.html

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 9:49 pm on Mon, May 16, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    http://www.lodinews.com/news/article_5cd8799e-17b9-590b-9e85-a0702d50c53c.html

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 9:48 pm on Mon, May 16, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    http://www.lodinews.com/news/article_5cd8799e-17b9-590b-9e85-a0702d50c53c.html

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 9:43 pm on Mon, May 16, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    http://www.lodinews.com/news/article_791d90ac-a841-5b41-bda0-dea87c96dcef.html

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 9:40 pm on Mon, May 16, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    http://www.lodinews.com/business/article_4858574f-dbba-5d42-adb6-e14cd89af76d.html

     
  • roy bitz posted at 5:46 pm on Mon, May 16, 2011.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    I believe we have a chance to effect things locally by illuminating bad 3/2 council decisions such as--- the gifting of city funds to favored non profits---- the building of massive projects such as the unjustified unneeded "treat and drink" water treatment plant---- or council's decision to extend the Waste Management contract for a million dollar "donation" to the grape bowl. This one was clearly a quid pro quo. Even if I'm wrong, I think it's worth a try.
    I do not believe we have the wherewithal to effect change on things like the Stimulus. That's why I focus on local issues.
    Hope you will help keep this ball rolling Darrell.

     
  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 2:13 pm on Mon, May 16, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403


    Roy, you could be right. I know what you are concerned with runs rampant in our society. Just look at how billions were spent in this last Obama Stimulus bill... Most of it went to organizations and entities that were favorites of the politicians who decided who got what. Politics in general is all about anti- merit and who gets what is based on who knows who... Lodi is no different. Maybe it is so common that it is seen as business as usual and normal business practice. It leaves a bad taste in people's mouth when someone more deserving is left out just because of political considerations.

     
  • roy bitz posted at 8:39 pm on Sun, May 15, 2011.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    Thank you again for keeping this ball rolling Darrell.
    It sounds like you are you saying you believe three city council members should be free to award public funds to any non profit organization they believe worthy. I don't!
    I do not think it is possible for the council to "objectively" evaluate the cost/benefit of 47 non profit organizations and decide how much public funding each should get.
    That is why I think the council should not award any public funds to any non profit--least of all the DTLBP. In my opinion, this is a club and should not receive any city funding support. Just my opinon.

     
  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 6:26 pm on Sun, May 15, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Roy...Ill be clear as well. I do not think it was brave to resign. His actions bring short term attention. The difficult thing to do would have been to stay and fight... spend his time and energy in doing the right thing. Now he can devote more time to the business he is involved with which is an easier path. I know in my business I could work 12 hours a day and think I did not work one minute as it is a joy. In my view, he took the easy path. I commend Mr Warren for being a man of character. I think 3 years from now, he will look back and think that he made a mistake in his resignation... Hopefully, I am wrong and his actions will result as you think it will.
    As far as your point about the city and non profits.. I think it is good to give to non profits that truly help the people in the city of Lodi... the procedure and criteria for selecting which organization gets the money may need overhauling, but why eliminate all funding? How does that help? I also agree with you that if in fact the 3 people you referred to are directing money to organizations who are not deserving, that it is a problem.

     
  • roy bitz posted at 10:55 am on Sun, May 15, 2011.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    Darrell,

    Let me be clear---I think it is wrong for our city council to award city funds to the Down Town Lodi Business Partnership or any of Lodi's 47 non profit organizations.
    Many of these organizations do wonderful work but I think this practice makes it possible just three council members to fund their favorite non profits and ignore others.
    Mr. Warren's resignation brings attention what I believe is misuse of public funds.
    I'm glad he had the male parts to go public and to disassociate himself from one of our council's "favored" non profits.

     
  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 9:41 am on Sat, May 14, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Roy stated... I am concerned about how "cozy" relationships effect our city council's decision making process.
    I hope our council members will explain why the council continues to support this non profit with community funds.

    Roy... You just articulated why I think there is more to the story... For arguments sake , lets say your concerns have merit... it would seem that it would be an advantage to have someone like Mr Warren on the board... someone that can get the inside knowledge. It makes no sense for a concerned citizen to quit if his intent is to bring truth to light... it also makes no sense that he would do more good by resigning. It makes me think he had other reasons for resigning other than what was stated. If I had to guess, I would think the board activity was taking too much time and was a distraction to running a business that he loves. By resigning, it brings immediate short term attention to a problem he perceives and can immediately focus positive energy to his business... had he stayed, maybe he could have found evidence and proof to what he perceives... also, it is possible had he stayed, he would have found evidence that his fears were unfounded.

     
  • roy bitz posted at 9:32 pm on Fri, May 13, 2011.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    Darrell,
    Thanks for keeping this ball rolling.
    I'm sure there is, as you say--- more to this story.l That is why I chimed in.
    I am concerned about how "cozy" relationships effect our city council's decision making process.
    I hope our council members will explain why the council continues to support this non profit with community funds.
    We have many wonderful non profits that do good work yet do not get a dime from the council, while this "very questionable" organization with a questionable track record does.
    Thanks again for keeping this ball rolling Darrell.

     
  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 8:50 pm on Fri, May 13, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Roy... obliviously, you might be right, and I wrong... I just find it hard to believe... his actions are short term.... one year from now , he will be a memory... if he had stayed on, he could have made a difference long term... I think there is more to the story.... it does not make sense to me.

     
  • roy bitz posted at 8:00 pm on Fri, May 13, 2011.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    Darrell,
    I hope we can keep this discussion going. It deserves attention.
    Mr. Warren identified what he viewed as serious problems and presented facts and his strong opinion to his board.
    His facts and opinions fell on deaf board ears.
    Since the board chose to ignore Mr. Warren's facts and opinion, he had a just two choices-- "shut up" and stay on the board as an impotent/ineffective member--- or to resign and keep his "man card".
    I respect Mr. Warren for taking this matter in a different direction. Hopefully our city council will re-evaluate their continued support of this "non profit".
    Darrell, I hope you agree---It is not easy for strong people to quit---only losers find it easy to quit.

    I believe this matter would be covered up---again---if he did not stand up.

     
  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 4:10 pm on Fri, May 13, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Roy stated...I believe Mr. Warren accomplished more by resigning than he could by remaining on the board...

    If that is true, Mr Warren shouldn't have been on the board in the first place.... anyone can quit... quiting is easy... its staying in the fight for what you believe in that brings value... Maybe Mr Warren was considerate in resigning so that someone else can replace him and shine consistant light on whatever is happening. Thank you Mr Warren.

     
  • roy bitz posted at 3:30 pm on Fri, May 13, 2011.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    I believe Mr. Warren accomplished more by resigning than he could by remaining on the board. He identified issues that our city council should review in order to ensure city funds are used appropriately. Maybe they will do so.
    I wonder why the city council would support any non profit with city funds in these times.

     
  • Jay Samone posted at 1:49 pm on Fri, May 13, 2011.

    Jay Samone Posts: 359

    Josh - I agree with part of your statement, and I get that it should be a straight $0 balance, after all, if they made a profit, they wouldn't be a NON-profit, however,
    In this case, "bonuses" were given and included as "wages" and was outed for the public to see.

    Have you ever wondered why NPs are balanced? What happens when they take in extra money? Where exactly does it go and where should it go? If you look at the P&L statement, there are quite a few questionable "expenses", i.e utilities higher than the rent, "penalties" (for what) $1500 cell phone bill, etc. Having balanced high dollar budgets for many years, it's very easy to add a few thousand here and there and include it in "costs" when it really went somewhere else.

     
  • Josh Morgan posted at 1:04 pm on Fri, May 13, 2011.

    Josh Morgan Posts: 529

    Jay, I've been associated with several non-profit organizations where income will equal the expenses with a net $0.00. I don't think that's uncommon with non-profits. Not saying your concerns aren't valid but I don't believe the budget issue is unusual.

     
  • Jay Samone posted at 11:09 am on Fri, May 13, 2011.

    Jay Samone Posts: 359

    Jackson - I just noticed the utilities. Very interesting, considering the rent is far cheaper. Either someone's paying for home AND office utilities out of that pot, or the City of Lodi Electric didn't give them any special favors and jacks up their electrical like everyone else....lol.

     
  • Jay Samone posted at 11:08 am on Fri, May 13, 2011.

    Jay Samone Posts: 359

    Please read my last comment as Ms. Byer Hauan is the accounting/bookkeeping "guru"..........

     
  • Jay Samone posted at 11:04 am on Fri, May 13, 2011.

    Jay Samone Posts: 359

    Jackson - I wouldn't be worrying about the cell phone - I'd be more worried about the accounting practices in this "non-profit". Now what I really find interesting is the Proposed Budget Report that shows $163K funds and exactly $163K in expenditures. The P&L shows budget of $190K and a $190K in expenditures - with a $2.25 loss. Unbelievable. I have NEVER seen a budget like that - proposed or not - that is a complete wash. Unheard of. I've done HUGE budgets for YEARS and I have never seen that. If Ms. Watts truly is the bookkeeping/accounting guru, then I call bull snikey. I bet if I did an audit of their books, I'd find years worth of fuzzy math.

    When you compare your P&L statement against your proposed budget, they should be broken down in far greater detail and your projected expenditures should be very close to what you actually show in your P&L from the prior year end. Your proposed budget should also show any expenditures you believe you may have, whether you do or not, to prevent any potential deficits. Any excess or "higher than normal" expenditures or transfer of funds should be broken down in detail, along with explanations for each transaction. Where is that?

    And can someone tell me what the heck is a Sunshine Committee? The only "Sunshine Committee" I've ever heard of are the people at work places who pay $2 a month (out of their own pockets, mind you) to ensure that someone gets a cake on their birthday or they get flowers when they are in the hospital or a death in the family. The only "staff" here is Ms. Watts.

     
  • Jackson Scott posted at 1:26 pm on Thu, May 12, 2011.

    Jackson Scott Posts: 382

    I have to agree with most of what Doug has posted.

    A quick search found that the DLBP's website (www.downtownlodi.com) has a link "Public Records" where I found the 2010 P&L Statement: http://bit.ly/lhP2Ql

    In reviewing this short document three things jumped off the page at me. 1) Utilities on that small office is over $500 per month. WTH? 2) Yearly cell phone expense is $1,500. For one phone? Cause the Admin Asst better not have a phone. 3) The City of Lodi funded the DLBP $35,825 with taxpayer money.

    Additionally, As the prestigious Executive Director, Ms. Watts made approx $49,600 in wages. This must include the bonus because it is not listed anywhere else in the P&L. Personally, I'd have liked to see "wages" on one line, and "bonuses" on another.

     
  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 11:37 am on Thu, May 12, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    His departure seems odd... if in fact he wanted to do what was right, and have more influence in making sure the funds are used for appropriate purposes, it would make sense for him to stay...
    I do not get it.

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 8:25 am on Thu, May 12, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    Did anyone think there would be aany other outcome to this problem? With all these same old hangers on board members who have adhered to their "code of honor" and probably kept some past board members, business owners/members and directors' from psooibly facing criminal charges concerning missing funds since 2002 or so, I think that's when the illustrious Ms. Hauan-Byers became entrenched with the DLBP, and proper books have never been kept since that time. Quite strange for a person with such a so-called background in bookkeeping/accounting.
    Mr. Warren, these selective groups in Lodi are assumed to be very vindictive toward whistleblowers and outsiders that want to correct the systam to work for the citizenry and will do anything in their power to circumvent those like you who expose their corruption. City council and management have already swept this financial corruption under the table too many times to protect one of the good old boys or DLBP members or leadership. Are these board members elected or just appointed by the good old boys? If not elected, they should be by the business owners/members by one vote per member, and not by multiple votes by the larger emebers. That's the catch here, with the banks and larger merchants having enough votes among themselves to elect whomever they want. ONE vote per MEMBER should be enacted immediately and an election held to remove those who have been guilty of cooking the books year after year. And city hall and council, quit pandering and protecting this dysfunctional group like you did when Mr Easterling suddenly resigned amidst the missing $40,000 and $17,000 controversies you swept under the rug! Livable, lovable Lodi?

     

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