SB Bankruptcy Burns Out Yet Another City Official

(March 11) The county seat’s seemingly interminable and intractable financial challenges have claimed yet one more city official, as Scott Williams, San Bernardino’s finance director hired in December, has been placed on administrative leave pending his separation from the city.
Williams’ short tenure is a barometer of how much stress municipal officers face in attempting to right the city’s listing financial ship.
Williams’ predecessor, David Cain, lasted 18 months in the position, having been hired in March 2013 and exiting in September 2014.
While the city in the current 2014-15 fiscal year is functioning under a nominally balanced budget – one that anticipates $123,809,391 in revenue into the general fund and expenditures of $117,354,540 out of the general fund – that budget was strenuously reworked last year by Cain and city manager Alan Parker, entailing drastic cuts to bring the spending plan into the black after a previous draft reflected a $22.8 million deficit. The provisionally balanced budget represented a considerable feat for the city which filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in August 2012.
The budget, however, was reworked from previous drafts, which at reflected a $22.8 million deficit.
The Herculean task of arriving at a budget for the county seat took its toll on Cain, who upped and quit three months later. A telling feature of his exhaustion was that in June, after having put the unwieldy fiscal figures onto paper, Cain was not up to the task of attending the city council meeting where the budget was passed, where he would have needed to withstand the firestorm of protest over the cutting he had done. Parker did not attend that meeting either.
Both of Parker’s predecessors as city manager, Charles McNeely and interim Andrea Travis-Miller, were undone by San Bernardino’s financial challenges. McNeely left just prior to the city’s bankruptcy filing. Travis-Miller was understandably overwhelmed at taking the helm of a financially foundering city. She has since moved on to become the executive director of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, a regional joint powers planning agency.
Williams was riding herd on a team of auditors and financial consultants seeking to put together a bankruptcy exit plan and its attendant documentation for presentation to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Meredith Jury, who is overseeing the city’s bankruptcy case. Jury has set a May 30 deadline for the presentation of that plan. Parker gave indication that assistant city manager Nita McKay will now take on Williams’ assignment.
Given the manner in which William’s change of active status with the city was announced, there was a suggestion that he was being relieved for some act of misfeasance. City officials would not go beyond stating that he had been placed on administrative leave. None denied that like his predecessor Cain, who had been driven to distraction in attempting to lift the city out of its financial abyss, Williams, who had been the lead financial adviser for the Regional Governmental Services Authority in Napa and the finance director in Sonoma before coming to San Bernardino, was overwhelmed by the crush of putting a bankruptcy exit plan together while seeking to administer a porous budget, which included deferring $10.6 million in payments being demanded by creditors, many of whom have been lined up for two years in seeking payment following the city’s bankruptcy filing.

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