At the June 28 Chula Vista City Council meeting, the council reviewed a plan to consolidate the library and the parks and recreation department — the decision to do so was made last week.
The decision ultimately entailed the firing of Buck Martin, the director of parks and recreation. A city document from 2011 reads, “The positive impact of a merger of the two departments could be the savings of a Director position (approximately $158,000 in the second year, after severance was paid, if no other management support was provided).”
Prior to the council meeting, people concerned that the loss of the director would negatively impact the city’s parks and recreation programs donned T-shirts that read “Buck Martin has a posse.”
In addition to the demonstration, the unpopular decision taken by councilmembers Rudy Ramirez, Patricia Aguilar, and Steve Castaneda generated a Brown Act violation complaint and threats by some private organizations to withhold funds.
The Brown Act complaint, filed by Mark Liaug, Jon Miller, and Kevin O’Neill, alleges that the three councilmembers reached the decision through “collective concurrence” or serial communication.
David McClellan spoke for the nonprofit organization Friends of Chula Vista Parks & Recreation. McClellan called the move to consolidate departments “arrogant” and suggested it possibly stemmed from a “personal vendetta.” He concluded his speech by saying that his organization would withhold further donations until the city worked out a better plan.
Along with McClellan, Buck Martin is one of the directors of the Friends of Chula Vista Parks & Recreation, according to the organization’s 2010 tax form. So are Mark Liuag and Jon Miller, two of the three people who filed the Brown Act complaint with the city attorney in order to stop the merger. The city attorney, Glen Googins, also sits as a director.
Public comment and council discussion lasted for several hours. During the discussion, councilmember Castaneda noted how few hours the park and recreation sites are available to the public. Of the seven centers, only one is open for public hours on the weekends.
A compromise was eventually brokered by Aguilar, Castaneda, and Ramirez and supported by the full council. The director of parks and recreation position will be eliminated, although there will be an assistant director. The departments will not be merged without seeking more input — which was a concern for many speakers.
With savings combined from various sources, the parks and recreation budget will receive $240,617 in additional funding.