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Sparks erupt as resident makes accusations to City Council about employee’s conduct By Dixie Redfearn, Sun Editor | Thu, Jan 29 2015 06:47 AM

Editor’s note: All documents, records, invoices and travel receipts referenced in this story were viewed by The Sun.

Transparency in city government was on the table Monday night as a local resident accused Seal Beach City Manager Jill Ingram of alleged impropriety in dealing with a consulting firm working with the city.

Resident Robert Goldberg addressed the City Council before a filled-to-capacity audience to assert that Ingram traveled with Diane Ripley, co-owner of Kirste Ripley Public Relations in August of 2014, at a time when the firm was doing business with the city.

At issue are the following:

Goldberg asserted that in July of 2013, Ingram approved a contract for $24,000 for Ripley for consulting and public relations. No disclosure was filed disclaiming personal relationships at that time.

City Finance Director/City Treasurer Victoria L. Beatley told The Sun there was no personal relationship at that time between Ingram and Ripley; also noting that such disclosure is the responsibility of the vendor, not the city employee. Ingram also had authority to approve any agreements that came in below $28,800.

Goldberg asserted that in October of 2013 Ingram signed a proposal for $24,000 for the Ripley firm to audit the city’s oil and gas production tax, again without disclosing personal relationships.

Beatley reiterated that no personal relationship existed between Ingram and Ripley at that time. Beatley also said that in August of 2013 the city issued a purchase order for $22,000 to Kirste Ripley. Beatley said the city received in excess of $200,000 from an oil producer in the city (exact amount was $204,783.) Beatley said the recovery of more than $200,000 was “specifically the result of Diane Ripley’s professional experience and expertise in the oil industry and her relationships with key players.” She also noted the money was collected on behalf of the city without the need for legal pursuit. The city collected an additional $12,079.82. While the larger sum was retroactive for the past 10 years of oil and gas production tax, the smaller check brought the city and the oil producer up-to-date on the taxes. Beatley says the city not only received more than $200,000 due to Ripley’s efforts, the firm’s work produced a future revenue stream estimated at more than $1 million over the next 20 years.

Goldberg asserted that in May of 2014 the Seal Beach City Council agreed to share sales tax revenue from businesses recruited into the city by Ripley.

This activity yielded no sales tax revenue and was of no cost to the city, Beatley said.

Goldberg asserted that in August of 2014 Ingram signed a purchase order for $24,000 for mixed public relations work by Ripley. That money was paid in a $2,000 a month retainer to Ripley.

Beatley notes that the payment in question was paused in September of 2014 because two of the three projects it covered were nearly completed.

Goldberg asserted that Ingram was seen in photographs on FaceBook in mid-August vacationing with Ripley.

Beatley says that while Ripley and Ingram did have a professional and personal relationship at that time, no impropriety occurred. Ingram produced all travel records, receipts and supporting documents to the city attorney to prove that she was on her own time vacationing, and that she paid for her portion of the trip with her personal funds and Ripley paid for her half.

Goldberg asserted that in September of 2014 Ingram signed an agreement for more auditing of energy producing companies with Gregg Kirste for $24,000.

Beatley said that item was in the city budget and Ingram was legally in her right to approve it. Beatley also said that item was vetted both by the City Attorney and herself before going forward.

Beatley summed up the controversy by saying, “In summary, over two fiscal years, the City of Seal Beach has invested $76,000, which has led to the immediate recovery of over $200,000 in the fiscal 2013-2014 year. And it will provide a future revenue stream of $1 million over the next 20 years.

While City Attorney Steven Flower said no illegality had occurred in connection with Ingram, the city manager had the following to say about the issue: “I want every resident of Seal Beach to know that I apologize for any appearance of impropriety on my part. It is not enough to be ethical, but in order to ensure confidence in our work, appearances are as important as what we do. I assure you there was no gift, no quid-pro-quo and nothing improper, unethical or illegal that occurred. I’m looking forward to getting on with the business of serving our residents,” Ingram said.

Robert Goldberg said that while he has twice applied in the past for a job as assistant to the city manager and city manager, that had no bearing on his allegations.

Beatley said Goldberg’s requests for public records has probably cost the city “tens of thousands of dollars” in the past two years alone.

Rate This Article 12 vote(s)
Average Vote 4/5

Dale Mendez Says:

Sun, Dec 11 2016 12:15 PM

Waiting for approval? Censorship you mean? Can't wait for Mondays city council meeting....

Dale Mendez Says:

Sun, Dec 11 2016 12:13 PM

This 30 year resident has personally witnessed our leadership allowing the targeting of residents, theres fear in our community. Many of us are being turned into robots with cell phones, turning neighbor against neighbor. "Look, the sky is falling"? The salon tragedy was a wake up call but many of us have fallen back into the conspirators trust, wake up Seal Beach, were no longer Mayberry?

Matt Says:

Sat, Nov 14 2015 10:27 AM

We need to be more vigilant in how the city picks it's employee candidates. Ms. Ingram lacks the kinds of experience that you would find in like cities. Her "background" in public education is not appropriate for a myriad of reasons for this Job. Her behavior in this matter is one example that she is in way over her head. The counsel is to blame for this.

Greg Says:

Fri, Feb 06 2015 07:46 PM

This guy, Mr.Goldberg. is a Doctor too? Oi Vey what is this world coming to?

Concerned Old Town Resident Says:

Mon, Feb 02 2015 04:29 AM

So the City of Seal Beach has a policy for public record requests and I am informed that the person requesting the public documents pays a per page price of .25 cents. Yet our Finance Director Beatley claims Dr Goldberg's requests have cost the City tens of thousands of dollars in the past two years. I would question the entire operation of Miss Ingram since this smacks of inefficient government. Perhaps we need an outside auditor to look at the books or at least evaluate current practices of the City Manager.

Concerned Citizen 2 Says:

Sat, Jan 31 2015 12:42 PM

Mr. Goldberg has done nothing but work to try to keep ethics in this town. The amount of personal time he spends to try to find objective answers, that if our city was being "transparent" (if I hear that word one more time from our city people I am going to be sick), would not be such an issue. So, Ms. Ingram did not have a relationship "originally". But she did later as is obvious by her trip. At the point, it was her responsibility to be "TRANSPARENT" in reporting this relationship ON THE RECORD to the council and public. She did not. She did not bother to report it until it was uncovered and she had to CYA. So she is allowed to write contracts, and allowed to do the things she did. It is the appearance of impropriety that is at question here, and there are FAR MORE PEOPLE than just Mr. Goldberg who are concerned. He is just an easy target for those of you who are trying to deflect the smell that is coming from our city hall, and btw, no, we are not flush in money. There are many unanswered questions about our pensions and other things outstanding. And any surplus that they had has now been spent and wasted on things like the $66K for the unethical mailer. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck....well. .....you do the math. Too many special interests in this town including our chamber and this newspaper which is so embedded in this city it cannot be fair and unbiased.

54 Year Resident Says:

Fri, Jan 30 2015 04:18 PM

I have lived here 54 years and have been to many council and commission meetings over the decades and in those years I have heard nothing but praise for Seal Beach - it being the greatest place to live. That mantra has even grown louder these past few years, particularly after the Salon Meritage shooting, and if I remember correctly Jill was at the helm. She brought us all closer together. In every city there is a gadfly who presumes he knows best and sometimes these super-pundits even apply to be a Councilmember or in this case a city manager and as in most cases doesn't make the cut. I have seen Goldberg and his supporters over the years, berate every city manager that comes to town, and accuses the city of corruption and lack of judgment. I had to stop in my tracks when I heard someone comparing us to the city of Bell. Really? I find it a little hypocritical to define us as the greatest city and then out of the same mouth that we are Bell-lite just to fit your agenda. Last I checked, we had a balanced budget and our crime rate was one of the lowest in the state. Was this due to Mr. Goldberg? No. It is due to city staff under the leadership of Jill and past city managers who seem to get no credit but all the blame. If you have time, I challenge you to see how often Goldberg has accused city staff of wrongdoing over just the past ten years and then you'll see the pattern I've seen at many council meetings. Mr. Goldberg champions himself the Seal Beach watchdog, but he is all bark and no bite. I have to admit, he and his supporters are entertaining to watch and the cheering that takes place after one of his monologues is enough to think P.T. Barnum was at the mic. I ran into a reporter at a meeting once and asked him why his large company would focus on such a small town, our Mayberry by the Sea - he said unequivocally, "it's the best show in town with a ringleader to boot (as he pointed to Goldberg)." I believe we have the greatest town in all these 50 states and much of it is due to residents who can see past smoke screens and red herrings. I applaud the young woman who is managing our town and her staff. Let's not let the town bully nor his wife convince you otherwise just because he was turned down for the job!!

Sun Newsroom Says:

Fri, Jan 30 2015 01:58 PM

Update from the newsroom: This is an ongoing inquiry in our newsroom and we are working on a follow on story now, including scheduling interviews with other sources.
Regarding a reader comment here, "There has not been an unbiased independent investigation. They are investigating themselves." The Sun has learned that an independent investigation is indeed under way with a County authority, and we are still gathering information about that, which we will also report.

Cathy Goldberg Says:

Fri, Jan 30 2015 01:51 PM

There has not been an unbiased independent investigation. They investigated themselves. When a government official takes a vacation (paid for themselves or not) with a paid consultant who they hire and supervise, that raises big questions and citizens such as my husband Robert have every right to ask. Bigger questions arise as the city manager failed to disclose this relationship until she was essentially "busted" with the FB photos coming out. Even more questions because she has given multiple contracts to this same person and her associate that did not require council approval or oversight. Finally, it would be nice if people who throw out mean spirited attacks on a fellow citizen exercising his rights would give their full name so we might know if they have any particular biases.

Anne Seifert Says:

Fri, Jan 30 2015 11:40 AM

Over the years I have attended Council meetings and Dr. Robert Goldberg is one who does his homework, and raises issues that need addressing. This is no exception. The way he was treated in this article was very unfair-- he brought to the fore a legitimate concern. He is an outstanding citizen and an advocate for the residents of Seal Beach.

Leslie Says:

Thu, Jan 29 2015 01:26 PM

On the surface, the intentions of Robert Goldberg and his associates appear admirable & strive for transparency, accountability, and ethics. Ironically, what they seek is what they themselves lack.

Based on EVIDENCE, the city investigated ALL the allegations and ALL the facts of this matter. They spoke with ALL the parties, analyzed ALL the documents, reviewed ALL the applicable rules and regulations, and then and only then - made their decision that FULLY vindicated Ms. Ingram, Ms. Ripley, Council members, and all others. The FACT is NONE of their accusations are true.

So, why are Mr. Goldberg and his followers pursuing such allegations without FULLY investigating ALL the facts beforehand? Are they responsible local citizens? Are they transparent, accountable and ethical?

We all have the responsibility to do the hard-work. To fully investigate matters prior to publicizing unsubstantiated claims and accusations. To logically approach issues in an unbiased manner. To approach suspicions with an open mind and heart.

Decent people know that factless allegations can damage people's reputations and require tremendous resources from our city's attorney and staff, and cost our city a significant amount of money.

It's easy to make allegations. It's easy to point fingers and go-public's with statements and innuendos. It easy to make endless speeches in front of the camera and to take adversarial positions on every issue facing the City Council. It's easy to shoot arrows from the gallery. What's hard is participating responsibly. To do the hard work.

For our elected officials - the standards are high. It's hard doing government "right&". But being transparent, accountable and ethical applies to ALL not just elected officials.

Old Town Resident Says:

Thu, Jan 29 2015 12:55 PM

The bottom line here is that Ingram showed extremely bad judgment in vacationing with one of her paid consultants. This is not the first time she has used bad judgment. For example, within the last year, she authorized an intensive Long Beach Transit bus route through a residential area in Old Town without any input from affected residents. For some unknown reason, she also authorized a $10,000 yearly payment to Long Beach Transit. I believe Ripley was also involved in negotiation of this bad deal. The City Council has a ticking time bomb on its hands. It is only a matter of time before Ingram's bad judgment is used in another matter. Next time it may not be easy to whitewash the bad results with a so-called "investigation" by biased individuals. Ingram needs to go. We don't need another City of Bell fiasco.

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