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Signal Hill Council appoints interim city clerk, treasurer

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Sean Belk
Staff Writer

The Signal Hill City Council at its meeting on Tuesday, July 29 appointed an interim city clerk and an interim city treasurer to fulfill terms through March 2015, when voters will elect permanent office-holders.
The Council voted unanimously (5-0) to appoint Robert Copeland, a 12-year Signal Hill resident who serves as chairperson for the City’s sustainability committee, as interim city clerk. The Council also voted unanimously to appoint Larry Blunden, a 30-year resident and retired local business owner, as interim city treasurer.
The appointees will carry out terms left by former city clerk Kathleen Pacheco and former city treasurer Emerson Fersch, who both resigned after moving out of the city.
At previous meetings, the Council appointed Deputy City Clerk Rebecca Burleson to fill in as city clerk and Finance Director Terri Marsh to fill in as city treasurer up until the appointees were officially sworn in at City Hall this week.

Photos by Sean Belk/Signal Tribune Robert Copeland, interim city clerk

Photos by Sean Belk/Signal Tribune

Robert Copeland, interim city clerk

Copeland, 43, who works as an environmental compliance manager for a local aerospace company, was chosen out of three applicants interviewed by the Council during the meeting. Other applicants, who sent letters of interest by July 3, were Yvette Perez, who has served as a local volunteer, and Edward Wu, who works in commercial finance.
Blunden, 64, who serves as president of the Promontory Crest Homeowners Association in Signal Hill, was chosen out of six applicants interviewed by the Council. Other applicants who sent letters of interest by July 24 were: Kier Jones, a State Farm Insurance agent; Steve Ruszak, a certified public accountant and former corporate executive; Ronald Burke, a retired business owner; Young Ong, a former marketing planner for a real-estate developer; and Wu.
Though the Council voted unanimously, without much discussion, to appoint Copeland as city clerk, Councilmembers Lori Woods and Michael Noll first nominated Ruszak as city treasurer because of his background in investments, which they said was an asset that Fersch had brought to the position. Mayor Edward Wilson eventually broke the deadlock by nominating Blunden instead of his original choice, which was Jones. The Council then moved to make the vote in favor of Blunden unanimous.
“I look forward to working with all of you,” said Blunden, who added after the meeting that he was surprised to have won the appointment after competing against five other applicants.
Councilmember Tina Hansen said she nominated Blunden after the applicant shared how he resolved matters involving financial discrepancies related to his homeowners association and issues regarding the nonprofit status of the Signal Hill Historical Society.
Larry Blunden, interim city treasurer

Larry Blunden, interim city treasurer

City Attorney David Aleshire said both Copeland and Blunden would be considered incumbents if they choose to run in the March 2015 election, but Aleshire said if they don’t run then the filing period might be extended for five days.
As interim city clerk, Copeland is required to: attend all Council meetings to take down minutes, conduct roll call and receive comment cards; administer elections and public hearings; arrange for ceremonial and official functions; manage public inquires and relationships; and provide access to City records and all legislative action to ensure transparency. Copeland indicated he is unable to attend the Council’s next meeting in August since he will be on vacation.
As interim city treasurer, Blunden is required to: attend all Council meetings and provide input on various topics; supply a daily “cash flow;” sign checks on behalf of the City; monitor accounts payable; and give an annual report on the City’s investment portfolio.
Mayor Wilson encouraged other applicants to run for the positions again and apply for committee appointments next year.
“There are a lot of things that you can participate in [in] the City…to get people to know who you are,” Wilson said. “Even if you’re not appointed tonight, don’t give up.”

Other Council highlights
Police portable radios The Council voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communication System (LA-RICS) Authority to accept 30 Motorola dual-band portable radios for the police department. The radios would be used on the police department’s radio system and the LA-RICS Land Mobile Radio (LMR) System, according to a city staff report. However, the radios, which are being paid for through a state homeland security grant, won’t be put into use until after the LA-RICS system is fully operational, which likely won’t be until 2016 or 2017, staff said. Operational and maintenance costs of the system will be spread out among participating agencies. The annual cost for Signal Hill to join the system is estimated at $12,000 annually, according to city staff. Agencies have until Nov. 24 to decide whether to remain a member of the LA-RICS system.

Bond refinancing The Council voted unanimously for a financial-advising and underwriting consulting firm to assist in refinancing four out of eight outstanding tax-allocation bonds related to the City’s former redevelopment agency (RDA). The City’s Successor Agency to the former RDA also approved the refinancing. The refinancing is expected to produce a total savings of nearly $2 million throughout the next 10 years, according to a city staff report. However, the staff report notes that the City’s General Fund and Housing Authority will only receive 39 percent of the savings ($800,000). The remaining 61 percent of the savings ($1.1 million) would be distributed to other taxing entities. The plan is to refinance tax-exempt bonds at an effective interest rate of 2.7 percent and refinance taxable bonds at an effective interest rate of 4.2 percent. This would represent an overall 6.5-percent reduction in debt service compared to existing payments, according to the staff report. Consulting and staff costs for the refinancing aren’t expected to exceed $10,000, a consultant said. City staff is expected to return with a refinancing schedule at a Council meeting in September.

Strategic plan The Council declined to accept Councilmember Woods’ request to schedule an additional community meeting for the development of the City’s five-year Strategic Plan. Woods requested the additional meeting since the planning process was put on hold because of implications of Measure U, a tax-oversight ballot initiative that failed to pass in the June 3 election. The cost to conduct an additional meeting would have been $1,500. The next step in the Strategic Plan development is the Council’s planning/visioning study session, according to city staff.

The next Signal Hill Council meeting is scheduled for 7pm on Tuesday, Aug. 19 at the Council Chamber.

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Signal Hill Council appoints interim city clerk, treasurer