Mono County Administrator Jim Arkens’ house warming party on Friday has left at least one constituent with the angry chills. Paul Betlach sent a letter to local media to accuse Arkens of a misuse of county funds to invite and carry out his personal house warming event.
Administrator Arkens said, with some frustration, that the invitations were done personally by Stacy Westerlund, a county employee, on her own time and that he will pay for the materials used. Of Betlach’s accusations, Arkens said, “They’re not true. I did not spend a penny of county money, and no one is being paid while attending the house warming.”
Arkens said Ms. Westerlund hand-delivered the invitations to county workers. No postage was used. He said Westerlund and Nancy Boardman spent their own personal time arranging things. The Administrator further justified his party plans when he said county employees have flex hours, so would not be “paid” to attend his event. “I stand on principle,” said Arkens. “There is no public money or time involved.” He explained that he has a new home in Bridgeport, had done a lot of work on it and decided to celebrate.
Mr. Betlach was less cheerful about the whole thing. He wrote, “Most employees do not want to go but think that if they do not go to this party, they will be frowned upon and there will be repercussions.” Arkens said not true. He said he invited those workers he directly deals with or who report to him plus the Sheriff’s Office. “There is clearly no obligation.” Arkens also noted that the time of the gathering was designed to accomodate the many workers who do not live in Bridgeport.
Arkens seemed Flummoxed by the hoopla over his house warming. He said, “I’ve had parties everywhere I worked, and it was never anything like this.” Why this time? Arkens said, “Certain people don’t like me. There are also the controversies over personnel issues. People like to pick,” he said. Mr. Betlach did pick on Arkens for assuming some four jobs – CAO, Personnel Director, Public Works Director and Assessor. Said Betlach, “There are no checks and balances.”
The CAO said he assumed these jobs, working 12 hour days at times and some weekends, to “save money. We have saved well over $1 million.” He also pointed out that Amy Brewster was offered the Assistant Assessor job and is expected to start October 1. October 9, said Arkens, he plans to ask the Supervisors about hiring a Human Resources Director and Risk Manager. Arkens said he does not believe the County needs a Public Works Director. “We are financially fine,” he said, “and between the Finance Director and myself have saved $5 million over the past two years or so.”
The exasperated CAO said, “Why not focus on the savings instead of my party.”