Terri Andersen: Strawser sole owner of Amgen event, not City of Nevada City | TheUnion.com

Terri Andersen: Strawser sole owner of Amgen event, not City of Nevada City

This is in response to the “Our View” published in The Union on July 25 titled “Time to put our money where our mouths are.”

The theme of the “Our View” was that Nevada City Councilman Duane Strawser was being “stiffed” by Nevada City’s refusal to pay for the unexpected losses that he incurred at the recent Amgen bicycle event.

The article suggests via three rhetorical questions that Nevada City made Duane the “owner” of the event (and therefore responsible for these expenses) because, “he successfully lobbied to bring the event here,” “of his ability to organize … volunteers,” and “only when donations fell short.”

None of these reasons accurately describe the circumstances and I find it unfortunate that The Union chose to offer an opinion without looking into the facts. Amgen was always Duane Strawser’s event and he always presented it that way. The City of Nevada City was never a sponsor and cannot and should not offer after-the-fact funding approval to any city council member.

Duane (Strawser) confirmed financial ownership when he failed to seek formal approval from the city council.

Duane confirmed financial ownership when he failed to seek formal approval from the city council. The agreements he made as the event organizer were never disclosed, agendized, discussed or sanctioned by a vote of the council.

The council never had the opportunity to review any aspects of this event.

I was surprised that The Union cited the Sacramento arena as an apt example of a city doing the right thing. Yet it starkly illustrates my point: The City of Sacramento’s Council reviewed all aspects of their project and voted on it every step of the way. The city of Nevada City was never brought into the decision-making process and never once voted.

Duane confirmed financial ownership when he entered into contractual arrangements with Amgen, which he never disclosed to the city council. It is this contract with Amgen and their rules regarding sponsorships that ultimately caused the funding shortfall. The city council was never made aware of them because it was not a city event. He knew in advance that Amgen reserved the right to withdraw sponsors at their discretion at any time. The city council did not know this because we were not privy to any funding details. Duane also made financial arrangements with the chamber of commerce regarding sponsorship income. These arrangements were also not made known to the council.

Would the city have approved of these arrangements knowing that the public’s money would be on the line to cover the shortfall? I don’t know. We never had the discussion or the right of refusal.

The unilateral agreement Duane made with Amgen created the debt; the unilateral agreement Duane made with the chamber of commerce caused that debt to accrue to him.

Duane confirmed financial ownership when he assured the council that the event was to be entirely privately funded. In fact, on more than one occasion, during councilmembers’ informal updates, he reminded councilmembers that not a dime of taxpayer money would be used.

Under these circumstances it would have been an egregious abuse of the public’s trust for this council to simply give away the public’s money. With today’s open government and conflict of interest laws, I believe it would be illegal to reimburse a sitting city council member after the fact in this manner. We have not done this for special events sponsored by other groups or individuals. It is inconsistent with a city council’s role as protector of the public’s resources and I am concerned at the apparent seamless leap by some to utilize taxpayer money in this way. More than $15,000 is no small amount for a city struggling to staff its fire station, avoid brownouts and to provide other basic city services.

I regret this happened to Duane, my fellow councilmember. The dedication and energy he puts into this event is admirable. Duane and I have worked well together for the past three years and we will continue to do so.

On a final note, when I found out that Duane had suffered this loss, I met with the city manager to explore methods of mitigating the debt. We discussed the concept of crowdfunding and we took the idea to the Chamber of Commerce for implementation. As of this writing the final results are not yet in, however it appears likely Duane will be fully compensated through private donations.

Terri Andersen is a Nevada City Council member.

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