Town council officers sworn, trustee resigns amid fund flap
by DAVE SCHWAB
May 13, 2014 | 3443 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A cake was one of the main draws at the May 8 swearing-in of La Jolla Town Council officers.     PHOTO BY DAVE SCHWB
A cake was one of the main draws at the May 8 swearing-in of La Jolla Town Council officers. PHOTO BY DAVE SCHWB
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Amid controversy involving a missing check and an alleged unauthorized donation, La Jolla Town Council swore in a new president and his executive board at its May 8 meeting. The group also heard from a firefighter about his lifesaving invention.

Sworn in as the council’s new president was Steve Haskins, joined by executive board members Charles Hartford, secretary; Yolanda de Riquer, second vice president; Glenda Rothberg, first vice president; and Ron Jones, treasurer.

The new group leaders were fêted with a cake depicting the town council logo, furnished by The French Gourmet.

Near the end of the meeting, Haskins called out trustee Nancy Gardner, alleging Gardner made an unauthorized check presentation recently to a veterans group, the Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation, without the town council’s knowledge or approval. The incident was part of continuing fallout from the La Jolla Dancing with the Stars fundraiser held last Oct. 5 at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines Hotel.

“In the past,” Haskins began, “we’ve had problems with trustees related to funds of the town council, and this is something that really needs to be dealt with.” He added that the council must “follow ethics no matter what” in order to “maintain the integrity of the group.”

Haskins called for the board to initiate a vote of the council’s full membership to seek Gardner's removal from office. Gardner organized the Dancing with the Stars fundraiser.

“Nancy Gardner,” Haskins continued, “acted without the voting approval of the town council in presenting a donation to an unauthorized organization completely misleading the public.” He noted that some funds from the dancing event have somehow recently turned up missing.

Trustee and Realtor Charles Schevker said he was “bewildered” by the recent turn of events in the fundraiser's aftermath, noting he resigned from participating in the event because “I saw what appeared to me to be an apparent disregard for financial controls and security, saw that as a possible future problem, and didn’t want to be associated with that.”

Gardner responded that it was unnecessary to put the matter to a full vote of the council’s membership and that she would resign.

Defending her actions, Gardner said, “There was no way one person could have run that entire event and also handle all the finances. My job was to oversee the event, which I did. I never had control of the money; my name is not on the bank account; I don’t have any (account) access.”

The town council voted near unanimously in a full membership vote, with only one trustee dissenting, to ask for Gardner’s ouster. Town council membership totals around 500.

Firefighter Eric Topacio gave a slideshow presentation to the council on his new invention, the Cedar Valve, a detachable fire hose connection that he said saves invaluable seconds disengaging from a water source. He said he believes his invention could ultimately save lives and countless property damage in combating wildfires.

Topacio, who lost a colleague in a fire fight, said he has made it his mission to convince firefighting agencies regionwide of his device's viability. He said he's vowed “that I was going to make a difference, make a change, in the fire service.”

The next town council meeting will be Thursday, June 12, at 5 p.m. at La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect St.
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