Moorpark City Councilman John Wozniak has decided to end his membership with the Environmental Coalition, partly because he was never told that coalition members planned to fill jobs funded by state grant money that they helped the city obtain.
Wozniak said he was already mulling a split from the group because of his busy schedule, but finally made up his mind after coalition members' recent move to fill the slate of paid positions supported by the grant targeting the cleanup of a flood control channel.
"It was just the final push I needed to make the decision," Wozniak said. "I think it was just the final frustration and disappointment."
Wozniak's wife, Mary, treasurer of the coalition's Moorpark branch, will resign her position but plans to remain a member of the group, he said.
"I think it does not look good on the entire Environmental Coalition that all the board members are the ones who are getting the money out of the grant," Wozniak said. "I'm disappointed in that. I'm not saying that they can't do the job. I'm saying that I'm just disappointed that they felt they were the only ones who could."
Coalition members have denied any impropriety.
The City Council next week will discuss whether to hire seven members of the coalition's Moorpark branch to help fulfill terms of a $64,000 grant the city and community group were recently awarded to clean up a six-mile stretch of the Arroyo Simi flood control channel.
Some council members last week said they were surprised to find that the activists expected to be paid for the work, which they assumed would be voluntary in voting to apply for the grant early this year and accepting the funds in June.
Coalition President Neil Moyer on Thursday angrily defended the group and said the council should have realized that members expected to fill some of the paid positions outlined in their grant proposal.
"We presented the (grant) proposal to them. Who did they think we were going to seek to do this work?" Moyer asked. "Nobody is making money off of this proposition. People are giving up opportunities to do work that would otherwise be part of their livelihood."
Under the proposed agreements, coalition member Roseann Mikos would become project manager and agree to perform at least 236 hours of work over the next year for $5,900. Six other members of the group's Moorpark branch would receive between $512 and $1,300 for eight to 26 days of work.
Mikos has said that 50% of the time she is spending on the project is donated, because she is turning down other consulting work at her full billing rate of $60 per hour. Other coalition members also have said they are contributing far more than they are receiving.
But some council members said they were never told coalition members expected any financial reward, however small.
"We fully expected members of the Environmental Coalition to volunteer," Councilman Scott Montgomery said. "That's what was marketed to us, that we were joining forces with a community group to accomplish a worthy goal."
Montgomery, who has taken the hardest stand against hiring coalition members to do the work, said he will suggest at the council's Wednesday meeting that city employee Don Reynolds be appointed to administer the grant and that the city recruit unemployed day laborers to fill most of the paid positions.
"We can save a substantial amount of money by self-administering this grant," Montgomery said, adding that the expected savings may allow the city to broaden the scope of the project.