Sonoma citizen Chris Petlock, who has waged a 12-month effort to ascertain and understand information about the water rates and fund transfers in the City of Sonoma, has announced his intention to run for a seat on the city council this year. In a posting on Facebook, Petlock states:
“I am going to run for a seat on Sonoma’s City Council in 2018.
Last year I noticed something wrong with my water bill; familiar with the water rates charged around Sonoma County, it appeared too high to me. As I dug into the issue, I uncovered a history of unresolved citizen complaints about water rates in the City of Sonoma, but also discovered a much broader financial issue: as has been uncovered in many other cities throughout California, Sonoma’s water customers’ bills are inflated to fill financial holes in other city department budgets, to inflate salaries and to disguise financial missteps.
As I engaged with the City Council and city staff to understand and address these financial issues, their reactions to my inquiry revealed an ethics problem; city staff, paid consultants and the City Council first dismissed and then covered up the problems instead of publicly and openly addressing them.
This past year I have been working to bring greater transparency to our little City of Sonoma. I have had some success but also have met sustained resistance from the City Council, city staff and consultants who appear more interested in protecting themselves and their own interests, than the interests of the citizens of Sonoma.
I’ve concluded that the most effective and inexpensive way to bring honesty and transparency to our local government is to change it. We need leaders who are able to spot and not side-step ethical dilemmas, who understand budgets and finances, and who are committed to insuring that the City be responsive to its citizens. I am willing and prepared to step up to do so.
I look forward to campaigning and your support for my election to the City Council.”
Petlock lives in the City of Sonoma and is employed by the Valley of the Moon Water District as its Finance Director. It was his familiarity with water rates and legal limitations on the use of water fund revenues which prompted him to pursue matters with the city. Based in part on his efforts and disclosures, the City of Sonoma has ordered a new water rate study to be conducted, has ceased transfers out of the water fund to the General Fund, and has sequestered the past three years of transfers pending a thorough review of rates and water fund expenses. Petlock alleges that the city should have known its rate structure was illegal, and that such transfers were similarly improper.