A few days ago I ended a blog post with a call to fire Peter Fernandez, the decidedly unethical Public Works Director for the City of Salem.
Today I got this message from Mark Wigg. Apparently Wigg planned to present what follows as testimony at tonight's City Council meeting. It provides a further reason for Peter Fernandez to be fired.
Congratulations, Public Works Director Peter Fernandez
Congratulations on spending all the 2008 bond money allocated for buying Marine Drive right of way without buying all the right of way.
The other projects identified in the bond measure were aggressively pursued and finished years ago. Because many projects were started immediately after the bond measure passed and when we were in a recession, many of the projects were completed under budget.
Delaying the purchase of right of way for 13 years will cost the city millions of dollars, but you got to settle a personal vendetta, you won.
Years ago, one of your emissaries told me that you were going to make sure that volunteers could not construct a path along the right of way for Marine Drive. At that time, the $3.2 million allocated for right of way purchase would have been enough to buy all the right of way from Cameo Street to River Bend Road.
I was promoting the use of the right of way as a linear park that would allow the thousands of people along Wallace Road a more attractive, quicker, and safer way to get downtown.
Volunteers had constructed paths at Fairmont Park, on the Croisan Scenic Way right of way, and at Skyline Park. I had told city council that volunteers would have a trail constructed on the right of way within weeks of it being purchased.
At that time, I opposed the third bridge that Peter supported. Peter wanted to punish people that opposed the third bridge by delaying the purchase of right of way.
Congratulations Peter, you have reaffirmed that you run the city, not the City Manager, Mayor, or city council. You will not be held accountable for the decision to delay right of way purchases 13 years, a decision that will cost the citizens of Salem millions of dollars.
In addition to Salem’s taxpayers, the losers also include those thousands of people who would have enjoyed the paths on the Marine Drive right of way, right of way that could also have been used for community gardens by the adjacent apartment complexes.
Paths and community gardens build healthy communities, add value to properties, encourage healthy lifestyles, and reduce pollution. People in Salem will probably never know what they lost, and you won’t be held accountable.
I first learned what a horrible Public Works Director Fernandez is back in 2013, when Fernandez was instrumental in letting the US Bank president cut down five large, healthy, beautiful trees next to his downtown building for no good reason.
The sordid details of what Fernandez did were shared in a detailed factual report I wrote after getting public records related to the tree killings.
This is a case study of how city government shouldn't work.
Here the Public Works Director, Peter Fernandez, ignored the law, facts, expert advice, advisory committee recommendations, and lots of public testimony so he could keep a back-room verbal promise to the U.S. Bank president, Ryan Allbritton, to cut the five large, healthy, beautiful trees down.
The extra-legal promise itself is bad enough. Worse, Fernandez made that promise two years before the bank started the required process of filing an application to remove the trees.
Even so, Public Works Director Fernandez was all set to order that the trees be pruned, rather than removed, until bank president Allbritton reminded him of that "just between us" deal they'd made together. It didn't matter that Albritton was unable to give a single coherent reason why the trees needed to be killed.
After Fernandez spoke with the bank president, everything changed.
Allbritton got an unusual second chance to argue his extremely flimsy tree-killing case. He lobbied city councilors, who weren't bothered by Allbritton's mention of the verbal promise.
Maybe because this is the way the City of Salem habitually does things under its current leadership -- working out deals with special interests behind the scenes, then going through a show of holding public hearings and issuing a formal decision.
More recently, Fernandez has been involved in other questionable dealings. You can read all about it in these blog posts.