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Wysocky to seek county’s top fiscal post

By KEVIN McCALLUM

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa City Council member Gary Wysocky on Monday announced his intention to run for Sonoma County’s

Gary Wysocky (PD FILE(

Gary Wysocky (PD FILE)

top financial post, auditor-controller-treasurer-tax collector.

Wysocky, 56, said he believes his long career as a certified public accountant and role as a fiscal watchdog over the city’s budget qualify him for the job.

“I think local government needs good elected oversight,” Wysocky said. “With our fiscal challenges, we need to ensure the public taxpayer dollars and ratepayer dollars are being well spent.”

As part of his announcement, Wysocky revealed for the first time that he suffers from epilepsy, a chronic neurological disorder that causes seizures. Though he said his condition doesn’t affect his City Council responsibilities or his ability to perform the duties of the county post, Wysocky said is trying to be as up front as possible with voters.

“I want people with this affliction to know that you don’t have stop at anything — it doesn’t have to hold you back,” he said.

The current auditor-controller-treasurer-tax collector David Sundstrom was appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 2011 to fill out the remaining term of Rod Dole after he retired.

Sundstrom, 60, was previously the auditor-controller of Orange County. His selection was widely viewed as a move away from the 26-year tenure of Dole, who had recommended assistant auditor-controller Donna Dunk as his successor.

Sundstrom was appointed as Orange County auditor-controller in 1996 and won election four times before stepping down last year to accept the Sonoma County post. Supervisors cited his leadership in setting government accounting standards, experience with pension overhaul, and computerized financial management as reasons for selecting him.

Sundstrom said he has known for some time that Wysocky was considering running against him in the June 2014 election. While he knows Wysocky probably has greater name recognition at the moment, Sundstrom said he is an experienced campaigner who plans to stress his own qualifications for the job.

“My view is government finance is a very specialized field and there are lots of facets to it,” Sundstrom said. “I have five different positions and they are all very complex.”

Sundstrom, whose total compensation package in 2012 was just over $200,000, was traveling in Connecticut Monday to attend a meeting of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, on which he serves.

Third District Supervisor Shirlee Zane said Sundstrom’s service on the board that sets accounting standards for government agencies across the nation was one of the skills that set him apart from other candidates who applied for the post. Wysocky also applied but was not a finalist.

Zane said she felt it would be a “tall order” for Wysocky to match the experience and expertise of Sundstrom, who was hired after a nationwide search.

“I think Mr. Wysocky is going to have to convince the public that his capable of investing a portfolio $1.5 billion and manage 175,000 tax bills, not to mention being a fiscal agent to all the special districts,” Zane said.

While he acknowledged there will be a learning curve, Wysocky said his lack of experience in a fulltime government finance position doesn’t mean he is not qualified for the position.

He pointed to his CPA practice and City Council service as evidence that he has both the qualifications and the skills to oversee the county’s treasury and manage a staff of 94.

“I’ve done every function of the treasurer’s function in my private practice,” said Wysocky, who works from an office behind his home in the Junior College neighborhood. He managed about 20 people in a department of a large accounting firm early in his career, but has spent most of his career in private practice.

As a councilman, Wysocky has been a persistent budget hawk, pushing for greater sacrifices from employee groups, questioning whether the city’s pension plans are sustainable, and demanding more detailed budget presentations.

Just two months ago Wysocky voted against the city’s current $340 million budget, arguing that it wasn’t balanced as City Manager Kathy Millison claimed because it understated future pension liabilities.

The council is receiving an update from its actuary Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. to learn just how much future pension costs are expected to rise.

Wysocky said he has similar concerns about how the county accounts for its pension costs. He said he wants to ensure such costs don’t get passed on to the next generation.

As auditor-controller-treasurer-tax collector, however, Wysocky wouldn’t be in a decision making role regarding the budget. That’s the job of the supervisors. But he said he could be instrumental in those discussions by making sure the right information is presented to them and the public.

“My record as a city councilman over one of the largest budgets in the county shows that I’m not afraid to ask questions. I’m not afraid to put the information out there,” Wysocky said. “Until you put those numbers in front of the supervisors, they’re not going to make those decisions.”

Regarding his medical condition, Wysocky said he struggled with whether to go public with it, previously considering it a private medical matter. He said his wife and two daughters helped convince him to be open about his condition.

He had his first seizure in early 2009, just months after his first election to the City Council. One minute he was in a hotel room in Lake Tahoe with wife, Carol, and the next thing he knew he was in the back of an ambulance. He has had a handful of others since, one in an airport in Las Vegas, another most recently in his backyard two months ago while watering plants, he said.

In that latest attack, he struck his face on something when he fell. The injury was visible when he attended a City Council meeting, though he declined to discuss it at the time. He is on medication for the condition, which has helped moderate the seizures, he said.

He didn’t disclose the illness when he ran for city council in 2012. But when he decided to run for the county post, he said he realized it was time to be more open about his condition.

“I just feel all public officials should be as transparent as possible,” Wysocky said. “I just want people to feel comfortable with who I am.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. OnTwitter@citybeater





10 Responses to “Wysocky to seek county’s top fiscal post”

  1. Wysocky for Dog Catcher says:

    His pompous posturing is just that.
    He was voted worst teacher at Rate My Teacher.

    He is rude and a bully.

    Big deal, he’s an accountant–he reminds everyone all the time. So what. He can read a budget.

    He plays the game in Santa Rosa–he appointed Michael Allen (busted for conflict of interest) to the Planning Commission. Still supported him when the Grand Jury said the fish stank there.

    He wants to follow in Rod Dole’s footsteps–the last guy in the job who retired with the County’s highest pension and then went to work at a company (Ygrene) which directly benefited from Dole’s official support for their schemes.

    Get these corrupt people out. I’d rather see a high school student in the job.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  2. Henry Bernard says:

    Shirly Zane has rejected Mr. Wysocky’s bid for County Controller. Are we to be surprised?

    “Zane said she felt it would be a ‘tall order’ for Wysocky to match the experience and expertise of Sundstrom, who was hired after a nationwide search.”

    Let’s be honest. Shirly likes to spend, apparently never more so than when the plastic she wields has Sonoma County imprinted right above her name. She is after all the Supervisor who bested all of her peers in allocating $14,400 of tax payer receipts to fund “county business” junkets over a two year period (inclusive 2011 & 2012), two of the four most difficult fiscal years known to our nation since 1937. Yet Shirly (“I can’t be broke; I still have checks”) let loose with the plastic. Is it any wonder that she’d look askance at a controller known to be both a fiscal hawk and a watchdog standing vigil over tax payer dollars.

    “As a councilman, Wysocky has been a persistent budget hawk, pushing for greater sacrifices from employee groups, questioning whether the city’s pension plans are sustainable, and demanding more detailed budget presentations.”

    And yes, the last thing Shirly wants is someone bringing up that tiresome subject of the ‘supposed’ pension obligation debt. Has Mr. Sundstrum? If so, we, Sonoma County’s electorate, sure haven’t heard of it. Our pension debt currently figures to exceed 1 billion (yes, you heard me right, 1000 Million) dollars As to the actual amount, well, no one really seems to know, certainly not our BOS (trust me, I’ve asked). Yet, from Mr. Sundstrum, not a peep. Shirly smiles as she doesn’t particularly appreciate peeps.

    In Mr. Sundstrum’s defense, 1 billion dollars seems a bit trifling when compared to 4.4 billion deficit the Orange County Employee Retirement Association’s pension fund posted in 2011 when he exited his position as one of its Board of Directors before assume responsibilities as our controller. Given the $165 million surplus the fund posted in 2000 a bit after Mr. Sundstrum joined the board, a mere billion dollar deficit might seem actually encouraging. Especially as he can in no way be held accountable for its existence.

    Mr. Wysocky promises to be far less amenable and/or encouraged if we’re to take his tenure as a Santa Rosa Councilman as example.

    “Just two months ago Wysocky voted against the city’s current $340 million budget, arguing that it wasn’t balanced as City Manager Kathy Millison claimed because it understated future pension liabilities.”
    “The council is receiving an update from its actuary Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. to learn just how much future pension costs are expected to rise.”
    “Wysocky said he has similar concerns about how the county accounts for its pension costs. He said he wants to ensure such costs don’t get passed on to the next generation.”

    Just the thought of a Controller Wysocky presentation no doubt gives Shirly the hives. And well it should, he’s an expert accountant, a CPA and a maverick. As for Shirley, well, she’s an entrenched career politician.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  3. observer says:

    Gertrude Stein, commenting on Oakland’s lack of identify, said “there’s no there there”.

    That’s our Board of Supervisors. There’s no there there.

    Our Supervisors have no independent beliefs, convictions or cor e principles. They’re muppets with a script. The script is being written, weekly, by their owners.

    That is to say, our Supervisors have been purchased, paid for, acquired. And not by the citizens of Sonoma County; nor voters, taxpayers or rate payers. Not by the people they took an oath to serve.

    But instead by the folks who make the campaign contributions and influence election outcomes. Our Supervisors, County Counsel, Water Agency leaders and the Auditor Controller are characters in a farce called County of Sonoma governance.

    The purpose of this farce is to present the public with a facsimile of democracy while enabling the County owners—the folks who own the Supervisors—to loot the County treasury and put their thumbs on the scales of justice.

    Is it really that bad?

    Do you think we got a billion behind on pensions by accident? Do you think we got a billion behind on roads by accident? Do you think we just handed the Water Agency a billion dollar blank check for Sonoma Clean Power—a fraud machine with near zero benefits to local jobs or CO2 reduction—by accident?

    OK. Now what?

    Elect an Auditor Controller who’s not owned by the County insiders. One who will simply do his statutory job: eyeball how the County actually spends its money, and on whom.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  4. Just Me says:

    At least there is a local person running against the outsider who is only running because of coercion from the BOS! I heard the incumbent was NOT going to run but was forced into it by the BOS.

    Let’s bring this back home to someone who has committed their life to Sonoma County. Perhaps there will be other well qualified locals that will choose to run?

    Let’s hope so!

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

  5. Larry Watkins says:

    Wysocky is a loose cannon on the deck of local government. He is too emotional and too bias to be the catch all auditor, tax collector. Our taxes are high enough without his silent hand pulling the strings for more, more and more.

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 9

  6. Steve Humphrey says:

    Since when is someone who has experience in the private sector “have to convince the public” that they are qualified? Are only those who have worked solely in the public sector deemed qualified?
    Frankly Gary would be a strong advocate for a better public policy.
    Maybe it’s the fear of tranparency that those in public office fear.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 16

  7. Eddie Alvarez says:

    I see that my statement was not well receive. I’d say the proof is in the pudding. During his tenure as S.R. councilman he’s been one of the only members to question our irresponsible budget.

    What we need is a different perspective and someone from the outside. No wonder we dont see different results, as we seem to stick with what we already know isnt working.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 11

  8. Eddie Alvarez says:

    I’m happy that you’ve elected to take this step. Your a humble public servant and our Sonoma County needs someone with your background; strong leadership skills, knowledge of numbers and how they relate to public funds, and above all else a love for our home.

    Good luck, Sir….

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 23

  9. Westside Road says:

    Sundstrom’s better – just saying. If Wysocky had the credentials he would have at least been a finalist

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 8

  10. observer says:

    Can we put the Auditor Controller job in context?

    The Supervisors are hand puppets for the bosses who make the campaign contributions and influence votes.

    County Counsel is legalizer-of-bad-acts.

    The Water Agency operates as a recyling machine for rate payer money back to the bosses.

    The Auditor Controller is an independently elected official with the responsibility to audit—which is to say, scrutinize—the County’s books.

    But recent practice has transformed the role of Auditor Controller to enabler, even extoller, of the cash recycling machine that has become County government’s principal function. Witness the incumbent’s misleading testimony to a Senate committee on the virtues of Sonoma County Energy Independence, the Water Agency’s fake clean energy project that has mushroomed into Sonoma Clean Power.

    What if the incumbent and the new contender, sensing the winds of change—change like the un-election of the prior assemblyman, the favorite of the insider establishment—do something unprecedented in recent County governance? What if they campaign on a platform of independence, transparency and public service?

    What if, in spite of the Press Democrat’s relentless support of the culture of white collar fraud that has become our governance norm, we have an open public conversation on what a great county could look like? What if the Auditor Controller campaign were actually about running the County on the up-and-up?

    How about this question for openers: are you willing to actually audit the County’s books with an eye towards fraud, graft and corruption?

    Andrew Simpson

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 4

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