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0-For-Oakdale - Grant Failure

POSTED May 10, 2011 9:46 p.m.

A grant-writing consultant paid $2,500 per month by the City of Oakdale has yet to be successful in obtaining any grants for the city despite being on the payroll for 18 months.

California Consulting of Fresno was retained by the city in December 2009 to write state and federal grants for Oakdale in hopes of getting money to supplement the budget and institute new programs. Regardless of working on a total of 24 grants, with more than $27 million in funding potential for the city, the agency has not been able to secure any of the awards.

“That record tells me you’ve struck out too many times,” said Mayor Pat Paul. “With an average like that, you should get sent to the minors.”

Paul also said she was stunned and embarrassed when she heard the initial figures which had been reported at the May 2 council meeting as only being 14 months under contract.

In information obtained by The Leader, California Consulting’s first Oakdale contracted project was in December of 2009. Figures show that the company has applied for, or is working on, a total of 24 grants on behalf of the City of Oakdale.

“This is a little troublesome that we’re paying all this money and no results,” said Councilman Jason Howard. “It doesn’t sit well with me.”

At the May 2 meeting, Acting City Manager Mike Botto introduced Juan Garza and Liz Gomez of California Consulting to give a presentation in which the history of the company was given and figures were shown of the types of grants they had attempted, or were in the process of applying for, for the city.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Howard directly asked how many of the grants submitted had been successful.

Gomez said that none of the grants had been successful but told the council that frequently several applicants are applying at the same time or grants have to be submitted a number of times before they are successful.

California Consulting representatives said the firm specializes in relations with state government agencies and “…assists clients specifically with the Governor’s Office, the State Legislature, and the State Agencies that issue grant monies.” They also have two registered lobbyists that work on behalf of their clients.

Steve Samuelian, who served in the state legislature, founded the company in 2004.

Councilman Michael Brennan said he had been inquiring about the company’s progress on the grants with various members of the city staff, which possibly generated the May 2 presentation. Brennan criticized California Consulting’s address, stating they listed a number of things that were “in the pipeline” but nothing they had accomplished.

“What’s going on with these guys?” Brennan asked. “What are we paying them for?”

Brennan said that he’s attended city government training sessions where grant writing has been a topic. He learned it’s best for a small city to use personnel within the city because they will have “buy in” and the interest will come across in the review process.

“A ‘hired gun’ won’t have that sense of need,” suggested Brennan. “A company like California Consulting can be working on the same grant for different cities and be writing it from 20 different angles.”

A review of recent obtained grants by the city shows internal personnel were the ones that obtained them.

The public works department received a $100,000 grant that was written by one of their employees. Police Chief Marty West shared that in the last few years his department has obtained at least eight federal and state grants written by city personnel totaling over $1.4 million. The police grants range from traffic safety, police staffing and hiring, and the purchase of surveillance cameras for schools and busses.

Brennan said that since the May 2 presentation Samuelian has contacted him via email regarding some of the lobbying introductions he had done on behalf of the city during a $90 million transportation project.

Brennan said the lobbying efforts were not important to him, only the current issue.

“They’re 0-for-Oakdale when it comes to grants,” Brennan said.

When contacted, Gomez said she was not authorized to make a statement about the matter. Additional messages and emails to California Consulting were not returned.

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