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A community leader and historian contends that the City's proposal to eliminate its recreation department is a lemon--and that residents will be squeezed.


By Helen Ofield, president, Lemon Grove Historical Society


April 26, 2011 (Lemon Grove) – [Councilman] Tom Clabby has given permission to release to you his response to Howard Cook's bizarre email. Please see below. Cook, who ran as a budget wizard, is evidently unable to fathom the same budget figures you and I have been reading.


Poison pen letters like the one to Tom, wild statements to media (Channel 10 a couple of days ago, Union-Trib, etc.) to spread inaccurate statements, skewering long-time, skilled, city employees, attempting to divide the council on trumped-up fiscal issues -- all of this is a throwback to the bad old days when we suffered with a rogue councilman, who also touted himself as a financial wizard. The said rogue has long since been discredited, but not before nearly destroying the Senior Center with his budget mismanagement. In other words, history is repeating itself.


Please don't let this happen. Please attend the May 3 council meeting and defend our Community Services and Rec Dept. component from destruction.


The council will make a terrible fiscal blunder if it allows the two current council rogues (Cook, England) to kill off a department that's doing its job-- bringing in more than a quarter million dollars a year. There is no guarantee that the YMCA, with its huge overhead for buildings, staff, liability insurance, etc., can provide Lemon Grove families with affordable recreation programs when the Y can't even fill its own ranks and had to cancel spring break programs (see Tom's letter for details). Keep in mind that the East County YMCAs are financially linked--money made in Lemon Grove would support their huge overhead, so they can't trim fees for needy families--that is just pie in the sky.


Here's the vote: Cook, England to kill. Gastil, Jones to save. Sessom is the swing vote. If you can't get there on May 3, please send an email to addressed to Mayor and Council and it will be forwarded to them.


Please alert your email list and neighbors.


Cook/Clabby correspondence below:

Mr. Clabby,

Thank you for coming to the Council meeting tonight. I am glad to see that you have gotten together with Jack Moore regarding some of the City's issues. But the one thing I don't understand is, we are almost $ 4000,000.00 short on our budget, with only $ 1,00000.0000. left in the reserve's. Its time to make cuts. Where ? The Rec. Dept. is the out most expense we have. Mike Hale $ 147,000.00 a year.


Dave Huey $ 109,000.00 a year Sec. $75,000.00 a Year That's $331,000.00 just in wages and everything else. We have 140 kidsenrolled, only 40 show up. The Y.M.C A.. has been in this Business since 1952 and do a better job for kids than we can do. Its more of a win win for the kids if anything. The Y.M.C.A.. wants nothing from us except a lease on the Building. And also promissed us no child will be turned away. Now, we can keep the Rec. Dept. and foget about streets, Dog catchers, Code enforcement and everything else. Just remember Tom, you and everybody else dug this hole, now its people like me that have to come in and clean it all up. I may have to make alot of hard choices that alot of people dont like, but at least I know that I am am doing what is right for the City Of Lemon Grove. And in the long run people will see that, and thank me later.

Howard Cook

Mr. Cook..

Thank you for your e-mail.


I had difficulty reading and understanding your e-mail. However, do feel the need to respond.I have highlighted your remarks so that it will make my job easier and hopefully clarify what you say you do not understand.


Your statements are in bold highlights and I will respond to each separately.


I prefer to talk one on one either by phone or sit down and have a conversation eye to eye. It is old fashioned, but it sure does help in getting to know someone better. You set up this one-way conversation so I will try to accommodate you at my here goes:.

(Cook):But the one thing I don't understand is, we are almost $ 4000,000.00 short on our budget, with only $ 1,00000.0000. left in the reserve's.

At first glance I did not know if you meant $4 million, $4 hundred thousand or $40 thousand. I would suggest to you that it might be helpful if you recheck figures and use spell check if necessary before hitting the send button. This is just an observation on my part .


Also, may I please refer you to:


April 5 Staff Report Attachment A , Item #3 near the bottom of the report where the deficit was projected to be $152,000 at status quo, before any proposed changes other then implementing 12 furlough days for FY12.

(Cook)The Rec. Dept. is the out most expense we have.

The "Rec. Dept." as I remembered was known as Recreation and Facilities. (Community Services)
It is 7% of the Budget.
Fire Department 27%
Law Enforcement (Sheriff) 35%
Public Works 15%
Please see Graham's and staff material provided to each Council member.
The pie chart for expenditures is in your material. Making such an outrageous statement certainly does not enhance your credibility.

(Cook) Mike Hale $ 147,000.00 a year.
Dave Huey $ 109,000.00 a year Sec. $75,000.00 a Year That's $331,000.00 just in wages and everything else.

You state that Recreation Director Mike Hale makes $147,000 a year. That is not correct. His annual salary is $107,978. You state that Assistant Director Dave Huey makes $109.000.00 a year. That is not accurate. His annual salary is $78,903. . There is no Secretary. The position title is Recreation Supervisor. You state that the position earns $75,000.00 a year. That is not accurate. The annual salary is $51,859.


Your referral to "and everything else" are their benefits that they have earned over the years of service. You mislead and throw out numbers that are not truthful.


I wonder if you are so set in your opinion, or unwilling to recognize there may be another way of looking at the facts. These are our City Manager's numbers that I am quoting here.

(Cook)We have 140 kids enrolled, and only 40 show up.

Memo from Graham to Council dated April 8, 2011 shows:
340 non duplicated kids in youth sports.
991 non duplicated adults in adult sports.
311 non duplicated kids in Camp programs.

(Cook)The Y.M.C A.. has been in this Business since 1952 and do a better job for kids than we can do.

I think that our Recreation Department has done an outstanding job through the years in providing the services needed for our little City. It is too bad that Council members cannot see beyond the next election rather than doing the "political twist".

(Cook) And also promissed us no child will be turned away.

It is my understanding that at another East County city, the YMCA had to cancel both weeks of Spring Camp for lack of enrollment. They did not have 10 children to meet the minimum.

In closing, I understand it is not easy being called on to the carpet, or the dais, and having to make tough choices. You personally represent a very small electorate -- less then 2000 votes. Yet our population is 25,000, over 8000 households in a 3.7 sq.mile radius. There are over 25 languages spoken in our Lemon Grove School system.


Our little city is a microcosm of the world.

Having served as an elected official for 14 years I am proud of the accomplishments that a congenial council brought forth. We all had our moments when we would find ourselves in disagreement with our fellow council members. However, in the end one's political or personal agenda somehow faded and the higher sense of right rose and the residents of Lemon Grove were served.

It is tough in this day and age because of the "fear of the unknown," i.e. the economy, world situation, you name it, causing anxiety, frustration and anger.

I do hope in the future when you are communicating with anyone who is a resident and/or city employee that you will be kind in your tone of voice, and listen and learn.

Since 1977, when we became a City, most of the council members all had one thing in common: They always put Lemon Grove before themselves. I often think about them and the examples they left that were a positive legacy for future generations. All of Lemon Grove's city staff are dedicated and led by a fine example, Graham Mitchell, our City Manager.


Never have so few done so much that goes unheralded.

I encourage you to work with all of your fellow council members, city staff, residents, Lemon Grove School District, businesses, service clubs and anyone else who calls Lemon Grove home and truly loves the community.


Tom Clabby

The opinions expressed in Ms. Ofield’s editorial and in the correspondence included from Councilmembers Clabby and cook reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. If you wish to submit an editorial for consideration, contact


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