City Finance Issues: Please Pay Attention, This Is Important | FINANCE & LEADERSHIP IS AT A CROSSROADS

Last June, 2023, city council was promised on the record in open council by South Pasadena city manager Chaparyan to get the finances in order by the six-month review.  Notably, Councilmember Braun cautiously voted to approve the budget last year on that promise.

Armine Chaparyan South Pasadena City Manager. Finance problems, management problems, staffing issues.
Screencap: Special Joint Meeting of the City Council and The Finance Commission Monday, June 17, 2024 | Current South Pasadena finance director John Downs explaining to City Council & Finance Commission how he proposes to use SLFRF (COVID Emergency Reimbursement) funds to cover other ongoing spending shortages in the ledger. City Councilmember Braun & Finance Commissioner Sheila Rossi are questioning the validity of the maneuver.

Letter to the editor | by Civic Finance Expert Josh Betta

The quesitons and conclusions posed in my opinion allow the South Pasadena City Manager, Arime Chaparyan, to make the right choices before she publishes critical agenda items for the June 27 council meeting.  She has the opportunity to offer the City Council a choice on how to move forward with solving the budget debacle.

NOTE: CLICK HERE for finance articles that report and define the leadership and decision making breakdown over the last 12 months.

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Last June, 2023, city council was promised on the record in open council by South Pasadena city manager Chaparyan to get the finances in order by the six-month review.  Notably, Councilmember Braun cautiously voted to approve the budget last year on that promise.

The last Special Joint Meeting of the City Council and The Finance Commission
Monday, June 17, 2024 left the public spinning in amazement of a leadership and finance decision making process that is a kaleidoscope of poor decision making from the city manager’s office; as well as questionable choices by some on city council.

This has left the city of South Pasadena with failed finance records and reporting, multimillion dollar discrepancies, and a highly concerned finance commission as to how council is able to decide the way forward to correct the issue. CLICK HERE for video of meeting.

This is my professional opinion of the crucial and precarious situation we as a city are left with from the Finance meeting June 17:

Established …The City Attorney has opined that City Manager Chaparyan does not need to act under the instruction of the City Council unless and until the City Council votes, at a public meeting, to give that instruction by majority vote.

It follows that… as I write, that Ms. Chaparyan is not under instruction from the City Council as to her publication of the Joint CC/FC meeting agenda and corresponding staff reports an attachments, including PowerPoint slides, on June 27th.

So it is that… Ms. Chaparyan’s choices will define a critical moment in the City’s financial history since the 2020 CityGate scandal and coverup.  A disaster Jon Primuth called “a continuing crisis” in 2022.  Especially since, only two weeks ago, she admitted the failure of her efforts over the past three years.

Now, therefore…consider two matters in deep reflection.

ONE.  Will Ms. Chaparyan bring a Resolution of Continuing Appropriations before the Council for discussion?  The Resolution, as you know, allows the Council to vote and extend the City’s current fiscal year before adopting a new budget (better said spending plan in Ms. Chaparyan’s hands).  Will our public officials deliberate whether solving problems before making unrequited next steps is in the best interests of South Pasadena?  Will they be given the choice to decide as those sworn to the Constitution, their intellect, and the sacred nature of their elected positions.  This again raises myriad questions of political integrity.  I respectfully call the question.

TWO.  Ms. Chaparyan declared two weeks ago, on June 5th, that she will not use the Excell software the City purchased from NHA Associates some 100 days ago, to produce five- year financial projections as was required of her by the direct vote of the Council in May until after the Council adopts her Proposed FY 24-25 City Budget.  Extortion, thy name is abuse of power.  I suggest Ms. Chaparyan instead offer new declaration at the June 27th meeting.

Ms. Chaparyan has until close-of-business tomorrow, June 20, to define her career.  And that of the 2024 City Council.

Please consider that the best course in financial matters — whether personal, corporate or public corporate — is always conservative decision making.

In your service, Josh Betta

Josh Betta was the first permanent finance director in the City of Bell following the infamous municipal scandal in 2010. He was South Pasadena’s finance director from 2001 to 2008. His daughter, Keena Betta Moro, was co-valedictorian of the SPHS graduating class of 2005. Go Tigers.


Reverence Finance Articles 2024

City Finance Issues: Editorial | Mid-Year Report by City Manager Falls Far Short of Expectations


Same Point Last year, June 2023

Budget Rejected | City Council Left With Many Questions as Process Stumbles

OpEd | City Budget Problems: A Response to City Council

South Pasadena City Finance Section CLICK HERE



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  1. Mr. Betta is exactly right. Let me add the following:

    Please let the massive failure of Armine Chaparyan’s tenure as your City Manager serve as a lesson when your City Council hires a new City Manager. Having “relevant local government experience,” “institutional knowledge,” “economic development experience” and an “ICMA-CM credential” mean absolutely nothing when it comes packaged in a totally incompetent, self-serving bureaucrat like Armine Chaparyan. Hire someone who actually has substance. As a lesson, here is what you bought when you hired Chaparyan three years ago:

    You bought a self-promoting, untrustworthy narcissistic politician. You did not hire a City Manager. She used South Pasadena as a platform for her career aspirations. She used South Pasadena’s wallet as her ATM. Next time, hire someone who is less interested in social media posts about herself, and more interested in making sound business/policy decisions for the City. Next time, hire someone who puts South Pasadena ahead of their own career aspirations and image.

    You bought total incompetence in regard to public finance and budgeting. She proved to have no finance/business acumen and was totally incompetent in this very important area as your City Manager. It is likely she was inept in public finance long before you hired her, but you failed to vet her properly. All she did as your City Manager was mismanage your finances and spend South Pasadena’s money like it was printed on Monopoly paper. Check your discombobulated budget and growing structural budget deficit as evidence of this fact.

    You bought total incompetence in the area of human resources management and organizational development. Armine Chaparyan proved to be totally inept in this very critical management area and likely was inept in this area long before you hired her. As an example of her incompetence in HR management, you only need to look at the great number of poor staffing decisions she made while your City Manager along with the current internal strife and dysfunctional organization she is leaving behind. There is a pattern of poor performance here if you only vetted her before you hired her.

    In short, Armine Chaparyan wasted South Pasadena’s money on frivolous items, such a slew of unnecessary and costly new staff positions to bolster her army of sycophants. She hired a “management team” of incompetent followers who could not give her sound advice when she needed it. She then hired a slew of expensive consultants to cover the gap left by her highly paid, highly incompetent management team. Did anyone vet Chaparyan’s prior experience? If so, you would have found that she was a total fake and disaster in her prior position and made the same erroneous moves whence she came from. She left a massive sinkhole and toxic environment whence she came from and now she has done the same for South Pasadena, only this time on a greater, more damaging level as your City Manager.

    The “management team” she hired for South Pasadena should also be closely examined. It is a mirror of Chaparyan and like her, it lacks credibility and is unable to make sound business/management decisions. Her team is responsible for the toxic environment festering in your city hall, evidenced by the fact it has chased off some valuable long-term employees over the last 3 years because those employees had the courage to question Chaparyan’s poor judgement. In ridding yourself of Chaparyan, you should also consider a total cleansing of the toxic and incompetent management team she is leaving behind.

    Bottom line is this: Chaparyan inherited a very difficult situation, but she is leaving it far worse than she found it. She made your situation orders of magnitude worse than how she found it. This is what bad, incompetent, narcissistic City Manager’s like Chaparyan do. They bilk the community’s (taxpayers) they are sworn to serve for their self-interests. Please open up your eyes when hiring your next City Manager and hire someone who isn’t a “broken retread” who says all the things you want to hear, only to not have the skills to follow through on her promises. Hire someone who has sound public management acumen, sound finance acumen, sound human resources acumen, strong public service ethics, good character, and the leadership qualities necessary to be successful in South Pasadena.

    In service of the public good,

    LocalGov Watchdog