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Uhler blasts Montgomery on spending

Jennifer Montgomery says supes should work together
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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A Placer County budget workshop got off to a sour start Tuesday, with Supervisor Kirk Uhler verbally attacking fellow Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery’s spending practices during her first seven months in office. Montgomery sat quietly through Uhler’s harangue and said afterward that she wants to work with the Granite Bay supervisor on establishing a committee to deal with mutual concerns about government spending and policies. Speaking on the front-end of a two-day Board of Supervisors budget workshop, Uhler was critical of what he said was a politically motivated list of suggestions to better track expenditures that Montgomery wrote for a column appearing Aug. 6 in the Auburn Journal. Saying he’d be in favor of a committee that would look into the “right-sizing” of county government, Uhler ripped into Montgomery before a Board of Supervisors chambers filled with nearly 100 of the county’s top management officials. Montgomery’s hiring of district aides drew criticism from Uhler, who has been dogged in recent weeks with nepotism allegations related to a county department’s hiring of his wife. Tami Uhler was hired by the Placer County Department of Child Support Services July 7 as assistant director at a salary of $92,000 after a decade out of the work force. The job was unadvertised and the county’s union has been critical of the selection process. Montgomery’s column didn’t mention the Uhler hiring but did include in its list of suggestions the idea of “reconfirming the countywide policy that all positions be publicly advertised” to “make the process fully transparent.” Uhler criticized Montgomery for what he said was the hiring of three different people as her county aides over the past seven months with no advertising and each earning more than $80,000 in salary and benefits. The hirings, Uhler said, included Rob Haswell, who served as Montgomery’s campaign manager last year. “So much for total transparency,” Uhler said. Uhler was also was critical of Montgomery’s decision to not drive a county-provided auto – predecessor Bruce Kranz’s 2005 Toyota Four Runner. Uhler said that Montgomery had so far claimed $5,700 in mileage reimbursement – far above the $1,700 it would have cost to keep driving the Four Runner. Uhler drives a county-owned 2003 Acura TL that he picked out at a used-car dealership. Montgomery said nothing during Uhler’s blast but when he was finished stated that she apologized if he took it personally. “I wasn’t targeting anyone,” she said. “I think you and I should work together using your or my suggestions.” Responding after the meeting to Uhler’s critical remarks, Montgomery said the two had a friendly talk after the workshop about working together to establish a citizen-based committee on spending. “He’s absolutely entitled to his feelings,” Montgomery said. “It’s not entirely surprising, with the level of sensitivity everyone is operating around because of economy. I wasn’t disturbed or upset and was glad he shared his feelings publicly.” On the issue of hiring her aides, Montgomery is following Kranz, who also had two because of the expanse and diversity of her eastern Placer County district. Kranz convinced board members to change hiring practices to allow supervisors to choose their aides. Montgomery said she hired Haswell on the understanding that it would be for the first six months only. Patricia Malberg has since taken over the post. The salary is about $60,000, the same as Uhler’s aide, Montgomery said. Montgomery said she made the decision to drive her own car after consulting with the county auditor to see what would be most cost-effective. The cost of buying or leasing a car or driving her own and taking mileage were comparable, Montgomery said. The county will not bear the cost of any repairs, she added. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.