The Orinda Rotary and the Contra Costa Times named former MOFD Director John Wyro their 2016 Citizen of the Year. His volunteerism, as outlined in a March 2 Times article and a March 9 Lamorinda Weekly article is impressive, but the Task Force questions, is he really the most appropriate person in Orinda for this honor? One former city leader stated: “Selecting John shows that whomever is selecting the person is not looking at the bigger picture of result, not just commitment. John was committed, just used bad judgment in fulfilling his commitment.” What “bad judgement” was being referred to?
The Lamorinda Weekly article stresses Wyro’s involvement in formation of MOFD which brought paramedic service to Orinda in 1997. This was commendable and possibly warranted an award; in 1998. However, MOFD was not formed just to provide paramedic service to Orinda. In the voter’s pamphlet for the 1997 measure forming MOFD there were four reasons given for the formation:
Mr. Wyro was on the MOFD Board from its formation in 1997 through 2014, with two years off 2001 & 2002) when he moved from North Orinda to South Orinda, a change of divisions within the district. How did his actions respond to the four Orinda goals of the MOFD formation?
In addition, with regards to general management of MOFD over the years:
* Total employee compensation is currently, and has consistently accounted for, 85% of the District’s total revenue. In the 17 years that Mr. Wyro was involved that revenue added up to about $265 million; $225 going to the employees. However, when Mr. Wyro left at the end of 2014, the District had also accrued $90 million in debts. All of this debt was due to underfunded employee retirement benefits. Therefore, over Mr. Wyro’s term in office, the District payed out $315 million in employee compensation payments and future obligations while only taking in $265 million in revenue. And that is with a revenue stream growing at twice the rate of inflation.
* A small but notable portion of the $90 million in debt came from the infamous pension that Mr. Wyro and the rest of the board gave to Chief Pete Nowicki in 2008 through a series of retroactive contract revisions which increased his last year’s compensation $110,000 and his life-long pension $94,000 per year with cost of living increases. This would have ultimately cost the District $4 million. While the pension board recently overturned 2/3 of this increase, at the time it was given to the retiring chief, it made local and national news and Chief Nowicki became the poster boy of pension reform while those ultimately responsible for the excess were Mr. Wyro and the rest of the 2008 board. They could have said “no”. A petition sponsored by the Task Force asking the last remaining member of the board, Moraga Director Fred Weil, to step down due to his involvement in what some called “a significant break in public trust and responsibility” (among other comments), was equally directed to Mr. Wyro and other members of that board no longer in public office.
Now Mr. Wyro’s service to the community extends well beyond his activities at MOFD and the Task Force has no knowledge of the impact of his other involvements. But seeing as emergency services are one of the most important aspects of local government and seeing as the $14 million spent annually by Orinda on MOFD is almost equal to the entirety of the rest of the Orinda city budget; from an Orinda viewpoint, Mr. Wyro’s time at MOFD must be considered a major factor in his selection as Orinda Citizen of the Year. And as one of our leaders stated, we should look at the results of Mr. Wyro’s actions at MOFD, not just the commitment.
In our opinion, the results are not worthy of the award. This is not a personal attack on Mr. Wyro, just the result of the compilation of facts, positive and negative, of Mr. Wyro’s service to Orinda.