November Newsletter: Children’s Fund, the Lehman Fight, Airport Operations and More

Welcome to the November edition of the San Mateo County e-newsletter. In this edition you will find ways to make a child’s wish come true this holiday season, a profile of an employee who loves her job and updates and news on a variety of local issues — including our fight over the Lehman Brothers losses that is making national headlines.

The Children’s Fund — Making Dreams Come True

Board of Supervisors President Adrienne J. Tissier checks out “Holiday Central” with Amabel Baxley of the Human Services Agency

The Children’s Fund this week opened “Holiday Central” on the first floor of 455 County Center, Redwood City. This is the spot where you can drop off an unwrapped gift, make a donation or sign up to volunteer.

Last year the Children’s Fund helped fulfill the holiday wishes of 3,500 children. The Fund relies heavily on donations from individuals and local businesses. Genentech in South San Francisco, for instance, plans to donate 20 bicycles and boxes of other goods, said Amabel Baxley, a Children’s Fund coordinator in the Human Services Agency.

Decorating “Holiday Central” — Staff from the Human Services Agency, Public Works and PeninsulaWorks as well as Children’s Fund volunteers helped out

Volunteers will help fulfill a child’s “wish list” with a matching gift.

Holiday Central will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until December 12.

In addition, decorative barrels are being placed at County facilities and local businesses where you can conveniently drop off gifts. Please contact the Children’s Fund if you know of a county office or outside organization that would like to host a barrel.

Barrels will be distributed to County offices and local businesses

And don’t forget, employees can make a gift year-round, through the County’s Charitable Contributions program. (Forms are available on the County’s Intranet site.)

Every dollar donated directly assists a child in need as all overhead costs are covered by the Human Services Agency.  
If you have any questions regarding the Children Funds Holiday Gift Drive or would like to volunteer, please send an e-mail to

November Employee Spotlight

For a high-flying aviation professional, Debra Jean “DJ” Cullen is decidedly down to earth.

An airport operations specialist for San Mateo County’s two airports in San Carlos and Half Moon Bay, Cullen has worked throughout the industry. Her background includes working as a flight attendant for America West when it was just getting off the ground, overseeing employees as a city manager for Western Pacific and Frontier airlines at Mineta San Jose and San Francisco International Airports, and work in airport operations for the city of San Jose.

But after a stint staying home with her second child, the San Carlos resident “decided to check out this little airport nearby.”

“It was a whole different world. It wasn’t like the airlines at all. It is something really unique,” says Cullen, who started as a part-time employee in 2007 and was promoted to full-time a year later.

A typical day for Cullen might include repairing a hangar, driving a sweeper, investigating noise complaints or taking the solo shift in Half Moon Bay, which can be dead on a foggy day but extremely busy when the sun comes out.

“I swear there must be an iPad app that says it’s clear and beautiful in Half Moon Bay!” she says. (There pretty much is – apps that show weather conditions for general aviation airports.)

Cullen says she loves both the variety of her job and the diversity of her co-workers.

“There’s a guy who was a professor at San Jose State and a former (San Francisco Police Department) officer who did Secret Service. Everyone brings such a different background, and it all just gels,” she says.

San Mateo County’s two general aviation airports house private aircraft, charter operations, flight schools and more.

San Carlos Airport is home to some 500 aircraft and more than 25 aviation-related businesses. Half Moon Bay has about 80 aircraft and several aviation businesses.

Both airports provide emergency services including Air-Ambulance, MediVac flights, law enforcement and homeland security patrols, and Coast Guard training and operations.

The airports are self-funded through airport user and business fees and receive no money from the County’s general fund.

When she’s not working at the airports, Cullen rides dirt bikes with her husband ¬– whom she met years ago at a pizza place while on a Bay Area layover – and 15-year-old daughter, both of whom ride competitively.

She also loves to travel, but not necessarily by plane. Her family, which also includes a 21-year-old son, has a Class A RV and loves to visit Wyoming and Colorado.

But to hear Cullen talk about it, you’d think she has almost as much fun at work.

“It’s always a challenge, with something different every day,” she says. “You’re always getting your feet wet in lots of places, and I really like that.”

Lehman Brothers: The Fight Goes On

In September 2008, when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, the economy took a nosedive and is still struggling to rebound. On that fateful day, the County-operated investment pool lost $155 million of County, City, school district and special districts’ money that the treasury pool had invested in Lehman. Because Lehman was historically considered a safe and sound investment, individual, corporate and government investors had invested billions of dollars in the bank such that when it filed for bankruptcy, it became the single biggest bankruptcy case in U.S. history.

Since that time, the County has fought hard to recoup as much of the loss as possible. We are currently fighting on two fronts. First, through the bankruptcy action. After several years of bankruptcy litigation, the judge has confirmed a final plan. This plan guarantees that the treasury pool will recover a minimum of 22 percent of the loss. However, it is widely expected that after all of the distributions are finally made over the next two years, that the investment pool could recover as much as 30 percent to 35 percent of the loss.

Main Street vs. Wall Street

Second, as you may have read in both the local and national media, our County is causing quite a stir on Wall Street.

The County is one of several public agencies who have sued the officers and directors of Lehman Brothers for fraud and misrepresentation. We have also sued Lehman’s independent auditors, Ernst and Young. As our County Counsel John Beiers stated, “Our lawsuit is one of the only of its kind in the country to actually make Wall Street executives personally accountable for their behavior. There is strong evidence that Lehman executives, with encouragement by Ernst and Young, were hiding liabilities off the books in an accounting gimmick known as ‘Repo 105′s.’”

San Mateo County is trying to unravel Lehman’s gimmicks

As Beiers said, “The purpose of this accounting trick was to hide from investors the fact that the company was not as economically healthy as portrayed in disclosure documents.” As investors continued to invest in a failing company based on false information, “Lehman executives continued to enrich themselves, drawing huge salaries and bonuses and living lavish lifestyles,” said Beiers.

The case received a considerable amount of media attention recently when the judge largely denied the officers and directors’ motion to dismiss, allowing the County to move forward in this unique case in its fight for Main Street.

County Manager Update

John Maltbie

The Board of Supervisors in closed session on Tuesday, November 20, voted unanimously to appoint John Maltbie as County Manager for four years beginning on December 23, 2012, subject to and conditioned upon, successfully negotiating a contract. It is expected that a contract will be brought before the Board for a public vote on December 11, 2012.

As you may know, Maltbie served as County Manager from 1989 until his retirement in 2008. He returned in December 2011 following the resignation of his successor, David Boesch.
In accepting a contract, Maltbie would be required to suspend his retirement, meaning that he cannot collect a salary and a pension simultaneously. Look for an interview with Maltbie highlighting his goals for the coming years in a future newsletter.

Measure A Workshops to be Scheduled

With voter approval of Measure A on the November 6 ballot, the Board of Supervisors will begin holding public workshops in January to help set funding priorities. The half-cent sales tax is expected to raise approximately $60 million each year for 10 years.

The workshops will focus on community needs in 1) Health and Human Services, 2) Public Works, Parks and Capital Projects, 3) Housing and Transportation and other needs throughout San Mateo County.

The County Manager’s Office is working with the Board to set a schedule.

Changing Lives: Job Fair for the Formerly Incarcerated

Earlier this month approximately 300 San Mateo County residents heard inspirational stories from people like them – people who spent time in prison or jail – and then met with any of nearly 30 employers willing to give them a fresh start.

Dressing for success: Attendees who needed a suit were offered a choice

The event was the County’s first job fair specifically for people who have spent time in the criminal justice system. Organized by the Office of Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, numerous County departments assisted, including the Human Services Agency, Probation Department, Sheriff’s Office, Health System, Workforce Investment Board and Child Support Services.

Organizers said that people who land a job are far less likely to return to jail. That improves not only the lives of those individuals but their families as well. And less crime means improved public safety, less crowded jails and lower costs for the criminal justice system.

Peter Kockelman of Summit Steel Works with some inspirational words for the attendees

Businesses on hand included nationwide retailers such as Target and IKEA and local businesses such as Summit Steel Works, whose president, Peter Kockelman, spoke about how some of his best employees were formerly incarcerated.

Organizers will track how many attendees received job offers stemming from the fair. A second job fair may be in the works for next year. 

This newsletter was produced by the San Mateo County Manager’s Office. Please contact Marshall Wilson, the communications director, at 650-363-4153 or at with questions,  comments and ideas.

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