The Cedar Hills City Council appointed one of its own as mayor in a special meeting Thursday night.
After publicly interviewing nine candidates, the council chose Gary Gygi, a member since January, to replace Eric Richardson, who resigned June 25 amid federal fraud charges and accusations of misappropriation of civil funds.
Gygi, who has lived in Cedar Hills for 13 years, was sworn into office after the council's decision. He will complete the current term, which expires in 2013. His position on the council will be filled within 30 days.
"It is an honor to have the opportunity to serve as mayor of Cedar Hills," Gygi said in a news release issued Friday.
During the meeting, all nine candidates answered questions submitted by residents.
Gygi feels he was chosen because, among other things, he has "the ability to interact with different groups in the city," he said in an interview. He said his immediate plans are to increase the tax base by expanding commercial areas to attract more business.
"This is a wonderful city with a lot of potential," Gygi said in the release. "Great things are happening. I look forward to working with residents, staff, and the council as we work towards a successful future."
A bright future may require a solution to one of Cedar Hills' most controversial issues: the city golf course. The mayor said he hopes to get to the bottom of its finances. Some critics, chief among them the Cedar Hills Citizens for Responsible Government, have argued that officials misappropriated city funds to build a club house and misled the public about the true state of golf course finances.
To resolve those concerns, Gygi and the other seven members of the ad hoc Golf Course Financial Advisory Committee are examining the course's financial history.
"My impression on the financials is they have always been accurate, but the city has just done a poor job communicating the numbers," he said.
An example of that poor communication was found in a city newsletter in September 2011, before Gygi joined the council. The newsletter stated: "The city golf course has shown positive cash flow from operating activities since 2005 and even had a cash surplus of over $90,000 in 2009." Some citizens interpreted that to mean the golf course was profitable, which it wasn't.
Gygi said Friday that the newsletter statement was "accurate but not complete" because it told only part of the story. It didn't account for debt service, for example, or the annual subsidy from tax dollars.
Just this month, the city issued a clarification, acknowledging the statement didn't reflect the overall financial condition of the golf course. Gygi said the clarification came at his suggestion.
"I don't think there was an intent to mislead the public," he said Friday. "It could have been communicated in a better way." He added that the clarification had been on the city's to-do list for a while and had nothing to do with Cedar Hills Citizens.
That group's co-founder, former City Council member Ken Cromar, said Gygi's appointment to mayor is "business as usual" in Cedar Hills, but he is glad the city issued "the correction."
"We applaud their admitting the golf course hasn't made a profit," said Cromar, who was one of the nine mayoral candidates. "Now the hope is they'll come clean and dig deep" on the golf course's finances.
Gygi said he expects the committee will have a report completed before the end of the year.
Cromar said he's hopeful the committee gets to the bottom of things. "All we want is the citizens to have the truth," he said Friday. "Contention can then disappear. We've had contention for 10 years."
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