Get the city's finances in order or fail.
"In fact, the city must reduce expenses and implement viable financial policies consistent with sound practices or it will not continue to exist at some point," Simpson wrote in a letter sent to finance employees and several others. "Furthermore, the issues are more than one individual can effectively manage and recovery will not occur without additional support and resources provided to the Finance Department."
That tone matches what the California Public Employee Retirement System and others objecting to the city's bankruptcy have said in court documents for months: The city's lack of resources indicates it may not be eligible for bankruptcy protection.
"The city's continued failure to devote adequate resources to its finance department and to its bankruptcy case calls into question its good faith and desire to effect a plan of adjustment," CalPERS' attorneys said in a Feb. 8 filing.
Simpson, who has not named his next move after leaving the city Feb. 15, left the city's Finance Department with only 11 employees - compared to 25 typical for similar-sized cities not also dealing with bankruptcy proceedings, according to city officials.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Jury said Feb. 12 that the city's slow production of documents - 53 items requested by CalPERS were not produced as of Feb. 8, and another 16 were only partially produced - should be considered in light of the severe cutbacks the city has had to make in all areas to erase a $45.8 million deficit.
That drew a quick rejoinder from Michael Lubic, CalPERS attorney.
"If the city had a finance department that was staffed to a level similar to other cities, perhaps the city wouldn't be in bankruptcy," he said.
The need for more support won't get any argument from Allen J. Parker, the new city manager.
"It's my No. 1 priority," Parker said. "It ties into everything - all the concerns for which I was hired."
Parker said he's already begun reviewing resumes of possible finance directors and other hires for a department he said once had 19 employees.
The Finance Department is first working on a budget for the year that began July 1, which he expects to present to the City Council on Monday, Parker said.
That will also involve more supporting information on the pendency plan, which CalPERS attorneys said in court seemed to be based on assumptions because the analysis behind numbers within it was not available to give the pension system.
Installing a new software system and a full review of finances also should be done soon, Parker said.
"I think there needs to be a review of all the checks and balances - all the purchasing procedures, I think that needs to be installed or re-analyzed across the board," Parker said.
He agreed that more support is needed.
"Jason is probably right in that just a finance director alone is not going to be able to handle it, he's going to need some assistance, be it contractual or some other assistance."
CalPERS spokeswoman Amy Norris didn't say whether Simpson's letter strengthens CalPERS' case.
"CalPERS supports the efforts of the city staff to obtain sufficient resources to address financial reporting, accounting, projections and similar issues," Norris said.
Simpson's letter also praises the hard work he said city employees and others have shown, a tone he emphasized Tuesday.
"As they move forward to their future strength, I greatly appreciate the unselfish support and hard work of the dedicated city staff and especially those in the Finance Department during this stressful period of the city's history," Simpson said in an email.
Reach Ryan via email, find him on Twitter @SBcityNow, or call him at 909-386-3916.