Jeff Oderman: The High Price of Bad Advice


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Fans of Evita will remember these lyrics: “When the money keeps rolling in, you don’t ask how. Think of all the people guaranteed a good time, now!”

Well, a lot of people at Rutan and Tucker Law firm have made plenty $$$ off Fullerton taxpayers, especially its redevelopment attorney Jeff Oderman.

Oderman has a record of loyalty to city staff and staff-directed projects, even if it means bamboozling the council (acting as redevelopment agency). Take the City Lights low-income housing project on East Commonwealth (next to the Old Post Office). In 1997 the Agency-assigned developer Caleb Nelson (who was living out of his car) disappeared. The whole deal should have ben sent back to the Council for reconsideration. A request-for-proposal should have been issued to give developers an equal opportunity.

Instead, LA developer Ajit Mithaiwala appears from nowhere to take over the project. Then-RDA Director Chaplupsky starts dealing with Ajit, until council members Norby, Sa and Jones start wondering aloud– “where did this developer come from?” Oderman claimed Ajit was now the developer. Not true, Jeff! Despite demands from the council majority, no document was ever produced showing that Mithaiwala had ever been legally assigned the project. His shoddy construction of LA projects was also a concern.

voila, it's that simple

voila, it's that simple

The council saw past Oderman’s bad advice and voted to end the project. Then, Mithaiwala threatened to sue Dick Jones personally for derogatory comments he made about future tenants. Jones got no protection from Oderman and instead Jones was pressured to change his vote. He did, and the project went through.

In 1999 the City started a breach-of-contract suit against Southwest Engineering, Inc. for non-performance on the Basque Yard remodel.  It turned out that Southwest had used Rutan and Tucker to defend itself against a similar suit with another city. For a firm to represent both parties in a lawsuit–even if not the same case–is a serious question of legal ethics. Yet Oderman never told the council, who found out about it from a third source–when it was too late to change lawyers.

Oderman then recommends the City settle with the non-performing contractor, paying Southwest over $1 million.

Now Oderman is giving the council/agency the same bad advice on blight in the proposed expanded redevelopment area. Its passage will lead to at least two legal challenges on the bogus blight findings. County Counsel Attorney James Harman and FFFF’s attorney Bob Ferguson have stated convincingly and repeatedly why the blight findings fail legal muster.

Similar blight findings in many other cities–including Upland, Mammoth Lakes, Diamond Bar, Murietta, Arcadia and Glendora–have been thrown out by the courts. Fullerton’s may well be headed in that direction. Has Oderman cautioned the council about the legal risks? Or is he there to provide cover for the staff and the consultants?

But, what does Oderman care? A lengthy lawsuit only adds to his hourly billings ($400/hr. adds up pretty fast). Win or lose, he’ll still be paid. If Oderman is really so confident about winning the long legal blight fight ahead, then pay him on a contingency!

Please, City Council–hire a lawyer to represent you–not defend staff boondoggles. Until then, the money keeps rolling in for Rutan and Tucker! $400 per hour for 15 years of bad advice.

Thanks suckers!

Thanks suckers! J. O.

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  1. #1 by Chris Moore on July 6, 2009

    Rutan & Tucker!? I believe that is also the firm (one of several) hired by the Great Park in Irvine. “Shady” would be an understatement.

  2. #2 by College Park Codger on July 6, 2009

    I remember that City Lights fiasco, when Oderman stuck the Council with that schlock developer. Linda LeQuire led the opposition, but in the end her pal Jones caved. But these lawyers know that councils come and go… it’s the career bureaucrats to whom they’re loyal.

    When was Oderman last evaluated by his “clients”? When was the agency legal work last put out to competitive bid? He seems awfully cocky–and comfy.

  3. #3 by van get it da artiste on July 7, 2009

    The money is rolling in from whom? fullerton’s last fiscal year’s revenue was an unanticipated half million dollars short, and our economic depression is worsening. Unemployment rises to the double digits and record foreclosures happen in our town. this coming year’s revenue will lose more than a half a million dollars . Our errant but esteemed city council members will have to shut down our parks, community out reach centers, reduce street cleaning to once a month ,cut back on trash pick-up, stop funding graffitti removal if they want to end blight in fullerton

  4. #4 by van get it da artiste on July 7, 2009

    on second thought, our councilmembers should not shut down our parks because the growing ranks of fullertonions who are now homeless will need a public place to squat. a better way to save city revenue is stop funding the upkeep of our parks. Our parks will just be trashed by its new residents. the revenue saved from this move would defray the cost of fighting blight

  5. #5 by M. Steinberg on July 7, 2009

    What amazes me is how this City Council loves to “play” developer, aside from Nelson, I wouldn’t trust any of them to invest a penny of my money….scary!

  6. #6 by just a guy on July 7, 2009

    Lawyers don’t get rich by telling clients to play it safe. Have you seen the Rutan & Tucker office by South Coast Plaza? Not too shabby!

  7. #7 by Hungry Lawyer on July 7, 2009

    Who can answer CP’s question? When WAS the last time they looked @ Rutan & Tucker’s contract? R & T has the reputation of being a politically connected firm, large–and lethargic.

    There are a lot of firms out there ready to give better advice at a lower price. Give us a chance.

    Oderman is doing phone-in staff badly, and charging pre-recession rates.

  8. #8 by Jacaranda Jay on July 7, 2009

    Is Oderman the same guy who negotiated that $6 million deal to move the McDonald’s?

  9. #9 by Sage of Skyline on July 7, 2009

    If so, we can call him the “Six Million Dollar Man.” Just like that 70′s show. (Was that Lee Majors?)

  10. #10 by just a guy on July 7, 2009

    Hungry Lawyer and the Codger are on to something. At my office in the private sector we have re-negotiated lower rates with almost every one of our vendors, and our clients have done the same to us. Are we still paying the same pre-recession rates for Rutan and Tucker?

  11. #11 by Hank Mason on July 7, 2009

    I’m outraged at the arrogance this city council has, what qualifications do these people have to be playing developer on our dime?

  12. #12 by Who Wants To Be A County Cluck on July 9, 2009

    Why can’t Norby publish his posts under his own name? Is he afraid of that guy Ackerman supports?

  13. #13 by The Fullerton Harpoon on July 9, 2009

    Speaking of Flackerman, doesn’t his son in law work for R&T? And wasn’t he affiliated with them at some point?

    Rutan and Tucker makes its dough kissing ass to local government agencies (i.e. the bureaucrats that hire them). Please note that City Attorney Dick Jones is no better. He will never represent the legal interests of the citizens – only the public employees.

  14. #14 by Hollis Dugan on July 9, 2009

    Harpoon,

    Ackerman’s son in law does work @ Rutan and for what its worth the guy has his act together big time. The son in law aint the problem.

  15. #15 by The Fullerton Harpoon on July 10, 2009

    Sorry, Hollis. I know a little something about a particular case. I may share it with the Friends if the subject of R&T comes up again!

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