Fortunately, An Adult in the Room

This is a story about selfishness, small-time greed and entitlement.

No, it’s not about  my 3-year old nephew.

It’s about members of the Fullerton Fire Department and their Chief, Wolfgang “Wolf” Knabe and the culture of permissiveness overseen by our former City Manager Joe “Fast and Loose” Felz.

Back in September a couple of off-duty fire department employees managed to get themselves lost in Yosemite by foolishly trying to take a shortcut across some sort of moving water. The hue and cry went out – all the way to Fullerton. So members of the FFD drove City vehicles up north to show solidarity with their lost comrades who were discovered a day or two later.

What happened next may or may not surprise you depending on your familiarity with the sense of entitlement held by Fullerton’s “public safety” employees.

Chief Knabe, who makes well over $200,000 a year and is Fullerton’s highest paid employee, attempted to stick the taxpayers of Fullerton with the cost of gas, steak dinners and hotel accommodations for this purely elective field trip.

Here are the relevant documents.

 

Firefighters Javier Avelar, sixth from left, and Dave Brown, seventh from left, seen here joined on Sept. 13 by colleagues who trekked to Yosemite to help find them after they were reported missing by family.

 

Hero presser: Fullerton/Brea Fire Departments fire chief Wolfgang Kanabe explains during a press conference in Fullerton on Wednesday, how two Fullerton firefighters went missing in Yosemite during a six-day backpacking trip. They were supposed to return on Sunday. Searchers found them Tuesday. September 14, 2016. (Photo by Ken Steinhardt, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Knabe tried to justify the whole episode as some sort of job-related effort and a PR triumph for himself and his department, but fortunately our Finance Department Director, Julia James, was having none of it, and quite appropriately deemed such a reimbursement as a gift of public funds.

In the end Wolfie had to use a “donation” account (which is still public money), and which begs the question of whether or not donors are giving money to the department to pay for steak dinners for our Heroes.

The Tale of Joe’s Tree, or The Day Government Acted Quickly

We all know that the gears of government grind slowly. Let a common citizen try to initiate some action or other and watch the January molasses flow.

Then, of course if there’s a real emergency – i.e. a need to hush something up, or cover the tracks – things move much more quickly.

Some folks thought it would be interesting to see how the City handled the issue of Sappy McTree, the Glenwood Avenue parkway youngster plowed over by former City Manager, Joe Felz on the night of his Wild Ride. Sappy was sent to the chipper, and a replacement was recently installed. Felz was sent home to spend more time with his family, and a replacement was recently installed.

Here are the relevant docs. Please note the dates.

Tree down!

The Bill
HAVE A NICE DAY!

We see that the cost of a new tree and a tree inspector (!) have been billed to Felz on November 14, 2016, five days after the incident. But note the due date – November 15th.  Nobody produces an invoice with payment due in one day. In this case the invoice was produced on a Monday, and the due date on Tuesday. Why? Well, I can only speculate but it sure looks to me like Felz was trying his level best to close out the issue before the city council meeting the next day.

In the end it didn’t matter. Felz got The Phone Call, either from the City Attorney or from Jennifer Fitzgerald herself, advising him to take some time off, and that if he had a parachute, he’d better pack it.

Installed and inspected…

Looks like the bill was finally paid on November 21 – six days late.

The High Cost of Bad Development

The Thing That Ate Fullerton courtesy of Orange Juice Blog.

Someone once advised that bad design costs just as much as good.

This is particularly true of development that squanders resources, overloads infrastructure, gobbles up energy and foists snarled traffic on the rest of us.

So how come Fullerton has gone head over heels for massive, five-story (and more) apartment blocks the past five years?

At first I thought it was because there was no planning director and that in this void stuff was happening without any sort of adult in the room. Then Karen Haluza came along. Yes, the same Karen Haluza who, as a private Fullerton resident and council candidate, opposed the Amerige Court (now Commons) monstrosity back in 2008. But now Ms. Haluza seems to spend all her time pitching the same ridiculous monsters that were approved when nobody was in charge.

Then it hit me.

These huge projects are moneymakers, and not just for the out-of-town developers that rake in the dough and move on. They are one-time bonanzas for city staff that haul in huge developer fees and massive park dwelling fees. These fees run into the millions.

Now, let’s say that you are a garden variety city manager such as Joe Felz. You have mismanaged the City of Fullerton into a string of unbalanced budgets amounting to over $40,000,000 in just four years. Wouldn’t you be groping for any source of revenue you could find?

Apart from the physical cost of these horrible projects, there is the obvious budgetary problem of relying on one-time sources of revenue to make your budget shortfalls look less bad. But to acknowledge that problem would require honesty and a degree of professional integrity.

The Formula

 

See that busy-looking guy over there? He’s the one who won’t be doing anything about this…

The Orange County District Attorney, Mr. Tony Rackauckas, has a pretty miserable record holding public officials and cops accountable for their misbehavin.’ It took a dead man and a killing caught on video to get him to prosecute FPD cops Manny Ramos and Jay Cicinelli for the beat-down they instigated and laid on Kelly Thomas. Even that prosecution was touch and go.

And for years we have been seeing T-Rack investigatory work product that was just an obvious nothing.

Now we have the interesting case of Joe Felz’s Wild Ride, in which the Fullerton cops apprehended the former City Manager after he jumped a Greenwood Avenue curb, ran over a tree and tried to drive away. The police on the scene administered no breathalyzer test even though they smelled alcohol about Felz’s person. Instead of a ride to HQ, the cops gave Felz a ride home, with no questions asked. The city sent the case to the DA to examine – something – nobody knows what for.

As is often the case, history provides an instructive example with which we may reasonably predict a future event. Here is a story from the City of Garden Grove.

It turns out that the council of this fine city blatantly and willfully violated California’s open meeting law known as the Brown Act. The Mayor forwarded the matter to the DA. The result? A cunningly brilliant amalgamation of apparent action and no action at all. Even though the DA chastised the council for violating the “spirit and intent” of the law,  he claimed that there was no way to prosecute because…he is not a mind-reader! Rather, he presented to them a list of findings and concerns, dos and don’ts that would, presumably, help them in their future endeavors to obey the law. Meantime, councilmembers denied all wrong doing, and there the matter ended, with law enforcement providing an expensive yet feeble shadow-show, and with the offenders keeping their eyes closed as the pantomime played out.

I think the odds of a replay of this farce in the Felz matter are extraordinarily high. The DA has lots of wiggle room. He can’t charge Felz with anything because nobody collected evidence. The cops that let him go were just following orders.  The upper echelon who gave the orders – the egregious Andrew Goodrich and outgoing chief Dan Hughes – were merely exercising their professional prerogative to ignore their own policies and procedures whenever they feel like it. At worst, perhaps a gentle hand slap to persons unnamed, case closed and no need for the “internal review.”

Wait for it.

The “Professional Standards Bureau”

The other day FFFF did a post about the letter Travis Kiger received from Fullerton’s Interim PoChief, David Hinig, suggesting that at some point an FPD in-house institution called the “Professional Standards Bureau” might, some day, possibly, if they feel like it, get around to looking into his complaint about the behavior of Fullerton cops at the Joe Felz Memorial Crash Site in the early morning hours of November 9th, 2016. That’s when the former City Manager, after a night of election partying, jumped a Glenwood Avenue curb, ran over a tree, and tried to leave the scene of the accident.

Danny says you are either ignorant or misinformed!!!

Professional Standards Bureau. Okay, stop snickering.

I got to thinking about the long history of the FPD Culture of Corruption that happily existed right along side this supposed “Bureau,” and the recollection of all the embezzlers, thieves, pickpockets, perjurers, kidnappers, thugs, pill-poppers, scammers, liars, sex perverts and yes, killers, gave pause. But not for long, because you know, that’s all ancient history, right? The department was reformed by Danny Hughes, according to our lobbyist-councilwoman, Jennifer Fitzgerald.

But then something struck me. What was it? Think, Peabody.

Aha! A post from a just a few weeks ago.

Fullerton Police from left, Cpl. Eric Song, Patricia Arevalo, Sgt. Dan Castillo, Lt. Andrew Goodrich and Cpl. Donny Blume.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC & Paid for by Fullerton Taxpayers

It was a ludicrous story dished out by the noisome “Behind the Badge,” all about the FPD’s hardworking crew that makes sure all the cops have got the right training, etc. Remember? The Professional Standards Bureau that takes its job so seriously! And do you remember who was the featured player in that stage production? Right. The adipose Andrew Goodrich, serial story-teller in the Kelly Thomas Affair, explainer of “excessive horning” tickets, etc.

Well, shit, howdy. And who was the Watch Commander on duty on the night of November 8th? The one who was in communication with his boss, Chief Danny Hughes, and who was therefore at the center of the Who Let Joe Go? controversy? That’s right! Goodrich.

So new Chiefie is promising that someday, maybe, the “bureau” run by Goodrich will get around to investigating…Goodrich. Well, isn’t that cute?

 

 

FFFF Classics – The Baby, the Bathwater and the Blowhard

Crazy? Check. Rude? Check. Gone? Check.

When it came to boneheaded belligerent bombast there was no one quite like former (and recalled) councilman Dick Jones. Here he is in 2007 and 2008 pontificating about downtown Fullerton and the “monster” he created. His endless fixation on the same tired baby/bathwater cliche remains hilarious as he twists it around and around inside his befuddled noggin. If anybody can explain what a “ruly teenager” looks like, please let us know.

The FFFF editorial staff have enjoyed long hours of amusement courtesy of the corn-pone explursions of Ol’ Country Doc Jones captured on this video. The string of priceless HeeHawisms just gets better with age.

Meantime nothing has changed in downtown Fullerton – except the passage of ten long years and more of “yesterday’s felons” than ever.

How do Fullerton cops know if you’re too high to drive?

Well, the short answer is that if they don’t get a call from the Chief of Police telling you to drive the dude home, they’ve got their man. And if they’re lucky they get to keep his impounded his car.

No, this is not Joe Felz…
Ironic use of photo by Bill Alkofer, OC Register

Seriously, though, the virtually useless OC Register ran another one of its slanted, pro cop pieces yesterday about the evils of mary-j-wanna, and I wouldn’t even bother posting about it except that it featured the images and words of Fullerton’s expert dope detecting cops.

The extreme irony of Fullerton cops being set up as exemplars in the detection of impaired drivers seems to have escaped the writers and editors at the Register, given the department’s behavior in the case of the Missing Maniacal Motorist, former City Manager, Joe Felz, who was apprehended after jumping a Glenwood Avenue curb, uprooting a tree, and trying to drive off. Despite emitting an odor of alcohol strong enough to be detected by a cop on the scene, the boyz in blue gave Joe a pass and a ride home. I’m not sure, but he may have been tucked into bed, and gotten a glass of warm milk and a cookie, too.

The Culture of Vodka, Vomit & Vehicular Mayhem (Part Two); or The Parasites Have Found a Host

Business is booming…

In the first installment of this two-part series we saw examples of how a mere two downtown Fullerton bars (one illegally operating as a night club) had racked up a massive inventory of misdeeds, amounting to hundreds of cop calls in a few years. Just imagine how tough it is for the Fullerton Police Department to manage all this madness, night after night. And what happens to cop service calls in the rest of the city. Poor cops, right?

Yet before we shed any tears over the FPD and the horrible burden they bear, let us contemplate a “story” from the cop union website that glowingly talks about the special relationship that exists between downtown booze peddlers and our boyz in blue. Here are some choice quotations from the article:

Business in downtown Fullerton is booming.

Thousands of people flock from all over Southern California for the food and atmosphere – and to have a good time.

Police officials want to keep it that way.

In downtown Fullerton last year, officers made 562 drunken driving arrests, including 13 DUI crashes. There were also dozens of assaults.

“We could put 100 cops downtown, but we’d be swatting flies,” said Lt. Andrew Goodrich. “We want to work together to solve this.”

Added Police Chief Dan Hughes: “We want downtown to continue to flourish.”

Slidebar owner Jeremy Popoff had already convened a group of owners, calling it the “Downtown Restaurant Association.”

Do you see the absurd disconnect? Booming, flourishing business? Sandwiched between the happy horseshit talk are the startling statistics of our downtown, open-air saloon. The police are not only tolerating Crazytown, a situation they admit they can’t control, they are aiding-and-abetting it. Why? We certainly know that some bar owners like Popoff are politically connected – his place operates without the CUP the City legally requires of a night club. Then there are the recurring and disturbing stories about cops getting free food and drink at some of these bars – like Popoff’s place. These are stories that nobody has denied.

So are the cops just trying to make the best of a bad situation, or has the culture of the department finally become as gin-pickled with downtown booze as the rest of the City political establishment? I believe the department has enjoined a pretty sick symbiotic relationship with the downtown culture. And notice how the good ladies of MADD, the FPDs 5th Column,  have never been mobilized against this massive affront to sober driving? Coincidence? I think not.

The closer you look, the worse it looks…

It’s obvious that there is zero political will from our city council to do a damn thing about the problem they created over the years. Just the reverse, in fact. Notice how our council unanimously agreed to carving up downtown among five separate council districts so as to dilute the influence of actual voters in that undeniable “community of interest?” The ballot statement supporting that mess was written by none other than our Lobbyist-Mayor, Jennifer Fitzgerald. Hmm.

The sign of fine dining. And drinks. Don’t forget the drinks. That’s where the real dough is.

As for Popoff, he can join with his fellow merchants of martinis and call themselves a”restaurant association;” they can pretend to play nice even while they are racking up ever-lengthening lists of police calls; what they can’t do, at least now that people are finally paying attention, is pretend that their operations aren’t draining financial resources from the average Fullerton family and putting it in their own bank accounts.

The annual downtown fiscal deficit to the taxpayer is well over a $1,500,000 – that’s ten bucks for every man, woman and child in Fullerton; somehow business is booming – but not the City’s General Fund.

And now, returning to the “article” cited, above: let’s have our new amigo, Mr. Gregg Honour, the control-your-bars consultant, whose attention has been drawn to downtown Fullerton and to FFFF, take us home:

Gregg Hanour, former owner of the Shark Club in Costa Mesa and author of “A Business Approach to Reducing Drunk Driving,” said police departments typically conduct undercover stings to build a case to remove a troubled bar.

“You’re lucky,” he told the bar owners. “Your police department wants to work with you.”