Behind the Badge – The Gravy Train

No civilians were harmed in the making of this satire…

UPDATE: a keen-eyed friend wrote in to inform us of a couple interesting facts about the City’s “Back the badge” documents. First, the original contract and the first purchase order don’t agree. The PO describes a one-year term while the contract is for only six months. Second there is no PO that covers the period from May to November 2014. The City’s controller should not have been able to write checks without a PO to write checks against, so something is fishy there.

FFFF has already shared with the Friends here some of the more ludicrous aspects of “Back the Badge” a PR outlet for cop departments and unions that we pay for.

The whole shabby deception is so bad we decided to dig a little deeper to see just how the Fullerton taxpayers got hooked into paying for the cops to peddle their propaganda – to us.

Here are the documents we were given.

The documents we received indicate a completely non-transparent, slipshod City-vendor relationship in which deliverables are sketchy, and grossly overvalued.

Danny says you are either ignorant or misinformed!!!

First, it’s important to point out that this relationship was approved in secret by former City Manager Joe Felz in spring 2013, presumably under his spending authority. The City Council may have been informed, but the public most assuredly was not. Even Felz must have been aware of the possible public blowback against this nonsense. And he undoubtedly had the support of council persons Flory, Chaffee and Fitzgerald in trying to keep this gross squandering of public funds out of the public eye.

It is critical to recognize the contract for what it is: a fixed fee arrangement in which the vendor gets his contracted monthly amount regardless of what he actually accomplishes. These sorts of contracts are comparatively rare in government precisely because they are not tied to specific scopes of work. In essence there is no real oversight at all, even if anybody felt like doing it – which they didn’t.

The Blue Crew

If you peruse the invoices you will find all sorts of weird “deliverables” of intangible sort like “PR services,” “OC Register columns,” and “Fullerton News Tribune” just the sorts of things that are impossible to value and make you wonder if the real media was in collusion with Back the Badge. FFFF has already noted how the Yellowing Fullerton Observer has published an article, verbatim, from Back the Badge, here.

Of course some of the contractual items like “traffic/performance reports” yielded no responsive documents in our public records request. Anyway, as I noted it above it hardly matters.

One extra-contractual proposal sent to former Chief Danny “Galahad” Hughes offers 40,000 print copies of “Behind the badge Fullerton magazine” for a mere twenty grand.  Who approved that, and where did these print copies go? That we shall likely never know, as the police PR mechanisms are obviously none of our damn business, even though we are bankroller and target audience.

Before we only had to pay him to make stuff up…

My favorite item in the proposals from Back the Badge is something called “crisis counseling.” This must be a service that is called upon when something really bad occurs and the cops need to polish up that road apple, and quick! So did Back the Badge spring into crisis counseling mode the night their benefactor, Joe Felz, smelling of liquor, drove off Glenwood Avenue, and was given a free pass and a ride home by the Fullerton Police Department?

On December 17, 2016, the City issued a new Purchase Order for more of those valuable Back the Badge services. The invoice cites the brand-new interim Chief but there is no reference to the Acting City Manager since by this time Joe Felz was long gone, the victim of his own reckless behavior. So who authorized the issuance of this new PO? The police chief, whoever he is, has no such spending authority. It seems as if the Culture of Opacity and Unaccountability is humming along on auto pilot.

Well, this is Fullerton and if you want to find out what is going on – well, good luck with that.

 

 

Who Says There’s No Such Thing As a Free Lunch?

The gift that keeps giving…

Here’s another in a series of small rip-offs that show how casually and frivolously Fullerton’s head employees threw our money around under the incompetent regime of Joe Felz.

Back in September,  then Chief Danny Hughes decided to have a lunch “meeting” with the lawyers involved in Manny Ramos’s employment arbitration. Why? Most likely to get the taxpayers to pick up the tab. And we did. We also paid for the gustatory pleasures of Danny’s luncheon companions.

Here are the documents.

Okay, it’s not Maxim’s, its Islands, but still you would think our high-priced lawyers could afford to pay for their own food, right? After all, they were no doubt billing for the time it took to consume their Kilauea Turkey Burgers.

 

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.

While We Were Away. Another Story You Didn’t Read About In “Back The Badge”

Once upon a time, the Fullerton Police Department employed a detective by the name of Ron Bair.

FFFF had some fun with this idiot, here.

A real moron, right? FFFF questioned whether this “detective” could find his own ass in the dark. Unfortunately, Inspector Clouseau was not just an annoying, half-bright stumblebum. He was also the the sort of degenerate who would involve himself in a sexual relationship with a woman in a domestic/child custody dispute in which he had become a witness. That thought alone makes me cringe. Was it sexual extortion? The whole thing was completely piggish.

Naturally, the whole misconduct was swept under the rug by law enforcement, but the civil suit cost the taxpayers of Fullerton plenty in 2015 – $550,000 to be precise.

When you read that article did you enjoy the part where Chief Danny Galahad blames the woman for her “poor choices?”

“I understand your frustration with former officer Ron Bair, but you have blamed him for your situation, the judge, and now three additional members of our department,” Hughes told Castaneda. “You may also want to consider the poor choices you have made to contribute to your current situation.”

You have to admire the balls it takes to offer moral admonishment to the victim of one of your employees and the subsequent law enforcement cover-up. He doesn’t bother to mention that his stand-up officer was conveniently retired in 2013 (see page 35).

For some reason that reminds me of former Chief “Patdown” Pat McKinley casually blaming Albert Rincon sexual assault victims for not being  like the women who attended his stupid “She Bear” book signings.

 

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.

Fullerton’s cozy relationship with Discovery Cube

The Discovery Cube is a pretty neat venue for kids of all ages.  Anyone who has driven the 5 freeway through Santa Ana can’t miss the place.

Discovery’s VP of Sales Lobbying Sean Fitzgerald is married to Fullerton Lobbyist-Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald. City money began flowing to Discovery Cube within a year of Sean taking the job.

Following a promotion in 2014, this press release described Sean Fitzgerald’s new position:

“As Vice President, Sales and Strategic Development, Fitzgerald works directly with the Center’s leadership on a variety of growth-related initiatives. This includes developing new strategic partnerships with municipalities, corporations and other non-profits and serving as a key member of the team working to open DSC’s new Los Angeles facility later this year. In addition, Fitzgerald oversees a sales team working to fulfill the Center’s sales goals in field trips, outreach programming and partner education programs.”

CalRecycle awards Beverage Container Recycling Grant money to municipalities every year for various recycling programs.  Public education is one of several options with which to spend the money.

Since 2012, the City has been paying for thousands of FSD sixth graders to learn about recycling at Discovery Cube to the tune of $27 per kid. (more…)

Parks and Wreck

Sometimes what our City Hall doesn’t say can be almost as illuminating as their press releases.

On Wednesday, November 16 at about 9:00 PM, a Fullerton Parks and Recreation vehicle collided with another car at the intersection of Highland and Chapman. Ouch.

Sure looks like somebody ran a red light, then blammo!

What’s odd about this unfortunate accident is that the City never said a word to the public about the horrible-looking incident. Who was involved? Was anyone badly hurt? Who caused the accident? Why was a Parks and Rec employee driving around late at night? So many questions, and no answers.

What’s the big secret? Maybe there’s a reason for the radio silence.

It makes one wonder if this accident might not be the fault of a government employee, perhaps even driving a city-owned vehicle after hours. If so, look for big damages coming our way.

Fitzgerald Supports Seeking OC Sheriff Department Preliminary Analysis For Outsourcing Police Services

The pageant was over…

Of course this was candidate Jennifer Fitzgerald, back in 2012 when she was running for the city council.

FFFF reported on that here.

Here’s the letter Fitzy wrote to then mayor, Sharon Quirk-Silva:

Naturally, once safely in office this support for looking into possible, maybe someday, perhaps switching to the Sheriff Department at huge cost savings to the taxpayers of Fullerton evaporated like the morning dew on a summer day. Since gaining office Fitzgerald, along with Jan Flory and Doug “Bud” Chaffee have been resolute in their goal that no reform of the Fullerton Police Department take place and that no acknowledgement of any Culture of Corruption could possibly exist.

Some cynics suggested this letter was only meant to call off pro-recall forces; other cynics suggested this was the price Fitzgerald had to pay for Supervisor Shawn Nelson’s endorsement. Probably it was both. Either way the commitment was thinner than the paper it was printed on. And Fitzgerald never mentioned it again.

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.

Fullerton Retreads City Manager Tire

On the City’s website, right above a news release about an upcoming osteoporosis seminar at the Community Center, we discover that the City Council has unanimously chosen a replacement for Joe Felz. Felz, you will recall, drove off of Glenwood Avenue, ran over a tree, blew a tire and tried to drive away in his crippled vehicle.

Not Roeder’s first rodeo…

Allan Roeder, former City Manger of Costa Mesa, is the replacement, on an interim basis. He is part of a small pool of extremely expensive place holders brought in like bullpen pitchers, when the starter gets into trouble in the late innings. These already pensioned-off fellows go on to rake in enormous second incomes while already collecting their massive CalPers checks every month.

The new guy was hired yesterday in a Special, Behind-Closed-Doors meeting of the City Council.

Why the City needs to pay somebody a hundred grand for a five or six month stint is a question you should ask one of your “unanimous” council who seem to be oblivious to the fact that the City is running massive deficits every year, already. Oh well, it’s not their money, right?

Here is our new Mayor, Bruce Whitaker extolling the virtues of Mr. Roeder:

“We are happy to have someone as established and seasoned as Mr. Roeder to serve our city,” said Fullerton Mayor, Bruce Whitaker. “Allan’s experience will be welcomed at City Hall and he will be a valuable asset to the entire city until we appoint a permanent city manager.”

Now did Mr. Whitaker actually say that? Let’s hope it was a canned quotation put in his mouth by some overpaid “public information officer.”  Having Felz around for the past six or seven years is proof positive that from a strictly practical perspective we don’t even need a city manager, and would probably have been a lot better off without the last one we had.

Well, now we have one that can absorb the blame for whatever unfortunate happenstances come our way in the first half of 2017, and be off down the road to the nearest bank.