Revisiting The Seven Walls of Local Government

What? We can't hear you. Please speak louder...
What? We can’t hear you. Please speak louder…

Over five years years ago this blog published an essay (broken into bite-sized pieces) on the subject of local government and how it exercises its ability to effectively marginalize and ultimately disenfranchise the very citizens it is supposed to be working for. It is called The Seven Walls of Local Government and it has both scholarly and entertainment value.

For the reawakening of the blog from its almost four-year snooze, I propose to re-schedule this masterpiece for the edification of the Friends. Stay tuned.

 

A Glimpse Into Fullerton’s Future

It wasn't safe. but it sure was uncomfortable...
It wasn’t comfortable. but it sure was dangerous…

Okay, Friends here’s a pop quiz. What do Jan Flory, Bud Chaffee, Jennifer Fitzgerald, Bruce Whitaker and Greg Sebourn have in common? Think for a second…

Got it? Of course, it was an easy question.

They are collectively responsible for the overdevelopment of Fullerton. Look around: Commonwealth, Orangefair, Santa Fe, each now, or soon to be home for massive, overbearing penitentiary-like apartment blocks.

The Thing That Ate Fullerton...
Cliff Dwelling Is The Life For Me, or: Thing That Ate Fullerton…(image swiped from Orange Juice Blog)

The ridiculous and deathless “Amerige Court” monster is back, too being pimped by a guy named Cameron Irons.

Follow my easy method, and one of us will get rich!
Follow my easy method, and one of us will get rich!

You remember him, right? County Supervisor Shawn Nelson’s crony who stood to make a $100,000 commission as Nelson tried to ram through the County’s big homeless shelter next to Fullerton’s Commonwealth Elementary School.

Nelson wears his game face.
Nelson wears his game face. Too bad we’re not on the same team.

And there’s very little need to hold our breath until the “College Park” upzone Godzilla rears its ugly head, once again.

Whatever the motivation of our “representatives” to jam ever more high-density residential projects into Fullerton, the result is the same: more burden on the City’s utilities and infrastructure, and above all, more traffic cramming our streets, costs that are carried by all of us as the developer makes his bundle and skips off to his next monster.

Is it really too much of an exaggeration to say that soon the major intersections at Harbor, Orangethorpe and Lemon will become virtually gridlocked at certain times of the day? Soon we may all have to find alternative ways to get around Fullerton.

It’s pretty clear that none of these lofty people have the best interests of ordinary Fullerton residents in mind. In fact, we seem to be nothing more than an annoyance to their big plans, that is if you can call helter-skelter development a plan.

The Mayor Game!

Arf!
Arf!

Yes, Favored Friends! It’s time once again to play…The Mayor Game!

Every December our illustrious city council elevates one of their own to assume the august tile “Mayor.” The Mayor of Fullerton gets to preside at meetings and that’s about it. Almost a kind of booby prize if you think about it. And yet our elected representatives lust after the title, particularly if there is an election the following November.

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown...
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown…

For years the selection was fraught with political tension as the repuglican old guard, orchestrated by the odious Dick Ackerman contrived to keep Dems (and Chris Norby) from ascension to this lofty estate.  In recent years though, the process has become less political. The Council even adopted a process for non-partisan rotation in which it would be the turn of the that person serving longest without wearing the bejeweled tiara. This process is not enshrined in any law or code. It’s just sort of a Gentleman’s Agreement between people who really don’t trust each other – and for good reason.

The humble office of Mayor Pro Tem serves as the approach to the green and thence the flag.

Will the bonhomie last?

It was a rough landing...
It was not a smooth landing…

The current Mayor Pro Tem is my broomstick-wielding former mistress, Jan Flory, who will mercifully be out of office in a week or so. This means that it is Councilman Bruce Whitaker’s turn to shimmy up the greasy pole. Whitaker became mayor in the Fall of 2012, but it wasn’t without nervousness since it was well known that Flory and Bud Chaffee opposed him. But Jennifer Fitzgerald was given a directive and fell into line. But that was then.

What, me worry?
What, me worry?

 

Another wrinkle this time is that both Whitaker and Fitzgerald are rumored to be seeking the job of 4th District County Supervisor in 2018, and running with title of mayor next year would be just dandy, at least according to conventional wisdom.

So will the new council stick to its own policy or will they dump it? Will the new guy, Jesus Silva go along, or will he cut a deal with Fitzgerald and Chaffee to the exclude Whitaker? In the past it was not uncommon for councilmembers to gin up any stupid sort of excuse to keep the incumbent in place for another year.

In the end what it takes is three votes, and everything else is eyewash.

And now I must to attend to my nether parts.

The Sound of Silence

I would have done it even cheaper...
I would have done it even cheaper…

Not much has come out of Fullerton Junior College lately on the case of cop-turned-security guard Dino Skokos who handed out an unwarranted beat down on an undernourished FJC student in October.

A writer for The Hornet named Madalyn Amato,  reports that although an “independent investigator” has been engaged, nothing else has been forthcoming. The fact that the investigator, a law firm called Currier & Hudson, solely specializes in acting as defense counsel for government agencies, should send out appropriate warning bells. See where this is going?

In the aftermath of outrage, the bureaucratic playbook is being executed as expected.

First, ignore any criminality on the part of the district employee and announce an independent investigation, with the goal of diverting responsibility, or even better, procrastinating ’til everybody’s forgotten about the incident.

Naturally, the independent investigator is really just a carefully selected government defense pettifogger, hired to relieve the agency of as much liability as possible and absorb any leftover PR issues. Of course, hiring a law firm comes with desirable effects, such as the benefit of attorney client privilege. See, it’s easier to control an investigation if the investigator can’t actually reveal any findings detrimental to the institution.

The cleanup is underway
The cleanup is underway

And now we wait. The employee takes a paid vacation, the real police fail to deliver a criminal investigation, and NOCCCD eventually pays out a quiet settlement to the victim who will make a deal in a civil courtroom. Nothing to see here.

Close enough...
Close enough…

And now let’s let Fullerton Junior College President Greg Schulz take us home via The Hornet article:

President Greg Schulz promised the college’s full dedication in reaching a conclusion regarding the incident.

Meet Mr. Palmer

Gregory Palmer, Esq.
Gregory Palmer, Esq.

A few days ago Joshua Ferguson told us the story of how one of the lawyers working for our City Attorneys, Gregory Palmer, gave him a big Fuck Off when he made a reasonable, and as it turns out LEGAL, request for the video recordings from FPD cops the night they possibly gave the City Manager a skate on a DUI, gave him a ride home and tucked him into bed. Mr. Palmer got tired of talking to one of the people who pay his retainer and basically said: if you don’t like it, sue.

Now I don’t care for this kind of assholery on the part of people who are supposed to be working for me, so I thought I’d check out Mr. Palmer and share some information, gleaned from the Jones and Mayer website. It’s always nice to know who and what you’re dealing with.

Apart from his alleged expertise dealing with “sexually-oriented business,” – whatever that means, this bit caught my eye:

Mr. Palmer has handled several high profile cases. In 1997, he prosecuted the First Southern Baptist Church and its pastor for illegally housing the homeless on its grounds. 

So Mr. Palmer and Dick Jones actually brag about about shutting down a church engaged in an act of Christian charity.

Independent Person Wanted, Inquire Within

I'm bringing in my brother-in-law, Bob.
I’m bringing in my brother-in-law, Bob.

According to the City of Fullerton’s website the City Attorney is looking for an “independent person” to investigate the activities of our City Manager, Joe Felz. Here’s the PSA:

Can anyone apply?
Can anyone apply?

Now in the first place, the idea of of our mush-mouth City Attorney employing anybody not willing and able to deliver the right verdict on the events of Wednesday morning, November 9th, is ridiculous; but really, an independent “person?” Attorney Jones’s gardener? His CPA? His car detailer?

Seriously, though, the hiring of an investigator by the City and calling him (or her) independent is a complete farce. For there is a fundamental conflict of interest here, just as there is for the Fullerton Police Department to investigate their own boss. I can see it, you can see it. Probably even comically ardent FPD supporters like Chaffee, Flory and Fitzgerald can see it. But unlike us, they don’t care.

The truth of what I’m saying is pretty evidently contained within the facts of this situation: it is not a personnel matter. Joe Felz was driving home from a series of private parties in Downtown Fullerton’s Liquor Row. He was not on duty, he was not engaged in any official capacity. He was just a guy fidgeting with wires under his dashboard who ran off the road, knocked over a tree, churned up some dirt with spinning tires, moved on down the road a bit, was interviewed by the cops, was given an okie-dokie by them, was driven home by them, and was tucked into bed.

What does any of this have to do with Mr. Felz’s job as City Manager?

The Odd Case of the Client Newsletter

richard_jones

Okay, you may have painfully listened to the five-minute drone of Fullerton City Attorney Richard Jones on a previous post, explaining why no information was forthcoming in the Case of the City Manager and the Dead Parkway Tree. Sorry to inflict that on you, but no pain, no gain, as they say.

If your cerebral synapses are sufficiently recovered, reflect back on what Mr. Jones, Esq. said, and what he was asked to repeat twice by our Mayor, about electronic records generated at the scene and how they could not be released via PRA request because they were part of an “ongoing investigation;” but moreover, because they were somehow part of some sort of double-top secret “personnel” proceedings.

But wait! A quick trip to Jones and Meyer’s website newsletter to clients (we are clients, aren’t we?) reveals some interesting case law that seems to show exactly the opposite of the malarkey Jones was pitching to a remarkably incurious Council the other night. Here’s the synopsis:

mav-evidence

See? The video was created before any administrative investigation, or internal affairs investigation even started.

So let’s get this straight. A “client alert” sent out less than four months ago seems to contradict what Jones said, and reiterated twice on Tuesday night. Hmm. Hopefully someone can drop by to explain why the case of City Manager Joe Felz isn’t covered by the Greenson case finding by the Court of Appeal.

The Culture of Cover Up?

You, know some people have the remarkable habit of speaking a whole bunch of words without saying anything. Fullerton City Attorney Richard Jones has been doing it for years and years as compliant councils sit there silently during his mind-numbing droning.

In the clip below, from last night’s Council meeting, he explains why the public need be told nothing about the City Manager, Joe Felz, driving home after a party, running off the road, trying to leave the scene of an accident, smelling of liquor, and most likely flashing his Get Out of Jail card.

jail-card

First listen:

There’s five minutes of stuff that could have been said in about 40 seconds but Jones needs to make sure he has touched all the bases of possible objection, added some mumble-words in the service of phony legal propriety, and his accomplice, Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald is on hand to make sure some of the points are reiterated – twice.

Yes, the bases are touched.

  1. The matter is subject to an “ongoing criminal investigation” by FPD, possibly to be turned over to the do-nothing DA, so mum’s the word! But what’s this? Who has committed a crime? No one was arrested no one was even cited. If not then, when, and how? Sure seems like a bogus smoke-screen.
  2. The issue is a “personnel” matter. But wait. Felz was not acting as an employee at the time of the crash. He was undoubtedly a private citizen. So how on God’s green earth is this a personnel matter? Another dodge to avoid response to legitimate PRA requests?
  3. The issue of the body cameras is noted as governed by some statute that is not elaborated, merely cited. The incurious Council let that one sail by. In the end, Jones informs us that Mr. Felz has privacy rights, too, which is awful sweet, but begs the question – if any of us were detained in similar circumstance can there be any doubt at all that the video would be turned over to the media by Andrew Goodrich before the first rays of morning sun had warmed the walls of the police station tower?

In the end some word nuggets tumble out that do lead into the direction of actual meaning, if only unintentionally freed from the bondage of this pettifogger’s mental jail.

One bit of this statement is very interesting. At 4:08 Jonsey mentions the investigation of the poli…the City Manager. Maybe I’m too cynical, but could this be the real source of investigation – how the cops deliberately violated their own policies and ignored violation of the Vehicle Code? That would sure make sense if a cover-up of the whole embarrassing mess was being orchestrated. After all, they could try “miscommunication in the chain of command” or some such nonsense, Gennaco-style, and if all else failed, toss the rat on conveniently departed Chief Dan Hughes who is now over the wall and making tracks southward.

Karma Can Be A Bitch

The topic of drinking and driving has been in the Fullerton news the last few days. We all know the story involving City Manager, Joe Felz, by now so there’s no point in rehashing the details. Instead, I want to direct the Friends’ attention to the irony that surrounds us in life, sometimes almost like there’s some sort of cosmic plan.

Way back in August, 2012 at the start of the fall election campaign, Fullerton City Councilmen and candidates Travis Kiger and Bruce Whitaker, along with Greg Sebourn voted to turn back a $50,000 grant from the state to pay for those ridiculous DUI random checkpoints that are probably the least effective ways to corral drunk drivers.

The bars stayed open and the band played on...

Let’s let Fullerton’s in-house shrew, Jan Flory, herself a candidate that year, fill us in from an August 30, 2012 facebook entry:

OKAY, so let’s get this straight, our Tea Bagger councilmen (Kiger, Sebourn and Whitaker), voted to reject a $50,000 grant and send it back to the state because it was to be used for DUI sobriety checkpoints that they believe are unconstitutional. They did this without walking across the street and talking to Police Chief Dan Hughes, or Captain George Crum who wrote the grant application.

Whoops! They find out after the fact that $146,222 in additional grant funds were tied to the $50,000 for the sobriety checkpoints, soooo, if the $50,000 is rejected, then the $146,222 has to be turned back too. It’s not like our understaffed police department could use the money, right? Maybe they thought the state would know how to use the money better than we do at the local level. Massive miscalculation!

Miscalculation? Certainly, but not by Kiger, Whitaker, or Sebourn. The fact of entangling grant funding (if in fact it existed at all) was never shared with them by their own $200,000 City Manager, Joe Felz, or by $200,000 Police Chief Danny Hughes, both of who were just sitting there during the meeting. Why not? Possibly because they  had every reason to try to embarrass them and help get Flory elected. The consequent to-do with a MADD mob orchestrated by the FPD, and quite likely with the approval of Felz and Hughes themselves, was quite entertaining. Whether they knew about a link at the time, they sure found out fast, so fast that one might suppose a little back-room political shenanigans.

So now, let’s return back to late August, 2012 and hear again from the vinegary Flory as she regales us with her demagoguery :

(more…)

The Chief is Gone Long Live the Chief

It’s now been a day since Chief Dan Hughes left us to go work for the Mouse. After all the praise he’s been showered with it’s time somebody said what too many of us are thinking and that’s that if the FPD stinks it stinks like a fish from the top down so we’re gonna take a quick look at the top.

hughes

First let us recall the letter to Joe Felz from Benjamin Lira outlining Hughes place in the chain of command corruption.

Dan Hughes didn’t think there was a problem with the FPD because he was a part of the problem and he certainly didn’t see a problem after he took over and made some changes that we can’t fully verify because of records laws and access that only our betters get. Some go as far as to claim he said the video of Kelly Thomas being beaten to death “wasn’t that bad”.

Dan Hughes was so confident in the goodness of his department that he was under the impression that only a vocal minority lost favor with the Police Department after the Thomas beating (Rincon, Mater, Major, Hampton, Nguyen, Mejia, et cetera). A vocal minority.

The actions of the FPD are what spurred the recall. FPD beat a man to death and then the council majority sat on their hands. Remember the recall? It led to three of those City Council Members being removed from office by a factor of 2-1. If only a vocal minority was against the Police than a even smaller minority was in favor of them going on this metric.

Hughes was the head of the Patrol Division at the time of the Kelly Thomas murder and said nothing as Spokesman Andrew Goodrich lied to the people of Fullerton about the boo-boos that FPD sustained in the process of their fucking up a guy, as Ramos promised, who committed the heinous crime of being homeless.

Manny's Boo boo
Manny’s Boo boo

Hughes was on the same police force that the Genacco report said suffered from a Culture of Corruption and he did nothing on record to stop it. If there was a Culture of Corruption he was a part of it for 20+ years before we could prove it existed to enough people to notice. To pretend that he wasn’t a part of the problem is naive.

On his way out the door we learn that the FPD arrested a couple for being victims of a crime based on the word of actual criminals because apparently police work, like looking at the video that exonerates the true victims, was just too hard for this pillar of our community and his reformed department.

We Also learned on Wednesday that Chief Hughes left a parting gift for City Manager Joe Felz. Felz got to get away with an alleged DUI, if nothing else he got at least got away with destruction of city property because we’re told, well nothing. We’re told nothing. The only reason you know anything about this story is because we here at FFFF got ahold of a memo from Danny boy himself. It’s all hush-hush and will remain that way during the closed session at council on Tuesday.

Speaking of secrets.

Did you know that we already have a new Interim Chief? You’d think we residents would be allowed to know who’s running our Police Department. Suckers. You’re allowed to know what they tell you you’re allowed to know and when they tell you if they bother to even tell you. The ink is probably already dry on the contract and we don’t even know if it was legally opened up to candidates. Wanna bet that the Council rubber stamps the new Chief behind closed doors too?

The good thing for Disney and their new VP of Dineyland Security and Emergency Services is that at least he’ll have fewer DUIs to cover up for his bosses now that the House of Blues has left Downtown Disney.