FFFF has been busy detailing the ridiculous waste of public money that is poured into a PR outlet pretending journalism called Behind the Badge. This on-line enterprise provides happy, pro-cop stories that are meant to put the police in a good light by sharing feel good stories of philanthropy, charity, empathy, blah, blah blah. The editor, Bill Rams, says his business is necessary because the innocent and naive cops are just so doggone rotten at tooting their own horns. So we pay to have our own force shoved back at us as veritable paragons of virtue. Is there a single person in Fullerton taken in by this claptrap?
Anyway, a few weeks ago I posted a letter that had been sent to our mayor, Bruce Whitaker, about the Back the Badge contract, an irresponsible, staff-driven, no-bid, fixed-fee arrangement that has no intelligible scope of work, no way to measure effectiveness, and the management of which had been badly bungled by former City Manager Wild Ride Joe Felz.
Well, two City Council meetings have passed and nothing has been agendized by our mayor to discuss this $4000 per month mess, a waste made particularly acute by last week’s doom-and-gloom budget forecast. Does Mr. Whitaker condone this insulting $50,000 a yearboondoggle while Fullerton’s ship keeps taking on oceans of red ink? How does he condone not even talking about it? I don’t know, but maybe somebody will go to the next meeting and ask him.
We are used to politicians lying to us, especially when they are running for office. Sometimes the lies are more or less fuzzy, but once in a while the lies are staggeringly blatant. So blatant, in fact, that we must assume the politician believes the electorate are idiots.
And so it was last year with then-lobbyist-mayor and humble vessel of God, Jennifer Fitzgerald, whose campaign rhetoric deliberately misled the public into believing everything was just fine with Fullerton’s financial state of affairs. Here are a couple of pearls from her little chest of jewels:
While other cities in Orange County are trying to raise sales taxes to prevent insolvency, in Fullerton, our budget is balanced! Our five-year financial forecast shows a balanced budget to 2020. We’ve done this by making the most of our assets and minimizing our liabilities.
REDUCED UNFUNDED PENSION LIABILITY
With conservative fiscal management and successful revenue strategies, Fullerton has been able to reduce its unfunded liabilities. This is a long-term strategy, with a short-term goal to achieve what is a generally accepted adequate level of funding of 80% of liabilities.
It didn’t take long for that hot-air balloon of happy talk to sail away. Barely three months after Fitzgerald’s re-election she had to listen as the Director of Administrative Services, Julia James, at last week’s budget workshop, tell the exact opposite story. Due to continuing unbalanced budgets and exploding pension costs, the City is following in the footsteps of Stanton and Westminster with a built-in, structural budget deficit. Naturally the cops and the “fire fighters” bloated salaries and pensions are the principle cause of the impending disaster.
James mentioned taxes as a solution. Any takers?
How long will it be before our temporary City Manager, who has absolutely nothing to lose, begins crisis public meetings meant to gin up support for a Fullerton sales tax increase? And how long will it be before the people who voted for her realize that “SparkyFitz” Fitzgerald would have said, and did say anything to get re-elected?
Yesterday, one of our Friends shared a rather entertaining video clip of our lobbyist-councilwoman Jennifer “SparkFitz” Fitzgerald unburdening herself of thoughts at Grace Winter Fest. Her interlocutor is Sam Han, her former Planning Commission appointee, and the guy who stood up and said his church, Grace Ministry International, supported the bar owner’s council districting map.
Yea, verily, the Lord sure moves in mysterious ways, doesn’t he, Sam.
Here’s a snippet:
Poor Jen, has lost her pals in City Hall – her bureaucratic enabler, Wild Ride Joe Felz, and her political enabler, the obnoxious Jan Flory – both of whom “had her back;” or to be more accurate, both let her get away with her cultivation of out-of-town developers and her protection of the moral and economic sinkhole that Downtown Fullerton has become. Well, God is good, says the lobbyist, and her recent depression over the rather cavalier way The Almighty has diverted her control of City Hall must be for some greater purpose. Her depression has turned to excitement. Hallelujah! Almost a miracle!
Did you enjoy the end where the unctuous Han asks the audience (most of whom probably didn’t have a clue what SparkFitz was talking about) to “get excited with her?”
It was only a matter of time before the laughable pro-cop PR outlet called Behind the Badge (that we pay for) went from trying to impress us with Fullerton cops’ good works to putting the poor lads on the psychiatrist’s couch.
A typical BtB “article” reads like a veritable life of Saint Francis of Assisi, in which the sick are healed, the hungry are fed, and the homeless housed. But not the piece I’m writing about today. It was crayoned by a well-pensioned Anaheim former cop called Joe Vargas, and it refers to a Pew Research Center report about a survey that allegedly proves how tough and dangerous cops say their work is, what with all those suspicious black folks and noisy critics doing all that complaining. Why, Good Heavens! They are almost afraid to go out on the streets, seemingly.
Off course Mr. Vargas fails to inform his readers that the survey is all about impressions and opinions and doesn’t provide a nickle’s worth of statistical information about the real risk involved in being a police officer. It’s all about feelings.
And now let’s enjoy the self-serving takeaway provided by Fullerton’s police union:
Oooh. Scary stuff!
Here’s an alternative question: does the cops’ ability to be shielded from the consequences of their own illegal behavior by POBAR, and by a justice system and by union-elected politicians that coddle and protect them at the price of justice itself, impact public safety? Of course we all know the answer to that.
By the way, it’s too bad Vargas doesn’t cite results shared in the entire Pew article, which paints a much less dire picture of how cops view their jobs. But Behind the Badge is pure for-profit propaganda, so expecting an honest essay from Officer Joe is a lot like expecting a good reason for someone to end up in the Fullerton jail.
The other day FFFF had representation in the comments section of from “Roy,” in a post about – Roy. He’s a reasonable sounding fellow who claimed to be the jury foreman on the Kelly Thomas murder case, and who also got a ration of shit on the John and Ken radio program as he defended his work on the jury that exonerated the cops who baited, harassed, and killed a schizophrenic homeless man.
When asked (by me) if he had ever worked for the DA Roy said that he had completed the District Attorney’s TAP program, a gig that takes civil lawyers and immerses them in the DA culture for a couple of months. Roy noted that this relationship had been disclosed during the voir dire of the jury selection process.
Well, this got me thinking of the completely inappropriate placement of a juror who had received psychological indoctrination into the mindset of the prosecution apparatus. But it also made me wonder about the defense attorneys who accepted Roy and the possible reasons for their approbation.
One of the very first things they must teach in TAP to would-be prosecutors, is that to get ahead in that line of work you need convictions; and the cops are the guys whose testimony will get you convictions. The abstract concept of justice doesn’t come within a million miles of the equation. If justice is done, well, what a happy coincidence! Therefore, a virtually complete trust must be given to whatever the police have done, or, to be more accurate, what they say they have done. And if you are a defense attorney representing cops, what better sort of chap to have on your jury; and better still if this guy gets himself appointed foreman.
But what about the Tony Rackauckas? Did the DA believe that Roy was possibly a reliable vote for conviction given his prior TAP relationship? Of course it’s possible that both these potential prosecution and defense motives are accurate, which would explain Roy’s presence on the jury.
On the other hand, there has been a lot of speculation that DA Tony Rackauckas intentionally boobed the case by charging the wrong persons with the wrong crimes; and that he also blew it by trying the case himself, even though he hadn’t personally prosecuted a case in decades.
And then it hit me. Maybe both sides wanted Roy on the jury for the same qualification: a person able to grasp the big picture, that is, a subliminal or maybe even overt desire to protect a system in which the prosecutors and cops exist in a symbiotic relationship where convictions mean everything, and neither are held responsible for arresting and prosecuting the wrong people and gathering information any way they can get it.
Yesterday a strange creature crawled out of the ooze – a fellow named “Roy” (fake name), who claimed to be the jury foreman in the 2013 Kelly Thomas murder trial.
This pathetic SOB sent in a request for a hearing on the John and Ken radio show to set the record straight about the verdict. Why now? Apparently he and his fellow pumpkins on the jury have been subjected to all sorts of mean social media ridicule and threats (he says), even after three years. It didn’t take John and Ken long to get sick of this whiner’s attempt to dodge, deflect and then diminish what the cops did to a skinny, sick, homeless guy.
You know “Roy” is soon to get his ass handed to him when he describes, Lou Ponsi-like, the brutal assault as a “scuffle,”
“Roy” doesn’t recognize Ramos trying to intimidate Kelly, and it doesn’t bother him a bit that Wolfe actually struck the blow that caused Kelly to run – a perfectly natural move for someone who has been threatened and hit with a cop club. Those provocations were really at the heart of the episode: the entire drama was caused, deliberately, by Ramos and Wolfe.
It is particularly nauseating to listen to this moron explain away Cicinelli pulverizing Kelly’s face as a necessary tactic against the struggling homeless man; and then declaring that Kelly died not of facial injury anyhow, but by “chest compression” whatever the Hell this dimwit thinks that means. The fact is that the blood inhaled from Kelly’s severe facial injuries caused asphyxiation at the same time the cops sat on his chest.
And of course this human vegetable ignores the aftermath – the Fullerton cops willfully ignored the unconscious guy who was dying in the gutter – as they got their little scrapes band-aided by paramedics.
File this one under “better to keep your mouth shut asshole, and just go away.”
Last spring former Police Chief Dan “Galahad” Hughes and Bill Rams went up to Oregon to speak at a cop convention. The City paid for Hughes and Bill Rams’ plane tickets. Who is Bill Rams?
Bill Rams is the proprietor of “Behind the Badge,” a shallow, police feel-good PR outlet that sells its dubious information to public agencies so the taxpayers can pay for cop propaganda aimed right back at them. We have already noticed that this charming swindle was orchestrated in Fullerton behind the scenes by former City Manager Joe Felz – without any public input or council oversight.
Hughes went up to Portland to deliver of himself some sort of speech to the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, titled “When Trust is Tested…Strategies for Restoring Public Confidence.” That name alone should cause a torrent of laughter here in more southerly latitudes given the Culture of Corruption in the Fullerton Police Department in which Captain Danny Hughes was an integral part of the management team, and that included theft, fraud, sexual battery, perjury, more perjury, false arrest, assault, more assault, more theft, destruction of evidence, kidnapping and homicide. His solution as soon as he became Chief? Hold an open house and hire a footling PR purveyor named Bill Rams. But I digress…
Why did the taxpayers foot the bill for Chief Danny’s air fare to Oregon in the first place? And why on Earth did we have to pay to send Danny’s little chronicler, Bill Rams, to a conference that had absolutely nothing to do with Hughes’s job of running our police department?
Should the city be flying employees around the country on personal speaking junkets? Of course not. Should the City be paying their own vendors to fly around the country so they can hand out business cards? Of course not.
Sinnce Danny got his freight paid by us we can assume he was on the clock the whole time. And I would be remiss if I didn’t cynically ask whether or not “Chief” got a cash honorarium from OACP for his presentation. That would mean he got paid twice.
Today the OC Register ran a story about the DOJ dropping a civil rights case in the matter of Kelly Thomas, the schizophrenic homeless man who was bludgeoned and suffocated to death by six members of the Fullerton Police Department in July, 2011
What the Feds have been doing for five-and-a-half years is anybody’s guess, but the answer is more than likely, nothing. The criminal case against cops Ramos and Cicinelli was thrown away by our do-nothing DA over three years ago. Kelly’s father, the mercenary Ron Thomas, was paid his blood money 14 months ago.
Here is U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker’s fatuous comment: “Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a willful federal criminal civil rights violation.”
Thomas was obviously singled out for special treatment by Mssrs. Wolf and Ramos on that hot July night precisely because he was mentally ill and homeless. And that special treatment consisted of harassment, intimidation and death. If that’s not a civil right violation, I can’t imagine what is.
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.
The documents we received indicate a completely non-transparent, slipshod City-vendor relationship in which deliverables are sketchy, and grossly overvalued.
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.
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.
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.