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.

Ready for Another Water Rate Increase?

Probably the biggest vote at tomorrow’s City Council meeting is the Red Oak development . Josh Ferguson has already discussed that issue in his excellent article here so there’s no need for me to pile on (just read it if you haven’t already).

What I do want to do is draw attention to another vote on the City Council. Agenda Item #8 includes the appointment of Fullerton’s representative to the Fullerton Water Board.

This is our current representative.

Now, while Jan Flory has come under a lot of deserved criticism from this blog over the years, and in fact supported three separate water rate increases in a single year while on the City Council, it is only fair to mention that she has been appropriately skeptical on the Poseidon development, which if approved will raise our water rates even further – although it is also only fair to point out that she has recently signaled she would be willing to support the project to maintain her position on the board.

Poseidon Water is a desalination developer that who wants to build a $1 billion desalination plant in Huntington Beach, and wants the Orange County Water District to help guaranty construction of the project AND agree to purchase 56,000 acre feet (eighteen billion gallons) for more money than the County currently pays to import water, for the next fifty years.

How much more? The specific amount has been something of a moving target, but this appears to be the current plan:

(Blue represents what we currently pay to MDW, red, green and purple represent the crony capitalism surtax)

Keep in mind that while (per their own admission) Poseidon is about twice as expensive as MWD water, water purchased from MWD is itself far more expensive than the groundwater which Poseidon would displace, which is, essentially, free, minus the cost associated with pumping and/or replacing the groundwater. Also, Poseidon is angling for a “Take or Pay” contract with OCWD, meaning the ratepayers buy their water first, even if we don’t need it, regardless of whether we have an abundance of free ground water, water in Lake Mead or water we will have to flush to the ocean because our capacity is full.

So who will the Council appoint? Bruce Whitaker (a Poseidon critic) was the City’s appointee from 2013-2014, until he was deposed for voting against the interests of a client of Curt Pringle & Associates, and Doug Chaffee sought the appointment in 2012, so he may seek it again. Flory wants it as well, despite no longer being on the council and no obvious base of support, so it seems to be between Whitaker and Chaffee. With opposition to the Poseidon plant growing at the county level this could be an important vote for the future of this project – and your future water rates.

Rusty Needs You!

In the past FFFF has been critical of Rusty Kennedy and his ridiculous “OC Human Relations” operations that for decades has sucked off of taxpayer revenue to fund it’s feel-good enterprises. Back in 2011 we noted Kennedy’s moral absenteeism here and here when the Fullerton cops killed a helpless homeless man. See, Rusty has always needed the cops to pop up at County budget time and extol his dubious virtues. He and his Old Guard liberal pals were more than happy to paint the Kelly Thomas killing as an issue in which the poor cops just lacked proper training dealing with those troublesome homeless people.

In 2012 Kennedy showed his true colors by canvasing Anaheim’s Ana Drive barrio in the aftermath of the widespread unrest and duplicitously turning over information he collected to the Chief of Police; not long afterwards he was lobbying the City of Anaheim to run a proposed police oversight committee.

In 2011 the County decided to end its “in-house” effort and contract the function of supporting the completely unnecessary Human relations Commission. So what happened? Rusty retired to a six-fugure pension and then got paid allover again as a contractor. That’s how our government works.

Anyway, it appears that now Kennedy’s OC Human Relations is actually going to have to submit a bid to continue its heretofore monopoly on official County good deed doing, and Rusty is soliciting your help.

From: Rusty Kennedy <Rusty@ochumanrelations.org>
Date: January 13, 2017 at 10:46:32 AM PST
To: Rusty Kennedy <Rusty@ochumanrelations.org>
Subject: Urgent Request for BRIEF Letter of Support

Dear Friends

OC Human Relations was created 25 years ago to support programs of the Orange County Human Relations Commission.  As a non-profit organization OC Human Relations has grown into a highly professional organization providing model programs in Police Community Relations, Community Building, Dispute Resolution, Reconciliation, and Diverse Community relations.

Almost 6 years ago the Board of Supervisors eliminated the public staff of the Commission and contracted with our non-profit, OC Human Relations, to provide staff support for the Commission.  We are not applying through the County BidSync system to continue this contract.

We have to submit letters of support with our bid before the end of the month, so time is of the essence.

A simple letter such as below is all that is needed.

Possible Model for Letters of Support for OC Human Relations, feel free to add or modify in any manner you wish, on your letterhead, and e-mail a copy to me: rusty@ochumanrelations.org

Thank you in advance.

Rusty Kennedy, CEO

OC Human Relations

Date

To Whom It May Concern:

I write on behalf of ­(your organization) to express my support for the good work of OC Human Relations.

We have worked with OC Human Relations for ( # years) on (type of cases, projects we collaborate on).

OC Human Relations is a highly professional organization that we look to for helping on (type of case or project) and plan to continue to do so.

Sincerely,

(your name and title)

(your organization’s name)

Rusty Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer

OC Human Relations | 1300 S. Grand, Bldg B, Santa Ana, CA 92705 | 714.480.6585

www.ochumanrelations.org | Join Our Email List

Having fun at Rusty Kennedy’s expense may be entertaining, but really there is a bigger question: why do the taxpayers have to pay for a function that routinely grandstands over a mere handful of “hate crimes” and that includes in its repertoire mediation between cops and abused citizens – especially when that “service” means turning a blind eye to police brutality, excessive force, and even homicide.

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…)

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.

The Finest of Farewells

It is common for government to bury waste carefully, neatly hidden away from the citizens who pay for it. Other times, they shove it right in your face like an ether-soaked rag.

That’s what happened at Chief Danny Hughes’ grand farewell party on November 10th. Fortunately, one neighbor filed an hour-long interactive grievance and shared with us the highlights.

Helicopter overhead, fire engines, barricades, officers, SWAT trucks, oh my!

The cast of characters does not disappoint. Look carefully for the appearance an oblivious “Patdown” Pat “I hired them all” McPension. Watch the FPOA thank Hughes for staying “on course” through “the lowest parts” of FPD history (when their constant misdeeds were finally exposed to the public). Listen to Jan Flory offer a cringe-worthy come-hither to her “Big Boy” Hughes, warn him of the “five-headed beast” that is the city council, and then trumpet her slavish dependence on city staff. Don’t forget to note Stan Berry, the OCDA investigator and FPD buddy boy who was first charged with looking into the Kelly Thomas murder. I’m glad he was able to maintain good relations.

If you were able to retain your lunch through all of that, congratulations. Now think about the hundreds of Fullerton commuters and residents who were caught in the traffic blockades on two major roads during rush hour. The police force parked their equipment and their posteriors in the middle of the roadway for this pointless pomp and circumstance, holding the public and its safety in complete disregard.

Of course the most comic part of this display of flags and armaments (think Soviet May Day parade) is the fact that just two days before, Mr. Integrity ordered his boyz to give City Manager, Joe Felz a free ride home with no Breathalyzer test after having careened though a sleepy Fullerton neighborhood after an evening of partying in the gin mills of downtown Fullerton.

Ron Thomas To Donate Fullerton Millions to Homeless Programs

Future Philanthropist…

Below is a video from late 2015 featuring Ron Thomas, the father of Kelly Thomas, who had just gotten a massive check courtesy of the taxpayers of Fullerton.

First, enjoy the feeble bleating of “city attorney” Dana Fox who is just soooooo darn glad the settlement bought peace of mind so everybody can “move on,” although, damn, that’s a pretty high price tag. Of course it ain’t coming out of his pocket, or “Patdown” Pat “I hired them all”  McKinley’s, or Manuel Ramos’s or Jay Cicinelli’s or Joe Wolfe’s. We picked up the check for this, just like we always have for the FPD Culture of Corruption, and as with all settlements, the public who pays the freight never gets to learn key information – in this case the extent to which Captain Dan Hughes and former Chief McKinley may have helped cover up the mess and perhaps even if there was collusion between the cops and originator of the phony phone call that led to Thomas’s death. Naturally, neither Hughes, Joe Felz, Jennifer Fitzgerald, Jan Flory or Doug “Bud” Chaffee wanted a trial.

And Ron Thomas himself may have wanted to avoid a trial, too, since that would have meant a jury and the general public would have found out that he sold the picture of his broken, comatose son for publication on FFFF – for $1200.

Anyway, at the end of this video you will hear Ron Thomas exclaim that the big settlement is an admission of liability by the City, by which he really meant us taxpayers. He says that’s all he ever wanted. Did that make you feel any better?

And now we pivot just slightly to another video, this one from 2011, wherein Ron Thomas has alerted the media that he is going to donate all of any lawsuit or settlement amount to the homeless.

Now at least we can be satisfied that some good has come out of the Kelly Thomas murder, even if we had to pay for it – $6,000,000 so far, not counting the invoices forwarded by Mssrs. Jones & Meyer, Fox, and of course the ever helpful hazmat clean-up crew run by Michael Gennaco. At least $4.9 million (less Gary Mardirossian‘s giant fee) is being given to homeless programs. Right, Ron?

Ron….Ron…?

Down on the County Farm: The 4th District Embarrassment

The quarter million dollar man…

A Friend alerted me to a Voice of OC article that has a close tie-in to Fullerton, since it deals directly with our 4th District County Supervisor, Shawn Nelson, and his Number One man.

Apparently, The Voice of OC is running end-of-the year pieces about this and that. The one that was forwarded to FFFF is about how Voice has been holding politicians accountable for their misdeeds, and included the shocking story from last May of Nelson’s Chief-of-Staff, Denis Bilodeau, and how, between his various government salaries, stipends and benefits he rakes in more than $250,000 per year. Yes, you read that right. He makes more, a lot more, than Nelson himself.

This valuable piece of manpower pulls in a generous stipend and benefits as a boardmember of the County Water District, and gets $40,000 per year (via a personal contract) as Nelson’s “technical advisor” at the AQMD. Before that he was also getting paid by being a member of the Orange City Council, Redevelopment Agency and all the other regional commissions he could get himself appointed to. Of course all these agencies had meetings that would have directly conflicted with his $120,000 full-time job at the County.

Bilodeau has also been frequently featured on the pages of the Voice for submitting bogus expense reports and for collecting stipends for meetings in which he barely popped his head in the meeting room door, or didn’t attend at all. Naturally, he blamed his staff for poor record keeping. He was busted for falsifying his time card to engage in political activity and claimed he got his weeks mixed up.

A study of hours logged by County administration personnel in 2012 show Bilodeau in the office 23 hours a week. Thats’ 58% of a work-week.What he did when he was there is anybody’s guess.

Nothing was saved…

So what is Bilodeau’s real value to anybody? Here’s County political watchdog Shirley Grindle, offering an opinion, as quoted in Voice of OC:

She also said she’s gotten indications that the mind behind Nelson’s fundraising machinations has been his chief of staff, Denis Bilodeau, who was an Orange councilman and serves on the Orange County Water District board.

“I’m about ready to tell Shawn Nelson, about the best thing he could do for his career is get rid of Denis Bilodeau,” Grindle said.

What did Nelson have to say on the subject?

“Neither Bilodeau nor Nelson would comment…”