Posts Tagged Jones and Mayer
Now that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association has weighed in on the issue of Fullerton’s 10% water tax with the suggestion of potential legal action, it seems an opportune time to consider the quality of legal support the City receives from its high-priced lawyers, Jones & Mayer.
Specifically, how can anybody explain the fact that the City Attorney Richard Jones has overlooked the obvious fact that the City of Fullerton’s in-lieu franchise fee of 10% was nothing but an illegal utility tax that was never substantiated by any objective study as required by Prop 218; and that it amounts to paying costs for alleged services that far exceed the actual cost of any services rendered to the water users, in violation of the State Constitution. Every year since he was hired in the early 90’s Attorney Jones’ bosses on the City Council approved water rates that automatically passed along this tax to the rate payers. Of course discussion of the embarrassing 10% add-on was avoided like the plague and was quickly dismissed when anybody brought it up.
Well, Friends, the answer is pretty simple: Attorney Jones wasn’t representing the interests of the people of Fullerton, he was representing the interests of the City staff and city councils who depended on that annual $2.5 million rip-off to close their General Fund budget gaps. That’s right, the General Fund that goes to pay the salaries of City employees; that goes to pay the Council’s stipends, insurance, and car allowances; that goes to pay the for the Council’s junkets to fancy hotels to attend League of Cities meetings; and that goes to pay pensions – including those gaudy six-figure pension bonanzas of Councilmembers Don Bankhead and Pat McKinley.
The reason for employing an attorney is to get sound legal advice, not to have someone tell you what you want to hear; or, even worse, not tell you what he thinks you don’t want to hear. But such is evidently not the case in Fullerton.
For Jones & Mayer placing the interests of the staff and defending the indefensible is nothing new. And the price tag for this string failures has mounted over the years. Let’s take a moment and reflect upon some of these issues. Hmm. So many to choose from. Here’s a sampling:
Good grief, this is pretty embarrassing. It’s clear that the City Attorney is more interested in harassing the citizens of Fullerton than in sticking up for their rights. And this seems like a pretty good barometer to assess the attitude of the council majority – Bankhead, Jones, and McKinley.
FFFF has been trying to obtain the police report filed after several Fullerton police officers conducted a narcotics raid on the wrong house and held an innocent pastor and his family at gunpoint last year (read the story here).
Since the family presented a copy of the police report to the council at a public meeting, that document is now undeniably a public record. But the cops and the city administrators love to keep secrets when they blow it, and thus have deployed one ornery city attorney to block out any sunshine on this case. God forbid the public learns about the mistakes it’s own cops are making.
But here’s where it gets weird. In this email below, the city attorney justifies keeping the report secret by admitting that crimes were committed when the cops entered the wrong house with guns drawn!
After reviewing the police records in a light most favorable to the Nordells if the entry made by the officers were unlawful they may have been victims of several crimes, namely assault, trespass and a civil rights violation. If the officers did enter with guns drawn, they more than likely experienced the fear that goes accompanied with such entry. While, we are not acknowledging any of those unlawful acts occurred it does establish that they are victims of a crime. As victims of a crime they were the only party entitled to obtain the police report under Gov Code 6254 (f).
Kathya M. Oliva
Jones & Mayer
Let’s go over that again. Did our city just deny a public records request by confirming that its officers committed assault, trespass and civil rights violations? Pretty much. Admitting guilt to cover your tracks is a novel approach to criminal defense.
FFFF’s response? If there was a crime committed against the family, the incident should have been referred to the DA for prosecution. Was it? If not, covering up the report because there “may have” been a crime doesn’t hold legal water.
Our question was met with a friendly invitation to sue the city in Superior Court…which is actually a great idea. I can’t think of a better way to bring more attention to this issue.
Should the city actively seek to suppress any evidence of harassment by city staff from the court record when prosecuting code violations? That’s exactly what’s happening in the strange case of an allegedly overgrown fig tree in south Fullerton.
A few weeks ago this woman, henceforth known as “The Fig Tree Lady,” came before council to tell her side of the story in a code enforcement case against her fig tree, which was allegedly hanging over a public sidewalk last year. The Fig Lady accused city staff of singling her out for criminal prosecution as retribution for her embarrassing victory over the city attorney (Jones & Mayer) several years prior.
That same day, the city attorney had filed a motion in court to suppress any evidence of harassment by City employees.
The fig lady’s guilt or innocence will be decided in court, and is not really the point here. But why is the city using it’s legal muscle to suppress any evidence that it’s code enforcement officers might be harassing citizens?
What if this woman did have evidence that the city attorney and staff were giving her case “special treatment”? Shouldn’t she be able to make her case to the judge? Is someone using the city’s expensive legal resources to bully and silence this outspoken critic in some sort of personal vendetta as the Fig Lady claims?
If the motion is granted, the woman would not even be allowed to submit this current photo of her tree (courtesy of Greg Sebourn) as evidence that the situation has been corrected.
Obviously the tree is not a threat anymore. Why is the city attorney still spending our money to silence and prosecute this woman? And are they really worried that she could prove her claims of harassment?
Attorneys are expensive for a reason… they’re supposed to be smarter than the rest of us. But once again our high-priced legal experts from Jones and Mayer have failed to impress.
In haste to find a new revenue generating scheme, the Fullerton Police Department worked with Jones & Mayer attorney Elena Gerli (of former bicycle nuisance fame) to draw up an ordinance that would raise towing fees and create a new “franchise opportunity” within the city. For Fullerton motorists, that translates to more fees for the same ‘ol service. But I digress.
A series of tow operators gave detailed testimony that passing the ordinance would be a violation of several state laws. The City Attorney then gave a sketchy rebuttal (more on this subject in a future post) that failed to mitigate the council’s concerns, Sharon Quirk-Silva quickly took the lead in sending the attorney back to the drawing board and calling for a study session to prevent another legal mess for our city.
Was our attorney outsmarted by a group of tow truck drivers? It seems like it. We’ll find out in a few more weeks, but not until they’ve squeezed out another round of billable hours.
Why do I feel like we’ve been here before? Let’s see… a bureaucracy’s insatiable desire to increase revenue combined with poor legal advice, leading to eventual lawsuits and thus diverting any potential “profits” into the welcoming arms of Jones and Mayer.
Ah yes, it’s the red light camera disaster all over again.
At last Tuesday’s council meeting our elected representatives were served up a tasty morsel from their attorney Dick Jones. He was peddling a load of BS about it being city policy that Planning Commissioners not consider the economic feasibility of subsidized projects. We’ve already documented Jones’ baloney here.
But Sharon Quirk-Silva, would have none of it. She challenged Jones on the supposed policy, and suggested, correctly, that the project be reconsidered in the light of a full review by the Planning Commission. She had the support of Planning Commissioner Scott Lansburg, who actually showed up to indicate that for him at least, the project would have received different treatment had he been permitted to consider the practical economics of the thing. Good for him.
Attorney Jones of course, pushed back, conjuring up the frightening manitou of “litigation” to chase stray councilmembers back onto their reservation. Now, gee, where have we seen that tactic before?
Meanwhile, Don Bankhead seemed a lot more interested in attending the upcoming ground breaking ceremony (where he can wear a specially painted gold hard hat) than in reining in the Richman/Olson Co. disaster.
In the end nothing came of hearing it except that the Council might have “study sessions” on the matter; which, if it ever happens, will no doubt be steered right back into the direction the city staff wants – at which point Attorney Jones made-up “policy” will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Last year just before Christmas the Fullerton City Council voted 3-1 to approve the idiotic Richman housing project, a staff-driven boondoggle that makes zero planning, housing, or economic sense. We wrote about it here.
We also wrote about the review of the same fiasco-in-the-making by the Planning Commission here, in which we lauded Commissioner Bruce Whitaker for his solitary stance in opposing it. As the YouTube clip shows, Whitaker objected on economic grounds citing the project’s dubious fiscal foundation.
This position was immediately questioned by Commissioner Lansburg who inquired about it of the city attorney, Tom Duarte:
Commissioner Lansburg: is it within the Commission’s purview to look at this from a financial standpoint or are we only to look at this from a planning standpoint?
The city attorney Mr. Duarte answered: In the commissions purview its a land use issue, the city council will look at the financial impact.
Well, the project was passed by a Commission majority, with only Whitaker dissenting.
Subsequently Commission Chairman Dexter Savage addressed the following communication to staff, seeking clarification of the issue.
And now, Lo and Behold, the issue has been agendized by the City Council; and just look at staff’s response: economic considerations are indeed within the purview of a planning commission in many respects, and are nowhere prohibited.
This response begs several questions. Why did the city’s attorney misinform the commission? Is he incompetent, or was he motivated to press the approval of a project near and dear to the hearts of the city staff, without any reference to the law.
Why did the staff present like (John Godlewski) not correct him? He countersigned the above memorandum contradicting Duarte, yet was at the meeting and said nothing.
The facts can really only be interpreted in one way. Both the attorney and staff were more interested in the approval of the project, no matter how bad, than in the service of the public interest, or the truth, or the law.
Now the entire matter has been brought to the City Council for its enlightenment as agenda item #16 at the January 19, meeting. But it’s really to late for the Richman project – a Redevelopment/housing staff concocted project that has all the tell-tale signs of a disaster in the making.
And Friends: there you have it.
Although the worst governmental bureaucratic bungles and miscreance often costs millions, some are relatively inexpensive and can be brushed off (by the perpetrators) as small change. But these small change expenditures have to be paid for by somebody, and that somebody is you and me. And it all adds up. Quickly. Anyhoo, here are the nominees for the 2009 Government Small Change Adds Up Fringie Award.
1. County Deployment of Certified Helment Fitters. We can’t even calculate the wasted time and resources, and it probably isn’t very great. Still the whole thing was such a wonderful example of a decent idea (giving poor bike riding kids safety helmets) that quickly metastasized into a typical farce. We did get to learn, however, that Pam Keller is a certified helmet fitter. Front. Back. Got it?
2. Roscoe’s Famous Nuisance “Sound Study.” This little gem cost the city (us) $16K, and was a part of a plan to let Jack Franklyn keep playing amplified outdoor music. The “study” was performed by BonTerra, a land use opinion for hire, and not a qualified acoustical engineer. It all came to naught when the council finally decided to stop a very long pattern of looking the other way to multiple Municipal Code violations.
3. Red light camera legal fees. As a subset of another category we include this one. over $14,000 to attorney’s Jones and Mayer who lost the red light camera lawsuits. Well, that’s not so very much, is it?
4. Chief McKinley’s Cop Vest. We hear it was developed on lots o’ company time, but the cost to the taxpayers came in another form, too. A $100,000 stimulus grant in Obama Bucks bought a bunch of these vests for McKinleys own cops. Loretta Sanchez took the credit for these vests that cost twice as much as their predecessors. Still, they do have pockets for your penlight and your house keys. Decoder ring accessory optional.
This episode did create a wonderful image that is being considered for a Special Fringie Award. No hints. Use the link!
Our city attorney just lost what is hopefully the final round in Fullerton’s red light camera case. A superior court judge denied the city’s request to re-hear the appeal of People vs. Franco, which was originally lost when the city attorney failed to show up at court last.
If you’ve been following along, you know that the red light cameras were a disaster from the very beginning. Fullerton’s contracted city attorney at Jones and Mayer allowed our city council to sign an obviously illegal contract for red light cameras to be installed throughout Fullerton. Thousands upon thousands of illegal tickets were given out until one recipient finally stood up and challenged the contract in court. Last year a judge found that Fullerton’s deal with the bankrupt Nestor Traffic Systems illegally gave the operator an incentive to boost ticket issuance by the cameras.
The most painful part of this story is that we kept getting those expensive legal bills throughout the entire red light camera circus, all the while being encouraged to continue fighting for this lost cause.
Someone close to this case wrote in to suggest that the city should sue Jones & Mayer for malpractice. If that’s an option, we certainly won’t hear about it from Richard D. Jones himself. How much longer will Fullerton pay for this bad advice? Will anyone be held accountable for this series of screw-ups? When was the last time that our contract with J&M was reviewed? It’s time for the council to admit that they were led astray and publicly address these issues with our city attorney.
After being given the ceremonial run-around by the Fullerton PD, our Friend at HighwayRobbery.net was finally able to dig up a copy of Jones and Mayer’s legal bills from the city’s infamous red light case. For those of you who are just catching up, the city lost an appeal last year after an alleged red light violator fought her camera ticket — based on the illegality of Fullerton’s contract with the now-bankrupt Nestor Traffic Systems.
Here’s some free advice to our favorite City Attorney: Give up! You lost the case because you allowed the city to break the law. We don’t need red light cameras:
- They don’t improve traffic safety
- The cameras are expensive and error-prone
- Most of the “proceeds” go right back to the vendor
- Fullerton can’t seem to negotiate a contract without breaking the law
- You wasted our money by selecting an incompetent vendor that is now bankrupt
- Santa Ana already lost a nearly identical appeal earlier this year.
It’s time to stop handing over our money to Jones and Mayer for this lost cause.