Arson at the Melody Inn?

We here at FFFF over the years have pointed out the Florentine sidewalk theft and more recently the sham of city oversight in Florentine’s decade+ refusal to install fire sprinklers.

Those stories led a reader to send us a video that may make that fire sprinkler issue way worse in context. It’s a story about what allegedly happened at Florentine’s Melody Inn back in 1989 in Downtown Fullerton.

Give it a watch and let us know what you think.

Fire Sprinklers Save Lives and Property!

The family goes way back

And who should know that better than the Florentine Family whose nightclubs at the corner Harbor and Commonwealth, as FFFF recently noted, were out of compliance with their Conditional Use Permit that requires the installation of fire sprinklers.

Yo, this is better’n Joisey. I got me a sidewalk!

This is surely ironic to people who consider such things, since the paterfamilas of the clan, Tony, used to own a restaurant and lounge called the Melody Inn that was gutted by a suspicious fire in 1989 and required the demolition of the oldest remaining commercial building in Fullerton. This in turn, set off a years-long bureaucratic chain of humiliation and Redevelopment folly that concluded with the construction of a hamburger restaurant and other architectural monstrosities.

There is no second floor. Other than that it’s a 2 story building

 

Maybe it was supposed to be a swimming pool

Now, you might think that someone who suffered such a terrible tragedy as losing a business just a few hundred feet from his current one would be a lot more concerned about a repeat performance in 2019. And you might think the Fullerton municipal government would be a lot more concerned about fire safety and well-being of the Florentines’ patrons.

 

 

Elevators to Nowhere – The Death March Isn’t Over

It may have been expensive, but it sure was unnecessary…

Two years ago FFFF ran a series of posts based on the observations of “Fullerton Engineer” about the ludicrous elevators addition to the existing bridge at the Depot. Nobody wanted this project except for city staff and only because the dime was somebody else’s. And so a strange bureaucratic odyssey began with fits and starts of activity to waste $4,000,000 of transit money doled out by distant agencies. Then in 2017 the monster was shocked back to life with an infusion of $600,000 of Fullerton’s own cash. Ouch. Let’s let our Friend, Fullerton Engineer take it from here:

It appears as if the depot elevator project is grinding to a conclusion: the elevator foundations and steel are finally done and the traction elevators are almost complete. Are congratulations in order? Not quite, although I suspect there will be a victory celebration and ribbon cutting and back-pats all around when the City Council takes its first expensive elevator ride.

A construction sequence that should have taken perhaps seven months has dragged on for two years. That’s right – two years. No one in charge seems to have offered any explanation, probably because no one in authority has ever asked for any. As I noted in the spring of 2017, the request for more money was shrouded in double talk and obscurantism. Somebody was hiding something.

Over the past two years as I have driven by the site it was more likely that I saw no one working as when I did. So what were all those people who were being paid, and well paid, to oversee this fiasco doing? Who knows? Have delay claim change orders ever been processed? Have they been rejected? Is a lawsuit coming or is it just going to end in a feeding frenzy on a complicit public agency? PRA requests may shed light on this disaster, if in fact they are not ignored by the city’s lawyer.

Don Hoppe, our former City Engineer has disappeared into a well-pensioned retirement. His replacement, a professionally unqualified bureaucrat will take no heat for this embarrassment. It’s no-fault government  where the taxpayer foots the bill.

— The Fullerton Engineer

 

A Question from Podunk

Those of us in the cheap seats out in Podunk have noticed something odd and can’t quite figure it out and we’re hoping that some of you friends have some answers.

The problem is that Joe Florentine operates a night club in clear violation of the Fullerton Municipal Code and possibly CA Law if not just CA building codes. How so? His nightclubs located at 100-104 N Harbor Blvd, and which have a combined occupancy of over 300 people, are lacking fire sprinklers. Feel free to check for the permits yourself to verify.

Fire sprinklers, mind you, which were a condition of his Conditional Use Permit back in 2008.

Florentines CUP Fire Sprinklers

The CUP from 2008 on this issue fully states (our emphasis):

“12. The 2008 Building Code requires that restaurants and drinking establishments with a fire occupancy of 100 persons or more are required to install fire sprinklers. As a result, the business owner is required to add fire sprinklers as a matter of approval. Because this is a Building Code requirement, the Planning Commission does not have discretion to waive this requirement. Staff has recommended a condition to assure that the work be performed within a specified timeframe of the use approval, or else the CUP will be brought back to the Planning Commission for revocation.”

Here’s the California Building Code for those who are curious, keep in mind that Florentine’s is said to be about 8,000 sqf:

2016 Building Fire Code

His business qualifies as requiring fire sprinklers. His conditional use permit requires him to have fire sprinklers. Yet he has no fire sprinklers.

Why are there no fire sprinklers?

Why hasn’t his Conditional Use Permit been revoked as required by law?

For 10+ years Florentine has been operating the largest restaurant / night club against the law and for 10+ years our staff has done nothing about it. Even though Fire and Life Safety are the issues at hand.

OK, that’s not fair to staff. They have done something. They’ve willfully ignored fire codes, building codes and public safety. We’ve got to give credit where credit is due and nothing in this case certainly is something.

Despite that 2008 Conditional Use Permit threatening a mandatory revocation, the city has never once enforced the issue of fire sprinklers let alone considered bringing his CUP back for possible revocation. Not Once. In all that time our useless Planning Commission has been too inept to ask tough questions of staff or for a list of gross violators to even notice this glaring slap against their preening authority.

But wait for it, it gets better.

Each year like clockwork the ever rotating Fullerton Police Chief signs off on Florentine’s Live Entertainment Permit making FPD complicit in this glaring life safety fail. Here’s an example from 2016/17:

Florentines LE Permit 2016

Check #7.

“7. The C.U.P (if applicable) shall be strictly enforced.”

The Chief of Police is signing off on Live Entertainment Permits and claiming that conditions of use, such as fire sprinklers, will be enforced while NEVER ONCE ENFORCING THEM in well over a decade.

While Community Development Director Ted White likes to talk about needed changes to the municipal code, specifically Title 15 which passed our clueless Planning Commission, he mentions lights and lumens and outdated technology. It sure is curious that he never bothered to mention Fire Safety and how he, his staff, nor any staff across Fullerton, can be bothered to enforce those issues and laws either. Nevermind flagrant violations of state law, HOLY CRAP LOOK AT THOSE LUMENS! We just can’t measure those time to change the codes!

While he’s baffling our clueless leaders and representatives on the dais with bullshit, he’s letting guys like Florentine violate safety concerns because… why exactly?

No seriously, why? Why are we tolerating staff, our Planning Commission, and our City Council blatantly ignoring the law while they spoon feed us nonsense about lumen measurement?

This is an endemic problem. That Live Entertainment Permit as seen on the Fullerton website actually needs to be signed off on by multiple departments:

LE Permit App

How is that nobody in the Building, Code Enforcement or the Fire Department has a problem with such a large venue with such a large civilian capacity each weekend being in clear violation of fire codes?

Joe Florentine actually made the case in front of the Planning Commission recently that the Live Entertainment Permit process was too arduous. Let that sink in. The dude who’s breaking the law and putting people’s lives at risk has the sadz because the process, that is letting him slip by with his lawlessness, wants the process to be easier!

South Park Balls
An artist representation of Joe Florentine after speaking to Planning Commission.

Maybe you can figure out why right now, this weekend of St. Paddy’s Day which is one of the heaviest drinking days of the year, the city is going to continue to put hundreds of people at risk in Florentine’s night clubs.

The city knows Joe Florentine operates his bars outside the law. He is legally required to protect the public he allows in his doors, but refuses to do so. We know it, we tolerate it, and we even sign off on it at least once a year.

Why is this important? Why should you care that your city staff ignores the law and signs off on Florentine’s shenanigans?

Because this means YOU, the taxpayers of Fullerton, are on the hook for an accident in Florentine’s bars.

You, through the Police Chief & Fire Department, signed off on his entertainment permits to pack his bars.

You, through your Council, Staff and City Manager, told him he was safe, every year. You told him he’s a good operator despite obvious evidence to the contrary.

So what happens when, God forbid, there’s a fire like the Ghost Ship in Oakland where fire sprinklers were also lacking?

Who pays restitution? Little ol’ Joe with his big house and big pool up on the hill?

NO! You do! You pay! Just like you always pay when staff and council refuse to do their jobs. You signed the dotted line that blessed all his illegal bullshit and then you did nothing about it.

You get what you vote for, Fullerton. This weekend your vote will be used again to tolerate putting hundreds of people at risk. You voted for people to not enforce life safety laws, you voted to not enforce alcohol service laws, and you voted to not enforce zoning laws.

When will you have enough?

What Does Downtown Cost?

There’s an old rumored study that is often referenced, but not in detail, that says that Downtown Fullerton costs the city about $1million/year in a general fund subsidy.

Meaning that according to the available data we have the city subsidizes the bar scene out of money that could be doing things for us such as fixing our roads. But how much is downtown actually costing us?

No clue. This study is only ever referenced in passing and no numbers are ever presented.

Back in Oct 2017, when City Staff was selling council on a “Downtown Parking Plan”, which is nothing more than handing over our free city owned parking to bar owners at night so they can charge people and profit, they referenced this subsidy:

2017 Downtown Subsidy

Then again in Feb 2019, when staff was pitching the same parking nonsense they used the same allusion to a subsidy:

2019 Downtown Subsidy

To sort this out we asked how this subsidy is calculated because there is no way our City Staff, Manager and Council are so lazy as to rely on a years old, and disputed, study to determine new and current costs associated with how we run our city’s finances. Today the city got back to us.

Here’s the response in full from the city’s Administrative Services Director:

The comment was meant as a general comment and to briefly mention that future items would come before the Council. More specifically, this comment is based upon my understanding that a report was produced several years ago that demonstrated that there was an approximately $900K-$1M general fund subsidy for the Downtown area at the time the report was produced. There isn’t a more recent calculation of the subsidy that I am aware of.

Whoops. Turns out that we don’t know what Downtown costs. And yes, we are relying on a year’s old study to justify offsetting costs without know those very costs. Actually it might not even be a study. It could just be a guess, because we don’t know.

This answer is worse than it seems as it actually implies that the city has no idea what taxes we get from downtown and how those relate to what we spend to maintain and patrol said downtown. It also means that they don’t even know if there is or is not a subsidy and what it might be in [current year]. Heck, we could be throwing $xMil/year into downtown with police/fire costs (and the associated pensions) alone and not even know it. Or care to know it.

The city should know the costs of police, fire, maintenance and the potential lost business opportunities. Should.

What does Downtown Fullerton cost us as a city? We don’t have a clear idea.

Not a damn clue, actually. The city doesn’t know and hasn’t cared enough to find out in years. They’ll talk about taxes and selling capital assets and making plans to charge for parking and raising the noise levels – pretty much anything to benefit the bar scene, the very businesses that might be costing the city more money to maintain than they bring in in tax revenue. Why?

If you want to know why we have a structural deficit, why our roads suck, why our parks are often left to rot — This is why. We elect people who are too lazy to care about such basic government issues like costs and they in turn hire people who only care about costs or risks when it benefits the newest, shiniest 5 Year Plan they’re selling to that same council that hired them.

This is why things can’t get better until we stop letting council get away with polishing the brass on the Titanic while it sinks.

Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned…

Dueling Incompetence

Fullerton’s City Council, on the other hand reminds me of Porch Boy from Deliverance: good at one thing and, well, everything else? Not so much.

Our council’s skill-set is entirely focused on hiding screw-ups – from auto crashes to mismanaged construction progress to a breathtaking budgetary neglect that can only be discussed by lying about it.

At the heart of the matter is a council that is just incompetent, and worse, refuses to hold anybody accountable for their expensive errors. But the one thing that can be relied upon: no one will ever admit mistake.

The bars stayed open and the band played on…

If you had any doubts on the matter, simply refer yourselves to the silly charade of picking a council replacement. The fix was in from the beginning. There was zero chance anybody but the egregious Jan Flory would be chosen, despite other applicants who had actual ability. Why? Because Flory was already complicit in all of Fullerton’s misadventures that have led to an an FPD Culture of Corruption, an out of control booze riot downtown, a near empty treasury and the worst roads in Orange County; and if anybody was willing to stay the course, lie about a balanced budget, blame the stingy taxpayers for the state of the roads, and prop up clearly useless and grossly overpaid city manager and city attorney it was her.

But the people that have made a mess out of Fullerton are running out of options, especially pension options, when the State pension board decides to lower its actuarial assumptions again. And then the gravy train will run out of gas. And who will be asked to fill ‘er up? That’s right you and me.

 

Flory’s Indecent Exposure

When Jan Flory came back to council she extolled her virtue of no scandals – and then her son Mike clearly decided – Challenge Accepted.

Mike Flory Photo

We really don’t want to write about this issue but it’s one which points to a pattern of problematic behavior that needs to be addressed. A pattern of behavior by a man who works around minors for the OC DA’s office and was recently convicted of PC 415(2) – Disturbing the Peace – in a case that originally involved a battery charge, PC M242, allegedly against a minor.

This new story is pretty simple. Somebody wanted a photo of Tickle from the show Moonshiners and that somebody asked the question of the wrong Mike. Instead of sending the message to Mike [Redacted] they sent it to Mike Flory. And instead of getting a photo of Tickle they got a photo of Flory’s junk.

To make this news it needs to be stated that that somebody – was Mike Flory’s niece.

Our victim’s own 8yo daughter was sitting with her when the offending message came in and she quickly deleted it so no, we will not be showing the photo here on FFFF but to satiate your dirty bird desires here is a stunt cock:

A Better Cock

When his niece, who we should clarify was a flower girl in his wedding, got upset he doubled down claiming to want to “get up in those guts”. To his niece.

Now we’re no prudes and we normally don’t care who sends what to whom consensually – but this was an unsolicited genital pick sent to a family member. All from a man works for the DA’s office in the Juvenile justice department.

How do we know this happened absent the photo? We had to verify a few things.

First we have the messages that came after the offending photo:

Flory Call Log 01

Flory Call Log 02

You’ll notice on that first screenshot that the phone # is 714-305-5648. How do we know that’s Mike Flory?

Well, that was a small problem. As many of us have to remain anonymous here on FFFF due to retaliation and threats we didn’t exactly want to call a Deputy DA so we punched the number into the internet and up camethe State Bar of California website with:

Mike Flory State Bar

The allegation then is that Mr. Flory is sending unsolicited dick pics from the phone # he has registered with the State Bar of California. Before people start complaining that this is Doxxing, no it isn’t as Mr. Flory has provided this to the State Bar as public information and it is easily searchable as just demonstrated.

But there’s no photo so how do we know one was sent? That’s what call logs are for:

Flory Call-Log

We wanted to make sure there was a “there” there before running this piece and after some due diligence have every reason to believe that this happened as described to us based on the phone calls and texts we have had with Mr. Flory’s niece as well as the supplied evidence and a few character witnesses we have spoken to in the last few weeks.

This is an issue of integrity and ethics but also one of propriety in a District Attorney’s office which has been plagued with years of scandals, cover-ups and bad actors. This is a chance for our new District Attorney, Todd Spitzer, to show us that he doesn’t tolerate such behavior in his ranks and that he expects his staff to be better examples to the public they serve. To be humble and apologetic instead of sickos with no sense of shame.

We offer this as a challenge. The ball is in your court Mr. Spitzer. Are you going to continue the sordid legacy of Tony Rackauckas and stand behind such behavior or are you going to try to finally bring some dignity to the OC DA’s office? We and many others will be watching.

Fullerton’s Version of Transparency

I’m not going to wax poetic or waste time building a narrative or telling a story today. Today I just want to lay out a simple example on how Fullerton deals with transparency.

On Wednesday, 16 November 2016 at about 9:00 PM, a Fullerton Parks and Recreation vehicle collided with another car at the intersection of Highland and Chapman.

Not long after learning about it I put in a Public Records Request asking for information on the case, vehicle and so forth and got little to nothing back. So I just ignored the issue and waited.

Up until that point nearly nothing had been reported (if anything) on this accident and the city had said nothing. Being that this is a city owned, meaning taxpayer funded, vehicle we should expect at least some acknowledgement as to what happened or even that it happened.

Instead we got crickets.

I started asking around again and rumor has it that the driver was intoxicated and three parks employees were in the vehicle and all were subsequently fired.

So recently I again put in a Public Records Request asking about such information. That request was denied on a grip of what I call “so sue us” or “you have remedies” grounds.

Then I put in another Public Records Request asking for, and I quote:

“…I now want all information released to the public about the incident involving that vehicle including any PRRs responded to, emails sent or received, reports released, press releases, etc.”

And the response from the city was:

“There are no records responsive to your request.”

When I asked for clarity:

“Is it the city’s position that nothing has been said in any way about this incident?”

They doubled down with:

“There are no available records regarding the incident.”

No available records regarding this:

No available information says the city, not even an email.

So city employees can destroy a city vehicle, which allegedly is still sitting at the Basque yard, not to mention possibly damage private property and we poor plebeians aren’t allowed to know anything all while our pompous and pretentious council pretends to care about transparency.

In all this time they could have asked for an update, asked staff what happened, explained why they might not be able to talk about a public incident (lawsuit, etc) but no. They sat and asked no questions and offered no insights.

So the next time our Council, Planning Commission, City Staff or City Manager claim to care about transparency just point to this incident and laugh at them. Laugh at them and then possibly give them the finger.