I began to question the City’s management of the Brea Dam in early 2015.
Numerous problems had one thing in common: Joe Felz‘ involvement during his tenure as Parks and Recreation Director, and then, again, during his transition into the City Manager role in 2010. Who better to ask about these things than Joe himself? I tried reaching him by e-mail. After that failed, I tried calling instead. He never returned my calls either.
Seeing that as a dead end, I requested copies of documentation from Parks & Recreation staff that I believed to be the responsibility of administrative manager Alice Loya. Her name appeared on numerous City Council and Parks & Recreation agendas pertaining to the Brea Dam.
My initial records request was denied, in part, because they said the records didn’t exist. I had requested from Ms. Loya very basic budget and profit/loss statements for the Fullerton Golf Course. That’s when I knew my suspicions of mismanagement had at least some merit. We pay the golf course expenses, yet Ms. Loya, whose job it is to supervise these things, could not produce anything of substance to justify the overall financial performance. She instead offered what I’ve termed monthly invoicing “bundles”, so I requested a full 12 months. This was the only way to reconcile financial performance over a full fiscal year. I would later be shamed by the Fullerton Observer for making that request and others. After all, I was wasting precious City staff time.
Over the summer of 2015, some friends and I studied these documents in depth, and we each came to the conclusion that something is very, very wrong up there. So wrong that, unless corrected, the US Army Corps of Engineers could revoke the lease and evict the City of Fullerton. That could potentially force the closure of the Fullerton Golf Course, Fullerton Tennis Center, Fullerton Sports Complex, YMCA, Child Guidance Center, and Fullerton Community Nursery School — all of which occupy Brea Dam land leased from the Federal Government. The Feds could also sue the City for failing to remit revenue. Believe it or not, we could also face the wrath of the IRS because the bonds we sold to replace the golf course sprinkler system came with strings attached to the interest subsidy the City receives from the Feds. The list of problems just goes on and on and on…
I organized our findings as best I could and published everything to the web in the Fall of 2015. I purposely tried to keep the website low-profile with the hope the City would find it desirable to fix these issues on their own. I didn’t want to sound alarm bells with the Army Corps of Engineers. I reasoned that it was best for the City to ask for forgiveness now instead of begging for mercy from the Federal Government later.
Not surprisingly, the City, in full damage control mode — and with the help of Councilwoman Jan Flory and the Fullerton Observer — tried to make this story all about me. Behind closed doors, City staff overheard Joe Felz and current Parks and Recreation Director Hugo Curiel telling people I was clueless, to just ignore me, etc. Over several months the City fed information to Sharon Kennedy, which later appeared in the Fullerton Observer, in hopes of discrediting me. Some of the info was stuff I never disputed in the first place, while other information contradicted official City documents, assertions by City staff, and even earlier issues of the Fullerton Observer. It was laughable.
My concerns went before the Parks and Recreation Commission in early 2016. Hugo Curiel made sure to discredit me with individual commissioners to ensure they would both protect the status quo and be in attack mode. He even told the commission at a regular meeting that I didn’t have the ability to understand the documentation I was provided. Never mind the fact that at the same meeting, much of what he and Alice Loya said didn’t corroborate with the City’s own documents.
The City’s primary defense for every concern I raised? David Curlee is wrong…because we said so.
I have no problem admitting I’m wrong. In fact, I wish I was wrong about everything, but the City’s own documentation (or lack thereof) says otherwise. In the case of contracts and leases, words are written on paper for a reason. The City wants everyone to believe those words have no merit because they’ve been superseded by verbal understandings and their own twisted interpretations that not even a 5th grader would accept.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts as I break this down further.