Our Wallets Are Getting Tased

Axon, formerly known as Taser International, is the manufacturer of tasers and body cameras worn by officers of the Fullerton Police Department.

In 2014, Felz and Hughes went before the City Council to beg for $650,534 over a five-year period to pay for body cameras from Taser International.  The actual cost will far exceed that amount, but that’s unfortunately typical of the false assurances made by those two.  You can read the agenda letter here where Dan Hughes did his best impression of a salesman for Taser International.  There was never any competitive bidding process for those body cameras, which is obscene given the large price tag.

Fast forward to this past June.  Gary Sirin of the Fullerton Police Department was sent to the Axon Accelerate Conference Fleece-A-Thon in Scottsdale, AZ.  We paid $899 for him to attend the conference, $580.87 for lodging at the Westin, and it appears another $363.19 for travel expenses.  I presume he was also on the clock and being paid for his time.

So what actually took place at this conference?  Axon did a write up themselves that talks about demonstrating new products and strategies to prevent disclosure of body camera footage to the public.  Once again, an insulting waste of City funds.

The Police Department apparently never got the memo about Fullerton having a fiscal crisis, or else they just don’t care.

I think it’s the latter, but in any event, these ridiculous conferences all over the United States and Canada on the City dime need to stop.

Lemmon Head

Wouldn’t it be nice if every City employee consistently set the bar for professionalism?

Michael Lemmon, of the Fullerton Fire Department, thought it was perfectly okay to purchase these inappropriate mugs using taxpayer money on his City-issued VISA card.

A couple months later, Michael Lemmon decided the Fire Department needed more coffee mugs, so he purchased these — again on the taxpayer’s dime:

 

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Pay The Lady: Nepotism At Its Worst

Today’s ethical lapse comes to us courtesy of the Fullerton Fire Department.  See those shirts pictured above?  Fire Captain Brian Seymour ordered nine of them for some kind of “Peer Support”.

Once the use tax is factored in, we paid about $40 per shirt.

Check out the reconciliation report.  One can clearly see the purchaser was Brian Seymour.

Below, we see the invoice from the vendor, Linksoul, where the salesperson was Mary Seymour.  Wait a minute, that must be a coincidence.  No City employee would be foolish enough to use taxpayer money to purchase unnecessary clothing from a relative’s clothing business, right?

 

Mary Seymour is the Fire Captain’s wife.  Linksoul is a clothing company started by her brother.  A couple minutes with Google was enough to locate this article from Carlsbad Magazine with a quote about nepotism that couldn’t be more ironic under the circumstances.

Hinman, W. (2014, March & April). The Man Makes The Clothes. Carlsbad Magazine, 38-43.

So while the City of Fullerton prepares to be crushed under the weight of CalPERS pension obligations, we have people like Brian Seymour not just wasting our money — he’s sending cash to his wife’s family business.

Brian Seymour made $294,761 last year in pay and benefits.  Why didn’t he pay for these shirts with his own money?

Did anyone make him reimburse the City?   Whose idea were these shirts, anyway?  Perhaps most important is why didn’t it occur to Brian Seymour that sending money to the family business was improper, and likely a violation of City policy and/or State Law?

Thanks to a certain FFD employee for bringing this to our attention.  You know who you are.

Bad Neighbor!

Would you give neighbors access to your bank account?

No? That would probably come as a shock to some at City Hall where (at least) three City of Brea employees have been issued VISA procurement cards belonging to the City of Fullerton.

Fullerton and Brea have a shared Fire Department command staff.  The Fire Chief, Deputy Chiefs, Division Chiefs, Battalion Chiefs, and an EMS manager perform services for both cities, even though they remain employees of the City where they came from.  Those from Brea have been given the Fullerton VISA cards.  Now, I can hear some people uttering phrases like “so what,” and “who cares,” and “what’s the problem?”  I can help you with that.

Fullerton Fire Station 3 on Acacia Ave was the recipient of five La-Z-Boy recliners, on the City VISA card.  The purchaser?  Chris Guerrero, a Brea employee.  The supervisor approving the purchase?  Kathy Schaefer, another Brea employee.  And where did the money come from?  Fullerton.

The receipt raises another question because Engine 3, based at this fire station, only has a crew of three.  So why purchase five recliners?

I’d bet money the extra recliners are for the CARE Ambulance employees based at Station 3.  Nothing in the housing agreement between the City and CARE Ambulance talks about furnishings, so the recliners appear to be a gift.

A gift from Brea employees using Fullerton’s money.

Faux Cost Reductions

The City Council was warned earlier this year that (long overdue) changes at CalPERS to tackle pension debts would spell fiscal disaster for Fullerton.  This problem is very much real and will be quite painful in the years to come.

What isn’t real was the feigned appearance of City Hall trying to cut expenses.  Truth be told, nobody at the City seems to care.

Remember the Hillcrest Park ‘Pine Forest Stairs’ ceremony, which lasted maybe 30 minutes, and was attended by forty or fifty people?

The balloons you see above cost the taxpayers $776.51.  Were they necessary?  Of course not.

Meanwhile, at other locations across town, the never-ending waste from Parks and Recreation continues unabated.  $350 for two hours of face painting and a clown to blow up balloons.

Another $450 down the drain for a game of Human Foosball.

These aren’t unusual expenditures — this stuff goes on all the time.

So this is the cue for [new City Manager] Ken Domer to step up and make this nonsense go away.  It’s also a cue for the City Council to hold him accountable in that regard.

Toll Road Scofflaw Dan Hughes

Dan Hughes’ career as police chief came to a pretty embarrassing end in November 2016.  OCDA investigator Abraham Santos opined that Hughes criminally obstructed justice when he ordered Joe Felz be driven home without an arrest after the now infamous DUI collision.  As a result, Santos is now fighting for his career, the result of him blowing the whistle on the OCDA’s refusal to press charges.

Like any politician who lacks integrity, Hughes always tried to portray himself as an upstanding citizen.  How ironic because this past July, the Fullerton Police Department learned that a toll was never paid on SR-73 all the way back in December 2015.

You guessed correctly — the vehicle involved was the unmarked City-owned sedan assigned to Dan Hughes.

I haven’t included all of the e-mails back and forth, but suffice it to say, several City employees wasted numerous hours trying to pin down whose car it was, and to ultimately reduce the toll penalties due.

Hughes has a couple of options here:

  1. Own up to his mistake.  Reimburse the City for the toll and penalties due.  Prove to his old department, his peers, current employees and Disney management that he really is a man of integrity.  If this was an error on the part of the toll roads, offer some sort of plausible explanation of what happened that day.
  2. Be a coward.  Do and say nothing.  Make the residents of Fullerton pay for yet another one of his failures.  Hide behind the half a million he rakes in annually between CalPERS and Disneyland.

This will be really interesting because I fully expect him to choose the second option.  I hope he proves me wrong.

Reading 101.1.1

How well can you read?  Good enough?  Somebody at City Hall desperately needs your help.

These obnoxious signs were installed at the train station last week.  Not only are they ugly and obtrusive, parts of the text are a lie.  Apparently City staff expects nobody to double-check their work.

“NO Loitering” — Hello?  This is a train station where people are encouraged to loiter while waiting for their train.  What’s worse is the code citation, FMC 17.105.020, is completely bogus because Title 17 doesn’t exist in the municipal code.  The City doesn’t even have a “no loitering” ordinance that would apply here.  Somebody made this up!

“NO Handbills” — They cite FMC 7.30.030.  Funny, the title of Chapter 7.30 clearly says this part applies to “Private Residential Property” (see below) which the train station obviously is not.

“NO Soliciting” — Here’s what the code says:

7.106.030   Solicitation.

   No person shall accost any other person in, or on, any public place, or in, or on, any place open to the public for the purpose of begging or soliciting alms or soliciting donations in exchange for a token service that has been provided or promised.

This section shall only apply to areas within fifty feet of a business establishment
, unless such area is located in a shopping mall or center, in which case this section shall also apply to the parking and common areas of that shopping mall or center…

I took the liberty of drawing circles with a radius of 50 feet from the Amtrak office, Spaghetti Factory, and Santa Fe Express Cafe.  Good news for solicitors, despite the new signs posted all over the place, about 75 percent of the train station is still fair game!

Last, but not least, don’t feed the birds!

A real shocker, I know, but FMC 9.12.208 on the sign only applies to Parks and is worded for the protection of waterfowl.  This isn’t enforceable at the train station.

9.12.208

     1.   “Waterfowl” means and refers to any ducks, geese, or other birds which can be found in a restricted area, which have used a restricted area as a habitat, or are reasonably capable of using a restricted area as a habitat.    2.   “Restricted area” means and refers to any publicly owned lake, pond, stream, creek, fountain, or body of water in the City of Fullerton, including, but not limited to, Laguna Lake.

What’s the point of this exercise?  To prove just because the City makes a sign, or assures us something is true and correct — that more often than not — they are wrong.

I know you’re reading this [new City Manager] Ken Domer.  Now would be a great time to take a stand against the perpetual incompetence that emanates from all levels of City government. Your predecessor, Joe Felz, had no problem doing things poorly.  Will your tenure be marked by more of the same?

Fullerton’s Most Expensive Park?

Just when you thought the Parks and Recreation Department might get their act together comes another gem on next week’s agenda.  This time, it’s a $903,500 land purchase for a new park at 3001 Pearl Drive.

The vacant lot used to be home to a swimming pool and clubhouse for the adjacent apartment complexes, which the 33 property owners failed to maintain.  Those same property owners now want the City to build a park contingent on the City forking over cash to buy the land.

So what is the land worth?  $740,000 according to the appraiser, who notes that an “extraordinary assumption” to build  high-density housing was used.  Translation:  The $740,000 estimate could be totally worthless and the appraiser admits it.  Nothing more is divulged about the appraised value because Hugo Curiel only included two pages from the appraisal report.   Page One and Page Two

And it gets worse.  Hugo wants an additional 20 percent of the appraised value ($148,000) for an administrative settlement to be paid out to the property owners.  Once again, Hugo fails to provide any sort of written justification for this:

The parcel is 0.398 acres in size.  At that price, it is equivalent to $2.27 million per acre which is more than double the price Chevron is asking for Coyote Hills land.  This would be the most expensive land ever purchased for a Fullerton park.

I have a question. Why should we pay the property owners a premium price when it was their own negligence that created this situation?  In fact, why pay them anything at all, provided the City agrees to build a park?

Makes you wonder if the property owners are more interested in a cash payout for themselves, or a park for the neighborhood’s benefit.

The Parks & Rec Manipulation of Public Comments

Readers of this blog know good and well the many failures of the Pine Forest Stairs at Hillcrest Park, not to mention the $724,000 bridge to nowhere that will soon become reality.

What you probably don’t know about are the shenanigans used by City Hall to influence the City Council vote.

Funding for the bridge, fountain, and “Great Lawn” improvements was approved on a 3-2 vote (Whitaker and Sebourn: No) at the May 16 City Council meeting.  A couple weeks earlier, I made a records request for documentation on Hillcrest Park.

Jennifer Fitzgerald’s appointee to the Parks and Recreation Commission, Gretchen Cox, made public comments in support of the project.  Having skimmed through the e-mails provided by City Hall the day before, I thought to myself, wait a minute, portions of her comments sounded awfully familiar.

As it turns out, my suspicions were correct.  A week prior, Parks & Recreation Director Hugo Curiel had one of his employees, Doug Pickard, e-mail Gretchen Cox a list of “talking points” to assist her in making attacks on Councilmembers Sebourn and Silva:

Portions of the e-mail were in fact used by Gretchen Cox during public comments.  Let’s go back and compare the e-mail to what she actually said.  This ought to be fun! (more…)

The Grand Opening of the Stairs

The grand opening of the “Pine Forest Stairs” connecting Lions Field to Hillcrest Park was this morning.  I didn’t count but I’m guessing 30 people in attendance, about a third of which were City staff or elected/appointed folks.

A short 10-minute ceremony marked the grand opening:

Those of you strapped for time should watch this excerpt featuring Jennifer Fitzgerald.  Listen very carefully as she avoids using the word “bridge” when referring to the Great Lawn.  She’s so excited!

No other councilmembers besides Chaffee and Fitzgerald were in attendance, though former councilwoman Jan Flory joined them.

The event was somewhat unusual in that a number of people who probably see me as a City Hall adversary took it upon themselves to strike up a conversation, which was nice for a change.  Doug Chaffee and his wife Paulette Marshall were very friendly, as was Gretchen Cox, Parks and Recreation Commissioner.  From the City staff, John Clements and Don Hoppe were nice as well.

After everyone took a trip up the stairs, can you guess which councilmember found a reason to be nasty to me?  This isn’t a difficult question.