Fullerton’s Nuisance Noise and The Ongoing Saga of Incompetence and Corruption. Part 1

Flory in search of the proverbial yard arm.

FFFF has published lots of posts about the way in which our highly paid “experts” in City Hall have made it their business to run interference for the numerous scofflaw bar and “club” owners downtown when it comes to ignoring annoyances like Conditions of Approval and the municipal code’s Noise Ordinance.

In City Hall, doing the right thing just wasn’t gonna happen…

Both topics have been addressed in the same way: if they can, they simply ignore the situation. The blind eye approach has worked most of time. When it hasn’t, Step 2 is invoked. Step 2 is to diligently pursue making the laws laxer, so lax in fact, that the lawbreaking is no longer lawbreaking. This bureaucratic gambit is really nice because the Planning Department Staff can always claim that something is in the works that will address the situation. Of course that’s a lie. What’s really happening is that the department is trying really hard to come up with a legal absolution so low even the lowest douchebag can slither over it.

You can take the douche out of the bag…

At every step of the way, the scofflaws – Jeremy Popoff of Slidebar fame and the Florentine Mob spring most readily to mind – lubricate the gears of Fullerton’s small town political machine who have seemed ever-ready to support the law breaking.

While we here at FFFF have extensively covered the abuse of CUPs and other land use issues, the history of the ongoing issue of nuisance noise traces a perfect trajectory of incompetence or casual corruption, or most likely, of both.

The story spans three city managers, four planning directors and a whole slew of elected ciphers who would rather defend purveyors of nuisance over the right of their constituents to quiet enjoyment of their property.

 

Whitaker Re-elected to OC Water Board

This is water…

 

Last night the City Council voted to appoint Bruce Whitaker To the OC Water District Board of Directors. The term of the previous incumbent, Ahmad Zahra had expired at the end of 2020.

The vote was 3-1-1, with Whitaker, Jung and Dunlap voting for Whitaker; Zahra nominated and voted for himself; Jesus Silva decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and abstained.

Zahra-Busted
Why is this man smiling?

It was not for lack of trying to keep this paying gig that Zahra relinquished his job. No, Indeed, for a line of scripted commenters tried valiantly to praise Zahra to the Heavens, why, Good God! The man practically invented water!

Too much scotch, not enough water…

The funniest commenter was none other than Fullerton’s Mistress of Disaster, Jan Flory, who joined in to share in the hosannas for Zahra. She read her script okay, but it included her statement that Zahra had actually authored articles about water,,,for the Fullerton Observer.

Whitaker was clearly the better choice. The water board has jurisdiction over the aquafer on which we sit. The district has massive financial reserves paid by us in ad valorem taxes. And in the past decade the OCWD has been at the center of a massive rip-off called Poseidon, a desalinization scam meant to provide more water to OC county for the purposes of south county development.

Unlike Zahra, Whitaker will not posture on the board for publicity and to be able to pretend some imagined expertise. He won’t use the agency to promote his own agenda and his own political prospects. And Whitaker is not currently charged with crimes by his own police department; nor is he under threat of recall by his district constituents.

 

 

The Cost of The Florentine Sidewalk Scam

Gone, but not quite forgotten…

Of course everybody is now familiar with how, in 2003, the Florentine Mob successfully put a permanent building on an area that only had an “outside dining” encroachment agreement. The details of the case reveal an incompetence and misfeasance on the part of city staff that is truly mind-numbing, the principle party being F. Paul Dudley, Planning Director, who “approved” the illegal permanent structure as it was being built in June, 2003. He also  seems to have personally approved a loan to the Florentine crew, and rental terms on the space that weren’t approved by the City Council.

dick-jones
Staying awake long enough to break the law…

Of course it wouldn’t be Fullerton unless our legal-eagle Dick Jones also played a part in the fiasco, and in the inevitable cover-up. He actually put his signature on a completely different agreement in August, 2003 – two months after Dudley did his sleazy back-room deal. How’s that for staggering incompetence?

The gun was smoking badly…

Note that “for some reason” the agreement was not formally executed until August. For some reason? Jesus H., Jones, did you even bother to ask why you signed something that was obsolete, or why in Hell you were signing it?

So the embarrassing enclosure was allowed to continue in July, 2003 even though the furor continued for months, and the deal was finally buried in 2004 whereby the parties involved, Shawn Nelson, Don Bankhead, Dick Jones, Mike Clesceri and Leland Wilson surely hoped it was forever interred.

Well, now it’s 2020. The legal party responsible to remove and restore the encroachment area has fled the scene, and the embarrassment of the Florentine addition that squats on public property, remains.

The owner of the rest of the building, Mr. Mario Marivic is apparently embroiled in a legal fight with the FloMob, and good luck to him. But good luck to us, too. Because we, the citizens of Fullerton, have an unowned room addition on our right-of-way, and the people on the hook for its possible removal are gone. Mr. Marovic is under no obligation to remove the structure, and he is not even under any obligation to pay the measly 25 cents per foot that the egregious F. Paul Dudley “negotiated” with the Florentines. The City’s options are limited: it can terminate the encroachment and pay to remove the building addition itself, or it can negotiate a new lease agreement with Marovic, and the sidewalk stays as is. Either way, the public loses.

So this Ghost of Incompetence Past continues to haunt us almost 20 years after the con was consummated. Mr. Dudley has been six-figure pensioned, and the inept councilmen who were indifferent to the notion of government accountability are dead or moved on. But Attorney Dick Jones is still around, profiting off of the gullibility, incompetence and militant ignorance of our “leaders.”

Florentine Forgery/Fraud Case To Go to DA?

The family goes way back…

By now the Friends are well-aware of the attempt by Joe Florentine, the scofflaw proprietor of a restaurant and bar in downtown Fullerton, to fraudulently alter and submit official documents in pursuit of a Conditional Use Permit.

He even admitted it.

Reliable sources have indicated that a criminal investigation has been opened by the Fullerton Police Department based on a complaint filed by the property owner, Mario Marovic, and passed along to the District Attorney’s office.

Now the felonious miscreance of a Fullerton Florentine family member is about as newsworthy as a mailman bitten by a dog – no surprise there. Rather, the key facts of interest in this case are that Mr. Florentine had lots of help inside City Hall, including the Planning Director, the City Manager, and of course our top-notch City Attorney, Dick Jones, who finally had to recuse himself from dispensing laughable advice due to a conflict of interest.

Domer-Decorations
Hitching to Blythe…

Apparently, City Manager Ken Domer knew exactly what was happening and was determined to proceed with the fraud anyway.

It’s hard not to believe that some fall out from this conspiracy will land in the proximity of new Councilmembers Fred Jung and Nick Dunlap, who will certainly be averse to the radioactivity. The City Manager is already on the thinnest of ice after blowing $130,000 on a marginally legal PR campaign to promote Measure S, and then unsuccessfully trying to spend another 90 grand just before Christmas to hire an expert to try to fix the budget shortfall.  City Managers are protected by contract but there is no contractual protection for a person who has violated the law. Will we soon be hiring a management search firm?

dick-jones
Staying awake long enough to break the law…

As always, Jones and Meyer are likewise compromised by their corrupt and incompetent and self-serving practices. But Dick Jones, like Talleyrand, always seems to be able to keep his head on his shoulders despite all the revolutions.

Leaving Fullerton even worse off than she found it…

 

And what was the role of Mayor-for-hire Jennifer Fitzgerald, who was the evident and malignant influence around so much of the Fullerton’s recent mismanagement and the cover-ups that inevitably followed? It’s difficult to believe that she wasn’t pushing this through for the benefit of her pals, the Florentines.

Finally, if in fact, City leaders are found culpable in this conspiracy to commit fraud, what is the legal exposure to the taxpayers of Fullerton for both the legal costs incurred by the property owner in the case, and for other damages he may have suffered?

As FFFF learns more about the status of the case we will certainly share it. City Hall probably won’t.

 

The Florentine Mob Pulls Out

Sit down and grab some sidewalk, brother…

It’s taken well over thirty years, but apparently the Family of Tony Florentine is calling quits in downtown Fullerton. Normally, such an occasion would be cause for gratitude, reflection, fond memories, etc., etc., ect.

But not in this case.

The reason nobody is indulging in kind reminiscence is simple. Over the years the family has been in on, and accused of some very shady stuff. Forget about shitty food and consider the following fun events, documented right here on the pages of FFFF, even if ignored by City staff, the Fullerton Police Department and the Fullerton Fire Department.

  1. Joe Florentine accused by former employee of torching his own business – The Melody Inn – back in the late 1980s.
  2. Tony Florentine magically converts an outside dining permit into a permanent structure built across a public sidewalk in the early 2000s.
  3. Tony’s bright kid, Joe, illegally converts the family restaurant into an illegal night club in the mid 2000s.
  4. In 2012 Papa Tony files phoney FPPC complaint against Tony Bushala in an effort to help his Gang of Three avoid recall. Complaint denied.
  5. After gaining a CUP to operate as a club, Joe Florentine never installs the fire sprinkler system required of the CUP.
  6. Seeking approval of yet another CUP in 2019-2020 even though the terms of the previous CUP had never been met,  Joe Florentine forged and had notarized an application that by-passed the building owner, thus placing the City in legal jeopardy.
  7. Last spring the Florentines decided they were entitled to remove on-street parking in order to help themselves.

It’s hard to say what other misdeeds and actual crimes have been committed by the Florentines, over the years. Stories abound. But what we know gives us plenty of reason not to consider their departure with any sort of remorse.

And the very continuation of the bad behavior gives us plenty of reason to ruminate on the political climate that permitted the ongoing flagrance and fraud. Decision makers in City Hall have been running interference for, enabling, and diligently looking the other way through this little reign of terror. Does anybody care? The old City Councils never did. Will the new one?

Zahra Cries Victim After Being Held to His Own Standard

Last night Ahmad Zahra didn’t get what he wanted and today he’s crying on Facebook about it and I couldn’t be laughing harder at that petulant crybully.

First – this is Ahmad Zahra, council member from District 5, on Facebook bemoaning that policy wasn’t followed in snubbing him from the Mayor Pro-Tem seat last night:

Zahra Crying about Pro-Tem
The rules only matter when they benefit him…

Ceremonial selection of Mayor and Pro-Tem you say?

Ok. Let’s do this then. That ceremonial selection is actually outlined in the Fullerton Policy and Procedures Manual as Policy #226. In 2019 is was known as Administrative Policy #37.

It states that Pro-Tem becomes the next Mayor and the Pro-Tem is selected based on who has been on council the longest without having been Mayor.

In 2019 that means that Bruce Whitaker should have been chosen as this year’s Mayor Pro-Tem. Why didn’t that happen? Why was Jan Flory our Mayor Pro-Tem in 2020?

Oh. That’s right. Because Ahmad Zahra decided to vote for a “departure from city policy on the ceremonial selection of Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem”. Here’s the minutes from the meeting in question:

Zahra Votes for Flory as Pro-Tem
interestingly Silva voted against this game last year

And just because it needs to be hammered home lest Zahra try to weasel out of the official record, here’s the video of Zahra departing from policy to vote for Jan Flory over Whitaker just last year.

Looks like Zahra wants to eat his cake and have it too.

There needs to be a little more context here. We all knew Bruce was going to be Mayor this coming year if he won reelection. Fitzgerald was just Mayor, Silva right before her. Jan Flory promised she wasn’t running for another term on council. The ONLY reason why Bruce wasn’t Pro-Tem this year is because last year’s council majority hates Bruce for having the one thing they cannot stand – principles.

See above principle of consistency being lacking from Zahra.

Instead of following the gentleman’s agreement last year, they shanked Bruce for the sole reason of denying him the ability to put “Re-Elect Mayor Pro-Tem” on his campaign signs in the hopes of knocking him off of council. Thankfully it didn’t matter and he still won reelection.

This is a tactical game that plays out every few years because the Mayor and Pro-Tem tags can swing a few votes here and there.

For Zahra to pretend that he was slighted is laughable because he himself plays in these reindeer games. He just doesn’t like chickens coming home to roost and things not going his way.

This is a perfect example of everybody loving Majority Rule until the majority doesn’t give them what they want.

Let me remind you that in 2019 the council ALSO booted Whitaker off of the Water Board and gave it to newly minted council member Zahra – illegally and also out of spite. There was no reason to boot Whitaker mid-term but politics is petty and water board is a financially lucrative gig.

This time around Zahra wanted to be Mayor Pro-Tem because it positions him for Mayor in 2022 when he’s up for re-election. Provided the ladies from his district shouting to recall him don’t pull off their gambit first of course. There would have been a no-brainer case to vote for him IF he had upheld the agreement last year. He refused. Welcome to turnabout being fair play.

When it came time for the vote last night, Silva nominated Zahra and then Jung nominated Dunlap.

What happened next is both hilarious and sad and yet another example of why Zahra does’t deserve to be Mayor. The second Jung voted for Dunlap, Zahra knew he didn’t have the majority vote on council as there was no way Whitaker would vote for him after the way Zahra has treated him and Dunlap had already voted for himself as he wasn’t going to vote against himself to support Zahra. You can watch the video as Zahra just stares at Jung in disbelief and then abstains from the vote. Sadly right after the vote the video cuts to Whitaker talking so I can’t show you Zahra slamming his stuff down and storming out of the room but you can see him gone when the camera cuts back to the full dais with a missing Zahra.

Ignore Zahra’s preening as he is simply playing the victim hoping that nobody remembers that he once wielded & eagerly used the exact same knife to “skip” somebody in the vote for the ceremonial position of Mayor Pro-Tem.

Things are not going to be easy, financially or otherwise, for our little Hamlet of Malcontents in the coming years. Last night and today’s antics from Zahra and his fellow travelers should prepare us for what lies ahead as they blame everybody but themselves for what plays out.

Rumblings In Sunny Hills

Back on August 18th, out esteemed City Council began the process of declaring a strip of property along Bastanchury Road to be “surplus.”

The vote was 4-1 with Bruce Whitaker in opposition.

Down on the farm…

The obvious purpose of this strategy is to to sell the property to an affordable housing developer so that the politicians can feel good about themselves and maybe raise some fundraising dough. For Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald this most likely means a lobbying opportunity after December when her presence on the council will mercifully come to an end. Why? Because developer selection and rezoning can be budged along by Pringle and Associates on whose street corner Fitzgerald plies her trade.

But not everybody is happy and there is an election in a month.

The natives are restless…

The locals on the hills behind the proposed development naturally object, as do environmentally-minded people who want the site preserved as opens space. The locals have even come up with a website and are advertising their displeasure with the City Council.

Fred in nature…

And naturally this has become a sudden election year issue for the District 1 council seat. Fred Jung has already made his position known that he prefers the open space option. On the other hand, his opponent, Andrew Cho, was hand-picked by Fitzgerald to have a reliable vote on the council. But not only is Fitzgerald gone this fall, but so is her pal Jan Flory which means that after the election there could be three potential votes to save this site as open space.

The Council passed this item with the usual “this is only the first step in the process” bullshit that begins the process of cloaking another hot mess in the mantle of inevitability. For the folk of District 1, however, the story may take a different turn than the City house-acrats and politicians are hoping for.

 

Ballot Argument Against The New Sales Tax

Leaving Fullerton City hall a lot worse off than she found it…

Pulled from the City of Fullerton’s website, here is the official ballot statement of opposition to the new sales tax proposed by our Mayor-for-hire. Jennifer Fitzgerald. If you think about it the tax proposal is a monumental indictment of the tenure of Fitzgerald and her yes vote, Jan Flory, on the city council. Employee pay raise after pay raise, unbalanced budget after unbalanced budget.

VOTE NO!
Ask yourself: Does the City of Fullerton need even more money from me? If this tax
passes, every time you make a purchase, you will pay 9% sales tax in Fullerton, the
second highest sales tax in Orange County.
The ballot measure title is deceitful. This massive tax increase is not dedicated to fix
Fullerton streets, which are rated the worst in Orange County by OCTA. Rather, the
money would go into the General Fund and could be used for anything.
This 1.25% sales tax increase would be permanent. It is general, not specific, meaning
the City Council could spend this money on salaries and pension benefits for City
Administrators and other City employees.
Over the past decade, Fullerton’s failed leadership spent nearly all revenue increases on
salaries and pension benefits:
Since 2011, sales tax revenue grew by 51%, property tax revenues increased 52%.
Between 2015-16, Council majority approved $19.5 million in pay increases.
Since 2011, the Council raised its two largest department budgets 41% and 55%.
In 2019 alone, according to Transparent California: 146 City of Fullerton employees
received over $200,000 in total compensation, while 51 employees received over
249,000 in total compensation. Fullerton pension recipients collected over $43 million.
The City has already increased water rates by a whopping 29% since June 2019, and is
scheduled to increase rates again by another 11% next July 1st.
The facts are: the City had plenty of money to repair our roads many years ago had it
adopted sensible reforms and reasonable, balanced budgets. Fullerton should already
have smooth streets and water pipes that do not routinely burst.
Vote NO on higher sales taxes!

If You Weren’t So Dumb You’d Know The Right Thing To Do

Accountability? It was never on the agenda.

And so education is the key. To that end our esteemed City Council voted 4-1 last week to pay some sort of “consultant” $129,000 between now and the November election to educate us all about why we need to vote for a new 16% increase in city sales taxes.

That’s right. A few minutes earlier, in the wee small hours, the council voted 4-1 to put a sales tax increase on the ballot. Then they added their little Maraschino cherry right on the top.

The government is not allowed to promote a ballot issue. Of course this prohibition never stopped agencies and school districts in the past. In fact they do it all the time. Wasting $129,000 gives them cover, they believe to promote their shake down. Well, we already know the “educational” pitch:

Lookit all the goodies we will get! Of course we should be getting all this stuff anyhow, if our city government were capable and honest instead of feeble, self-defensive, and in too many instance just corrupt. For years as our reserves were eroded every year Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jan Flory and their feel-good choir insisted that the budgets were balanced, projects were well-run, and infrastructure was prioritized. We all knew those were lies and now that we are scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel it’s obvious to even the most oblivious observer.

For years Fitzgerald and company kept pouring money into the “public safety” sack, a move that endeared them to their union supporters but that jacked up payroll and pension costs while delivering zero increase in public safety. Our famous police department continued to nurture illegal behavior in its ranks and the City did its utmost to cover it all up.

Well these worthies have a tough row to hoe given the mood of the public and the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic. They’d better have a back-up plan because there’s little chance the electorate is going to want to protect the business-as-usual gang in City Hall. The completely hollow and cynical promise of oversight and audits isn’t going to persuade anybody.

 

Zahra and Silva Think A Pot Shop Next to Your House Is Okay

Last night’s City Council hearing on moving ahead with a marijuana ordinance produced the usual incoherent blather from our distinguished electeds, none of whom seemed to know what they were talking about, and two, in particular, who seemed to have been coached by representatives of the legal pot lobby. Of course we learned that the previous outreach didn’t reach anybody not looking to make a buck in the weed biz.

Somehow in its latest incarnation, staff’s proposed framework for allowing these uses, particularly dispensaries. reduced the “buffer zone” at schools and parks from 1000 feet to only 600, and eliminated the buffer for residential zones altogether. Why? Pretty obviously to increase the opportunities for locating dispensaries.

Councilmembers Zahra and Silva, who gave every appearance of repeating “consultant” talking points expressed concern that workers in these places be unionized and that to proceeds go to kiddie social programs, but they were more interested in increasing parcels available for development than they were about the impacts on residential neighbors. The bumbling Silva in particular made a big deal about having most permissible zoning in order that the burden of hosting these facilities would be shared by rich folks up in the hills, an idiotic pretext since a majority of the council spent a good deal of time extolling the virtues and minimal impacts of licensed shops.

Councilmembers Whitaker, Flory and Fitzgerald indicated their desire for a 1000 foot buffer, and the inclusion of residential use as a “sensitive receptor” requiring a buffer. So good for them. However, Fitzgerald and Whitaker both voted against going forward with more “outreach” and a future ordinance anyhow, meaning that either Zahra, Silva or Flory somebody is going to have to change their support for a residental buffer, ultimately, in a final ordinance. I leave it to the Friends to guess who that might be. On the other hand it’s hard to see how this can make it back to the Council before the election and both Flory and Fitzgerald will be gone, meaning that we may get lucky in Districts 1 and 2 and get a level-headed council majority who can make a decision that isn’t bogged down by fake concern, verbal gas, and union stoogery.