An Empty Shell of a Man

Last week California was showered with editorials criticizing state Democrats for their underhanded retroactive gimping of the recall process to protect state senator Josh Newman.

It’s lonely at the top. Also at the bottom.

Here are a few of them:

The Democrats’ cynical move to protect one of their own – Los Angeles Times

Democrats push a phony election ‘fix’ – San Francisco Chronicle

Reject legislation to stymie recall elections – Los Angeles Daily News

Democrats Embrace Banana-Republic Tactics – American Spectator

Democrats playing dirty to save Newman from recall – OC Register

In at least one interview Newman himself has supported the effort to delay his own recall, although he avoided directly voting for it. Newman’s abutment of this electoral abuse of power illustrates his rapid degeneration from virginal statesman to shrugging beneficiary of political treachery. If any of the public’s trust in Newman remained after his vote for the regressive gas tax, it’s all but gone now.

On the bright side, recall organizers have vowed to mount constitutional challenges that will attempt to restore California voters’ right to recall government officials.

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.

Unhinged

Last weekend OC Democratic Party official Jeff LeTourneau approached a Newman recall table at the Fullerton Walmart and began shouting profanities. “Which one of you assholes is the gay?” he screams, along with “You are a fucking disgrace to any gay person I know, you piece of shit.”

Video was captured by one of the recall signature gatherers and has just been posted to Fox News.

State Senator Josh Newman and the rest of the CA Democratic party are apparently not returning any calls regarding the incident.

Coming Up For Air

In FFFF’s early days, this blog noted how the Fullerton Observer and its “editor” Sharon Kennedy would bend over backwards to avoid printing anything that might embarrass City officialdom. In the years after that blog post, the Observer remained true to form. It continually went to bat for the bureaucrats in increasingly shameful ways, even when it violated the tenets of the Yellowing Observer’s own professed liberalism. The culmination, perhaps, was the Observer’s series of misdirections and avoidances in the wake of the Kelly Thomas murder in 2011.

It’s dark in here.

But wait. One of our Friends just noticed that the front page of the latest Observer includes an unexpected headline. The article seems to acknowledge the recent claims of corruption in city hall as asserted by the OC DA investigator Abraham Santos.

The piece discusses the facts of the claims against Dan Hughes and Joe Felz without the insertion of Kennedy’s usual dismissive editorial remarks. How could this happen? Is Kennedy turning over a new leaf?

No. This is the work of the Observer’s new co-editor, Jesse La Tour. How he managed to slip this honest piece of work past Kennedy, we may never know.

Kangaroo Court Transcript Reveals Felzian Development Scheme

Remember that quasi-judicial nuisance hearing against the Grand Inn back in April? The one where former police chief Danny Hughes went under oath and accidentally told us that Joe Felz was drunk when he crashed his car and got a ride home from the Fullerton PD?

After some wrangling down at city hall, FFFF finally got its hands on the entire hearing transcript, which you can view here.

It got ugly real fast.

The transcript reveals that former city manager Joe Felz did meet with developer Urban West to discuss purchasing, assembling and rezoning the four lots on Euclid and Orangethorpe to build high-density apartments, which included a large lot owned by Renick Cadillac. Unfortunately for Felz and Co., one of the lots was owned by an unwilling participant, the Grand Inn.

Coincidentally (or not), these development meetings occurred just prior to a long, expensive effort by the Fullerton Police to document the Grand Inn as a public nuisance in order to shut it down. Was the sudden crackdown on the Grand Inn related to the Felz/Renick/Urban West development deal? Of course Felz denied the accusation under oath, much like he denies being drunk when he crashed into a poor sapling on Highland. But to the reasonable observer, it stinks like hell. In Fullerton, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Your honor, I do not recall…

If you still haven’t connected the dots yet, consider the PD’s year-long effort to attribute nearby crimes to the Grand Inn in the context of the police department’s complete disregard for the large volume of calls stemming from the actual public nuisance that is the Slidebar.

In true Fullerton fashion, Mr. Felz could not get through the hearing without invoking his right to not incriminate himself.

Back to the development scheme – which would not be complete without the insertion of our favorite lobbyist/councilperson. In the testimony we learn that Jennifer Fitzgerald had met with Renick and Felz at least once in the early stages of this fiasco. We’ll never know the depth of her involvement with the developer, or whether she was wearing her lobbyist hat or her elected official hat at the time. But we can assume she was aware of the value of her vote, should a lucrative zone change come before the council in the near future.

It was just a meeting.

Either way, Renick and Urban West seem to have given up on the deal, since Renick is now rebuilding its showrooms. But the city is stuck pursuing it’s selective enforcement action against the Grand Inn (or are they?). More taxpayer money goes down the drain while nothing is accomplished.

Prioritizing Park Dwelling Fees

Taken 27 April. Same Status to Date.

At the last City Council meeting it was asked by the public and re-asked by Council member Sebourn why Park Dwelling Fees cannot be utilized for maintenance in existing parks. At approximately the 3:41:00 mark in said meeting Parks Director Curiel stated it was owing to an ordinance and Interim City Manager Roeder specified that it was State Law which is where the conversation ended.

I would like to set the record straight from my layman’s perspective.

First and foremost let us explain Park Dwelling Fees. They are fees that developers have to pay the city in order to build new places for people to live within the city. $X/Room. That money is then used for Bridges to Nowhere and temporary stairs that cannot be repaired. What it is not used for is maintenance on our existing parks.

This is especially problematic as salaries and benefits eat up ever more of our general fund and we find ourselves with unsafe parks and deferred maintenance. We put plywood up over damage (nearly 6-weeks later and counting), or worse, while our $6-figure employees tell us we don’t have the budget to keep our kids safe. It’s infuriating. (more…)

Maintenance of our City’s Parks is a Bridge Too Far

Parks and Recreation has been spending a considerable amount of energy lately, between their big PR push to justify their last costly mistake (Hillcrest Park’s poorly constructed and unneeded stairs) and obtaining approval for the next one (Hillcrest Park’s unneeded bridge across the creek).

Do you know what Parks & Recreation have been paying less attention to? Their parks.

Residents have been complaining for several months about the condition of Rolling Hills Park’s playground and equipment. The issues run from routine maintenance like unpainted benches to hazards like this:

And this:

Hey, kids! This is what our City Manager’s car looked like after he totaled it!

Phone calls and letters to Parks & Recreation were ignored for months until residents went over Hugo Curiel’s head and appealed to the Commissioners directly, at which time they finally saw results.

Well, sort of. The benches have been repainted, but that rickety play truck is unchanged. Meanwhile, the broken spinner was simply been removed, along with an unsafe climber that had split in two. Before removing the climber outright, however, this was Parks & Recreation’s solution:

Which worked out about as well as anyone who’s ever had a five year old could have told them it would.

This right here is the hidden cost of our wasteful policies at  City Hall: we get stairs and bridges we didn’t ask for or want, but we do not get well maintained parks or working playground equipment (aka recreation) for our children that we expect. Our government in a nutshell.

Fullerton’s Leaderless Ghost Ship

It’s been six months since Police Chief Danny Hughes left Fullerton to go work for the mouse. Six months since the alleged cover-up that didn’t save Joe Felz from early retirement.

In that six months we had an interim Police Chief in David Hinig and an interim City Manager in Allen Roeder. Well, Hinig has maxed out how much he can be paid by CalPERS so he’s jumped ship and based on timing alone we can calculate that Mr. Roeder will be on his way out sometime in mid-July.

That will once again leave Fullerton without an official City Manager & without a Police Chief to add to our lacking Community Development Director, Museum Director and on and on and on.

It’s almost as if we can’t get great candidates in spite of having no money, a divided city council, a police department knee-deep in a cover-up scandal and on and on and on.

Why wouldn’t new people want to come on board to answer to a council that would rather build bridges to nowhere instead of maintaining what we already have in place? Why wouldn’t somebody new want to grab the tiller of the S.S. Fullerton while it’s sinking? They’ll have the full support of the council majority providing polishing the brass is the only priority on this particular Titanic.

DA Investigator Blows Whistle on Felz DUI Coverup

Add Another Item for the DOJ and State Attorneys to Investigate

The Joe Felz DUI case just took another wide turn and this time not over a tree. New allegations have arisen within the Orange County District Attorney’s Office:

One of the allegations, listed only by [investigator Abraham] Santos, involves an election night car crash by Fullerton’s then City Manager Joe Felz on Nov. 9, 2016. A Fullerton police officer, who responded to the scene, notified the city’s then Police Chief Dan Hughes, who contacted a police sergeant and allegedly told him to drive Felz home instead of arresting him.

Santos’ investigation later concluded that Hughes was calling in a favor allegedly owed by a sergeant. That sergeant, according to Santos’ claim, had once been caught having sex in a police car but was never disciplined.

“Chief Hughes covered up the misconduct by his sergeant and, when he needed him in the Joe Felz DUI/attempted hit-and-run case, (the sergeant) repaid the favor to Chief Hughes,” said the claim.

Santos’ subsequent investigation of the incident concluded that Hughes “criminally obstructed justice.” But the county never filed a charge against Hughes. Santos, in his claim, said Assistant District Attorney Ibrahim Baytieh told him, “I am friends with Chief Hughes and we are only going to be investigating the DUI and nothing else.”

Let us repeat part of that for emphasis.

“Santos’ subsequent investigation of the incident concluded that Hughes “criminally obstructed justice.””

This isn’t your run of the mill water-cooler talk either as it was disclosed in an official complaint with the OCDA’s office. Pertinent Screenshots as follows:

DA Complaint abt Felz Case

DA Complaint abt Felz Case2

This seems to be par for the course for the OCDA being that Supervisor Todd Spitzer has asked the US Department of Justice to take over their operations owing to an ongoing Jail Snitch scandal amogst other trying issues. Things have gotten pretty bad at the OCDA. So much so that the U.S. Dept. of Justice, the California Attorney General & the Orange County Grand Jury are all separately investigating the OCDA for “systemic” cheating in the jail snitch program. While speculative it wouldn’t be surprising for this Felz DUI Cover-up case to be sucked into the investigations.

We in Fullerton were told time and again that Hughes reformed the department. We were told that he was the man we needed for the job. If these allegations are true it means that not only did he cover-up previous misconduct regarding officer Corbett but he then used that previous cover-up to bury another more egregious case. One cannot have a reformed department if the man in charge is not only participating in coverups but using them as leverage for later ones.

If the rot at FPD started with the head down did it permeate other parts of our city as well? If an Assistant District Attorney refused to look into Hughes owing to a personal friendship did others likewise turn a blind eye to corruption and criminal wrongdoings? Considering how often our own Jennifer Fitzgerald proclaimed her friendship to both Hughes and Felz one must wonder how much misconduct she was aware of and if she was aware did she help cover anything up while she’s been on council?

This further begs the question of how Disney feels about having a potential felon in Fantasyland?

Disney Danny.

A Day in the Life of an Assistant to the City Manager/Economic Development Manager

For a while now we’ve been trying to figure out how Nichole Bernard wrangled herself the title of Assistant to the City Manager/Economic Development Manager under the leadership of the departed Joe Felz. Even more perplexing is that nobody can figure out what she actually does all day, or what value she provides to the taxpayers of Fullerton.

Well, in an effort to shed some light on the subject, we recently got a hold of Nicole Bernard’s Outlook calendar. The documents have been dutifully provided to you below.

The one on the right

Nicole Bernard Calendar 2015 – Nicole Bernard Calendar 2016

According to these reports, Ms. Bernard calendared at least 80 mid-day working hours last year for the Fullerton College Foundation – not her employer – the City of Fullerton. That’s the equivalent of two working weeks. Mrs. Bernard is apparently the board president of the FCF.

Former City Manager, Joe Felz, Bernard’s patron, obviously let her do whatever she wanted, including using her office to host meetings for non-city business.

Step into my office, Chuck

Of course running a private non-profit is not part of Ms. Bernard’s day job, but she seems to have confused the two. It’s also notable that she took home $174,102.16 in pay and benefits last year from the City of Fullerton. How much of that grandiose salary was wasted on unofficial business, we will never know.  But we do know that Ms. Bernard spends a substantial amount of her work time doing whatever the hell she wants, and that’s not OK.

Readers, please feel free to peruse the calendars and note anything else of interest.