Okay. What have we learned so far about Fullerton’s long and corrupt attempt to avoid addressing the problem of amplified outdoor music?
First we have learned that Fullerton’s “experts” in the Planning and Code Enforcement divisions have been serially uninterested in enforcing their own laws in an effort to appease and placate scofflaw bars in the financial sinkhole known as downtown Fullerton.
Second we have learned that you can’t make government bureaucrats do their jobs if they don’t want to do them.
Way back in 2009 City Hall knew it had a problem on its hands as the metastasizing and illegal clubs began sharing their good times with everybody else. A “consultant” called Bon Terra was engaged to to a noise study and the City Council, at the time, voted to maintain the existing code that prohibited outdoor music.
But saying something and doing something about it reflects a mammoth void in Fullerton, and the bureaucrats in City Hall don’t give up on an issue until one way or another, they get what they want.
And in 2012 they got a friend, Jennifer Fitzgerald, who was more than happy to run interference for people who had no qualms about violating the noise and land-use law.
And so, over the next seven years, the Noise Nuisance continued, most notably at The Slidebar, a club that was illegally operating without a CUP. And even as the nuisance continued, the City embarked on a campaign to eliminate any restrictions at all. Complaints were invariably batted away by Planning Directors Karen Haluza, Ted White, and Matt Foulkes who, along with our egregious City Attorney, Dick Jones kept citing studies and new plans, and whatever else they could use as a pretext for doing nothing.
Finally by 2019, it became apparent that the goal was to permit an acoustic free-for-all in downtown Fullerton.
In the past 10 years or so, Fullerton has had four different planning directors: Al Zelinka, Karen Haluza, Ted White, and most recently an individual named Matt Foulkes. Pop quiz: what else do these folks have in common?
Time’s up. Answer: none of them enforced the city’s noise ordinances, and each seemed to be dedicated to ignoring zoning and land use regulations in downtown Fullerton. We’ll get to the “why” of it in a later post. For now I want to point out the trajectory of this mess. As scofflaws like Jeremy Popoff’s odious Slidebar and the Florentine Mob’s various enterprises refused to comply with our laws, the Planning Directors noted above began an ongoing project to lower and lower the legal bar until even the lowest nematode could wriggle over it.
Now if we contemplate this downward spiral of our “experts” in the Planning Department and Code Enforcement we notice that it hit a virtual rock bottom in January 2019 when Matt Foulkes pretended that he didn’t know what a property owner was and approved the submission of an official document forged by Joe Florentine pretending that he, Florentine, was an “owner.”
Of course all of this malfeasance was amply documented here on the FFFF blog. And guess what? Nobody in City Hall cared; or to be more precise, nobody cares, still. See, in Fullerton incompetency and blatant corruption are so common on the part of our City Attorney, Dick Jones and the cadre of drunk, venal and just plain dumb City Managers and staff that our threshold for outrage is as low is almost worn away.
But not quite. Stay tuned for noise. And by noise I mean the noise generated by city staff to ignore, dilute, obfuscate and dodge the Noise Ordinances.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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.
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?
Word has seeped out from the once hermetically sealed walls of City Hall that we may not have Richard “Dick” Jones, Esq. to kick around much longer. It would seem, if the rumors are true, that Good Ol’ Dick has had enough of screwing the taxpayers of Fullerton with his pettifogging, self-serving legal advice and is “retiring” with all of his ill-gotten spoils.
Well, possibly not all his spoils, because he must believe his “I Can’t Believe Its A Law Firm” will have some residual value after Mudslide oozes off.
Now I don’t know about you, Friends, but a collection of lawyers that includes Kimberly Barlow and Gregory Roosevelt Palmer doesn’t seem like it could be worth very much to me; but Jones is supposedly pitching the continued services of his collection of miscreants, so he must plan on keeping his name on the letterhead and probably receiving revenue thereby.
Will our city councilcreatures keep this gang on retainer? After the abysmal performance of Jones in the pas it’s hard to imagine anybody wanting them around, at all. Of course this is the same gaggle that has kept Jones, et al., on the clock for over twenty years – and that’s a lot of bungling and cover-ups.
Friends, an environmental symbiosis exists in nature when two organisms interact in a way that is mutually beneficial. In the course of human organizational activity we see such symbioses frequently. In the nasty intersection of government and politics such relationships are depressingly common. And nowhere can we see this operation in better form than in the way Fullerton’s politics intersect the management of police business, a business that affects everybody.
Let me begin my essay with a recitation of police behavior in our town that ought to give any decent person reason to give a second thought to nonsense pitched by both the government and the media.
In all of his endeavors Hughes was serially assisted by the smarmy and arrogant Andrew Goodrich, former union goon and, not coincidentally, the otiose and corpulent spokeshole for department. Friends will recall that it was Goodrich who immediately promulgated lies about cops getting broken bones in the aftermath of the Thomas bludgeoning by his cohorts. Goodrich was caught by FFFF over the years selling so much garbage that he was actually nominated for a coveted Fringie® in 2011.
Some of FPD’s bad behavior has suggested a sexual pervy streak running through the department, and a predilection for looking the other way about it. Albert “Alby Al” Rincon, instead of being fired and prosecuted by McKinley for sexual battery, continued to roam Fullerton’s streets looking for victims – gals he no doubt figured would keep their mouths shut. They didn’t, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands and the City a reprimand from a federal judge. Naturally no charges were ever filed.
Recently we’ve been favored with the story of tubby ginger boy Jose Paez, whose “crime” according to tough guy DA Todd Spitzer, was the unauthorized photographing of his victims. Unfortunately for the girls and women he associated with as a school officer in the FJUHSD, what he was taking pictures of was their undergarments – while they were being worn.
A few months ago the story leaked out about an enterprising young FPD lad named Christopher Chiu, who seems to have found a persuasive way to talk a young woman out of her clothes on the top of the Lemon/Chapman parking structure so he could examine her breasts and nether parts in search of “evidence.” Before the courtly charm of playing doctor wore off, he suggested his availability for a dinner date. Yikes.
Former Sergeant Jeff Corbettwas actaully rung up for obstructing justice although seamy stories about sexual escapades while on duty have been circulating for a long time. But to be fair to poor Jeff, it was sending Wild Ride Joe Felz home after the hit-and-run of Sappy McTree that got him busted.
Apart from uncontrolled libido, the gallant gents of the FPD have often displayed their ethical sensibility in an orgy of mayhem against people who hadn’t done anything wrong, or by simply revealing how little they care for the basic concepts of justice. Maybe the cultural shift to full-on violence and callousness was the result of Pat McKinley’s well-known militarization of the FPD.
Jay Cicinelli is known across the globe as the goon who smashed in Kelly Thomas’s face with a Taser handle and admitted it on tape. This one-eyed jack was employed by McKinley as a favor to an old LAPD crony. Now this twice disqualified creep actually wants (or wants us to believe he does) his job back!
Our obese old pal Manuel Ramos had a long history of lazy and oafish behavior as an FPD cop, culminating in the actions that instigated Kelly Thomas’s death. Bully? Check. Overweight slob? Check. Natural born prick? Double Check. FPD material all the way.
Over the years FFFF has related stories from the citizenry about abusive and violent behavior of Fullerton’s cops, particularly those patrolling downtown open air booze court. But none of these stories can equal the brutality and the callous treatment of Veth Mam by one Kenton Hampton. See, Hampton’s official version of the story got real fuzzy after it became clear that his recollection of events strained even the credulity of an OC jury past the breaking point, especially when video evidence showed up in court. During a downtown scuffle involving the cops, Hampton arrived by car upon the scene and knocked the phone camera out of the hand of an innocent bystander, Mam, who was giving away about 100 lbs. to Officer Hampton. After throwing the hapless Mam around like a rag doll, Hampton tossed him in the Fullerton clink where he was charged with assaulting a cop, a story Hampton testified to under oath. Was he ever punished? Of course not. Under “Chief Danny” Big Bad Ham seems to have been promoted to a desk job.
And then there is the laundry list of incompetence or indifference. We first met Miguel “Sonny” Siliceo as he tagged one Emanuel Martinez who spent five months at Theo Lacy courtesy of a deliberate misidentification. Spoke-sphincter Andrew Goodrich comforted us with the words “we try to arrest the right guy.” Years later Siliceo, in a different matter, was convicted of filing a false police report, something very, very hard to accomplish.
And to round out our categories of misconduct, we must pause, I suppose, at least for a moment to reflect on a few of the various petty crimes and thievery perpetrated by our boys and girls in blue.Todd Major ripped off Explorer Scouts to feed his pill habit.April Baughman ripped off the property room of $50,000. Kelly Mejia tried to boost an i-Pad right under the watchful security cameras at the Miami airport. Hugo Garcia was apparently told his services were no longer required after being busted for purloining something or other (off duty, of course; on duty the man was a veritable saint). And then there was the tale of Officer Timothy Gibert, another MADD awardee who got popped out in the high desert defrauding home improvement stores. Just how many small-time thieves and pickpockets we have employed over the years will never be known for sure.
So, finally, let’s end this painful revelation with the not-so funny story about Josh Eddleman and Jerrie Harvey two innocent people jailed and prosecuted due to the bungling of newly minted “detective” Barry Coffman, best known for his enthusiastic handing out of tickets for “excessive horning.” Once againSpokesanus Goodrich informed the public that the FPD really, does try to arrest the right people, gosh darn it, a statement so insincere that maybe not even David Whiting would believe it.
Of course this quivering pyramid of gelatin was the President of the Fullerton Peace Officer’s Association for years and years, supporting political candidates who could be counted on to serve and protect his wayward union members while bestowing lavish pay and benefits.
And here is the nexus of casual corruption: without a compliant city council and their hand-picked city manager, this sad litany of crime and no punishment would be an awful lot shorter. The cop union, along with their “firefighter” brethren and sistren diligently help elect reliable stooges to the city council through vast campaign spending via their political action committees. And what a roll call of dunderheads, incompetents, buffoons, seniles, lackeys and assorted political grifters they have greased into office.
Don’t forget the lengthy corn-pone career of possibly third degree syphilitic Doc Hee Haw – Dick Jones – who once blurted to an aggrieved citizen at a council meeting “you won’t get anywhere bad-mouthing the police in this town.”
Sharon Quirk-Silva was marginally smart enough to dodge the Kelly Thomas fallout and the subsequent recall. But like almost all of Fullerton’s liberal establishment crowd, she blamed the murder on homelessness, not on bad cops. She ignored the cover-up, and did nothing about the Albert Rincon matter, despite proclaiming her outrage on the nightly news wherein we learned she has daughters.
Of course Doug was in need of assistance himself when his carpetbaggin’ wife, Paulette was busted on video stealing campaign signs on private property.
The cop union knows when it has a live one on the line, and never has that bee more true of Jan Flory, who not only trotted around the city council track in the 1990s, she did so again in 2012 with the help of a hundred thou’ of union scrilla. Maybe her vote on the [email protected] was fondly remembered, but more likely the support was for favors to come. Of course she delivered by approving pay raises and by paying out vast legal settlements against Fullerton police that avoided the embarrassment of ugly stuff getting out at trial. Everything gets hushed up and we pay for the silence. And of course, no, reform was not on the table.
No story of the symbiosis between cops and politicians in Fullerton is complete without mention of our lobbyist councilcreature Jennifer Fitzgerald, who has a career monetizing her job “representing” you and me. Jen’ has made it her specialty to cozy up to the cops, including pay raises, quiet settlements costing us millions, and even wasting $50K a year on the utterly moronic “Behind the Badge” propaganda embarrassment. Holier than holy, her best pal was “Chief Danny” with whom she may have conspired, in the early morning of November 9, 2016, to have the cops drive drunken, hit-and-run Joe Burt Felz home and then tuck him in with a warm glass of milk.
And most recently we see the completely dim and inarticulate Jesus Silva, installed in office courtesy of the police union. One wonders how this nincompoop manages to get his shoelaces tied without help, and yet we can be sure of one thing – he will slavishly follow the example of his better half, Sharon Quirk in support of the people who put him in office.
If someone takes the time to review the history of Fullerton over the past forty years, one thing becomes shockingly clear: when it comes to building things, maintaining things and planning for things, the City government just can’t do much of anything right. And yet over this long history, the City and the public seem to have the shortest of memories.
For the denizens of City Hall, the fact that the jalopy has no rear view mirror makes perfect sense. After all, if you’re pulling down well over a hundred Gs, with a trampoline retirement coming your way, why spoil things with strange notions like accountability and responsibility? It’s so much easier to pretend nothing bad has happened.
The people who live here on the other hand, have no such incentive; quite the reverse, in fact. So how come constant repetition of the disastrous lessons from the past are tolerated? Is it easier to just ignore the millions upon millions wasted in foolish vanity projects, make-work comedies, and deteriorating infrastructure? Maybe.
But I hope that by continuing the drumbeat started on this brave blog 11 years ago, sooner or later the populace will wake up to the ineptitude and dissimulation by its highly paid, and so far untouchable masters of disaster.
And so join me Friends as I take you on trip down memory lane, Fullerton style.
Today almost nobody remembers the comical City endeavor to transform Harbor Boulevard in the early 80s by removing on-street parking, adding medians, spike-laden, pod-dropping floss silk trees, and bizarre concrete peristyles along the sidewalks. Comical, did I say? It would have been funny except that it doomed the businesses along Harbor to slow entropy. The ridiculous peristyles were soon removed but the rest of the mess lasted for decades and many of the hideous trees and broken sidewalks are still there as a reminder that the City is perfectly willing to waste millions on hare-brained, concept-of-the-day tomfoolery that gives them something to do.
The Allen Hotel, was Fullerton’s first foray into “affordable” housing back in the late 80s. It was a slum, alright and thirty years after the City’s bungling acquisition, the site is just begging for more “redevelopment.” Will it get it?
The CSUF Stadium & Fundraising Fiasco of 1990 ought to give plenty of pause to those contemplating Big Projects with public money. The brainchild of slimy City Councilman and later slimy State Senator, Dick Ackerman, the idea was to build a permanent home for the CSUF football team. Only trouble was that the $15,000,000 stadium was completed the same year the plug was pulled on a dismal gridiron program. In typical fashion, the City invested in a fundraising plan in which a company was hired at a cost of several hundred thou to raise money, and didn’t. Oops!
The horror story “Knowlwood Corner” is a veritable textbook case of government bureaucratic misfeasance, from start to finish. The story started in the early 90s and dragged on for years and years; when the signature building was finally built, the missing second floor became a perfect symbol for this misadventure. From stupid economic micromanagement to horrible architecture, this one touched all the bases – and it took seven years to do so.
The Bank of Italy Building was another disaster from the early 90s, but one that actually gutted an historic building. Millions in public money were wasted to pay for something that never should have been undertaken in the first place.
The North Platform remodel of 1992-93 proved that no matter how bungled things were in Fullerton, it could always get worse. A landscape architect was hired to place as many impediments between passengers and trains as was humanly possible. Some of the citizens got wise, and half the crap was ripped out. Heads rolled in City Hall. Oh, wait, no they didn’t.
Few folks now remember the Fairway Toyota dealership expansion fiasco from the mid-90s that required threatening an old lady with eminent domain and then closing off Elm Avenue forever. The City’s investment disappeared like an early summer morning’s dew when the dealership took off for Anaheim a few years later. After years of housing a used car dealership, the City permitted the development of another massive cliff dwelling along Harbor Boulevard. The losses were never accounted for but at least the neighbors got a nice view and early shade.
Fullerton’s Corporate Yard expansion was a mid-nineties project that left the City gasping for air. Despite hiring an outside construction manager and paying him a couple hundred grand, the project dissolved into a litigation mess that only escaped public embarrassment because nobody on the City Council gave a damn. Settlement details vanished into the haze.
The so-called Poison Park on Truslow Avenue may set the standard for Fullerton incompetence, although admittedly, the competition is fierce. In the late 90s, the City had Redevelopment money to burn and just couldn’t wait to do so. So they bought a piece of industrial property and built a park that nobody outside City Hall wanted. Cost? $3,000,000. Of course the site attracted gang members and drug dealers as predicted. Worse still, the land was contaminated and the “park” fenced off. It’s been like that for almost 15 years. And Counting.
No story of Fullerton calamities would be complete without once again sharing the tale of the Florentine Sidewalk Hijacking, in which a permit for “outside dining” was transformed one day by the Florentine Mob into a permanent building blocking half a public sidewalk. The Big City Planner, Paul Dudley, said everything was peachy. He was lying, of course, but did anybody really care?
Some people might conclude that the majority of Fullerton’s disasters can be laid at the feet of the Redevelopment Agency (really just the City Council) and well-pensioned, inept managers like Terry Galvin and Gary Chaplusky. When they weren’t slapping brick veneer on anything that didn’t move, they were screwing everything else up, too. But when we regard the history of Laguna Lake we enter into the realm of Fullerton’s Parks and Engineering mamalukes. After spending a small fortune on renovating the lake, the thing leaked like a sieve. Hundreds of millions of premium MWD gallons were pumped into the thing to keep it full. The public and council were left in the dark, even as citizens were told to conserve water in their homes. Did anyone in charge give a damn? Did anyone ask how much money and water were squandered over the years? Of course not. This is Fullerton. We could ask Engineering Director Don Hoppe for details, except that he is now comfortably retired and pulling down a massive pension.
Our professional planners, have been knee deep in Fullerton’s morass. Over-development (see example, above) has been fostered and nowhere was this better seen than in the Core and Corridors Specific Plan. This idiotic plan wasted a million bucks of State money without a backward glance after the whole thing was finally dumped on the QT – too stupid even for Fullerton. Did anybody ask for their money back? Nope. And yet a link to a blank web page titled Core and Corridors still exists! Hope springs eternal.
The 2000s proved that nobody in City Hall or out, was learning anything, even after the expensive failures of the 90s. The “West Harbor Improvement” project in 2009, was an endeavor so unnecessary that it could only be proposed in Fullerton, where government “place making” has never succeeded. The alley is a barf zone behind a bunch of bars that only needs hosing down every Sunday morning.
This litany of disasters, follies and debacles brings us to the Pinewood Stairs at Hillcrest Park which put on display the incompetence of the designer, the city staff, the construction manager, and a contractor who couldn’t build a sand box to code. Wasting $1.6 million is bad enough; permitting the code violations and construction deficiencies go unfixed is even worse. Barely two years old, the ramshackle structure moves more than the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
And over all these years Fullerton’s “leaders have neglected our aging infrastructure and permitted zone changes allowing for massive new development that has lined the pockets of developers and political campaign coffers, and left the rest of us with even more traffic and more burden on our roads and pipes.
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.