Gretchen Cox and Fullerton First

Quadrangle of Casual Corruption and Fullerton First brain trust. Gretch’ is the one in the middle. The rest you already know.

Apparently Gretchen Cox, reactionary pal of J. Flory and J. Fitzgerald has become weary of “malcontents” wasting everybody’s time at City Council meetings. She seems to think all this attention to city employee malfeasance, misfeasance and dumbassfeasance reflects poorly on our great town, using the usual “blame the messenger” routine always deployed by people who have something to hide: like shoddy construction, unnecessary and mind-blowingly expensive boondoggles, drunken city managers, a corrupt police department and a budget that’s a few years away from going supernova.

Quick, get clear of the impending collapse…

Her strategy is to drown out the cries off honest men and women with hosannas of praise for everything Fullerton. But she needs a choir. So she started a facebook group laughingly called “Fullerton First” where she limits the membership to folk of her own stripe. And what a membership list it is. Here you will find a lot of familiar faces, including sad sack stooge Larry Bennett, incompetent planner Paul Dudley, serial liar-cop Andrew Goodrich, and dim-bulb government apologist Jan Flory, who is w-a-a-a-y past her stated expiration date. That alone should tell you all you need to know about Fullerton First.

The closer you look, the worse it gets…

But that’s not the interesting part. Not surprisingly, lobbyist city council creature Jennifer Fitzgerald is an enthusiastic member of this tribe; but, very tellingly, so is the ethically flexible Matthew Cunningham, whose job is proprietor of “Anaheim Blog” where he runs interference for uber-lobbyist Curt Pringle’s interests, praises Pringle’s political tools, and denigrates Pringle’s political opponents.

You can’t hurt me. I’ve got no moral compass…

And of course Ms. Fitzgerald also “works” for Pringle. She is his “Vice President of Minor Scams and Local Government Taxpayer Ripoffs” where she enjoys mixing business with pleasure.

An unbreakable chemical bond

It’s pretty obvious that Pringle has set his slimy sights on Fullerton now that his Anaheim well is running dry. We are the pigeons he wants to pluck. Just think “College Town” and other possible gold mines where influence peddling moves things along.

And when Curt Pringle says “Fullerton First” what he really will mean is “Fullerton Next.”

What’s a Million Dollars Between Friends?


Our lobbyist Councilperson Jennifer Fitzgerald has asked her supporters on Facebook to show up at tonight’s Council Meeting to support the purchase of land on Pearl Drive to be used as a park.

Our friend David already went over some of the ridiculousness of this purchase in a previous post but it bears getting a little more attention.

The first point to be made is that this item is on the Consent Calendar tonight. Consent Calendar items are items during a meeting that get no separate discussion and are voted on together unless specifically pulled for comment by a member of the public or council. A typical Consent Calendar item would be the minutes to a previous meeting or perhaps a legislative ordinance change forced upon us by Sacramento.

A typical definition of a consent calendar would be as follows:

Under parliamentary rules governing City Council meetings, Consent Calendar items are reserved for items that are deemed to be non-controversial. They allow a City Council to save the bulk of it’s meeting time for issues in which there is a need for a serious public debate.

Often though the items end up being things that the city doesn’t want to discuss or scrutinize in detail. Tonight’s meeting has 12 consent calendar items with this purchase being the 10th.

The Consent Calendar is hardly the proper place to drop a $1.2Million+ project and it’s more amusing given that councilwoman Fitzgerald is asking for support on an item that is scheduled to take no public comments. It’s somewhat infuriating that the city of Fullerton is so free with money that it doesn’t feel the need to openly discuss an expenditure that is over 18x the median household income of our residents. Worse still when basic details of the deal are lacking from public view.

The parcel in question is slated for purchase with a whopping price tag of $755,500 based on a use assumption that is faulty at best (see David’s post). Then we have $148,000 for an unexplained “administrative settlement”. Then $300,000 for “improvement costs” that will of course be more than $300K owing to the additional paragraph stating that “An updated estimate will be established upon completion of the community meetings.”

What attachments or reference points do we have so we as a city can analyze this project? None. There is no explanation because a properly scanned, searchable PDF is too much work to manage at City Hall despite numerous requests over the years. I’m sure somebody will sound off that there have been “community meetings” that were announced on Nextdoor or some such nonsense so as to suggest the lack of need for the city to do it’s due diligence on transparency. This will likely come from the same people who complain about Public Records Requests from the public in a city known for a culture of corruption and abject secrecy.

Despite being an ongoing project, per the item’s own sparse agenda attachments, since 2002-2003 and we don’t have a breakdown of costs? A thorough estimate? A reason for the administrative settlement? A list of code enforcement violations?

Even the details we do get don’t tell the whole story.

“The amenities required being demolished”? How about we mention that the city paid over $19,000 for part of that very demolition? It seems that just about every pertinent detail has been washed from this item which maybe explains why it was on the consent calendar in the first place. You do have to the give the city credit for their optimism in hoping they could sneak this through the consent calendar knowing full well that we malcontents are always willing to call them on their shenanigans.

I reckon the only thing more infuriating than a bureaucrat putting forth this kind of lazy and shoddy work is a legislative body so uninterested in demanding real data and accountability that those bureaucrats know they can get away with this nonsense.

The old adage “Trust but verify” is absolutely foreign to the Fullerton City Council.

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.

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.

Can We Get A Refund For The Stairs?

It happened pretty quickly, just like a UFO sighting, and just as rare: a Fullerton councilperson suggesting accountability. But here you see Greg Sebourn raising the embarrassing subject of the lamentable Hillcrest Park “stairs to nowhere.”

If you’ve been paying attention, you know very well by now that these rickety looking wooden “exercise” stairs are a $1.6 million waste, a genuine Fullerton-type boondoggle that nobody outside City Hall wanted; a mess compounded by what can only be called substandard materials, workmanship and incompetent oversight – and that’s being charitable.

No, Greg, we cannot get a refund and good luck finding anybody to second a motion to do a full and complete audit of this project to find out how and why the whole thing went sideways so badly.

More Pine Forest Steps Fail

In case you needed any more evidence of the slipshod way the “exercise stairs” at Hillcrest Park were built, I offer in evidence some images taken by the FFFF Construction Field Documentation Team (CFDT) that has been awfully busy lately examining the many failures at the “Pine Forest Stairs” to nowhere.

Here is what the foundations are supposed to look like:

Here is what happened at one location. The top of the caisson was too high and had to be broken out to accommodate a post or cross beam supporting the stair stringer. Unfortunately the rebar in the caisson has been exposed to rust away and eventually spall the concrete.

Here’s a location where a large chunk of the caisson has mysteriously broken off. Here there is no reinforcing steel in sight.

And finally, here’s an example of what can happen when you decide to sink a big 6″x 6″ wood post into concrete:

Apparently many of the caissons are already cracking just like this one. Are these structures even safe? Will our common seismic events cause serious problems? I’m not privy to those answers, but I can tell you that there’s no way I’m getting on those things.

And just for fun, note that the contractor reworked the top the caisson to get water to run off. This sloppy effort is going to flake off – exposing the post to a permanent puddle.

It’s hard to believe that “professionals” inside and outside of City Hall were extremely well paid to oversee this hodgepodge of construction horrors, but there you have it. $1.6 million dollars and this is the best Fullerton can do.

 

Who Was in Charge?

During our series on the ill-fated, $1.6 million dollar “exercise stairs” in Hillcrest Park, some of our Friends correctly noted the problem of the wood support posts that had been poured into the concrete caissons that hold the whole structure up. Obviously, something went wrong. Notice how none of the posts are centered on the caissons, and some are barely two inches from the outside of the concrete, leading me to wonder how they managed to fit a rebar reinforcement inside the caisson.

Something didn’t quite line up…

From the project drawings, here is how the caisson and post are supposed to be aligned. The post centers on the caisson with 4 rebars equally spaced around it. Please notice the 3″ minimum clearance from the rebar to the outside of the concrete.

Clearly the footings and posts were built incorrectly. Obviously the caissons holes were drilled in the wrong places – and the construction manager must have agreed to let this pass. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what happens. If the footings crack them may have to be replaced – and they weren’t built to be replaced.

This whole mess made me wonder about why the posts were sunk into the concrete in the first place – a very odd situation given that the expansion and contraction of the posts, when wet, could lead to potential concrete cracking and spalling, especially when the post is near the outer rim of the caisson.

It turns out I wasn’t alone. Here is a string of e-mails from the contractor, construction manager, and the architect discussing the redesign of the caissons and posts to a hardware connection – a solution that would make the replacement of the posts significantly easier. The contractor was willing to do this and add the necessary cross bracing at no cost to the City.

Request denied.

I wonder what will happen when the concrete caissons crack, or when the posts rot out. The architect seems to think the posts will outlast the rest of the rickety framing. I wonder which will go first.

Elevators to Nowhere – The Rising Cost Hits Fullerton Directly

Here’s the final (for now) installment of the series by our Friend “Fullerton Engineer” documenting the sad history of the project to add a couple of elevators to the existing tower/bridge structure at the DepotRemarkably, none of our elected representatives seems the least bit curious about the downward trajectory of this project, or the ultimate tap into our Facility Capital Repair Fund, a fund that was never intended to pay for new construction, particularly for projects never needed in the first place.  

The best way of avoiding embarrassing information is not to ask embarrassing questions. It’s not their money.

It may have been expensive, but it sure was unnecessary…

It took over five years, but the astonishingly high cost of an elevator addition project at the Fullerton train station finally hit Fullerton taxpayers directly in 2017.

The project that the public never asked for and doesn’t need was initiated based not on necessisity, but on the availability of money from Sacramento; and later, OCTA came to the funding rescue. But the delays piled up – year after year, and OCTA would no longer pay the bill. So in March, the City Engineer, Don Hoppe, came hat in hand and asked the Fullerton taxpayers for money. Lots of it. Here’s the staff report.

Notice how the various and diverse issues are all thrown together into a single sum – $600,000. We see added cost for the railroad flagging for some unexplained reason; the curiosity of “unforeseen” utilities on a well-developed site; an unknown amount to pay for the escalated cost of the elevator subcontractor; and finally, an unspecified amount to cover “additional assistant (sic) in contract administration” a nebulous term, but a category clearly meant to cover the ongoing cost of someone in the Public Works department.  The final item is particularly ironic given the amounts already contracted with private companies for construction support and management on this very small project.

The simple fact that these items are lumped together can only be explained by an attempt to obfuscate the nature and trues costs of the ongoing delay. And those delay costs are increasing even now, as the project seems to have stalled again.

— Fullerton Engineer

Photo Fun: SparkyFitz’s $1.6 Mil Stairs to Nowhere

Being a political creature means keeping your happy face on – even when your happy speech is done. On Saturday our lobbyist-councilperson Jennifer Fitzgerald happily talked up her moronic wooden stairs that don’t do anything – $1,600,000 worth of nothing. She was soooo excited (twice). Even her pal Jan Flory was there to help put a shine on this smoking road apple. But when her talk was done, Fitzy sure looked grim walking away from this monumental misadventure in government waste.

Quick, get clear of the impending collapse…

Maybe the enormity of the waste actually set in? Shame? Guilt? Anger?

(more…)

Elevators to Nowhere – Construction Begins! Oh, Wait. No It Doesn’t.

Friends, here is another in a series of posts about Fullerton’s ill-fated “Elevators to Nowhere” series by “Fullerton Engineer”

It may have been expensive, but it sure was unnecessary…

In following the trajectory of the new elevator project at the Fullerton train station I have described a project that the public neither wanted nor needed, that had its genesis in the simple availability of “free money” way back in 2011 – six long years ago.

Although the design contract was let in 2013, the project was not bid until 2015 when the low bid came in 22% higher than anticipated. The construction contract was awarded anyway. With numerous ancillary “management” contracts, the project budget had grown to $4,000,000. By 2017 that figure had ballooned to an astonishing $4,600,000.

And yet construction didn’t start until February, 2016 and when it did it was only for some minor ADA toilet room modifications adjacent to the AMTRAK ticket office.

Woodcliff Billing #1

You can see in the project billing submitted by Woodcliff Corporation, the contractor, a few items related to bonds, mobilization and the bathroom work in February 2016 – a year after the contract bid. Nothing was billed against the elevator items at all, except for crediting the structural steel shop drawings for $55,000. Over 14 months later the structural steel has not been erected. In fact, the foundations for the steel structure haven’t even been built, as the site sits empty with minor demolition having taken place and some lighting conduit rerouted.

If any delay claims have been submitted by Woodcliff, those documents have not been shared, although delay claims are certainly coming, and escalation costs are already starting to accrue, although we don’t know how much because the costs were intentionally lumped together with  other completely unrelated items in the March 2017 staff report.

As I noted in an earlier post the cause of all these delays is not known by the public because the Public Works staff doesn’t want the public to know that things have obviously gone wrong, very wrong; and, that the inexplicable and unexplained delays have finally cost the taxpayers of Fullerton directly. The money is no longer free.

— Fullerton Engineer