The trouble with being away so much last summer and fall was that I missed all sorts of Fullerton-related stuff. And one of those things was the separation of Tony Florentine from his Earthly cares.
The Florentine paterfamilias, bar owner and restaurateur passed on to his reward back in July of 2022.
FFFF has been diligently following the activities of Tony and his offspring, Joe, in a series of posts going back well over ten years.
We documented how in 2012, Tony loudly inserted himself into the anti-Recall campaign as a staunch supporter of Fullerton’s incompetent Old Guard councilmembers Jones, Bankhead and McKinley, parroting the nonsense peddled by his old Rotary pal, Dick Ackerman. He had lots of good reasons for defending the boobs as they let him run illegal entertainment in his business establishment, and as he and his son did everything they could to dodge the City-ordained -and not enforced – conditions of approval for use permits.
But the history went farther back. In 2003 Tony got the City to look the other way as he purloined a public sidewalk and got away with it, creating a legal headache that still hasn’t gone away. The Florentines pulled out in 2020 and left the City as landlords of a building extension that the co-joined building owner didn’t own.
Years before that, if we can believe a former associate, in 1989 Tony took a torch to his business, The Melody Inn, that also destroyed one of the oldest buildings in Fullerton and began an embarrassing Redevelopment boondoggle.
Whether or not Tony once drove a copper spike into a street tree because it was blocking his sign is a matter of conjecture, but that’s the tale told by some old Fullertonions.
So belatedly FFFF says farewell to Mr. Florentine – who brought a little Jersey color to our drab town. In parting it has to be said that neither he or his kid are that important in and of themselves, but they symbolize a governmental culture of incompetence, and a willingness in City Hall to tolerate scofflaws that have become synonymous with Fullerton.
Here at FFFF HQ we always leave the door open for Fullerton citizens to share their issues. This instance is a little different. We received (anonymously) a statement that purports to be by a 5th District resident. I don’t know who wrote it, or in what context it was written. I don’t need to know. It is a well-written, eloquent, and damning indictment of Ahmad Zahra’s weepy, sleezy, self-serving 4 year tenure on the Fullerton City Council.And it’s all true.
Here’s the statement as we received it:
“1. Mr. Zahra denied the voters of Fullerton the opportunity to elect a member to a half term on the Fullerton City Council. Although he at first vocally supported an election to fill the at-large seat vacated by Jesus Silva on the Fullerton City Council, Mr. Zahra ultimately voted to appoint someone to the two year remainder of this term despite dozens of public speakers from all backgrounds pleading for a special election. Mr. Zahra argued that a special election would be too expensive, but went on to support at least one other questionable expenditure far in excess of the estimated cost of such an election.
“2. Following the appointment of Jan Flory to the aforementioned two year seat on the city council, she joined council member Jennifer Fitzgerald and Mr. Zahra himself in appointing Mr. Zahra to a paid seat on the Board of the Orange County Water District, supplanting the city’s then current representative, whose term had not yet expired. The vote gave the appearance of an obvious quid pro quo, wherein Mr. Zahra supported appointing Ms. Flory to the council in exchange for her support in appointing him as Fullerton’s representative to the OCWD.
“3. Mr. Zahra consistently voted to support spending over a million dollars on legal fees to sue two writers from the Friends for Fullerton’s Future blog who downloaded private files from an unguarded and publicly available folder on the city’s website— a folder to which the city itself had directed the bloggers. The blog’s publication of of at least some of these files revealed incompetence and malfeasance on the part of the city’s administration and police department. In addition to being an enormous waste of public funds on a suit the city was unlikely to win, this lawsuit represented a serious attack on freedom of the press, on par with legal actions taken against the publication of the Pentagon Papers fifty years ago—that is, an attempt by government to suppress publication of materials embarrassing to it and to punish news outlets who would do so. Council member Zahra’s support of this lawsuit alone should be reason for any news organization to decline to endorse him for public office.
“4. Mr. Zahra participated in a council subcommittee consisting of himself and then Council member Jennifer Fitzgerald. This economic development subcommittee held meetings behind closed doors with no publicly available agendas, no publicized meetings times or places, and no subsequent public notes. The public were not invited to attend. No one knows what was discussed in these meetings.
“5. No notes were ever made available from the aforementioned subcommittee meetings, but Mr. Zahra subsequently supported, with great enthusiasm, the development of the former Kimberly Clark property into a massive warehouse distribution site for Goodman Logistics, a frequent host of Amazon delivery services. It is no exaggeration to state that Goodman subsequently stripped the site of every living tree, including a perimeter of large, mature pine trees and groves of fruit trees that included the last orange tree orchard in Fullerton.
“6. Mr. Zahra falsely claimed authorship of a story about the Orange County Water District submitted for publication and ultimately published by The Fullerton Observer. Subsequent discovery that the article was actually authored by OCWD staff caused public embarrassment to the Observer and revealed that Mr. Zahra was willing to uncritically and deceptively pass along an agency’s public relations material to The Fullerton Observer as his own writing, casting clear doubt about the independence of his representation of Fullerton on the Board of this agency as well as his trustworthiness as a public official.
“7. Mr. Zahra has refused to reveal the ultimate disposition of criminal charges brought against him while serving on the council. Although the charges were reported by the Observer to have been dismissed, court records were sealed, denying the public the right to know what actually happened in the case of a public official accused of assault and vandalism. Whether or not the charges were judged to be justified, Mr. Zahra should have revealed exactly how this case proceeded and how it was ultimately concluded to dispel any doubt in the minds of his constituents.
“8. Mr. Zahra appointed to the Planning Commission, arguably the most important and powerful committee or commission in the city, a representative for a pro-development organization Her role as director of this organization represented a clear conflict of interest between her profession and her public service. She ultimately resigned from the Commission part way through her term with no prior notice during one of its meetings, leaving before the meeting has been concluded the the evening. Such an appointment, in my opinion, calls into question Mr. Zahra’s judgement.
“Additionally, we should remember that the 5th District was created to accommodate representation by the area’s largely Latinx population—the only such district in the city. Endorsing the only non-Latino in this contest would not seem to advance this goal.”
Narcissists lie. Their entire performative existence is all about self-aggrandizement and shoring up lack of real accomplishment by spinning constant yarns about their achievements and abilities. And so I present a clinical case: District 5 Councilman Ahmad Zahra.
The Fullerton Observer/Heathy Community Mafia Forum took place last week and Zahra found another occasion to keep spinning the same myriad lies that he has told so often he may actually have come to believe some of them.
Here are a few to chew on:
Lie #1: Zahra repeated his origin story that he’s lived in the District 5 for the last 21 years.
TRUTH: Zahra’s voter registration clearly shows he has only lived in the District for the last 16. The supposition being if you tell the lie often enough, even you begin to believe your own BS.
TRUTH: Zahra had the crutch of masking his Hispanic street cred in 2018 because he has his Hispanic partner who he opportunistically paraded in front of Hispanic District 5 residents. Without the benefit of his plus one to hide behind, he is now resorted to fabricating a deep understanding of complex issues. Parking issues? Ahmad created parking issues when he mysteriously voted to extend RV parking so nonoperational trailers and motorhomes highjacked streets in District 5.
Lie #2: “I share many experiences of our residents from parking issues, to rent, to housing affordability.”
TRUTH: Zahra is just a typical limousine liberal without the limousine. Your political life is tied to patronizing, top-down government. You are an bald-faced opportunist trying to scam people with your “caring” not you accomplishments of which there aren’t any.
Lie #3: “We have a shelter with good services right here in Fullerton.”
TRUTH: Zahra sold residents on the Navigation Center, which was funded and built for Fullerton homeless. That shelter has only 3 beds dedicated to homeless right now and none of them are from Fullerton. Zahra has done nothing to help Fullerton homeless or the homeless situation in Fullerton. There is a huge encampment of homeless under the 91 freeway at Euclid that has been there for weeks on in and Zahra did nothing to get it cleaned up because he cares so much about homeless.
Lie #4: “We created a safe parking program for residents who are sleeping in their cars.”
TRUTH: The program cost over $150,000 and only a handful of cars participated in the safe parking program because of the security restrictions around it. It was by all accounts an unmitigated disaster and a giant waste of taxpayer money. But a year and a half after it was mercifully ended by the remaining members of the Council, Zahra appears at this forum taking false credit for its imaginary success.
Lie #5: “Making sure our housing element has affordable housing.”
TRUTH: Does Zahra mean the housing element that is so late in development and approval that the City of Fullerton under your watch Ahmad is getting sued over it? Zahra is taking credit for aiding in Fullerton again wasting taxpayer dollars on defending or being a plaintiff in another dumb lawsuit.
Lie #6: “I’ve been working on traffic safety since the beginning.”
TRUTH: The beginning of what? The beginning of your tumultuous and ineffective Council career? The beginning of time? Since the birth of Christ? Considering more people have died crossing Orangethorpe and Lemon during his four year term, perhaps he means beginning after this forum.
Lie #7: “I installed a crossing guard.”
TRUTH: Hold on Skippy! The Fullerton School District pays for and authorizes school crossing guards. It has nothing to do with the City of Fullerton and even less to do with Zahra. But he’ll take false credit for it. The morons who believe Zahra’s lies will believe anything nonsense he says. But others, smarter, will show their contempt for his paltry efforts at the polls.
Lie #8: “We need to take pride in our parks and reclaim our parks.”
TRUTH: Is that right? Pride in Union Pacific Park in the heart of your district, Ahmad? The park that has remained closed for his entire Council tenure? The park that you tried to give away to a private event planner with no parking solutions, until the majority of Council stopped your terrible giveaway of public parkland.
Lie #9: “We need to increase staffing levels.”
TRUTH: Zahra sat idly by and supported the incompetent City Manager Ken Domer, who cut the Parks and Recreation staff to levels unseen in Fullerton’s history. Zahra supported the now former City Manager as he gutted the parks system and here you are taking credit for caring.
Lie #10: “On my two years on the water district, I was the person who advocated the most to create treatment plans.”
TRUTH: No, Zahra received $4000 a month pay for play appointment via Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jan Flory to get appointed to the district; and his also submitted completely plagiarized water articles to the Fullerton Observer and falsely put his name in the byline, which FFFF exposed. During Zahra’s brief time on the Orange County Water District, he did not advocate for a treatment plant. But he did try (and failed miserably) to grab a leadership position on the water district Board of Directors – alienating the entire Board.
Lie #11: Regarding parking issues in Fullerton, “I have been working with Community Development to not negatively impact neighborhoods.”
TRUTH: Zahra and his quitter Planning Commissioner appointee, Elizabeth Hansburg, have underparked every single development that they have approved.To add insult to injury, Zahra gave away street parking to homeless from other states to park their broken down RVs on neighborhood streets. Real champion of the people Ahmad.
Lie #12: Ahmad asserts himself as the reinvented fighter for weed enforcement. That somehow he is a pro-regulation candidate.
TRUTH: Zahra voted for a retail cannibas ordinance that a miniscule measurable buffer zone from homes and schools and has done nothing to get rid of illegal dispensaries, all or most of which are in his district (wonder why?). He keeps telling his gullible supporters that he fights the good fight when in reality he is in the pocket of the weed lobby.
Lie #13: “Driving food to people in my own car.”
TRUTH: Zahra had some community service to work off as part of his criminal plea deal. Zahra makes his court requirement a part of his hollow altruism brand.
There are so many more lies. Ahmad lies so effortlessly, he is one thing for sure: a sociopath.
And one final observation that does not require a TRUTH rebuttal. Look at Zahra’s facial expressions each and every time the Spanish language translator interrupts him to translate his words to constituents in his community since he does not speak Spanish. Distain. Utter distain. What a hypocrite! He doesn’t care of his community. He cares about himself.
When things get tough, real leaders make difficult choices. And then there are those like Ahmad Zahra.
When Covid 19 rolled around in the spring of 2020 Fullerton was already looking at financial disaster. Years of unbalanced budgets were backfilled by reserve funds by the partnership Fitzgerald, Flory, Silva and Zahra. With the Covid lockdown things looked bleak.
What to do?
“I know” said Ahmad Zahra, “lets have a sales tax.”
And so the ill-fated Measure S was placed on the ballot by the same herd: Fitzgerald, Flory, Silva and Zahra. The proponents didn’t seem to care that sales taxes are inherently regressive, and Zahra seemed uninterested in the fact that his D5 constituents would be disproportionately hurt. Ironically, at the time, Zahra was hauling in $4,000 a month for a few hours time as an appointed member of the Orange County Water District Board.
Later, in 2021, when federal relief money rolled in to Fullerton, Zahra tried to direct funds away from infrastructure and into salaries and pension obligations.
Well, those chickens have come to roost. This mail piece landed in D5 mailboxes today:
The Fullerton Collaborative hosted a candidate forum, which featured some good questions and some not so good. It featured 5 out of 6 City Council candidates running in Districts 3 and 5 this year. Shana Charles received a hall pass and did not stay for the forum.
Ahmad Zahra was his usual full of himself self. The notorious man who never wasted a selfie opportunity was untruthful, effortlessly deceived the audience, remaining true to his duplicitous self.
Here’s a list of the many, oh, so many lies.
LIE #1: “The district I’ve called home for the last 21 years.”
TRUTH: Zahra’s voter registration record doesn’t agree.
LIE #2: “As a medical doctor.”
TRUTH: Zahra is not a licensed medical doctor or a medical professional of any kind.
LIE #3: “The budget needs to be reflective of the needs of our community.”
TRUTH: Zahra wasted a million dollars of the people’s money frivolously suing a local blog and its authors, and were it not for the new Council, that bill would still be accumulating. A million dollars would have paid for a fire engine and more than a handful of Parks and Recs, Police, or Firefighter, or Maintenance employees.
LIE #4: “We have a shortage of staff and we need to invest in those areas.”
TRUTH: Zahra had an opportunity to pass a budget with a 1% cut and $1 million dollars to the City Manager to fill staffing concerns. He voted no, not once, but on three different City Council meetings.
LIE #5: “I would love to see more drug programs and engaging our school district on drug prevention programs.”
TRUTH: Zahra advocated for publicly and voted for on four separate occasions to have weed sold in Fullerton with only a 100 foot buffer zones to schools or homes or churches or parks.
LIE #6: “Supportive housing is crucial, but we need to make sure we are also outreaching and creating transparency.”
TRUTH: 1600 Commonwealth is an affordable housing development and so little transparency and outreach was done that the neighbors protested en masse and killed the deal with Pathways of Hope because of lack of outreach and transparency.
LIE #7: “We need to make sure our parks are maintained and cleaned.”
TRUTH: Zahra voted to give away Union Pacific Park in the heart of his district to a for-profit event planner for weddings.
LIE #8: “I have been one of the most engaged Council members. Everybody knows I’m out there.”
TRUTH: Woodcrest neighborhood mothers and residents have come to one Council meeting after another in the past 2 years complaining about Zahra’s lack of accessibility and lack of engagement with them. But then again, they are not kissing his ass and stroking his giant ego. He works with the Center for Healthy Neighborhoods. Why? Because their director donates to his campaign and their employee Egleth Nuncci is his permanent tag-a-long. No other non-profit or community group gets any engagement from Zahra.
LIE #9: “We also need to expand our ability to do corporate partnerships.”
TRUTH: Zahra strong armed Republic Services, the City’s trash hauler to give his pet project city in a foreign country a trash truck and then promptly took a selfie and credit for saving democracy. That’s not a corporate partner. That is a quid pro quo.
LIE #10: “I have worked with this Council, despite sometimes the hard times and differences we’ve had.”
TRUTH: Zahra only works for and with Zahra. He has no contact with his Council colleagues. So how are you working with this Council, Ahmad?
LIE #11: “Be faithful with my votes.”
TRUTH: Zahra made an impassioned speech about how important voting was in his country of Syria and that the at large Council seat vacated by Jesus Quirk-Silva should be determined in a special election to betray the people and his faith in democracy the very next meeting and appoint the elderly disaster Jan Flory, who in turn voted to appoint him to the Orange County Water District and its healthy stipend, one he took without objection and then donated to his campaign.
LIE #12: “We see so many Councilmembers come and then they make backroom deals.”
TRUTH: See TRUTH #11.
The truth is Ahmad Zahra is nothing more than a serial liar. Things come apart so easily when they are held together by lies. It’s always the ones with dirty hands doing all the finger pointing isn’t it?
We have also seen how Zahra claimed authorship of Water District-related articles actually ghost-written by a district bureaucrat; and how he tried to leverage this pseudo-expertise to keep his well-compensated seat on that board.
Then there’s the about-face Zahra played on the suckers of Fullerton when he announced that the open seat on the Council should be decided by a vote, and then promptly voted to appoint Jan Flory to the vacancy at the behest of Jennifer Fitzgerald.
And that last bit is what this story is about. The deal that Zahra cut with Fitzgerald to appoint Flory and get himself appointed to the lucrative Orange County Water District Board, a board that pays stipends for all sorts of meetings and sub-committee meetings.
Check this out:
And did Zahra have a role in this little handout? Was this a little payback for getting appointed in the first place? These sorts of little deals happen in OC political/government circles all the time. It’s all just easy government cheese. Maybe Zahra will be forthcoming about what this was all about. Maybe, but don’t count on it.
Some folks might think that continuing conversation about Jesus Quirk-Silva’s and Ahmad Zahra’s aquaponic farm/event center scheme would be like smacking a dead mackerel.
Well, here at FFFF we believe it’s never a bad idea to remind the public of hare-brained proposals made by bureaucrats and supported by bobble-headed politicians.
So to recap: last spring the Fullerton City Council deliberated on a scheme to create an aquaponic farm on the site of the abandoned Union Pacific Park site. The problem was that the exclusive negotiating deal was with a guy who had no financial wherewithal and proposed an event center on the site – just like he had done in Anaheim and Aliso Viejo. Staff even dredged up a last minute “partner” to sell the deal. The idea was rejected, but not for lack of trying.
And we have just received word from down south in Aliso Viejo about the negative impacts of an identical operation there, Renewable Farms, run by the same people.
Let’s hear from a MV resident to a concerned Fullerton resident:
My name is Dena LeCave and I am a resident of Aliso Viejo. While looking into information and press on Renewable Farms I came across a story from the Fullerton Observer regarding the aforementioned. I wish to congratulate you on terminating your contract with Renewable Farms. As a long time resident of the city of Aliso Viejo, 20+ years, I am astonished and horrified by what our city council has allowed to happen to my community, neighborhood and particularly our quality of life since Renewable Farms started hosting wedding receptions on the vacant land behind our home. We live less than 50 yards from the event center for Renewable Farms and they host weddings every single Saturday night and have been doing so since May. The noise, lights, music and constant yelling goes on for 7+ hours. The city has done little to alleviate the problem and has instead hamstringed us by making these events private by the City, meaning we have almost no recourse in getting them to quiet down. I do not wish to take up your time, I’m sure you’re quite busy, but if you would like to further discuss our situation you may email me back or call me. Thank you, and have a good day.
Ms. Le Cave’s words have the ring of truth, all right, and they certainly would have applied to the proposal in Fullerton – problems that show the complete lack of concern, disdain even, that our staff shows for this neighborhood. And then of course there was the attitude shown by Quirk-Silva and Zahra about the residents who would have suffered the negative impacts of this proposal, without so much as a by-your-leave. Their current concern over public input on the park site is extremely recent and undisputedly hypocritical.
And of course the deal would have illegally converted a public park into a private, fenced and gated place to hold events, and incidentally an aquaponic facility, effectively giving away parkland – something our City Attorney Dick Jones just got caught approving in Westminster. Of course there was no parking, no business plan and nothing but a site plan to recommend it to the Council, so naturally Quirk-Silva and Zahra latched on to it like a couple of lamprey eels.
We here at FFFF have never thought of Jesus Quirk Silva as a very bright fellow, but he seems to have learned at least one thing on the Fullerton City Council. And that lesson came courtesy of former councilwoman-for-hire, Jennifer Fitzgerald.
That lesson is simple: it’s more fun to try to peddle influence based on your elected position than it is to hold down a day job.
And so Mr. Quirk Silva has embarked on a new potential career path – away from teaching multiplication to slack-jawed pre-pubescents, and into the exiting realm of lobbying local governments.
Quirk Silva’s “employer” is Adan Ortega, of Ortega Associates, who you may remember as the desperate Fullerton MWD director who was replaced by Fred Jung, and who then tried to get appointed as a representative from the city of San Fernando.
I fully expect Quirk-Silva to attempt to follow in the footsteps of Fitzgerald, although he can barely utter a coherent sentence.
Now why does any of this matter, really? Because government ought to be about governing, not about being a bagman between special interests, other lobbyists, developers, and your colleagues on local boards and councils.
As a Fullerton Councilman, Quirk Silva doesn’t have that much juice, but he could be pulled and persuaded very easily. More importantly, his wife, Sharon Quirk Silva, is a state Assemblywoman, and as such actually does command respect for how she might be able to move something along in Sacramento.
And now back to Ortega. FFFF sources have indicated that he was attempting to break into the legalized marijuana biz here in Fullerton as a lobbyist, but got caught up in the interminable incompetence of the last city council, and the reluctance of the new council to go down the happy MJ trail. The same sources suggest that a cartel of cannabis interests from Long Beach is still very interested in reviving the issue in Fullerton.
The Jesus has been a long-time, big-time cheerleader for legalized dispensaries in Fullerton, so there are several loose strings as yet not quite tied together.
Starring former Fullerton City Manager, Joe Burt Felz who got drunk on Election Night 2016, drove over a tree, and tried to escape from his own cops. There is something sort of pathetic about Felz, errand boy and water bearer for Jennifer Fitzgerald, saying over and over that his turn blinker wasn’t working and how he became befuddled, until one of his own policemen tells him to stop yammering about it.
As one of the cops said: “it’s the Chief’s call.” Subsequently Chief Danny “Gallahad” Hughes lied to the Council about the affair even as Felz tried to quietly pay for the tree and move on.
The City of Fullerton tried for years to keep this under wraps because it implicated our MADD rewarded police themselves in incompetent and illegal activity. FFFF sued the City to get the videos, and in retribution two bloggers were personally sued by the City for legal activity, a lawsuit that cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands and that finally exonerated David Curlee and Joshua Ferguson.
Before we publish the unedited video of our former City Manager, Joe Burt Felz, arrested for drunk driving, only to be taken home and tucked into bed by his own MADD recognized cops, let us share some highlights of the video as shared and analyzed by FFFFs own Joshua Ferguson. Ferguson was the target of a vindictive and highly expensive lawsuit courtesy of the City’s “I Can’t Believe It’s A Law Firm” of Jones and Mayer. And so it is appropriate for Joshua to remind us what happened – and to remind those not paying attention that the Felz catch and release was a far from isolated case of malfeasance by our police department and our esteemed leaders in City Hall.
There is no no doubt that Danny “Gallahad” Hughes lied to the City Council about Felz, and that the cops knew doing the right thing was professionally dangerous.
As Ferguson says, if there is a lesson to be learned in this long train of corruption, you can be sure that Councilmen Ahmad Zahra and Jesus Quirk Silva haven’t learned it. They voted until the bitter end to keep the moribund lawsuit against FFFF staggering along.