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.
Last night the City Council voted to appoint Bruce Whitaker To the OC Water District Board of Directors. The term of the previous incumbent, Ahmad Zahra had expired at the end of 2020.
The vote was 3-1-1, with Whitaker, Jung and Dunlap voting for Whitaker; Zahra nominated and voted for himself; Jesus Silva decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and abstained.
It was not for lack of trying to keep this paying gig that Zahra relinquished his job. No, Indeed, for a line of scripted commenters tried valiantly to praise Zahra to the Heavens, why, Good God! The man practically invented water!
The funniest commenter was none other than Fullerton’s Mistress of Disaster, Jan Flory, who joined in to share in the hosannas for Zahra. She read her script okay, but it included her statement that Zahra had actually authored articles about water,,,for the Fullerton Observer.
Whitaker was clearly the better choice. The water board has jurisdiction over the aquafer on which we sit. The district has massive financial reserves paid by us in ad valorem taxes. And in the past decade the OCWD has been at the center of a massive rip-off called Poseidon, a desalinization scam meant to provide more water to OC county for the purposes of south county development.
Unlike Zahra, Whitaker will not posture on the board for publicity and to be able to pretend some imagined expertise. He won’t use the agency to promote his own agenda and his own political prospects. And Whitaker is not currently charged with crimes by his own police department; nor is he under threat of recall by his district constituents.
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.”
By now the Friends are well-aware of the attempt by Joe Florentine, the scofflaw proprietor of a restaurant and bar in downtown Fullerton, to fraudulently alter and submit official documents in pursuit of a Conditional Use Permit.
He even admitted it.
Reliable sources have indicated that a criminal investigation has been opened by the Fullerton Police Department based on a complaint filed by the property owner, Mario Marovic, and passed along to the District Attorney’s office.
Now the felonious miscreance of a Fullerton Florentine family member is about as newsworthy as a mailman bitten by a dog – no surprise there. Rather, the key facts of interest in this case are that Mr. Florentine had lots of help inside City Hall, including the Planning Director, the City Manager, and of course our top-notch City Attorney, Dick Jones, who finally had to recuse himself from dispensing laughable advice due to a conflict of interest.
Apparently, City Manager Ken Domer knew exactly what was happening and was determined to proceed with the fraud anyway.
It’s hard not to believe that some fall out from this conspiracy will land in the proximity of new Councilmembers Fred Jung and Nick Dunlap, who will certainly be averse to the radioactivity. The City Manager is already on the thinnest of ice after blowing $130,000 on a marginally legal PR campaign to promote Measure S, and then unsuccessfully trying to spend another 90 grand just before Christmas to hire an expert to try to fix the budget shortfall. City Managers are protected by contract but there is no contractual protection for a person who has violated the law. Will we soon be hiring a management search firm?
As always, Jones and Meyer are likewise compromised by their corrupt and incompetent and self-serving practices. But Dick Jones, like Talleyrand, always seems to be able to keep his head on his shoulders despite all the revolutions.
And what was the role of Mayor-for-hire Jennifer Fitzgerald, who was the evident and malignant influence around so much of the Fullerton’s recent mismanagement and the cover-ups that inevitably followed? It’s difficult to believe that she wasn’t pushing this through for the benefit of her pals, the Florentines.
Finally, if in fact, City leaders are found culpable in this conspiracy to commit fraud, what is the legal exposure to the taxpayers of Fullerton for both the legal costs incurred by the property owner in the case, and for other damages he may have suffered?
As FFFF learns more about the status of the case we will certainly share it. City Hall probably won’t.
On Tuesday two brand spanking new council members were sworn into office and I’d like to welcome them to the reindeer games of local politics. So far I like these two men even if I was put off by many of Jung’s endorsements in the lead up to the election. Money in politics is money in politics so his voting record will ultimately be the stick by which to measure him.
My personal opinions aside I want to be fair and transparent here – I will call you out on unprincipled or ridiculous votes & actions. Bruce Whitaker is my favorite local politician and I’ve throw an axe or two dozen his way when we disagreed on items. I’m not a party person so I don’t look the other way for political expedience or make exceptions for bad behavior. I don’t care about team sports – I care about what is and isn’t just and right for the people being represented. Be good stewards of your office and don’t suckle at the teat of party or local corruption and we’ll get along famously.
I’ve already seen Jung & Dunlap take some flak online for how the Mayor Pro-Tem vote went down but that’s partisan nonsense. (D)s can’t claim the moral high ground and whine that Zahra didn’t get a largely ceremonial title when he himself denied that title to Whitaker just this past year. You reap what you sow and we here at the Friend’s for Fullerton’s Future take a certain joy in pointing these karmic events out.
Therefore, Council members Dunlap & Jung, welcome to Fullerton’s political arena from one of the city’s most [choose your own pejorative] chronic malcontents. Cheers.
Last night Ahmad Zahra didn’t get what he wanted and today he’s crying on Facebook about it and I couldn’t be laughing harder at that petulant crybully.
First – this is Ahmad Zahra, council member from District 5, on Facebook bemoaning that policy wasn’t followed in snubbing him from the Mayor Pro-Tem seat last night:
Ceremonial selection of Mayor and Pro-Tem you say?
Ok. Let’s do this then. That ceremonial selection is actually outlined in the Fullerton Policy and Procedures Manual as Policy #226. In 2019 is was known as Administrative Policy #37.
It states that Pro-Tem becomes the next Mayor and the Pro-Tem is selected based on who has been on council the longest without having been Mayor.
In 2019 that means that Bruce Whitaker should have been chosen as this year’s Mayor Pro-Tem. Why didn’t that happen? Why was Jan Flory our Mayor Pro-Tem in 2020?
Oh. That’s right. Because Ahmad Zahra decided to vote for a “departure from city policy on the ceremonial selection of Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem”. Here’s the minutes from the meeting in question:
And just because it needs to be hammered home lest Zahra try to weasel out of the official record, here’s the video of Zahra departing from policy to vote for Jan Flory over Whitaker just last year.
Looks like Zahra wants to eat his cake and have it too.
There needs to be a little more context here. We all knew Bruce was going to be Mayor this coming year if he won reelection. Fitzgerald was just Mayor, Silva right before her. Jan Flory promised she wasn’t running for another term on council. The ONLY reason why Bruce wasn’t Pro-Tem this year is because last year’s council majority hates Bruce for having the one thing they cannot stand – principles.
See above principle of consistency being lacking from Zahra.
Instead of following the gentleman’s agreement last year, they shanked Bruce for the sole reason of denying him the ability to put “Re-Elect Mayor Pro-Tem” on his campaign signs in the hopes of knocking him off of council. Thankfully it didn’t matter and he still won reelection.
This is a tactical game that plays out every few years because the Mayor and Pro-Tem tags can swing a few votes here and there.
For Zahra to pretend that he was slighted is laughable because he himself plays in these reindeer games. He just doesn’t like chickens coming home to roost and things not going his way.
This is a perfect example of everybody loving Majority Rule until the majority doesn’t give them what they want.
Let me remind you that in 2019 the council ALSO booted Whitaker off of the Water Board and gave it to newly minted council member Zahra – illegally and also out of spite. There was no reason to boot Whitaker mid-term but politics is petty and water board is a financially lucrative gig.
This time around Zahra wanted to be Mayor Pro-Tem because it positions him for Mayor in 2022 when he’s up for re-election. Provided the ladies from his district shouting to recall him don’t pull off their gambit first of course. There would have been a no-brainer case to vote for him IF he had upheld the agreement last year. He refused. Welcome to turnabout being fair play.
When it came time for the vote last night, Silva nominated Zahra and then Jung nominated Dunlap.
What happened next is both hilarious and sad and yet another example of why Zahra does’t deserve to be Mayor. The second Jung voted for Dunlap, Zahra knew he didn’t have the majority vote on council as there was no way Whitaker would vote for him after the way Zahra has treated him and Dunlap had already voted for himself as he wasn’t going to vote against himself to support Zahra. You can watch the video as Zahra just stares at Jung in disbelief and then abstains from the vote. Sadly right after the vote the video cuts to Whitaker talking so I can’t show you Zahra slamming his stuff down and storming out of the room but you can see him gone when the camera cuts back to the full dais with a missing Zahra.
Ignore Zahra’s preening as he is simply playing the victim hoping that nobody remembers that he once wielded & eagerly used the exact same knife to “skip” somebody in the vote for the ceremonial position of Mayor Pro-Tem.
Things are not going to be easy, financially or otherwise, for our little Hamlet of Malcontents in the coming years. Last night and today’s antics from Zahra and his fellow travelers should prepare us for what lies ahead as they blame everybody but themselves for what plays out.