As you may have heard, once again Fullerton has a police chief in hot water. First we had Mike Sellers run away from his post after bungling the Kelly Thomas case, then Danny Hughes decided to give Joe Felz a pass on drunk driving & alleged hit and run and now Chief Hendricks is in trouble for unspecified reasons.
There is no official word on what’s going on from the City because City Manager Ken Domer doesn’t think we have a right to know who’s running our police department and what is happening in our city. However, thanks to a diligent city employee who shall remain nameless reaching out to several of us we know that Hendricks is on a paid vacation (with the benefit of not needing to use his vacation time) for his bad behavior and Captain Bob Dunn is now acting Police Chief.
But who is Bob Dunn?
We wrote about Dunn back in January when he came to our fair city from Anaheim. He was a Lieutenant there and somehow promoted to the position of Captain in Fullerton without much fanfare.
Now he’s been moved to acting Chief. That’s one heck of a jump in 7 months time. Is he really the best man for the job? Is he up to the task? What will he be doing and for how long? Who’s investigating Hendricks? Is Dunn overseeing an IA whitewash or has another agency been called in?
Nobody knows because Ken Domer doesn’t think you have the right to know and the city council can’t be bothered to make him talk.
A few weeks ago FFFF ran a post on the status on Dino Skokos, the FJC security goon and “disabled” former LA Deputy Sheriff who beat up and handcuffed a kid on campus in October, 2016. Right after the video of the event went viral, the district snapped into defense mode, placing Skokos on administrative leave and putting its lawyer to work on an in-house “investigation.” FJC President, Greg Schulz declared his dedication to reaching a conclusion of the incident.
The winter had passed; spring had come and gone. Summer was well along when in July, Schulz was directly confronted on the subject. In Schulz’s long and winding stream of nonsense a shiny pearl accidentally popped out of its oyster in the river bottom sludge: Skokos “was not going to be an employee of the district.”
What that meant was anybody’s guess, and some, like me, were skeptical. Was Skokos still on leave? If so, why? Who knew?
So FFFF followed up on an earlier Public records Act request that had been ignored. When that was intentionally misunderstood we filed yet another one. And finally we finally got this:
According to this list, Skokos was on admin leave – meaning he was getting paid for doing nothing – until the end of September, two full months after Schulz said he was no longer going to be an employee of the district, and almost an entire year after he assaulted that kid. And coincidentally (or not) that date corresponds exactly with the peculiar day projected earlier in the summer that Skokos was to come off administrative leave.
And here’s the last insult to public transparency on the part of Schulz & Co.: we have no idea whether Skokos is still employed by the district – whether at FJC, Cypress, district HQ, or at some other locale.
So how about it Greg? You promised a conclusion to this incident over a year ago. Did that promise include actually telling us about it?
In the likely event that no answer will be forthcoming from Schulz, you might try broaching the subject by our able and eager Trustee, Molly McClanahan, who has a long history of demanding accountability from her bureaucratic underlings.
Most government projects have three things in common: they are bad ideas promoted by bureaucrats, they are obscenely expensive, and there is no accountability attached to them.
In Fullerton we have lots of examples over the years that touch all three bases. But if ever one needed a veritable poster child for government fiascoes, the ill-conceived “Downtown Core and Corridors” Specific Plan would be it.
Back in 2010, the City of Fullerton put in an application for a “project” to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Strategic Growth Council” an assemblage of bureaucrats and political appointees selected by the governor to promote sustainability and responsibility in urban (and suburban planning). On the face of it, the idea was to promote development that would be eco-friendly – somehow, someway. Lo and Behold! Fullerton received a $1,000,000 grant to create the Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan, a massive overlay zone. In 2013 a committee was appointed to make this look like a community driven enterprise, but as so often happens the committee was led along by the consultants and staff who were being paid, and paid well, out of the grant money. Some members of this committee only went to one meeting, the last one, in May 2014, a meeting consumed by passing out certificates of participation to committee members for all their hard work.
In the meantime, the intent of the creators of the specific plan became crystal clear: opportunity for massive new housing projects along Fullerton’s busiest streets, development that would not even have to undergo the scrutiny facing normal projects so long as the permissive guidelines of the specific plan were met. Naturally, lots of people objected to the continued over-development of Fullerton, and the utter disconnect with what the Strategic Growth Council was ostensibly promoting. Perhaps the most obnoxious thing about the specific plan proposal was the way it was being used, unapproved by any policy maker, to promote other massive apartment projects already in the entitlement process.
And then a funny thing happened. The Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan vanished into thin air. Although recommended by the Planning Commission in August of 2014, the plan and its Environmental Impact Report never went to the city council for approval. 2015 passed; and so did 2016 without the plan being approved. Even modifications rumored to have been proposed by the now-departed Planning Director Karen Haluza never materialized for council review or approval.
Some cynical people believe the plan was postponed in 2014 because of the council election, an election that returned development uber alles councilmembers Greg Sebourn and Bud Chaffee. And they believe that the subsequent attempt to erase the plan from the municipal memory was perpetrated by none other than the hapless city manager, Joe Felz and lobbyist councilperson Jennifer Fitzgerald, (so the story goes) two individuals who had every incentive to shake down potential developers one by one, rather than granting a broad entitlement for new and gargantuan development. Felz had a massive budget deficit to fill, and Fitzgerald had massive lobbying opportunities from potential Pringle and Associate clients.
What is undeniable is that three long years have passed and no action has been taken to either approve or deny the specific plan. The grant money approved by the State has been a complete waste – a travesty so embarrassing to everybody concerned that no one seems to want to demand an explanation for this fiasco. Neither the city bureaucrats or council, nor the State has any incentive to advertise this disaster, and you can bet there never will be an accounting.
FFFF followed up, here, and here to document the remarkable lack of progress in separating this miscreant from his source of employment. Recently FFFF asked the North Orange College Community College District for a list of employees on administrative leave to see what sort of fish might be caught in the broad net. Here’s what we got back:
Fullerton College Employees on Administrative Leave from January 1, 2016 to present:
Robert Smitson – Fall 2015 to January 31, 2016
Jerry Stokes – Fall 2015 to January 31, 2016
Cynthia Wafer – September 2, 2016 to October 31, 2016
Dino Skokos – October 14, 2016 to September 30, 2017
Eileen Anguiano – February 28, 2017 to May 3, 2017
Scott Goss – May 18, 2017 to August 31, 2017
Beverly Pipkin – June 27, 2017 to July 31, 2017
Alan Gonzalez – June 29, 2017 until further notice
For some reason Skokos is not only still on leave, that leave is projected to continue for another ten weeks, meaning that the guy who attacked and falsely arrested that kid will have been on administrative leave for almost one year.
There are still lots of questions that haven’t been answered, and some that have not yet been asked (until now), such as:
What happened to the “independent” investigator, Currier and Hudson?
How much has Currier and Hudson charged us for their “services?”
Has the student who was assaulted and falsely arrested sued the taxpayers, and if so, what are the details?
Was there a settlement when no one was looking?
What happened to the Fullerton Police Department in all of this; did they ever bother investigate this themselves? If not, why not?
Here’s the choice nugget from the FJC president as quoted in The Hornet, way back in October, 2016, reassuring his workers, educrats and students that FJC is dedicated in settling this matter:
President Greg Schulz promised the college’s full dedication in reaching a conclusion regarding the incident.
And next time you see her clucking and harrumphing about town be sure to ask your NOCCCD Trustee, Molly McClanahan, what the Hell is going on. Good luck getting an intelligible answer!
Rumors of increased criminal activity are wafting out of city hall again. A few employees of the Public Works department are in hot water for some sort of embezzlement/kick-back scheme down at the city yard. Criminal charges are in the offing.
It’s not clear to us who was involved or what was stolen. City leaders are keeping quiet right now, but hopefully they will inform the public soon.
If you have any information to contribute, please drop us a line. Discretion is our thing.
Here is the latest installment in a series by our Friend, Fullerton Engineer, describing the sad story of the ruinously expensive elevator additions at the Fullerton train station.
In my previous installments I described a project that nobody outside City Hall wanted or needed, a project that would never have been contemplated without State transportation grant monies, and that had been “designed” under a 2012 contract that had ballooned to a jaw-dropping $460,000 – including a mysterious increase of 28%. The engineer – Hatch Mott McDonald completed their efforts in 2014, per their purchase order billing record. And there the project sat for a year.
Why? The answer is not immediately forthcoming and naturally the public wasn’t informed; but the cause of the delay can be reasonably inferred from the staff report accompanying the request to award the construction contract to Woodcliff Corporation in April, 2015. For the first time we read that the OCTA is going to authorize a shift of a million dollars from transportation parking funding – money, presumably, needed to actually build the project. And we may surmise that without the funding, money spent on the engineering/design work, money authorized over three years earlier, would have been wasted.
Please observe the complete lack of transparency in the staff report, and the omission of any history that would indicate that staff and the city council in 2011-12 had committed the City to this project without adequate funding.
And note that the staff report lazily repeats the casual assertion of increasing train ridership as the justification for the project, but offers no data to substantiate the need.
The report does indicate worrisome information. The low bid, by Woodcliff is an alarming 22% over the estimate. But remarkably, this fact does not faze city staff at all, who nevertheless recommend award; nor does it alarm our city council who approved this fiasco unanimously. Staff even admits that there are potential cost savings that could be realized if the project were rebid. But nobody cared.
What the public is also not told is that toward the end of the design completion in 2014, a firm called Griffin Structures was given $6000 to provide “constructibility” services, a function that questions the competency of both the designer and the contractor whose job it is to design and build these elevators.
On Tuesday night our esteemed City Council, a clan that can never say no to a bad idea, reviewed Community Development Director Karen Haluza’s Big Plan to begin the process to create a downtown BID. For the uninitiated, BID stands for Business Improvement District. FFFF already gave the Friends a heads up, here.
To remind you, a BID means a new property lax levy. In downtown the lion’s share of any tax is going to go to the cops, whose performance shutting down the booze culture gives zero confidence that more money in their direction is money well spent. The rest of the loot would probably be wasted on stupid, footling projects that give work to Haluza’s crack staff. Here’s an example of the sort of nonsense that gave our planners the warm and fuzzies before Redevelopment was abolished.
Anyway, the Council got an earful from a few property owners – including one who vehemently denied being notified of the hearing. FFFF will soon be highlighting the comments of this gentleman who poignantly observed that his property income is his retirement income, and, pointing to the uniformed Heroes in the back of the room trenchantly noted that nobody was talking about taking their retirement away.
Our lobbyist-councilperson Jennifer Fitzgerald, who no doubt oversaw this wretched swindle in the first place as a way to keep her bar-owner pals from having to pay to clean up their own mess, moved to continue the item indefinitely. The others didn’t have a whole lot to say, which is typical.
My belief is that we have not seen the last of this obnoxious dodge, a way for the city to get somebody else to pay for their disastrous bar-on-every corner policy.
We are used to politicians lying to us, especially when they are running for office. Sometimes the lies are more or less fuzzy, but once in a while the lies are staggeringly blatant. So blatant, in fact, that we must assume the politician believes the electorate are idiots.
And so it was last year with then-lobbyist-mayor and humble vessel of God, Jennifer Fitzgerald, whose campaign rhetoric deliberately misled the public into believing everything was just fine with Fullerton’s financial state of affairs. Here are a couple of pearls from her little chest of jewels:
While other cities in Orange County are trying to raise sales taxes to prevent insolvency, in Fullerton, our budget is balanced! Our five-year financial forecast shows a balanced budget to 2020. We’ve done this by making the most of our assets and minimizing our liabilities.
REDUCED UNFUNDED PENSION LIABILITY
With conservative fiscal management and successful revenue strategies, Fullerton has been able to reduce its unfunded liabilities. This is a long-term strategy, with a short-term goal to achieve what is a generally accepted adequate level of funding of 80% of liabilities.
It didn’t take long for that hot-air balloon of happy talk to sail away. Barely three months after Fitzgerald’s re-election she had to listen as the Director of Administrative Services, Julia James, at last week’s budget workshop, tell the exact opposite story. Due to continuing unbalanced budgets and exploding pension costs, the City is following in the footsteps of Stanton and Westminster with a built-in, structural budget deficit. Naturally the cops and the “fire fighters” bloated salaries and pensions are the principle cause of the impending disaster.
James mentioned taxes as a solution. Any takers?
How long will it be before our temporary City Manager, who has absolutely nothing to lose, begins crisis public meetings meant to gin up support for a Fullerton sales tax increase? And how long will it be before the people who voted for her realize that “SparkyFitz” Fitzgerald would have said, and did say anything to get re-elected?
The Fullerton Police Department has also been a collaborator in the craziness “working with” the dysfunctional culture, following political orders and smelling lots of overtime, no doubt, and maybe even relishing the opportunity to crack a few 909 noggins once in a while.
And of course, the media has been utterly silent on the $1.5 million abuse of the City budget, the drunken violence, the sexual assaults, the broken laws, the mega bonanza for the subsidized, out-of-control bar owners.
UPDATE: a keen-eyed friend wrote in to inform us of a couple interesting facts about the City’s “Back the badge” documents. First, the original contract and the first purchase order don’t agree. The PO describes a one-year term while the contract is for only six months. Second there is no PO that covers the period from May to November 2014. The City’s controller should not have been able to write checks without a PO to write checks against, so something is fishy there.
FFFF has already shared with the Friends here some of the more ludicrous aspects of “Back the Badge” a PR outlet for cop departments and unions that we pay for.
The whole shabby deception is so bad we decided to dig a little deeper to see just how the Fullerton taxpayers got hooked into paying for the cops to peddle their propaganda – to us.
The documents we received indicate a completely non-transparent, slipshod City-vendor relationship in which deliverables are sketchy, and grossly overvalued.
First, it’s important to point out that this relationship was approved in secret by former City Manager Joe Felz in spring 2013, presumably under his spending authority. The City Council may have been informed, but the public most assuredly was not. Even Felz must have been aware of the possible public blowback against this nonsense. And he undoubtedly had the support of council persons Flory, Chaffee and Fitzgerald in trying to keep this gross squandering of public funds out of the public eye.
It is critical to recognize the contract for what it is: a fixed fee arrangement in which the vendor gets his contracted monthly amount regardless of what he actually accomplishes. These sorts of contracts are comparatively rare in government precisely because they are not tied to specific scopes of work. In essence there is no real oversight at all, even if anybody felt like doing it – which they didn’t.
If you peruse the invoices you will find all sorts of weird “deliverables” of intangible sort like “PR services,” “OC Register columns,” and “Fullerton News Tribune” just the sorts of things that are impossible to value and make you wonder if the real media was in collusion with Back the Badge. FFFF has already noted how the Yellowing Fullerton Observer has published an article, verbatim, from Back the Badge, here.
Of course some of the contractual items like “traffic/performance reports” yielded no responsive documents in our public records request. Anyway, as I noted it above it hardly matters.
One extra-contractual proposal sent to former Chief Danny “Galahad” Hughes offers 40,000 print copies of “Behind the badge Fullerton magazine” for a mere twenty grand. Who approved that, and where did these print copies go? That we shall likely never know, as the police PR mechanisms are obviously none of our damn business, even though we are bankroller and target audience.
My favorite item in the proposals from Back the Badge is something called “crisis counseling.” This must be a service that is called upon when something really bad occurs and the cops need to polish up that road apple, and quick! So did Back the Badge spring into crisis counseling mode the night their benefactor, Joe Felz, smelling of liquor, drove off Glenwood Avenue, and was given a free pass and a ride home by the Fullerton Police Department?
On December 17, 2016, the City issued a new Purchase Order for more of those valuable Back the Badge services. The invoice cites the brand-new interim Chief but there is no reference to the Acting City Manager since by this time Joe Felz was long gone, the victim of his own reckless behavior. So who authorized the issuance of this new PO? The police chief, whoever he is, has no such spending authority. It seems as if the Culture of Opacity and Unaccountability is humming along on auto pilot.
Well, this is Fullerton and if you want to find out what is going on – well, good luck with that.