Category Archives: Small Stuff Adds Up

OC Superior Court in Santa Ana

Fullerton v. FFFF – New Judge, New Court Dates

OC Superior Court in Santa Ana

Things just keep on moving in the legal battles between us and Fullerton.

Yesterday the Hon. Judge Lee ruled that our two cases, Joshua Ferguson v. Fullerton and Fullerton v. FFFF, Joshua Ferguson, et al are related in response to our request for such a ruling.

As such we will no longer be gracing Judge Lee’s courtroom in Department C31 on 27 February 2019.

Currently we have a Status Conference regarding the City suing us on 12 Dec & a Case Management Conference on my Writ of Mandate case on 16 Dec in front of the Hon. Judge James Crandall in Department C33.

OC Superior Court Related Cases Dec2019

For context we argued, and the city opposed, the point that these two cases are related owing to them involving the same parties and general facts:

“[T]he two actions are based on similar claims, arise from the same transactions and events, and require the determination of substantially identical questions of law and fact. The CPRA lawsuit alleges that the City has improperly withheld records it claims are confidential or exempt from disclosure. The City’s lawsuit claims that in the process of responding to Defendants’ CPRA requests, it placed confidential or exempt information on its website, www.cityoffullerton.com/outbox. In both cases, the City has the burden to show that the documents are confidential.”

We’re of the opinion that the city’s case against myself and this blog is retaliatory owing to the fact that the city waited months to file their case and only did so AFTER I filed my Public Records lawsuit.

The city claims they waited to “secure their network” which is utter nonsense considering their own experts, in their own declaration, stated that the city needed approximately 30 days for the company Glass Box to fix their network (not Dropbox) vulnerability. Yet the city sent their original Cease & Desist email on 14 June, their letter to our attorney Kelly Aviles on 17 July and then they waited an additional 99 days to file their lawsuit against us on 24 Oct.

That’s a lot more than the 30 days recommended by Glass Box and sure is convenient timing. It’s even more convenient that the City had to vote “again” on 19 November “in an effort to clarify any Brown Act violations” when they refused to report out about their alleged vote back in September that Whitaker denies even took place.

I will be very surprised it the city does not attempt to appeal this decision to link the cases.

OC Superior Court in Santa Ana

Fullerton v FFFF – Fullerton’s Small Loss & Big Costs

OC Superior Court in Santa Ana

Yesterday Kimberly Barlow with Jones & Mayer, on behalf of the City of Fullerton, asked the Hon. Richard Y. Lee to change the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against myself and this blog. An exhibit to said TRO was NOT INCLUDED when the Judge signed the original order and Jones & Mayer wanted to substitute the list of files we were originally told we couldn’t publish, share or delete with a shiny new list that allegedly only included private records. Read about that issue in our previous post [HERE].

The judge denied Ms. Barlow’s ex parte request. While Judge Lee agreed he had authority to change the TRO, he wasn’t going to do so as he didn’t believe it was necessarily the “clerical error” Fullerton’s attorney was claiming. Chalk up yet another loss for Jones & Mayer.

During the hearing Ms. Barlow took umbrage with our opposition paperwork, specifically the part about costs. Here’s the relevant part from our opposition (emphasis added, linked [HERE]):

Finally, filing of the anti-SLAPP motion by the Defendants within a week of the date this lawsuit was filed, halts proceedings so that Defendants and the Court are not burdened by the time and ever-increasing costs incurred in response to a frivolous lawsuit.

Yet, at present, the Defendants have been required to incur the expense of filing multiple briefs, a writ petition, numerous objections, last week’s court appearance, and are now must oppose on the City’s ex parte request to reconsider a restraining order, a request this Court has already rejected. Currently, Defendants have incurred nearly $100,000 in legal fees, which despite the pending SLAPP motion, are continuing to increase.This is exactly the point of SLAPP suits: To discourage public participation by running up litigation expenses, even though the City’s suit is completely meritless.

Ms. Barlow didn’t understand how it could possibly cost so much to fight her nonsense. She claimed it couldn’t cost so much to fight a TRO that in her words had no effect because the exhibit listing the files had been left off.

How could it cost so much? Gee. I wonder.

Perhaps if the City Attorney didn’t co-mingle everything up to and including billable hours she would understand how every time our attorney responds to the City’s paperwork, filings, declarations (alone totaling 21 and counting with 4 declarations from Strebe, 3 from Klein and so on and so forth), it costs money. There are more pages in those declarations than the first two Harry Potter novels combined. Plus every time our attorney has to read an email, field a phone call, talk to media on our behalf and show up to court, it costs us money. Every time the City does something, she informs us, which costs us money. And on and on.

We’re a month into this process, with three months to go before the anti-SLAPP motion, and we’re already staring down $100k. Imagine the bill when the dust settles. If our ONE attorney is racking up billable hours responding to the city’s filings, one can only imagine the costs being incurred over at Jones & Mayer in creating all of that paper they’re attempting to bury us under each day.

Yesterday, three weeks after getting it, Ms. Barlow went to court to argue that the TRO she demanded, received and then we had stayed, is incomplete. This mistake, which Barlow blames on the court, led to that hearing. Her appearance as well as our attorney’s appearance is costing billable hours and somebody is going to have to pay the piper.

We’re betting it’ll be the taxpayers.

As always we’ll keep you posted as to the details of this case as they happen.

Stuffed Animals

Two years ago, I wrote a post for this blog entitled, Woe to the Charitable Donor where I pointed out the embarrassingly poor oversight when it comes to receiving and spending donated money.  Literally nothing has changed in the time since then.

Last year, the City purchased 75 K9 Hero stuffed animals — like the one pictured above — for the tidy sum of $618.75.

Follow along below.  On the reconciliation report, that purchase is charged to the 95-2501 account.  95 is a Trust Fund, and 2501 is where K-9 donations from the community are deposited.

 

Again, we have an instance where well-meaning Fullerton non-profits think they’re helping to fund actual police work, actual K-9 food and equipment, actual K-9 veterinary care — when that isn’t the case at all.

A mere four days before those stuffed animals were ordered, actual K-9 veterinary expenses at Yorba Regional Animal Hospital were charged to the General Fund, account 10277-6319.  (Note: anything 10xxx is the General Fund)

Without missing a beat, two days later, they spent $700 at Work Dogs International, again using General Fund account 10277-6319.

Why did they charge the General Fund when just days before/after, they had donated K-9 money to burn on stupid stuffed animals?

My detractors will say, so what, it’s a small sum of money, who cares?  Tell that to the City employees whose jobs in the Public Works / Landscape Division are about to be eliminated.  The City just issued an RFP for Park Maintenance because the City can no longer afford their wages and pensions.  Maybe if the incompetence and sense of entitlement at the police department weren’t so bad, we would have cash to spend elsewhere.

Does the City have any policy whatsoever for proper handling of donations?  Why is this tolerated?

Gas Tax Trough Slurpers Support Newman

It’s just a few cents a gallon. Suck it up!

A Friend just forwarded me a press release from Josh Newman’s campaign to get back his old job – the one he got recalled from after gas taxing his constituents, rich and poor alike, in order to support the State’s featherbedded transportation bureaucracy and infrastructure lobbyists.

The gas tax was nothing other than a free-up of state resources to help support the ridiculous High Speed Rail boondoggle that has made Californias a laughing stock.

And right on cue, these same special interests have rewarded Newman with their endorsements.

ORANGE COUNTY, CA — In another indication of his wide-ranging support from working men and women in the rematch race to represent California’s 29th State Senate District, today U.S. Army veteran, businessman and former State Senator Josh Newman secured endorsements from Ironworkers Local 433 and the Professional Engineers in California Government.

Both unions released statements following the announced endorsements:

“Courage, integrity and doing the right thing matters. That’s why we’re pleased to give Josh Newman our enthusiastic support in his 2020 rematch campaign. Josh is a political rarity – in the face of adversity – he bravely stood up for the people and did the right thing time and again. We know Josh will be a fierce and outspoken leader for working families and a pro-middle class agenda in the State Senate. We look forward to helping him win this race.”
-Ironworkers Local 433 Business Agent Paul Moreno

“The Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) is pleased to announce our endorsement of Josh Newman for State Senate District 29. Josh has worked to create and protect good-paying jobs; invest in infrastructure, and education; safeguard collective bargaining, organizing in the workplace and retirement benefits; expand access to healthcare; and all the while, grow and strengthen our middle-class economy. We support Josh Newman for Senate because we support fierce defenders of our working families.”
-Professional Engineers in California Government President Cathrina Barros

The signal is loud and clear: Newman supports bureaucrats and boondoggles above the public – so much so that he was and will be willing to load the burden of regressive taxes on the very constituents the liberal Democrats are always bleating so loudly about – poor minority folks.

 

What is it About OCTA and Bikes?

What is it about the Orange County Transportation Agency and its love of bicycle boondoggles? We know they are obligated to pretend they care about multi-modal transportation, but why the silliness? FFFF readers will recall we talked about the ludicrous $800 per bike ride fiasco overseen by former County Supervisor and OCTA Boardmember, Shawn Nelson.

Sturdy looking, but up to the challenge? 

Now it appears that Nelson’s sclerotic successor, Fullerton’s own Prince of Potholes, Doug “Bud” Chaffee is following in the noble tradition.

 

I just received a self-promoting e-mail from Supervisor Chaffee touting OCTA bike day. For ten bucks you get bike training, a nifty bike helmet, bike lights and a delicious lunch. What the subsidy for these days of fun is the public is not informed. However the impoverished need not worry; for “scholarships” are available on a limited basis although we are not enlightened as to who might qualify, and how. The provided link says nothing about “scholarships.”

Now while there’s nothing wrong with bicycle safety, per se, one wonders why we are paying for classes on how to ride a bike, and on “fun” bike tours and “advanced” bicycling skills. And why does the public have to pay for the political promotion of “public servants?”

 

Lack of Control at OC Animal Control

 

The tabby had other plans…

Once in a while we here at FFFF like to shine a spotlight on some of the more ludicrous doings down on the County farm, and today’s special comes from a Friend who wants to be known as Stephanie. Apparently, Steph had an encounter with the good folks at OC Animal Control recently and decided to share her story. Here it is:

Dear FFFF,

I’d like to relate an experience I’ve recently had with the county’s animal control people. I was breaking up a cat fight between my cat and a stray when my pet in a real excited state bit my hand pretty badly. Fortunately the nurse at urgent care warned me that they were legally required to report the incident to the County and my cat would have to be quarantined under County supervision, all because of rabies. This was ridiculous because my cat had just got its rabies vaccination.

Sure enough, the Animal Control people started showing up a few days later. I made up a story about getting bit by a stray somewhere and after returning for further interrogation several times they finally sent me this letter:

All clear. Since 1956.

Wow! Medically cleared by Animal Control! The funniest part of this letter is the reassuring reminder that no cat has contracted rabies in Orange County in 62 years. What’s not so funny is the time, resources, and bureaucratic rigmarole involved in an incident that was nobody’s business but hers.

Felz Larger

More of Felz’s Accounting Manipulation

Felz Larger
For a long time we had inklings and heard rumors that former City Manager Joe Felz monkeyed with the accounting around City Hall and fudged as much as possible while pretending, with the likes of Jennifer Fitzgerald that our budget was “balanced”. It was plainly obvious when the Redevelopment Agency was shuttered by State law and yet nobody lost a job that Felz’s priorities were not with fiscal restraint. It was just as obvious when nobody on City Council questioned it that he was bound to keep on keeping on.

So now we have a new small example of how Felz and everybody down the food chain ran our city (emphasis in original):

Kevin City Council Meetings

“Years ago after the Kelly Thomas incident, Joe had authorized a part-time parks & rec employee to hang around in the lobby during Council meetings for (I’m assuming) crowd control or some type of assistance.  I just found out today that these employees’ time, averaging 5 hours per Council night, is being charged to Public Works landscaping, apparently because Joe thought that budget had money???? (not).  Public Works has finally gotten wind of it and says no more, which I absolutely agree with.  Either this coverage should cease, or it should be charged to the City Council’s budget (for which there is absolutely no room).

Please provide direction to affected parties as appropriate.”

While this looks like small potatoes, it goes to the ethics and opaque way Fullerton’s finances were run and the willful ignorance on the part of council.  This payroll game is another case of something which ran for literal years before somebody found it by accident at which point the “Oh shit do something” brigade started worrying about details they long ignored.

If payroll for employees is buried in the wrong departments what other money is being used inappropriately around City Hall?

Don’t expect our City Manager to explain how this problem ran for so long and who is being held to account or for our City Council to ask any tough questions or to even address this or any similar issues. That would be out of character and would require them to be open, honest and accountable.

Fullerton Police Challenge coins

Fullerton Brass Thought Money Was No Object

FPD Badge

Back in April of 2017 we wrote a piece about FPD giving taxpayers the middle finger regarding spending cuts within the department. During budget meetings the Police Department offered the PR outfit “Behind the Badge” up for tribute in their paltry cost savings plan and that was pretty much it.

For context, during this time it was mentioned that the police department burned through over $1Million a year in overtime (OT) pay.

FPD OT

What most people didn’t know, hilariously, is that the Chief of Police himself didn’t know how that money was being spent (emphasis added):

Hendricks OT

“I can be made aware I am spending a lot of money in overtime, but a detailed accounting of that overtime is not available.  We have codes for court overtime but, to my understanding, that is all.  If the OT was spent to maintain minimum staffing I do not know.  If the OT was due to a community event I do not know.  If the OT was due to extended shift overtime I do not know.

That is from the former Chief of Police himself. If Overtime was due to a community event, minimum staffing or extended shift OT he didn’t know.

Let that sink in for a minute.

The Chief of Police didn’t (and likely doesn’t still) know how OT was being used in his own department. And this went on for literal years before Hendricks got here.

Chief_Hendricks_Headshot_Photo-1[1]

This is where I give former Chief Hendricks some praise for at least in one aspect attempting to right a ship that the council, city manager and former Chiefs had let float adrift. Let us not forget that the officers who took the OT never brought it up or questioned it as they were perfectly happy to ride the OT gravy-train into Fullerton’s fiscal ruin.

But wait, there’s MORE! Not only was the Chief unaware of how OT was being spent, we were also burning through OT as standard operating procedure (emphasis added):

Hendricks No Object

“In the last six years following KT’s death, ALL community events and requests were taken on and a large number of them were done on overtime.  This was the case up until I got here.  I was unaware the marching orders were “do everything and money is no object” until literally last week.  In the prior months, I had used personal discernment to tell Community Services to say “no” to some things and, instead to offer an on duty Watch Commander or  a beat cop or sergeant to simply swing by and say hi.  No exaggeration, if someone asked for a PD display of canines, SWAT and all their equipment etc., we gave it to them.  Most of those things happened on the weekend and many of the individuals responding did so on overtime.”

The mentality was “do everything and money is no object” for 6 years until Hendricks put a stop to it. This was likely a Dan Hughes and/or Joe Felz thing that just sat uncontested by our lazy, incompetent and/or corrupt city staff and council because the idea that the council didn’t know about it is laughable. The only way they didn’t know about this is because willful ignorance is bliss in council chambers and feigning ignorance works too well with low information voters.

If nothing else this shows a complete lack of budgetary seriousness for at least six years from our City Councils, City Managers, HR Director and Police Chiefs in that time. You can’t seriously talk about balancing a budget and being conscious of costs when you have standing orders that “money is no object” and your Chief of Police is ignorant of how the money in a $1Million+ budgetary item is being allocated and spent.

Chief_Hendricks_Headshot_Photo-1[1]

Fight a Paramedic, Win a $100K

Chief_Hendricks_Headshot_Photo-1[1]

Remember when Chief Hendricks left Fullerton after his run-in with some paramedics at a Lady Antebellum concert?

It looks like we hired a PR firm to polish the turd of a Press Release and even the consultant admitted that Domer slobbering all over Hendricks looked bad since we were paying Hendricks to leave (emphasis added):

Hendricks Draft Notes

“We’ve had a chance to look at the draft releases and to read your summary of where things stand. We are concerned that if there is an quotation in the release from you – and the settlement with the Chief is made public later – this could come back to hurt you and diminish your credibility, since people will wonder why you spoke so effusively about a person who was effectively paid to leave.”

But how much did we pay him? Over $100K, that’s how much.

Hendricks Dollars Value

Most people who get charged with battery get a perp walk and not a golden handshake. It must be nice to live on that side of the government. This, for obvious reasons, was left out of the press release.

CNG Fullerton

Did City Employees Steal Over $50K of Equipment?

CNG Fullerton

Another day, another story of alleged theft/fraud of city property here in the city of Fullerton finally coming to light.

In late January 2017, Julia James contacted me about some questionable purchases charged to Facility Superintendent Bob St. Paul’s City-issued procurement card.  I asked Tim Campbell to review the purchases for calendar year 2016.  His review revealed several purchases charged to the CNG Fund that did not appear to be CNG-related.  Based on the preliminary findings, I asked Tim to examine Bob’s P-card purchases for 2014 and 2015 as well. Over the three years, Bob used his P-card to charge the CNG fund slightly less than $12,000 for several dozen purchases. Many of these purchases had no clear relation to CNG operations; for example, there were multiple purchases for clothing, flashlights, tools, and canopies, some of which appeared to be for personal use.  Most of the purchases were initiated by Public Works Analyst Trung Phan, the CNG operation’s manager.”

This time around it looks like the protocols and oversight in the city were so lax that over the course of years employees were able to use their city issued purchasing cards to buy over $50,000 worth of stuff that was of no use to the city.

“It took the audit team about a week to complete the additional review and inventory.  When the team finished, the value of questionable purchases increased to at least $50,000.”

Former employees Bob St. Paul and Trung Phan allegedly worked together to charge items to the CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) station on Basque and Commonwealth and when the city tipped them off that they were under investigation – it appears they returned as much as possible in the dead of night and so no real investigation was done and no prosecution was possible.

‘While playing the archived video, we found several instances of Trung arriving at night, briefly stopping at the CNG station, and then unloading items from the back of his personal truck and taking items into the storage area.Bob was also observed returning an item very early in the morning.The incidents took place after Dennis and I counseled Bob and Trung regarding the P-card purchases, but before they were placed on leave.”

That video evidence was actually found out purely by accident which would be comical if it wasn’t so sad.

On top of purchasing things of no use to the city and absconding with them, only to return them in the dead of night, Trung also allegedly manipulated his payroll to get unjustified overtime.

“The research revealed that Trung charged overtime several times a month, claiming he had to come in after hours to reset the station’s equipment. This contradicted with indications by Fastech’s maintenance technician, that the equipment rarely failed.”

That nobody in the city up the food chain knew the efficiency or status of the CNG station and what the vendor even did, as evidenced by an employee able to fake overtime for unneeded work, is another damning indictment on city hall.

The culmination of all of this was yet more settlement agreements coming out of corruption or malfeasance on the part of government employees and not a word to the people of Fullerton. It’s just $50,000+ of your money that was wasted so why tell you anything?

What all was purchased? How much money was wasted? How long did all of this go on and was anybody else involved? The world will never find out. Why? Because:

CNG Investigation Halted

“We halted the internal investigation when the employees made the decision to resign.  As such, I am not anticipating a final report.”

That’s right. The city decided they didn’t want to know the full extent of the issue once they were able to settle with the employees in question and successfully sweep this issue, like so many others, under the rug.

We here at Friends for Fullerton’s Future had inquired about this issue when we were first alerted to it and the response at the time from the city was as follows:

“Regarding #2 of your request, the records you have listed are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Government Code section 6254(b), (c), (f) and (k); Government Code section 54963, Evidence Code Section 950 et seq., Code of Civil Procedure section 2018.010, and Government Code section 6255 (personnel, law enforcement investigative files, Brown Act, litigation, attorney-client privilege and attorney work product).”

So much for an open and transparent government. Once again we were all left in the dark while simultaneously being forced to pay for the useless purchases, admin leave and billable hours required to settle this nonsense.

Speaking of the settlements, the one with Trung, likely the same or similar with that of St. Paul, has the boilerplate Paid Leave (vacation) nonsense and other such niceties. The best part though, as usual, is as follows:

“Employer agrees not to defame, disparage or demean Employee for anything he did or may have done in the course and scope of his relationship with Employer.”

Lord help the next employer these two end up working for in the future which in the case of Phan is the CA Department of Transportation. I guess the city helped him to fail upwards.

Phan LinkedIn

You can read the settlement agreement with Phan Trung [HERE].

The report about the entire incident is as follows:

CNG Report 01CNG Report 02CNG Report 03