The Militarization of Fullerton’s Cops

No more blood on Fullerton’s streets,” went the chant of a handful of protesters after the vote on last Tuesday’s Council Agenda Item 4. These folks were upset that the item, which was a statutory requirement that the City police department list its “military” hardware, on going running costs, and reaffirming policy to the use thereof, was passed on a 3-0 vote.

But you’re looking good, baby, I believe you’re feeling fine…

The protesters, such as they were. seemed agitated that the cops have these toys to begin with – surplus military equipment, some of it, and other weaponry that were included by the Legislature under the rubric “military.” And that’s okay. Ever since the war on terror began two decades ago, our military-industrial complex has been churning out hardware to attack, assault, disarm, kill, maim anybody that cause or accident put in the way of our military. So a lot of it, used or unused, has become surplus, and was bound to find its way into the hands of American police departments. That’s not okay.

Da! Is good…

Having the equipment – from projectile launchers to high caliber guns and assault rifles – has helped reinforce the notion of our own police as an occupying force, and is about the last mentality you want your cops to have, and leaves citizens feeling like maybe something sinister is at work. I get that.

The apologists for this item were quick to point out that the list of equipment – some of it very expensive to maintain – was for stuff the City already has, and wasn’t a shopping list, as they supposed the public speakers believed. Councilmembers Whitaker, Charles, and Zahra were happy to explain this, and reiterated the pro forma nature of the list and the policy statement. They seemed really averse to discussing the item at all, which is understandable for a politician in Fullerton; you don’t get ahead denying police their armored vehicles and, riot gear, and SWAT paraphernalia.

And so the the second issue that should have been discussed never happened at all.

Do we trust our police department to deploy their military equipment competently?

A few weeks back, as Friends may recall, FPD cops killed an evidently distressed man in front of the McDonald’s on Brookhurst St. by blasting him in the chest with multiple “less lethal” projectiles – a distinction without a difference to the dead man.

Then there was the case of Hector Hernandez who was blown away on his own property defending himself against a police dog let loose by Jonathon Ferrell – who is still on the payroll. That settlement cost $8.5 million.

I could go on and report the FPDs long history of physically abusing the citizenry – people like Veth Mam and Edward Quinonez, but really, why bother? Would you want an AK 47 or an assault vehicle in the hands of Manual Ramos, Jay Cicinelli, or Joe Wolfe? What about Christopher Wren, or Jeff Corbett, or Sonny Siliceo, just to name only a small handful of FPD’s “bad apples?”

And finally, there is this harrowing tale from 2011, when the FPD SWAT gang invaded the wrong damn house!

And just as importantly, who is going guarantee the proper training for this gear? Accountability has never been a strong suit of Fullerton’s governing personnel.

This is all certainly food for cogitation. But Fullerton, being Fullerton, nobody is going to do it, at least not anybody in authority.

Cops Croak Combative Chemise-less Chap

The following is a Fullerton Police Department issuance:

Fullerton Police Officers responded to a restaurant located in the 1300 block of S. Brookhurst Rd on March 6 at 3:01 am regarding two males that were standing at the front of the doors, possibly under the influence of drugs. The reporting party, who was the manager of the business, was concerned for the employees’ safety as they began to arrive for work. 

Officers arrived on the scene and contacted one shirtless male adult, who was uncooperative with Officers’ commands. The male began swinging a belt at officers as they attempted to contact him. Additional officers were requested, and once they arrived, they utilized a taser to attempt to subdue the suspect, which was ineffective.

The suspect continued to act erratically and was uncooperative as he refused to comply with officers’ commands. Officers then utilized a less lethal kinetic energy projectile and struck the suspect, allowing officers to take him into custody. At this time in the investigation, it is believed the suspect sustained a significant injury to the chest area as a result of the use of the less lethal kinetic energy projectile. 

Officers began life-saving measures while paramedics responded. The suspect was transported to a local trauma center, where he was later pronounced deceased. 

As is standard practice in Orange County, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office will conduct an independent in-custody death investigation. 

The Orange County Coroner will release the deceased suspect’s identity. 

It would be nice to take FPDs statement at face value, but given both the history of the department, it’s unreformed record, and the nature of police reports in general, it would be unwise to do so. I won’t comment on the propriety of this episode other than to point a out a few of the typical bias issues with the report that are clearly intended to sway public opinion in the police direction, regardless of the central facts of the actual encounter. We’ve seen it lots of times before in Fullerton.

It’s 3 o’clock in the morning at a restaurant, most likely the McDonald’s store, which is in the 1300 block of South Brookhurst. Two dudes are hanging out in front of the doors, as reported by the store manager, who is apparently concerned for the safety of his incoming employees, and who has called for the police. So far so good.

Except that the two are reported as being possibly under the influence of drugs. It’s also possible that they are not under the influence of drugs. And here’s where the narrative gets loosey goosey because we don’t know, and won’t know until the Coroner is done with the corpus delecti, oops, the body.

We learn from the report that the cops on the scene encounter “one male,” shirtless; male #2 presumably has decamped. The fact that the man is inexplicably not wearing a shirt at 3am is further non-evidence in the effort to direct us to the inevitable exculpation of the police.

We are informed that the man was uncooperative with commands. Not knowing what the commands were, we are left to assume they were legal commands. Mr. Shirtless, removes his belt and swings it at the cops as they try to “contact” him. Contact? Verbally? Physically? What for? Has he even broken any laws at this point? Your guess is as good as mine. Fearing for their safety (no doubt) the cops on the scene request back-up, which arrives. Is Shirtless still swinging the belt? Don’t know. But rather than physically restrain Shirtless, somebody decides he needs a Tasing as a form of attitude adjustment. Which, of course fails.

Now there are multiple officers on hand and Shirtless still remains uncooperative to commands and erratic, another subjective and loaded term. Is he still swinging the belt after the failed Tasing? Don’t know. Still no mention of an attempt at physical restraint by any of the multiple, presumably fit officers. At this juncture somebody decides to hit the man with a “less lethal kinetic energy projectile” which hits him in the chest. I don’t know what a less lethal kinetic energy projectile is, but I guess if you hit somebody in the wrong place (and I don’t mean the 1300 Block of South Brookhurst), you can kill him. In this case, the technique wasn’t less lethal.

The police offer “life-saving measures” that don’t work, either, and the man is hauled of to a trauma center where he is “later” pronounced deceased, although the wording implies that the death, not the announcement came later. We don’t actually know when the man died.

There are lots of specific questions about this encounter, such as several failed tactics and the possibility of escalation, none of which is offered in the press release. Will we find out? The DA won’t help with transparency and neither will the FPD. But, surely Mr. Shirtless has relatives, and the relatives will have lawyers.

The Sound and the Fury

A couple weeks back I posted that once again the issue of nuisance noise was coming to the City Council for yet another stab at, well, just another stab.

Just kidding…

In December the proposed ordinance was deemed lacking by Mayor Dunlap who asked that it come back in February; what that delay was supposed to accomplish is unclear, but return the item did. It resurfaced on Tuesday, and once again was half-heartedly examined and pushed away by the Council. This time they sent the matter back to the Planning Commission, that had already approved the existing proposal in November, 2023. This stall seems even more pointless than the last one. Fullerton.

The staff report was virtually unintelligible. It was nothing but a disjointed litany of actions taken (or, to be more precise, not taken) over the past 15 years to avoid doing anything and letting the scofflaw bar owners continue to scoff at the law. It didn’t say that, of course, but such was the unmistakable implication. A common thread seemed to be the difficultly in enforcing anything, which was just an excuse for not trying.

More Orwellian language…

The thrust of the revised ordinance is to raise the legal noise threshold in Downtown Fullerton. In fact the only thing the Council was considering, according to the oral staff presentation was this commercial aspect, although you’d have a hard time knowing that fact based on the material presented to the public.

The ordinance itself has baked-in failure written between every line, most notably in the increase in decibel level at 50 feet from the sources, combined with the issue of “ambient noise,” a loophole our fine Downtown club operators would be sure to drive a diesel semi through.

Joshua Ferguson made an appearance to show the nonsense of the 50 ft from property line part and noted, correctly that the the thresholds could actually create OSHA violating conditions within buildings themselves. He succinctly pointed out that the City (despite the self-congratulatory recitation of its recent enforcement efforts) wasn’t really enforcing anything at all, and showed that scofflaws were rarely even punished per the Municipal Code.

dick-jones
Staying awake long enough to break the law…

The proposed ordinance language seems to have been written by a staff member. But nowhere can one find evidence that any of this was approved as to form by Dick Jones, Esq. of The I Can’t believe It’s A Law Firm. What’s the point of having a lawyer if their job doesn’t include reviewing a potential law before it’s passed?

The Sound of Music

Business is booming…

Over the past two decades FFFF has documented the mess our City government has made of the financial sinkhole know as Downtown Fullerton; how laws and rules have been ignored to help the myriad bar owners, and how what is undoubtedly a fiscal municipal liability continues to be characterized as some sort of wonderful accomplishment.

Matt Foulkes. The spin out left casualties…

Planning Directors and Redevelopment Drones came and went: Dudley, Zur Schmied, Zelenka, Haluza, White, Foulkes, each one as useless as the one that came before, and each willing to put the scofflaws’ interest ahead of the citizens.’ To be fair, the political interference was there, too, nowhere better exemplified than in the case of our now-departed Mayor-for-Hire, Jennifer Fitzgerald, who had a for sale sign on her back. And of course City Attorney Dick Jones was there every step of the way to add obfuscating smoke into the downtown atmosphere.

dick-jones
Staying awake long enough to break the law…

Nowhere is the Fullerton downtown dysfunction better seen than in the complete hash the bureaucrats in City Hall have made of the noise situation. At first, the noise ordinance was simply ignored by the cops and by code enforcement. And for the past 15 years the City has made a concerted effort to allow amplified outdoor music downtown, to delay action (we’re still studying it), and to water down whatever official rules were on the books.

For the past four years nothing has happened and of course the nightclub operators have continued to take advantage of Fullerton’s de facto unwillingness to enforce anything.

And now the issue has finally resurfaced yet again, and once again the effort is likely not to work for us, but essentially, to admit defeat and allow the raucous free-for all to become official.

In December a new stab at a noise ordinance addressing outdoor music was placed on the table in front of the City Council.

Evidently the proposed ordinance was so bad that the our otherwise malleable City Council turned it back for rework. I don’t know what was in it because the City Clerk’s webpage doesn’t work. But supposedly the thing will be coming back on Tuesday the 29th and hopefully we will be able to see what sort of surrender our staff is coming up with.

Suffering The Stolen Sidewalk Saga

Gone, but not quite forgotten…

Two months ago I reminded the Friends that the never-ending story of the stolen Commonwealth public sidewalk was alive and well. The provocation was a closed session agenda item listed as “significant exposure to litigation” between the City of Fullerton and Mr. Mario Marovic, the owner of the building at the northeast corner of Harbor and Commonwealth. Marovic had submitted some sort of claim against the good folk of Fullerton, often an aggressive gambit to stall and temporize.

Meet the new proprietor, same as the old proprietor…

A quick rehash of the facts: Marovic took over the space from the decamped Florentine crime family and immediately gained access to the “bump out” on the sidewalk; and he then began remodeling it along with the rest of the first floor space for his new bars. He had no authority to do so because, of course, the City acquired responsibility to dispose of the building add-on after the Florentine’s bugged out on their lease with the City. In his application for CUPs for the new bars Marovic even included the City owned space as his own.

In the late summer of 2022 Marovic was well-along with his remodel even though his CUP hadn’t been approved, but the issue of the egregious bump out resurfaced, thanks to FFFF. In September, 2022 the City and Marovic reached an agreement that was signed by Eric Leavitt, our esteemed City Manager, and not the Mayor at the time, Fred Jung.

The terms of the agreement were simple enough, and FFFF has shared them before. The thrust of the deal was that Marovic could open his new bars (including the bump out) and he would then undertake to remove the bump out and restore the public sidewalk. Here is the actual clause describing terms and deadlines of the deal:

As you can see, demolition was to have begun at the end of March, 2023 – almost ten months ago – and be the rework complete by July, 2023 – five months ago. Marovic opened his businesses, alright, but never started demolition, and probably didn’t meet any of the other deadlines, either.

A little late, Kimberly…

So when is an agreement not an agreement? Apparently, when it’s written and approved as to form and content by Kimberly Hall Barlow, the obnoxious member of Dick Joneses “I Can’t Believe It’s A Law Firm” crew.

I almost know what I’m doing…

It’s interesting to note that Barlow didn’t approve the six month old agreement until March, 2023 – 4 days before demolition was to supposed to have started.

Of course Dick Jones and his fine stable of attorneys have been bungling the case of the stolen sidewalk from the very beginning, including personal conflict of interest, embracing ludicrous legal rationale at the behest of the Florentines, and even countenancing forgery on an official City document by Joe Florentine.

Still, one has to wonder what our elected officials themselves have done about this. Clearly the unwillingness of the City to enforce a legal agreement, signed by Marovic stems from fear of legal action. But Marovic is undeniably in breach of the contract he voluntarily signed, even though there is zero evidence that it was signed in good faith.

The City can and should begin the process of revoking Marovic’s CUP, the permit that has allowed him to make a lot of money over the last 10 months while failing to live up to his side of the bargain. As owner of the bump out the City has every right, at least, to revoke the CUP that covers its own property, as gotten fraudulently.

The City can also notify Marovic that it intends to remove the building addition itself, since he won’t do it, and bill the scofflaw for the cost.

dick-jones
Staying awake long enough to break the law…

Of course neither of these remedies will take place, because this is Fullerton, where the elected officials are feckless and beholden to the Downtown Liquor Cartel; and because they insist on, decade after decade, following the dismal advice of Dick Jones.

The View From On High

It was like getting hit with a broomstick all over again…

I have to say there are a lot of advantages to being in Doggie Heaven, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share them once in a while.

Getting rid of all the little annoyances connected with being alive and being a dog, for one thing.

Like I was reminded on Tuesday night when I was looking in on Fullerton’s City Council meeting to see if much had changed since my last visitation.

There was a lot of silly bloviation going on, the sort of things bipeds (humans and parrots and so forth) like to do. But then I was suddenly horror struck! Who was that sitting five or six rows back along the left aisle?

Arf! None other than my former mistress, Jan Flory, looking grumpier and more outraged than ever!

Yes, I admit, I recoiled in terror – a justifiable reflexive action, really, given all the times she would crack my skull with her broom and force me to take a doggie dump on Mr. Bushala’s property – and then crack my skull again if I didn’t. A chill ran down my ghostly spine as I recalled the bad old days when a pint of Jim Beam would mean a sound thrashing for me.

Too much scotch, not enough water…

My anxiety got even worse when my former mistress got up to speak. I know I should have averted my gaze to something less horrific, but it was sort of like one of you humans watching a train wreck – it’s hard to look away. I have no idea what she was babbling about, but she was going off on a guy named Whitaker, most likely the same man she raved about at home thirty years ago – just before the ol’ broom would come out of the closet. Whack! Right across the orbital. I could tell the utility mop was still securely in place after all these years.

Well, that’s my report from up here. I did notice that Fullerton has changed very little which is sort of reassuring in a way, even though I am just a dog, and a dead one at that.

The Scarcity of Public Information, Part 2

A few weeks ago I published a post detailing how someone had requested on October 12th, through a Public Records Act Request, information on environmental testing along the abandoned Union Pacific right-of-way; and how the City on October 23, in response, replied with six document files they called a “full release” and that had nothing to do with any sort of testing at all.

Well, they’ve done it again.

The trail didn’t go anywhere, but it sure was short…

Also on October 12th, the same person made a related request, specifically asking for a Phase 1 environmental report of the right-of-way. A Phase 1 environmental report surveys a property and its neighbors for historical usage in an attempt to identify potential environmental issues. On October 28th the City responded with the identical unresponsive documents as before, apparently digging a deeper hole for itself.

Whether this is sheer incompetence or just bullheaded arrogance, or a lot of both, remains to be seen.

As before, the proper response is not to share completely irrelevant and non-responsive documents, but, rather to simply state that there are no responsive documents.

The blue square ain’t good. Welcome to Trichlorethylene Alley. Please keep moving…

Why the City refuses to obey the law suggests several things. First, as mentioned above, stupid incompetence and/or arrogance. Or maybe somebody down there thinks they can stonewall a possible, even likely truth – that there never was any environmental testing done along the right-of-way, a path that lies adjacent and likely right on top of toxic contamination and on which the City tried to build a recreation trail for $2,000,000.

The Strange Tale of Johnny Lu’s Grant Deeds

Enhanced with genuine brick veneer!

By now Fullerton City Hall is aware that their partner in a boutique hotel/apartment high-rise on Santa Fe Avenue, TA Westpark LLC, is in trouble. TA Westpark Fullerton., AKA Johnny Lu has defaulted on a massive loan, previously borrowed to complete projects in Irvine.

Why is Johnny smiling?

The fallout from this embarrassment remains unknown, although there are plenty of questions that need to be answered, and sooner rather than later.

One of the questions involves the transfer of the public property ownership at the site to TA Westpark Fullerton, LLC before proper project approval, a desperate, and of course, totally unnecessary act. And the actual documents supporting ownership of the land in question need to be examined, too.

On December 22, 2022 the City sold the land at a huge discount to Lu. Check out the grant deed:

By now Craig Hostert, whose brain-child the boutique hotel was, is scratched out and TA Westpark Fullerton, LLC, a Delaware corporation, is the proud owner of the land and the transfer is signed by a “managing partner” of a whole other entity – “TA Partners.” Looks like Hosteret was bought out or walked away, abandoning his baby.

But, as they say in the infomercial, wait, there’s more. A quick check of the State of Delaware’s corporations roster doesn’t turn up any results for TA Westpark Fullerton, LLC. Hmm.

No responsive records…

And here’s something else. A few months later a new grant deed was promulgated and recorded at the County of Orange. Here, the hard to find Delaware corporation deeds the land in question over to TA Westpark Fullerton, LLC, a California corporation.

Something is odd here, and it’s not just the amateur hour handwritten changes on the original deed. Did the City sell this property to a non-existent corporate entity? If so, hasn’t some sort of fraud occurred? Why the shell game here, and could the original deed be considered invalid in retrospect?

No, I wasn’t asleep. I was praying…

We could ask these question of Dick Jones of the “I Can’t Believe It’s a Law Firm” law firm, because I doubt the City Council will make inquiries of their ace lawyer. Getting an honest answer from ol’ marble mouth? A rare and precious jewel.

Some might think this entire fiasco is going to get worse before it gets better. I’m not sure how that’s possible.

Misuse of the City Seal

A Friend directed me to a item in the Fullerton Observer about how Mayor Fred Jung had misused the official City seal on business cards.

UPDATE: 6:45PM 10/31/23. To protect them from getting nasty calls from any mean spirited person out there, the phone numbers of these honest men who are trying to help Fullerton’s economic growth have been redacted. The cards were originally published in The Fullerton Observer. I’m curious where the Observer got the cards from to begin with., something tells me it was devious. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Hope The Observer follows suit, but don’t hold your breath. Admin.

There’s nothing odd or wrong about members of City commissions using official insignia and I bet it happens all the time. What is strange is the creation of non-existent jobs advertised on two of the cards we’re looking at here. There is no official thing as a Mayor’s Art Counsel (sic?) or a Mayor’s Economic Advisor. These endeavors would be purely unofficial and creating business cards for them is wrong. And there is no reason to include a résumé on the backside of anybody’s City-related card.

Look at us, look at us!

One of the reasons I’m posting this is because a few days ago FFFF published a blog post about the self-congratulatory and unsolicited statement sent out by Councilmembers Ahmad Zahra and Shana Charles about the situation in Gaza on City letterhead that includes the City seal, and that was published in the Fullerton Observer without objection. In the comments section one of our Friends questioned the dubious use of the City seal.

The self-righteous Kennedy clan that operates the Fullerton Observer is too dense to recognize their own hypocrisy here, but I’m not.

The misuse of the seal is happening, and it needs to be stopped, regardless of who is doing it.

Ground Zero for Inertia

My latest essay detailed the problem of corporate inertia and described how Fullerton’s government as a corporate body displays all the problems associated with stagnation, ossification and an inability do things any differently. And then of course, there’s the arrogance and secretiveness.

Here’s a prime example of a culture that is in need of electric shock therapy.

Last April I wrote a post about how the the City and property owner Mr. Mario Marovic had come to an agreement in the fall of 2022 about the latter’s removal of the infamous Florentine hijack of the sidewalk on Commonwealth Avenue. In return, Marovic got to open his two new saloons on the corner.

We now know what a foolish bargain it was for the City.

Marovic was supposed to start demolition the last week in March. That was five and a half months ago. As of mid-September this has not started, and there is no sign that it will ever start. Why not?

Cheers!

Some people may suspect that Mr. Marovic has cast his bread upon the City Council water, so to speak, either above or below the table. But there is also a more likely scenario: the City is simply continuing to cover up its own incompetence in the long, sad history of the sidewalk theft.

No, I wasn’t asleep. I was praying…

And at the center of this tale? City Attorney Dick Jones, who is the only player who has been involved in this mess from the proverbial Day One, and who continues, no doubt, to dispense his legal wisdom that has been so disastrous, and has included turning a blind eye to his own conflict of interest, and justifying forgery of an official City application.

There’s also a bigger picture.

The government of Fullerton has developed a noxious habit of ignoring its own rules and regulations in the downtown area; it has systematically ignored the scofflaws who own the bars, and in fact has coddled and pampered them. Both bureaucrats and elected have continued to portray downtown Fullerton as an achievement, a great success, a municipal asset, when in fact, the saloon culture has never been anything but an annual $1.5 million drain on the City’s budget.

Of course the pages of FFFF are full of stories that confirm the nature of the stasis that defines our city’s governance. What is the solution? That’s the theme of a future post.