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.
Today Joe Felz’ attorney Bob Hickey entered North Court and had a closed door meeting with the DA and the judge. When they emerged, the pre-trial hearing had been rescheduled once again to August 14. The delays clearly represent the formation of some sort of plea deal for Felz. The whole darn thing got me thinkin’…
Plea deals occur because both the DA and the accused want to avoid the cost of a trial. Normally the DA would have the upper hand, as he has the ability to offer reduced charges and penalties. The defendant comes to the table with nothing except the ability to waste the DA’s time, at a great personal cost. Lawyers are expensive.
In Felz’ case, there was an extra card to play. Felz knew that a trial burdened the DA and the City of Fullerton with the added threat of public exposure. Police Chief Danny Hughes and Sergeant Jeff Corbett had committed obstruction of justice that night when drunk driving Felz was driven home instead of being arrested. The city and its police department needed to keep this quiet and keep themselves free from any courtroom scrutiny. Felz, on the other hand, didn’t have much to lose.
When DA Investigator Abraham Santos’ blew the whistle in May, the odds tilted heavily in Felz’ favor. For the DA, a Felz DUI trial suddenly meant the opportunity for Hickey to dig into the Hughes/DA collusion. The threat of reputational damage to both the institutions and the individual players is suddenly enormous leverage against the DA. Hell, Hickey might even be able to get Santos to testify against the DA and Hughes on the stand. Savage!
So today things aren’t looking to good for the prosecution, who’s already mired in scandal and has little to gain from pushing the Felz case anyway (what’s another DUI conviction? North Court is full of ’em.) While each delay keeps Felz unemployable for a bit longer, it also brings the promise of a dropped case or a neutered plea deal. Keep your eyes out for either one.
Remember that quasi-judicial nuisance hearing against the Grand Inn back in April? The one where former police chief Danny Hughes went under oath and accidentally told us that Joe Felz was drunk when he crashed his car and got a ride home from the Fullerton PD?
After some wrangling down at city hall, FFFF finally got its hands on the entire hearing transcript, which you can view here.
The transcript reveals that former city manager Joe Felz did meet with developer Urban West to discuss purchasing, assembling and rezoning the four lots on Euclid and Orangethorpe to build high-density apartments, which included a large lot owned by Renick Cadillac. Unfortunately for Felz and Co., one of the lots was owned by an unwilling participant, the Grand Inn.
Coincidentally (or not), these development meetings occurred just prior to a long, expensive effort by the Fullerton Police to document the Grand Inn as a public nuisance in order to shut it down. Was the sudden crackdown on the Grand Inn related to the Felz/Renick/Urban West development deal? Of course Felz denied the accusation under oath, much like he denies being drunk when he crashed into a poor sapling on Highland. But to the reasonable observer, it stinks like hell. In Fullerton, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
If you still haven’t connected the dots yet, consider the PD’s year-long effort to attribute nearby crimes to the Grand Inn in the context of the police department’s complete disregard for the large volume of calls stemming from the actual public nuisance that is the Slidebar.
In true Fullerton fashion, Mr. Felz could not get through the hearing without invoking his right to not incriminate himself.
Back to the development scheme – which would not be complete without the insertion of our favorite lobbyist/councilperson. In the testimony we learn that Jennifer Fitzgerald had met with Renick and Felz at least once in the early stages of this fiasco. We’ll never know the depth of her involvement with the developer, or whether she was wearing her lobbyist hat or her elected official hat at the time. But we can assume she was aware of the value of her vote, should a lucrative zone change come before the council in the near future.
Either way, Renick and Urban West seem to have given up on the deal, since Renick is now rebuilding its showrooms. But the city is stuck pursuing it’s selective enforcement action against the Grand Inn (or are they?). More taxpayer money goes down the drain while nothing is accomplished.
The Fullerton PD marketing apparatus is still trying to convince the public that some sort of equitable enforcement of DUI exists. Check out today’s promulgation:
This is the very same police department that attempted to cover up a DUI collision committed by its own city manager just a few months ago. Now that we know former police chief Dan Hughes was committing criminal obstruction of justice (according to the OCDA investigator assigned to the case), this propaganda seems even more ridiculous.
One more thing to note: Temporary police chief Hinig is gone, and so Fullerton police are being led by Dan Hughes’ own hand-picked captains Siko and Rudisil. While Hughes’ legacy of corruption and obstruction may become the subject of interest in the ongoing federal probes into the OCDA, it is silly to think that our police department’s age of shame ended with Hughes’ departure.
If you were worried that Fullerton police officers were beginning to shed their reputation as some of the most boorish and careless cops in Orange County, don’t be.
Here’s a story about a well-regarded Fullerton businessman who was recently provoked into becoming a national bicycle advocate. He even decided to travel to Washington DC to lobby for bicycle safety on behalf of Fullerton’s cyclists. What drove Mr. Joel Maus to take on this cause?
Three months ago he was riding downtown on a street without a bike lane. As he rode the slight downhill of a railroad undercrossing he noticed a metal drainage grate directly in his path. To avoid it, he looked over his shoulder and took the lane to make sure no one tried to pass him dangerously. Then he heard a loud “honk” and the crescendo of an engine behind him as someone swerved into the other lane and went around him.
Someone wasn’t happy to see Joel riding in the lane. And that someone was a Fullerton police officer.
Joel was riding legally and safely. The officer was rude and reckless. Frustrated and determined to do something about it; that night he went home, created a simple logo, and made his first post on the Bike Fullerton Instagram account.
All of city hall’s feeble and self-serving efforts to project itself as some sort of promoter of bicycling were nearly undone by one imprudent cop who doesn’t seem to care much at all about the risk of smearing Mr. Maus all over the road. Of course this behavior continues to be tolerated by our neglectful city management and a spineless, self-interested city council.
Being a political creature means keeping your happy face on – even when your happy speech is done. On Saturday our lobbyist-councilperson Jennifer Fitzgerald happily talked up her moronic wooden stairs that don’t do anything – $1,600,000 worth of nothing. She was soooo excited (twice). Even her pal Jan Flory was there to help put a shine on this smoking road apple. But when her talk was done, Fitzy sure looked grim walking away from this monumental misadventure in government waste.
Maybe the enormity of the waste actually set in? Shame? Guilt? Anger?
Yet another in a series about the depot elevator additions by our friend, Fullerton Engineer.
There is an alarming trend in public works construction, namely the larding up of the project with costly overseers to oversee other overseers. The justification is always the same – hiring essential “expertise” to make sure the project gets done on time and under budget. Forget the irony that no one in charge really cares if a project is late, or how much it costs, although they would prefer that no one find out. But what they really care about care about is the photo-op ground breaking and the bronze plaque with their name on it.
The consequences of this trend are two. First, the cost of the project goes up. Way up. And secondly, the overdose of management is guaranteed, when something inevitably goes wrong, to diffuse accountability by the sheer numbers of people potentially responsible for the problem.
Exhibit A for the prosecution: the completely unnecessary elevator addition project at the Fullerton train station, a project that has already skyrocketed toward $5,000,000. Yes, you read that right. $5,000,000.
When last I left off my narrative, the City had hired Woodcliff Corporation in April 2015 to build the new elevators; and it had paid Griffin Structures to make sure the thing was “constructible.”
In August of 2015 the City employed the services of Anil Verma, a civil engineer and construction manager for vague “construction support services” with a contract worth about $154,000. Since the contract was not provided per our PRA request, we are left to guess what Anil Verma’s scope of work is; we do know they presented two large invoices in 2016 for $55,000, even though nothing had been started except the small ADA remodel adjacent to the AMTRAK office. Regular billing began this spring and the total paid out so far as of April 2017 has been $66,000.
As if the professional services of Anil Verma were not enough to oversee this small project, the City hired yet another construction management company in March 2017 – Griffin Structures, for another $154,500. Since the contract was not provided per our PRA request, we are left to guess what Griffin Structure’s scope of work is, but we know that they are not replacing Anil Verma because, as noted above, the latter seems to have begun regular, monthly billings.
Now we come to the money that must be spent on our own city staff who makes sure the overseers are properly paid and ministered to. This money popped up in a budget transfer in March, money that is now coming directly out of Fullerton’s own Capital Budget. The total identified in the staff report is a lump-sum $600,000 for various items since the City Engineer, Don Hoppe, was not kind enough to share the specific amount for what is casually referred to as “additional assistant in construction administration.”
And finally, let us not forget the amounts that will surely be billed by, and require further contract augmentation for, Hatch Mott McDonald, the original designer of these two elevator structures, for on-site walkabouts.
Speaking of inspection, back in June 2015, the City hired the “as-needed” good offices of Smith-Emery, a construction testing/inspection lab. The contract is for just under $50,000, which is an awful lot of money for materials testing on a couple of elevator towers; so we’ll just have to trust our City public works department that the money will be well-spent. Our city council certainly trusts them.
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.
Further review of the budget document dump offers lots of worthy material. Why not examine the “15” Parks and Recreation Fund, shall we?
The only justification they can provide for $15,000 of Landscape Maintenance Supplies is “Substantially increased use of trash can liners in several parks“. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
Not long ago, I wrote about their brainstorm to launch fireworks from the top of Hillcrest Park on the Fourth of July. Included in that proposal was an idea to use Lions Field for Fourth of July festivities.
When youth sports are in session (i.e. most of the year), your chance of finding a parking spot at Lions Field in the evenings and on weekends is nearly impossible. Parking along Brea Blvd. is also used up for the same reason.
That’s okay, when Joe Felz’ Hillcrest Park stairs to nowhere are open — and the kids aren’t playing ball — people can park their cars at Lions Field and climb the hideous stairs when nobody is around, right? Wrong.
Under this proposal, parking at Lions Field during the day, everyday, will be scarce, if not completely unavailable.
Lease the Lions Field to Hope International University, most likely during the day, since youth sports already use it on the nights/weekends.
Lease the Lions Field parking lot to St. Jude for employee parking use.
Just as the stairs are a terrible waste of money and devoid of any logic, so too is the idea to lease parking spaces to St. Jude for profit. This is how Parks & Recreation operates: (1) waste a ton of money on something completely unnecessary that benefits less than 1% of Fullerton residents, (2) realize there isn’t enough money to support it, (3) come up with some scheme to siphon money away from the end user.
Leasing the Lions Field parking lot creates yet another reason for Fullerton residents not to use the stairs.
Oh, and by the way, the Park Dwelling Fee is slated to increase from $11,700 to $12,015 per unit.
I think the time has come to reduce — or even eliminate — the Park Dwelling Fee so that nonsense like the stairs isn’t affordable anymore. The $12,015 per unit would be far greater used to fix Fullerton’s streets, water mains, and sewers.