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.
One of the more startling examples of stupid waste at Fullerton City Hall has been the exorbitant expense of Behind the Badge: fifty large ones a year for former bad OC Register “journalists” to publish and disseminate pro-cop propaganda pabulum. It was all phony crap meant to obscure the real news about the FPD: a litany of bad behavior and criminal activity that over the past decade has spanned the breadth of the California Penal Code. Fortunately, thanks to the Friends this ridiculous waste is coming to an end. We wanted to make sure, too, so we requested the good bye letter.
And here is our temporary police chief Dave Hinig, hand-wringing over the loss of what can only be described as no loss at all for the taxpayer:
Is this some sort of sick joke? Value? To whom? Certainly not for the people who were paying out almost $250,000 over the past four years.
And what’s really laughable is all this lachrymose bullshit over a contract that was made in secret, was grossly mismanaged, and that had no actual requirements for performance – even if Joe Felz had had any inclination to oversee what he initiated.
Well, anyway, Behind the Badge is going away although why we have to pay another $8000 for two more months of this unadulterated literary manure is beyond me.
City Hall did something really helpful this week. The Clerk’s Office worked with Administrative Services to post very detailed budget documents online in advance of next Tuesday’s City Council budget workshop. I asked if this could be done and they made it happen 24 hours later. Thank you!
Budget detail of this depth has never been provided to the public. This is a big step in the right direction, and likely never would have happened if Joe Felz was still in charge.
From this cache of documents, we are able to see the type of General Fund waste that Dan Hughes justified during his tenure as police chief. The next time you call the Police Department and are told no officers are available to respond to a call for service, just remember where his priorities were.
Much of this is charitable and/or personal expenses. Dan Hughes was Fullerton’s highest compensated employee in 2015 with $358,403 in wages and benefits. He should have paid these expenses out of his own pocket, or simply not at all.
Let us not forget that it was the City Council — led by Fitzgerald, Flory, and Chaffee — that let him get away with shenanigans like this.
One can only hope the current City Council sees fit to finally end this nonsense.
Friends, in response to our public records act request regarding council communications on November 9th, 2016, we actually received the image below from newly-elected but not even sworn-in councilman Jesus Silva.
The first message from the afternoon of November 9th is “responsive,” but not requested since Silva was not yet a councilman. Still it’s pretty darn funny.
The second message dated five days later is a completely gratuitous offering, and you are free to make of it what you will. To me it looks an awful lot like Jesus was planning a list of invitees to an upcoming fundraiser. Let’s hope Felz didn’t waste any time on a purely political exercise for somebody too lazy too do his own research. Of course Stumblejoe had other things on his mind on November 14th.
When Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald finally got around to not misunderstanding the public records request for her phone communications on November 9th, 2016, FFFF received a document that purported to be responsive to our request. Here it is:
Have you ever seen a phone bill that wasn’t sorted chronologically? That’s because the document we received is not a phone bill. It’s data that was dumped into an Excel spreadsheet and deliberately sorted to confuse the chronological record and quite possibly to obscure the sequence and time-frame of redacted calls. This is not the public record that was requested and is not responsive to the request that was made by FFFF. In fact, this clumsy effort at obfuscation gives every indication of being an attempt to hide Ms. Fitzgerald’s communications in the early hours of November 9th.
And just for fun we have helped out with the names associated with the numbers:
As usual, when someone looks like they’re trying to hide something folks get a little suspicious that there is something worth hiding. And when it comes to our lobbist-councilwoman, we’re naturally suspicious to start with. So rest assured, Friends, we’ll be demanding that we get the original record, and not some self-serving, massaged data.
How funny. When you hire a lawyer the City’s legal minions suddenly realize that peddling bullshit may just have ramifications. They become slightly less obnoxious to the citizens they are supposed to be working for.
In the case of Jennifer Fitzgerald’s phone records from the early morning of November 9th, 2016, the public was first told that there were no responsive records. FFFF knew that was a lie because Fitzgerald herself admitted she was in communication with the police chief, Danny “Galahad” Hughes that night; and Hughes memorialized his conversations with councilmembers the very next day in a written memo.
That was when FFFF decided to lawyer up.
Well, here’s the response FFFF attorney, Kelly Aviles, received to her first demand letter. Mostly it’s a clarification about what FFFF wants. But the final page of the response contains this priceless gem:
Seems it was all just a “miscommunication,” donchaknow, in which the poor, befuddled lobbyist-councilwoman Fitzgerald thought members of the public were seeking information about some whole other day, you know, just for the heck of it. But boy was she hustling to cooperate when she found out what FFFF really wanted!