Coming Up For Air

In FFFF’s early days, this blog noted how the Fullerton Observer and its “editor” Sharon Kennedy would bend over backwards to avoid printing anything that might embarrass City officialdom. In the years after that blog post, the Observer remained true to form. It continually went to bat for the bureaucrats in increasingly shameful ways, even when it violated the tenets of the Yellowing Observer’s own professed liberalism. The culmination, perhaps, was the Observer’s series of misdirections and avoidances in the wake of the Kelly Thomas murder in 2011.

It’s dark in here.

But wait. One of our Friends just noticed that the front page of the latest Observer includes an unexpected headline. The article seems to acknowledge the recent claims of corruption in city hall as asserted by the OC DA investigator Abraham Santos.

The piece discusses the facts of the claims against Dan Hughes and Joe Felz without the insertion of Kennedy’s usual dismissive editorial remarks. How could this happen? Is Kennedy turning over a new leaf?

No. This is the work of the Observer’s new co-editor, Jesse La Tour. How he managed to slip this honest piece of work past Kennedy, we may never know.

Kangaroo Court Transcript Reveals Felzian Development Scheme

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.

It got ugly real fast.

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.

Your honor, I do not recall…

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.

It was just a meeting.

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.

Enough Excuses, this Recall is Newman’s Own Fault

The Tax Bear Cometh

Here’s a thought experiment for you.

Let’s say you bought a house in Fullerton at the peak of the housing market. The market has mostly recovered but the house is only worth what you originally paid. However, when you receive your tax bill, the Franchise Tax Board assesses it higher, so there is more than a $1,000 difference in what you think you should pay and what you are actually charged. So you send a letter to the Franchise Tax Board disputing the charge and explaining why you believe your bill should be lower.

According to our State Senator Josh Newman, what you just did was costly and unnecessary. You see, that letter disputing the $1000+ charge cost 49 cents to mail, and the letter isn’t guaranteed to get you that refund you want.

That’s pretty much the takeaway from this recent editorial from Mr. Newman, which ran on Page 2 of our local Fullerton Observer Newspaper. Senator Newman’s response to the anger over his vote to raise taxes by over $52 billion over ten years in an already overtaxed state is pure misdirection, asking his supporters to instead ask recall proponents “why they’d waste $2.5 million on a recall petition rather than put 34 more teachers in our schools, 16 more firefighters in our communities, or 13 more cops on our streets.”

Of course the answer is really simple: Because $52 billion is more money than $2.5 million. About $51.9975 billion more.

Don’t think about the $1000 tax you shouldn’t have to pay. Think about the two bubble gum balls you could buy with this money instead.

Elsewhere in the editorial, Senator Newman does get around to justifying his vote and that the increased spending on roads was necessary due to the poor condition they are in. Nobody in Fullerton would dispute that, but the reason for the problem is grossly out of whack spending priorities, not a lack of revenue.

Take the examples Newman cites himself. He bemoans the fact that the alleged $2.5 million recall cost could put 13 more cops on our street and not the fact that, by his own admission, putting a single police officer on our streets costs over $192,000 per year in the first place due to the grossly unsustainable public employee benefits we dole out. He bemoans the horrible condition of our roads and not the fact that the 18 cent per gallon tax we already pay has been diverted into the fiscal vortex that is high speed rail – and even when Caltrans does spend money on roads, overpayment and delays have come to be accepted as inevitable.

This is why your constituents are angry, Senator Newman, and this is why they are listening to (as you put it) “shock jocks” and signing the recall petition in droves. We are tired of excuses and we are tired of politicians who choose to represent the interest in Sacramento that want to keep this unsustainable benefit machine chugging along at the taxpayers’ expense.

In the event you are reading this yourself, Senator, I don’t say any of this with rancor and I still like you personally, but you are working against my interests and those of hundreds of thousands of your constituents in Sacramento and it has to stop. And babbling about millions while your policies are costing tens of billions isn’t going to save you.

Proud Leaders in DUI Enforcement

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.

Prioritizing Park Dwelling Fees

Taken 27 April. Same Status to Date.

At the last City Council meeting it was asked by the public and re-asked by Council member Sebourn why Park Dwelling Fees cannot be utilized for maintenance in existing parks. At approximately the 3:41:00 mark in said meeting Parks Director Curiel stated it was owing to an ordinance and Interim City Manager Roeder specified that it was State Law which is where the conversation ended.

I would like to set the record straight from my layman’s perspective.

First and foremost let us explain Park Dwelling Fees. They are fees that developers have to pay the city in order to build new places for people to live within the city. $X/Room. That money is then used for Bridges to Nowhere and temporary stairs that cannot be repaired. What it is not used for is maintenance on our existing parks.

This is especially problematic as salaries and benefits eat up ever more of our general fund and we find ourselves with unsafe parks and deferred maintenance. We put plywood up over damage (nearly 6-weeks later and counting), or worse, while our $6-figure employees tell us we don’t have the budget to keep our kids safe. It’s infuriating. (more…)

Maintenance of our City’s Parks is a Bridge Too Far

Parks and Recreation has been spending a considerable amount of energy lately, between their big PR push to justify their last costly mistake (Hillcrest Park’s poorly constructed and unneeded stairs) and obtaining approval for the next one (Hillcrest Park’s unneeded bridge across the creek).

Do you know what Parks & Recreation have been paying less attention to? Their parks.

Residents have been complaining for several months about the condition of Rolling Hills Park’s playground and equipment. The issues run from routine maintenance like unpainted benches to hazards like this:

And this:

Hey, kids! This is what our City Manager’s car looked like after he totaled it!

Phone calls and letters to Parks & Recreation were ignored for months until residents went over Hugo Curiel’s head and appealed to the Commissioners directly, at which time they finally saw results.

Well, sort of. The benches have been repainted, but that rickety play truck is unchanged. Meanwhile, the broken spinner was simply been removed, along with an unsafe climber that had split in two. Before removing the climber outright, however, this was Parks & Recreation’s solution:

Which worked out about as well as anyone who’s ever had a five year old could have told them it would.

This right here is the hidden cost of our wasteful policies at  City Hall: we get stairs and bridges we didn’t ask for or want, but we do not get well maintained parks or working playground equipment (aka recreation) for our children that we expect. Our government in a nutshell.

Extending Fullerton’s Outdoor Saloon

Tonight’s meeting has a rather large agenda…

Fullerton has a vibrant night life with thousands of patrons being served by the 60+ establishments with liquor licenses within the Downtown region alone. While it is true that some businesses don’t operate within the law and the city turns a blind eye to its own municipal code when it suits them it cannot be denied that business is good in the good old outdoor saloon game.

But business could be better if only bars and nightclubs didn’t have to stop serving people.

Never fear. The California Senate has come to the rescue by passing SB-384 which will allow local municipalities to keep the bars open and beer slinging until 4am. There is a lot of support in Sacramento for this bill as it passed the Senate 27-4-4 with our own Senator Newman being one of those Aye votes. It next goes to the Assembly so only time will tell how Quirk-Silva will vote in that chamber.

The more fun question to ponder is how her husband and the rest of the (D) council majority will vote once it passes. Will they allow Fullerton to keep the doors open longer if only to keep FPD’s OT flowing as freely as the booze? Will they manage to get a handle of the municipal code before acquiescing to their bar and nightclub owning campaign donors? Will they vote against it thereby hindering the number of awards FPD can rack up from MADD?

Honored by MADD (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving) for their efforts in getting drunk drivers off the road are Fullerton PD Officers Cary Tong, left, Timothy Gibert, Jonathan Munoz, Corporal Ryan Warner and Officer Miguel Siliceo.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC
*** Officer Siliceo’s name on the plaque is misspelled as Sihiceo. ***

Personally I think this bill is stupid because it would mean that bars would have to close down at 4AM and could open again at 6AM. Booze would have to stop flowing for 2 hours. 2 HOURS?! Why not just go Vegas style and end the cut-off altogether? That seems like a smarter play then pretending that turning off the tap for 2 hours will keep people from over drinking.

How do you friends think this will play out in council chambers and on the streets of Downtown? Let us know in the comments.

If you need inspiration for your comments please let Dick Jones be your guide.

Fullerton’s Leaderless Ghost Ship

It’s been six months since Police Chief Danny Hughes left Fullerton to go work for the mouse. Six months since the alleged cover-up that didn’t save Joe Felz from early retirement.

In that six months we had an interim Police Chief in David Hinig and an interim City Manager in Allen Roeder. Well, Hinig has maxed out how much he can be paid by CalPERS so he’s jumped ship and based on timing alone we can calculate that Mr. Roeder will be on his way out sometime in mid-July.

That will once again leave Fullerton without an official City Manager & without a Police Chief to add to our lacking Community Development Director, Museum Director and on and on and on.

It’s almost as if we can’t get great candidates in spite of having no money, a divided city council, a police department knee-deep in a cover-up scandal and on and on and on.

Why wouldn’t new people want to come on board to answer to a council that would rather build bridges to nowhere instead of maintaining what we already have in place? Why wouldn’t somebody new want to grab the tiller of the S.S. Fullerton while it’s sinking? They’ll have the full support of the council majority providing polishing the brass is the only priority on this particular Titanic.

A Rude, Reckless Cop

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.

Beep Beep

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.

DA Investigator Blows Whistle on Felz DUI Coverup

Add Another Item for the DOJ and State Attorneys to Investigate

The Joe Felz DUI case just took another wide turn and this time not over a tree. New allegations have arisen within the Orange County District Attorney’s Office:

One of the allegations, listed only by [investigator Abraham] Santos, involves an election night car crash by Fullerton’s then City Manager Joe Felz on Nov. 9, 2016. A Fullerton police officer, who responded to the scene, notified the city’s then Police Chief Dan Hughes, who contacted a police sergeant and allegedly told him to drive Felz home instead of arresting him.

Santos’ investigation later concluded that Hughes was calling in a favor allegedly owed by a sergeant. That sergeant, according to Santos’ claim, had once been caught having sex in a police car but was never disciplined.

“Chief Hughes covered up the misconduct by his sergeant and, when he needed him in the Joe Felz DUI/attempted hit-and-run case, (the sergeant) repaid the favor to Chief Hughes,” said the claim.

Santos’ subsequent investigation of the incident concluded that Hughes “criminally obstructed justice.” But the county never filed a charge against Hughes. Santos, in his claim, said Assistant District Attorney Ibrahim Baytieh told him, “I am friends with Chief Hughes and we are only going to be investigating the DUI and nothing else.”

Let us repeat part of that for emphasis.

“Santos’ subsequent investigation of the incident concluded that Hughes “criminally obstructed justice.””

This isn’t your run of the mill water-cooler talk either as it was disclosed in an official complaint with the OCDA’s office. Pertinent Screenshots as follows:

DA Complaint abt Felz Case

DA Complaint abt Felz Case2

This seems to be par for the course for the OCDA being that Supervisor Todd Spitzer has asked the US Department of Justice to take over their operations owing to an ongoing Jail Snitch scandal amogst other trying issues. Things have gotten pretty bad at the OCDA. So much so that the U.S. Dept. of Justice, the California Attorney General & the Orange County Grand Jury are all separately investigating the OCDA for “systemic” cheating in the jail snitch program. While speculative it wouldn’t be surprising for this Felz DUI Cover-up case to be sucked into the investigations.

We in Fullerton were told time and again that Hughes reformed the department. We were told that he was the man we needed for the job. If these allegations are true it means that not only did he cover-up previous misconduct regarding officer Corbett but he then used that previous cover-up to bury another more egregious case. One cannot have a reformed department if the man in charge is not only participating in coverups but using them as leverage for later ones.

If the rot at FPD started with the head down did it permeate other parts of our city as well? If an Assistant District Attorney refused to look into Hughes owing to a personal friendship did others likewise turn a blind eye to corruption and criminal wrongdoings? Considering how often our own Jennifer Fitzgerald proclaimed her friendship to both Hughes and Felz one must wonder how much misconduct she was aware of and if she was aware did she help cover anything up while she’s been on council?

This further begs the question of how Disney feels about having a potential felon in Fantasyland?

Disney Danny.