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.
Of all the money that former City Manager Wild Ride Joe Felz wasted during his shaky tenure, nothing was quite as egregious as the annual fifty grand Stumblejoe blew on Behind the Badge, a silly, pointless PR outlet that passed along empty feel-good tales involving Fullerton cops. No one knows if anyone even bothered reading this pabulum. The idea of us taxpayers actually forking over this dough in order to be administered unhealthy doses of saccharine PR back at us was bad enough. The fact that this policy decision was made, maintained and mismanaged by a bureaucratmade it worse.
Fortunately, last Tuesday, the City pulled the plug. City staff teed up the item as a cut – unless three councilmembers voted to save it. They didn’t. Here’s the video.
Of course cop supported candidates Bud Chaffee and Jesus Silva thought the whole idea was just peachy. Predictably, Jennifer Fitzgerald seemed to be going along. Bruce Whitaker and Greg Sebourn opposed wasting any more on this crap. Sebourn correctly pointed out that the cop union, having plenty of money to stick its snout in Fullerton politics, can easily afford to promote the good deeds of its membership.
Whatever changed Jennifer Fitzgerald’s mind to drop support for this ridiculous concept that has cost us $200,000 in the past four years remains a mystery, but she suddenly did a 180. Hopefully FFFF had something to do with the sudden shift to fiscal responsibility.
In the end the self-serving BS rhetoric of Chaffee and the feeble gibberish of Silva amounted to nothing and the council unanimously went along with the proposed package of cuts that included Behind the Badge.
Rest assured, Friends, FFFF will be following up with a Public Records Act request to get a copy of the termination notice.
Next Tuesday’s Council meeting brings us another Budget Show, one more in a line of footling meetings strung out like faux pearls on a cheap necklace. This one is particularly entertaining since it acknowledges a big structural deficit that the suggested cost savings will do almost nothing to correct: “modest” revenue increases are broadly suggested, but apart from some fee increases and one-time sale of “surplus” property nothing meaningful is proposed. Obviously the recommendation for a utility tax or a sales tax increase will be sprung like a rabbit out of the magician’s hat at the last moment.
One entertaining bit of the agenda memo is the inclusion of a small table identifying some of City Manager Allan Roeder’s “loose sofa change,” giving the impression that maybe, just maybe, Mr. Roeder regrets his previous offhand dismissal of a $50,000 per year contract that accomplishes nothing as not worthy of councilmanic attention. Of course I am referring to the ridiculously conceived and suspiciously ill-managed “Behind the Badge” agreement that was improperly contracted by Wild Ride Joe Felz in the first place.
Well, good for Roeder, even though desperate times call for desperate measures And it takes a lot of desperation for a City bureaucrat to even tacitly acknowledge the expendability of a contract. The irony here is thick. It is the exploding pension cost of the Fullerton police Department that is breaking our bank. Even as we pay for the cops to peddle their dopey PR right back at us.
There is an old saying: “it’s the least I can do.”
And once in a while you get to see the least someone can really do without doing anything at all.
At the last “budget workshop” (cue: a sales tax is coming music), David Curlee brought up the idiocy of the worthless and mismanaged “Behind the Badge” contract – a 50 Grand per year repository of feel-good stories about our police department’s tender employees who, apparently, would rather be well-thought of for anything besides honest police work.
At this prompting, our mayor, Bruce Whitaker raised the issue – where, right on cue, it was peremptorily shot down by our $100 per hour Interim City Manager, Alan Roeder, as chump change that fell into the sofa cushions and isn’t worth digging around for. He warns Whitaker about “obsessing” over such loose change.
And there the matter seems to have died.
Of course if Whitaker had done his job in the first place and agendized the issue as a stand alone item at a regular meeting, this dismissive bullshit could not have occurred. The Behind the Badge embarrassment could not have been written off as an irrelevant, small-picture nothing instead of what it is – a blatant rip-off of the taxpayers that has run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past four years.
And consider this question: how many other loose change contracts, approved by no one other that Wild Ride Joe Felz, are still out there accomplishing nothing? And did any of our council stalwarts bother to make Roeder explain exactly what the monetary level of significance is before he will deign to consider it? We know it’s not $50,000 a year. Is it $100,000? $500,000? A million? Of course not.
Total leadership failure. The litmus test is done. Now we know why Roeder was hired in the first place:
FFFF has been busy detailing the ridiculous waste of public money that is poured into a PR outlet pretending journalism called Behind the Badge. This on-line enterprise provides happy, pro-cop stories that are meant to put the police in a good light by sharing feel good stories of philanthropy, charity, empathy, blah, blah blah. The editor, Bill Rams, says his business is necessary because the innocent and naive cops are just so doggone rotten at tooting their own horns. So we pay to have our own force shoved back at us as veritable paragons of virtue. Is there a single person in Fullerton taken in by this claptrap?
Anyway, a few weeks ago I posted a letter that had been sent to our mayor, Bruce Whitaker, about the Back the Badge contract, an irresponsible, staff-driven, no-bid, fixed-fee arrangement that has no intelligible scope of work, no way to measure effectiveness, and the management of which had been badly bungled by former City Manager Wild Ride Joe Felz.
Well, two City Council meetings have passed and nothing has been agendized by our mayor to discuss this $4000 per month mess, a waste made particularly acute by last week’s doom-and-gloom budget forecast. Does Mr. Whitaker condone this insulting $50,000 a yearboondoggle while Fullerton’s ship keeps taking on oceans of red ink? How does he condone not even talking about it? I don’t know, but maybe somebody will go to the next meeting and ask him.
It was only a matter of time before the laughable pro-cop PR outlet called Behind the Badge (that we pay for) went from trying to impress us with Fullerton cops’ good works to putting the poor lads on the psychiatrist’s couch.
A typical BtB “article” reads like a veritable life of Saint Francis of Assisi, in which the sick are healed, the hungry are fed, and the homeless housed. But not the piece I’m writing about today. It was crayoned by a well-pensioned Anaheim former cop called Joe Vargas, and it refers to a Pew Research Center report about a survey that allegedly proves how tough and dangerous cops say their work is, what with all those suspicious black folks and noisy critics doing all that complaining. Why, Good Heavens! They are almost afraid to go out on the streets, seemingly.
Off course Mr. Vargas fails to inform his readers that the survey is all about impressions and opinions and doesn’t provide a nickle’s worth of statistical information about the real risk involved in being a police officer. It’s all about feelings.
And now let’s enjoy the self-serving takeaway provided by Fullerton’s police union:
Oooh. Scary stuff!
Here’s an alternative question: does the cops’ ability to be shielded from the consequences of their own illegal behavior by POBAR, and by a justice system and by union-elected politicians that coddle and protect them at the price of justice itself, impact public safety? Of course we all know the answer to that.
By the way, it’s too bad Vargas doesn’t cite results shared in the entire Pew article, which paints a much less dire picture of how cops view their jobs. But Behind the Badge is pure for-profit propaganda, so expecting an honest essay from Officer Joe is a lot like expecting a good reason for someone to end up in the Fullerton jail.
FFFF has tracked the obscene waste of taxpayer money – $200,000 so far – on a vacuous, pro-cop PR outlet run by Cornerstone Communication called “Back the Badge.” We have noted a supremely fuzzy contract, approved only by a bureaucrat and managed in the most slip-shod fashion.
On February 2nd, Mr. Travis Kiger sent a communication about it to Mayor Bruce Whitaker. We faithfully reproduce it, here:
After reviewing the contract, purchase orders and payments to Cornerstone Communications, along with the communication from the city below, it is clear that the City Manager issued the contract and payments improperly.
City code 2.64.050 and city policy requires a Formal Bid Procedure be followed for awards over $50,000. On 3/28/2013, the City Manager signed a contract with Cornerstone Communications not to exceed $40,000 with no evidence of a Formal Bid Procedure. On 5/20/13, less than 2 months later, the city issued a purchase order extending the contract by 6 months and $23,000. This PO brought the total contract value to $63,000 in the first year. This maneuvering suggests that the City Manager intentionally bypassed the city’s requirement for a formal bid procedure.
This issue is even more alarming considering that City Manager and the Chief of Police had an existing relationship with Bill Rams, the proprietor of Cornerstone Communications, prior to the initial contract issuance.
Additionally, there were $32,000 of payments to Cornerstone Communications from 4/1/14 through 11/1/14 that were made without an active contract or purchase order. This is an egregious error that is further complicated by city management’s pre-existing relationship with the vendor.
There are other problems with this vendor relationship. Purchase orders were issued in excess of the contracted amounts and term without an updated contract. The contract is open ended, vague and does not provide for specific performance. The contract does not require the vendor to deliver performance reporting, nor is there evidence that the vendor provided evidence of effectiveness of deliverables, which is customary in online marketing agreements.
Given the improper nature of the issuance of the contract, which was renewed over four consecutive years without the approval of the City Council, and the sudden departure of the City Manager who oversaw this contract, I strongly believe the council should review the contract and payments to Cornerstone Communications at a public meeting immediately.
Last spring former Police Chief Dan “Galahad” Hughes and Bill Rams went up to Oregon to speak at a cop convention. The City paid for Hughes and Bill Rams’ plane tickets. Who is Bill Rams?
Bill Rams is the proprietor of “Behind the Badge,” a shallow, police feel-good PR outlet that sells its dubious information to public agencies so the taxpayers can pay for cop propaganda aimed right back at them. We have already noticed that this charming swindle was orchestrated in Fullerton behind the scenes by former City Manager Joe Felz – without any public input or council oversight.
Hughes went up to Portland to deliver of himself some sort of speech to the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, titled “When Trust is Tested…Strategies for Restoring Public Confidence.” That name alone should cause a torrent of laughter here in more southerly latitudes given the Culture of Corruption in the Fullerton Police Department in which Captain Danny Hughes was an integral part of the management team, and that included theft, fraud, sexual battery, perjury, more perjury, false arrest, assault, more assault, more theft, destruction of evidence, kidnapping and homicide. His solution as soon as he became Chief? Hold an open house and hire a footling PR purveyor named Bill Rams. But I digress…
Why did the taxpayers foot the bill for Chief Danny’s air fare to Oregon in the first place? And why on Earth did we have to pay to send Danny’s little chronicler, Bill Rams, to a conference that had absolutely nothing to do with Hughes’s job of running our police department?
Should the city be flying employees around the country on personal speaking junkets? Of course not. Should the City be paying their own vendors to fly around the country so they can hand out business cards? Of course not.
Sinnce Danny got his freight paid by us we can assume he was on the clock the whole time. And I would be remiss if I didn’t cynically ask whether or not “Chief” got a cash honorarium from OACP for his presentation. That would mean he got paid twice.
UPDATE: a keen-eyed friend wrote in to inform us of a couple interesting facts about the City’s “Back the badge” documents. First, the original contract and the first purchase order don’t agree. The PO describes a one-year term while the contract is for only six months. Second there is no PO that covers the period from May to November 2014. The City’s controller should not have been able to write checks without a PO to write checks against, so something is fishy there.
FFFF has already shared with the Friends here some of the more ludicrous aspects of “Back the Badge” a PR outlet for cop departments and unions that we pay for.
The whole shabby deception is so bad we decided to dig a little deeper to see just how the Fullerton taxpayers got hooked into paying for the cops to peddle their propaganda – to us.
The documents we received indicate a completely non-transparent, slipshod City-vendor relationship in which deliverables are sketchy, and grossly overvalued.
First, it’s important to point out that this relationship was approved in secret by former City Manager Joe Felz in spring 2013, presumably under his spending authority. The City Council may have been informed, but the public most assuredly was not. Even Felz must have been aware of the possible public blowback against this nonsense. And he undoubtedly had the support of council persons Flory, Chaffee and Fitzgerald in trying to keep this gross squandering of public funds out of the public eye.
It is critical to recognize the contract for what it is: a fixed fee arrangement in which the vendor gets his contracted monthly amount regardless of what he actually accomplishes. These sorts of contracts are comparatively rare in government precisely because they are not tied to specific scopes of work. In essence there is no real oversight at all, even if anybody felt like doing it – which they didn’t.
If you peruse the invoices you will find all sorts of weird “deliverables” of intangible sort like “PR services,” “OC Register columns,” and “Fullerton News Tribune” just the sorts of things that are impossible to value and make you wonder if the real media was in collusion with Back the Badge. FFFF has already noted how the Yellowing Fullerton Observer has published an article, verbatim, from Back the Badge, here.
Of course some of the contractual items like “traffic/performance reports” yielded no responsive documents in our public records request. Anyway, as I noted it above it hardly matters.
One extra-contractual proposal sent to former Chief Danny “Galahad” Hughes offers 40,000 print copies of “Behind the badge Fullerton magazine” for a mere twenty grand. Who approved that, and where did these print copies go? That we shall likely never know, as the police PR mechanisms are obviously none of our damn business, even though we are bankroller and target audience.
My favorite item in the proposals from Back the Badge is something called “crisis counseling.” This must be a service that is called upon when something really bad occurs and the cops need to polish up that road apple, and quick! So did Back the Badge spring into crisis counseling mode the night their benefactor, Joe Felz, smelling of liquor, drove off Glenwood Avenue, and was given a free pass and a ride home by the Fullerton Police Department?
On December 17, 2016, the City issued a new Purchase Order for more of those valuable Back the Badge services. The invoice cites the brand-new interim Chief but there is no reference to the Acting City Manager since by this time Joe Felz was long gone, the victim of his own reckless behavior. So who authorized the issuance of this new PO? The police chief, whoever he is, has no such spending authority. It seems as if the Culture of Opacity and Unaccountability is humming along on auto pilot.
Well, this is Fullerton and if you want to find out what is going on – well, good luck with that.
A real moron, right? FFFF questioned whether this “detective” could find his own ass in the dark. Unfortunately, Inspector Clouseau was not just an annoying, half-bright stumblebum. He was also the the sort of degenerate who would involve himself in a sexual relationship with a woman in a domestic/child custody dispute in which he had become a witness. That thought alone makes me cringe. Was it sexual extortion? The whole thing was completely piggish.
When you read that article did you enjoy the part where Chief Danny Galahad blames the woman for her “poor choices?”
“I understand your frustration with former officer Ron Bair, but you have blamed him for your situation, the judge, and now three additional members of our department,” Hughes told Castaneda. “You may also want to consider the poor choices you have made to contribute to your current situation.”
You have to admire the balls it takes to offer moral admonishment to the victim of one of your employees and the subsequent law enforcement cover-up. He doesn’t bother to mention that his stand-up officer was conveniently retired in 2013 (see page 35).
For some reason that reminds me of former Chief “Patdown” Pat McKinley casually blaming Albert Rincon sexual assault victims for not being like the women who attended his stupid “She Bear” book signings.