The Word out of City Hall is that the “Community Development” Director, Matt Foulkes, is hitting the road. All the way to neighboring Buena Park, a city half the size of Fullerton. This is not a lateral move.
Foulkes no doubt saw the proverbial handwriting on the wall and realized the long, long era of incompetence and no accountability in the Fullerton planning process was over.
The last straw may have been his ass-backward proposal to convert a park into a private event center masquerading as a aquaponic farm.
But Foulkes was by no means simply in over his head. He was part of The Fitzgerald and Domer team that deliberately ignored code enforcement downtown and who actually looked the other way when Joe Florentine forged an official city application document. And then there was the documented theft of the “Fullerton Rail District” name for his own secret plan that envisaged stack n’ pack housing to appease his SCAG overlords, and of course, the now-departed lobbyist, Jennifer Fitzgerald.
Maybe the next Director will be somebody capable of explaining things without a long string of jargon, nonsense and outright lies. It seems unlikely, but the Friends can always hope.
When people talk about “government circles” you can believe they mean it: some things just keep circling around and around yet, like when you have a clogged sewer liner, the circling flotsam never goes down the drain.
And so it is with the City of Fullerton’s hapless Community Development Department that can’t seem to adopt a plan and stick to it; that can’t be honest and straight forward; that refuses to enforce its own code; and as we shall see in this final installment, steadfastly refuses to notify the public of what it’s up to.
When I left off, I noted the odd three-month hiatus of the latest noise go-round that was once again being disguised within broader land use code update In February 2019, the Planning Department was again convened to review the matter, after two opponents of amplified outdoor music had been conveniently removed from the Commission. By this time the new and soon to be former Planning Director, Ted White, was directing the charge to push for the noise free-for-all, likening the impending racket to the noise blast known as Broadway Avenue in Nashville – but in a good way.
But this time there was another problem. The hearing hadn’t been properly noticed to the public as should have been the case, particularly since the noise issue has such an impact on the citizenry. George and Tony Bushala lawyered up and informed the City that it had failed to notify the public about what it was doing. Mr. White declared that the downtown noise issue would be removed from the discussion that night. But it wasn’t – not entirely – as other code sections that pertained to noise slipped through.
A compliant and complaisant Council adopted the zone code changes in April, 2019.
But the story was not over, because, well, Fullerton. The bar owners still needed to be pacified and the bar still needed to be lowered. By November 2020 Ted White was gone only to be replaced by an in-house lackey named Matt Foulkes who had been part of the ongoing mess since 2015, and knew exactly which side of his toast had the butter on it.
So the downtown noise mess was brought back to the council again, where lame-duck members Jennifer Fitzgerald and her puppet, Jan Flory were guaranteed yes votes. But alas, once again the City failed to properly notice the public, and this time there was no way to hide the incompetence in a broader mish-mash of code changes.So the hearing was continued until…well, who knows when? Apparently Jeremy Popoff has fled the scene to Nashville to enjoy whatever douchebaggery he can find there, and Covid has silenced DTF – for now.
But one thing is certain. The City’s downtown creation, AKA Dick Jones “monster” will continue to suck millions in resources out of the General Fund even as the bureaucrats continue to admire the mess they did nothing to stop and continue to characterize a liability as an asset. And because of that complete disconnect with reality, they will continue to push for a noise-a-palooza – no matter how long it takes.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if government bureaucracies do the things they do because of incompetence, venality, or favoritism. In the never-ending story of Fullerton’s noise regulation all three seem to be uniquely intertwined.
What is inescapable is that the City of Fullerton has striven mightily to separate the issue of nuisance noise emanating from downtown outdoor areas from both enforcement and illegality.
In 2011 the ridiculous Transportation Center Specific Plan finally made it legal to propagate amplified outdoor music, thus making Jeremey Popoff’s Slidebar appear honest, although he still didn’t have a legal Conditional Use Permit. But the new regulations for noise had no more effect than Popoff’s missing CUP because the City – cops and code enforcement – refused to enforce the regulations.
What to do? Hmm. What about throwing the issue into a miasma of bureaucratic paper shuffling so that nobody would notice what you were doing, and downtown scofflaws could actually be absolved, de jure as well as de facto?
In August, 2014 the City tried this pitch with the idea that the Noise ordinance would be updated along with great swaths of the existing land use law to make thing, you know, easier to figure out. But downtown noise played a prominent part in the discussion, if not really in the staff report. The council approved noise studies as a mechanism, a cynic might say, to avoid cracking down on Popoff, Jack Franklin’s Roscoe’s, and their ilk, because that is exactly what happened.
2015 rolled around and the Community Development “professionals,” led by newly minted Director Karen Haluza, were again yakking it up about revising the Code. Well, these things take time, you know, and in the late summer of 2016 the City Council finally got around to passing Ordinance 3232, a revised Code, still, with intent of instilling commonsense and clarity. The definition of amplified music was scratched out pending future action.
But whatever the motivation, the ever-shifting sands of sound gave the bureaucrats, aided and abetted by the perpetual dishonesty of City Attorney Dick Jones, the pretext they needed to bat away complaints about the illegal noise – because the issues was under study and consideration!
The vicious circle took yet another revolution in June of 2018 when the Council was persuaded by yet another new planning director, Ted White, to pass a Resolution of Intent to once again revise the land use codes in the interests of commonsense and clarity. Of course the Noise Ordinance and downtown noise was actually a key driver in this conversation, too. Mr. White took it upon himself to introduce a new downtown noise map where any outdoor sound would be permitted; but, the standards – 70 decibels outside and 65 decibels inside – were not to be applied to the source, but to the sensitive receptor, and the burden of proof was clearly laid at the feet of the victim, not the perpetrator of the nuisance. The bureaucracy seemed oblivious to the Armageddon of Noise they were trying to create or the sensibilities of residents adjacent to the riot zone.
The Planning Commission was finally scheduled to review the latest iteration of musical chairs in November, 2018; but the discussion was mysteriously continued for three months until February, 2019 by which time two opponents of amplified music, Nick Dunlap and Ryan Cantor had been removed from the Commission. A coincidence? Who knows? Stay tuned…
Okay. What have we learned so far about Fullerton’s long and corrupt attempt to avoid addressing the problem of amplified outdoor music?
First we have learned that Fullerton’s “experts” in the Planning and Code Enforcement divisions have been serially uninterested in enforcing their own laws in an effort to appease and placate scofflaw bars in the financial sinkhole known as downtown Fullerton.
Second we have learned that you can’t make government bureaucrats do their jobs if they don’t want to do them.
Way back in 2009 City Hall knew it had a problem on its hands as the metastasizing and illegal clubs began sharing their good times with everybody else. A “consultant” called Bon Terra was engaged to to a noise study and the City Council, at the time, voted to maintain the existing code that prohibited outdoor music.
But saying something and doing something about it reflects a mammoth void in Fullerton, and the bureaucrats in City Hall don’t give up on an issue until one way or another, they get what they want.
And in 2012 they got a friend, Jennifer Fitzgerald, who was more than happy to run interference for people who had no qualms about violating the noise and land-use law.
And so, over the next seven years, the Noise Nuisance continued, most notably at The Slidebar, a club that was illegally operating without a CUP. And even as the nuisance continued, the City embarked on a campaign to eliminate any restrictions at all. Complaints were invariably batted away by Planning Directors Karen Haluza, Ted White, and Matt Foulkes who, along with our egregious City Attorney, Dick Jones kept citing studies and new plans, and whatever else they could use as a pretext for doing nothing.
Finally by 2019, it became apparent that the goal was to permit an acoustic free-for-all in downtown Fullerton.
In the past 10 years or so, Fullerton has had four different planning directors: Al Zelinka, Karen Haluza, Ted White, and most recently an individual named Matt Foulkes. Pop quiz: what else do these folks have in common?
Time’s up. Answer: none of them enforced the city’s noise ordinances, and each seemed to be dedicated to ignoring zoning and land use regulations in downtown Fullerton. We’ll get to the “why” of it in a later post. For now I want to point out the trajectory of this mess. As scofflaws like Jeremy Popoff’s odious Slidebar and the Florentine Mob’s various enterprises refused to comply with our laws, the Planning Directors noted above began an ongoing project to lower and lower the legal bar until even the lowest nematode could wriggle over it.
Now if we contemplate this downward spiral of our “experts” in the Planning Department and Code Enforcement we notice that it hit a virtual rock bottom in January 2019 when Matt Foulkes pretended that he didn’t know what a property owner was and approved the submission of an official document forged by Joe Florentine pretending that he, Florentine, was an “owner.”
Of course all of this malfeasance was amply documented here on the FFFF blog. And guess what? Nobody in City Hall cared; or to be more precise, nobody cares, still. See, in Fullerton incompetency and blatant corruption are so common on the part of our City Attorney, Dick Jones and the cadre of drunk, venal and just plain dumb City Managers and staff that our threshold for outrage is as low is almost worn away.
But not quite. Stay tuned for noise. And by noise I mean the noise generated by city staff to ignore, dilute, obfuscate and dodge the Noise Ordinances.
There is a certain personality profile that is so narcissistic that it can’t conceive of the reality enjoyed by others. And that sobriquet must certainly apply to Paulette Marshall, the erstwhile candidate for County Board of Education who was so thoroughly trounced at the March 3rd election that she came in 5000 votes behind a candidate who spent 1/300th of what Marshall did.
If you need any evidence of this disconnect with reality, here’s Exhibit #1, an image harvested from Marshall’s Facebook page the day after the election:
Such delusion in a normal person might be cause for a certain amount of pity from folks. But this is not a normal person. This is thief, a liar, and a fraud. Pity would be misplaced. “Who cares now?” you may ask. You should. Because I predict that Fullerton hasn’t seen the past of Pilferin’ Paulette. Just wait and see.
First we get to hear the obligatory boohoo tale from our imbecile mayor, Jesus Silva about how a cop with a growing family just can’t afford to live with the paltry crumbs doled out by the taxpayers of Fullerton.
Then we get to hear from our $230,000 a year City Manager, Ken Domer, as he focuses his keen, analytical mind on the issue:
“We’re about 18th in pay, but we’re also the sixth largest city in Orange County. So our pay is clearly not where it should be,” Domer said.
Notice how this dull blade conflates city population with deserved cop pay? This is just insulting. Is he that stupid or just have that low opinion of our intelligence? And notice the language: “clearly not where it should be” as if perhaps his moronic formula is actually validated somewhere by a scale he just made up. No, Domer, what’s not where it should be is the monster salary we pay you not to be stupid – or at least not to say stupid things that end up in the media.
If anybody cares, the vote was 4-1 with Bruce Whitaker voting no. The rest, of course, went along for the ride, even though the City’s finances are so precarious Silva is promising a new tax on the ballot next year. And no doubt the cop union that is more interested in keeping dues paying members than in the well-being of our city will be backing it big time.
And as our decrepit roads and infrastructure deteriorate ever farther, they will be used by the cops and the bureaucrats to leverage more revenue from us. Revenue that will go right back into employee compensation for the people who brought us the bad roads in the first place, and who have cultivated and protected the FPD Culture of Corruption.
Magicians have been making things disappear for a long time. In fact it’s a staple of the repertoire. Making a public employee position come and go is harder. That’s because in a public agency budgeted positions, like money, have to be approved by the governing board in the first place. And once budgeted they never go away.
And yet somehow, during the year of her re-election bid, lobbyist-mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald demanded, and got, a special assistant from Joe Felz to help her with her mayoral chores, without getting any authorization from the city council to create a new position.
The individual in question is called Gladys Blankenship, who is probably a very nice person. Here she describes the scope of her “official” position on Linkedin. Check out the second bullet point. The rest is ginned up bureaucratic nonsense.
Executive Assistant, Assistant to Mayor of Fullerton, Assistant to Economic Development Manager
• Participate in special projects to develop and implement new processes, develop and standardize practices, assist in streamlining methods for improving existing ordinance and procedures • Schedule and prepare all appointments and meetings for the Mayor of Fullerton • Provide office support for Mayor, City Manager and Economic Development Manager • Provide research for ongoing projects being presented to City Council • Provide knowledge and personal opinions on subject matters being presented in City Council and Economic Development Commission meetings • Perform clerical duties requiring the application of subject matter knowledge and interpretation of policies, rules and procedures • Provide assistance in preparation of draft and/or final form of material such as, memoranda, letters, reports, requests, etc., as assigned • Check, compile and assemble records information in preparation for City Council meetings • Assist in preparing and distributing agendas and related materials to various committees • Maintain and update ongoing projects, records and office filing systems for both the Economic Development Department and Commission • Provide information, including explanation of policies, procedures, rules and regulations, to City personnel and general public • Copy, file and appropriately dispose of sensitive documents • Record actions of meetings attended and transcribe taped records into minute format • Maintain subject matter files and records • Proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook
Looks like the deal was supposed to be that once Fitzgerald was safely re-elected, Ms. Blankenship would be quietly moved to another department where, presumably, a vacant budgeted slot existed to receive her tab. And we may safely infer that deal, since that is precisely what has happened; and Ms. Blankenship’s previous job has not been filled, nor will it be under new mayor, Bruce Whitaker.
Ms. Fitzgerald spent a lot of time during the election year lying about Fullerton’s allegedly balanced budget. It isn’t balanced, and hasn’t been for five years – ever since she came on to the city council. And now we discover that while the tide of red ink was rising ever higher, Fitzgerald demanded, and got, an employee all to herself.
Without comment (for now), and with emphasis and typing as originally delivered, I present a letter that was delivered from Anonymous City Staff;
“November 11, 2016
Taxpayers, Council Members, City Staff, and concerned parties:
What would you do if you were made aware of a city employee who has caused numerous issues affecting the city including: failing to perform her job, creating a hostile work environment causing several city staff to quit and causing others to file complaints with the Manager and Human Relations Department, taking advantage of her close relationship with the your city manager, illegally allowing a Chevron lobbyist to conduct in-private hiring / personnel interviews with city applicants, illegal and inappropriate use of her city credit card to purchase among other things food and drinks for her personal and private enjoyment, stealing tax payer money by attending private functions on city time, ignoring calls and emails from business ·developers and others (who she doesn’t like or benefit from), purposely not setting up her city voicemail in an effort to avoid having to return calls from anyone, not being held accountable for official complaints sent in by non-city and city persons, constantly showing up late, constantly leaving early, not even understanding her job (however she recently started telling people she is the Assistant City Manager so maybe she does have authority to commit all of these actions regardless of the financial and other carnage.) Other areas of interest will be listed in the remainder of this letter. Will you ignore all of this or do something about it? Some of you may be aware of these issues or may have heard bits and pieces but you may not know the extent of the issues caused by Ms. Nicole Bernard.
But the question is, why has she been receiving all this preferential treatment under the protection of the City Manager even though H.R. is aware of it? Some believe it is because of her oddly close relationship with City Manager Joe Felz. Later it will be explained just how odd this relationship is. To use Ms. Bernard’s words, “I get what I want.” Is there some inappropriate personal relationship, does she have something she has been holding over the City Manager’s head from her time in Redevelopment where a lot of money was involved in their budget, was there some deal made on bringing in certain businesses to the city, or is it he just has a certain fondness for Nicole? Several employees mentioned a time when Ms. Bernard told of rumors emanating that she and the city manager are having an affair and how other staff members questioned their relationship because of the promotions she keeps receiving She should not be having this type of conversation with any employee. But what if the rumor is true or is there some other reason she keeps getting promoted with ridiculous amounts of salary increases? As of today, Ms. Bernard makes an obscene amount of money, but by the end of the 2018 contract, she will make $145,000 plus 35% in benefits equaling about $195,000 per year which is the same as the City’s Human Resources Director.
Staff, including Directors, have stated there must be incriminating evidence she has on the city manager or they are sleeping together due to the promotion, which accompanied a large pay increase. Many people know she does not know her job and does not perform well. Complaints are continuously received against her for her lack of response to phone calls and emails from developers, individuals and companies. In fact, if you call her office phone number she does not have a voice message or name attached to her phone number. When asked the reason for not having her voice mail set up, her reply is that she doesn’t want to return anyone’s call and wants to hide in her office because she is far too busy. We are confident that if her previous Redevelopment co-workers were queried they would provide interesting insight to her work ethic and how she tries to pawn her work off onto them by way of her using her current title as a means of intimidation, as if this will accomplish her doing less and them doing more. This is poor customer service and a tactic to avoid people and accountability. She shirks her responsibilities. Her co-workers are unjustly compensated for the quantity of work they perform in comparison to her. Each can easily outperform her and do it well but they do not receive their fair share of compensation. She receives much more, very unfair and disparate.
She has stated that she caters specifically to the Korean community as this is Fullerton’s future and she will devote as much as she needs in order to bring their business to the city because that is where the money is and, “that’s what she is about.” She stated something along the line, “…they (Koreans) get the vip treatment from me but don’t get me wrong I am not a Korean lover and I don’t have to live here so I don’t care how many of them come in”. Is this the way Fullerton conducts business? Are there preferred ethnicities for city services? This sounds quite discriminatory and coming from an individual who has their own personal agenda. Oddly, since her latest promotion as Assistant to the City Manager or as Ms. Bernard puts it to outside colleagues, “Assistant City Manager”, she chooses the ethnicities that seem most lucrative but for her personal gain. She brings in Korean businesses, is recognized for this one portion of her job, and receives an obscene salary. So on one hand she uses the business owners but does not like Koreans?