The wheels of justice in the Joe Felz case have finally ground to a halt with Mr. Felz finally taking the plea deal we all knew was coming.
After 405 days of waiting Joe Felz has finally admitted guilt to reckless driving. Of course he has been given a pass on his alleged drunk driving and his proven destruction of property by our oh-so-competent District Attorney’s office.
I wonder how many nobodies get the same treatment? I’d reckon not too many if the constant MADD awards presented to FPD at City Hall are any indication.
Mr. Felz will have to pay restitution, $390 in fines, serve 40 hours of community service, attend “victim impact counseling”, serve 3 months in the “first offender alcohol program” and spend 3 years on “informal” probation with no mandatory supervision if reading this correctly.
This is a curious case where the county and courts have agreed that Felz has a big enough of an alcohol problem to warrant going into a 3-month program. His problem, which resulted in him crashing his car and ensuing property damage somehow was not bad enough to justify taking his license away as happens with so many poor saps caught up in Fullerton’s outdoor saloon who hit nothing. Curious the way power protects power.
With the “ongoing investigation” over maybe now we can get to the truth of what really transpired the fateful night of 08/09 November 2016.
One year ago today I wrote my first piece for this site, Friends for Fullerton’s Future. It was on the tail end of my lackluster city council bid when I was approached to join the site. I was asked to keep up the writing that I was doing during my campaign but here instead of my own site to which I was agreeable. No timelines had been discussed or content hashed out but the premise was we would revive FFFF because nobody else was effectively putting a spotlight on Fullerton’s abysmal government.
Then Joe Felz killed Sappy McTree after drinking his way through every election party in downtown.
One year ago this morning Joe Felz “took a wide turn” and ran down a tree only for Fullerton’s Finest to be called to the scene of the crime and offer cookies and a glass of milk to our beleaguered city manager instead of the breathalyzer and night in the drunk tank any regular Joe would have received. (more…)
In the last week or so Fullerton P.D. has been making it extremely clear that they take D.U.I.s very, very seriously.
This isn’t really news as the City Council regularly helps present M.A.D.D. awards to officers with the most D.U.I. arrests.
There is very little sympathy for people who make the stupid decision to drink or do drugs and then drive. This makes sense as when you do so you’re putting not just your own life on the line but are risking the lives of anybody in your potential path.
The however, of course, is if you make such a colossally stupid decision and happen to work for the city.
Were drinking or drugs involved in the January accident and circumstances around the rolled Parks and Rec vehicle? To this day we have no information.
Better yet is if you happen to be one of the high priests of local government. City Manager perhaps. Then you can “take a wide turn” while smelling of alcohol with near impunity.
For those who may have forgotten, back in March Joe Felz was charged with one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of alcohol and one misdemeanor count of hit and run with property damage. He was charged in relation to his 09 November 2016 accident where he “smelled of alcohol” after running over a tree. Instead of being cited or arrested he was given a chance to talk to the Chief of Police, Danny Hughes, before being given a ride home. Hughes also spoke to then Mayor Fitzgerald.
Thanks to denied Public Records Requests and the burden of suing to get information the city won’t legally hand over we don’t know who called whom that night or who ordered the cover-up and obstruction of justice. We don’t know who arranged to let the City Manager escape the crimes that Fullerton P.D. and City Hall are ever so eager to wield against the commoners. What we do know is the following:
We find out on Monday if former City Manager Joe Felz will actually be prosecuted for the crimes with which he’s been charged. We’ll be watching to see if the District Attorney has any interest in actually prosecuting one of the aristocrats in our midst. More likely they plan to keep continuing the case in the hopes that anger subsides and the status quo of corruption can settle back into place. The worst thing that could happen to the Fullerton Police Department, and the sycophantic City Council, is for the truth to come out so the smart money is on a plea deal or a dropping of charges.
Something to keep in mind here is that our City Council has been silent on this whole fiasco. While it is true that the Felz case is still pending, 9 months after the accident, there is no such investigation going on with F.P.D. and the alleged cover-up. Nary a word has come from Council or the City Manager’s office. This council, all 5 of them, are perfectly fine with police corruption and a total lack of oversight. They could have demanded oversight before hiring a new chief. Or before hiring a new City Manager. They didn’t even bother to address the issue. These 5 are more worried about angering the F.P.O.A. campaign monster than doing the right thing. To add insult to injury the thin blue line would rather wallow in their own corruption than oust their “bad apples” once again proving that the whole bushel has rotted.
Nothing changed after Kelly Thomas died and nothing has changed after Joe Felz’s wild ride.
We’ve been waiting to be proven wrong on this issue. We’ve been waiting for council to demand accountability. We’ve been waiting for the council to demand oversight. We’ve been waiting for the brothers and sisters in blue to step out of the shadows and tell the truth. For 9 months we’ve been waiting and it looks like we’ll be waiting forevermore. For all of the pomp and circumstance about public service and the public good it is once again clear that our government institutions and those inside it are interested in anything but.
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:
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?
FORMER FULLERTON CITY MANAGER CHARGED WITH DUI AND HIT AND RUN ON ELECTION NIGHT
FULLERTON, Calif. – The former city manager of Fullerton was charged today with driving under the influence and hit and run on election night. Joseph Burt Felz, 58, Fullerton, is charged with one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of alcohol and one misdemeanor count of hit and run with property damage. If convicted, Felz faces a maximum sentence of one year in county jail. The defendant is scheduled to be arraigned on April 3, 2017, at 8:30 a.m. in Department N-8, North Justice Center, Fullerton.
On Nov. 8, 2016, Felz is accused of driving a vehicle under the influence in a residential area of Fullerton, driving over a curb and striking a tree. A witness to the incident called 911 and the Fullerton Police Department (FPD) responded and located Felz nearby. Felz is accused of unlawfully failing to stop his vehicle immediately.
FPD initially responded to the scene and then transferred the case to the OCDA for further investigation and legal review.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Nichols of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.
Updated 4:50 PM:
An anonymous source has sent in the following regarding the DA’s decision to charge Joe Felz with two misdemeanors.
Former Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz is being charged with TWO Misdemeanors, DUI and Hit & Run, for his wild ride on 09 November 2016. After nearly 4 months of nothing and obfuscating from the Fullerton City Attorney as well as the Orange County District Attorney’s Office it looks like something is finally being sorted out.
The last official word we heard on the status of our City Manager post the Sappy McTree incident was that, besides apologizing, Joe Felz was on leave for 2 weeks.
The Official Story, if you recall, started on 15 November 2016 when the City Attorney, “The Other Dick Jones™“, told us that City Manager Joe Felz would be on leave for 2-weeks which prompted Jones to ask Mayor Fitzgerald to immediately put forth an emergency motion to appoint Gretchen Beatty as “Acting City Manager” and once that was done she’d stay in the Acting City Manager position until the Council voted to remove Ms. Beatty from said position. None of this was 1) an emergency or 2) needed as legally we don’t need a City Manager but I don’t expect the City Attorney to bother with such details as State Law.
The pertinent issue is that nobody on Council bothered to ask timely questions on this matter and so the fact that there wouldn’t be a Council meeting 2 weeks later (yesterday) never came up. Now 2-weeks has passed with the next Council Meeting scheduled for 06 December 2016 and it’s at THAT meeting that the Council would have the first opportunity to remove Ms. Beatty from her Acting position in order to put Joe Felz into his chair again.
Does that mean that Mr. Felz is back now twiddling his thumbs with nothing to do (2-weeks later as stated) or that he’ll stay gone until next week when the Council can remove Ms. Beatty from her Acting position or later due to the ongoing Felz/FPD investigation? Who knows with answers not exactly forthcoming from City Hall. We won’t even know if it’ll be on the Council Agenda until this coming Friday night.
As for the inevitable “What difference does a week make?” question I will posture that it speaks to the nature of our City Government and the way our city is run. It’s slapdash thinking & haphazard decisions over even such basic calendar items that showcases the culture in City Hall where there is almost zero attention paid to details. This sort of intellectual laziness is how we end up with unaccountable bureaucrats spending time in Las Vegas or elsewhere while the city bleeds red ink and puts our kids further into debt with only high-density boondoggles on, and blocking, the horizon in order to offset the bloated spending.
We shouldn’t have to point this sort of stuff out but our so-called leaders can’t be bothered to do the jobs they voluntarily took and that leaves us, the malcontents and rabble-rousers, to do the job of making sure that somebody is paying attention.
After tonight’s Fullerton City Council meeting all signs point to City Manager Joe Felz being out of a job, likely from early retirement after he runs out the clock on his vacation time. Allow me to explain.
Joe Felz was a no-show at last night’s Council meeting and the City Attorney, Dick Jones, relayed a nothingburger of an apology from Felz during the Open Session and said that Felz was taking a 2-week leave of absence. Mr. Jones then requested that the council agendize an emergency* item for the same meeting, last night, to appoint an Acting City Manager which they did.
There is zero reason to appoint an Acting City Manager if somebody is on a voluntary leave for 2 weeks. Do we appoint an Acting City Manager anytime the City Manager goes on vacation? No. Was it an emergency? No. This is ridiculous. How ridiculous you ask? Well…
36501. The government of a general law city is vested in:
(a) A city council of at least five members.
(b) A city clerk.
(c) A city treasurer.
(d) A chief of police.
(e) A fire chief.
(f) Any subordinate officers or employees provided by law.
Notice that there is no “City Manager” on that list.
So our City Council just appointed a person, Gretchen Beatty, to a position that we don’t even legally need because our City Manager is on a 2-week leave. Funny how the City Attorney missed that little nuance in the law or as I like to call it – his job. Dick Jones asked that a non-issue be agendized unless of course more is going on behind the scenes that can’t be discussed with us common rabble known as residents.
Now here’s where the weasel words really come into play. Mr. Jones stated that Gretchen Beatty would be acting City Manager not until Felz came back from leave but rather until the City Council relieved her. He’s a lawyer who chooses his words carefully so this means something.
To really drive this point home it should be noted that during Public Comments people spoke up about the Joe Felz / Sappy McTree incident and Mr. Jones made a point that the details of the investigation couldn’t be released until this “Personnel Matter” is resolved. He also said that it was an ongoing criminal review and it would go to the D.A. for a “Potential Criminal Prosecution”. Further he said, and Mayor Fitzgerald asked him to repeat, that the Bodycam footage couldn’t be released pursuant to California Government Code 6254F.
Forbes Magazine has a very timely look at some of the highest paid city managers in California. Look who made the list at number 10?
And note that this is before the $10,000 savings from having to avoid the cost of defending a potential DUI charge is factored in.
Of course this just scratches the surface of Fullerton Taxpayers’ generosity, because Felz is only our third highest paid public employee, and he was the fourth highest paid the night of the Sappy incident. The highest, of course, was the man who made sure he would never be charged in the first place.
Doug Chaffee owes us all his parking space for the next meeting.
Thanks to Jack Dean at Fullerton watch for the heads up on the full article from Forbes, found here: I strongly recommend reading the entire piece to get a sense of the scope of waste in California government in general.
Here’s a tidbit from Tuesday’s upcoming Fullerton City Council Closed Session Agenda. The Closed Session is where the council secretes itself away from public scrutiny to discuss lawsuits and personnel and real estate deals.
#2 deals with the replacement of of our recently departed PoChief, Danny Hughes, who was last seen applying his fingerprints all over a case involving helping out a pal in serious trouble.
#4 deals with the “performance evaluation” of the very person Hughes helped out – his boss, City Manager, Joe Felz, who was seen early Wednesday morning swerving down Glenwood Ave on his rims, after ploughing over a tree in the parkway, unable to negotiate the intersection at Highland Avenue in a, um, er, ahem, competent manner.
I’ve got it on pretty good authority that item 4 was agendized by the City Attorney; but at whose behest? Will the topic of Mr. Felz’s Wild Ride come up? How about the apparent cover up that is now being investigated not only by us, but by numerous mainstream media outlets?
Could there be action taken? If there were we would never know, because this is “personnel matter” not a criminal one – as the very same City Attorney has informed the media.
Both The OC Weekly and The OC Register have picked up the Uber-Failus story of Joe Felz.
According to The Register the City Attorney, Greg Palmer, said “the incident is a personnel matter but declined to elaborate”.
Let us look at that “Personnel Matter” shall we? First we’ll reference our fallen Sappy McTree.
According to Chief Hughes’ memo to City Council “the city manager was involved in a minor single vehicle collision”. Okay. That explains the tree but not what happened.
For context Sappy McTree is knocked down facing West which means that he left this mortal coil after being struck from an Easterly direction. The following is a photo of a skid mark which starts near Sappy’s remains and continues west.
It continues for 176ft. How do we know? Because we measured it.
“So what?” some of you will comment. The “So What” is California Vehicle Code 20002 (emphasis mine):