Final Thoughts For 2017.

In the summer of 2011, then City Manager Tim O’Donnell told me that his favorite definition of leadership was, “Leadership is disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb.” The implication was heinous and has proven to be the underlying rationale of countless decisions made by Council over the seven years I’ve written this blog. Here are a few of the most obvious:

  • Raising Council’s stipend and flex benefits.
  • Burying key decisions and large capital expenditures in the Consent Calendar.
  • Commission and Committee appointees are predominantly political payback.
  • Now defunct Redevelopment Agency created over $200 million in bond debt, most building or refurbishing city property for which there is no property tax which pays off the bond debt.
  • Brett Murdock tacitly appointed to lead opposition to The Brea Open Governance Act and The Brea Accountability Act. Murdock failed to disclose his leadership of the Breans Against Measures T & U PAC and was fined $2,000 by the FPPC.
  • City Clerk, under direction from City Manager and City Attorney violates election law resulting in litigation that was lost on appeal and cost taxpayers almost $1 million dollars.
  • Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem and City Manager take an ill-advised two week junket to Korea and Japan, sticking Brea taxpayers with the bill (Koreagate).
  • Mount a weak attempt to retain the Police Services contract with Yorba Linda.
  • Reorganize Brea FD rather than seriously entertaining the possibility that contracting out the services could save Brea taxpayers a bundle.
  • “Green Brea 2012” was a disaster but continues to be touted by city propagandists as a success. “Greenwashing” at it’s finest.
  • Staff recommends Council pay annual pension obligation at less than 100%, adding to the mounting debt. Brea had a surplus of $21.9 million in 2001, what happened?
  • 560 Fund (OC Landfill) earmarked to mitigate the traffic, noise, road damage and provide other “community benefits” is tapped twice to pay for the solar project – several million dollars. Remember, the one that would pay for itself.
  • Create Landscape, Lighting & Maintenance Districts (LL&MD) and Community Facilities Districts (CFD) to dodge Prop 13 and generate uncapped revenue. Promises made to “revisit” these for possible double taxation and to add sunset clauses has never found it’s way to the agenda.
  • Implement and repeat use of tiered water rates as a means of social engineering (deemed illegal in Capistrano Taxpayers Association, Inc. v. City of San Juan Capistrano – 2015).
  • Cal Domestic. Need I say more? If the FPPC, State DOJ and/or OCDA would get off their asses maybe we would finally get to the truth.
  • The perpetual appearance of collusion, backroom dealings and Brown Act violations every time Council reorganizes – never challenged, never proven but always questioned.
  • Madrona. Self-explanatory.
  • A “Civic & Cultural Center Demonstration Garden” proposed as a means of defraying costs of routine maintenance of Civic Center parking structure. Resoundingly rejected by residents.
  • City budget deemed to be balanced for the last 17 years yet Pension and OPEB debt soars to over $100 million.
  • Brea Envisions. Self-explanatory.
  • Originally proposed in January 1999, the just completed downtown parking structure could have been built for $5 million dollars with Redevelopment money without disruption to existing businesses.
  • Apprised of Constitutional due process issues buried within the Brea Municipal Code, triggered by the unilateral dismissal provision in Section 2.16.050, Council dawdles for 16 months without resolution. Will show up on agenda again soon.
  • $73,069,750 spent since 1977 for a “mobile intensive care” Paramedic Program appears to be nothing more than a subsidy for the Brea FD. (This will likely add fuel to the fiscal fires in 2018 as the truth becomes known.)

How the hell does this happen?

It’s become increasingly clear, as I read dozens upon dozens of staff reports that, more often than not, we’re getting only a fraction of the truth. Having reached the conclusion that Council, Commission and Committee members and the voting public in general lack the vision and intelligence to manage their community — staff has gradually hijacked all authority.

At best, only one or two senior city staff actually live in Brea. They have no local roots, no family history, no personal investment or emotional ties to the community. They are here to achieve their personal professional best, as dictated purely by academia and tweaked in a never ending array of seminars and symposiums. That their “product” ever actually benefits Brea is purely serendipitous.

They are here to put in their time, to receive salary and benefits well beyond that offered for comparable work in the private sector and to retire with six figure pensions.

From time to time they make mistakes, we all do. These blunders are the product of bad judgment, ignorance or inattention. These gaffes are committed with our money and are often magnitudes greater than the day-to-day mistakes we make.

Our city’s cancerous corporate culture.

To preserve their lucrative but fragile existence they are inclined to cover up the truth rather than admitting to failure. A corporate culture develops around them that renders them incapable of providing the whole truth. Staff seems to operate in a perpetual state of circling the wagons.

It is an endemic condition that can only be overcome by stripping them of the authority they have stolen and return it to those we elected to do the job in the first place.

And here’s the problem. As this bureaucratic shadow management culture has grown, their influence and power have as well and this creates a vacuum that eventually sucks in our elected representatives and blinds them to their complicity in the improprieties going on right under their noses.

Where do we take our city from here?

Revive “Clean Sweep” and put strong willed candidates into office who will not bow to the corporate mentality infesting those managing city business.

Candidates must give you a true sense of trust and confidence that accountability and transparency are not simply campaign rhetoric, that they will set aside any and all personal agendas (and bloated egos) – keeping a single focus upon what truly serves the people of Brea. Otherwise, they have not earned your vote.

city culture

Marick Mea Culpa.

Marick in jail.Even with it’s twisted pretzel logic, MPT Marick’s mea culpa following “Matters” last Tuesday confirmed a pattern of Murdock supporters intimidating Brea businesspeople to remove opposition’s signs and their practice of late night sign vandalizing across the city.

Citing content as the issue, that it was slanderous and in poor taste, Marick completely overlooked the accuracy of much of their content, which eliminates the slander charge, and the sign maker’s right to express their opinion unencumbered by subjective judgment.

Murdock in jail.Combine what we now know about Marick with Murdock’s 2010 campaign founded on empty rhetoric leading to four years of no promises kept and nothing of note accomplished…

and his 2012 clandestine opposition to Measures T and U which resulted in a $2,000 fine from the FPPC for election law violation… and you get quintessential dirty politics.

Murdock and Marick must harbor pretty low opinions of the people they serve.

We see you!Do they think we don’t see through the asinine answers they give to serious questions, the preposterous claims of major accomplishments they pile on their political resumes?

Do they think their whimpering and whining will mask the fact that they, at minimum, have as much mud on their hands as they claim fouls the hands of their opposition?

Mr. Murdock, Mrs. Marick… that sound you hear isn’t fracking in our hillsides, the shrinking of our pension liabilities or cactus growing in the Civic Center Garden. It’s the chip, chip, chip of the epitaphs being chiseled into your political headstones.

Operation Clean Sweep

City Clerk Violates Election Law, Twice.

Violates election law - Kathleen E. O'Leary, Presiding Justice, William F. Rylaarsdam, Associate Justice and Richard D. Fybel, Associate JusticeSo says the California Fourth District Court of Appeals (Kathleen E. O’Leary, Presiding Justice, William F. Rylaarsdam, Associate Justice and Richard D. Fybel, Associate Justice) in their ruling published on Friday, 02/21/14. Though twice given an opportunity to correct an error in filing of ballot arguments, Brea’s City Clerk, under instruction from the City Attorney, secretly ordered the ballot signatories changed, which violates election law.

Coincidentally, one of the ballot issues, Measure T, sought to promote greater transparency in government.

Follow the money.

Violates election law - Brett MurdockWhat could have been handled in a moment, with a simple phone call or email, at no cost to the city, turned into a  debacle that has drug on for almost a year and a half!

Last September, when the City of Brea made a motion to dismiss the appeal, the Orange County Register quoted then Mayor Pro Tem Murdock who claimed, “This is a very sad waste of taxpayer money, the hypocrisy is sad.”

  • This from the guy who called the suit frivolous, moot even, though the City Attorney said it was “triable” and the Appeals Court’s final decision proved the original complaint was anything but frivolous.
  • This from the guy who failed to disclose his leadership of the Breans Against Measures T & U PAC, was found guilty and sanctioned/fined $2,000 by the FPPC.
  • This from the guy who represents himself as an attorney yet tries to excuse his FPPC fine by stating, “The law is esoteric and broad.”
  • This from the guy hanging his shingle all over town, desperately trying to get a law practice off the ground.
  • This from the guy who thought it was okay to give himself a raise then fought to keep the issue off of the agenda for over six months.
  • This from the guy who thinks it’s okay to spend several thousand taxpayer dollars to join his buddies on an all expenses paid vacation to South Korea and Japan.
  • This from the guy who has no clue how the City really spends it’s money or if it does so wisely (remember his gross inaccuracies regarding Brea Fest finances?)
  • This from the guy who’s first public act upon taking office was to suggest reducing the time allowed for citizens to address the council during Matters From The Audience from five minutes to three.

Violates election law - James MarkmanBrea Matters reported on this in detail – “Legal Fees Or Legal Fiasco?” In simple terms, here’s how the finances settle out. The City of Brea has spent almost $200,000 in legal fees with Jim Markman’s firm Richards, Watson & Gershon, authorized by City Manager Tim O’Donnell, to mitigate a complaint that could have originally been handled for nothing.

Zip. Nada. Not a penny.

Who really violates election law?

Violates election law - Tim O'DonnellIn all fairness, City Clerk Cheryl Balz works in an oppressive environment and doesn’t enjoy the autonomy afforded most of her peers. Council should have been in charge, choosing how to respond to the notice of error and deciding whether the threat of litigation outweighed the city’s embarrassment for the violation of election law. Certainly they wouldn’t have allowed it to occur twice!

Contact any member of council. Ask them if they were consulted on any of this, if they’ve seen and reviewed the many payments made to Richards, Watson & Gershon over the last year and a half.

Ask any of them if they’ve were given an opportunity to clarify costs, challenge expenses let alone approve them. I’ll bet the answer is, “No, I’m shocked!” They should have been in charge and they weren’t.

That’s not the half of it!

Actually, it is. The decision also allows the appellant to recover costs, so you can just about double that figure. This arrogant disregard for election law, what I believe was incontrovertibly a vindictive effort to publicly discredit a legitimate candidate for Council, will cost Brea taxpayers in the neighborhood of $400,000.

But, it’s not just about money.

Not only did the City Clerk violate election law by modifying the signatories, “the city clerk further violated the Elections Code by failing to make those changes publicly available.” (G047591 – (Super. Ct. No. 30-2012-00585496). If you care as much as we do, you can read the full decision here Appeals Court Opinion.

Twice warned, twice ignored, these actions have now established precedent statewide. The City could launch one more challenge in the courts. If you’ve read the Court of Appeals opinion you’ll realize there is no wiggle room left. Council must not allow O’Donnell and Markman to again commit such a hubristic act. If they do, a wholesale recall would be the only sensible action left Brea voters.

Every city clerk across the entire state will no longer be free to play loose and easy with election law. Come Monday morning, you can bet correspondence on this will be colossal.

Why such a big deal?

Because issues like this are tied to current elections and violations can easily elude detection as the transgression occurs outside of the public view and the election will have occurred before a meaningful review can be made.

It’s like a child stealing cookies when no one is looking, eating the evidence before they’re found out, betting that the missing cookies will likely not be discovered until well after dessert.

In this case, their best friend caught them in the act, suggested they put the cookies back before getting in big trouble and their choice was to arrogantly disregard the warning, believing they were too smart to get busted.

In this case it was fortuitous that the proponents of Measures T & U, because they were part of the statement and rebuttal process, were in a position to make early discovery.

The city claimed the clerk was merely correcting a typo to reflect the intent of Council, however the court determined that the city provided no evidence to prove the city clerk had any awareness of Council’s intent. In fact, if the Council, for the most part, had little or no knowledge of what was really unfolding… what intent could they possibly have had?

So, what the hell did we spend nearly $200,000 on? Excuse me, $400,000.

The court clearly states that even had they found the complaint to be moot, which they didn’t, the issues raised were of broad importance and capable of recurring. Even though the election was already behind us, the court denied the city’s appeal to dismiss.

Where do we go from here?

A good start would be to take a long hard look at the incumbents and candidates in the upcoming election. The impostors posing as knowledgeable fiscal conservatives should be outed and removed from consideration.

Next, we should drive home the point to Council to start making smarter choices that keep us out of harms way, out of the courtroom.

If this Madrona nonsense lands us in court, and it seems inevitable it will, I hope O’Donnell, Markman and the City Council all hold the appellants, Bev Perry and Glenn Parker (candidate in 2014?), as accountable for causing major legal expense to the city as they did Mr. Vargas… who has been fully exonerated as far as we’re concerned.

Vargas 1 – Brea 0

Game over.