Matters From Don Parker.

Last Tuesday, at Matters From The Audience, Brea Deputy City Treasurer Don Parker dropped a bombshell on Council and staff. There seems to have been yet another case of “less than best practices” on the part of staff and there could be a cost to approaching a million bucks.

Emerging from a nine year series of amendments (six actually) to a professional services agreement with Ninyo & Moore for their work on the Rails-To-Trails project that increased their cost from $24,500 to $1,034,777.30 – 42.3X the original estimate.

Don’s Report To Council.

I said I would review the contracting done when the City auditors questioned costs and I am here to comment on that. As background, the contracting for soil testing and services on the Tracks project was questioned because the file(s) “could not be located” but I looked at the contracting.

In 2010, an agreement was approved with Converse Consultants for a soil remediation plan. The report indicated their bid was $46,100 and the high bid of Ninyo & Moore was $55,200. A consent item approved their contract for $55,200. No I have not misspoken, the low bidder was given the high bid price with no explanation as to why. In my 40 plus years of municipal auditing and accounting I have never seen this done and no one questioned it. What was done with this difference is unknown.

(Burying items like this on the Consent Calendar has become de rigueur for city business whenever they prefer to keep the public in the dark. More on this later.)

In 2012, Ninyo & Moore, prior high bid, proposed $19,500 for a soil remediation plan and a contract was prepared for $24,500. Again I have not misspoken as this was $5,000 more than their proposal with no explanation. Since this was under $25,000 “policy limit” our prior City Manager approved it. Where that $5,000 went is unknown.

(Hot button number two – City Manager purchasing authority. Are you serious? It was purported to be $25,000 back then (2012 and prior) but no one could establish when or even if this was approved by Council!

Today the rumor has doubled to $50,000, with no indication as to how many times a year the City Manager can exercise this authority. I’ve filed a CPRA request to document details of this. We’ll see what the City Clerk can dig up.)

In 2013 through 2015, the first through third amendments were done and approved on consent for $200,000, $70,000 and $40,000, respectively. Supposedly because original estimates of soil depth, etc. were in error.

(Note: As a part of soil remediation work, a separate contractor is required to provide oversight to ensure that the cleanup meets the standards of both the City and the local regulatory agency, which is the Orange County Health Care Agency.

So, this exponentially escalating cost is only part of the expense. This is for analysis and oversight. Another contractor had to dig up the arsenic laced soil and properly dispose of it. When I mentioned this to a friend they chuckled, “Maybe ‘the roads are paved with gold’ didn’t come from Dick Whittington and his Cat after all.”)

In 2016, the fourth amendment was approved on consent for $60,700 again for additional soil testing services. However, now in the staff report it was stated that Council approved the original agreement with Ninyo & Moore in 2012. As I have indicated, and as confirmed by your City Clerk, the original agreement in 2012 was never approved by Council. This misinformation started after our current City Manager took his position and I believe this was added to justify using this vendor

In 2017, the fifth and sixth amendments were approved by consent for $218,144.30 and $421,433, respectively for segments 2, 3 and 4 of the project. Each of these segments should have been bid separately. Instead, they were just given to the existing firm. Repeatedly in these staff reports it was stated that Council approved the 2012 original agreement which was a lie.

(Not unlike the lie that the Paramedic Tax was for the sole purpose of developing and maintaining a mobile intensive care paramedic service. Now we know it was just another honey pot. Anyone but me starting to see a pattern here?)

In summary, we have contracts awarded for amounts in excess of the proposals received with no explanations of why or where those monies went. A contract which started at $24,500, approved by our prior City Manager, which was increased to $1,034,777.30 with no additional bids to protect the public’s money. Staff reports repeatedly misled readers into thinking the original agreement was Council approved but it never was. Community Development staff, management and our prior and current City Managers cut corners, prepared false staff reports and possibly enriched themselves or others to the detriment of our City.

Our auditors did not comment on these situations so we are lucky they did not follow through. However, it is possible we still could have to repay these monies. In any event these situations occurred and they do time and time again. When is Council going to say enough is enough and start holding City management accountable and protecting our monies? I guess just approving false staff reports is easier.

D.P.

So, where do we go with this? How about starting to hold Council accountable to do what we elected them to do. I think the popular term today is ‘community driven governance’ – something I’ve been advocating for many years.

So, What Have We Learned?

We’ve learned that our Records Retention Schedule allows critical records and important public documents to be routinely dumped every 90 days. Stuck in the sixties, the City Clerk has no control over electronic communications… the IT department has their servers set on auto-purge.

We’ve learned that a deceptive plan to do an end run around Prop 13 gave us the Paramedic Tax. Millions of dollars, almost half of what has been collected since 1978, has been diverted to pay for development debt and other obligations not even remotely related to the paramedic services Brea voters believed they were creating.

We’ve learned that, for decades, the Consent Calendar has been used as a bureaucratic black hole to hide everything Council and staff wanted to keep from public view. Thankfully, in recent years, several Breans have become quite talented at spotting the big fat checks disguised as routine expenses.

We’ve learned that the City Manager has a huge treasure chest he can dip into at will without Council’s knowledge, oversight or approval… and we’re about to find out if it’s even legal.

We discovered that our appointed Cal Domestic Board Members unanimously approved combined stipends from Cal Domestic and their for profit subsidiary Cadway totaling a potential $24,000 a year income. That’s 3 or 4 times Council’s base stipend.

Council has been requested to require these public servants to file the annual CA Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests and Council is balking. Unless they call a special meeting, which they won’t, they’ll miss the deadline and face a formal complaint being filed with the FPPC.

 

31 thoughts on “Matters From Don Parker.

  1. Rick,
    Although I have been out of touch with local happenings, I am so glad for your erudite/informed monitoring of Brea fiscal operations, including covert shenanigans.

    I must confess that I have no prior knowledge of any soil contracts that you describe here, apparently some off the books stuff, etc.

    I was curious. What and where are/were these toxic (arsenic mentioned) located? Your discussion would be more helpful to someone like myself, so lacking in local civic awareness, with the soil in question identified. I realize that my elementary school level of understanding must frustrate. I bet most of your audience is quite aware of the issue that you address here. So, I am both embarassed and curious.

    Thank you, Rick,

    Doug Matthews

    • Doug… first, no need for apologies on any front. These are complex issues and there has been a concerted effort to keep the facts as far from public scrutiny as possible. It takes the decades of experience Don Parker brings to this sort of investigation to succeed in any meaningful discovery.

      The entire pathway of the Rails-To-Trails project was faced with mitigating the presence of arsenic from the soil. Arsenic is apparently commonly found along railways and the need to correct the problem was no surprise to anyone. It’s how they went about it and the massive cost that grew through six amendments.

      I’ve pointed out several other policy/process problems facing Brea with some nexus to this specific matter. We need Council members willing to recognize and admit to mistakes, and to take the steps necessary to ensure they never happen again.

      Thanks for your thoughts. Hope to hear from you again.

  2. I thought you had abandoned Brea Matters and I’m glad to see you’re back and with an important message. Will you be staying around this time?

    Don Parker did a good job digging up the facts and your expansion upon them is helpful. As an independent incident, or series of incidents, this shows what a sh*tty job staff is doing and how blind council is to staff’s negligence.

    I wonder, all things considered (taxes and fees, water stock, bad real estate deals, bond refinancing), how many millions of our dollars have been diverted to pet projects and maybe even offshore bank accounts?

    • Manny… The abandonment was circumstantial. After the two month battle in support of the Fanning name and family reputation I was exhausted. Then, Nextdoor offered a means of communicating about important issues in a more timely and direct manner.

      That opportunity was snatched away from me last Thursday when a small minded (expletive deleted) member, thought by many to be an over-posting obsessive/compulsive moderator suffering from poor social integration, triggered my excommunication. Dwight Manley suffered the same just hours before I did.

      I believe Dwight is taking the battle to Nextdoor corporate support. Few equal his skills and determination in matters such as this. I’ve made a single inquiry, have not received an answer and will likely refocus on Brea Matters and let nature take it’s course.

      To the issue at hand, I’ve said many times before that there is an undeniably internecine disease in city hall that has, for decades, been eating away at the fabric of our community. Recent growth in public awareness and a demand for real transparency is just the antidote we need.

      Ultimately, I expect to see heads roll and the worst of the lot wearing orange jumpsuits.

  3. Appalling! Thank you for bringing this and so many other botched attempts at running our city to our attention. I noticed your shift to Nextdoor to communicate with everyone and it was obvious that the few who repeatedly disparaged you were too focused on making things personal to understand the issues.

    Glad to see you return to Brea Matters. Your voice is an important one to hear!

  4. Rick, The degree of deception has hit a new low. The recent BreaLine shows the 2019/2020 city budget in percentages in a pie chart, and last year this same pie chart showed the actual dollar figurers for each “slice” of the pie.

    Digging into this, we see the police at 43% ($23,779,000), and fire services at 14%($7,742,000). Almost miraculously, the city has hidden $5,800,000 of fire department costs into “community services”, which shows also 14% like fire services.

    If you would happen to look back at the three year forecast the city did for 2016-2019, fire services for 2018/2019 is showing as $13,577,654. Clearly, someone at city hall decided that to access the paramedic tax revenue, they should create this opaque bifurcation of the fire department budget.

    It is plain wrong and unacceptable for a “transparent” city to do this.

    Taking this further, we have a police department that has 45 officers 24/7, and do you think they make all calls for bank robberies or violent offenses? What percentage of the police calls are for traffic accidents? Homeless issues?

    Using the totally inept logic of the next-door moderator for the fire accounting, the police department cost should be broken into two parts, and they should be getting part of the paramedic funding since they are lights flashing racing to every accident in Brea.

    But no, everyone seems to grasp that the cost for the police is what it is, no matter what the 911 call is for, and we accept it.

    But in the case of the deceptive paramedic tax, we have been fed some kool-aid BS that the fire department actually only costs $7,742,000 to have 24/7, and the other $5,800,000 is for a paramedic operation. Talk about dishonesty.

    To wrap this up , I am 100% for a local Brea Fire and Police services. I would do almost anything to see that happen. But I will not lie or deceive to have that. And the current BreaLine and city stance on this is deceptive. So fix the deception, and stop making Brea a modern edition of “The emperors new Clothes”.

    Thank you.

    • Dwight… There has been the most misguided, inept and, in some cases, fraudulent management of this community for half a century. This staff driven boondoggery has repeatedly ignored public opinion, twisted every golden opportunity into a honeypot (Rails-To-Trails and every other RDA project built upon public property), destroyed public records, mislead Council and every Commission or Committee when it suits their purpose… and buried the evidence into our police and fire services operations knowing their status would provide the best barrier to public scrutiny and challenge.

      Enough is enough. The autumn issue of BreaLine is, I’m told, it’s last paper edition. It’s going electronic. I’ve been lobbying for this for several years. No one at city hall has ever been able to give me an actual cost to produce this propaganda rag, but they did shift from monthly to quarterly on the assumption costs needed to be cut.

      Most of BreaLine is made up of information on all manner of public services, from senior outings and events, youth activities and hours of operation for the city’s massage parlor. This can be built into the city’s website, economically updated daily if necessary and all the propaganda dropped into the trash where it belongs.

      Yes. End the deception Christine, Marty, Cecilia, Steve, Glenn, Bill, Terence, Cindy and Cindie, David, Jennifer and all the foot soldiers blindly going about their business pretending all is well.

    • Alexandra… thanks for your consistent support and mutual love for all that is Brea, as someone recently said… the perfect place to live, lurk and play!

  5. Rick. I’m getting texts now that nextdoor is boring now, with coyote sightings and roaches and water bugs the top posts.

    What really stands out to me is I was banished while painstakingly explaining to Jason Kraft the fire and paramedic accounting gimmick, and after his continued refusal to accept the facts, he posted that I was advocating for the paramedic program to be “scaled down”. This was a lie, and I said so. And he knows that advocating for that would be a very contentious issue should I or anyone in Brea promote that.

    And who gets zapped? Me of course. Because Jason, who hands down is the number one over poster in Brea, and by definition violates nextdoor policy daily doing so, orchestrated me being silenced.

    What wonderful timing Jason. In the middle of the car wash zoning, which we disagree, the paramedic issue, the pending school board bond proposal that we disagree about – the board enriching themselves while children and teachers suffer, and numerous other vital Brea issues, he can post unimpeded with his useless gibberish.

    When he posted a self car wash article, I commented the fees they charged are half what this one would. Did he acknowledge this? No. He just drowns the community with reams of data, but with little or no relevance to Brea. Enough time in that.

    Stay cool. And Brea First!!
    Button

    • Dwight… I’ve been getting the same, and the content on Nextdoor seems to have taken a real turn from the important issues facing Brea. I agree, stay cool. Brea First.

  6. Rick, I want to first thank you for removing my previous comments that I sent this morning. I am the first person to own a mistake, and it is only right to remove Jason Kraft as the person responsible for both of us being banished on NEXTDOOR.

    This obviously raises the question of who did it then. This is where your blog becomes a valuable resource to the community, as this person does not have the ability to literally silence individuals from having public discourse. And to think that this person is the spouse of an elected council person truly raises this to a level every single resident of Brea should be concerned about.

    Yes, a spouse of an elected councilperson!

    Does the spouse know about this? Is the spouse behind it? Do our comments about the paramedic tax, your blog about the Don Parker Rails-to-Trails fiasco and the Paramedic Tax, or the water share frauds cause us to be silenced? Does going to the microphone to speak to council now carry the price of having retribution levied on those that “offend” a councilperson?

    I think it is best to not divulge the name of this person at this time, but at the appropriate time, it will come out. And whether or not this person’s spouse should remain on Council should be a topic of conversation going forward. This has to be the lowest act I’ve seen in Brea.

    Thank you

    • Dwight… today’s new revelation should be Jason’s “Get Out Of Jail Free” card. Pulling the earlier comments was the right thing to do.

      This is more than us butting heads with Jason, or anyone else for that matter. This is a premeditated act of censorship designed to protect specific political and financial interests in this community and it is intolerable.

      I just watched the new Netflix documentary “The Great Hack” about what went on at Cambridge Analytica and am knee deep in the Tulsi Gabbard $50 Million lawsuit against Google alleging the company violated her First Amendment rights when it suspended her campaign advertising.

      The relationship between the 1A and speech in a public (private) space will be one of the next big debates. And data bypassing oil as the most valuable commodity will be right there with it.

      Nextdoor members are little more than a commodity designed to attract advertising dollars from the real estate industry. Nextdoor has little concern for the quality of the content created by members or their right to express opinions freely. Their draconian “guidelines” and support policies make it possible for one person with ill intent to excommunicate anyone with opposing views. Not the American way.

      This will be the topic of my next blog. Fasten your seatbelt.

  7. As far as I can recall, other than Sam Cooper many years ago, Don Parker is the first person in a public role I can remember who has spoken up about a huge potential financial issue in the City of Brea.

    I wonder what guidelines are in place for consent items to be lumped together and one vote taken for approval? If there are such guidelines, should consent items placed into the agenda be scrutinized by the City Treasurer, and council alerted to a possible question of meeting the guidelines?

    The general public may want to speak about some of these expenditures before passing for payment. There’s no requirement for that discussion in city government, you say. Well, what is the right thing to do?

    It seems that change orders in a project should be scrutinized. In my experience, if a scope of work changed, we needed proper documentation for payment approval, let alone the environmental consultant keeping his records in order when it came to manifesting hazardous waste and the costs associated with the disposal of the material in an approved landfill.

    Hmmm. I wonder where that arsenic material went for disposal. Is the city now liable forever for that material in whatever landfill it went to?

    Since the passing of Roy Moore, and heck, in my memory, not one Council member in history, or anyone, has written a regular report of council activities in the city. Wouldn’t that be nice to see again. What is the overused term, transparency?

    • John… all good points. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve railed against slipping huge and unaccounted expenditures through the Consent Calendar. It is the city’s version of “under the rug” – it’s how Council has perpetuated the fraud of the Paramedic Tax since 1991… buried on the Consent Calendar.

      I would hope that the City Treasurer, Rick Rios, and others are taking a close look at what happened with the Rails-to-Trails project. As Don Parker pointed out, if the grant is rescinded because of the city’s screw-ups, it could cost us a million bucks!

      We don’t have another Gateway Center to sell off right under everyone’s nose so staff and Council can pretend they’ve balanced the budget again.

      The best, most accurate history of Brea municipal government is captured in those bi-weekly email reports Roy sent out. Anyone interested in the truth will find it in the two volume 700 issue collection available at the Brea Library and possibly the Brea Museum as well.

  8. Full Disclosure: Dan Long attempted to post two comments. The caustic little quips demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the First Amendment and atrocious spelling.

  9. It’s his alligator mouth overloading his hummingbird ass again. Note: this quote originally got me suspended from Nextdoor May 21.

    • Terry… that won’t get you booted from here though I’m sure there are readers that cringed a little reading it.

      Nextdoor is squandering an opportunity to fill a void left by the demise of strong local news. None of the other social media sites provide for such a realtime exchange of thoughts and opinions. Nextdoor’s ridiculous content moderation scheme, compounded by the folks that weaponize their petty indignations and report comments that offend them, or the people that posted them.

      There will be important initiatives on the March ballot and we are in dire need of another clean sweep in the general election. All of this needs to be publicly kicked around to ensure the highest number of educated voters possible.

      I’m workin’ on several new blogs including one on Nextdoor and digging deeper into the hazardous waste issue on this thread plus the private water companies hidden within the La Floresta development. The Paramedic Tax is still a top issue and where AB 1437 takes us is yet to be seen. The Cal Domestic “What did we really buy, what is it really worth and who really profited from Brea spending millions?” saga is far from being over.

      So, stick around Terry and toss in your two cents from time to time.

  10. Rick, Too many are worried about vanity and personal appearance, and little to no concern over the mismanagement of public funds.

    Whether the Don Parker discovery, the La Floresta senior citizens water debacle, the Cadway profiting off of taxpayers, former city manager hiding six figures of income from council and the public, Gateway shopping center sale at pennies on the dollar, the school board’s inexcusable private sale of property that resulted in Hines profiting $72,000,000 and counting, there are a few residents that want to personally attack those that bring light to these issues, or worse, silence them.

    There needs to be a formal inquiry to find out if the sitting member of Council was aware that their spouse was responsible for having us banished from NextDoor.

    Just as public speech and demonstration is fully legal, even on private property ala a super market center, NextDoor is a public gathering space albeit in the cyber world, and as such, you can’t be banished or silenced because someone doesn’t like you.

    Thank you

    • Dwight… whether negligence or dereliction, the shear volume of major issues facing Brea voters is at an unprecedented high. Our plate is so full… we need another damn plate!

      I’ll add to your list the Paramedic Tax fraud and how AB1437 could redirect the diverted fund back to the purpose for which they were designated by Brea voters. There is also the combined dilemma of a City Manager with massive unilateral purchasing authority, a Council who has systematically delegated the lion’s share of their fiscal responsibility to senior staff and a bloated Consent Calendar hiding a multitude of sins.

      I’m not suggesting to ignore the plight of missing kittens and puppies, or to allow packs of raiding coyotes free range throughout Brea. But the folks who have forgotten how to use the mute button and guillotine those they find offensive… or merely in opposition… are destroying the only realtime communications medium we have to solve major community issues.

  11. Just to update all on Next Door and my comments.

    Nextdoor – I posted a item indicating that Rick and Dwight had been banned so that those in our community concerned about City administration could be informed of that and be directed to this discussion. In that post, I indicated that both Rick and Dwight are informed individuals and their comments are valuable to our community. That post lasted for some time and got people involved in a discussion of why Next Door banned Rick and Dwight. I didn’t participate in that discussion but just let it run.

    On July 30, 2019 I received an email from Nextdoor support indicating “your neighbors have notified us that you’ve posted messages to the main newsfeed about why other members have been reported or removed, which violates our Guidelines on disagreements and conflict.” Additionally, it was stated “to ensure your neighbors have a positive and helpful experience on Nextdoor, the newsfeed should only be used to discuss general topics of local interest, rather than specific personal concerns.”

    Finally, it stated that they have “removed the reported content.” I have no idea why a discussion of Nextdoor’s process for banning members cannot be discussed and another post by someone else is still present doing just that. If all discussions with “disagreements and conflict” are banned then basically no discussion can occur as someone will always disagree with the item and/or conflict will result. What our City is doing in exercising its fiduciary duty with our money should be an item for local discussion.

    My comments – The body of the blog, are a direct quote of the comments I made to City Council and staff at a public meeting. Rick has very appropriately expanded on them as I was limited to 5 minutes from the podium during the meeting. Hopefully, this will inform residents that don’t view the Council meetings of what is happening.

    My 40 plus years of municipal accounting and auditing experience could be extremely valuable to our city; however, it seems that anyone challenging the processes done by City management is classified as a troublemaker in the hope that they just go away. Our City seems more concerned about shooting or silencing the messenger instead of removing the offender, city management and Council, and fixing the process.

    City Council and management hope that eventually we do just go away. Unfortunately, that does happen.

    I think Brea is a great place to live and work but I have now come to the time when retirement has to occur. I am sure city management will celebrate this occurrence as one of the thorns in their side will be silenced.

    Hopefully, Rick, Dwight and others on this thread will continue to step up and challenge Council to do what is right and then hold them accountable when they don’t. Personally, I would love to see a movement occur whereby city management is removed as the culture in our City is toxic and good employees are hurt by it.

    • Don… bringing your lengthy experience to bear upon the sad state of affairs in Brea as more welcome than you know. Hats off to City Treasurer Rick Rios for recognizing your talents and deputizing you to assist him. There is much yet to be done, unraveling the improprieties of almost half century of mismanagement will not be an easy task.

      I’m hoping your retirement will give you more time to help us here in Brea. None of us want to see you silenced.

      I can assure you that Dwight and I and a growing number of former lurkers can and will be holding city management accountable for a long list of fiscal transgressions. They may have a momentary victory getting us banned from Nextdoor, but that will likely be overturned shortly – and Brea Matters will continue unabated… I promise.

      On the matter of Nextdoor, they have painted themselves into a very tight corner with their customer support policies. There are clearly Constitutional issues – none of which have anything to do with the First Amendment by the way – and their almost arrogant and dismissive treatment of those they’ve excommunicated is inexcusable.

      Finally, to the handful of miscreants who are ungrounded in the issues and single focused on stalking and harassing Dwight and myself – everyone, and I mean everyone, sees through your petty tantrums. Sooner or later Nextdoor will put you on timeout.

      • Rick:

        Thanks for comments and you and Dwight keep up the good fight. I will remain somewhat available as retirement will take me to Tennessee. Can’t attend Council meetings but can advise where needed.

        Don

  12. Thank you Don Parker for making the effort to explain these two issues. I appreciate your standing up to NExtDoor and to the city hall when something doesn’t add. And you truly are one to listen to as a tenured expert in government accounting.

    And thank you Rick for the elaboration on the very few individuals that have continually plagued Brea, and are determined to stifle free speech, stifle differing opinions, and even worse, be complicit in the selling out of Brea’s best interests.

    At this point I will continue to be myself, and stand up to those that are spewing gibberish or making personal attacks for no other reason than envy and jealousy.

    And on the positive front, I am determined to keep investing my time and money in our community of Brea and make this the best possible place to live and work around.

    Thank you

  13. Update 1: August 2, 2019 – Dan Long demanded to have his name removed from my blog. I will not be bullied nor threatened to “whitewash” the facts when giving all the details of a story. Blocked his IP. Firewall prevented 11 further attempts made over following 24 hours. No further activity. All questions regarding harassment would appear to be answered.

  14. Update 2: August 2, 2019 – Not to be outdone, now Kevin Gorham has offered his obscenity laced review of my comments. Kevin also earned a blocked IP. He continued, undaunted by failure, five more times over the next hour to pile on with more expletives. Nextdoor should find my evidentiary collections quite interesting.

    • Rick, both of these individuals have spent the bulk of their time making personal attacks rather than having anything close to intelligent conversation for quite a while now.

      Ironically, they take your sharing of their actions to be a personal attack, which just confirms their mutual delusions.

      As unfortunate as it is to have to be targeted by a few obsessive and lost individuals, it’s the price of taking on the “establishment”.

  15. Mr. Manley is right. I’ve watched these two, and others, on Nextdoor dogging both of you. You two get the ax and they get off without a slap on the wrist. There is no justice in that.

    The good news, if you can call it that, is they’ve vanished from Nextdoor. Their targets are gone. If Nextdoor lets you back in I guess we’ll see them again. I hope the Leads know how to deal with them now.

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