Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's "Simmer Time" Again

Well, folks, once again I'm turning the old cauldron down to simmer. That means that, for the next few days, comments won't get posted as quickly and it's unlikely that new posts will be made for a little while.

It's time for me to whisk my sweet and patient wife of more th
an 44 years off to an exotic venue to celebrate her steady march into geezerdom with me. I will be checking in from time to time and friends will be tending to the pack of pit bulls that guard our hacienda, so all is well.


Quite frankly, after the events of the past couple weeks - culminating with the administrative leave of City Clerk Julie Folcik and the chaos it has caused at City Hall - I need some decompression time. If you've been reading the comment threads here and elsewhere you know that there are some very vicious people out there with you - gutless cowards who post things anonymously here and elsewhere that they would never say to you in person. If you think all the comments you've seen here are bad, you should see the ones I didn't post! Yep, this event has energized the scum of the earth - a very sad commentary on our local society.

To those wonderful folks who work in City Hall, I feel your pain and hope you'll find a way now to just keep on working even though some of you will be looking over your shoulder all the time, wondering if you're next. Hang in, there....

Today, as I scurr
ied around completing errands, I found myself wondering just what school of management the city council subscribes to... my best guess is the Attila the Hun program, because that's what it looks like from my vantage point. Former Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley had it right when he left abruptly last year. In the letter he left in his wake he described members of our city council thus: "They are in my opinion incompetent, unskilled and unethical." Yep, he nailed it.


So, to Jim Righeimer, Steve Mensinger, Eric Bever and Gary Monahan, I sa
y this. Through your ham-handed, thoughtless, irrational and completely incompetent attempts to place your collective jackboot imprint on this city you have managed - in a short 15 months - to destroy it. You've fabricated crises to bolster your political agenda, failed to follow the rules designed to protect the employees, tried to take over this city using a bogus charter and have failed miserably at every turn. You disrespected the memory of Huy Pham and unleashed special investigators to defame him and take the heat from his death off of yourselves. You tried to quash the memorial service and tree-planting a couple weeks ago because it made you uncomfortable. Shame on you all.

You've taken
a meat ax to the staffing of public safety organizations, then tried to blame problems on them. The only thing you've accomplished is to make this city less safe, turned employee against employee and exacerbated a precarious fiscal condition by creating litigious situations that required spending money on lawyers like drunken sailors. You, in a fit of pique, refused to fund the Self Insurance Fund - the pot of cash that pays for litigation. I wonder how Jones Day is going to feel when their bills begin to bounce? And the Julie Folcik situation proves that you're more than willing to find a scapegoat whenever you think the need requires it. Every other city employee has learned a very valuable lesson from this one.


The people of this city are on to you, though. You knew they would be soon enou
gh, which is why you have placed every effort on fast-forward, trying to implement your insidious schemes before anyone caught on. Well, you've failed. In Righeimer's case, that would be "failed again". Enjoy the next few months, because I guarantee you that the voters in this city will, indeed, Remember in November.

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Missing "At Risk" Adult Found!

We just received notice from the CMPD that Mr. Vo Van Nguyen has been located. You will recall that he went missing last Sunday from his residence on Mendoza Avenue in the north part of Costa Mesa.

Today he was located in the Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park in Trabuco Canyon by two mountain hikers. Reports are that he was dehydrated and taken to Saddleback Memorial Hospital for treatment. There is no word about how Mr. Nguyen managed to make it to that location, where he was found on a trail about a mile into the park with no shoes and only one sock. He has been reunited with his family.

Thanks to all of you who kept an eye out for Mr. Nguyen. I know from many reports that hundreds of Costa Mesans were actively on the look-out for him.


City Clerk Placed On Administrative Leave!

In a terse, two-sentence email Costa Mesa CEO Tom Hatch announced that City Clerk, Julie Folcik, has been placed on administrative leave pending the result of an investigation into what they refer to as "significant professional failure".

Here is the complete text:

Today Julie Folcik was placed on paid Administrative Leave pending the completion of an investigation into the significant professional failure to have the Charter consolidated with the June County election as directed by the City Council. An investigation has been started.

This, in my opinion, is a petty move by frustrated politicians and is consistent with the comments attributed to the Jones Day attorney yesterday in court when he tried to throw Folcik under the bus. They've made her the scapegoat in this dismal event.

Shame on Tom Hatch for bending to the petulant demands of opportunistic politicians by placing a VERY professional, hardworking and loyal employee on leave at this time. This, of course, is cutting off their noses to spite their face. There is no time when a highly-skilled City Clerk is more essential than during the run-up to an election.

This is just one more example of how the managment of this city has fallen off a cliff in the past 15 months. It's being run, not with wisdom and an even hand, but by the petulance of hack politicians seeking to pad their political resumes our expense.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Arrogant Abuse Of Authority

Before I shut down tonight after what has been an exhausting day I wanted to share just a little bit of information for you to consider as we move forward.


Today I attended the Special City Council meeting at City Hall that began at 5:00.
In the audience was myself and about four employees. I anticipated the open session to be a short one - mere minutes - as contract City Attorney Tom Duarte presented to the council his item for the approval of using high-priced law firm, Jones Day, on the Charter issue. This apparently was necessary since the council had only approved them for the OCEA lawsuit.

Apparently CEO Tom Hatch can authorize up to $50,000 for temporary legal fees - which I'm told is what happened in this case. At my request last week Duarte told me he would begin showing a breakdown of just what we're paying Jones Day for on the "legal fees spreadsheet", available for viewing at the City web site.


all five council members were present, Duarte read the item and explained why Jones Day was selected. Wendy Leece asked why she, as an elected official, was not given a chance to express her view via a vote of the council BEFORE the City went to court. Duarte dodged that question, indicating the item was on the closed session and preferred to discuss it then. Gary Monahan - yes, he was back - moved the item and Jim Righeimer seconded it and Mayor Eric Bever - yes, he was there - called for the vote.

Before the vote was taken, though, Leece was given the floor to explain why she was not supporting this issue. She began to tell the council her reasons when Bever abruptly slammed the door on her. He told her that "we're not going to relive the whole history of the Charter discussion", ignored her protestations and called for the vote. I smiled as he pulled the wrong lever and had to call for a re-vote. It passed 4-1 and the council moved into closed session and I left.

But, I left with a very bad feeling for how things are probably going to go in
the future - at least during Bever's final few months on the dais. It's clear that the majority on the council are NOT interested in hearing dissenting opinions on any issue, even from an elected member of the council. Not only was Bever's handling of this incident rude, but it disenfranchised every voter who cast a vote for Leece in two elections. And this was BEFORE they knew the outcome of the court hearing today.

I suspect we're going to see a council with a VERY short tolerance for the views of speakers before them. Quite honestly, I can see more legal action in the future if they continue on this path - and more money in Jones Day's bank account as a result. These are not happy days in our city, for sure...

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Breaking News! City To Appeal Decision

Contract City Attorney Tom Duarte reported out of the Closed Session this evening two items.


First, on a 4-1 vote (Wendy Leece voted NO) the Council directed the City At
torney to amend the petition filed by City Clerk Julie Folcik, and "to add The City as a party to the petition, thereby ratifying the City Clerk's original filing of the petition".

Also on a 4-1 vote (Leece again voting NO) "the Council provided the city with authority to appeal the lower court's decision earlier today".

So, I guess the Fat Lady has not yet sung on this one. The drama continues and that Jones Day meter just keeps on a'spinnin'. I guess it's a good thing the council approved using them on this case in the open session earlier in the evening, huh?

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CMPD Needs Help Locating Missing At Risk Adult

The Costa Mesa Police Department sent out an urgent alert late this afternoon, asking for the help of residents to locate a missing elderly resident from the north part of town. The following is the complete text of that press release, including a photograph of the missing man.

The Costa Mesa Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance
in locating an “At Risk”
Missing Adult

Mr. Vo Van Nguyen, age 78, was last seen at the home he resides in with his family on Sunday, March
25th at 10:00 a.m. Shortly thereafter he was not seen and is believed to have left the residence in the
2900 block of Mendoza Avenue (area of W. Baker Street and Mendoza), without telling anyone. Family
members searched the neighborhood and contacted the Costa Mesa Police. Mr. Nguyen is reported to
suffer from dementia and may seem confused as to where he is if contacted. He additionally takes
medication, which he does not have with him, for a heart r
elated ailment. His family is extremely
concerned for his safety, and as of this afternoon no information has been received regarding their
missing loved one.

Mr. Nguyen is described as Vietnamese, approximately 5’ – 5” tall, 140 lbs, with graying black hair and
brown eyes. He was last seen by family members wearing a blue long-sleeve shirt, black pants and
brown shoes. Mr. Vo Van Nguyen speaks only Vietnamese.

The Costa Mesa Police Department urgently requests that anyone that sees Vo Van Nguyen contact
local law enforcement, or the Costa Mesa Police Department at: (714) 754-5252.

A photo of Mr. Nguyen is attached below (photo is approximately
2-years old)

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Jim Righeimer's Charter Off The June Ballot

Following a long, long day at the courthouse for the folks involved, (the hearing didn't begin until after 4:00!) the word from Superior Court a few minutes ago is that Judge Franz Miller has ruled that Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley will NOT be ordered to place Jim Righeimer's Charter scheme on the June 5th ballot.


Consistent with his tentative ruling, posted HERE, Judge Miller decided that the rules guiding Kelley are part of the state statute and that Kelley did not violate them when he declined to accept the late submission of paperwork from City Clerk Julie Folcik and cannot be ordered to do so.

No word yet from The City about whether it will appeal this decision or not. The clock is ticking and it is my understanding from Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley this afternoon that sometime the first week of April (not April 1st as was previously stated) is when Kelley and his crew could receive the information for the ballot. After that the ship has sailed and his process cannot accept anything else. It seems unlikely that an appeal could be processed in such a short time, but you just never know...


So, that wasn't San Onofre melting down that you heard this evening - that was Jim Righeimer reacting to yet another failure in his political life. If he plans to proceed with
this bogus Charter scheme his new target will have to be the November General Election, when LOTS of folks will find their way to the ballot box. And, that means the city will save tens of thousands of dollars by placing it on the November ballot, if that's what happens. Of course, we've probably already spent that much and more for the services of Jones Day on this issue. And, it also means that both sides of this issue will have eight months in which to convince the voters on the wisdom of their position. Whether it passes then or not, at least the largest possible chunk of the electorate will have had a chance to make their voices heard. That's how this process is supposed to work...

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Feet To The Fire Forum - Again

While we're all sitting around (Ha!) waiting for the court ruling today, I thought I'd better remind you of a very special event next week.

On April 5, 2012, the irrepressible Barbara Venezia, who promises to wear her flame outfit again, will host yet another in her series of Feet To The Fire Forums at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue. (Lions Park) Doors open at 6:30 and the festivities begin at 7:00.

In this iteration Barbara will be joined by Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis, new Daily Pilot self-styled conservative columnist Jack Wu, former publisher of the Daily Pilot and new head honcho of the Orange County Register's The Current, Tom Johnson, Newport Independent Editor Roger Bloom and Voice of OC Editor-in-Chief Norberto Santana, Jr. as they put the screws to the three remaining candidates for the recently-configured new California 74th Assembly District.

Scheduled to be grilled by those stalwart journalists are two Republicans, Allan Mansoor and Leslie Daigle, and a g
uy who became a registered Democrat simultaneous with filing his papers to run for this seat, Newport Beach's Bob Rush.


Mansoor is trying to run as an incumbent, but he's not. His old district was manipulated so he doesn't live there anymore. But, he's the closest thing to an incumbent in this particular race, for all the good that will do him. His two years in the Assembly has been undistinguished - his peers barely knew he was there. None of the three bills he initiated went anywhere. When you're in the minority (seems strange to refer to him as such, considering his history in this city) you have to be a consensus-builder to get anything accomplished. He is NOT a consensus-builder by any stretch of the imagination. His role in Sacramento has been as a lock-step lemming mouthpiece for the far, far right.

Daigle, a Newport Beach council member, is challenging the OC GOP on this run. Mansoor has the support of Scott Baugh and his cronies, so she's up against it with this run. We've seen how aggressive Baugh and his pals can be when folks run against their "chosen ones", so Daigle will have her hands full. She is viewed by many as a more moderate candidate - one that might actually be able to accomplish something in Sacramento - but those are fighting words for the OC GOP establishment.

Rush is an enigma. He has been described by some as a council gadfly, which isn't necessarily bad. There seems to be no real reason for him to be running, but he's putting up some serious cash to do so. Some folks think he may be a spoiler, placed in the race to split Daigle's votes and, maybe, attract enough Democrat voters to the primary to squeeze Daigle out, leaving Mansoor and Rush to compete in the General Election. Considering the demographic in this new district, that almost certainly guarantees a Mansoor win in November. Since California has an open primary - where partisans can vote for their enemy's candidates - the fact that Democrats can vote on the Republican ticket could make this an interesting race.


Based on recent reports, all the candidates have a little over $100,000 in their campaign war chests to spend so far. Daigle has captured many important endorsements but Mansoor has the party behind him. It's going to be fun, to say the very least.

Thursday's forum should be VERY interesting. It's being held on Mansoor's home turf, so we can likely expect a crowd that leans in his favor. Certainly, you could expect to see a covey of GOP sycophants in attendance. It's my understanding that three community television crews, Costa Mesa Television, Newport Beach Television and Irvine Television, will be on hand to record the event for taped replay on their respective community access channels. But, don't let that stop you from turning out to see the show.

So, join me on Thursday. Barbara always puts on a good show and it is really fun to watch politicians, and would-be politicians sweat a little. See you there...

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Judge's Tentative Ruling Posted

This afternoon Judge Franz Miller posted his tentative ruling on the case of Folcik vs. OC Registrar of Voters. You can read his tentative ruling HERE. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this page to item #17.


The way I interpret this ruling is that, for the reasons described below, Jim Righeimer's
Charter will NOT be on the June ballot.

According to the reasoning presented, there are several issues at play:
  1. The petitioner, City Clerk Julie Folcik, lacks standing and does not allege personal individual harm.
  2. The court is inclined to treat Folcik as The City of Costa Mesa.
  3. As Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley has the ministerial act/duty in this issue.
  4. The petitioner (Folcik) has not demonstrated that Kelley had a mandatory duty (to file the untimely charter resolution) he did not perform, or that Kelley had ANY discretion to abuse when rejecting the tardy filing, as the statute is mandatory.
  5. Costa Mesa has not shown any irreparable harm if the election is delayed until November.
So, now all parties will assemble in Judge Miller's courtroom at 1:30 Tuesday to argue the case. That should be a VERY interesting show. And, since it begins after lunch, it will be interesting to see if they finish in time for the parties to make it to the early Special Council meeting tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. Especially since the first item - and the only item in open session - is for the council to consider and approve the agreement with Jones Day to be the litigators on this case.

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Charter Deadline Snafu Report

Reports from the courthouse a few minutes ago indicate that Katrina Foley and John Stephens will be in the mix tomorrow, along with the lawyers representing Billy Folsom and Mary Spadoni, when Judge Franz Miller hears arguments from The City of Costa Mesa, through their high-priced lawyers from Jones Day, that The City should be allowed to have Jim Righeimer's Charter placed on the June 5th ballot despite the deadline being missed on March 9th.


Foley and Stephens, representing their own law firms, joined together to file a
lawsuit challenging the City's claim that a "clerical error" should not preclude the item being placed on the June ballot. The Orange County Registrar of Voters, Neal Kelley, has his hands tied by the regulations that govern the way he operates. In order for him to accept The City's paperwork a judge must order him to do so. As long as he receives such an order by the drop dead date of April 1st - appropriate, huh? - then his organization can complete the tasks necessary to place the Charter on the ballot. If that deadline is also missed, then Kelley has no choice - Jim Righeimer's Charter will not appear on the June ballot.

Many of us in this city feel that, IF this city is going to consider becoming a Charter City - and that's a BIG IF - then such a document should be prepared much more carefully. It should NOT be the handiwork of one man with his own personal political agenda driving him. At the VERY LEAST it should be reviewed by a blue-ribbon committee to be sure Costa Mesa's special needs are met. AND, it should be placed on the November ballot, where the greatest possible voter turnout can be expected.


You may recall that the City of Bell, led by their unscrupulous City Manager, Robert Rizzo, placed its Charter decision on the ballot in a special election. Only 450 voters turned out for that one and more than half voted by mail. That opened the door for the massive corruption that occurred in that city. Those of us who have studied Jim Righeimer's Charter know that insufficient safeguards for that kind of corruption ARE NOT INCLUDED in t
he document. Many of us have written extensively about those shortcomings.

So, back to court both sides go tomorrow at 1:30, where Judge Miller will hear arguments and make his decision. We'll report more when we know more.

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