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Lisa Bartlett Attacks Robert Ming With False “Facts”

Posted by Greg Woodard on June 30, 2014

Apparently concerned by Robert Ming’s first place finish in the primary for the Orange County Supervisor race in the Fifth District, Lisa Bartlett has started sending around something titled “Ming’s Dings.”  The first installment calls out Ming for his support last year of a city loan to the new City Manager for him to buy a house in the city.  Unfortunately, Bartlett appears more concerned about casting Ming in a negative light than she does about the actual facts surrounding the loan.  (For the record, I supported Ming in the primary.)

Bartlett falsely claims that the median home price in Laguna Niguel is $300,000 and contrasts that with the $925,000 loan that the City Manager was requesting.  In fact, the median home price in Laguna Niguel is actually much higher at anywhere from $650,000 to over $675,000.  Bartlett also falsely states that the loan was approved at a below-market interest rate, yet the story cited in Bartlett’s own hit piece states that the City Council (Ming included) voted to require that the interest on the loan be at market rate.  In addition, the City Manager’s loan payments are taken directly from his paycheck and if he ever leaves the city or is terminated, he must sell his house and pay off the loan.  Finally, the hit piece erroneously inflates the City Manager’s salary and benefits by over $215,000.  In fact, the City Manager’s salary and benefits are slightly lower than the average of Orange County city managers, and actually lower than the City Manager in Bartlett’s city, Dana Point (despite Laguna Niguel having almost 30,000 more residents).  It is ironic that Bartlett, a partner at a real estate and investment firm, would not know the median home price in Laguna Niguel.  Even more ironic is the fact that Bartlett would be calling out (falsely) the Laguna Niguel City Manager’s salary and benefits, when her own City Manager’s package is higher.

People can debate the wisdom of a city offering a loan to a City Manager (other cities offer a similar perk).  However, the debate should begin with the real facts, not those embellished by a political foe who is trying to make up ground in advance of the November election.  I trust Bartlett will be issuing a correction any time now.

Posted in 5th Supervisorial District, Dana Point, Laguna Niguel, Orange County Board of Supervisors | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Petrilla and Bartlett Mailers Stir Controversy

Posted by Greg Woodard on May 16, 2014

Allan Bartlett over at Powder Blue posted two mailers he recently got a hold of (see below), one from Jesse Petrilla running for the 73rd Assembly District, and one from Lisa Bartlett running for OC Supervisor in the 5th District.  Bartlett maintains that the Petrilla mailer is deceptive because it contains a quote from OC GOP Chairman Scott Baugh and the OC GOP logo, implying that the party has endorsed Petrilla, which it has not.  The quote, which addresses the influence of public employee unions, is prominently displayed at the top of the mailer in which Petrilla purports to advocate for reforming government pensions.  In a comment on the Powder Blue posting, Mission Viejo activist Larry Gilbert, a Petrilla supporter, disagrees and states that the quote simply connects Chairman Baugh to the OC GOP. The OC GOP only allows endorsed candidates to use the party’s logo.  Petrilla is not endorsed by the OC GOP, and he did not ask for permission to use the party logo.

Also interesting is that Petrilla’s mailer includes a comparison between Petrilla and two other candidates, Anna Bryson and Paul Glaab.  Petrilla attacks Bryson and Glaab as beholden to the unions.  However, Petrilla omits a third major candidate, Bill Brough, from the mailer (for full disclosure, I am supporting Brough in the 73rd).  That raises the question of why Brough was omitted.  Is it because Petrilla cannot attack Brough on union issues, is it because Petrilla sees Brough as his biggest threat and he does not want to give Brough any extra publicity, or is it for another reason?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Over in the race for OC Supervisor, 5th District, Lisa Bartlett has put out a mailer stating that she is the “The Endorsed Conservative Republican” with a letter from Congressman Darrell Issa prominently displayed on the front (more disclosure, I am supporting Robert Ming in this race, though I have little experience or knowledge of Bartlett).  The letter from Issa states that he is endorsing Bartlett’s campaign.  Allan Bartlett contends that the mailer is deceptive because it implies that Bartlett is endorsed by the OC GOP, which she is not.  I have to agree that this mailer is more deceptive than Petrilla’s in that it could lead some to believe that Bartlett is endorsed by the OC GOP simply by its vague wording.  (I will note that the other Republican candidates for the 5th District are also endorsed by many, meaning that they are also “endorsed conservative” Republicans, making her statement false on its face.  She should have put “An Endorsed Conservative Republican” or “The Issa Endorsed Conservative Republican” to be accurate.  I know I am splitting hairs here, and we are talking about mailers which often like to be vague and deceptive for effect, but it still fun to do.)

Both the 73rd AD and 5th District Supervisor races appear to be close.  It remains to be seen whether these mailers and their statements will have any negative impact on either Petrilla or Bartlett, or they are relegated to inside baseball status like so many other of these issues.  We are less than three weeks from the June 3 direct primary election, and it seems that the candidates are ramping up their mail and their message.  It should be a fun election season!

jessepetrilla bartlett

Posted in 5th Supervisorial District, 73rd Assembly District, Orange County Board of Supervisors, State Assembly | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Court Of Appeal Chooses Not To Keep Up With The Times In Refusing To Extend Public Records Act To Private Email And Text Accounts

Posted by Greg Woodard on April 24, 2014

The assault on the Public Records Act (“PRA”) has garnered a lot of attention recently.  Last year, the legislature attempted to make compliance with the PRA voluntary, rather than mandatory as it currently is.  The swift outcry led to a hasty, and wise, retreat and the bill died as it should have.  However, the Court of Appeal has again stepped in the PRA fray, and I believe it missed an opportunity to close a dangerous loophole created by technology outpacing the law.

In City of San Jose v. Superior Court, decided last month, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeal was faced with the question of whether emails and text messages sent to or from public officials’ and public employees’ private electronic devices, using their private accounts, were required to be disclosed pursuant to a proper PRA request.  The trial court had held that communications on private devices were “public records” under the PRA and were required to be produced.  Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal disagreed and reversed the trial court.

With the Court of Appeal now holding that communications using private devices are not subject to disclosure under the PRA, the potential for abuse is obvious.  In fact, the City of San Jose Court specifically stated “[t]hat city council members may conceal their communications on public issues by sending and receiving them on their private devices from private accounts is a serious concern. . .”  However, the Court left it to the legislature to deter such behavior with appropriate legislation.  I will note the irony given that the Democrats in the legislature recently wanted to gut the PRA by making it voluntary.

This trend towards making government less transparent is troubling. We already have seen that Obama’s EPA officials have used their private email accounts to aid environmentalists, with the head of the EPA creating fake email names to hide her actions.  It is likely that a large number of public officials and employees are using their private accounts for public business, whether it is to hide those communications from public view or not.

Given how slowly the state legislature reacts to decisions like these (and its own efforts to undermine the PRA), I believe that the best way to curb these abuses is for local cities, counties, and other agencies to implement their own policies prohibiting officials and employees from using their private devices or accounts to conduct public business.  These policies will only be effective if violations are dealt with severely.  This also could increase costs for local agencies should they choose to purchase electronic devices for each public official and employee, but the resulting transparency should be worth the cost.

Posted in California | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Good Guys Win One In Court – Righeimer And Mensinger Defeat Union’s Bogus Legal Ploy

Posted by Greg Woodard on April 14, 2014

[Warning, boring legal stuff ahead, but it is important].  Many OC Political readers are familiar with the plight of Costa Mesa Councilmembers Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger as they have failed to back down to aggressive (and allegedly dirty) union tactics.  For those of you unfamiliar, Righeimer and Mensinger have filed a lawsuit against the police union, the union’s former law firm, and an investigator previously used by the law firm, alleging, among other things, that the defendants have engaged in spying, threats, intimidation, assault, and false reports of criminal activity.  Recently, they have alleged that the defendants illegally placed a GPS tracker on Mensinger’s car during the last election.

Apparently, the defendants have been stonewalling Righeimer and Mensinger, including the investigator repeatedly asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during his recent deposition as Righeimer and Mensinger are trying to get to the bottom of who is responsible for the tracking, and other purported illegal activities.

Enter the defendants’ lawyers for another round of delay.  They recently filed what is called an “anti-SLAPP” motion.  In a nutshell, an anti-SLAPP motion alleges that Righeimer and Mensinger have violated the defendants’ right of petition or free speech.  While enacted for good reasons, sadly many lawyers abuse the process because filing an anti-SLAPP motion automatically stays all discovery, preventing Righeimer and Mensinger from getting important facts and documents.  In addition, filing an anti-SLAPP motion early in the case forces the plaintiffs to factually defend their claims, even if the defendants are in possession of the facts and documents needed to proved the case, or risk having the lawsuit dismissed.

The defendants’ motion claimed that the principal thrust of the lawsuit is the 911 call that the investigator made against Righeimer, falsely accusing Righeimer of driving drunk.  The Court rejected that claim, denied the motion, and held that the main thrust of the action is the false and malicious reports of criminal activity by the investigator as an agent for the other defendants.

So what does this mean?  It means that for now, Righeimer and Mensinger can continue with their discovery and hopefully find out whether the law firm, the union, or both, were behind these dirty tactics.  It also means that the Court did not buy the defendants’ bogus claim that their alleged illegal activities are protected.  It also means that Righeimer and Mensinger are as committed as ever to exposing the union and its efforts to shut down any attempts to rein in its power.

Righeimer and Mensinger have had their personal lives put under a magnifying glass because of their efforts against unions.  They have been followed, falsely accused, illegally tracked, and had their families dragged into the fray.  Yet they refuse to be scared or threatened into giving up.  We should applaud these men and their families, support them, and look for other leaders like them in our communities to support and get elected to local, state, and federal positions.  Only then can we begin to make inroads into the unions’ enormous power over California.

Posted in Costa Mesa, Orange County | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mission Viejo’s Public Records Retention Policy, Or Lack Thereof, Needs Review

Posted by Greg Woodard on December 17, 2013

The Public Records Act, along with the Brown Act, are the two most important state statutes that are supposed to provide open and transparent government from local city councils, boards, and other agencies.  Mission Viejo needs to review its document retention policy to determine whether it is being as transparent as possible.

On October 24, 2013, Mission Viejo resident Larry Gilbert made a simple Public Records Act request for all communications between Dennis Wilberg, the Mission Viejo City Manager, and the city managers of Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente regarding Gilbert and the Community Common Sense newspaper from August 1, 2013 to the date of the request.  Gilbert knew Wilberg had sent an email on September 12, 2013 to the San Juan Capistrano City Manager referencing Gilbert and Common Sense because he had received a copy of it from a friend.  However, even though Gilbert made the request just over 40 days after Wilberg sent the email, the City responded that it had no documents responsive to Gilbert’s request.  At the December 2, 2013 City Council meeting, when pressed by Gilbert about his request, Wilberg stated that he had deleted the email so it was no longer available for production.

Given the proliferation of email accounts among local elected officials and staff, the issue of email retention has become increasingly important.  In late 2011/early 2012, an Anaheim Planning Director told staff, under the threat of disciplinary action, to delete old documents and electronic files.  Earlier this year, a Modesto attorney sued to stop the city from automatically deleting emails that were more than 30 days old.  Open-government advocates are alarmed at the short duration that some local agencies keep emails before purging them.

As these and other cases demonstrate, cities and other local agencies struggle to balance the need for public transparency with the need to maintain their records in an efficient manner.  While state law does not state how long emails should be retained, it does require many records be maintained for two years.  Moreover, many open-government advocates assert that purging after 30 days is neither required by law, nor in the spirit of guaranteeing the most open and transparent government possible.

I asked all five Mission Viejo council members to provide me with the city’s document retention policy, as well as whether the city had done any analysis of the cost of keeping emails longer than 30 days.  I only received a response from two council members.  Rhonda Reardon stated, “we need to take a good hard look at our email retention policy.  The questions you raised are good questions and will be the basis for our discussion on our communication retention policy in 2014.”  Cathy Schlicht stated that she not aware of any city-wide purge system in place for emails, and that when she was assigned her email account she was told never to delete emails.  Schlicht said that she only deletes the non-city addressed emails from various organizations and some staff emails on items such personal holiday greetings, out of office responses, as well as the City’s newsletters.  Schlicht keeps all official communications between herself and staff, as well as email exchanges between council members and the public, and between council members themselves.  Schlicht maintains that she has her emails back to 2008 when she was elected to the City Council.

It appears that there is a disconnect between what Schlicht was told (never to delete emails) and what Wilberg did (delete an email within 40 days of receiving it).  It is this type of disconnect that raises the real possibility that important (or incriminating) documents are being deleted, and that is why Mission Viejo, as well as all other Orange County cities, needs to review its public document retention policies and ensure that its efforts err on the side of the public and open government.

Posted in Mission Viejo, Orange County | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Family Action PAC Recognizes Steve Mensinger For His Public Service

Posted by Greg Woodard on December 10, 2013

The Family Action PAC held its annual Christmas Party on December 5, 2013.  Part of the festivities included presenting “Red Tie Awards” to individuals who have made an impact in their community.  This year, Costa Mesa City Councilman Steve Mensinger was awarded the “Excellence in Public Service” Red Tie.  Many know the trials Steve and fellow council member Jim Righeimer have endured at the hands of the unions during the years that they have been fighting for pension and other reforms in their city.

Steve and Jim have filed a lawsuit against the Costa Mesa Police Officer’s Association, the Association’s former law firm, and one of the firm’s investigators.  The lawsuit alleges a pattern of harassment by the defendants during the 2012 election campaign.  One of the allegations is that the defendants sent a woman into a local restaurant and bar where Steve and Jim had gone, in an attempt to get Steve in a compromising position, which they failed to do.  While at the restaurant, the defendant investigator then followed Jim home and called the police alleging that Jim was driving erratically.  The police came to Jim’s home late at night and administered a sobriety test in front of his wife and young daughters, which Jim easily passed considering the strongest thing he had to drink that night was a Diet Coke.

Recently, the Orange County D.A.’s office revealed that a GPS tracking device was placed on Steve’s car during the time he was campaigning for re-election in 2012.  Steve and Jim have added an allegation that the defendants are responsible for the GPS tracking device to their lawsuit.  Steve has likened the ordeal to a John Grisham novel, and the law firm representing Jim and Steve calls it a sophisticated conspiracy, “straight out of the Watergate diaries.”

Jim introduced Steve at the Family Action PAC luncheon, and at the end of his speech the emotion in the room was palpable.  Jim also put a very human face on the issue, pointing out the impact not only on themselves, but also on their wives who were in attendance.  Steve, ordinarily very vocal, was visibly affected by Jim’s words, and was only able to choke out a thank you to Jim and all of the attenders.

If proven, the illegal, immoral, and invasive actions of the unions and their cohorts should be severely punished, both in a court of law and in the court of public opinion.  If unions are resorting to these activities to protect their stranglehold on local city and county politics, they must be stopped.  We should all applaud individual like Jim and Steve who are not afraid to stand against the money and power of the unions as they seek to make their cities a better place for their residents.

Posted in Costa Mesa | 4 Comments »

Did San Diego Public Officials Conspire With Unions To Enter A Labor Friendly Contract For The San Diego Convention Center Expansion, In Violation Of A Local Proposition? The Secret Email Accounts May Tell The Story.

Posted by Greg Woodard on July 3, 2013

San Diego, our neighbor to the south, has had its share of political intrigue over the years.  The most recent iteration is an incestuous mix of Republican, Democrat, union, and big business involving the $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.  In the 1950s, California adopted open government laws to protect the integrity of the political system and guarantee transparency in the political process.  These protections have been eroded over the last few years as open government laws have failed to keep up with technology like emails and texts.  The cloak of secrecy thrown by San Diego public officials regarding the Convention Center expansion project is the most recent example of an attempt to return California government business to the days of backroom deals negotiated far from the public’s view.

Our story begins in June 2012, when the San Diego voters passed Proposition A, a ballot initiative known as the “Fair and Open Competition in Construction Ordinance.”  Prop. A amended the City Municipal Code to prohibit the City from requiring a contractor to enter into a Project Labor Agreement (“PLA”) on City construction projects, except where required by state or federal law, or as a condition of the receipt of state or federal funds.  A PLA is a collective bargaining or similar labor agreement, entered into with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment on a City construction project.  A PLA can often result in higher labor costs for the City when a project could otherwise be negotiated with private, non-unions contractors.

The Convention Center expansion project proposes adding approximately 200,000 – 225,000 square feet of exhibit space, 100,000 square feet of meeting space, and an 80,000 square foot ballroom.  In addition, the proposal would add a new hotel, as well as a waterfront park, open space, retail space, and a pedestrian promenade.  During 2012, the City sought proposals for a company to act as project manager for the expansion of the Convention Center.  In October 2012, the City selected Clark/Hunt as the project manager.

Throughout 2012, various labor unions and environmental groups filed a series of lawsuits challenging aspects of the Convention Center expansion project.  On November 8, 2012, the City entered into a settlement agreement with the unions and environmental groups that resolved all of the outstanding lawsuits.  In exchange for the groups’ support of the expansion project, the City agreed to pay $30,000 in legal fees purportedly incurred by the labor plaintiffs in the different lawsuits.  At the same time the City was entering the settlement agreement, Clark/Hunt announced that it had signed a PLA with local unions in connection with the expansion project.  Also on November 8, 2012, former Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders held a press conference to announce the settlement with several union representatives, including Lorena Gonzalez, then head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Central Labor Council.  Gonzalez is now representing the 80th District in the California Assembly.  Gonzalez has previously expressed her opposition to Prop. A.

Public records on file with the San Diego Superior Court show that, beginning in January 2013, a local watchdog group submitted a request to the City under the Public Records Act, the state’s open government law, seeking copies of the PLA as well as other documents related to the expansion project.  The City stonewalled the group, and in April 2013, the group filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court.  After the lawsuit was filed, the City produced some documents they claimed were responsive to the group’s request.  On June 3, 2013, Thomas Zeleny, San Diego’s Chief Deputy City Attorney, sent a letter to the group’s attorney enclosing two emails that Zeleny claimed had recently been brought to his attention as responsive documents.  One of those emails, dated September 21, 2012 (included with attachment below), was from Julie Dubick, then Chief of Staff for Mayor Sanders.  The email, which appears to be from her San Diego public email address, was sent to Gonzalez at her union email address.  The email included an attachment of apparent talking points for the settlement that had been reached between the City and union groups.  Included among the points are: (1) the Mayor would schedule a meeting with Marriott (the potential hotel on the expansion project) and support labor’s position; (2) the Mayor would attempt to effect an agreement between the general contractor and labor to effect an agreement “similar to the PetCo Park agreement” (PetCo Park was built with a PLA with unions); (3) the Mayor would appoint a labor-friendly member on the Convention Center Board (which he subsequently did); (4) the unions would dismiss their lawsuits and not further challenge the expansion project; (5) the unions would write a letter to the Coastal Commission supporting the expansion project; and (6) the unions would attend the October 1, 2012 City Council meeting and support the expansion project.

The most interesting part about Dubick’s email is that it simply says, “Here is suggested language.  Please confirm receipt to jpdubick@gmail.com.  See you at 2pm today.”  The gmail account Dubick instructed Gonzalez to send a response to was not her official public email address.  That raises an interesting question as to why Dubick would instruct Gonzalez to contact her through her private email account, rather than her public email address.  Unfortunately, we do not know if or how Gonzalez responded because the City has not produced any further documents from either Dubick’s public or private email accounts.  When asked by the group’s counsel if there was a widespread practice for City employees and elected officials to conduct official City business through private email accounts, Zeleny responded, “for all I know, all of the City business was run through Julie Dubick’s private email account . . . [pause] just joking.”

The irony is that the two September 21, 2012 emails were only discovered by the City Attorney because they were later attached to another email sent through the official City email network.  Had the emails not been forwarded as attachments through the official network, they would never have become public even though they clearly reflected the City’s public business.  The brevity and tone of the email also suggest prior discussions between Dubick and Gonzalez about the attached talking points.

As a result of the City Attorney’s discovery of the two emails, the City Attorney is investigating whether the PLA for the expansion project violates Prop. A, saying that the emails “raise questions that need further examination.”  The group has discovered several other private email accounts that it believes have been used to conduct extensive City business, but the City has not produced any other responsive emails from private accounts to date.  The group also has turned over all of the issues discussed in the lawsuit to law enforcement officials.

The City also produced the Mayor’s calendar as part of the group’s Public Records Act request.  The calendar indicates that the Mayor had several meetings and phone calls relating to the expansion project in September and October 2012.  One meeting was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on September 21, 2012, the same day Dubick sent the email to Gonzalez.  Dubick’s email stated that she would see Gonzalez at 2 p.m.  I reached out to Assemblywoman Gonzalez for comment on whether she responded to the email (and if she would provide me a copy of any response), to what account she responded, and whether she attended that meeting or any other meeting regarding the expansion project.  Gonzalez’s Chief of Staff, Evan McLaughlin, responded that Gonzalez does not recall responding to the September 21, 2012 e-mail, and finds the storyline of the group’s lawsuit hard to believe.  He stated, “[a]s head of the Labor Council, Ms. Gonzalez always attended meetings to advocate for better wages for local workers, but she did not negotiate contracts – that’s the job of individual unions, not the Labor Council.  This sounds like another act of desperation by the same handful of anti-worker companies who are doing everything they can to drive down wages for local workers.”  McLaughlin did not confirm whether Gonzalez did respond to the email or whether she attended the September 21, 2012 meeting with the Mayor and Dubick.

Other documents produced by the City prove that, rather than ask that Clark/Hunt provide the City with public documents held by Clark/Hunt for the benefit of the City (as required by the Public Records Act), the City instead sent copies of responsive documents to Clark/Hunt for “review and approval” prior to releasing them to the group.  This practice is specifically prohibited by the Public Records Act which prohibits the City from allowing a third-party to control the disclosure of information otherwise subject to disclosure under the Act.

In sum, it does not look good for the City regarding meeting its obligations under the Public Records Act.  More troubling is the appearance of a widespread conspiracy by public officials, unions, and the general contractor for the circumventing of Prop. A by agreeing to a PLA in exchange for the unions dropping their legal challenges against the expansion project.  This conspiracy may have been aided by undisclosed communications between the Mayor’s staff and union representatives, including Assemblywoman Gonzalez.

Given the recent flap over the state Democrats’ attempt to gut the Public Records Act (Gonzalez initially voted for the gutting of the Act), as well as prior revelations that the former head of the federal EPA created a fake person and used “his” private email account to contact environmental groups and others to avoid requests for public documents similar to the request made by the group here, the City’s less than candid response to the group’s Public Records Act request should give pause to all San Diego residents.  In addition, a local public official’s use of private email accounts raises troubling questions of accountability and transparency.  The City Attorney himself has admitted to using a private email address to conduct City business.  He claims to review those emails and send the ones that relate to City business to his public account and respond through that account.  Can we be sure that other local and state officials are as thorough and conscientious as the City Attorney?

Many questions with respect to the documents requested by the group will be answered at the July 12, 2013 hearing on the lawsuit it filed.  Other questions will undoubtedly linger for some time after.

Dubick email (San Diego Convention Center Story)_001Dubick email (San Diego Convention Center Story)_002

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Assembly Democrats Join Senate Democrats In Assault On Public Records Act (Updated)

Posted by Greg Woodard on June 19, 2013

Following up on Chris Emami’s story from yesterday, as reported by the OC Register today, the Assembly passed AB76, which has identical language to SB71, and will be submitted to Governor Brown for his signature.  Every Republican legislator in the Assembly and Senate (except Tom Berryhill – 14th Senate District who is listed as “Other”) opposed both AB76 and SB71, and just a single Democrat voted no for either bill (Senator Leland Yee – 8th Senate District).  If Governor Brown signs the bill into law, it will eviscerate the open government protections of the Public Records Act by making local agencies’ compliance with the Act voluntary instead of mandatory.

Courts interpreting the Public Records Act have consistently held that the Act is to be read broadly in favor of disclosure of documents to the public, and the Act has only a few categories that are exempt from disclosure (and when a local agency refuses to provide documents, it must explain why).  Under AB76, disclosure will be voluntary, meaning that local agencies can refuse to provide documents, and do not have to provide any reason for the refusal.

Ironically (or perhaps not when it comes to Democrats and their legislative tactics), AB76 was added as a budget trailer bill.  Trailer bills are often drafted in secret, sometimes just days or hours before they are voted on in both houses of the state legislature.  You read that right, a bill that allows local agencies more secrecy and less transparency was drafted in a most un-transparent manner.

Journalists often use the Public Records Act to sniff out public corruption.  The City of Bell scandal was exposed in part by use of the Act, as have many other stories of local government waste and fraud.  In addition, private individuals and groups often use the Act to obtain documents needed to challenge local government decisions that affect their property or the environment.  If the changes to the Act become law, local agencies who are hiding things from the public will no longer be compelled to produce any documents, and scandals will go unexposed.

Assemblyman Don Wagner, 68th Assembly District, says AB76 highlights the dangers created by the Democrats’ stranglehold on power in Sacramento: “AB 76 shows why the entire public — Republicans and Democrats alike — should be worried about one party rule.  Eliminating compliance with the Public Records Act has nothing to do with the budget.  So why is this abomination in a so-called Budget Bill?  Because Democrats have complete control and can do it this way to avoid the public scrutiny that comes with committee hearings and an open discussion through the normal legislative process.  This bill, written behind closed doors without a shred of bipartisan input, shields even more government behind those very same closed doors.  The public should be appalled.”

As Emami said in his story, this is a terrible bill that will have a dramatic negative impact on local government transparency.  Democrats apparently believe that secretly passing bills that allow local agencies to act with more secrecy is good government.  I hope that most Californians disagree.

****UPDATE****

As Don Wagner mentioned yesterday, Sacramento Democrats have done one of the most rapid u-turns ever (perhaps the nuclear retort from the media inspired them).  Wagner reported this afternoon that the Assembly voted today to pass the same budget trailer bill as AB76, but without the provisions that would eviscerate the Public Records Act.  While the Senate initially resisted similar efforts, reports are coming out that they will acquiesce and pass a similar bill to the Assembly’s fix.  Governor Brown is expected to sign the fix, therefore preserving the Public Records Act in its current form, which is a good thing for all Californians.

Wagner also reported that both the Assembly and Senate will propose constitutional amendments to eliminate the state’s obligation to reimburse local agencies for Public Records Act compliance.  (Warning, boring political inside baseball stuff ahead).  Apparently, when the Legislature ended redevelopment agencies (another measure that crossed the aisle considerably), the local agencies got too cute and started seeking reimbursement from the state for the cost of every minute copy, office supply, etc. that they incurred for compliance with the Public Records Act but previously had not sought reimbursement for.  That may have taken the Democrats in Sacramento by surprise but unfortunately their “fix” would have ended open government as we know it in this state.  I guess the moral for Democrats is not to target the media’s bread and butter because they actually start doing their job when you threaten the source of their juiciest stories.

I would like to return the favor and thank Don for all of his information and for all of the Republicans in Sacramento and their efforts to undo this terrible stinker of a Democratic bill.

Stay tuned in case there are even more breaking updates.

Posted in California, State Assembly, State Senate | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Lake Forest City Council Member Announces New Policy Of Appeasement

Posted by Greg Woodard on December 10, 2012

I went to last Tuesday’s Lake Forest City Council meeting to watch the swearing-in of the two newest council members, Dwight Robinson and Adam Nick.  Before the ceremony, I was treated to a clinic in how not to run a city.  The most contentious agenda item was the staff’s recommendation that the council repeal its ordinance passed last year banning registered sex offenders from public parks.  District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has spearheaded Orange County’s effort to get local cities to adopt an ordinance that bans registered sex offenders from parks.  Since last year, 15 Orange County cities have adopted such ordinances.

Unfortunately, not all of the cities have adopted ordinances verbatim to the county’s ordinance, which contains a mechanism that allows a registered sex offender to request a waiver from enforcement.  Lake Forest, for some reason, passed its ordinance without a waiver and they got sued by an anonymous plaintiff claiming the ordinance violates his constitutional rights (he says he served his sentence more than 15 years ago and is now married with children).  That leads us to Tuesday’s meeting.  During the public comment portion of the discussion, several people affiliated with California Reform Sex Offender Laws (yes, there is an organization out there advocating for the rights of registered sex offenders) testified, using the same “constitutional rights” buzzwords.  I will resist the urge to inform these folks of the numerous ways that our constitutional rights are properly regulated every day and just say that we agree to disagree.  One speaker from the group also compared their effort to repeal sex offender laws to segregation and the civil rights movement.  She then announced that in 30 years we may have a President who is a registered sex offender.  Janice Belluci, the President of the organization, told the council that she has two more plaintiffs ready to sue the city if it does not repeal the ordinance.

The Lake Forest City Attorney also chimed in on the existing lawsuit, as well as lawsuits that are pending against other Orange County cities.  He said that, while he did not like to disclose the city’s war chest for litigation, in this case he would make an exception.  He proceeded to tell the Council that defending the lawsuit could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  In an OC Register article, the City Attorney also said that one of Belluci’s two plaintiffs is seeking $36 million in damages.

I will reserve my rant about City Attorneys trying to influence policy for another day, but suffice to say, all of this got the attention of outgoing Mayor Kathryn McCullough (she will remain on the Council for at least two more years, but her term as Mayor is up).  In a testy exchange with Rackauckas, who had come to encourage the Council to maintain the ordinance, McCullough cried foul on the cost of the litigation and challenged Rackauckas to agree to indemnify the city for all of its legal fees.  Rackauckas held his ground and shot back at McCullough that she knew that the DA does not indemnify cities.  Once the grandstanding ended, McCullough essentially announced to all present that the city could not afford to fight the lawsuit because of the legal costs.

The Council then took a vote with little to no comment from any council member (other than Scott Voigts), which was shocking considering the gravity of the action the council was going to take.  After outgoing council member Mark Tettemer tried, and failed, to pass off responsibility for the vote to the new council (he said he was not trying to avoid voting), the council voted 4-0, with Tettemer abstaining, to repeal the ordinance.  And thus apparently began Lake Forest’s new policy of caving to anyone who threatens or files a lawsuit against the city.  This is a monumentally bad policy for any council member to support, but to announce it during a public council meeting, as Council member McCullough did, strains common sense.

It looks like new Council members Robinson and Nick will have an opportunity to chime in on the planned repeal since there has to be a second reading of the repealing ordinance at the December 18 meeting before it can take effect.

Posted in Lake Forest | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Investigator Tied To Union Law Firm Admits To Trying To Set Up Costa Mesa Council Member Gary Monahan In Sexual Sting (Updated)

Posted by Greg Woodard on November 13, 2012

While many of us conservatives are still licking our wounds from Tuesday, we get more information about the vile attacks those on the left will resort to in an effort to further tighten their grip on our wallets, our government, and our future.  Case in point – Frank Mickadeit reported last week in the Orange County Register about the thuggish tactics that the opposition in Costa Mesa to the City Council majority (now consisting of Jim Righeimer, Gary Monahan, and Steve Mensinger) will use.  Many of you will remember the harrowing story a couple of months ago where Righeimer was tailed home from Skosh Monahan’s by Chris Lanzillo, an investigator who worked for a law firm that represented the Costa Mesa police union, as well as many other public employee unions in the state.  Lanzillo appears to have made a false police report claiming that Righeimer stumbled out of Skosh Monahan’s and was driving erratically on his way home.  The police took the unprecedented step of going to Righeimer’s home and conducting a sobriety test.  Righeimer passed with flying colors, since all he had at Skosh’s was a diet coke (he had the receipt to prove it).  However, the damage was done as Righeimer’s young daughters had to watch in horror, wondering if their dad was going to be arrested.

As if that were not bad enough, Righeimer was not even the investigator’s target.  As Mickadeit reports, Lanzillo was hired by someone (he wouldn’t say who) to try to catch Gary Monahan, Skosh’s owner, in a compromising position with a woman who had been sent to entrap Monahan, who is married.  The woman appeared to be in her 30s, she wore a low-cut top, and she was flirting with Monahan.  Nothing came of the event, but Lanzillo got his “bonus” when Righeimer showed up.

Lanzillo also admitted that he was hired to dig up dirt on Mensinger and Colin McCarthy, who ran with Mensinger and Monahan but fell short of his City Council bid.  McCarthy responded to the article, saying “that these kind of dirty tricks keep good citizens from running from local office.  It definitely  has a chilling effect on our democratic process.  I hope the DA prosecutes this guy.”

The District Attorney is investigating the event, and hopefully the shameless thugs who did this will be revealed and prosecuted.  While Lanzillo will not admit who hired him, anyone who does not think it will tie in somehow with the unions, well I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would love to sell you.

UPDATE

The plot thickens.  To answer Dan Chmielewski, a crime may have been committed by Lanzillo and others.  Tony Saavedra reported in the Orange County Register today that county prosecutors are investigating Lanzillo on a “conspiracy to file a false police report” with the possibility of more serious charges to come.  The investigation has expanded to include another private investigator who works for Lanzillo.  Both men had their houses searched and cell phones, computers, and other electronics were taken for analysis.  In addition, prosecutors have a search warrant for the cell phone records of police union lawyer Dieter Dammeier, who has employed both investigators in the past.

Saavedra also noted that there is a separate investigation in El Monte, where the former city manager filed a police report last year that said he was followed for days by a car similar to the one Lanzillo owns.  Lanzillo would not confirm or deny that he is the one who followed the city manager.

Stay tuned as this story does not seem to be going away any time soon.

Posted in Costa Mesa | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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