An Elephant In The Room – Part 2

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Response to part one was almost entirely positive, supportive.  The only real question that remained was, “How will a city council as broken as ours ever successfully address the mounting fiscal concerns facing us today?”

Great question.

I’ve always subscribed to the old adage that, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Conversely, if it’s broke, fix it.  Last November, voters had the opportunity to “fix it” but they didn’t.

Looking back, it seems we might have made better choices selecting who we put in the council seats and passing Measure U along with Measure T would have greatly enhanced our leverage today.

Water under the bridge. Where do we go from here?

Here’s a summary of the non-fiscal issues respondents sent to me.

  • File a complaint with the OC District Attorney regarding the possible collusion that occurred prior to and during the recent council reorganization, behavior that clearly appeared to be a Brown Act violation.
  • Review and revise the Code of Conduct (Goldenrod) which dictates how council and staff perform their duties and interact with each other. Return control to the council where it belongs.
  • Implement all aspects of Measure T without attempting to subvert the obvious will of the people and without threatening litigation.
  • Turn away from the old “check the box” mentality that was satisfied with meaningless public engagements. Begin to provide regular and convenient opportunities for the public to express their opinions and make every effort to address them in the decision making process.
  • Demand more accountability from staff, including greater detail and clarity in reports and recommendations and the elimination of bias and misdirection.
  • Demand a complete and thorough follow-up report on the reorganization of the Brea Fire Department, including it’s cooping of command staff with Fullerton and an accurate accounting of any savings generated. Has the plan fulfilled any of numerous  promises made?
  • Demand a full investigation of how Brea lost the law enforcement contract with Yorba Linda, especially the overcharging publicly acknowledged to the Yorba Linda City Council by Tim O’Donnell, including a comprehensive and intelligible explanation of how Brea will implement and afford a “Brea Only” police agency.
  • Demand a review of contracted costs and obligations to Richards, Watson & Gershon, including a return to the public posting of their rates, with the results determining whether their contract should be renewed or that RFPs be solicited from other law firms providing city attorney services.

It seems the people have spoken.

The overriding impression one gets reading these issues is that the people will no longer stand being pushed around or dismissed. There has been an awakening, at least in some circles, and the status quo has been put on notice.

garcia_sturgis_150We have a Mayor who could not articulate why he is best suited amongst his peers to hold the position, or even how he wrangled the opportunity away from the more senior council member truly deserving the position. (See BreaNet #639)

brett_150We have a Mayor Pro Tem who is no more capable of handling the job now than he was when first named MPT a year ago.  Seriously, who doesn’t see the blatant political maneuvering designed to position him as Mayor when running for reelection in 2014?

Watch the video again.

Mayor Garcia, in “nominating” Murdock, references this to such an extent that he may have been guilty of making a double motion.  Did Markman put the screws to Roy Moore and then fall asleep on this one?

ron_garcia_brea.jpgSpecifically, Garcia blurted out, “… make a motion that Brett serve as Mayor Pro Tem which would give Brett Mayor, to serve as the Mayor, in his 4 year term.”  Yeah, as usual, Garcia’s grammar and logic are all screwed up, however he appears to have nominated Murdock for Mayor Pro Tem for 2013 and as Mayor for 2014.

Just guessing, but this “metedura de pata enorme” may come back to haunt the new Alcalde.

We have a perpetuation of a three vote majority prepared to ride roughshod over their constituents as they dutifully carry out the whims and desires of the City Manager.  This is neither a myth nor conspiracy theory.  Pay attention.  Attend or watch the meetings.  Try to have a meaningful dialog with a council member.  Test the open door policy.

“The general population doesn’t know whats happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.” ~ Noam Chomsky.

It is said that communities get the governance they deserve.  Brea deserves better.  Much Better.  Please try and remember that the next time you have your ballot in front of you and a pen in your hand, about to make history.

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Brea PD Update

LightsI received an interesting and, in many ways thought provoking comment, from a Yorba Linda resident named Shawn. He raised several issues, posed several questions, all of which deserved more exposure than to be buried at the bottom of an older post.

Here is what Shawn wrote:

OSCDAfter reading your blog I became concerned for my city and talked to some police officers and detectives I know with Brea, now with OCSD. Here is what I learned:

  • The officers that left for the OCSD were offered $10,000 to stay with Brea until the end of the contract with Yorba Linda. Many of the officers also had the opportuity to stay employed by the city of Brea. Most, if not all, left because they felt there was more benefit going early than there was staying in Brea, risking their careers with the issues in Brea.
  • The officers that retired didn’t leave because they were nice or because they felt it was the right thing to do. They left because Brea gave them between $25,000 and $50,000 to retire.
  • Detectives and motor officers assigned to Brea are working patrol. Detectives and motor officers assigned to Yorba Linda are handling duties as normal. That means Brea cases sit without investigation and Brea traffic, during the busiest time of year, goes without adequate enforcement. Everything in Yorba Linda is handled promptly as required by contract.
  • I wouldn’t say there is “no chance” Yorba Linda goes back to Brea for police services. After Brea has officially offered to cover all costs associated with Yorba Linda’s breaking the contract with OCSD, I am guessing Yorba Linda will consider anything.
  • I hope Brea’s managers see the errors of their ways soon and take the proper approach to making sure our communities are safe rather than having officers work patrol that haven’t responded to a radio call in 20+ years.

Yellow TapeA well deserved response.

BREA-YLShawn covered a lot of ground and I appreciate his adding his two cents. His observations, questions and opinions more than deserve a response.

  • I’m still trying to uncover whether correspondence from the OCSD to Brea cops on the bubble threatened to rescind their offer to hire. This allegation is widely circulating but validation has been difficult.
  • It is confirmed that $10K “pay-to-stay” offers were made and refused and $25K to $50K early out bonuses were paid. Watch Chief Conklin’s comments at the 12/4 YL council meeting.
  • I did hear that a couple of the retirees have taken positions with OCSD where they can start building another retirement package. Double dipping?
  • I did hear about similar comments from a Brea detective, claiming that their work is falling behind due to patrol duties. I’ve made inquiry to a council member to confirm this but have heard nothing. The standard response from city hall seems to be silence.
  • I’ve only seen one motorcycle officer on the street in three weeks. When I asked him how he “got so lucky” his response was to point to the stripes on his sleeve and smile. I’m not really sure what that means.
  • No chance? Sorry. By the time Mayor Tom Lindsey can run the latest offer up the flagpole, Don Schweitzer will have left council and the new Mayor will deserve a say in the matter. Though whomever gets the gavel will likely not make waves.
  •  Schweitzer’s letter, written by staff, must have had the blessing of Council. Did they vote on this in closed session? How does a staff prepared letter, one that seriously obligates the city, get signed by the Mayor without a majority of council members reviewing and approving it?  This matter does not fit the Brown Act exception and should have been conducted in open session.
  • Promising to indemnify Yorba Linda against a breach of contract suit from the OCSD is a fiscal nightmare. What is the full extent of Brea’s potential liability? What might the legal fees be to handle this?
  • Brea failed to “keep” the contract with Yorba Linda, in my opinion, thanks to a lackluster response from city staff to the RFQ that didn’t put a good offer on the table at a respectable price. Once again, we have O’Donnell to blame.

HandcuffedWe could have known this.

You know, I can hardly think of a better example of why Brea voters should have passed Measure U. It would have forced issues like this to be fully vetted in public and provided an opportunity for Breans to wade in with their thoughts and opinions.

Several matters have been discussed in closed session lately, agenda items cloaked in nebulous language so as to avert public interest, none of which meet the litmus test of the Brown Act.

Shameful.

There is a lot at stake here. Public safety and emergency services are not issues to be handled behind closed doors.

Period. End of story.

I hope the newly reorganized Council understands this and conducts themselves in a more transparent and accountable manner.

If they don’t, as likely as not, we’ll see another Measure U on the ballot in 2014.

Yorba Linda again talks about who will handle policing.

Yellow Tape“YORBA LINDA (12/06) – Just hours after other City Council members unanimously appointed him mayor, Tom Lindsey put a proposal before them: Should the city seek a new proposal for police services from Brea, the city that has held the contract for the past 42 years?”

In an OC Register article dated 12/6, staff writer Michael Mello does a good job of giving a balanced accounting of Yorba Linda’s last council meeting. To get a real sense of the “drama” read the comments. All the usual suspects are already hard at work spreading their lies, half truths and purposely misguiding “facts.”

Here are the basic facts as I understand them.

  • 21 officers chose to leave Brea for positions at the OC Sheriff’s department. What precipitated this unprecedented exodus?
  • 10 officers chose to leave Brea to accept positions with other jurisdictions. Are conditions here so bad that these officers would scurry off a sinking ship?
  • 4 officers chose to retire in order to open up ongoing employment opportunities for younger officers. A magnanimous gesture to be sure, but we’ve lost their years of experience.
  • Brea is paying $35,000/week in overtime to officers in order to cover contract requirements with Yorba Linda. How much longer should we allow this excessive burden on our general fund to continue?
  • An unknown number of retired officers, in order to “refill the ranks,” have been brought out of retirement and are now on part time duty with Brea. How effective are these officers?
  • An unknown number of detectives have been put back into uniform and into patrol cars. Who is handling their investigations?
  • An unknown number of motorcycle officers have been put back into patrol cars. How is this effecting traffic enforcement?
  • There is zero chance that Yorba Linda would ever reverse the course it’s on and come crawling back to Brea. Consider the facts and think about the nature of contract law, what is the incentive to do so?
  • Brea needs to quickly put together whatever plan we can to bring our Police Department back up to full strength. How safe do you really think Brea is with our law enforcement operating at such a substandard level? How much longer are you willing to be underserved?

And Markman wants to sue the county?

Brea has no business turning an obscure statute with little or no history of litigious success to sue the OC Supervisors/Sheriff. The likelihood that Brea will prevail is too close to zero to believe there is a chance.

Rule #1 of triage… stop the bleeding.

Brea would be best served by cutting all ties with Yorba Linda immediately.

Send YL City Manager Rudometkin a letter informing him that the City of Brea will cease all law enforcement activities in Yorba Linda effective midnight December 31, 2012.

Remind him that the OC Sheriff has already picked up the officers needed to take over coverage!

Is this a tempest in a teapot?

We’re over a year past the point where we had any hope of influencing the Yorba Linda Council’s decision or convincing them that Brea hadn’t been grossly overcharging them for the law enforcement services they received.

Let the people decide!

In a closed door study session, the Brea City Council has discussed this situation at length. I think it’s about time they brought this out into the light and gave Brea citizen’s an opportunity to wade in on the matter.

This is what Measure U was all about… remember? Don’t you wish you’d passed it now?