Vargas Being Vargas… Gives Brea A Black Eye.

vargas_300Leave it to Steve Vargas to completely botch something as simple as initiating a personnel change.

Wednesday, September 28 started like any other day, then I received a simple text, “Condolences.”

When I responded, “Why?” a friend sent me a copy of a letter from Steve Vargas firing me from the Planning Commission.

By the end of the day I’d received calls or emails from dozens of well wishers, had two lengthy phone conversations with City Manager Bill Gallardo… but no “official” copy of the letter from Mr. Vargas which didn’t arrive until the next morning. So much for common courtesy.

markman_300_dThe next 48 hours were a blizzard of texts, phone calls and emails. The City Attorney, Jim Markman weighed in citing city code and taking the obligatory neutral position. Can’t blame him really, he has five bosses and one just put him in a most untenable position.

After the dust had settled, I sent a summary email to the City Manager, and felt Brea Matters readers deserved to get this side of the story.

To the City Manager…


This is in response to your text message to me following your meetings with Jim Markman and Steve Vargas on Thursday afternoon.

In short, here is a synopsis for context. “After much discussion, Steve Vargas has, per the code, the ability to remove his appointment. He does not need a reason or cause… Tuesday night, on the [study session] agenda, Council will discuss the timeline to fill the unscheduled vacancy.”

Steve’s unilateral decision to dismiss me from the Planning Commission may be done without cause, however he chose to include a statement of cause in his notification letter. He thus opens the door to rebuttal.

There is not a word of truth in what he says are the reasons he’s firing me. None. No two year agreement. No failure to respond. No obligation to keep him informed. The notion that he is incapable of doing his job as member of Council without my input is ludicrous.

As I’ve expressed to you previously, in detail, many who’ve become aware of this sad and regrettable moment in Brea history, including current and former members of Council, Commissioners and Committee members, share a common opinion. My dismissal is nothing more than retribution.

Retribution for what?

  • For filing a complaint with the FPPC regarding the $25,000 donation to Steve’s campaign committee by Brea businessman Druva Hardas without filing the required “Major Donor” information.
  • For asking the Building Department [code enforcement] if the Vet’s Club was permitted for the construction in progress which, it turns out, they weren’t. The project was shut down and plans have yet to make it through plan check.
  • For asking the Planning Department if the Vet’s Club’s original entitlement for an ABC license, as a private club, is still valid. The Vet’s Club no longer owns the building. Use of the facilities (bar) has been opened up to a broader customer group than what was originally specified. I ask if the Vet’s Club should apply to the Planning Commission for a CUP to perpetuate the liquor license entitlement.
  • For publishing the preemptive guest blog on term limits, forcing the discussion into the public forum, by John Koos in Brea Matters.
  • For publishing the reaction to Steve’s unilateral attempt to put a draconian term limits initiative on the November ballot guest blog by Brea resident Christie Russell.

Pick one, pick them all. More than enough to trigger retaliation from an obviously tormented mind.

When we first spoke about all of this last Wednesday, when half of Brea had received a copy of the dismissal letter and I had not, I told you, “The GPS on my phone indicates that I am in the absolute center of I don’t give a damn.”

I haven’t moved. Unlike too many in public service, I am not defined by the titles I’ve held or the positions I’ve filled. I am pleased to have been able to give back to Brea in various capacities for over 15 years. I will continue to do so through my blog Brea Matters.

Brea First.

Rick Clark

A world of support.

gallardo_a_300Let me interject that I have received the most helpful and supportive treatment from Bill Gallardo, other members of Council and friends in the community.

This support is deeply appreciated when blindsided by an irresponsible person, hell bent on self destruction, with little regard for the community he was elected to serve.

Final thoughts on Mr. Vargas.

loose_canonWell, there you have it, a dark day for Brea. I could find no Commissioner or Committee member in the 99 year history of Brea that has received such callous treatment at the hands of a member of Council.

I’ve heard Vargas referred to as a “loose cannon” many times. A rather apt metaphor to be sure.

Once again Vargas proves how unworthy he is to hold the office of Council member. On a brighter note, he has single handedly guaranteed that he will be clean swept in 2018… here or wherever his ego puts him on the ballot.

If you, like me, have had just about enough of Mr. Vargas… please, for the love of Brea, do not vote for his surrogate Christopher Parkin for Council or his wingman Rick Rios for Treasurer. Thanks!


2016 Election Likely To Set Voter Records.

The 2016 election has evolved into the most contentious and, in many ways, inexplicable political seasons I can remember. It has divided families, lifelong friends, partisan constituents in almost violent ways and likely without hope of reconciliation.

It would be political suicide for me to wade in on any level other than local… Brea First… Brea Matters. We have more on our plate in 2016 than in recent years and a larger voter population tasked with deciding Brea’s future.

2016 Election: Why vote?

2016 ElectionSadly I hear too many people voicing opinions on candidates and issues that are little more than last night’s talking points from campaign surrogates… none of whom has had an original thought since the primary season began.

Sorry, that isn’t good enough.

Cooping the opinions of others, mostly because it’s easier than doing the work or because it creates an illusion of considered thought, is doing a total injustice to the value and purpose of our right to vote.

In the 2016 election, if you want your vote to mean anything… if you want it to honor those who have been wounded or died to preserve that right, then you need to devote the time and energy necessary to fill out your ballot by being informed rather than merely opinionated.

2016 Election: City Council.

2016 ElectionWith two incumbents, Marick and Simonoff, and a relative newcomer Christopher Parkin on the ballot, it will be interesting to see what issues emerge and how they’re addressed.

Parkin, you’ll remember, ran an almost invisible campaign for Council in 2012. Marick and Simonoff, separated by 250 votes, were just shy of hitting 9,000 votes each. Parkin was lucky to get 1,715.

Marick and Simonoff have been actively campaigning since well before the Country Fair, Parkin put in his papers at the last possible moment and is rumored to be the surrogate candidate of Council member Vargas.

Having fumbled his solo attempt to get term limits on the 2016 election ballot, running/supporting opposition to the incumbents seems a likely fallback strategy. While still only a rumor, the speculation is widespread and not without feasibility.

2016 Election: City Treasurer.

2016 ElectionGlenn Parker’s return to Council following two and a half terms as City Treasurer, led to the appointment of Bill Christensen as Parker’s replacement. For reasons never quite clear, Christensen resigned the position and Ric Rios was appointed to finish the final 90 days.

Both Rios, oddly enough running as the “incumbent” and George Ullrich, currently on the Planning Commission, seek to be the next duly elected City Treasurer.

Both have history serving in various capacities in town but Ullrich has a distinct advantage in terms of finance, investment and accounting experience. This will likely be the more interesting race for city office.

2016 Election: School Board.

2016 ElectionIncumbents Lyons, Todd and Hobby are running against Paul Ruiz, Jason Kraft and Joseph Covey. The two ballot initiatives will likely have a strong influence on who emerges victorious.

Measure K, the hotly contested $148 million dollar 2016 school bond initiative, has a steep uphill battle ahead of it. Measure K lacks detailed explanation of how the money might be spent or how this expense would contribute to raising the quality of education.

Measure L, which would reduce board membership from 7 to 5 members, seems to have universal appeal to voters and would serve to provide a boost to the “clean sweep” movement hoping to reboot the board with as many new members as possible.

On your mark, get set…

Start putting in the time and energy to become more informed than opinionated.


Turning The Tide.

Mayor Don Schweitzer’s long awaited exit from public office puts the O’Donnell controlled voting block in precarious position for the first time in many years.

This, combined with the citizen backed initiatives seeking a more transparent, open governance and greater accountability from elected officials and salaried staff, means we may see local control of government back in the hands of a resident majority.

Of course this has made several special interest groups as nervous as nine-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs, so we’re likely to see a flurry of “hit pieces” show up in our mail around the time absentee ballots are distributed.

What really gripes me about these things is no one ever admits they’re involved in putting them out and there is hardly the barest thread of truth in them. Their “success” at character assassination is based on the inability of voters to properly fact check them.

The Line Up.

Two seats and five candidates might suggest an interesting, maybe heated and open race, but don’t hold your breath. Two candidates seem to be lurking in the shadows without making a serious run so it’s likely to be tighter than usual.

Marty Simonoff

At the top of the ballot is Marty Simonoff who has a proven track record of independent thinking and voting, who sees the big picture and understands how it effects the community overall. For those who have followed Brea politics for a while, Marty stands out as an experienced leader with an enviable history of public service and local philanthropy. Marty Simonoff offers the kind of seasoned stability Brea needs in the years ahead.

Steve Vargas

Having served on Council (’98-’02), Steve Vargas knows all too well how local politics work on the inside. Steve is a different man today than the exuberant youngster who took office 12 years ago. Amongst the first to recognize the financial threat posed by public employee pension liabilities and the drastic need to reform local government, a more mature Steve Vargas is making his strongest bid for council thus far.

Christine Marick

Undoubtedly well intentioned and certainly well educated, Christine Marick is making her first run for public office. With less than 2 years under her belt as a Planning Commissioner, the depth of her experience seems limited. In time, her background in municipal finance may help her acquire the skills needed but I have my reservations about whether she would hit the ground running. I’m also concerned that she seems predominantly backed by those who are desperate to retain their lock on Council control.

Christopher Parkin & Tory Stone

A 22 year old IT Specialist hoping to rein in Brea’s finances and curb Brea’s mounting debt, Christopher Parkin has high hopes for a millennial. You won’t find a ballot statement in the voter guide nor likely see him at the Chamber of Commerce Candidate’s Forum. His is a campaign in name only I’m afraid.

Many have tried to contact Tory Stone, all without success I’m told. Frankly, I’m at a complete loss why he would make the effort to gather nomination signatures, turn in the blizzard of paperwork and pay the ten bucks only to disappear into the woodwork. No PAC, no plan and no odds of getting more than a handful of votes from those who would think it funny to waste their vote on a non-candidate.

Final conclusion.

It is the right time and place to put Brea’s future back into the hands of it’s residents… at least those who understand the importance and value of their vote. (You are registered, right?)

If you watch over my shoulder as I fill out my absentee ballot, you’ll see me fill in the box next to the names Marty Simonoff and Steve Vargas… and voting a big YES on both Measure T “The Brea Accountability Act” and Measure U “The Brea Open Governance Act”.


(Editor’s Note 09/25/12:  After an obscenely lengthy hiring process, most of which was likely just O’Donnell’s moratorium on hiring – period, the City of Brea has promoted Tim Takahashi, an 11 year part-time veteran at the Senior Center, as it’s new full time Director.)