Vargas: Liar Liar… Pants On Fire!

On Tuesday, September 5, Council finally had an opportunity to address the Constitutional Due Process issues in the Brea Municipal Code but, thanks to inadequate staff input and a major distraction from Council member Vargas, they were thwarted.

After a year of sidestepping the issue, City Manager Gallardo and City Attorney Markman continued trying to wriggling out of honestly facing the music by submitting conflicting statements to launch Council’s discussion.

Gallardo said he believed the Brea Municipal Code and Code of Conduct were in conflict (not the root issue), Markman disagreed completely… denying that any contradiction existed and doubling down on his assertion that there was no threat of Constitutional violation because termination of Commissioners and Committee members is made without cause.

The greatest roadblock to Council having an intelligent discussion was the almost incoherent ranting by Council member Vargas. He not only derailed the discussion, he added to his list of “causes” for dismissal which crushed Markman’s position. In addition, claims made by Vargas were fabrications… figments of his imagination.

Everyone in the room must have recognized that, especially Vargas. Assuming he hadn’t forgotten the truth, he must have known just how far he stretched it.

Ultimately, thanks to Council’s unwillingness to be intimidated and the Mayor’s taking control of the discussion, the decision was to continue the item until staff could provide additional information. Hopefully staff will also make some attempt to get on the same page with each other.

I’ll leave follow-up on the real issues until they hit Council’s agenda again and turn my attention now to poking holes in the spurious allegations and remarks being tossed about by Mr. Vargas.

The Letter of Dismissal

I’ll work my way through the “causes” cited by Vargas in the letter.

  1. “… our initial agreement was a two year assignment” – No such agreement was ever made. No member of Council has the authority to make such an agreement and, if they were authorized, the BMC would state so and the “deal” would obviously have to be disclosed when the nomination is made. Never happened.
  2. “… allow you some closure from past experiences as a Commissioner, unfortunately I am not in a position to continue the redemption any further” – A complete non sequitur. My seven year history as a Cultural Arts Commissioner, as Chair of this Commission and it’s representative on Art in Public Places and the Senior Citizen Advisory Board is extolled at length in the commendation I received from Mayor Roy Moore in 2011. I needed redemption for nothing.
  3. “… (for) 3 months, I have attempted to communicate with you on numerous occasions via text and phone calls” – Hogwash. Once or twice a month Vargas would call me as he headed home from work at Port Hueneme and we would talk about various matters until he typically said, “Well Clark, you got me home safe and sound again.”

The last time we spoke we discussed his plans to put Term Limits on the ballot as a proposition. He refused to consider discussing his plans with Council. I told him it was a stupid idea, that it was an obvious attack aimed solely at Council member Simonoff. Finally, he agreed to drop the idea and the discussion ended.

Four days later the City Council meeting erupted in heated, angry exchanges with Vargas when he announced his intention to collect signatures via a third party contractor for a ballot initiative on Term Limits. When Vargas called me after the meeting I was too angry to take the call and let it go to voicemail. I did the same with the other half dozen attempts Vargas made over the next hour or so.

He texted me once the next day asking why I was dodging his calls. I texted back that I hated getting lied to and would need a few days to let my anger subside. I never heard from him again until I received the letter of dismissal… 36 hours after almost everyone in Brea seemed to get it. Must have been a massive BCC list.

  1. “…your reluctance to keep me informed of pending issues does not allow me to provide effective service as a council member.” – So, Breans have been under represented for almost a year now. Good to know. Don’t cross your fingers for the Mayor Pro Tem’s seat and we all know what to do when the 2018 elections come around.

During the first year of Vargas’ current term, as I would come across articles online relevant to current or impending city matters, I would email a link to Vargas… who seemed to have neither the time nor skills to do his own research. I did this maybe once or twice a week. I was surprised to hear he was unable to “provide effective service” without my help.

Fast Forward Almost a Year.

I mentioned the rants Vargas inflicted on everyone at last week’s study session, that they were laced with the same sort of groundless statements as are found in the dismissal letter.

  1. Only after repeated badgering by members of Council and City Staff did he feel forced to dismiss me. – Vargas was immediately challenged on this by the Mayor as being complete nonsense. Never happened.
  2. Vargas claimed to have “cleared it with” Gallardo and Markman before he sent the dismissal letter… a weak attempt to imply their approval. Gallardo and Markman preserved their “plausible deniability” by answering Vargas’ email inquiry by phone. A common practice down at city hall. However, Gallardo told me later that he attempted to talk Vargas out of the dismissal but failed and that Markman merely confirmed the appropriate BMC reference.
  3. Vargas said he discussed health issues with me, asking me to resign, and was compelled to terminate me because I would not resign. A year ago my health was not an issue, we never had such a conversation. This is total b*llsh*t.
  4. Vargas stated that he appointed me because of my experience with affordable housing while working for Quaker City Bank. (No Steve, that was Ron Garcia, your first appointment to the Planning Commission in 1998.) We never discussed housing of any type prior to or following my appointment to the Planning Commission. I have never worked for Quaker City Bank, or any bank, but did handle branding and advertising for Landmark Bank in La Habra when it launched in 1979… 38 years ago.
  5. Vargas protested my use of the California Public Records Act (CPRA) to obtain information leading to my “due process” probe and aggressively demanded “cost accounting” from the City Clerk, City Manager, City Attorney and Director of Development for the staff time required to respond to my inquiries. He was summarily put in his place by Council member Simonoff who reminded him that it was wrong to chastise the public for the cost of complying with a public records request.
  6. Vargas accused Council of wasting time on an issue that only a “blogger” cared about. Really? Council’s oath of office swears to uphold State and Federal Constitutions! If there is even the slightest possibility that the BMC is in conflict they are bound to investigate regardless of where the challenge came from.

Council does what’s right.

Given all that occurred last Tuesday, Council did what was right. I trusted that they would and they didn’t let me down. They continued the item and tasked staff with bringing them additional relevant information.

This is far from over folks and no loose canon is going to dissuade me from pursuing the truth or bully Council into sweeping this under the rug.

vargas liar

18 thoughts on “Vargas: Liar Liar… Pants On Fire!

    • Peggie… “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” — Albert Einstein

      Mr. Vargas would do well to remember that. We all should.

  1. I have to believe that Council has or can see through these childish rants and recognizes the lies for what they are… lame excuses. Can he be sanctioned or censured or something? Why won’t Council do something to curb this nightmare?

    • Mark… I wish they would, believe me. Unless he gets his hand smacked real good whats to put an end to this? Probably will be left up to voters in 2018.

  2. Spotted this on Nextdoor, I’m a first time reader. You’ve been at this for quite a while. Thanks.

    This piece on Vargas doesn’t surprise me. He’s been a burr under Brea’s saddle from day one. This is a wakeup call to all of us, no way Vargas should get another term. None.

    I looked up that municipal code. That “unilateral dismissal” is the root of the problem isn’t it? Your arguments regarding “due process” make perfect sense.

    Where else in the municipal code is one member of council given greater power or authority over the other council members? My guess is it doesn’t. It’s unthinkable. Council members are coequal, always.

    Sure, the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem enjoy a little notoriety and take on a bit of a larger role in public appearances, but that’s about it. Maybe overseeing the agenda is an added job, but when the votes are counted they’re all equal.

    • Bill… Glad you took the time to drop by. Hope you become a regular!

      Exactly right, unilateral dismissal is ground zero for the due process violations. What authority resides with the nomination? None. If appointments are made by majority vote, dismissal should follow the same protocol.

      And your comment about all votes being equal is also dead on. Thanks for pointing that out!

  3. As to: “Vargas protested my use of the California Public Records Act (CPRA) to obtain information leading to my “due process” probe and aggressively demanded “cost accounting” from the City Clerk, City Manager, City Attorney and Director of Development for the staff time required to respond to my inquiries. He was summarily put in his place by Council member Simonoff who reminded him that it was wrong to chastise the public for the cost of complying with a public records request.”

    Apparently he has forgotten the multiple times (during both of his tenures on the Council!) that he barraged staff with requests for information, yet no “cost accounting” was requested for HIS requests. Amusing to see that his absurdity continues…

    • Boadicea… His memory issues might be linked to to absurd rationals given for my dismissal as well!

      I have been tempted to formally request cost accounting of the city’s legal defense of “Vargas v. Balz” – a law suit that could have been completely avoided were it not for the arrogant resistance by then City Manager Tim O’Donnell. I’ve heard unofficial estimates that cost to defend both original suit and the appeal ran between 1/2 a million to 3/4 of a million bucks.

      I’ve also been curious how much the codefendants (Don Schweitzer, Brett Murdock, OC Registrar of Voters) kicked in to pay the bills. I imagine that failing to indemnify any of the codefendants would have caused many staff, “electeds” and volunteers to flee… fearing they might be abandoned too.

      Council, in closed session, probably voted to shift all of the burden to insurance to protect themselves should the need arise somewhere down the road.

  4. Most of us, especially me, don’t have the time or patience to research the data necessary to understand the application of the law and codes as they apply to due process. Thanks for your diligence.

    Being involved at the commission level or even the board level in many orgs is somewhat a thankless job.  Folks don’t appreciate the investment in time and study necessary in order to do a job that pays nothing and many times actually costs money. Thanks for the decade of service you’ve given to Brea.

    I have always respected people like you who volunteer to have to put up with a city attorney who sits like Jabba the Hut and bills outrageous hourly numbers in order to draft muni codes that the average person can not possibly fully understand.  I have told you before that I love your blog and the calling to count of those who purport to serve to accountability.

    • Chuck… Thanks, very much. There are more than a few good people with great intentions hovering around Brea. Unfortunately not enough of them find their way into public office. Who can blame them?

  5. Your “threat assessment” of due process violations is clear and accurate. Markman is either wrong or purposefully sidetracking the matter. Thankfully it is rumored that he has decided to retire.

    I wish there were a way to sanction Vargas in such a way that he is forced to abandon his childish conduct or resign.

  6. Have you been given any idea when and how this will come back to council? Will the public be able to comment on this? What do you think will happen?

    • Manny… City Manager Bill Gallardo told me last week that this will be on Council’s agenda for the second meeting in October. It is supposed to be an item in the General Session (7:00 pm in Council Chambers) but I’m sure there will ne no “public hearing’ connected to it. Of course, anyone may speak on this during Matters From The Audience (limit 5 minutes).

      As previously posted, and reiterated in an email to the Mayor, Council and others last Thursday (09/21):

      As I have expressed before, I believe these are the actions that will best and most efficiently bring Brea’s Municipal Code into harmony with the Constitutional rights provided all citizens:

      1 – Remove the unilateral dismissal provision within the BMC.

      2 – Amend the BMC Section 2.16.050 to include, “Inappropriate behavior by a commission, committee or board member should be noted to the Mayor, and the Mayor should counsel the offending member. If inappropriate behavior continues, the Mayor should bring the situation to the attention of the Council and the individual may be subject to removal from the commission, committee or board.” (per City Attorney)

      3 – Amend the BMC Section 2.16.050 to include, a clear statement of the Duties, Responsibilities and Obligations of Commissioners and Committee members.

      4 – Edit the Council Code of Conduct to say, “Regarding appointment and/or dismissal of Commissioners and Committee members, see: BMC Section 2.16.050.”

  7. Hey, Mr. Markman,
    “Spend more time with my family.”
    “Pursue other interests.”
    “Finish my memoirs.”
    Pick one.

    • Tony… Like O’Donnell, his legacy will continue to rot other apples in the barrel if we don’t put a strong Council in place.

  8. Absolute power corrupts absolutely (Lord Acton).

    Like Bill, I only came upon this site after seeing it on Nextdoor. While Brea is a great place to live, its citizens will become silent captives of the council and staff unless there is a “working” code of conduct” based on fair and equitable principles including substantive and procedural due process is essential for Brea’s charter or constitution. Your wake up call for action is most warranted.

    Saw some previous articles in your blog, what is the latest on fracking? I am learning that the chemicals pumped in work as lubricants to penetrate the cracks and spaces to access more oil or hydrocarbon based petroleum substances in shale and other layers of earth so that these substances can be pumped to the surface and refined into petroleum products.

    My concern besides the safety of these chemicals and by products to the environment, is earthquakes. Since Brea is close to the Whittier-Narrows fault, the lubricants also act to increase slippage in faults. This is happening in Oklahoma which rarely had earthquakes prior to fracking. Thanks for being active for the concern of Brea residents .

    • Tom… Welcome! As I pointed out, Council’s Code of Conduct is a policy document that can be changed at will. The Brea Municipal Code (BMC) is the body of local law; it established how Brea conducts it’s business. The potential due process infringements are embedded there in the part of the BMC governing how Commissioners and Committee members are appointed or dismissed. The language woefully misses the mark, especially the provision for a unilateral dismissal by one member of Council.

      Nowhere else in the BMC is a single member of Council afforded greater power than a majority vote of their peers, only here. Council members swore to uphold the US and California Constitutions when they took their oaths of office. There is no reference to the BMC. Either Council steps up and has the City Attorney draft the amendments needed to eliminate the oversights in the BMC or Council will have recanted their oath of office.

      To my knowledge there is little or no unconventional extraction being done. The price per barrel was the first factor to impact fracking and still does. Today’s price per barrel is $50.86, barely above the break even. I believe Linn Energy is trying to reorganize in bankruptcy and has sold or is selling much of their Brea holdings.

      The fracking fluids, while caustic as hell, are not what you would consider to be a conventional lubricant. Forced into the substrate under very high pressure, fracking fluid opens fissures which allows for the extraction process to be initiated or continued (maintenance). When he was last Mayor, Marty Simonoff got Linn to agree to ample early notice on any fracking or related activity. I believe that as only happened once.

      There have been a couple of instances where mechanical failures may have allowed the release of natural gas back behind the new Olinda Elementary but there was never an investigation conducted. The odds of Brea becoming another Porter Ranch are incalculable.

      I’m quite familiar with the connection between fracking and seismic activity in Oklahoma and Texas. Southern California, however, has a geology sufficiently different than the midwest that it’s not considered a measurable threat here.

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