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The Real OCEA Employees Expose The Real Supervisors of OC

RealOCSupervisors

Hot on the heels of the recent “Last, Best & Final” offer by the county to its public employees, a new website has been launched to expose what they call the corruption and cronyism of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. The site can be accessed at TheRealOCSupervisors.com. The site is sponsored by the Orange County Employees Association and the Orange County Attorneys Association.

The site graphically illustrates the cronyism and corruption that is rampant in county government and calls for action by the public. Leading the website is a 30 second ad that has reportedly been running on local TV. If you haven’t seen it, you can access it at the end of this article.

The commercial outlines multimillion dollar pay-for-play contracts, rampant cronyism and criminal coverups.

These Orange County politicians have awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to campaign contributors, including to a company convicted of fraud.

And they’ve allowed special interest lobbyists to write laws to benefit themselves instead of Orange County residents.

The Grand Jury has called out a culture of corruption in Orange County government, and now a FBI Task Force is investigating corruption in government as well.

NIck Berardino, general manager of OCEA has been playing hardball with county ever since the offer. During heated discussions on the last day, Berardino reportedly moved toward county negotiators to escort them out of the building. The county blew the issue out of proportion by claiming the feisty GM had assaulted negotiators. They reported the incident to Santa Ana Police who are conducting an investigation.

In a letter to Leslie Neebe, President of OCEA, county CEO Mike Giancola stated they had written statements of the incident from county negotiators saying that Berardino verbally and physically assaulted county staff.

Supervisor Shawn Nelson added his two cents saying that “multiple witnesses” told him Berardino charged a negotiator and bumped a sheriff’s official. Of course, attorney Nelson should remember the rule on hearsay evidence. Even more interesting is, if Berardino actually did assault anyone, why didn’t the bumped sheriff’s official make an arrest right then and there?

Well, said OCEA Spokesperson Jennifer Muir, that’s because no assault took place. As explained in a an email sent to The Liberal OC:

“Nick never bumped anyone in the room,” Muir wrote in an email Saturday. When contacted by phone, she did not give additional details. Berardino was responding to “bullying and intimidating” by county government leaders when things “got heated” and he told them to leave, Muir said. The county representatives declined to leave, and Berardino went to “escort” Barsook from the room, she added. “When [Nick] told them we have members who can’t afford to put gas in their cars,” Muir says that Barsook smirked, and Berardino told him to leave. “Nick reacted in a way anybody would react,” she said.

In a recent Voice of OC article, Muir stated her belief as to why the county would make outlandish charges:

“Orange County supervisors have a history of bullying and intimidating people who tell them things they don’t want to hear. The grand jury in Orange County said county government leaders have created an atmosphere of fear. That’s what was going on the other day,” Muir said. “Nick was simply standing up for the workers in rejecting the heavy-handed tactics and intimidation by the county government.” “Did it get heated? Absolutely,” she said. “But there was no assault.”

Giancola has said he will seek to have Berardino barred from future negotiations. We’re not sure how that would work but we seriously doubt it will fly with anyone not sitting on the 5th floor of the County Administration Building. More importantly, we’ve known Berardino for more than 15 years and have seen, firsthand, how he operates in a negotiation environment. While Nick has been known to use the occasional F-bomb to emphasize what could be construed as his dramatic approach to negotiations, he has never been assaultive.

On the other hand, the new website is pure Berardino. This is the style the OCEA boss believes in. By focusing on the corruption and unethical actions of the supervisors, he takes the heat off public employees who, over the past few years, have received little sympathy from the public mostly due to bad publicity by the local political machine.

Touche’ Nick.

On The City Council Agenda – January 7, 2014

Hidden Agenda ClipartWelcome to a brand new year and the same old city council. I hope someone told the Podiatrist Councilman about the apparent change in the Agenda. The Closed Session, which normally begins at 5:30 pm, prior to the Open Session, has been moved to the end of the evening. It doesn’t appear to be a permanent change as the current Agenda says the Closed Session will resume it’s regular spot at 5:30 pm on the 21st.

After the usual Presentation of Colors by our friends at The American Legion Post 227, there is a presentation by the White Cane Society regarding Glaucoma Awareness Month.

The Consent Calendar hosts the usual mundane items that don’t usually warrant discussion. There should be a bid award to International Computing Systems of Buena Park for construction of the water element at Frontier Park. Past discussion on this item estimated the cost at $115,000. ICS came in with the lowest bid at $148,500. The money comes from Community Development Block Grant funding and the extra amount was secured by staff. This may warrant discussion so that staff can explain how funds that were previously allocated were supplemented. If this is a reallocation of funds from other projects, there may be a problem.

Another construction project on the Consent Calendar is the Warner Avenue and Armstrong Avenue Extensions that will connect Redhill, Tustin Ranch and Barranca Parkway near the District. The projects are ready to bid, although it isn’t clear how this will affect or be affected by the Army’s refusal to give up their current Reserve Center site as the city has been trying to talk them into the past year or so.

An item that definitely deserves discussion, even at this early date, is the jet fuel pipeline construction listed in Item 5 of the Consent Calendar. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners is proposing to construct a 5 mile long pipeline through south Tustin to connect existing pipelines to John Wayne Airport.

The city had quite a bit to say about the proposal. The construction would extend from a connection point at Edinger Avenue and Tustin Ranch Road and head roughly south on Redhill Avenue near the airport. The construction consists of motor-operated valves and the pipeline.

City staff have reviewed the project and prepared a letter concerning the Initial Study. Most of the issues appear to be based on assumptions from the company concerning the construction hours and location of equipment storage. Staff have also asked for a public outreach campaign to affected residents and businesses to keep them informed of the project. A sound idea, in our opinion.

As the Initial Study was just issued, it doesn’t look as if this project is looming to close to the horizon. Hopefully staff will continue to demand diligence from the parties involved. Oh, and in case you are worried about the sudden appearance of jet fuel in your backyard from seeping pipelines, several have crisscrossed Tustin over the years without problems.

Still, a little discussion from the city council informing the citizens of this project couldn’t hurt.

Of the two items under Regular Business, the Mayoral Appointments to Committees prove the most interesting.

Of the thirteen seats on committees, boards and agencies up for grabs, only five net the councilmen any cash or benefits (we won’t include lunch or dinner in these). And, coincidentally, those five seats will continue with the 2013 appointments:

  • Foothill /Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency ($120 p/meeting, 18 meetings per quarter) Puckett/Murray
  • Orange County Fire Authority ($100 p/meeting, 12 meetings per year) Murray/Puckett
  • Orange County Sanitation District ($100 p/meeting, Up to 6 meetings per month) Nielsen/Bernstein
  • Orange County Vector Control ($100p/meeting, 12 meetings a year ) Bernstein
  • SCAG Southern California Assocation of Governments ($120 p/meeting, up to 6 meetings per month) Nielsen

Thrown in as a bone for her good behavior, Beckie Gomez picks up an alternate spot on the Newport Bay Watershed Executive Committee to go with her 4 other non-paid appointments. And, while this may not be a paid seat, it is one of the more important ones in the county.

You can see all the appointments for the various seats here. If anyone thinks being an unpaid councilman is easy (or, in some cases, free) they should take a close look at this.

We did notice an apparent discrepancy on the official Form 806 the city is required to turn in to the state. The form lists John Nielsen and Chuck Puckett as the OC Sanitation Nielsen Town Hall MeetingDistrict Representatives with a stipend of $100 per meeting. Yet, the Orange County Sanitation District website shows board stipends to be $212.50 per meeting plus mileage. Considering our councilmembers like to tout their “free” service, it is a pretty blatant error.

John Nielsen, fulfilling his role as OCSD board member, was paid nearly $5,000 for his participation on the board in 2012, the most recent full year reported by the OCSD. He is, by no means, the most highly paid either. That honor goes to Councilman John Anderson of Yorba Linda who made $12,301 dollars for his contribution to the cause. Not bad for a part-time job. Anderson, you may recall, was the subject of a failed recall attempt after the city council voted to oust their city PD in favor of the OCSD. I wonder how that would play out here?

Nonetheless, you can see that the city council, despite voters nixing salaries and benefits last year, can be a lucrative position. That’s, of course, if you are willing to play ball with the council majority. For the past few years, Beckie Gomez has been given seats on boards without stipends. Likewise, Deborah Gavello, as the arch nemesis of John Nielsen and former councilman Jerry Amante, was given no worthwhile appointments, paid or otherwise.

That’s it for the upcoming city council meeting. We will do our best to report back any worthy information we glean from the meeting. Thanks for reading.

2013 In Review – Wake Me Up When You’re Done

If you haven’t noticed, this blog is hosted by WordPress. And, they do such a great job marketing my brand that I wouldn’t blame you for not noticing. As with the past few years, the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog and I wanted to share some of the results with you.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 41,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 15 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

For a non-election year, it has continued to be fairly busy around Our Town Tustin. With 107 posts last year, I have attempted to keep you informed while not invading your life with news you get elsewhere. Commentary is important and, with over 41,000 hits, my readers seem to think so as well. Interestingly, it is previous year posts that garnered the most interest.

Among the top posts this year was “Big Brother is Watching” posted the last week in March of 2012. That post discussed the FBI’s defeat in court over GPS tracking without a warrant. And, although it was big news at the time, the recently revealed NSA spying of Americans has kept this post popular with others on the internet. So popular, in fact, that hardly a day went by the post has not received multiple hits.

Running a close second in hits was the “On the Agenda” for the city council for the previous year, November 20th 2012 which discussed the Anton Legacy project and associated bonds. The MCAS property has been a hot spot for discussion in a variety of settings, particularly with respect to the loss of multiple lawsuits by the city to TUSD. Heritage School, originally meant to service families in new housing, was the hot potato with a Riverside court telling the city that it could not tell the school district what to do with their property. Since then, the two entities appear to have made amends and, hopefully, will work together this coming year for the benefit of the kids.

Surprisingly, another 2012 post made the third spot. “Is Tustin a Nice Place to Live”, written in August 2012, came in third place. This post was actually a takeoff from a post on The Liberal OC where our friend, Dan Chmielewski, wrote about how nice it is to live in Irvine (yes, well….). We had some fun with that one and hope you enjoyed it.

The coming year is one of challenge. As we gear up for another election in November, we find two spots on the council, both of which are eligible for re-election.

Al Murray has proven himself to be an affable leader with a laid back style. For obvious reasons, he was nominated as mayor for a second term. I doubt he would need the extra push. He is popular among his colleagues as well as his constituency and that gives him a big edge. He was fortunate to ride on the success of previous councils with the Tustin Ranch Road extension opening this year. He has also  benefited from the restart of development on the MCAS property. And, while we were not privy to the communications, we have to believe he was instrumental in repairing the damage done by Nielsen, Amante and their cronies, to the city’s relationship with the school district.

Beckie Gomez has been instrumental in keeping a liberal face on the dais. With the departure of Deborah Gavello last year, we feared she would be targeted by the opposition in an attempt to run the liberals out of town. Gomez has steadfastly refused to run and has contributed greatly to the debate on various topics over the past year. The big question is, will she run again or is she fed up with the kowtowing on the coundil?

I apologize for the early campaign discussion. However, this promises to be an interesting year in other ways. With the FPPC rulings regarding anonymous and hidden donations, you can bet all candidates will have to be careful where they step. And, we will be there with the pen to record each cow pie they step in.

Yes, it promises to be a good year. And, I make a promise to you. As the year progresses, I will attempt to bring more relevant information to you and do it more often. We are not in a cocoon here. So, I will also post commentary on the cities and towns around us as well. The only thing I ask in return is to read and comment on those issues of interest to you. And, of course, if you hear something, let us know and we’ll investigate.

May you all have a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

On the Agenda – December 17, 2013

boring meetingAs with the past few meetings of the Tustin City Council, the topic of business licenses will take up a good portion of what should be the last meeting of the year.

The city council will be asked to decide if and how information related to gross receipts are received by the city. Gross receipts are used in many businesses to calculate the business license fees. Currently, businesses are required to offer proof of gross receipts in the form of a redacted tax return that protects any personal information from being disseminated through public records access. The average fee is $60.00

One of the proposals is to establish a flat fee of $100 for a business license. This would eliminate the requirement to supply tax information altogether and, on its face, appears to be a good alternative.

The third option, which I am sure Councilman Nielsen prefers, is to rely on the good word of the business owner to simply state how much his or her gross receipts are. The staff report points out the glaring problem with this alternative. Obviously, it would require a periodic audit to ensure businesses are telling the truth.

Nielsen, of course, would prefer this method because he is all for anything that protects businesses from the prying eyes of government. By doing so, he proves allegiance to his patrons at the various business councils and real estate associations that have funneled tens thousands of dollars through sham PACs into his and his fellow councilmens’ campaign coffers.

In reality, it is probably time the city looked at raising rates anyway. In the recent past, the city has foregone license and new construction fees to foster a business climate. I suspect most cities in Orange County have moved or are moving toward a modification in fees to increase funds coming into the city coffers. Making everyone pay the same fee, regardless of the value of the business, though, seems a bit unfair. The old system has worked fine and it seems Nielsen is the only one to complain.

In other business, the city council will be asked to approve the publication and appointment (or re-appointment) process for several city commissions seats. Seats open include 2 each on the Planning, Community Services and Audit Commissions.

Both Jeff Thompson and rookie commissioner Sam Altowaiji seats are up this term. I would be surprised if either were to leave now. Jeff is the old salt on the commission, having served several terms. Jeff has a history of community service including Chair of the OCTA Citizens Advisory Committee which advises OCTA on transportation issues.

Altowaiji, who worked for the city before he joined the board, is likely Elizabeth Binsack’s eyes and ears on the commission. However, he was also the only person to run (the only  other guy was disqualified) and could potentially be unseated by another (any other) qualified candidate. We have one in mind but he is keeping mum on whether he will run for a seat..

The final item under regular business is consideration of an ordinance establishing a formal purchasing process, something that is long overdue in a city the size of Tustin. Not that we are accusing anyone of misfeasance. On the contrary, city staff, other than the occassional bonehead move by a department head, are pretty thrifty with our dollars. A formalized purchasing process will keep it that way.

That’s it for city council business this week and for this year (unless someone calls a “special” meeting). The next time the city council meets, it will be to ring in the new year. We hope the Christmas Spirit envelopes the dais (except for the Podiatrist Councilman – a belated Happy Channukah) and they all come back with a sense of renewed community spirit.