Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Bill Lyons”

MID Staffs’ Secret is Bill Lyons’ Cash Windfall

By Emerson Drake   MIDpic

Ahhh secrets, several years ago they were the meat and potatoes of MID’s existence. Why respond to public record requests if you don’t have to? Most recently we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of MID’s farmer to farmer water transfer program and the Return Allocation Program by requesting the names of those selling water and the amounts.  Unfortunately time and time again we’ve been refused access to these records of a public resource.  When MID’s staff announced they were going to hold private meetings with those same farmers who participated in last years programs we adamantly  argued against such secrecy.  Unfortunately the Board remained silent.  When we threatened to go public staff relented by saying they were going to contact all irrigators. But you and I know who they are going to listen to, all you have top do is follow the money.  When Directors John Mensinger and Paul Campbell originally started pushing hard for these programs you had to wonder why.  After all these two Directors, who publicly call themselves the “City Boys,”  were promoting a ‘farmer to farmer’  program which, of the actual farmers on the Board, two weren’t supporting and one was just willing to listen and eventually supported.  The self-proclaimed “city boys” seemed out of their bailiwick.   After all Campbell and Mensinger spend much of their time attacking the water irrigation price structure.  But maybe there was a reason.

Two $5,000 Campaign Donations

The two largest campaign donations by far came from Bill Lyons to these two men (Mensinger and Campbell).  But why would Bill Lyons decide it was to his benefit to have his political puppets push so hard to pass the Farmer to Farmer Transfer Program?  In a Garth Stapley article of 4/22/14,  Mr. Lyons claimed he was responsible for 54% of the 1,060 acre feet of water in the Return Allocation Program, which in the end delivered a check to Mr. Lyons of at least $ 302,400 and likely more. Unfortunately MID has decided to keep the actual amount and recipients a secret from the very public that own the company.  But his big killing, monetarily, was in the Farmer to Farmer  Transfers. Irrigation_Operations_Report

Lyons Sweetheart Deal

Unbeknownst to most of the public Bill Lyons and Mapes Ranch negotiated the rights to pump for FREE any water that comes down  MID’s canal that cuts through his property going to the river. His is the only entity with the ability to steal this public resource.  Maybe this was one of the reasons he and his then puppets, Tom VanGroningen and Glen Wild, were pushing the water sale to San Francisco.  Maybe Bill Lyons envisioned acting as a toll booth collector for any water MID might attempt to sell down the river.  At the January 22 meeting MID General Manager Roger Van Hoy characterized the MID meeting where the Lyons sweetheart deal was passed, as open and public. This meeting was before Roger’s employment with MID and according to Former MID Director and Board President when the deal was passed, John Kidd is asked about MID meetings back then he likes to say, if there were three members of the public at a meeting then word must have gotten out that someone was bringing donuts.


The crux of the issue:  Stealing Water From the River

Bill Lyons has the ability to sell water allocated to his land and then replace it FREE from the canal or to use his many large industrial sized pumps located along the river to supplant his ‘sold’ water.  At least in OID’s proposed ‘fallowing’ program they don’t allow the farmer to replace the water by pumping ground water.  Most hydrologists agree that using large industrial pumps located close to a river reduces a river’s flow by increasing river bottom seepage.  And obviously taking water from MID’s canal before it gets to the river reduces flow to the fish and the delta thereby increasing salinity in farmland down stream.

Directors Mensinger and Campbell’s Decision Unethical and Immoral JohnMensinger PaulCampbell

In City of Modesto politics taking this kind of campaign donation would require the precipitant to recuse themselves or step back from the discussion and decision. MID has no campaign limits effecting this discussion. We’ve requested for MID to have this discussion several times but have been ignored, which of course sets up this dilemma.  As we’ve pointed out this has been an issue for years. VanGroningen, Wild and Warda received money ($5,000 – Lyons seems to find this to be the required amount to purchase MID Directors) from Lyons and were behind the attempted water sale.  Fortunately for all of Stanislaus County, Paul Warda changed his mind.  Don’t let anyone fool you. Director Warda’s change of heart was the one and only reason the water sale didn’t go through.  So Bill Lyons can be defeated, but not easily.  Remember he managed to get MID to spend $248,000 on convincing the public the water sale was a good thing and currently is one of the main movers and shakers behind Modesto’s attempt to annex Wood Colony and Salida.

Secrecy and Openness

In the ‘Farmer to Farmer’ program, 3,300 acre feet were passed, transferred at  unknown prices by unknown people, but handled by MID staff at a significant cost of staff (both office and field) time.  In the Return Allocation Program we cut checks of approx. $540,000 to people whose  names we aren’t allowed to know.  As a side note we/MID were stuck with $328,000 worth of unsold water costs. They want us to take it on trust that all was investigated and is on the up and up.  We, with what we believe is good reason, don’t trust staff.

To be fair Director Byrd did request staff to reconsider but the Board’s attorney response was “That is how we handled it in the past.”   There is no legal requirement and Public Record Requests show the Board didn’t vote for secrecy on this issue.   We’ve seen how MID staff’s past practices actually work against the ratepayers best interest.  Why would we expect things to be different/better if we keep following past procedures and dong them the same way?

Here is MID’s Public Record Response when asked for the people who participated in the buying and selling of our most public of resources, our water.   farmertofarmerPPRandredactedresponse

Trust MID’s Staff?  Not me, how about you?


Judy Sly and the Bee’s Cover-up of Jim Mortensen’s Lie

By Emerson Drake

When the Modesto Bee’s Editorial Staff brought the MID District 4 candidates in to visit they allowed the candidates to ask one  question of

Punch and Judy puppet show in Philadelphia

Punch and Judy puppet show in Philadelphia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

another candidate.  Jim Mortensen was asked if he had brought a lawsuit, made a financial claim or received any monetary payouts from MID in the past.  His response was that he’d received between $3 to $4 thousand dollars in remunerations.

In response to two Public record Requests MID turned over the claim Jim Mortensen and his attorney filed against MID for $90,000 dollars.  At first it was denied but after threatening  further legal action a settlement was reached in the amount of $20,000.

Ms. Sly has always claimed she believes it a greater offense when a candidate lies about his past instead of coming clean.  So to be fair we forwarded the Public Record Request responses to Ms. Sly so she could set the record straight since the Bee has already  endorsed Mortensen.  Ms. Sly has yet to respond to our information and queries.  It’s generally known Ms. Sly is finally retiring after this election, but to see her go out on such a dishonest note is sad.

An interesting side note is one of the Directors who voted for the payoff was the same man paying Mike Lynch to be Mortensen’s campaign adviser,  Bill Lyons.

This  pdf is the $90,000 claim Jim Mortensen ‘forgot’.


This pdf documents the $20,000 payout Jim Mortensen tried to obfuscate.

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Shame on Jim Mortensen for failing to come clean on a $90,000 claim and a $20,000 payout.  Those kind of numbers you would remember, especially if you’re running for the MID Board.

Shame on Judy Sly and the Modesto Bee for trying to cover-up Mortensen’s obvious lie.  It just goes to show you can’t trust the Modesto Bee’s Editorial staff, especially when they have an  agenda.

Pinocchio’s anyone?


What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake Wednesday at 6:30 PM

Tonight’s topics include our new expanded schedule,  the latest goings on at MID with the

Radio RED 104.9 FM

disastrous  Mensinger, Campbell, and Mortensen slate, MID’s Tom Van Groningen’s latest antics, the Modesto City Council and lobbyist Cecil Russell, behind the scenes of the Measure X proposal, the Modesto Courthouse placement. these topics and more so tune into tonight and find out what you need to know to make decisions important to you, your family and your community. Wednesday at 6:30  PM

104.9 FM our flagship station

To listen live or from our archives http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/10/10/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake-1

Lessons Learned at LCR’s MID Candidate Forum

By Emerson Drake

The Latino Community Roundtable (LCR) conducted a flawless MID candidate  forum for the public Monday night. They


adhered to their rules which include: only those with paid memberships can vote, those with both personal and business memberships can vote twice, and it’s allowable to come prior to the forum and place your votes and leave before the forum starts.  About 50 people were present if you include the eight candidates.  I was present as the votes were counted and the process went off without a hitch as has been my experience with LCR. The eight candidates all responded to the questions put to them to the best of their ability.  Quite honestly there was a wide discrepancy in their ability and afterward I wondered if those voting were at the same forum I was, but that is just my personal opinion.  All in all It was a fair democratic process.

And now the vote totals:

MID District 2           John Mensinger 23              Carmen Sabatino 3

MID District 3        Paul Campbell 18        Les Johnson 7

MID District 4        Jim Mortensen 15          Jake Wenger 9          Ted Donham 1       Brad Johnson 0

What I learned at the Forum

As an observer and participant of the political process I’ve been aware of a slate of candidates being run by Bill Lyons.  In recent MID elections Mr. Lyons has supported the majority of candidates to the tune of $5,000 each.  Unfortunately he supported the candidates who, in turn, supported former General Manager Allen Short.  Short consistently made some of the worst decisions possible costing MID ratepayers millions of dollars.  He was also behind the creation of the slush fund where the MID Board funneled $249,000  through Martino Graphics to a variety of lobbyists.  The man receiving the most money was a political consultant named Mike Lynch.  Would it surprise anyone  to learn Mr. Lynch is the major consultant behind Lyons candidate slate?  With Mike Lynch having the MID money pie all over his face it’s understandable for Bill Lyons to bring in someone unconnected with the Martino Graphics fiasco to be the slate’s (Mortensen, Mensinger, and Campbell) public consultant.

The high profile political consultant is Chip Langman of Langman Consulting.  In a conversation with Mr. Langman he stated he was representing and being paid by candidates Mensinger and Campbell and denied being part of the Mortensen campaign. I suppose when campaign consultants are talking with those who might write about the conversation it’s understandable that being forthcoming (honest) might not be first on their agenda and unfortunately this was the case with Mr. Langman.  Jim Mortensen had previously let it slip, that while he didn’t have a contract with Langman Consulting directly, his major benefactor, Bill Lyons did and it was on his behalf along with that of the other two candidates.

Both John Mensinger and Paul Campbell seem to be nice men in their own right.  This is part of the Bill Lyons technique (modus operandi seemed a little too fancy, but applicable). Lyons likes to bring in respectable businessmen that have little or no experience to run for MID like Glen Wild.  Their main value?  To vote as they are told.  They have little to no experience with MID’s water and electrical issues seeing that Mensinger just started coming to meetings recently and Campbell might not have even located the  the MID Board room more than once.  In the past both men have made public statements regarding the need to sell our water to San Francisco.

Jim Mortensen is a horse of a different color. He came to the podium during the water sale talks and was adamant about wanting MID to sell water on a long term basis to San Francisco.  And he stuck to his opinion when all of the details of the reprehensible contract came to light.  To make a mistake and be wrong and then change your mind is one thing, but to continue on the road to ruin is another.  He continues to say we need to monetize our water.  Just a week ago Mortensen came out publicly for the Board Governance policy which restricts the elected Directors access to the very information necessary to make informed decisions, thereby forcing them to rely solely on staff opinions without being able evaluate the facts for themselves.  This rule made it easier for Allen Short to bamboozle the Board into terrible costly decisions, decisions we ratepayers are still paying for (if you have any doubt check your electric bills).  Mortensen had pledged he would NOT use the Water Advisory Board as a jumping off point to run for office but he did.   Mortensen’s track record tell us he either lies to his advantage or makes terrible decisions and refuses to correct them.

Please understand Bill Lyons has been behind the proposed MID water sale to San Francisco all along. He doesn’t care if we run out of water since his property is along the river and he knows his 11 deep wells will bring him a fortune if the water runs out and everyone become desperate.  In my opinion he wants to assist in our destruction so he can make a fortune.  He can’t dam the water up so he wants to facilitate the sale of it out from underneath us. Even during droughts San Francisco was going to get their water first and MID, you and I, were going to get the leftovers.

Also know this isn’t Lyons first rodeo.  Four years ago Lyons personally supported Glen Wild’s and Paul Warda’s campaigns to the tune of $5,000 each and had his cronies do the same for Tom VanGroningen. Team Lyons has pledged to raise $60,000 for Mortensen’s campaign. In the past  he supported John Kidd and Cecil Hendsley’s campaigns too.   Lyons likes to play behind the scenes and stack the deck with jokers.  Please know several people who helped to recruit Mensinger, Campbell and Mortensen  were directly involved with MID in the last few years.  These include Janice Keating through the Martino Graphics slush fund and George Petrulakis who was paid $28,000 to facilitate ONE meeting between MID and the City of Modesto.  It isn’t a stretch to suggest this money, Keating’s and Petrulakis’,  were down payments for services ‘to be rendered.’

We have many good candidates to choose from running for the Modesto Irrigation District and no offense to anyone, but none will be endorsed by the Latino Community Roundtable.  Now you know the Bill Lyons and MID back story.  Tell your friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  The only way we can save our drinking water and keep our electric bills down is to make sure the Lyon’s slate of candidates doesn’t get into office.

Things You Need to Know and Won’t Read Anywhere Else

By Emerson Drake

MID Has a New Back Door Man


Lyons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the Modesto Irrigation District was discussing creating their Water Advisory Committee there were only a few major requirements. Being knowledgeable regarding water issues, understanding a successful business model, and most importantly, and without exception, not running for the MID Board in the fall. Most of the people nominated and approved fall into that category. But it seems we have one MAJOR exception. The Water Advisory Committee Chairman Jim Mortensen has been seeking financial supporters in an apparent run for office for District 4.  And he has apparently found one in Bill Lyons. Lyons, who supported Glen Wild, Tom Van Groningen, and Paul Warda to name the ones still on the Board  through his Beckwith-Dakota LLC,  has pledged his support. Bill Lyons has been milking MID for every penny he can, and has found a new shill to put into office. Unfortunately the people Lyons’ supported in the past are responsible for many of the terrible decisions made by MID.  And since  Jim Mortensen won’t or refuses (you choose) to honor his pledge NOT to run for the MID Board then how can anyone in good conscience vote for him?  The public should DEMAND his removal at the next MID Board meeting.  The meeting  scheduled for May 28 has been cancelled. Maybe now we know why.

Along those same lines we keep hearing Carol Whiteside (of Martino Graphic Designs funneled money fame) is considering a run for the MID Board. Ms. Whiteside who collected a minimum of $15,000 (not invoiced by her company, California Strategies) from MID through Martino Graphics ,has been contacting Board members to arrange meetings.  The last time she pulled this stunt she was being directed by Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild (they were the only Board members aware of the surreptitious arrangement with Martino Graphics.  Neither the rest  of the MID Board nor the public are clear on what she did to earn the money (except to study MID records according to Tom VanGroningen). Apparently for the friends of a chosen few, MID is the gift that keeps on giving. With her record of receiving funds under the table from MID, I don’t understand how she could consider running but then maybe she’s talking with Billy Lyons too.

The Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s new Bible vs Their Plan,  Pathways to Growth

The book is “The Coming Jobs War” by Jim Clifton (Chairman of Google) and is quite interesting.  I’ve heard several members of the Chamber tout this book as a must read for planning Modesto’s future.  The funny thing about people pushing books allegedly supporting their actions is that most people never get around to reading them.  Come on, it’s no indictment against anyone but most people aren’t readers.  It’s just a fact of life and the Chamber knows it.  So all they feel they have to do is wave a book by Google’s Chairman and people will accept anything they say as Gospel. Unfortunately for the Chamber some of us are readers.  I finished it last week.  Would it surprise you to learn that most of the Chamber’s proposals run contrary to what the book espouses?  It shouldn’t because that’s how the Modesto Chamber of Commerce rolls.  These are the same people when they ran short of money to finish paying for refurbishing Modesto’s Arch were saying they were asking the city for a loan but had  City Manager Gregg Nyhoff place on the agenda a request for a one time gift.  Now that’s hardly the same thing.  I pointed this out during the City Council agenda meeting and when it came to the Council meeting, Councilman Cogdill expressed concern at using public money and the Chamber’s head lobbyist, Cecil Russell, ask for it to be pulled from the agenda.  It’s in the record so feel free to check it out. The print media never mentioned that to you did they?

I’ll be placing an annotated list of quotes taken word for word from the book so YOU can compare the two divergent philosophy’s (the Chamber’s and the book’s author).

We Followed up the Email Bomb Shell with a Public Information Request

By Emerson Drake

After reading today’s article about the alleged bogus email by Bill Lyons we sent a Public Information Request to County Council requesting the “entire email including the IP information.”  This afternoon the county responded with the email but no IP information.

We’ve done a follow-up request but I’m sure we’ll have to wait until tomorrow for a response. 

This is a copy of the allegedly  “Bogus Email”

—–Original Message—–
From: bill lyons
To: <gstapley@modbee.com>, <boggsk@stancounty.com>, <obrienw@stancounty.com>
Subject: West Park
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2012 08:49:56 -0700

I think an interesting story would be why supervisor Terry is able to vote on a project where his family and their partners own surrounding land. Del Mar and Maring and their affiliates own land around and near the naval base. In Terry’s own words “his is an accountant and can work figures”, I think anyone that can do basic math can figure when surrounding properties are developed, the undeveloped values increase significantly.

Dirty Politics by Bill Lyons, Mike Lynch and the Alliance Cost Stanislaus Residents Jobs

By Emerson Drake

Why is it every time people start looking into backroom deals to line a few private pockets at the expense of the majority of us, the names  Bill Lyons and Mike Lynch are usually at the top of the slime ball list?  Tuesday night at the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting was no exception.  One of the first announcements was that Supervisor Terry Withrow was required to recuse himself from voting on Gerry Kamilos’ WestPark project.   

Bill Lyons, who was the political opponent Terry Withrow soundly defeated, allegedly sent an email complaining about a potential conflict of interest since Withrow’s wife holds a one twelfth interest in some land across the street from the project.  This wasn’t considered a problem during earlier discussions but when Lyons and Lynch became concerned about the possibility of Kamilos being told to hit the road, Lyons and Lynch pulled out all of the stops.

Gerry Kamilos gave a presentation to the Board that quite honestly defied belief for anyone who has followed this debacle from the beginning. He did acknowledge the WestPark footprint had changed yet again.  Remember the original size was supposed to be approximately 1,400 acres but Kamilos insisted on 4,800 acres.  The bloated size of the project caused him problems from the beginning.  His most recent fantasy involves 2,900 acres which includes a scaled down solar farm (he can’t find a buyer for his electricity if built) and intermodal operation (truck and rail)  and a business park.

Kamilos paraded a mixed group of consultants who allegedly supported his concept but each and every one of them can to the party empty-handed and represented only themselves and not their organizations.  While Port Commissioner Victor Uno said “we think this project has great value to your community” he wasn’t bearing any “official”  Memorandum of Understanding  (MOU) to do business with Kamilos.  None of his business supporters were carrying MOU’s.  We were treated to kind words regarding the Union Pacific Railroad but again no MOU, in other words nothing concrete.

When Kamilos came to a page in his presentation containing about twelve as he termed it “good questions” he provided a little smoke and a few mirrors but didn’t completely answer any of them.  His consultant for water and sewer who has been with the project from its inception could provide no insight to how the sewer and water could be handled.

Kamilos’ Problem is he doesn’t have ANY Answers.

Kamilos doesn’t know or isn’t willing to admit he doesn’t have a clue where the money to upgrade the railroad tracks will come from.  He overlooks the fact that an Intermodal operation in Modesto had to be down sized because of the lack of business.  But Kamilos keeps using numbers that suggest he will get the lions share of the business in the valley when at least one of his competitors in Lathrop is better located and has had a successful operation for years. 

When Kamilos was questioned by Supervisor DeMartini his responses fell flat.  Kamilos used phrases like “value engineering” and “when the contingencies are factored” which have absolutely no meaning and DeMartini called him on it. When Kamilos claimed to have made “credible progress” the audience laughed and wondered aloud if Kamilos understood what that meant.  I’ve heard a few complaints regarding Supervisor DeMartini’s questioning of Kamilos but I thought DeMartini’s response was on target. DeMartini said he didn’t find Kamilos’ answers credible and he didn’t have the track record of someone the Board should be doing business with.

DeMartini asked Kamilos for a list of successful business parks he developed.  Kamilos named a few but DeMartini pointed out the parks he mentioned had never been completed or were mainly housing developments. DeMartini has been suggesting all along that Kamilos had originally used a map with five thousand home on it.  Kamilos has been denying this but last night Supervisor Monteith slipped and said the original map contained the  homes but the board had asked Kamilos to change it and he did.

Kamilos sued for Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars by his vendors

Kamilos has a track record which suggests his vendors have been required to take him into court to get paid. These weren’t challenges of withholding payment for shoddy work. Kamilos just doesn’t have the money to pay his creditors. One of his consultants last night appears to be continuing to support him in order to eventually get paid for past services rendered.  DeMartini raised the concern a creditor would come after the $2 Million deposit the County is going to hold.  That issue was never cleared up completely.

Supervisor Monteith says Kamilos is AMAZING

Actually Monteith said Kamilos was amazing three separate times.  It sounded almost like Monteith had a bro-mance going on with Kamilos.  Monteith didn’t mention if he purchased his rose-colored glasses or if they were loaned to him by Lyons and the Alliance but they definitely effected his view of reality in the opinion of many. Monteith has been a Kamilos supporter and sees nothing wrong with the five, going on six-year delay.  But since Monteith stopped placing candles on his birthday cakes he might not be aware of just how many years have passed. It begs the question if six years in “Supervisory Years” are the same as they are for you and me.

Supervisor Chiesa a disappointment

Although Supervisor Chiesa sent plenty of warning signs out about his vote prior to the proceedings, a glimmer of hope had prevailed with the crowd, since Supervisor Chiesa had said fifteen months ago it was the last extension he would vote for. But alas, in our opinion it appears he had been persuaded to change his mind prior to last nights meeting.  Chiesa is a smart businessman and I firmly believe nothing he heard last night could have possibly influenced him to vote for Kamilos and his project.

Kamilos held the Reports Hostage and dangled the $2.75 Million as a Saving Grace for the Supervisors

Yes the combination of the money and the lost reports were used as an excuse for the three Supervisors to vote for this option.  Bill Bassitt of the Alliance basically said there was no downside to the deal.  He told the Board early on If they got to keep the money it would be a fair deal.  But Mr. Bassitt and his Alliance get paid more from the state if the economic conditions remain as they are.  Yes, they want things to get better for the valley but would prefer it to be coordinated  to ensure the best of possible deals for their boards members.

The Modesto Chamber of Commerce Trots out Paid help to Promote Kamilos’s Deal

Yes, as usual the Chamber was knee-deep in trying to divide the “spoils” they hope to receive. They supplied paid employees to speak in support of Kamilos. Someone compared them to a “Union” for businesses. Others prefer to think of them simply as paid lobbyists.

JOBS are the Most Important result for WestPark

Yes, jobs are the top concern but the question that was supposed to be asked and answered last night was ‘is Kamilos the right developer to answer Stanislaus County’s prayers? ‘

Most of the public seems to feel Kamilos brought the early difficulties with WestPark on himself with his arrogance.  He believed he could run rough shod over everyone and everything, but he failed to size up the opportunities correctly.  Now all he can do is try to buy time to find  a deep pocketed suitor who won’t look too close at the details to provide the working capital he so desperately needs to continue his bumbling, stumbling, lurching attempt to cross the goal line.

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