Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

Getting D.A. Fladager Up Off Her Chair to do Her Job

Scale of justice

By Emerson Drake

On Tuesday Jan. 8, 2013, I appeared before the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors in the morning and the Modesto City Council at night and each time I talked about the animal abuse happening in Modesto. I recited District Attorney Birgit Fladager’s  office number (525-5550 ) and requested for people to call and ask for her to get up off of her chair and do her job. These weren’t the first times nor will they be the last.  I’ll keep appearing until she does something towards defending the pets/animals and families  in Stanislaus County.

This originated when several women appeared in front of both of the official bodies, City and County , to plead their case and ask  for justice. Phillip Sumner and Jeff Reed have been baiting, capturing and disposing of people’s pet cats for years.  Sumner actually claims to have been doing this for more than ten years.  These women have filed complaints and have a case number, 12-32208, which has been presented to the District Attorney by the Modesto Police Department whose hands are tied until the D.A. decides to prosecute.  There is an existing California state law, 597-S which D.A.’s around the state have been using successfully.  Our D.A,. Ms. Birgit Fladager, doesn’t feel it’s adequate and says the District Attorney’s office has more important things to do and just doesn’t have the time.

I first wrote about this story in November after being at the City Council meeting on Oct. 23,2012, when several women came and spoke.  I still find it hard to believe Ms. Fladager, who claims to be a cat fancier, is ignoring these families’ pain.  Luring, trapping, and disposing of a neighbors family pet is despicable.  And when you consider it was done by a neighbor to a  four-year-old autistic boy’s pet it becomes even worse.

Obviously some Customer Service Skills are Lacking

When I called and requested the D.A. take action I was met with a hostile attitude by the person that answered the phone.  The woman seemed more interested in deterring any request for action by asking many questions designed to dishearten callers. She actually suggested people who weren’t principals in the case had no business in calling.  I take  exception to that.  D.A. Birgit Fladager’s representatives had been very explicit in saying “Go away and don’t bother us any more: and it’s time for them to be informed that wasn’t going to happen.

Finally, on Friday afternoon at 4:45  former Modesto Police Captain and now Chief D.A. Investigator Dan Interbitzen called wanting to talk and left a voicemail.  I returned his call about twenty minutes later but his weekend had already started. I left a message and will try again on Monday.  I’ll be happy to talk with him. I’ll even give him the number of the case file he already has in a file cabinet.  We’ll do anything we can to assist D.A. Birgit Fladager and Chief  Investigator Dan Interbitzen in acquiring some motivation to proceed with charges in the case.

It’s nice to see Modesto is progressing with an ordinance of its own while at the same time hoping to get all of the cities in Stanislaus County to do the same through the Joint Powers Authority(animal services).  Unfortunately the Safety and Communities Committee won’t be able to hear the ordinance until February as Councilman Lopez isn’t fond of committee meetings lasting more than an hour despite the fact that prior to last week they met only two times in the last six months.

Please feel free to call Ms. Fladager’s office at 209-525-5550 and request she get up off of her chair and help stop animal abuse in Stanislaus County.  When they ask you can tell them the case, # 12-32208 and you that have a friend who told you about the four-year-old autistic boy and the rest of the families who have lost beloved pets to these men.

And a big heart-felt thank you to those who have already called from all the families involved and a special thank you from the little boy who continues to leave his bedroom window open so his friend can come back to be with him.

Ridenour vs Marsh Two different ways of Treating Ad Hoc Committees

Modesto's Double Tree and Brenden Theater

Modesto’s Double Tree and Brenden Theater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Emerson Drake

This is a follow-up to the Salida Ad Hoc Committee conversation.  Mayor Ridenour had two ad hoc committees while he was Mayor for eight years.  The City of Modesto’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness and the Comprehensive Fee Task Force.  Both were treated more or less as if they were regular City Committees, and for the most part, behaved as if they were subject to the Brown Act.  They announced the time and place of their meetings, had agendas, met in public, allowed the public to be present, and encouraged public participation albeit after we made a request to the Modesto City Council regarding the Blue Ribbon Commission.

Now the Salida Ad Hoc Committee is suddenly being treated differently than its predecessors. They don’t want the public to be present or the public to participate in the discussions. The only noticeable differences would seem to be the Mayors they were created under.  Just to be sure no other group was working on the people’s business and operating under the radar, we made a public records request. Here is their response. The only caveat in what you are about to read is that the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness is still active despite having given their final report to the Council.


Mr. Drake:  Kathy Espinoza has provided the following information:


The last two Ad Hoc Committees formed were the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness

and the Comprehensive Fee Task Force. I believe they have completed their work and made recommendations to the City Council.


The most recent Ad Hoc Committee formed by the City Council was the Salida Annexation Study Ad Hoc Committee

and they appointed Mayor Marsh, Councilmember Dave Cogdill, Jr. and a staff person.  


I am not aware of any other Ad Hoc Committees which have been recently appointed and are working on single focused issues.


This completes your public information request.

Hopefully Mayor Marsh will come around and insist the Salida Ad Hoc Committee follow Mayor Ridenour’s example of being transparent when conducting the people’s business and adhere to the  requirements of the Brown Act.


Politics and the Salida Ad Hoc Committee

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

By Emerson Drake

When Mayor Marsh and Supervisor Withrow got together and decided to create the Salida Annexation Ad Hoc Committee I immediately became concerned.  Ad hoc committees by definition aren’t legally bound by Brown Act rules. This means they can meet without a publicized agenda and they can meet out of the public’s eye (no pun intended) .   In Modesto our recent ad hoc committee of concern was tha Blue Ribbon Commission on the Homeless.  After going in front of the City Council we were assured, by Mayor Ridenour,  the committee would act as if  under Brown Act guidelines despite the secrecy requested by some of the appointed members.

I appeared in front of both the Board of Supervisors (BoS) and the Modesto City Council and expressed concern and believed everything would be above-board and fully disclosed with public involvement.  The BoS followed through with openness.  Leading the way were Supervisor Terry Withrow and CEO Monica Nino.  I believed at the time Modesto’s Mayor Garrad Marsh was operating along the same lines. 

I was completely mistaken.

Before the City started the Christmas Holiday furlough I called the Mayor’s office and asked to be notified of the next Salida ad hoc meeting date (they had already met once without notifying the public). According to City manager Greg Nyhoff, the City and County received the “draft” Goodwin report on Wednesday 1/2/13.  On Thursday 1/3/13, I received a call from Kathy Espinoza from the Mayor’s office saying the ad hoc committee would be meeting on January 10th. Ms. Espinoza made it very clear the Mayor was not going to allow the public to attend saying she had been in touch with the City Attorney’s office and they explained to her the ad hoc committee wasn’t required by law to adhere to the Brown Act and she conveyed to me the Mayor had no intention in following the Brown Act.

The intrigue

Prior to Ms. Espinoza calling I had received a call from Kacey Smith in Supervisors Withrow’s office extending an invitation to me from Supervisor Withrow to the upcoming meeting and informing me of the time and place. I relayed this to Ms. Espinoza to her chagrin. She explained how Modesto had several ad hoc committees which didn’t allow the public to attend. I asked her the names of current ones and her memory failed her, but she stood her ground saying there were some.

On Friday morning at 11:35 I received an email from Ms. Smith from the Supervisor’s office saying the meeting had been postponed until Jan.28th at 3:00PM on the sixth floor of the City/County building.  This is just one day before the scheduled Salida MAC meeting on Jan.29th at 7:00PM at the Salida library where Mayor Marsh and Supervisor Withrow are on the agenda to speak to those assembled regarding the potential annexation.

Since the Mayor had already received the Goodwin “draft” report when he had Ms. Espinoza call me regarding the ad hoc meeting  you have to wonder why the meeting was postponed.  The only thing that changed was Mayor Marsh learning the public had been invited to attend the meeting.  Why does he feel the need for secrecy?  Why, after saying his administration would insist on transparency,  is he invoking his own personal “cone of silence” over the proceedings?  What doesn’t he want the general public to know or ask?

Open and Transparent or Political Favoritism

Why is the Mayor running from a comparison between his standing in front of LAFCO and basically giving away City services at our expense by saying new businesses moving into the Beard Industrial Tract won’t have to sign a waiver allowing them to be annexed into the city while INSISTING on a knock down drag out fight to bring Salida into Modesto?

Why is it good for business NOT to have to be annexed by Modesto in the Beard Tract while it’s good for business in Salida to be annexed?

We’ll be expressing our concern to both the County Board and the City Council next week at their PUBLIC meetings.  Hopefully the other members of Modesto’s City Council will persuade the Mayor to conduct business in the full view of the public and not behind closed doors.  A public records request has been sent to discover how many more if any committees are ad hoc and conducting City business out of the public’s view.

If you want to hear the Mayor’s comments from his last town hall meeting regarding the annexation they’ll be on Monday night at 6:00PM 1/7 on Comcast 15 or the Assyrian channel on any cable network in the valley  or you can listen to the streaming video here http://www.betnahrain.org/KBSV/kbsv.htm 

As an aside, did I mention the Mayor’s office didn’t call me to say the meeting was rescheduled?  I wonder why?

Apologies to Ms. Espinoza for the now corrected, unintentional, misspelling of her name.

“What’s on America’s Mind” Wednesday at 7:00 PM

Topics include a conversation about does government just happen to people or is it government by ambush, the animal

Français : Radio Contact 104.9 FM

cruelty ordinance, LAFCO vs Salida vs Beard Industrial Tract, Fake Non profits these and more so tune in at 7:00PM Wednesday and find out the things you really  need to know.

104.9 FM Modesto our Flag Ship station


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