Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

CITIZENS COMMENTS BEFORE MODESTO CITY COUNCIL, 10/8/2013

Ed Persike

Joan Rutchow

Edith James

Janet

Good evening,

There is a growing community concern over how out of touch Modesto City Hall is with the citizens of Modesto.

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

You are conducting business and political deals in secret.  You are hiring consultants to sell real estate without the necessary license.  You pay over market for improvements to real estate.  You regularly are paying more for land than its fair market value to enrich land speculators while stiffing less sophisticated parties.  In one example, you paid private speculators over twice as much as you paid to a local church.  To a church!  In another case, you are continuing with plans to buy land for a courthouse where private investors sell you their land for more than it’s worth, but you will sell public land for less than it is worth, subsidizing the land speculators at the expense of the taxpayer.

Your expenses are out of control.  You set no priorities.  You ask no permanent sacrifices of your work force but expect taxpayers to foot the bill.

One of the most distressing trends is the love you seem to have of secret government.  As one of your community treasures, Marie Gallo, was quoted in Sunday’s Modesto Bee as saying regarding your courthouse antics, “Why is this being kept all hush-hush from the general public?  If things have to be hidden and secretive, there’s something wrong.”

While the list of what is wrong in City Hall is long, tonight I wish to address City Hall’s improper subsidy to the YES on X campaign committee working for a tax increase on Modesto citizens.

From May 6th through 8th of this year, a public opinion survey paid for by Modesto taxpayers ws coordinated by City Hall’s government affairs consultant, The Lew Edward Group, out of Oakland, California.  It appears the poll was actually conducted by the polling firm of Fairbank, Maslin,Maullin, Metz & Associates, also known as FM3, all under the direction of the city’s hired consultant.

The city had entered into a contract with The Lew Edwards Group on April 24th of this year for $35,000.  This city-Lew Edwards contract was constructed to circumvent the Public Records Act by not identifying the full results of the public opinion survey (the “Poll Results”) as a deliverable under the contract.

So, deliverables under the contract did not include the only information that really matters when you conduct a public opinion survey – the full results and cross calculations.

On June 5, 2013, the city received a request under on of California’s key open government laws, the Public Records Act, from the Modesto Bee for various documents involving the public opinion survey, including the Poll Results.  The Modesto Bee’s written request clearly requested “raw survey data, the number of people who agreed to and declined to take part in the survey, and other materials generated by processing survey data.”

On June 22nd, the city received another request under the Public Records Act from the Stanislaus Taxpayers Association by its President, Mr. Dave Thomas for various documents involving the public opinion survey, including the Poll Results.  Mr. Thomas’ written request clearly requested “all results of the city’s community Survey conducted during May 6th, 7th, and 8th, 2013.”

In both instances the city failed to follow the law under the Public Records Act by suppressing the Poll Results.  The stonewalling the city engaged in is more often expected by out of touch government officials in Washington, D. C., not our own City Hall.

On September 17, 2013, I (or Mr. Ed Persike) delivered a letter to Mayor Marsh and each City Councilmember requesting release of the full Poll Results that had been paid for by the taxpayers of Modesto.

After unnecessary delay, ie Stevens from your City Attorney’s office responded to the request and wrote to your Oakland government affairs consultant finally admitting that the Poll Results were indeed a public record.  He requested City Hall consultant Ms. Lew provide the Poll Results to the city.

This admission by City Hall that the Poll Results were a public record was months after the city had previously refused to release the results to the Modesto Bee and Stanislaus Taxpayers Association, when each made requests.

After Rollie Stevens’ letter was sent to your Oakland consultants, repeated requests were made by telephone, e-mail and letter, asking her to release the Poll Results immediately.

These repeated requests initially were denied by your consultant.  Ms. Lew, in her e-mail response, claimed the Poll Results were in archival storage.

Consequently, another letter to each of you, the consultants paid for by taxpayers, and the government employee unions funding the Yes on X campaign, was sent last Friday demanding release of the Poll Results.

Yesterday, the Poll Results were finally released by City Hall apparently after being retrieved from the “archives” of your consultant.

No taxpayer, no citizen, should have to go to the lengths and expense displayed here to obtain documents paid for by the taxpayers of Modesto.

Because of the delay in releasing the information, irreparable harm has been done to the efforts of the Stanislaus Taxpayer Association to provide information to Modesto citizens about your tax increase.

It appears that these delays and maneuvers have been designed by city officials and the city to consciously obstruct and circumvent the purposes of the Public Records Act.

This scheme has resulted in an improper City Hall taxpayer subsidy to the tax increase campaign committee.

Why is this so?  You can see here:  HOW THE CITY OF MODESTO LAUNDERED TAX DOLLARS TO SUPPORT THE GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE UNION “YES ON X” CAMPAIGN TO RAISE TAXES

1.  The city hires The Lew Edwards Group (for $35,000 headquarters in Oakland) to do poll paid for by Modesto taxpayers.

2.  The “YES ON X” campaign committee hires The Lew Edwards Group (for $11,750) as “campaign consultants”.

3.  Modesty City Employee Unions (police and fire) pour money into “YES on X”

After The Lew Edward Group arranged for the public opinion poll under its 435,000 city contract paid for by taxpayers, the same Lew Edwards Group was hired by the “YES on X” campaign committee for “campaign consultants” services.

As of the latest FPPC reporting period, $11,750 has been charged by The Lew Edwards Group for political consulting to the YES on X campaign committee.

This payment from the tax increase campaign committee to The Lew Edwards Group was financed by government employee unions since the vast majority of the contributions to the tax increase campaign come from these government unions.

Of the approximately $96,000 in campaign contributions to the tax increase committee, almost $94,000 came from two government employee unions.  These funds paid City Hall’s earlier consultant to run the campaign.

this connection that the same consultant was hired by the city and the “YES on X” campaign was revealed by the Modesto Bee’s Judy Sly in her September 29 Local Politics column.

As this scheme has been studied, we are left with two possibilities:

First the “YES on X” Campaign Committee and/or the government employee unions funding that campaign have had direct access to the taxpayer-funded Poll Results arranged for by The Lew Edwards Group.

Alternatively, the “YES on X” Committee for months has had the indirect benefit of the Poll Results by hiring The Lew Edwards Group for its campaign while the Poll Results were suppressed from public view by City Hall.

You simply cannot “unring the bell” on the improper use of the Poll Results.  Once the same consultant was hired by the tax increase campaign that previously had been paid by City Hall, only supporters of the tax increase had access to the Poll Results, since the results simultaneously were being improperly suppressed by City Hall.

In either case, a public benefit has been provided to some combination of the “YES on X” campaign committee, campaign consultants and government employee unions campaigning for the passage of the tax increase in the form of the taxpayer-funded poll.

To deliver this benefit, City Hall had to shred the Public Records Act and ensure that the Poll Results were only available to one side of the City Hall’s tax increase measure for months.

Your responses to requests under open-government laws cannot be used to delay or obstruct the purposes of the Public Records Act.  You have an overarching duty to “make the records “promptly available” to the public under Government Code Section 6253(b).

In addition, under Government Code Section 6253.1, City Hall has a duty “to assist the member of the public make a focused and effective request” for the public records.

You repeatedly violated this duty while handling the three different Public Records Act requests you received for the Poll Results.

In addition, nothing..let me repeat, nothing…in the Public Records Act allows you “to delay or obstruct the inspection or copying of public records” as stated in Government Code Section 6253(d).

City Hall’s repeated actions constitute obstruction and circumvention of the Public Records Act in violation of the above Government Code sections.

In addition, by denying access of the Poll Results to the public while allowing the benefits of it to be used in the “YES on X” campaign, you have likely violated numerous provisions of California law in allowing a gift of public funds, making unreported and/or impermissible in-kind campaign contributions to the tax increase campaign, and entering into an illegal contract that is void as against the strong public policies enunciated in the Public Records Act.

The citizens and taxpayers of Modesto are tired of the antics of City Hall, Oakland consultants, and government employee unions in subverting the election process and using tax dollars to provide a laundered financial subsidy from City Hall to the “YES on X” campaign in the form of the Poll Results.

This sophisticated scheme to circumvent and obstruct the Public Records Act must be fully addressed.

To that end, this week complaints will be filed with the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury and the Fair Political Practices Commission exposing your scheme to these investigative bodies.  In addition, further investigation has been undertaken to understand the full scope of City Hall’s obstruction of the law.

Your tax increase measure is forever tainted by the conduct of City Hall officials.

All the taxpayers can say is that Measure X is appropriately named since the tactics of the Oakland consultants, Modesto City Hall and government employee unions are obscene.  Measure X is rated Triple XXX and should be defeated due to your obscene tactics.

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