Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “March, 2017”

Public Record Request Uncovers 14,000 Emails Hidden From the Public

By Emerson Drake 

Many times Public Record Requests are the only way to find out what is going on behind the scenes especially when your topic is Modesto politicians and you’re discussing City business.  They aren’t a tell all, yet sometimes a glimpse of light slips through.  Recently we discovered that Cecil Russell and his Chateau Provence Home Owners Association, with the help of Rank Security, had illegally mounted cameras on city light poles and were stealing electricity from MID.

Now using the same method we’ve uncovered 6 private email accounts that the Mayor and members of the City Council are using to conduct city business. At first we were told that it was probably just a few emails and they were mostly about meetings.  But they didn’t realize  we already had in our possession emails to and from Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold and land use attorney George Petrulakis.

So we did a Public Record Request on the six emails. The scope was from the time each had taken office until present. Never did I expect the response I received via email.

 

Hi Emerson,

Regarding your Public Record Request of March 8, 2017 for all emails since taking office, including attachments to and from: 3 from Ted Brandvold, 2 from Bill Zoslocki and 1 from Tony Madrigal.  (the actual email addresses have been redacted)

Our IT Department is working on this to pull all the emails, however they have gotten over 14,000 hits on this request. 

Is there any way we can narrow this request?  Are you looking for something specific that we can narrow with some keywords?  Perhaps we can narrow the time frame?

If you can let me know as soon as possible, I can let IT know how to proceed with your request.

Sincerely,

Dana Sanchez

Administrative Office Assistant III (Confidential)
City Clerk’s Office

Since then we’ve learned of even more email addresses being used.

Modesto seems to be admitting every single Public Record Request made by us  and others in the last several years is incomplete. And now we’re told the city will NOT be going back and supplementing the requests.  They are telling the very people that withheld the information by using private accounts to ‘police’ themselves.  Only one member of the Council, Kristi Ah You,  has stepped up to the plate and placed her emails up for review.

No guidance has been given other that the term ‘city business’. And as City Attorney’s staff has pointed out there is currently NO policy or requirement that Mayor, Council members or city staff use ONLY their government email accounts for city business.  And who had his hand in (wrote the majority) from the beginning when the Modesto City Charter was written? Why George Petrulakis of course.  If you want the rules to favor you, you write the rules.

We always need to keep in mind that the title of City Attorney is misleading.  His title should be Mayor and Council’s attorney because in my opinion he works against the public’s best interest.  He liberally uses Brown Acts exemption clauses and with his silence on other aspects advises them on how to avoid the Brown Act and the best way to mitigate the damage if they are caught.  He should be firmly suggesting to them they need to use ONLY City email accounts and City cell phones.

What or should I say how much are they trying to hide?

Maybe it’s time to go after their text messages too.

Informative article printed in the Bee today from the Orange County Register

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Modesto City Council says business as usual..SPEND…SPEND…SPEND

By Emerson Drake  

Tuesday night the council had the chance to slow down on spending by implementing a freeze on hiring (except for police numbers going from 218 to 240), promotions, and spending but they chose not to.   With the exception of Tony Madrigal, who made a motion supporting the freeze. Unfortunately the motion died for a lack of a second.
 
There were two lengthy closed secession discussions regarding evaluating City Manager Jim Holgersson.  Holgersson’s machinations became public when Fire Chief Slamon resigned to take a job with a Department  one third the size of Modesto’s.  Between forcing the Chief Slamon  to change his mind or else  on accepting grant money and Holgersson’s recently come to light involvement regarding Cecill Russell, Chateau Provence, and Rank Security involving illegal camera placement and electricity theft which was discussed by MID General Manager Greg Salyer at Tuesday’s MID meeting the Council’s tolerance for Holgersson’s antics  may be waning.
 
So the Council intends on spending money we may or may not have And Brandvold said the plan needed more work and with George Petrulakis and the Chamber pulling his strings things just might get a little interesting.

Special Rules For Special People, Cecil Russell and the Chateau Provence

By Emerson Drake  

This falls under the category ‘You Can’t Make This Stuff Up’

Do you think you have friends in high places?   Maybe you do and maybe you don’t, but  Cecil Russell certainly does.  On Friday December 2, 2016 a Modesto Irrigation District employee,  Ms. Queta, called the City of Modesto to inform them cameras had been placed on three street light poles outside Chateau Provence which just happens to be the gated community where Cecil Russell lives.  Ms. Queta said they had been illegally installed and the power was being stolen.

Just as interesting according to MPD Chief Carroll, these cameras can be viewed in real time by Modesto Police.  So without knowing for certain, we can presume Cecil Russell at least helped to make arrangements for cameras to be installed on city light poles using stolen city power. In one of the emails Chief Carroll said he was working with Cecil and the Association and in good faith he believed they (Cecil and the Association) had worked something out with MID.

And people at the City like Mark Murphy, Traffic Operations Engineer, believed they needed to be removed. When the questioning went further Jeff Barnes asked  if anyone took out an encroachment permit. Dan England responded that the city had NOT issued any permits for cameras on the poles. Jeff Barnes then jumped in and told Chief Carroll “We are not planning on touching them.  However MID might since the cameras ware using MID power without paying. MID would be well within their rights to stop the power theft.”

Chief Carroll came back with a lengthy response: “Just to clarify, I was working with the neighborhood association to have this done.  It would be my bad if there were not permits pulled.  I believed we could give approval for the cameras, and we did have a meeting about it 6-8 months ago.  The issue was MID power the association and Cecil Russell I believe had worked something out with MID.  I have contacted them and they will reach out to MID.  As a side note, those cameras are able to be viewed in the PD real time crime center and I believe we should figure out a protocol in conjunction with MID that would allow public / private partnerships if a neighborhood association is willing to purchase cameras.”

So apparently even if you live in far North Modesto where there are very few homeless and live behing high walls and an iron gate you are ‘special’ and the MPD will provide a real time video security watch on your neighborhood.  This watch will be for free and that includes the light poles to mount the cameras and the power to run them, at least if your name is Cecil Russell and you’re the head lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce

 

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