Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Adam Lindgren”

S.N.A.F.U. The Modesto City Council

By Emerson Drake  

Situation Normal All Fouled Up otherwise known as SNAFU,  okay I admit one of the words usually used is harsher, those having served in the military understand, but this version will do for our conversation.  The Modesto City Council sometimes reminds me of the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.  Tuesday’s early meeting started out at 3:00 PM for a workshop on choosing what options to offer the Citizens of Modesto to move to even year elections because of low voter turnout during the odd years.

We couldn’t attend the early meeting so we watched it live online.  The first thing that jumped off the screen at you was that the people that work in the little room behind the screen, yes there are literally one or two people working behind the screen you see when looking at the dais to make the video possible,  thought the date was June, 3 2014, because that was on the screen the entire time during the meeting.

What many people are unaware of is the Mayor and Council have an agendized meeting on the day before the regular Tuesday night meetings.  These meetings are open to the public and any and all questions the Council, Mayor, or public have are answered.  So when the Council started asking questions in a befuddled manner I was taken back to the John Gunderson days when coming prepared for a meeting was a waste of time because John wouldn’t have a clue what the meeting was going to be about.  And many of the Council members, Doug Ridenour and Bill Zoslocki especially, couldn’t seem to understand the choices being offered.  Mani Grewal was more concerned that they choose an option that would allow him to serve as many years as the ones elected this year.  Strange for a man that was seeking and accepting donations to run for the California Legislature this year and will most likely do so at the next opportunity.

To make a long story short they voted 4 to 3 for ◦ Option 2: Place proposal on November 2018 ballot to consider one-time extension
of four-year Council terms to five years for Council terms beginning in 2015 and 2017 .  So yes, just like MID, they are awarding themselves 5 year terms, subject to the public’s approval, to allow the public to vote as required by the Modesto Charter to make the necessary changes.

But why didn’t they offer us more options than to approve or disapprove of just one idea?  They had four to choose from so why not allow Modesto’s voters a real choice?  Why not include Option 3: Place proposal on November 2018 ballot to approve one-time reduction of
four-year terms to three years for Council terms beginning in 2019 and 2021 would seem like a choice people might make, but maybe that is an answer in itself.

They also suggested they could let voters choose to not change the charter and wait to be sued.  Funny that they didn’t mention that when Modesto choose to ignore the law regarding district elections versus at large elections and it cost taxpayers $3 Million in legal fees to defend at large elections.  And yes, we the  taxpayers,  were finally allowed to capitulate and move to district voting.  Interestingly enough the same people that fought changing to districts were the same ones behind allowing only one option (can you hear me George Petrulakis)?  Those who follow politics know Modesto’s politicians rely on the voters notoriously short memories.  Even the vaunted Modesto Bee with their limited institutional memory has overlooked this.

And during the early session the Council voted to appoint Acting City Manager Joe Lopez to act as their property negotiator for two properties.  The problem was that they hadn’t agendized this.  Later when challenged the City Attorney claimed it wasn’t necessary to have it on the agenda since it was such a small item.  We keep looking through the Brown Act to find this exemption but haven’t been able to find it.

When the City Council, with the help of the City Attorney start playing fast and loose with the rules and the law it’s Modesto’s voters and taxpayers that pay the price.

 

Advertisements

The Missing Council Video

By Emerson Drake  

On Tuesday 8/15 the entire Modesto City Council met for ethics training.  It was a Brown Act meeting which meant there was a published agenda and the public was allowed not only to attend but to speak during the public comment part of the meeting.  Now usually these types of meetings are held in a much smaller room than the Council chambers but since all of the decision makers in the City’s staff including about a dozen members of the Modesto Police Dept. were required to attend, it was held in Council Chambers.  They don’t have video capability in the smaller rooms but obviously they have it in Council Chambers.

But as you’ll note unlike other council meetings they not only haven’t posted the video but are actually refusing to make it available for streaming even though they recorded it.

Council Meeting 8/15/2017 Agendapdf|Packet|Minutes
Council Meeting 8/8/2017 Agendapdf|Packet|Minutes|Video
Council Meeting 8/2/2017 Agendapdf|Packet|Minutes|Video

First we called the City Clerk’s office and requested that they make the meeting video available but they claim that it was never streamed and that they don’t make workshops available.   I explained that after being at the meeting for about one hour I then went home and we watched the rest of it live on our  computer.  They said okay but they weren’t supposed to stream it.  They are making the video available to any staff that missed the meeting at no cost.  But the public?  Well, we are kept in the dark and being sent the bill for the privilege.  We’ve called the City Manager’s office and the Mayor’s office but so far they haven’t  responded to our queries.

So what’s the big deal?  Well, not only was it a tutorial for the elected office holders and city staff BUT it was also a tutorial for the public to let them know their rights and what to expect from public record requests.

And for the record despite the taxpayers paying for the elected and city staff that packed council chambers some still could not get there for the meeting to start on time.  So Mr. City Attorney, you may have blamed the three minute public comment period for running 18 minutes overtime but that wasn’t the truth, was it? (It was one of Adam’s final comments that shows we were actually listening at home long after departing the meeting)

MINUTES

 

City of Modesto

 CITY COUNCIL WORKSHOP
Chambers, Basement Level
Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th Street
Modesto, California

Tuesday August 15, 2017, at 9:00 a.m.

 

City of Modesto

 SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Council Conference Room, Basement Level
Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th Street
Modesto, California

Tuesday August 15, 2017, at 11:30 a.m.

 

CITY COUNCIL WORKSHOP
 

Roll Call – Present: Councilmembers Ah You (arrived at 9:45 a.m.), Grewal, Kenoyer, Madrigal, Ridenour, Zoslocki, Mayor Brandvold

Absent: None

 
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD

 

  • Emerson Drake spoke regarding private emails, an email to him dated March 22, 2017 regarding 14,000 “hits” in response to his Public Records Act request, and cameras in parking lots.
1. AB1234 Ethics Training Workshop (Funding Source: Not Applicable)
  City Attorney; Adam Lindgren, 577-5288, alindgren@modestogov.com 

 

ACTION:  City Attorney Lindgren and Assistant City Attorney Sanchez conducted the AB 1234 Ethics Training Workshop.

MATTERS TOO LATE FOR THE AGENDA

 

None.

 

CLOSED SESSION

 

CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATORS:

(Pursuant to Section 54956.8 of the Government Code)

Property:                     Property between 9th and 10th Street, and E Street and F Street,

located in Modesto, CA; APN: 106-044-005

Property Owners:        Victor Martinez/Victor & Iris Martinez TRS

Negotiating Parties:

For City:          Cynthia Birdsill, Director of Community & Economic Development for City of

Modesto

Adam U. Lindgren, City Attorney for City of Modesto

For Property Owners:             Larry Killian, Real Estate Broker

Under Negotiation:     Possible purchase

 

 

ADJOURNMENT

 

ACTION: This meeting adjourned at 11:10 a.m

The City Attorney, Adam Lindgren, Just Can’t Get It Right

By Emerson Drake  

When it comes to making important decisions that effect the public, City Attorney Adam Lindgren often falls more that just a bit short, personally it’s my opinion he fails miserably.

Back when the City Council was going through the Wood colony debacle Adam Lindgren interpreted case law to say  that signs could not be shown in the Council Chambers and anyone doing so could and would  be removed.  This was enforced throughout the meeting until a Modesto citizen, Gaetana Drake had the chance to speak.  She cited specific case law relating to Adam’s decision. After further review as they say, Adam changed his decision and signs, which had been ruled free speech by the courts,  were resentfully allowed to be displayed  accompanied by a cheer from the 200 plus attendees.  At another City Council meeting regarding Wood Colony the city had allowed people to speak and then significantly changed what they were going to be voting on.  At first they refused to allow people that had already spoken to address the change.  Then once again a Modesto citizen, Gaetana Drake, pointed out case law which specifically say they had to allow it to be addressed once they significantly changed the motion.  You would think this would be City Attorney 101.

Starting to see a pattern?  We’ve recently discussed the 14,000 emails the city wants to keep out of the public and they actually started making up new policy and law.  Here is part of a follow-up email from the City where they try to charge for processing the same emails they avoided using in Public Record Requests.

The City Clerk’s office also communicated with you and asked you to narrow the requests in a manner that describes identifiable records which may be located by City staff with reasonable efforts. You informed the City that you do not wish to narrow your requests. Without more focused requests, the City considers these requests to be overly burdensome and cannot process them any further, without further action on your part, for the reasons stated below. Should you wish to contact our office and narrow your requests, and/or submit a deposit as explained below, we will be more than happy to work with you to provide the information you seek.

The City has determined that where staff time and expense necessary to respond to such broad and voluminous requests is not reasonable, the public interest in not wasting taxpayer resources to process the request clearly outweighs any public interest to respond to such requests, particularly when no attempt by you has been made focus the requests.  (Gov. Code section 6255; American Civil Liberties Union Foundation v. Deukmejian 32 Cal.3d 440, at 452-453.)

In order to begin processing this request, the City requires a $250.00 deposit, as printing and data extraction time (10 cents per page) is necessary to ensure that privileged, private, or personnel-related exempt records are not released in violation of the law.  Upon remittance of the deposit, the first 2,500 pages will be reviewed and then all non-exempt public records from those pages will be available for your inspection.  Additional deposits would be required to continue processing this request.

So in effect the City Attorney Adam Lindgren want $1,400 to process the 14,000 emails he should have been including all along in Public Record Requests. $1,400 in data extraction time?  And if the money isn’t paid in advance they processing of emails would stop!

It’s not only illegal  it’s unethical and more importantly it isn’t what the law says.    When we started this Public Record Request(PPR) for the private emails the Council has been using we were told the total email numbers were probably few and the topics inconsequential.  If, when they say a few, they mean 14,000 you have to wonder what inconsequential means.

But there’s more:  The 14,000 emails are only those on the City’s servers. Any emails sent from private email accounts to private email accounts are NOT included in the 14,000, and the city refuses to supply the email addresses saying the Council members will be given guidelines to follow and they will be going through their own emails to see what is relevant and what isn’t.

So the Mayor and Council that claim to be completely transparent and yet are using private email accounts, to conduct city business, are now going to police themselves?

Most reasonable people if asked would say that’s inconceivable. And to borrow a line from the Princess Bride, I don’t think that word means what you think it means,  especially when it comes to Modesto politics.

City of Modesto Knowingly Violates State Labor Code

By Emerson Drake   modestoarch (1)

On September 23, 2014 a citizen of Modesto stood up during the public comment period of the Modesto City Council and asked if applicants for jobs with the city were going to be required to provide passwords or sign-on to their social media accounts. The concern is that there are questions prospective employers are not allowed to ask applicants such as their religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, race,  sex, and disability status.  Some of this protected information is easily obtained when looking at someone’s social media accounts.

Modesto Police Chief Galen Carrol was asked to respond.  He replied that it was important to see what an applicant is posting and gave as examples, excessive drinking, nude photos of themselves and others, illegal drug use among others.  While we shared some of the Chief’s concerns, it is illegal to ask an applicant to sign into their social media accounts in the presence of a background investigator or hiring supervisor.

California Labor Code 980 section 3-a & b  Passed 9-27-12 effective 1-1-13

LABOR CODE, SECTION 980

980. (a)  As used in this chapter, “social media” means an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet web site profiles or locations.

(b)  An employer shall not require or request an employee or applicant for employment to do any of the following:

(1) Disclose a username or password for the purpose of accessing personal social media.

(2)  Access personal social media in the presence of the employer.

 

Oops….so the Chief is blatantly violating state labor code and he dmitted, no flaunted it, in front of his boss, Interim City Manager Jim Holgersson, and the City Attorney Adam Lindgren.  The City Attorney has been found wanting in several decisions he has made and actions he failed to stop….from violation of free speech rights (signs in the council chamber ato not allowing a second public comment after a proposal has been changed), and now he’s either clueless or complacent…we’ll let the reader decide.

On Monday the Council will interview Jim Holgersson for the permanent job of City Manager.  It’s our point of view that he isn’t up to the task due to failing to protect the rights of Modesto’s citizens from intrusive and illegal questioning by the city staff he currently oversees and the companies he’s outsourced the background checks to.

On April 16, 2013, a legislative review committee considered the potential need for a law enforcement exemption to Labor Code 980, but decided it would probably be unconstitutional and chose not to make such an exception.

Mayor and City Attorney Create Imaginary City Council Policy

By Emerson Drake gmarsh

In recent weeks we’ve made several attempts to contact the interim City Attorney for Modesto,  Adam Lindgren,  we’ve left detailed messages but Mr. Lindgren refuses to return our calls.  The first time was before the Jan. 7th meeting of the City Council to discuss the Mayor’s illegal refusal to allow those who had spoken at the Dec. 3rd meeting regarding the General Plan Amendment to speak again despite the fact that the proposal had changed significantly.  We left messages explaining the legal ramifications in an attempt to head this miscarriage of the Brown Act off at the pass. Unfortunately the City Attorney had been given the task of ‘finding’ a way to keep the people from speaking again so it became necessary to educate both he and the Mayor in public. Fortunately one of our contributors quoted the case on point (Friant Water Authority v. County of Madera) and eventually the Mayor relented and allowed those who spoke at the Dec.3rd meeting to speak again.

The second time it’s regarding the Mayors threat to remove anyone holding signs from the meeting. Admittedly it was a childish threat made in anger.  We called Mr. Lindgren, who seems to ALWAYS be out of the office,  several times but he refuses to return my call.   So as is our way, we made a Public Record Request of the city for the applicable City Charter amendment that would allow the Mayor to  take away the First Amendment rights of the attendees. The Supreme Court has ruled signs are “free speech.”   Here are the eleven pages the City responded with. If you can find where this document allows the Mayor to threaten to throw citizens out of the meeting for carrying signs please let us know.City_Council_Organization_and_Procedure (2)

Mr. Mayor, until you finally corrected yourself towards the end of the Jan.7th  meeting you violated the law,   please don’t do it Tuesday night.

Post Navigation