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.
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.
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.
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
Mayor Ted Brandvold and those who funded his campaign in the developer community are ready to place their grand plan for expansion in motion. They’ve already announced their intentions to lower building impact fees to developers which won’t lower prices to consumers but will pad the pockets of developers. Then in their minds the next logical step is to try to steal land that Wood Colony and Salida have been trying to protect. Developers have been placed on the Alliance Board of Directors and the Modesto City Council to assure us this is the best course, but since these same developers own properties in these areas, Bill Lyons and Modesto Councilman Mani Grewal in Wood Colony and Dr.Stephen Endsley in Salida, how can we expect them to do anything other than to provide support to their own cause.
Obviously they can’t be trusted but who will stop them? The money behind Brandvold’s election campaign owns and or controls property outside of Modesto so infill is just given lip service. Endsley, who when heard of last was intent on building a garbage burner on Modesto’s south side, has been itching to develop his property north of Kiernan inside the Salida plan. And Mani Grewal and Bill Lyons own property in the Dakota triangle and so Brandvold and his supporters want to ignore the many people that spoke to the Modesto Planning Commission and go back to the good old days where developers rule. just like they did during the Village 1 debacle. It will be no surprise to see City Staff finding reasons to support the developers cause because, after all, they want to keep their jobs.
Expect the same people that wanted to sell our water to San Francisco like the Chamber’s Janice Keating and Chamber lobbyist Cecil Russell, to tell the public how this will save Modesto and bring quality jobs. Except Lyons wants to build retail, which provides minimum wage jobs, Cecil waxes almost poetically about warehouse jobs in the Chamber’s monthly magazine and Endsley just craves action. After the good doctor received his check from MID’s ratepayers for $1.2 Million for not building his garbage burner, he’s been after Salida’s zoned business park which curiously enough surrounds Gregori High School. We’ve even documented where Union Bank is fronting for Ryan Swehla and Benchmark in the sale of property north of Kiernan.
Recognize any of these names? Craig Lewis, Brad Hawn, Chris Murphy, George Petrulakis, Tom Nielsen, Ron Jackson, Dennis Wilson, Chris Esther, Kole Seifkin, Ron Ehrke, Mark Buckley, Warren Kirk, Steve Madison, Jim Mortensen, Jeff Burda, Randy Clark, Linda Sadler, Becky Meredith, Bill Zoslocki, Joan Clendenin, Steve Rank. They’re all members of the Chamber land use and Transportation Committee. Expect to see any and all of these people coming out in the near future in favor of not only reverting back to old land use plans but for a massive, expansive, land grab. Many of these same people already spoke in front of the Planning Commission in favor of extending Modesto’s sphere of influence all the way to the river to our West and North. Nothing like building homes on some of the worlds richest and best soil for farming.
Developers even managed to place Brad Hawn on LAFCO so don’t expect organizations that are supposed to protect against SPRAWL to protect us from the developer’s greed. The voters, understandably, were frustrated by former Mayor Marsh’s policies but as we’ve already warned, we’ve jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Mayor Marsh and those who supported him are responsible for lighting the fuse and will now act surprised that the developers’s power keg of GREED and SPRAWL goes off.
And what will the rest of Modesto’s City Council do? Our guess is hey’ll admire the Emperor’s new clothes.