Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Modesto City Council”

City Staff’s SNAFU or is it something Worse? The $2.1 M Boondoggle

By Emerson Drake  

The Council meeting last week 9/12/17 was confusing and disconcerting so lets go over the numbers, so we’re all on the same page.

On 9/25/12 the Council authorized a five year contract with Garrett Thompson for hot patch work (street repair from water meter installation and small water main repairs) for $749,700 per year totaling $3.748 Million. Within two years the city had spent 75% of the money. So on 12/9/14 two years into the contract staff came back and asked for and received another $3.1 Million to be added to the original agreement.

On 12/15/15 the Finance staff increased the purchasing authority to $9.6 Million WITHOUT the Council’s approval.  And last week staff tried to slide a $2.2 Million catch-up/increase on the consent calendar on a week when it was known it was going to be a short meeting because the Council had to be in Riverbank for joint meeting with the Riverbank City Council.

First of all it’s almost the old bait and switch. Staff tells the Council that $3.748 Million will pay for five years of hot patches and then the amount spent goes up 250%.  It wasn’t cost overruns or because of change orders like Tony ‘the clueless one’ Madrigal  wondered.  Yes, Garrett was the low cost bidder but the contract was by the square foot and that price didn’t go up, city staff just kept ordering more patches and spending money that hadn’t been authorized.

Diana Christianson claimed someone had entered erroneous numbers multiple times into the city’s Oracle financial system.  The Oracle system was purchased in 2010 at the cost of $7.4 Million and was supposed to prevent just this kind of problem. And to protect the citizens the questions of whether inducements were offered to make the mistakes or could the missing contract language and oversight be intentional?

Among other questions we have are did staff intentionally put out to bid a RFP that could never cover all the worked scheduled/planned?  Was easier to get Council’s buy in for a much smaller amount than was needed figuring then it would be easy to up the approval in the future? If it was the latter then it worked.

Talk about a lack of trust.    Kristi Ah You asked Mayor Brandvold how the search was coming for an in house auditor. His reply was he’d been working on it the last few weeks. But why the questions about an auditor?  We already have an independent outside firm, Moss Adams, auditing anything they’re asked to audit.  The Council wants someone that reports to them at more than twice the cost and not to the City Manager.  If you don’t trust Joe Lopez, and we don’t, then get rid of him and look outside for someone else.  As an aside you might not want to hire someone that works for the headhunters you hire like you did the last time.

Zoslocki, Kenoyer, and Madrigal all voted for the second expansion of the contract and have been there during the boondoggle.  All of them seemed concerned but appeared to be willing to vote to pay the $306,000 that night (but only Kenoyer was willing to verbalize her thoughts).  Doug Ridenour made some of his usual comments that he doesn’t believe in emotional decisions or feelgood proposals but never actually said what those might be.

Zoslocki claimed he talks with respect and doesn’t let emotion enter into his thinking.  That would have drawn a laugh from the audience the night of the General Plan discussion after he melted down and verbally attacked a speaker who showed Zoslocki was hiding his council communications from the public.  And talking about Kenoyer, there is still the video where she rants “If you work for the city, I’m the boss of you”.

The bottom line is it doesn’t take 10 to 12 weeks to discover how and when the erroneous changes were inputted.  It doesn’t take 10-12 weeks to know who was involved.  You don’t get a contract from the city and not know how much it’s worth. For trying to slide this by on consent, Joe Lopez should be gone.  Zoslocki, Kenoyer, and Madrigal by their actions and disconnect don’t deserve to be on the Council.  All three would like nothing better than to have this be swept under the rug until after the elections. And last but not least Garrett Thompson should not be allowed to bid in the current RFP.   People need to be held accountable starting with our elected officials.

 

 

 

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EyeonModesto is coming to the Airwaves Near You

By Emerson Drake  

In order to help the residents of Modesto and Stanislaus County stay better informed  about what is going on in local government and maybe even more importantly, why it’s happening, we’ll be going on the air on 93.3 FM KPHD Modesto and 104.9 FM KGIG  Salida.

 

This answers the burning question of  “Who Will Tell The People?”   With,  “We will tell the people.”

 

We’ll be interviewing on air, politicians and candidates for you to get to know and giving you our honest opinion supported by public record requests and actually being at or viewing the MID,  City Council,  and County Board meetings, and talking with our elected officials.

 

A big Thanks to Brad Johnson and everyone involved in bringing the show to a radio near you.  Details to follow.

Should Modesto’s General Fund be Used For Monopoly Money?

By Emerson Drake  

The Modesto City Council wants to buy an entire city block downtown for $3.1 Million dollars. We don’t have money for more police officers, fire equipment, maintaining our city tree program, or proper care for our homeless population BUT we can afford to buy a block of downtown property?
The Northern and Southern boundaries are F and E Streets and the East and West by 10th and 9th. Now the city isn’t going to play landlord so they’ll probably hire Benchmark for property management.
It’s just another game of insider monopoly. The local NAI Benchmark is managed by, yes you guesses it, Ryan Swehla and Joe Muratore of Modesto’s infamous NSP2 program where Joe had to payback $58,000 or be charged with a felony.
Of course it’s being powered by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s developer connection.
We can’t help but point out Councilman Mani Grewal, best known for renting to massage parlors involved in prostitution and having his property used for a raucous  car sideshow in Wood Colony, is campaigning hard for this idea to be accepted.  According to those we’ve spoken to, Bill ‘the broker’ Zoslocki is pushing for approval also but couldn’t be reached in time for comment.
We think Modesto has better places to spend $3.1M  don’t you?
A special workshop, today, before the meeting?  What’s the rush?

AGENDA

City of Modesto

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

Tuesday September 05, 2017, at 3:30 p.m.

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

Another Back Door Land Deal by the Modesto City Council

By Emerson Drake    

Mayor Ted Brandvold seems intent on pushing a land deal between the city and Stanislaus Food Products at Tuesday night’s meeting of the City Council BEFORE  the public can vet it. Remember the last time the Council was in a big hurry? It was the land deal behind the new courthouse. The city lost Millions of dollars because they over paid to one of the politically connected  land owners.
 
When asked why the usual vetting process was skipped the Mayor claimed he didn’t know ( ask George Petrulakis land use attorney and puppet master of the Mayor.) 
 
Then of course Councilman Bill Zoslocki posturing claiming he hasn’t reviewed it yet most likely he’ll go along to get along. But it will provide him probable deniability if something goes south.
Stanislaus Foods is keeping quiet and is willing to let the fix take its course. And the rest of the Council?   Well,  their just the rest of the Council unable or,  more likely, as usual,  unwilling to buck George and the Chamber of Commerce.
The bottom line is there isn’t any reason for a big rush to make a decision and every time the Modesto City Council pulls a stunt like this it’s the Citizens that get stuck with the bill. Modesto’s special interest groups get richer and the taxpayers get poorer…everybody knows.

City Council Says Property Managers Must Act As Police Officers Or Pay The Price

By Emerson Drake  
Modesto Police say NO Warnings will be issued from now on regarding illegal fireworks, just citations costing a $1,000 a ticket. Last year when the Modesto Police Department in conjunction with the City Council, wrote and passed the law the city blew the paperwork implementing the fines for those that shoot off illegal fireworks and or  for property owners and managers that live on the property.  And as usual instead of the City Attorney catching the timing issue in advance it was after the fact that the timing legality reared its head. And again as usual the Council needed a fall guy and Police Chief Galen Carroll stepped up to the plate and took one for the team.
 
When originally written the law said, whether you lived there or not, property owners and or managers could and would be fined and that went for ALL property owners and managers.   BUT as usual in Modesto, the “BIG BOYS” complained and were granted an exemption. So the more property you own or manage the less likely you would get stuck paying a fine for the actions of your tenants. And yes as usual it was the Modesto Chamber of Commerce that screamed  the loudest to insist the Council exempt the “FAT CAT” owners
 
Now we don’t agree with fining property owners or managers for the actions of their tenants since it’s the police who have the power to control events. It just seems like they are pushing their responsibility onto others who don’t have the legal authority to enforce laws. Maybe both the City and Police should be held accountable for any violence or retribution against property manages or landowners that may occur when they try to enforce the law

Is the Modesto City Council Just a Stepping Stone for Some?

By Emerson Drake  

We all remember how Kristin Olsen abandoned the Modesto City Council in 2011 when she won the State Representative position after being reelected to the City Council just 8 months before.  After all Olsen was known for loving public money by keeping her position as top communicator at Stan State throughout her membership on the Council and of course she kept her well paid position at Stan State until the last possible minute before being sworn in as State Representative.

And then Councilman Bill Zoslocki decided to try a preliminary temperature test of state legislative interest in himself.  Unfortunately for us, citizens of Modesto,  no one was willing to donate money to his candidacy. Maybe it was his roll as Building Industry Association President, construction company owner,  developer and profiteer associated with Modesto’s Village I debacle.

Now it appears we have another Council member chomping at the bit to run for a state wide position.  Councilman Mani Grewal has been whispering in friendly ears about running for the State Senate.  His only claim to fame that I’m aware of is him sending George Petrulakis the latest financial reports he could get his hands on when George was creating Modesto’s budget for Mayor Brandvold.  And before anyone one asks, yes it was discovered through Public Record Requests.  What we do know about him are his close ties to the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, the local Republican party, and more specifically, last but not least, behind-the-scenes string pulling master manipulator/ land use attorney George Petrulakis.

 

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.

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.

The City of Modesto Treats Businesses Better Than it does Its Residents.

By Emerson Drake  modestoarch (1)

Can you imagine being behind more than 30 days in your water/sewer bill what Modesto’s reaction would be?   Yep, it would cut off your service. And before the speculation begins I’ve never had my water cut off. As anyone knows that has owed the city money they can be pretty cold hearted.
Now imagine you have collected money that you owe to Modesto but refuse to pay them.  What would the city do? Well if you are a business absolutely nothing. Budgetel Inn on McHenry operated by United Resorts LLC has owed Modesto lodging taxes (transient occupancy tax) since August of 2008. That’s right 2008 and they finally got around to trying to collect in earnest  and started proceedings October 29, 2014.   Modesto Tax Administrator, Gloriette Genereux ruled in January of 2015 UR LLC owed $106,623.50 in outstanding TOT and penalties.
Since then the Motel has played the lawyer game and stretched out the proceedings by mailing challenges to the wrong party and agreeing to pay, then failing to honor its promises.  All of this comes from tonight’s Council agenda Item 14. agendaitem145316  and agendaitem1425316
Budgetel has been bargaining in bad faith from the beginning in our opinion.  They’ve held on to the City’s ‘OUR’ money since 2008 and it’s time for it to come to an end.  Unless of course they’ll let residents wait 8 years to pay their bills like they do businesses.

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