The following is a letter written to the Modesto City Council by a citizen of Modesto concerned about the direction the Council has taken. It’s an important read so please do so.
The letter says it all so we’ll add nothing to it.
The following is a letter written to the Modesto City Council by a citizen of Modesto concerned about the direction the Council has taken. It’s an important read so please do so.
The letter says it all so we’ll add nothing to it.
In today’s Editorial the Modesto Bee’s Editorial Board endorsed Bill Zoslocki for the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.They made statements that I will only refer to as cringe worthy. Here are a few if our thoughts regarding their decisions.
It’s interesting that the Bee refers to Bill ‘The Profiteer’ Zoslocki as a builder and yet fails to mention his roll as a major architect in the Village I debacle. It was the biggest bait and switch in Modesto’s history ever perpetrated.
WE shouldn’t overlook the loss of taxpayer funds in the lowering of builders fees which instead of going to the city ended up in the builder/developers pockets.
As far as Zoslocki being levelheaded during council meetings we’ve seen him come unglued and personally attack a member of the public who dared to file for a spot on a public committee. When it comes to integrity we’ve witnessed Zoslocki support a witch hunt of Modesto City staff. He eventually supported the paying of $225,000 in hush money to keep the truth of his involvement from coming out
Here’s a quote from Bill Zoslocki from 2002 where he’s scrambling to blame the city officials for the Village One debacle instead of those like him who were pulling their strings. Bill Zoslocki, a Village I developer, said “the city made several decisions in 1997 that helped spur construction. The city eliminated some parks from the plan and shifted the cost for some planned roads to adjacent property owners. Both moves reduced the fees, and the different approach to roads made developers feel more comfortable.”
Yet The Bee gives the edge to Bill ‘The Profiteer’ Zoskocki. I’m wondering why. Aren’t you?
It’s a strange world we live in.
We made two Public Record Requests (PRR). The object of the first one was to get information from the City of Modesto regarding how the City Attorney obfuscates the amounts Modesto pays for legal fees in general, including those we have to pay to his firm, Meyers Nave. City Attorney Adam Lindgren had his para legal respond (see accompanying picture) by scrambling their response. Adam took exception to my characterizing his response as ‘scrambled’ at the 8/13/19 Council meeting. We can only presume he prefers the term ‘randomizing.’
Each of these entries is him cannibalizing parts of budgets of other departments to use for legal expenses. In other words he gets to spend other departments’ money for his legal costs without it being reflected against his office. He likes to say this has been an ongoing practice but this basically was initiated soon after his firm took over as City Attorney. So lets review…stealing from other department’s budgets for legal fees is a “past practice” that he started when he and his firm took over being City Attorney in 2013. He justifies it by simply calling it past practice.
Another interesting observation is that his department received the files in chronological order but as you can tell he made analyzing the costs more difficult by his, and we’ll use the term Adam apparently prefers here, ‘randomizing’ their response. This picture is shown as an example of the technique he employed and not the information inside the files themselves.
His response to the he second PRR is more of his modus operandi (read method or technique). It was a simple request designed to discover when he knew Monica Houston brought the problem of purchasing property around Rt. 132 to light and when he recused himself from the discussion like an ethical attorney would.
From: Dana Sanchez <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A response to the Bee’s Editorial Board’s “The timing is right for Modesto to dramatically improve downtown“.
Once the Unicorn Glitter and Fairy Dust settles to the ground and stops blinding us we’re reminded of why Modesto can’t dream about having nice things like a vibrant downtown. The short simple answer is our business community and the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.
We witnessed what happened when they decided where to build the new courthouse. Greedy businessmen using backroom deals and the Chamber who has controlled the Council for years decided it was more important to over pay for the land to make a few people richer than to pick a more logical location like the former Modesto Bee building.
What we were left with was land we overpaid for and will have a concrete edifice (courthouse) that will always be empty at night and on weekends. That isn’t much of a draw or overly appealing for the tourists and visitors they claim they want to attract.
That different larger funding source that was mentioned by the Bee Editorial staff was, YOUR Tax Dollar$ and mine, since 34% of DoMo’s budget is comes from the public trough.
Now bringing more people downtown would be considered a good thing especially by the high priced restaurants that pay minimum wage to the vast majority of their staffs. Now these workers can’t afford to live downtown or in Modesto for that matter but hey the ruling class needs serfs to feed and comfort them. Please read their Published opinion in the Bee titled Timing is right for Modesto to dramatically improve downtown
On October 1, 2017 Pastor Glenn Berteau took a few minutes from Sunday’s service to introduce lay pastor Stu Gilman and to ask for the congregations’ support and vote for Stu Gilman. Pastor Berteau reminded the congregation that Stu is a personal friend of his and a friend of The House along with being a board member of The House. Stu made a promise to the congregation that day. He said for years they had been overpaying for electricity and he would get them a rebate based on how much money they had spent on electricity.
Stu was subsequently elected to the Modesto Irrigation District Board and MID was facing a law suit from ratepayers. He and the rest of the MID Board decided to commission a Cost of Service Study from Bartle Wells Associates and MRW & Associates to defend against the pending lawsuit.
Now to the meat and potatoes. The ‘report’ basically said apples were oranges and up is down. It’s an agreed upon fact the water delivery side was facing a $17 Million shortfall every year. And the electric ratepayers have been overcharged to pay for steeply discounted electric rates to large companies (read below cost in some cases), to pay for the water losses and to buy a percentage in the natural gas powered Lodi plant. The Lodi plant is where their profits come from and are called ‘discretionary funds’ by the report. The report states if MID’s Board has a policy they can point to that allows them to spend the discretionary funds as they see fit, that could include cars, boats. subsidizing farmers and large businesses including Gallo.
Stu Gilman and the rest of the Board voted to support the report and if it holds up in court it removes any possibility for the congregation and quite honestly the rest of us ratepayers to not only get a rebate but to get an even break in MID’s repressive rate structure. So when the rubber met the road Stu supported MID and abandoned his congregation and the rest of the ratepayers. Stu had his chance to stand up and keep his word to us but he showed his true colors and instead became just another one of them. We had hope and gave him rope, and look what he did with it.
One of the issues is the essence of religion is submission to authority and for supporting Stu Gilman, Pastor Glenn must accept some responsibility for the outcome. People expect their Pastors, Ministers, Priests, and Spiritual Advisers to look out for their best interests when they demonstrate their support for candidates or ballot measures from the pulpit. As happens often in life the people that need the breaks the most get screwed but when it happens to you, by the leaders of your church, you should be asking questions. Lots of questions.
And your belief in their answers is discretionary.
By Emerson Drake
We’ve learned Modesto’s auditor apprised members of the Modesto City Council’s Audit Committee in a memo on July 19th of her concerns that the City Attorney and the company Meyers Nave had overstepped their bounds by misrepresenting themselves in SR 132 eminent domain legal services. The memo was sent to Mayor Ted Brandvold and Councilmen Mani Grewal and Douglas Ridenour.
That’s when the scheme was created to implement a cover-up of the alleged malfeasance by Meyers Nave, the company Modesto has contracted for legal services, which supplies Adam Lindgren as Modesto’s City Attorney. Less than two months after Modesto hired Monica Houston as the City’s Auditor and just weeks after the memo was sent to the City staff; City Manager Joe Lopez and Attorney Adam Lindgren implemented a series of job performance evaluations in secret (closed sessions) supported by Council members Bill Zoslocki, Doug Ridenour, Mani Grewal, and Jenny Kenoyer The City Attorney demanded they go into closed sessions for the evaluations. For those unaware Council members can’t reveal to the public what is said during closed sessions. It’s our understanding that four and possibly more closed sessions were scheduled. But obviously and according to their plan, we don’t know what transpired but we doubt it was hugs and smiles. Probably just the opposite (acrimonious with hostile overtones) since they are trying to silence Monica.
In an article in the Bee dated Oct 10th by Rosalio Ahumada, the City Council meeting was detailed quite well except at the time he and the rest of us weren’t aware of the memo behind some of Ted Brandvold’s and Kristi Ah You’s comments. During the Council meeting, about 1 hour and 19 minutes, Mayor Brandvold suggested documents were being falsified by city staff. If the documents that the Auditor has don’t match the documents the city now has or any falsification is present then heads should roll starting with the City Attorney and City manager for suborning the falsification or alteration of city documents. If you listen to the council meeting when Mani comes back in you hear lots of static. We’ve been told before the interference is caused by someone’s phone being on. Mani was the only one that left the dais. You have to wonder who he felt the need to call for instructions. But there’s more…
In the memo Houston includes actions by Meyer Nave of supplier favoritism including no bid contracts. Also included are suggestions of fraud, waste and abuse in the assigning of contracts. These charges could expose Modesto to financial loss.
There have long been questions about the large sums of money Modesto is spending for legal fees. We are aware lawyers are expensive but having a real City Attorney is cost effective compared to outside council/firm is extremely expensive. We and others have submitted Public Record Requests truing to find out just how much Modesto pays in legal fees but to this point the items provided by the city are so redacted it makes them almost useless. They black out so much information it’s almost impossible to tell what services the invoices are paying for. Also coming into question is the assigning of legal contracts. Is Meyers Nave receiving quid pro quo for their assigning lucrative contracts for city business? What are they hiding?
All things considered it would seem we have a Sacramento legal firm adding to their bottom line using questionable legal means at our expense and they, with the help of the inept City Manager and a few members of the City Council, are willing to orchestrate a the firing of anyone who stands in their way. Why is it when someone steps forward to warn the City Council of problems they get shown the door? When will Modesto start working for ALL of the people who live here and not just special interest groups that quite often don’t ?
More food for thought: Meyers Nave is council for four other cities in Stanislaus County which would give them a large power block on StanCog and Stanislaus LAFCO or Local Agency Formation Commission. Before your eyes glaze over LAFCO has the final say on cities wanting to expand and develop. In Modesto they enabled a new area of Beard Industrial to avoid paying Modesto user fees which was against their policy until Modesto special interests intervened. So we not only provide below cost subsidized electricity we don’t charge them the extra six percent user tax that you and I pay for electricity, sewer and water.
By Emerson Drake
Duplicitousness-Given to or marked by deliberate deceptiveness in behavior or speech.
Mayor Brandvold speaks out of both sides of his mouth and the uninformed Modesto electorate doesn’t know the difference. In today’s paper (Monday 5/28) Modesto’s Mayor Ted Brandvold endorses Janice Keating for the Board of Supervisors for District 5. He talks about Janice’s top priority being the homeless and specifically about her ‘mobilizing the community’ to establish a homeless shelter.
Now the funniest thing about this is Brandvold is the Chamber of Commerce’s/DoMo’s (downtown Modesto organization) mouthpiece in stopping the shelter from being placed on Stanislaus Foods property. He constantly suggests that Stan Foods is the wrong place for a shelter. He suggests that somewhere out on Hackett Road, presumably around the Sheriff’s office would be better. But why spend the money for a shelter no one will use? There isn’t ready transportation to and from Hackett Rd. There are no facilities, no anything, but that is exactly why the Mayor and Chamber want to ship these people out of town. Out of sight out of mind.
The sad part is the 60 bed low barrier shelter was to be for families, people with pets and people needing a place to temporarily store their belongings while they have the opportunity to shower. It wasn’t meant for the mentally ill or addicts but the elitist segments of our business community don’t care about anything except getting rid of what they see as disposable people.
It comes as no surprise that Brandvold would support Keating since both politicians have the same political strategist/money man – George Petrulakis. The spokesman for the Chamber/DoMo could just as easily been Councilmen Bill Zoslocki, Doug Ridenour, or Mani Grewal. But none of these except for Mani have the strong George Petrulakis connection. But Mani is busy masquerading as a Democrat so he stepped aside. Bill is maneuvering for his next position with the County and Doug wants to be Mayor like his brother was but George is intent on making sure Ted gets another election cycle.
But back to the beginning. Brandvold is allegedly supporting Keating, because of her accomplishments with the homeless community but she has has accomplished nothing because of his attacking the homeless shelter over and over. But hey, that’s the duplicitousness of Modesto politics.
Janice isn’t saving our city. She’s just an empty hollow promise from another Modesto politician designed to make you think something is being accomplished when in actuality it’s nothing more than a mirage designed to make us take another bite of sand.
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.
Prior City Councils helped to guide us through the recession created by the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Recently we’ve been faced with the need to chart a new course for Modesto. Unfortunately the current council seems to be taking a step backward. In the last four years we’ve had transparency replaced with obfuscation and thriftiness with a spend-it-like-you’ve-got-it mentality. The most tenured council members are Bill Zoslocki, Jenny Kenoyer, and Tony Madrigal and they just happen to be up for re-election.
No Council oversight: City staff has run amuck with contracts. An example is with the Garrett Thompson contract for soft patch, first being signed in 2012, then being doubled in 2014, then tripled from its original numbers in 2016, and the most recent increase was without Council approval. And Acting City Manager Joe Lopez, tried to slip it in under the radar under a consent item at a recent Council meeting. He blamed it on human error and accepted no responsibility.
Most recently we’ve been informed about a second contract where we paid $426,452 more than the contract called for. Again… no real answer as to why this happened.
Should this surprise us? Probably not since Joe Lopez says more of these financial bombshells will be coming. When will they be coming? After the election.
Now they want to buy a city block: The senior three council members, Zoslocki, Kenoyer, and Madrigal, all want to but a city block for $3.1 Million. They want to use money (steal it would be more accurate) that earlier councils from 1998 to 2008, and we the taxpayers put aside, to build a fleet maintenance facility. A facility we need since the one we were using was on the land we overpaid for and subsequently sold to the state for the new courthouse. It doesn’t matter to these three that the same block has been up for sale for years and several developers have been pitched the deal and everyone of them walked away because they determined it wasn’t financially feasible. When asked what they intend to do with the property, to paraphrase, their answer was “we don’t have a clue, but it sure sounds like a good idea doesn’t it.”
The Red Lion will never go bankrupt! As a reminder to put it short and sweet… in Modesto’s past, the city bought and then used the property under what’s now called (oops spoiler alert) the Double Tree as collateral for the Red Lion hotel to be built. It went bankrupt and the city lost the land. But maybe it’ll be different this time! After all Ryan Swehla and Benchmark have already been offering their management services (for a price) to the city. Even Craig Lewis offered his services for financial management. Local businessmen always want to get their fingers in our pockets.
Don’t they say that doing the same thing over and over is a sign of insanity?
Under the senior three we watched former City Manager Ted Holgerson threatened to terminate then Fire Chief Slamon which would result in him losing his retirement, if he gave the benefit of his experience and his opinions rather than giving the party line that Holgerson and the senior three wanted. Because of this, Chief Slamon eventually resigned from his position and took a position with a city half the size of Modesto.
Under the senior three Zoslocki, Kenoyer, and Madrigal, over 14,000 emails weren’t applied to Public Record Requests. Using private email accounts instead of city accounts to conduct city business is unethical and obfuscating. These emails went missing during their term in office. The city attorney has delayed his response to requests for these emails for the last six months. To date we’ve received approximately six months worth out of three and a half years.
Under the senior three the City’s situation with CalPers and the union retirement accounts has become more dire. The issue is so serious that according to some the City could possibly face bankruptcy in the next five years. But the senior three intend to keep on spending like there’s no tomorrow.
The senior three’s experience hasn’t made Modesto more financially sound. They seem intent on having us crawl further and further out that proverbial limb and refuse to provide the accountability and guidance staff obviously requires.
The senior three have had their chance it’s time for a new starting line-up.
During The House’s church service on October 1, 2017 Pastor Glenn Berteau took a few minutes at 36:30 into the service to allow Stu Gilman to ask for the congregations’ support and vote. Pastor Berteau acknowledged he wasn’t aware that MID had a Board of Directors that the public voted on. He reminds the congregation Stu is a personal friend of his and a friend of The House along with being a board member of The House.
The church has a large beautiful stage and video system with huge screens which works well for power point presentations in their sanctuary. During the church service, Stu was invited up on the stage where Pastor Berteau said Stu deserves our support.
One of the first comments out of Stu’s mouth is to say “No one else is running for MID seats this year”. Which is an outright lie, but hey lets cut him some slack, after all he wants to be a politician. The Pastor uses Modesto Bee Videos to attack MID employees’ high rate of pay across the board but then claims not to be going after the working man just the Staff and Board. But in reality the numbers cited in the video are bolstered by the working man, especially linemen, while the Board makes only $1,000 a month. I guess it shows Stu’s supporters can talk out of both sides of their mouths too.
Stu offers ratepayer rebates (just pie in the sky) but isn’t willing to simply offer lower electric rates. When pressed, Stu admits to having NEVER attended a MID meeting. Now we realize working your schedule around meetings can be tough but come on, Stu owns his own company so it begs the question, not even one meeting? Why do people keep recruiting members of the public to run for the MID Board that don’t have a clue about what MID does but still think they know how it run it better? So at the end of his political commercial in the middle of the weekly meeting Stu asks for volunteers to make phone calls and knock on doors and would they please join him at his table at the back of the room.
The big sendoff: Pastor Berteau says “This is church. Is this a church you say? Absolutely! It’s not just in this building. We care for our city and the people in our city. I tell politicians that as a Pastor, I know more about this city than you do.” He goes on to ask Stu to let him know when the other districts come up for a vote so he can let the congregation know so we can get the right people in there.
I don’t know about you but we don’t like non-profits to be telling people which candidate to vote for. If they want to support a cause that’s fine but if you want to run a candidate or a slate of candidates then start by giving up your non-profit status and start paying taxes.
In the video the Pastor says he doesn’t shy away from controversy. But unfortunately Pastor Berteau was did not return our calls for comment regarding this article. We will follow-up if he has anything to say.
Addendum 10/18/2017: The Freedom from Religion Foundation has been contacted and they will be filing a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service ( IRS ). So yes what The House and Pastor Glen Berteau are doing IS illegal.