Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “SCAP”

Local Politics, It’s an Insiders Game

By Emerson Drake

Imagine, if you will, a hit and run driver who killed a man is sentenced.  The local Sheriff has the ability to decide if he spends his sentence of a year actually in jail or allowed to spend his time at home with an ankle bracelet.  The Sheriff gets calls and visits from people he refers to as Rotarians who ask him to allow this man to stay out of jail because in his words “he’s written grants that have brought lots of money to Stanislaus County.” The Sheriff’s policy was no home detention for crimes of violence and a fatal hit-and-run fits that description.  The perpetrator not only received this “special treatment” he  even received lax follow-up on his home detention and was seen several times out and about town, from the Gallo Center, to the Brenden movie theater in the evenings when he should have been at home.

The Sheriff’s name was Adam Christianson and the Rotarians he referred to were members of the Stanislaus County Workforce Alliance, Chamber of Commerce, and the Rotary. The man’s name was Joe Gibbs.  The group he worked for was called Stanislaus Community Assistance Program or SCAP.  What most people remember of the SCAP debacle is Mr. Gibbs wanted to be paid over $600,000 dollars for his grant writing ability. 

Official seal of County of Stanislaus

Well, that and the fact he and his wife placed her parents in one of the fanciest remodeled homes while using SCAP staff to rent out the two homes her parents owned.

Less remembered is the joke of an investigation Modesto City Manager Greg Nyhoff performed. The total paper trail was an email to SCAP warning them about the Bee’s investigative article.

What many people aren’t aware of is the continuing SCAP connection at city hall. Not only have former SCAP board members been placed on multiple city committees, they still promote on the city website some of the companies involved. From the company that attempted to channel $62,500 to Benchmark Realty (then owned by Councilman Joe Muratore and his business partner Ryan Swehla), to Joe Gibbs and SCAP.

Joe Gibbs

Stanislaus Community Assistance Project (SCAP)

2209 Coffee Rd. Suite A

Modesto, CA 95355

(209) 572-2437

Jgibbs1@scap4.org

Ryan Swhela

Trinity Ventures

1120 13th Street. Suite I

Modesto, CA 95354

(209) 380-4425

ryan@trinityventures.us

You can see for yourself here  NSP2 Developers straight from the city website.

Recently J.David Wright, Modesto’s third largest political contributor in the last local election helped, Frank Ploof  get placed on the Citizens Housing and Community Development Commission.  It is bad enough that Ploof is a former member of  SCAP’s Board of Directors, he spent 10 months helping Daryl Fair, the former SCAP Board Chairman with a nonprofit that hadn’t filed their papers with the IRS for several years and had lost their nonprofit status.  Now Mr. Wright is also promoting Mr. Fair to run a day drop-in-center for the homeless.  All he needs is a grant. That’s correct,  he wants to stick his hand back in the honey jar, your pocket and mine.   Watching Wright show up at the last city council for the expressed reason of making sure Ploof received the necessary votes sure took the cake. By the way, despite all of the SCAP connections and the fake nonprofit, the vote was 5-1. Councilman Lopez voted against with Councilman Muratore recusing himself from the discussion and vote.

Watching the city representative make sure their “insider friends”, the Beard Industrial Trust, receive special treatment from the LAFCO Board, which cost Modesto millions of dollars between property taxes and utility fees, was enough to turn a citizens stomach. But quite honestly it was just business as usual for Modesto and the County we live in.

Since the Alliance and the Modesto Chamber of Commerce are 501 (c) (6)’s,  they can lobby to their heart’s content and allow donors to receive “business deductions”.  The donors can EXPECT some return on their investment according to Bill Bassett, and receive special favors  from the City and County.

Our Mayor likes to say “Politics just happens to most people.”  Maybe he’s correct, but between the back door, and behind the scenes  dealings that go on every day how is a citizen supposed to have a chance?

Fake Nonprofits, SCAP and the Modesto City Council

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

By Emerson Drake

Here we go again. The first time a Modesto City Council member asked City Manager Greg Nyhoff to investigate the Stanislaus Community Assistance Project better known as (SCAP), he spent six weeks “investigating” and finally the concerned Councilman, Dave Lopez, was forced to go to the Modesto Bee to shed some light on the seamy side of SCAP’s actions.  And when we made a public records request regarding the investigation, only one page was produced.  It being an email from Parks and Rec Julie Hannon’s office warning SCAP the Bee would come calling and the article was apt to be negative.

Now former member of the SCAP Board of Directors Frank Ploof is going to be appointed to the Modesto Citizens Housing and Community Development  Committee.  We expressed our concerns at the last council meeting as did Councilman Lopez.  I pointed out how Daryl Fair, former SCAP Board Chairman, had recruited Ploof to the SCAP Board and had brought Ploof to his fake nonprofit, which had been stripped of its nonprofit status by the government for failing to file the necessary documentation. Frank Ploof apparently volunteered for approx. 10 months.   If all of this wasn’t in the housing arena where Ploof might be persuaded to “help” his buddy Daryl Fair again, it wouldn’t be of so much concern.

Also troubling is the email exchange between Hannon and Ploof and then Hannon and the council.  Despite having the false nonprofit exposed, Hannon failed to question Ploof on the subject.  The following is both emails between Hannon and Ploof and Hannon and the council.

First Julie Hannon to Frank Ploof:

Frank- Here is what we discussed last week.  Can you please proof my write-up and return it to me.  I would like to send it out to the Council members sometime on Thursday.  Also, if you are still interested in this position, I think you should be at the Council meeting on 1/22 so you can address the Council and any new questions, in person.

 Here is a response from Frank Ploof on the questions raised at the last Council meeting regarding his appointment to CH&CDC:

 What was your involvement with SCAP as a Board Member?

 I was a board member for approximately 3 weeks. I never attended a Board Meeting, as I was in New York much of this time, but did participate in several phone conference calls.  Once I heard what the organization was going through and dealing with, I resigned my position on the Board.  I was, at that time, recently retired and not interested in spending my time with that organization.

 What was your involvement with Daryl Fair, the Renaissance Center and Home of the Brave?

 I volunteer and help with Case Management through the Renaissance Center.  For a time, when this organization was without a building to call home we meet for 5-6 months at the Home of the Brave.  That is no longer the case and we haven’t met there since  XXXXXX.

Frank—Do you have anything else you want the Council to know about you or your interest in this Committee…..if so, please add it here:

Even though we requested ALL of the correspondence the only thing we received was July Hannon’s email to the council:

Councilmembers-

 I spoke to Frank Ploof on the phone and via e-mail.  Here are the  responses from Mr. Ploof on the questions raised at the last Council meeting regarding his appointment to CH&CDC:

What was your involvement with SCAP as a Board Member?

I was a board member for approximately 3 weeks, June 1 – June 25, 2011. I never attended a Board Meeting, as I was in New York much of this time, but did participate in several phone conference calls.  Once I learned what the organization was potentially dealing with, I resigned my position on the Board.  I was, at that time, recently retired and not willing to spend my time with an organization involved in turmoil for which I had no prior knowledge of when joining the board. 

What was your involvement with Daryl Fair, the Renaissance Center and Home of the Brave?

I began volunteering as a Case Manager for the Renaissance Center in 2/11 when it was located on H street.  When the owning organization of  the H Street building required it back for one of its programs, the Renaissance Center began serving its clients from the community building at the location now known as Home of the Brave.  The use of that facility was only temporary while the housing units  were being repaired and ended around 11/11.  My role as Case Manager also ended at that time since the Renaissance Center was without a facility to service clients.

I believe Mr. Ploof will be at the Council meeting on Tuesday.

Please feel free to contact me regarding any further questions.

Julie

 No questions were asked regarding what the SCAP Board of Directors voted on between his accepting the Board position and his letter of resignation (which we have yet to see), SCAP arranging for the rental of the home or the FAKE nonprofit called the Renaissance Center and Ploof’s involvement in fund-raising efforts if any.  And since he was made aware of the Renaissance Center’s having its papers pulled as a nonprofit several months before he left why is it he stayed so long?

If J. David Wright wasn’t going from councilperson to councilperson trying to drum up support for Ploof’s former colleague, Daryl Fair,  to be involved in a project between the council and the homeless, and Ploof being potentially  appointed(actually very likely)  to the Committee,  we wouldn’t be so concerned.  But with the Modesto City Council’s propensity for one page “investigations” we wouldn’t be surprised if we could see another debacle using public funds.

Can anyone say NSP2?

News Last Week in Modesto – What You Haven’t Read Anywhere Else

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

By Emerson Drake

Former SCAP Director Appointment to Housing Committee Delayed but NOT Cancelled

On Tuesday the City Council came within moments of voting former Director of  SCAP Frank Ploof, onto Modesto’s Citizen Housing and Community Development Committee.  Mr. Ploof only served for two months as a Director on SCAP’s Board according to Julie Hannon.  Our concern is the ongoing relationship that developed between Daryl Fair, who was the President of the SCAP Board during the worst of the excesses, and who recruited Ploof for SCAP and  the Renaissance Center.  They continued to have an incestuous relationship with SCAP and the organization they billed as a nonprofit, the Renaissance Center.  Fair was the Executive Director and Ploof was a “case manager” and SCAP was paying the rent for the building on “D” street where the pseudo nonprofit was located.

Incredible as it sounds the Finance Committee met according to Julie Hannon, in November to interview eight candidates and choose Ploof. Interesting, since the City website shows the November and December meetings of the Finance Committee being cancelled.  Ms. Hannon told us Councilwoman Stephanie Burnside and Councilman David Cogdill Jr. were the ones interviewing the candidates.

While Mr. Ploof seems like a nice enough man, his relationship with Daryl Fair is a cause of major concern when it comes to Modesto’s Housing Committee.  And we have to wonder about the reasons J. David Wright is buzzing like a bee from councilperson to councilperson promoting Mr. Fair and his search for money to open a homeless drop in center.  It should also be noted J. David Wright was one of Modesto’s larger contributors to local Council races.  Why is Mr. Wright involved with people fronting for phony nonprofits?

After sitting in with the Finance Committee interviewing candidates for the planning Commission and the Board of Zoning adjustment and hearing the probing questioning, I’m surprised Ploof slipped through.  Though in all fairness it should be pointed out Ploof omitted disclosing the SCAP position from his questionnaire. And since City Manager Greg Nyhoff failed to document his investigation, or lack there of,  into the SCAP debacle, the Council members would have to be paying attention to the media to have known. Councilman Lopez asked for this appointment to be delayed and the rest of the council agreed and it was sent back to committee.

We have no doubt with seven others to choose from the Committee can find another capable candidate.

Mayor Marsh Wants Salida Ad Hock Committee to Meet Without the Public Being Present

The Mayor finally admitted having received the “Draft” of the Goodwin Study on the Salida annexation.  He had a meeting scheduled for this week and had staff relay to the public “Stay Home, you’re not invited.”  This is a major concern. Fortunately Supervisor Withrow had already given me an invitation.  When the Mayor was made aware of this he promptly cancelled the meeting.  Eventually it was rescheduled for Jan. 28,2013, but civilian member Thomas Reeves cancelled it, since the politicos were refusing to share the Goodwin report with the rest of the committee members.  I felt it was necessary and went to the Board of Supervisors and to the City Council to protest the Mayor’s actions.  Surprisingly the local print media failed to share this information with the citizens of Modesto or Salida.  Nothing like the third estate allowing games like these to be played. 

The bottom line is,  why the secrecy?

It’s only Money – OURS..!   $17,000 Extra for Soccer Fields

On December 4,2012, Item #16, with the consent of the council Staff pulled back the bids of the synthetic turf for the three soccer fields at Mary Grogen Park saying they had written the bid so poorly they only received a bid from one company which they said wasn’t competitive. On Tuesday they accepted a bid for $17,000 dollars more than the bid in December.  There were questions about the bidding process regarding the City not stating the way the bid was going to be judged. But this time staff didn’t care about the challenge made during the meeting, concerning the bid process, which was flawed or the fact it cost Modesto more money.  But what the heck it was only $17,000 out of Village One’s pocket-book right?    Huh?

Lower TIN CUP Limits Passes Committee and is Sent to Staff – Will Come Back in March

Something we’ve been trying to accomplish for several years is to lower the amount people can contribute to a candidate before  the now elected official has to step back or recuse themselves and not vote for an item brought forward by their contributor.  In Modesto this ordinance is called the TIN CUP or Time Is Now to Clean Up Politics.  The current amount is $3,000 dollars to all candidates and the new levels, if passed, will be $1,000 for council races and $2,000 for mayoral races.  Councilman David Geer and Councilman John Gunderson voted for the lowering of the limits and Councilman Dave Lopez voted against the proposal. Remember anyone one can continue to contribute any amount they choose but the candidate can’t vote for a proposal if the upper limit is passed.  This should help level the playing field for the average citizens. I hope people will call their council representatives and request they support the new levels. 

 After all,  does anyone think we need more money in politics?

To learn more about the Renaissance Center, “the nonprofit that wasn’t,”  go to our older archive location http://www.eyeonmodesto.blogspot.com/2011/11/renaissance-community-services-non.html

Greg Nyhoff and the SCAP Letters, is He Stonewalling the Citizens or trying to “Control” the Story?

By Emerson Drake

When we heard Modesto was refusing to give either the letter it wrote to SCAP or SCAP’s response, to the Bee or the rest of us for that matter, we sent a Public records Request to the City in an attempt to get a copy of the letters.

The following was the City’s response:

From the Office of the City Clerk

Hello, Mr. Drake…
 
You indicated that you wanted an acknowledgement of receipt for your request, so I wanted to make sure it was being worked on. The City Manager’s office reports that the response letter received from SCAP will be released within the specified timeframe under the Public Records Act.  Given the closure of the City for the Thanksgiving Holiday and furloughs, they will release the document on Monday, November 28th. 

 

We wondered why the obvious delaying tactics by the City Manager Greg Nyhoff?  Was he trying to dribble the story out in small bits and pieces?  Maybe, maybe not.

We’ve all learned about the life cycle of a news story and delaying disclosure would be a way to deal with one leaked part at a time.  Or at the very least seek a more “friendly venue” to disclose the entire story.

On November 16th, the very day this email was received, we were fortunate enough to obtain from a reader the letter SCAP sent in response to the City’s.

Apparently Mr. Nyhoff felt the need to advance his time-table since the “cat was out of the bag” so to speak. We only hope Mr.Nyhoff will come clean and stop trying to protect some of the people who sat in on his hiring interview and deal with the people who pay his salary.  That is to say, the PUBLIC.

So what do you have to say for yourself Mr. Nyhoff?

 
 

On-Going Scandal in Modesto

By Emerson Drake

City Manager Gregg Nyhoff perpetuated the myth of “everything is fine” down at city hall at Wednesday night’s city council meeting.  The bobble heads were nodding in agreement that city workers overseeing the NSP2 funds are stretched too thin, rather than acknowledging pressure from local power brokers was responsible.  When you listen to members of the Commonwealth Group explain it away, it almost sounds plausible until you consider the web of intrigue that surrounds the scandal.

From city councilmen and their business partners scheming their way through the NSP2 maze of paperwork and guidelines, to newspaper publishers relatives being waist deep in the mire.

While the SCAP controversy abused everyone’s sense of reason, the NSP2 controversy exposed the raw naked greed of a city councilman who can’t use city attorney Susan Alcala Wood as a shield this time.

The premise that a city official can’t profit from NSP2 funds or HUD money isn’t obscure, not in the least.  It’s one of the first things you learn.

But when the money Ryan Swehla and Scott Monday funneled to Benchmark Realty (a company Swehla owns with Joe Muratore) first came to light, it was eclipsed by the SCAP scandal.

Needless to say, despite Mark Vasche’s claim of distancing himself from the reporting on this, it can’t be easy to be a reporter writing about Vasche’s son-in-law (Scott Monday).

Commonwealth members continue to support Councilman Muratore despite his being caught with his fingers in the till.  After all, his being on the council, adds unspoken pressure on city employees (unspoken by Muratore), while his partner doesn’t hesitate to play the “do you know who my partner is” card to anyone unaware of the affiliation.

Even most of the city council has remained silent on whether or not Muratore should resign his seat.

You can’t expect any pressure from his council district, considering that Mike Moradian has been inspecting all of the homes being “processed” by the conjoined triumvirate.

How can citizens ofModestoexpect to be treated with respect and honesty while the Bee management is shielding Muratore and his cohorts.

To be bluntly spoken, we can’t.  People need to express their dissatisfaction and outrage to the City Council and everyone they meet. 

We need to say the iconoclast, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 
― Margaret Mead

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