Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Tim O’Laughlin”

Public Comment Delivered to MID and Modesto City Council

By Joan Rutschow

The need to produce and deliver safe and nutritious food is a fundamental human concern.  We will have to produce

English: A volume of one acre foot. It is a on...

English: A volume of one acre foot. It is a one acre area with a depth of one foot. This is equivalent to a 66 x 660 x 1 foot volume since an acre is defined as 66 x 660 feet. NOTE: the drawing is not to scale! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

more food in the next 40 years than we have in the last 10,000.

California farm revenue was $43.5 billion in 2011, making it the nations’ top ag state.  California produces more than 400 commodities, employing 800,000 workers on 81,500 farms.  U.S. farmers are among the most efficient in the world.  Over the past 30 years, California has increased production of milk by 44%, processing tomatoes by 69% and almonds by 122%.  At the same time, new production methods have helped growers save 100,000 acre feet of water a year.  Our farmers are excellent stewards of our land and our water!

Letter to Editor, 5/31/13

It is very encouraging to see Adam Gray and Anthony Canella supporting farmers in Stanislaus County and Merced County, location of the most prime agricultural land in the world.  We do have a water storage problem.  We need more facilities to capture and store our water.  Currently, because of 2 year drought conditions, and low water levels in our reservoirs, I feel San Francisco needs to seriously consider desalinization plants if they want more water and not take our water here in the valley (whole Pacific Ocean; technology for 50 years in the Mideast and Japan).

Bee Article, 6-23-13

The Water Advisory Committee stated that farmers get credit for replenishing our underground aquifers which have a value of $600,000/year.  However, our resident farmer and hydrologist, Vance Kennedy, has stated that the value of aquifer recharge by our farmers is $2 million + per year.  Concerning garden head accounts, which is property of less than 5 acres, homeowners are permitted to flood their property.  The great majority of these small user accounts are urban homeowners and are maintained by families and elderly people who grow their own food in their back yard.  Human survival by growing your own food, personal responsibility and self-sufficiency should not be penalized financially by raising the rates of the garden head accounts to sky high levels.

Remember – water + food = life itself!

By Joan Rutschow

What’s on America’s Mind Wednesday at 7:30 PM

Topics include fresh take straight from the Economic Development Committee meeting,  the conniving Modesto Chamber of Commerce

Radio RED 104.9 FM

Radio RED 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Mahdi Ayat.)

land grab and proposed Pathways to Jobs, The Planning Commissions latest meeting, and the Modesto City Council meeting, these and more so tune in at 7:30 PM Wednesday and find out the things you really  need to know.

104.9 FM Modesto our Flag Ship station

Our live and archive link:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2013/06/06/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

MID’s Tom Van Groningen’s $110,000 Financial Conflict of Interest

By Emerson Drake

Modesto Irrigation District has been generous in giving away ratepayers money for many years.   Director Tom Van Groningen has voted to

Money

Money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

give  the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance $110,000 dollars.  Starting suddenly  in 2008, they donated $20,000 a year for five consecutive years, and only cut back this year  (2013)  after the community and Director’s Larry Byrd, Nick Blom and Paul Warda fought back. We spoke to the Board several times prior to the last donation, pointing out the Alliance is a 501 C (6) which means they’re allowed to lobby and give their investors an IRS business deduction.  We also pointed out that the Alliance’s CEO Bill Bassett had blatantly lied to the Board to receive a larger donation.  I always wondered why Director Tom Van Groningen fought so hard to give away  MID’s money, well actually the ratepayer’s  money, that’s right, your money and mine,  to a private company who specializes in lobbying efforts.  Maybe  now we have the answer.

Here is the Public Records Request response which has the donations listed   Slegal13051013420 (1)

It appears Director Tom Van Groningen is not only on the Alliance’s Board of Directors, http://stanalliance.com/index-abt-brd.php his company, TVG Consulting which he’s the sole owner of, according to his linkedin page, is a member of and an investor in the Alliance.  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tom-van-groningen/11/929/809  are investors  http://stanalliance.com/index-abt-invest.php

The problem as I see it is Alliance CEO  Bill Bassett has always said “the investors EXPECT a return on their investments” and the more investments the larger the return.  So if  Director Van Groningen donates MID’s Money he’s likely to see a larger return for HIMSELF and his company along with playing the big man to his buddies on the Alliance. Who knows, maybe that’s how he made the Board in the first place.

A conflict of interest…. It’s well know by now that Judy Sly protects, defends, and supports  MID Director Tom Van Groningen and MID’s secret lobbyist Mike Lynch, but why is she keeping this conflict of interest from the public?  Why did MID’s attorney Tim O’Laughlin allow the conflict to continue since 2008? Didn’t Tom file this investment (financial disclosure) in the Alliance with the state?

Are you as tired as we are of the Bee’s  Editorial Staff  hiding the facts from the public in order to protect their friends?  Could one of the reasons be because the Modesto Bee has donated $100,000 to the Alliance too?  Are you starting to understand why Judy Sly has kept her personal connection with MID’s secret lobbyists Mike Lynch, Mark Looker, Janice Keating, and Carol Whiteside  on the down low? Remember these four lobbyists received $125,500 from MID ratepayer funds while only invoicing them for $1,500 in 2012 all thanks to Director Tom Van Groningen.

“What’s on America’s Mind Wednesday at 7:00 PM

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Radio RED 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Mahdi Ayat.)

Topics include Salida annexation and the sneaky SoB’s, does government just happen to people or is it government by ambush, the animal cruelty ordinance, MID, Valley Vision Stanislaus,and more so tune in at 7:00PM Wednesday and find out the things you really  need to know.

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http://www.EyeOnModesto.com 

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2013/02/21/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

Deceiving the Public MID Style

[CALIFORNIA-A-0023] Don Pedro Dam

[CALIFORNIA-A-0023] Don Pedro Dam (Photo credit: waterarchives)

By Emerson Drake

MID has come through some very turbulent times. They had an iron fisted General Manager in Allen Short and until last year MID’s Board of Directors was a rubber stamp for his misguided dictatorial policies. Unfortunately it is the public that has been required to foot the bill. Here is an example of what has gone on during the last year of Allen Short’s reign.

Some Background

Back in 2010 the Board allowed GM Short to create a policy know as  Resolution No. 2010-35. This resolution, when combined with Purchase Order 54981 to Martino Graphic Design (MGD) for a total of $450,000, effectively created a slush fund using Joy Warren as Regulatory Administrator for control.  The original purpose for this fund included concerns about regulation concerning the delta, greenhouse gas, state regulations, and a euphemistic “improve the image and credibility of the district.”

But through a series of phone calls leaving no paper trail, the Resolution was bastardized and at least $148,000 went, utilizing “creative descriptions,” to a series of players/vendors to be used to create a false image of the potential water sale to the general public.  It’s my opinion this was done by nefarious design to make tracking the money and proving where it went  difficult, if not almost impossible. At least one recipient of the slush fund (Janice Keating) spoke before the Board claiming to be a private citizen while others  recruited “politicos”, both politicians and wannabee’s to speak in favor the sale thus attempting to create a false impression using testimony for hire to fool the media and the unsuspecting public.

The Key to the Code

Throughout the year I submitted multiple formal Public Information Requests and queried the MID Board in a variety of ways during meetings, trying to get to the bottom of where the money was going .  But MID’s staff, management, and attorney, refused to provide any real answers other than the veiled documents themselves.  Finally on December 18, 2012 after a tumultuous MID Board meeting, Modesto Bee Reporter Garth Stapley was given the key to the code by a MID staff member to decipher the Martino Graphic design invoices. His story is here with the relevant information on page two.  http://www.modbee.com/2012/12/18/2500794_p2/raises-okd-for-modesto-irrigation.html 

Unfortunately, Garth only broke down the current invoice totalling $48,500, instead of the entire amount of $148,000 billed in 2012, despite being in possession of the earlier invoices MID already paid to MGD.  We know he had the earlier invoices because I sent them to both Garth Stapley and to Judy Sly many weeks earlier in an attempt to get them to write a story about what was going on.

Money was laundered using Martino Graphic Design as a middle man. The plan was designed to allow MID to make the claim, which they did, of having no contracts with those receiving the money and as such did not know where it was going.

Here is the Breakdown as we Know it Today

During the year 2012 under the guise labeled Outreach and Transparency, Janice Keating took $28,000.  Under Communications Services Mark Looker took $28,500 and under Consulting,  Mike Lynch took a whopping $52,500.   For their part in this ruse Martino Graphics Design pocketed $29,000.

In a recent Public Information Request response MID stated “NO money has been given to Janice Keating or Mike Lynch  for the last THREE years.”  The same PIR showed Carol Whiteside had only received $1,500 dollars to her or her company, California Strategy, in the last three years when the actual total to Ms. Whiteside  is almost $30,000.  In a follow-up conversation with Asst. General Manager Lou Hempel,  he stated “after checking I show no money other than the $1,500 to Carol Whiteside’s California Strategy’s has been paid to any of the three in the last six years.”

MID used ratepayer’s money deceptively to create a false impression in the public’s mind in order to sell water we don’t have in order to hide the financial mismanagement that has been going on for many years. It would be my suggestion this type of paid testimony has been going on for years. Unfortunately only an in-depth investigation by knowledgable persons would discover what has been occurring.  Several members of staff including Joy Warren, took an active role in this, what can be described at best as a legally questionable  tactic. No effort was made by staff including the General Manager to inform the Board members,  yet by their own admissions during public meetings, Directors Tom VanGroningen and Glen Wild were willing participants to the deception.

MGD did create a few flyers, stickers, and handouts but these were billed separately and at much smaller costs  to the same PO number. MID  Board Agenda Report from their December 18, 2012 meeting was filled with deception and what can only be described as political spin trying desperately to paint a false impression to anyone who hadn’t been following their exploits for the past year.

Did you know MID is still paying former General Manager Allen Short his regular pay through October of this year despite him having left back in December?   You do now.   Are you wondering why there was a $60,000  investigation conducted by the personnel department at the end of last year?  Maybe you should be.

“What’s on America’s Mind” Wednesday at 7:00 PM

Radio RED 104.9 FM

Topics include a conversation regarding the Modesto Council meeting, another Modesto Economic Development  Committee meeting, MID the water hike and the hidden costs, the City County Liaison meeting,  LAFCO vs Salida vs Beard Industrial Tract,  these and more so tune in at 7:00PM Wednesday and find out the things you really  need to know.

104.9 FM Modesto our Flag Ship station

Live and in our archives at the following link.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2013/02/14/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

“What’s on America’s Mind” Wednesday 12/19 7:00 PM

Radio RED 104.9 FM

Topics include: Money laundering by Allen Short, Tom Van Groningen, Glen Wild, and  Deceptive business practices by the MID’s Joy Warren, How the Workforce Alliance spends your money, Is Modesto’s Ruling Class Immune to scrutiny, the Salida Ad Hock Committee meeting you haven’t heard about, On line balloting, the Newton Ct. shooting, Cat Killers Reed and Sumner and the progress on the Protective Animal ordinance, all this and more Wednesday night at 7:00 PM

We can be found here live or in our archives: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2012/12/20/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake 

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MID Board’s New Leadership Will be a Breath of Fresh Air

[CALIFORNIA-A-0021] Don Pedro Dam

[CALIFORNIA-A-0021] Don Pedro Dam (Photo credit: waterarchives)

By Emerson Drake

The Board meeting turned out to be as spicy as forecasted.  When the closed session was over and we were allowed in, we were met with a scowling Glen Wild.  Director Wild had his heart set on being the Board President but that didn’t come to pass.  While he had two years of experience on Nick Blom, Director Wild would have been Van Groningen’s lackey just as he has been for the last three years.   Besides we don’t need the old guard with their old obfuscating, covering-up ways continuing to run the Board.  Paul Warda nominated Nick Blom for President and Larry Byrd for Vice-President.  Both of those nominations were approved.

The Martino Graphics $49,500 bill was paid as expected but acknowledgement came from newer Board members of improprieties having been perpetrated by Management.  Joy Warren didn’t discuss the particulars, she only mentioned they were included in the handout (pages 116-130 in the pdf  from yesterday’s article.)    I pointed out that out of the seven specific areas the money was supposed to be spent, only one came close to the proscribed use and that was : Implementing a program to improve the image and credibility of the District with it’s ratepayers.  And, quite honestly, the $148,000 Allen Short spent with Martino Graphics did just the opposite.

Janice Keating, having been paid to speak on behalf of the water sale while pretending to be a private citizen (all the while being paid for her testimony)didn’t sit well with the majority of the Board or the public.  The money was actually spent on perverse lobbying efforts on the sale’s behalf.  Questions have arisen wondering if at least one of the “Community Columns” written in the Bee was bought and paid for.  Another question asked later “how many of those in the “paid employee category of Martino Graphics”  lobbied Bee Opinion Page Editor Judy Sly.”

Funnily enough, one thing that stuck in the craw of several of the Board members was the funneling of money through Martino Graphics to Carol Whiteside.  By laundering the money through Martino Graphics, Directors Byrd, Blom, and Warda weren’t aware Ms. Whiteside was “on the clock” when she invited them for breakfast.  The secret was shared by Directors Van Groningen, Wild, and General Manager Short. These three are responsible for at least $165,000 being spent on a clandestine  lobbying effort which failed.  I have little doubt this is among the many reasons Allen Short is being run out-of-town on a rail, albeit on a velveteen covered rail.  On this all we can all say is thank God he’s gone.  Now if only his two amigos would join him, but that’s just too much to ask.

An interesting revelation is how much “churning” attorney O’Laughlin has done.  He’s been requiring all Public Information Requests to go through him, and this just isn’t necessary.  At $300.00 per hour (from a prior Public Information Request) he’s been making out like a bandit with all of the time he’s claiming he spends on them, and without the overhead of a mask and gun.

I think the bottom line is the two problem children (O’Laughlin and Short) are on their way out the door and those  now in charge are determined these excesses won’t be repeated, not by their new hires or by current staff.

I was glad to see the Union receive its long-awaited raises, but someone has to explain to me how the head of Human Resources deserves a 34% raise especially when she’s getting another person added to her department.  Maybe because her department helped to take the survey?  Another interesting point is the result of a Public Information Request asking the amounts of the raises by position.  Attorney O’Laughlin said they had nothing on paper stating this information so there was nothing to turn over. Oh well, I’ve been intentionally misled by him before as have others making similar requests.  The vote was 3-2 with Van Groningen and Wild voting no.  But this was little more than political posturing since they had been unwilling to separate the union and the confidential employee  in votes.

It wasn’t easy for Larry Byrd to adjust his stance on abstaining from the union vote which he had  because of his son, and although the FPPC and a privately obtained San Francisco lawyer assured him it was perfectly legal for him to weigh in, he had resisted voting the last two times the issue came to the Board.  If he didn’t make the adjustment and vote,  the contract  would  have been held up indefinitely.

One continuing disappointment is the Board being unwilling to discuss how George Petrulakis racked up over $28,800 dollars in bills when he was facilitating only one meeting.  But I suppose that and other unexplained expenses will be swept out with the rubbish on December 31st.  We’ll give them a clean slate for the new year, but to paraphrase an old adage: Forgive those who have done the public wrong, but remember their names for future articles.

Money Laundering, payoffs, Just Another Day at the MID

English: A picture of two dual-circuit power l...

By Emerson Drake

Did you ever watch someone with a gambling disease?  They keep raising the bet hoping for the  payoff that seldom if ever comes.  The hole gets deeper and deeperand sooner or later they have to pay the piper,  and that’s what is happening at the MID. 

For years they’ve been getting away with murder by doing whatever came to their minds ( The TANC project, Geo thermal energy to name two losers) flaunting public opinion but when the proposed water sale to San Francisco came around the opposition became formidable.  First the public had been aroused last summer before and  during the MID elections.  Then the Board changed getting two new members, Larry Byrd and Nick Blom. And suddenly during January of 2012 GM Allen Short, and Directors Tom Van Groningen, and Glen Wild realized they needed additional support,  reinforcements if you will.

The reinforcements came in the disguise of Martino Graphics. Allen Short found an expired purchase order that could be twisted, at least if you squint real hard, to assist in their determination to sell MID’s water through an unfavorable contract. So the “Three Caballeros” with the assistance of a MID staff member started funneling money, laundering if you prefer, through Martino Graphics to a local lobbyist, Mike Lynch, and at least one other shill named Janice Keating.  Janice a former Modesto Councilwoman, spoke publicly to the MID Board pretending to be a private citizen concerned about the water transfers, but in reality we know she spoke as a paid shill, someone who pretends to be an innocent bystander but is paid by the house to manipulate the crowd and public opinion. Mark Looker was also a recipient of their largess.

In an enlightening flash MID finally, after more than six months and multiple requests, including Public Information Requests,  after Van Groningen publicly stating they had no contracts with anyone other than Martino, and had no idea who Martino had contracts with, they have finally admitted Martino had subcontracts with Mike Lynch, Janice Keating, and Mark Looker.

Since January of 2012 MID has spent over $99,000 with Martino Graphics under the expired purchase order #54981 and is now requesting another $49,500 all in a failed effort to change your mind about the water sale to the San Francisco Public Utilities District.  The original intent of this purchase order was to have a fund to work/lobby  legislators over water and electric issues. You remember,  like the one to allow large hydro generators to be classified as “Green”.  Yet they didn’t bother to use it for OUR benefit ( a green designation would have held down the cost of electricity) they used it to promote a failed, water wasting idea they couldn’t let go of.  We’ve seen this in the past with the likes of the TANC project where Short spent between $3.5 and $5 million dollars before  the plug was pulled, all thanks to Allen Short’s obsession with being in charge, Van Groningen’s willingness to be led around by the nose and Glen Wild’s subservient way of saying “which way should I vote?” to Van Groningen. They remind me of three elephants walking in file, the latter two holding on to the lead elephant’s tail by their trunk.

Ask them to actually quantify and break down what Martino did to earn the money instead the sweeping obfuscations of reality they provide and they can’t.  An examination of the purchase orders, which wasn’t provided but EOM  has made available in the past, reveals the same generic charges month after month while providing no real substantiation of work.

The following pdf link provides a glimpse into the twisted cover-up mentality staff uses to provide Allen Short, Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild a spider hole to crawl into under the glare of public examination.

121812BoardAgendawithAttachments

Pages 116 -130 are the ones discussed in this article.

If you choose to dive further into the MID cesspool we can talk about the contract the MID Board gave to George Petrulakis allegedly to facilitate in the meetings between Modesto and the MID Board. Mr. Petrulakis was paid:

$28,852.50

  But since they only held only one meeting and George  gets paid $415 per hour what else did he do for the Board to justify his 69.39 hours of work?  Can you say lobbying and influence pedaling or did he provide inducements to others to go in front of the MID Board and endorse the water sale?

Then there is MID attorney Tim O’Laughlin who as a going away present is requesting a payment of $146,250.89. These are a total of his invoices from November and December and it isn’t his last bill there is at least one more coming. MID the gift that keeps on giving.

You have to walk away shaking your heads wondering where the closest bathroom is to wash your hands. But we need to resist that impulse. We need to dig down deep to get to the bottom of the MID barrel to rid ourselves of ALL of the rotten apples.

 The next MID meeting is at 9:00 AM Tuesday Dec. 18th.   As with all parties it’s BYO Pitchforks and torches lynch ropes are optional.

You don’t want to be late, it’s the best show in town.

“What’s on America’s Mind” Wednesday at 7:00PM

Radio RED 104.9 FM

Radio RED 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Mahdi Ayat.)

 

 

 

 

 

Topics include a recent conversation with Modesto’s Mayor on the Salida annexation, What the public needs to remember from the Del Rio well proposal, an up-date on Modesto’s Cat Killers (yes we have at least two), MID’s latest budget and what you don’t know about 503 (C)(6) ‘s This and a Happy Birthday salute so don’t forget to tune us in.

To listen Wednesday night at 7:00PM or in our archives anytime

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centralvalleyhornet/2012/12/06/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

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