By Emerson Drake
Okay I know the title is a misquote of a line from Shakespeare that has entered the common vernacular but seldom has it been more appropriate. Public Record Requests (PRR) are a valuable tool in trying to peek behind the curtain of deceit that sometimes appears when dealing with public entities and public figures. We use it here on the Eye on a regular basis, as do others . In this instance a PRR was made in an attempt to discover any ongoing correspondence between Modesto’s Mayor, Council, and Staff.
Much to my surprise an exchange of ‘curious’ emails between Modesto’s Mayor Marsh and former one term Modesto City Council Bruce “Dark Side” Frohman were among the several hundred that were turned over. It’s common knowledge, at one time prior to being elected Mayor, Marsh was an advocate for the preservation of prime farmland. Soon after the election it was revealed he (Marsh) not only attended the private Modesto Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee meetings but publicly stood quietly on the sidelines while the Modesto Chamber and its members plotted to extend Modesto’s General Plan boundaries West and North to the river. What was unknown to the public at this time Marsh was a co-conspirator with his own plan.
In the past Dark Side had been publicly siding with Denny Jackman and others for the preservation of prime farmland while pushing development onto less productive soils..but something changed recently. After the Council withheld it’s previously promised support for a watered down version of RUL last spring and refused to place it on the ballot Denny was forced to seek signatures for his Stamp Out Sprawl initiative.
Mayor Marsh had been throwing the Board of Supervisors (BoS) under the bus at every opportunity. He actually started using them as the boogie man and the reason for his land grab. To “protect the farmers” he claimed. And of course it came at a price, over 1,000 acres of prime farmland and the ability to place retail businesses inside the Beckwith Dakota Triangle. This is akin to starting a small fire in a tinderbox forest and not expecting the Rim Fire which we experienced last year to develop. The Rim Fire eliminated hundreds of thousands of acres of forest and Marsh’s big-box retail would eventually eliminate the family farms in and around Wood Colony. But he doesn’t care.
So when I wrote three sentences to my private facebook friends I didn’t expect the hoopla that ensued. Here is what I wrote.
“Stamp Out Sprawl has new opposition. Bruce Frohman has gone over to the dark side and has contacted Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh to co-author the con or opposition to SOS on the ballot. More to come. Watch EyeOnModesto.com for more information including the damning emails to be released soon.”
These sentences spawned five articles from both Dark Side and the sites owner. Each one funnier than the prior one from my perspective since they flail out at anyone who commented either on the sites’s stories or on my facebook follow-up.
Dark Side made the usual protestations, the statements were taken out of context, that his privacy was violated and I should have asked for permission, that Marsh’s emails were being monitored and maybe my favorite was that it was Orwellian. My response was: Your email wasn’t between private citizens, it was sent to the Mayor of Modesto at his ‘official’ city email so there was no expectation of privacy. It was obtained by a public record request which focused on developers in the Salida area, so asking for permission to publish it would seem to be a moot point.
Instead of me listing some of the phrases he used, here are Dark Side’s own words: “Regarding Mr. Drake’s comment, I have no expectation of privacy when I write an email. However, I was quite surprised that the Mayor of Modesto’s email is being monitored so that those who may disagree with Mr. Drake’s viewpoint can be attacked without opportunity to respond. To have emails monitored in such a fashion seems Orwellian. Characterizing me, a private citizen, as having gone to the dark side for wanting to participate in the discussion is insulting and unreasonable. It is regrettable that some folks cannot engage in a discussion without name calling and personal attacks.”
Now compare my three sentences to what Dark Side wrote. Kind of funny isn’t it?
After using over six hundred words in response to my three sentences, the one thing he didn’t supply is the email exchange: From Frohman to Marshl: Subject: Denny Jackman Urban Limit Line Initiative Bruce ‘Dark Side‘ Frohman’s exact words to the mayor on August 27, 2014 were: I would like my name to appear on the ballot argument opposing the initiative. “Would you consider co-authoring a ballot argument, including me as a signatory?”
Is ambiguity involved? Could there be a misunderstanding? Is he undecided? Were his words twisted out of context? At least now you know why he was blustering and making all kinds of claims and accusations.
Lets get to the Heart of the matter…the Emails
Click on the link and you see the entire email exchange. Frohman_emails
Its almost understandable that the Mayor put further contact off for several months. The purpose here isn’t to demonize anyone but with so many futures at stake in Wood Colony, Salida, and Modesto knowing who REALLY supports you and who is drilling a hole in the bottom of your life boat IS important.
Bruce, your own words tell us you HAVE gone over to the Dark Side.