Anyway, as you are probably aware, that site suffered a catastrophic crash several months back, and everything on it was lost forever. Including all of the columns I wrote for it. But Virginia, as part of her extensive research into the blog shenanigans of some rather elite Pasadena interests, dug up, you got it, The Foothill Cities blog! Only this version is an earlier incarnation of the FCB, the one that existed before they migrated over to the system that eventually blew up. And all this time a remarkable array of information has just been sitting there. Agenda driven? Sure. And biased? Given their connections why wouldn't their coverage of Sierra Madre's preservationist tendencies be biased? They were hardly unique in that respect.
But that said, this earlier version of The Foothill Cities Blog is a true informational time capsule covering all the excitement here up until May of 2007. There are 47 articles on Sierra Madre alone! You really need to get over there and check it all out. Who knows, you might even find yourself mentioned. I personally plan to dig around there like the gold mine it is.
And there is a story on the site that really jumped out at me because of its timely Congregational Church connection. We have been diligently investigating all aspects of this maverick bunch, and here is one more instance that could reinforce the impression that this is an organization comfortable with believing it enjoys extralegal privileges. Here is how the FC Blog put it to its readers:
"Erica Blodgett also has an article about how 'just two and a half months short of the end of his second term, Ron Brandley resigned from the Sierra Madre Planning Commission effective this week after an anonymous phone call to City Hall led to his being questioned concerning his business relationship with (the) Sierra Madre Congregational Church and his role on the Commission.'"
Wow! An anonymous phone call brought down a Planning Commissioner, and it involved a business relationship with the Congregational Church as well? Talk about deja vu. Aren't these two topics we could be talking about at Tuesday's City Council meeting? Different individual players, but the same organizations. My, these roots do run deep!
Hoping to learn more, I turned to my news service provider (NewsLibrary), and eagerly dug into Erica Blodgett's Sierra Madre Weekly expose on this matter.
"According to Interim City Manager Don Hopper, a person who refused to identify themselves (sic) called City Hall before the last Planning Commission meeting on April 15 and questioned whether Brandley was using his position to influence decisions in favor of the church's current building and zoning applications since Brandley's wife's business, Leonora Moss, has sold flowers to the church.
Hmm, seems like a reasonable question to me. A family business relationship with an organization whose building plans you are ruling upon does seem like a tangled skein of economic relationships. So why did Brandley resign? The article continues, and the reason for his departure is somewhat surprising.
"Hopper said an investigation by the city attorney's office revealed that there was no conflict, no merit to the claims, but that it is standard practice to investigate all questions and concerns, even those that are anonymous ... For Brandley it was this caveat that was the breaking point and led to his resignation. Brandley said he didn't think it was proper to be questioned over an anonymous phone call. 'Where do you draw the line?' Brandley asked. He said that he has been glad to answer questions from identified members of the community at previous times in his eight years on the Commission."
Now given the wave of terror unleashed upon this community by "No on V" thugs during the run up to the Special Election that year (blown up mailboxes, trashed cars, dead animals left on doorsteps, a pornographic website dedicated to smearing Measure V proponents, and with the apparent support of the sitting Mayor at the time I might add, along with personal threats and intimidation), wanting to remain anonymous makes perfectly good sense to me.
But didn't Brandley, by resigning in high dudgeon over a couple of questions asked by a concerned citizen, give that person far more than they could possibly have hoped for? The ultimate recusal that is resigning from office? It's just a little hard to buy into this line of reasoning, and Hopper's explanations strike me as being a bit too predetermined and pat.
Seeking clarity, I turned to Bill Coburn's report ("Brandley Resigns From Sierra Madre Planning Commission") on the matter.
"When contacted Brandley stated that an anonymous phone caller had left a message at City Hall wondering if the revenue that Brandley's wife's flower shop, Leonora Moss, received from (the) Congregational Church didn't represent a conflict of interest for which Brandley should recuse himself from participating in the review and vote upon the Congregational Church's Conditional Use Permit to redo some building on its property on the North side of Sierra Madre Blvd."
Very similar to Blodgett's observation. But why the resignation? Coburn's report continued:
"Brandley said that this was a matter of principle for him, that he didn't feel he should have to respond to questions raised by an anonymous caller."
Bill's report concludes with our highly compensated (and equally skilled) City Attorney Sandi Levin stating that such an investigation is standard legal practice, no matter what the origin of the complaint.
So how does one come to a conclusion here? Can it be that Brandley was actually under the impression that he enjoyed some form of special legal status, and rather than submit to what any other person involved in governance would be expected to comply with, chose to quit instead? Or was this an attempt to end any further inquiries into the matter, something that, had they continued, might have turned up things some would prefer nobody see?
Maybe we'll never know the answer to that one. And who knows, maybe we will ...