Monday, March 23, 2009

More Congregational Church Controversy: The Astonishing Case Of Ron Brandley

I'd like to thank Virginia Hoge over at the often provocative and always interesting Pasadena New Progressive blog for uncovering something rather amazing. A kind of "hidden in plain sight" type of revelation. And you might recall the conversations we've had recently about the near demise of The Foothill Cities blog (which really ought to change its name to The Monrovia City blog), in the process outing its secretive and apparently expatriate former publisher, Centinel aka Todd Ruiz. 

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 ...


  1. It's people like Ron Brandley and Rick and Margie Simpson who give the Congs a real bad name in town.

  2. oh, no, am i kicking things off again? Joe the bloward
    i'm sure this is going to be misunderstood, but i think there's an important point here. apparantly a big local arch villain named bart doyle (i don't know him, don't know why he's everybody's arch villain, i doubt anybody's ever written him up and and put in print for the record all the foul damage he's supposed to have done ,although susan once assured me she was going to, then chickened out)-- apparantly this boyle doyle once pontificated. "sierra madre mustwas change."
    he could be right, you know. though maybe
    not as he meant.
    sm pats himself on the back as a community of volunteers (although maybe we're also a community of tightwads to tight to pay salaries for professionals). everybody here volunteers. i've done fire department, meals on wheels, things i've long forgotten and can't hold a cnadle to other volunteers. but now that land developers and other big rea estate greedhead plunderers are arriving all the time with their agendas and powerhouse lawyers to implement them, maybe sm has to rethink the volunteer concept. Or else look closer at who is volunteering and who gets to appoint the volunteers, and if volunteers sometime thesmelve share secret agendas and have constituencies to serve. asking volunteers those kinds of questions, holding them to high standards is a terrific risk -- could discourage anybody from volunteering. but is there a choice? sm can't stay one-horse and innocent and still effectively properly fight the greeds, can she? . a puzzle.
    i don't think what i just blogged is original. surely somebody has better expressed the theory before? One last thing: this silent snitching on fellow sierra madres, and annymous backstabbing attacks on other sierra madreans, no matter the bastards they be, has gotta go. or else sm goes. living in utter fear of reprisal if you attach your name to your opinion -- is that what's become of sm? shouldnt have. we're not moscow.just what form of unspeakable hell is gonna to rain down on you if you stand up and say something for the record? the gulag? a physical beating? murder? who was it who said, they can kill you but not eat you? ernie hemingway? Glen? somebody who was on to something. end of sermon from paragon joe.who's exhausted himself. time for his regular after-breakfast nap.

  3. I'm not sure that Ron's quitting the job because of an
    anonymous call quite registers with me, either. It does
    leave the impression that there must have been more
    to the story.

  4. joe,
    people were hurt during the Measure V fight.
    There are dangerous thugs in this town who will intimidate anyone who crosses them.
    The city attorney knows who filed that complaint against Brandley and wisely chose to not disclose it. The person's family and property would have been at serious risk.
    That's how bad things got, Joe. Things are better now, but the same thugs are still in town....only reason they haven't surfaced doing the same terrorist acts they did during Measure V is that we know who they are and are watching them.

  5. Joe, you're starting to sound like a broken record. Go to any blog anywhere and you will see that people like to post under assumed names, handles, sock puppets, what have you. It's how things are done. And outside of you I don't think anyone would enjoy the conversations here quite as much if it was otherwise. This is how things are done on blogs. I'm beginning to wonder why only this one is blessed with your daily diatribe on the topic. And if that is something you have a problem with, then perhaps you need to rethink your presence here. This constant carping about how people post is both off topic and a nuisance. Your presence here is valued, and when you are on you do have great things to say. But please, get over this obsession of yours. You've made your point. Move on.

  6. PS - Sharon P reports on the "Smoker Kids ..." thread that Bill Coburn has now begun closely monitoring posting. Outside of obscenities or outing we try and avoid having to do that.

  7. JOE: There was NO silient sniching concerning BRANDLEY. The question was raised at city hall the afternoon before the Planning Commission meeting was "Shouldn't Brandley recuse himself from the voting about the CONG church addition since his business did business with the church?" No accusations were made.

    From April 10 2000 to March 2, 2007 the Planning Commission had at least seven meetings dealing with the church. Brandley was a member of the church and he flower shop was doing business with the church. He did not recuse himself once. He said he had no conflict of intererst. (A conflict of interest exists when you may have a financial His business doing business with the church.)He put forth arguments in favor of the church and may have influenced other members of the commission. He voted on YES everything concerning the church. He was the one who overreacted when the question was raised. NO accusations were made.

  8. wow, a lecture from my hero. still my hero. i said that what i wrote was going to be misunderstood. it was. my point about volunteers was lost. i said it was a lecture, maybe a was I joked about being a paragon. i meant to be humorous, the only way to be. i have no idea what other blogs talk about, but this blog often talks about the lives and reputations of real people-- animals deserving slamming and trashing thatthey may well be. if i slam somebody i'm putting my name on it. anybody else can blog as they like. i think this is a legitimate and valuable debate. may i continue blogging here?

  9. I have wondered why Brandley can park one of his vechicles on the parkway next to his garage? Lisa would tow away anyone else in town that tried that.

  10. Joe - of course you can. It's Monday morning, and I hate Monday morning. Six cups of coffee later and I'm still not happy.

  11. Despite the deviations from the main point, I'm glad that this topic has been raised again. Brandley is dirty, but he won't be caught, since the web that protects him has been spun by the religious "right." Lots of folks hide behind the church (note the mention of Rick and Margie Simpson in one of the blog comments) while they participate in not-so-Christian pursuits (i.e., overdevelopment of Sierra Madre, and vandalizing the personal property of and otherwise terrorizing any who oppose it - yes, Joe, there have been multiple precedent-setting occurrences that prompt many to remain anonymous). Hypocrisy has been one of the cornerstones of our city's governmental practice and Ron (and so many others of his "Christian" persuasion; I don't dislike Christians, but I do resent those who defy Christian precepts yet parade themselves around as Christians, hence the HYPOCRISY) has perfected the art. Thankfully, we have councilpeople in place now who are trying to break that cycle of hypocrisy, obfuscation and mendacity. Perhaps they understand what the true meaning of "public servant" is. We can only hope that the current trend for truth in government will continue here in Sierra Madre and that people like Brandley will never again be welcomed by residents as candidates for public office.

  12. Good post, 9:48!

  13. I take your attention to the City Council meeting of March 10th when Mr. Zimmermann (with two n's) suggested Mayor Zimmerman call the Congregational Church's pastor and talk about the Church's plans. Such a reasonable low key invitation -- and yet so insidious and demeaning. The Church, including Zimmermann(two n's), Brandley, and the Simpsons, believe they are above the City Council, the Planning Commission and the citizens of Sierra Madre. This is the "old boys" at their finest (or worst). It's time for this kind of back slapping look the other way planning to stop!

  14. I checked out the agenda for tomorrow night's city council meeting. Item #4 is about the Sierra Madre Congregational Church. Item #2a is about the Mountain Views Observer. (Considering the fact that Ms. Henderson is in contempt of court for not removing "Observer" from her paper, this could be an interesting meeting.) Bring popcorn. (Heck, maybe someone should sell popcorn in the would increase city sales tax!)

  15. this off the subject? delete without mercy if so.
    latest number of the peerless news-observer is out. it's a beaut. lead headline goes,Sierra Madre Surplus? the question mark implies that it isn't so, that all of us are being bull-crapped by somebody about the existence of the city's recently found surplus million. it's a mirage or something.
    smoke-and mirroring the innocent reader additionally, the story following the questionable headline is unreadable as well as impossible to understand. without success i tried three times. must be a masochist.
    the story concludes with its ringing last paragraph blithy assuring us that any repeal of the utility tax may be premature. Whomever volunteered this opinion and wisdom goes unidentified. not the mayor. not the city council. not the city manager.
    so it must be the opinion of miss susan henderson herself, aka s. henderson, according to the byline. hahahahaha

  16. Lets bring the "Family" issue back into the fold also!!

  17. Rubya: You mean the so-called "definition of the family" deal that then Mayor Glenn Lambdin signed off on? Let's. It is time we aired that one out. I still have my copy of the document. Keep menaing to e-mail it to The Tattler.

    Joe: Yes, Susan knows all. Did you know that in the issue of the "Observer" that came out just before last year's election she claimed to have called Sacramento and been assured that all of our audits were already in? Of course, that was when the issue was proving embarrassing to Enid Joffe. Things do move around abit in Susan's world.

  18. Rumor making the rounds concerns Jae Hill, former asst city planner and publisher of the now private Penitant Ramblings blog. After the Congregational Church knowingly never provided a New Life Center parking plan as requested by the Planning Commission, they instead went to young Jae Hill and got a rather fishy "administrative" approval, and conveniently with no plan attached. Jae left the employ of Sierra Madre, but is now rumored to be handling piece work for, and you got it, the Congregational Church.

  19. And my broken record bit:
    Why is Brandley's lack of recusal so often brought up, and Stockley's is just water under the bridge?
    Stockley worked for a bank that had a financial relationship with Dorn Platz, and while he worked for the bank, Stockley voted on the Dorn Platz project on Carter.

    9:48, I agree with Old K -great post.

    Joe, pick a nom de plume (nom de blog?) that you like, and write - your style is totally recognizable anyway. Most of ours are. It was awkward for me at first too, not to just use my name, but now I see the benefits: you can focus on the issues more, personalities less, and avoid the slander. Like others, I was slandered during the struggle for Measure V, and it's a rotten experience.

  20. My first point if about Joe Scalzo. I think he's pretty brave to just be out there. I'm too chicken especially when I see how vindictive some of the posters get whenever someone says anything they don't like. Shame on your Eric for chastising good sir Joe about his concern on all us hidden commenters. Let him write what he wants in reply.

    Now to say something you won't like: I just read the Observer piece on the budget. I read the Pasadena Star News piece this weekend. I read this blog's piece the day it came out. The Pasadena Star News piece was a rehash of this blog and as such was a disappointment since Eric already told us all that. The Observer piece actually did some further investigation of the matter.

    Joe Scalzo didn't understand the Observer piece, but I didn't have that problem.

    If she got her facts straight, and that's a big IF with any of the three sources I mention (I've seen serious mistakes in all three accounts of various town goings on over the years), anyway Henderson basically reports that the auditor found that our City was spending more money than they were legally allowed to spend. City budget's appropriate specific amounts for specific programs. Apparently money was moved around and spent above and beyond amounts that the City Council appropriated. THAT'S A BIG NO NO.

    Second, the Observer set out in charts revenues and expenditures. If the numbers are right, it looks like we will operate in the black for 08-09, but it also looks like we may face short falls in future years given the state of property values and taxes, the increases in police salaries and the loss of a $200,000 grant for the paramedic service.

    All this makes me really, really pissed off about giving the police a 24% raise that our city clearly cannot sustain. If you look at those charts it sure looks like we're headed for red ink in a couple of years. So, how long are we obligated to pay the police a 24% salary increase?

    Here's an alternative for when that contract expires:

    Contract with the LA County sheriff on the condition that they lease the SM Police Station as a substation (they patrol parts of Pasadena so this might be pretty good).

    Downsize SM Police Dept., scale back salaries to a sustainable level and start again.

    Pay more taxes? So let's see that's a local UUT, a regional sales tax increase for transportation, a state sales tax increase and sundry other taxes along with a state bump in income tax rates and perhaps a bump in Federal taxes rates too (not sure how that will work).


  21. Sierra Madre business ownerMarch 23, 2009 at 3:08 PM

    In the No, thanks for that interesting information.
    Does anyone know why the General Plan amendment was relegated to a "housekeeping" detail, as Buchanan and Mosca put it? Isn't the General Plan more important than that?
    The fact that Mosca and Buchanan don't care about finding out how that happened is a big indication that maybe we need to know.
    What happened?

  22. Strip Sierra Madre of its PD and replace
    with a couple of black & whites from the
    Sherrif's Department? We'll get plucked
    like a fat chicken.

  23. Anon @2;52, you must have missed the debates around the DSP time about how bad that contracted sherif service is. There's a lot of discussion that has already taken place. The Building-Industry- Association-California-Association-of-Realtors, plus the old majority on the last few councils, were advocates for just the plan you propose.

  24. joe ain't brave. just observing the standards you gotta follow if newspapering, magazine reporting, and book scribblings are your axes.

  25. Sure it sounds like the old dirt plan.
    2:52 is a dirt. Probably Rob Stockley? Glenn Lambdin.....they all sound alike.

  26. Obvious dirt. They are being ever so
    cautious, though.

  27. 2:52 is not a dirt!
    I did not support DSP and
    I voted Yes on V -- even had a Yes on V sign in my yard.
    You people and your penchant for painting everyone who has a thought you don't like as a dirt is idiotic. STOP IT. It isn't constructive.
    You're right though, I did miss the sheriff debate.
    Why is the sheriff so terrible? I used to live in a sheriff patrolled area and the response time was pretty good. I wouldn't want the sheriff if we couldn't have a substation in Sierra Madre, but if they would agree to that and it was cheaper than what we have now -- what would be so bad about it?
    If keeping our police means running in the red or even higher taxes, I'm not going to rule out the sheriff just because Bart Doyle thought it was a good idea.

  28. Getting rid of the cops has always been considered to be a position held by those of the unwashed pursuasion. You need to remember that a lot of the people here want to preserve this city, not gut it.

  29. oh man, you guys press my buttom again.cops! our cops are a rogue force trying to overthrow our police chief, sue her, sue the city, sue you and i. where's the outrage? we give our bulls a raise. they take it as a free pass -- the majority of the males anyway -- to pig out into becoming the most obese and ridiculous looking peace offers in the san gabriel valley. we let them tool their black and whites like it's nascar, paced by that one squat little would-be dale earnhardt jr i once overheard cop to TOTALLING his cruiser on orange grove, a 35 mph boulevard. he now he enjoys mad-dogging some of us peaceful citizens,and is surely deserving a death ray look in return, , except he might lock you up for for doing it, just as t-room tom got sentenced totwo nights in the pasadena slam for brandishing a hose and shovel at a police employee.i'm keeping an open mind about the unarmed individual, maybe a car thief, i don't know, who got shot in the city hall parking lot a while back. a month or so has gone by and no offical explanation. i'm no sarah jane olssen/susan saliah (sp?) cop hater.
    Some cops are my best friends, but not sm's current bunch. how can you cuddle up to anybody who is suing you? our existing boys in blue watch too many copper shows and have too little to do, in my opinion. well,all cops are hot for action, aren't they?. so perhaps they all ought to leave sm and go to some city where there is plentiful criminal activity.but lay off the lawsuits at residents. there

  30. 3:09 -- a fat chicken?
    Do you think our police do a good job?

    I agree with Joe. I'm livid about the overtime abuses. I'm livid at the 24% raise while our burglary rate in this city has gone up over the last few years (I think they way under report that crime stat by the way.)

    Have you seen a marked improvement in the morale of our police since getting such a hefty increase? I sure haven't.

    Have you noticed the recent graffiti in town 'cause they sure don't seem to care.

  31. The 24% raise was part of Enid Joffe's "historic compromise." Just another instance of how the bad govt of the past put this town in a hole. The same people who couldn't get our audits done also couldn't negotiate with the cop's union. Go figure. Thank God we have competent people in charge now.

  32. How long are we bound by the 24% raise?

  33. Sir Eric wrote a good post on the subject:

  34. Just the facts mamMarch 24, 2009 at 12:15 PM

    Wasn’t Ron Brandley with the C of C when decisions were being made on the
    Farmers Market? I’m curious, and I’m just asking, what’s the story on plants and flowers being sold at the Farmers Market. Gees, another question about No Recuse Ron. When I was growing up no church or member would be so disrespectful to the
    Community or fellow neighbors. Members of the CC should be outraged by the actions of some of their members; maybe the outraged get treated like lambs?

  35. Although I am not a Ron Brandley fan, nor am I a "dirt", I think only facts should be stated about an individual, not rumors that can destroy one's character.

    In Mr. Brandley's defense, when I was a bank teller, I accidently overpaid Mr. Brandley. He immediately handed me back the $100.00 that I had overpaid him. That's a fact, not a rumor!
    I thank him for his honesty!

  36. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  37. This release will most probably be the last Beta release as the devices are scheduled to ship with the final version on April 3.

  38. Once lived there. Went to church at SMCC. Was a hyper conservative, now a serious progressive.
    Left SMCC due to severe dysfunctions in leadership, even though I found them all sincere and kind people.

    If you saw the amount of business that Leonora Moss did with SMCC, you could hardly call it significant. A few arrangements every week and a single flower for whenever someone from the congregation had a baby. Their prxomity to the church would in and of itself lead to a lot of arrangements. Over all small stuff.

    That he attended there was more of a conflict of interest than the business.

    Reading this all these years after the discussion and my time living in SM and going to church there, it seems that pettiness is the order of the day.

    Lots of people on both sides huffing and puffing and caught up in position rather than people.

    amazing thing to look back at.