Friday, January 14, 2011

The Livingston Case and How It Compares to the G4's Prop 218 Shenanigans

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds adored by little statesmen .." - Ralph Waldo Emerson from "Self Reliance"

Ultimately a Court of Law will judge whether those Council Members' insistence that the City of Sierra Madre complied with Proposition 218 qualifies as a "foolish consistency." It is important to note, however, that at least one trial court in Northern California has already embraced arguments which are similar - if not identical - to the ones posted yesterday on The Tattler.

The case in question is Foster Poultry Farms vs. City of Livingston.

This case arose out of the City of Livingston's rather clumsy and extraordinarily unpopular efforts to increase its water rates. The trial court found - among other things - that the City had violated Proposition 218 because the City failed to provide written notices to parcel owners for all the Council meetings where the rate increase was discussed. And in particular failed to provide written notice of the Council meeting where the City adopted a revised water rate increase. The Court struck down the City's resolution adopting the revised water rate increase, finding that it was "unconstitutional, unlawful and void."

The City chose to appeal the trial court's findings in hopes of striking down the resolution. While the case was on appeal, the League of California Cities filed a "Friend of the Court Brief" authored by an attorney at Colantuono & Levin (i.e. the law firm where our very own City Attorney is a partner) arguing that the appellate panel should overturn the Court's ruling.

Fortunately for the many aggrieved water ratepayers in Livingston, their Mayor and a Council member, both of whom had voted for the rate increase, were recalled before the Court of Appeals could issue its ruling. Immediately after the recall a new Council was sworn in. They wasted absolutely no time in rolling back the water rate increase and dismissing the City's Levin fueled appeal.

While trial court opinions cannot be cited as binding precedent in California, the Judge's ruling in the Livingston case is well-reasoned and extremely persuasive.

Hopefully the fate of the recalled Mayor and that Council Member can serve as an object lesson that I hope will be embraced by the "little minds" of our own "little statesmen" in Sierra Madre.

Patchy Wears A Pompadour

An article appearing on our local franchise of the vast Aol/Patch empire of cratered on-line advertising platforms notes that the number of EVG Scandal victims here now numbers almost 450 people. Or approximately 4.3% of the population of Sierra Madre.

The editor of this news site then goes on to make these oddly connected observations:

Earlier, Sierra Madre Mayor Joe Mosca took time out of Tuesday's meeting of the City Council to praise the work done by Chief Diaz and the Sierra Madre Police Department as they continue to investigate the credit and debit card fraud stemming from EVG Quality Gas on Baldwin Avenue.

Mosca took issue with a recent editorial in the Pasadena Star News, in which editor and columnist Frank Girardot called the department "scared, ineffective and comical."

"Regardless of an article that appeared in the paper about our police department, I wanted to just say how pleased I am with the leadership of our police department," Mosca said.

Joe must have forgotten the part about Barney Fife.

So let me get this straight. The article talks about a significant portion of Sierra Madre's population getting ripped off in an elaborate credit card fraud operation, something that ran right under the noses of the SMPD for nearly a year. A criminal enterprise worked by people who now appear to have gotten away scot free, and apparently with a briefcase stuffed with the digital identities of much of this City.

And this is the kind of performance that Mayor Mosca praises as the source of much personal pride for him? So what happens when the number of victims hits - say - 750? The entire department gets a medal? A parade?

Failure does have its empathy for failure, I suppose.

Robert Rizzo, Parking Lot Attendant

You might remember him as the $800,000 a year City Manager of Bell. But would you have ever thought his next gig would be watching the customers from the parking lot of the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum?

This from Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times:

A tipster dropped me a line the other day to say she'd spotted an infamous former public official in Huntington Beach, working as a parking lot guard at the International Surfing Museum. So I drove down Wednesday to have a look, and guess what: Humpty Dumpty has had a great fall.

Apparently Ratso Rizzo began working at the lot a week or so back as part of a Court ordered community service obligation stemming from a drunk driving rap.

The good times just keep on a-coming.


  1. I wonder if there has ever been a recall of an entire City Council-1 except for Bell? As for our SMPD, I give them a break for this one since they had no way of knowing that the scam was going on until they got that first report. They couldn't investigate crime if they didn't know crimes were being committed. Just my opinion.

  2. Stop the ShenanigansJanuary 14, 2011 at 6:33 AM

    Very interesting find, Crawford. Livingston sure sounds like they have some of the same problems with their city council as we do.

    In regards to the Rizzo case:
    I like Steve Lopez, one of the few L.A. Times writers worth reading.
    He wrote us a nice article when we were fighting to pass Measure V.

    Seems the trend is now for investigative reporters to expose shenanigans by city officials.
    Perhaps Mr. Lopez would be interested in our little Sierra Madre, again?

  3. Lopez's article on John Buchanan's favorite dirty website the Cumquat was remarkable. Nothing explained to this town better the nasty tactics these entirely unscrupulous people were engaging in back then.

  4. Yes, I remember the meeting that Fay Angus, a victim of the evil Cuquat website, called out John Buchanan for his support, demanding an apology to the community for endorsing the Cuquat.
    Buchanan flat out refused, telling Fay, "I don't care if you are outraged, Fay, I'll look at any website I want to" or in so many words.
    Buchanan never did apologize to Fay Angus or any of the other people slandered and attacked on those dirt websites.
    Kurt Zimmerman and Don Watts were victims of hideous evil attacks, almost on a daily basis.
    So were Kevin and Katina Dunn, Barbara and Lee Cline
    Most expert observers who studied the writings on those websites are convinced there was at least 3 different authors of the porn slander.
    It was especially obsessed with slandering women and accusing straight councilmembers of being "gay". Hmmmmm....very interesting, yes?
    The one councilmember who is gay was never slandered. Go figure.

  5. Excellent homework on the Livingston case. We are proud of you youngsters. Keep up the good work.

  6. 7:15, thanks to Neuroblast, that exchange between Ms. Angus and Mr. Buchanan can be watched by anyone who wants to see it. The title is:
    John Buchanans website endorsement

  7. So our City Attorney was telling the City Council and the public that the City fully complied with the law, when she knew that a trial court had already found that similar conduct by a different City Council was determined to be unconstitutional

  8. Attorney Without LawJanuary 14, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    It amazes me that we STILL employ a law firm to defend the people of this town, who helped craft Prop 218, and then end up litigating against towns who are trying to fight for the rights guaranteed by the state constitution.This is a firm that seems to only serve the bumbling group of councilpersons, who feel once having been elected, they can make up rules for their own convenience.
    The public be damned.

  9. So.......the case is still open, because they have not caught anybody, right? Is their only suspect this Yamakienko mobster? Do they have any other promising leads?

    Perhaps we should start publically commending the SMPD when know.....have actually solved the case, obtained a suspect, served justice, etc.

    I'm just sayin'.......

  10. Don't forget that the premier partner of our city's law firm, Michael Colantuono, was instrumental in the hillside developments of Stonehouse and Carter.

    He could have defended the original Hillside Management Zone and limited those developments. Instead, he paved the way for the McMansions.

    He didn't give a damn what the residents said - except for 4, Stockly, Buchanan, Torres and Joffe

  11. Not affected but just askingJanuary 14, 2011 at 8:42 AM

    I'm sure I'll be corrected if I'm wrong, but it seems from reading the coverage on EVG that for the better part of the year there were no charges that didn't involve the correct amount for cheap gas at the EVG station. Perhaps a few credit card charges on cards from other businesses, states, countries, but nothing tied to EVG. Then during the month of December illegal activity went viral (as they say). I'm not understanding why folks think that during the previous year with no reported EVG transaction that the SMPD should have investigated the gas station.

  12. I believe that the City Attorney should have disclosed the Livingtston decision insteading of stating that the City was on firm legal ground.

  13. Good point, 8:43 am. Makes you wonder what else our illustrious City Attorney and her law firm haven't disclosed - or maybe they did disclose to the Council, who aren't much inclined to share. I'm putting my money on the hubris Buchanan and Mayor Monkey Boy display at every Council meeting.

  14. It is the responsibility of City Government to protect its residents from crime. No background checks were done on the EVG people. They were just thrown a business license which became a de facto license to steal. A business right in the middle of town set up with the express purpose of stealing identities. Which they did without a hitch.

    Can a case be made that it is "not their fault?" I guess. In a town as given to political correctness as this one anything goes. But it was their responsibility, and for whatever reasons that it was not met.

    Hardly cause for the kind of celebrating Mosca did Tuesday night.

  15. At best, Sandi certainly made lots of pronouncements that the City was on firm legal ground knowing that the law on notice requirements under Prop. 218 was far from settled.

  16. Isn't Buchanan the League of California Cities Representative? Did he know about the Livingston decision and choose to keep quiet too?

  17. Sandi's pronouncements that the City fulfilled its Prop 218 obligations is just laughable. She was the one who was supposed to make sure they were done properly. What is our $250,000 a year city atty supposed to say, she screwed up?

  18. The City workers should take note of where they could end up working if they complain too much about pay and benifits. The pay they receive for so little work is huge when compared with that of a parking lot attendant.

  19. When the lawsuit is over:

    Coluntano and Levin must return the fee they received from the city for all water related work.

    The City must fire them for BAD legal advise and leadership.

  20. The League of California Cities HATES Prop 218. And Collie-Levin has been in the forefront of the effort to destroy it. The League would like nothing better than a world where cities can do anything they want with your money, and without you butting in. It's ugly.

  21. Sandi was real quick to bash Zimmerman's letter challenging the City's handling of 218.

    Now it seems Zimmerman was right. Why am I not surprised.


    Livingston is about the same sq. miles and population as Sierra Madre.

    Our city attorney, SANDI LEVIN is well aquainted with this suit, and never disclosed this.
    Feel lucky, Sandi? Think you lost that one, but will win this one?

  23. Bad Karma, are background checks done on ALL business licenses in Sierra Madre? Are background checks done when business licenses are renewed? At the heart of this argument is where does the line between City Hall's responsibility to protect its residents from dishonest business and the right of its citizens from government intrusion begin and end.

    I bet Derrick Bush would squeal like a stuck pig if a background check was done when he took out his business license - if indeed he has one.

  24. My favorite defense that Attorney Levin offered was:
    The notice was supposed to generate the desire to ask questions to seek further information, and it did that.
    You bet it did.
    But is that really how these can be interpreted?

    (1) The amount of the fee or charge proposed; and
    (2) The reason for the proposed fee or charge.

  25. 9:19, how about a minimal google search?

  26. Blissfully IgnorantJanuary 14, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    I'll bet you 2/3rds of the residents of this town are in ignorant bliss in regards to the crummy leadership and attorney we have.
    I think the only way for them to take notice is for a meteorite strike on Kersting Court.

  27. The City now has put into effect much more stringent requirements for obtaining a business license here in Sierra Madre. Too late, of course.

  28. I just got my business license renewal, along with a fee increase, with a new form requesting alot more information. I wonder what precipitated this??, it includes state license, an SS number, federal tax ID, type of business entity, principals, etc.
    Of course this means verifing the info? Not.

  29. SS number, federal tax ID - The price we all pay for crime. Have any of you flown from LAX lately? Police activity=police state.

  30. There have sure been a lot of irregularities going on since the gang of 4 took over the council.

    More than I can ever remember. It's just been one damn thing after another.

    The horrible fact is they don't give a damn.
    The ONLY councilmember who cares about the majority of people in Sierra Madre, present and future is MaryAnn MacGillivray.
    It's very sad that these others were elected to take over the majority.

    You all know the TV commercial "gee, I could have had a V8" well, Sierra Madre could have had Don Watts, Pat Alcorn and John Crawford. "banging my head against the wall".
    Instead you got Mosca, Moran and Walsh. SIGH

  31. 10:54, I'm OK with frisking at LAX - security has always been too lax in this country, but giving our city hall a social security number and a federal tax id number? That would be crazy. What if a staffer got disgruntled again, asnd walked away with the records?
    City hall is not a secure place.

  32. 10:08, it sounds like a good change for new business applications, but if a business has been here for years, and has not been a criminal enterprise? C'mon.

  33. Most local, county, state and federal employees are subject to background checks as are banks, schools, and other industries/businesses dealing with the public. And yes, that means giving out your social security number. How else can a background check be accurate?

    What about the business owner that is over friendly to his/her employees? Or irregularities in payroll checks? Wouldn't you want an annual background check to surface questionable business practices and irregularities?

  34. 11:22, do you trust the security capabilities of our city hall?

  35. Does C & L have to have a business license to practice law in Sierra Madre? Shouldn't we be looking at the types of lawsuits they have defended clients against and what the decisions have been? What kind of suits have they brought for that matter? We need to know a lot more about the next City Attorney that's hired when we manage to oust the current rapscallions.

  36. 10:08, when did you renew? Was it before or after the CVG debacle was made public? Do you think that between the time the Mayor held a press conference and when you renewed that the City acted in such a responsive manner as to revamp their process? Seems way too responsible to me...

  37. I think a big reason why so many people
    aren;t reporting credit card fraud to the
    SMPD is they don't trust them to handle
    their information.

  38. Good for the trial court judge in the Livingstone case.
    218 is meant to better inform people, not jerk them around.

    Interesting when a government has to adhere to propositions that are intended to protect citizens from the government.

  39. The fact that the people of Livingston recalled a couple of jerks didn't hurt, either.

  40. Unfortunately 11:43,recalls require corruption so blatant that even the willfully disengaged see it.The type of corruption that happens here is more subtle-and always done with a smile,a handshake,and a big "Thanks!"

  41. Did our city attorneys firm argue AGAINST the people of Livingstone when they claimed they didn't get proper notice? Our city attorneys firm is for NOT following the letter of the law as well as the spirit of the law when it comes to proposition 218?

  42. That's what it's going to come to in Sierra Madre, 11:57 am. She's going to argue against the people of Sierra Madre claiming they did receive proper notice. Didn't they ask questions? Wasn't that what Prop 218 is about? Asking questions?

  43. So, if so many people aren't reporting credit card fraud to the SMPD, does that mean so many people aren't reporting robberies, breakins, battery and rape, too? Because "it doesn't do any good"? If your kid got hit on a bicycle and the driver didn't stop - you know, hit and run, would you not bother to report it to the PD because you'd have to give your name and address? Maybe produce some identification? I'm not saying it's okay to commit credit card fraud but some people are right there on the edge in acting complicitly.

    •An individual is complicit in a crime if he/she is aware of its occurrence and has the ability to report the crime, but fails to do so.

  44. I gotta figure there's a link between the EVG rip off and the water department rip off in the way people respond. It's okay to be indignant because somebody took a couple of hundred dollars out of your bank account, but it's not okay to fight back if the city rips you off for a couple of hundred dollars a year in a water rate increase. EVG is a thief; the City Council are not only thieves, but they're liars as well - it's not about infrastructure, it's about bond debt and the city's credit rating. Look real hard - you'll see the link.

  45. I think I see - it's okay to lie about infrastructure being the reason for the water rate increase because we were behind in bond debt repayment.

  46. Can't you just hear Joe Mosca and John Buchanan giving Elaine her marching orders? "Tell the residents we need the money to fix the pipes. Those idiots will never figure out what its really for."

  47. i'm confused.

    shouldn't the role of a city staff member, even if it is a demi-God lawyer, to serve the interests of the people?

    where does John Buchanan and Joe Mosca get off deciding that they are going to do whatever they want, regardless of ethics and the law, to push a bogus agenda of a water tax ? for a couple of self appointed enlightened individuals, they are both sort of dumb

    it's almost come to the point that I really don't like the two guys, they both moved into the city and immediately started becoming political, they ignore and chastise those who disagree or use civil processes to stop their agendas and then continue with whatever they feel is in their employer's best interest

    it's come to a point where if the Mosca and Bucahan families would just move out of Sierra Madre, we'd be better off

    heaven sakes they are supposed to be our neighbors but these two guys are pushing a major infrastruture that is aimed at almost doubling our population, just because some lame Sacremento agency has decided that Sierra Madre should have a population of almost 20,000

    for Mosca and Buchanan to purposely mislead us and lie to us and hide special big budget pork's appallaing and very unneighbor like

    for the life of me, I figure that John Buchanan doesn't care one bit about the city, it's about whether his hair looks good for a photo op and he just loves to talk and demonstrate in his own mind that he is superior to those who have lived in the city for years longer than him

    Mosca used and continues to use Sierra Madre for his own aspirations and to benefit his employer and Buchanan is a twin to Mosca

    When is Nancy Walsh, who got off her sofa and ran for Council, when is she ever going to contribute to the business of the city? She too is complicit in the cover up and lies that the Mayor and Mayor Pro Temp told us about the original water tax hike.

    It's shocking at first, but once you listen to him, Josh Moran has nothing but disdain for a majority of us and if we can't benefit him or be a part of his social circle, he's just a drone rubberstamping the Buchanan / Mosca corporate vision of Sierra Madre.

    Hopefully, a lawsuit against the city will spread the word amongst us just how unethical and deceptive John Buchanan and Joe Mosca have been with us.

    I don't know how they can show their faces in town without utter shame.

    It's gotten to a point, where these four Councilmen, especially Buchanan just plain disgust me.

  48. Logic 101 says.....

    Let's assume Sandi is right and Prop. 218's notice requirements are merely intended to encourage residents to ask questions about the rate increase.

    Isn't there an assumption built into Sandi's argument, however, that the answers to those questions from the City will be truthful?

  49. They lied to get our money. Any Judge will immediately see that.

    They got caught, and now they're going to have to face some consequences. Once people begin toi understand just how bad and illegal a lie was told by these people, recalls will start to make sense. They deserve to be removed from office for this.

  50. Logic 201 says ...

    Logic 101, you are right. For Sandi to be right you have to accept both of her assumptions.

    The first assumption -- that Proposiiton 218 does not require explicit notice of the reasons for the fee increase -- appears to be wrong based on the plain language of the Proposition.

    The second assumption -- that the City will provide the residents with accurate information -- also appears to be wrong given the different and conflicting reasons it has provided the residents for the rate hike.

  51. reply to Logic 101

    The city has failed to account for water department deposits in the estimated amount $2,000,000 dollars a year.

    example of easy math......
    $2,000,000 yr x 10 years is $20 Million Dollars / where did it go???

    If these monies were spent for water department expenses...

    We would not need a water rate increase...

    The goal should be...the city should not commingle the cash cows money with the general fund....or ?

  52. Stop the ShenanigansJanuary 14, 2011 at 2:59 PM


    I would really like to know where-did I read you right? TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS went?

    That should be the NUMBER ONE QUESTION.

    I demand a forensic accounting, nothing short of one will do, unless someone can convince us that this was not just another Bart Doyle gang.....SHENANIGAN.

  53. Look, they will just ignore the protests until confronted in court. They will keep taking your money as long as they can get away with it.
    Guess who I'm talking about, the crooks at the gas station or at city hall?

  54. I guess we need some good honest counilpersons like Stockly, Doyle, Lambdin, and Buchanan to save the day, oh wait, we still have Buchanan.

  55. Dirt Occupation Government (DOG)

  56. That's true 3:33. Won't be the first time a council just refuses to listen to the residents they supposedly serve. But the G4 is particularly hostile about their ignorance.
    The city government would not keep getting sued if it would do a better job.

  57. Heard an interesting announcement from a broker.
    They are getting rid of municipal bonds, short term, anticipating city bankruptcies.

  58. The ways the city spends its money is not your damn business, Logic 101, you should realize it by now. Just the way they are spending money on whatever they deem "necessary" is not your business, and you have no right to ask.

  59. I used to run a business in town several years ago and I remember when the merchants used to fill out an annual emergency contact card for the police department in case of emergency. Did the gas station owners in question ever fill out such a card?

    My question is, does the police get involved with the down town merchants anymore? Do they ever have meetings anymore?

  60. Isn't that what the chamber is for, 3:58? To keep the merchants and city hall in the loop with each other?

  61. The Chamber seems to believe that its role is to get the city to use taxpayer dollars to pay for their expenses.

  62. Is this city totally corrupt?

    It sure seems so.

    What the hell happened to us?

  63. Rizzo's gone from his most recent duty behind cars.

  64. Just heard the Homeowners Association has removed "OAKS" from their sign @ Foothill Blvd. It will be renamed "HIGHLANDS / no oaks. In the
    short term a red bar will be placed diagonally across the Oaks portion of the present sign.

    The ancient crumdugons who took the bait of "100,000 trucks annually parading through their beloved subdivision will soon be dead, but so will the Oaks and Sycamores. I bet they think they are going to bet!

  65. 3:39.....Great Post and while we are at it..Whatever happened to the money from the first Bonds issued in 8 or 9 years or there about.Also why has the City been so resistant to a forensic audit?It would appear with the City's great history for questionable record keeping and corrupt city managers,the citizens should demand one at once.

  66. Yes, Trudy, let's demand it!


  67. Livingston connectionsJanuary 14, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    Has anyone talked to the people from Livingston?
    It would be interesting to compare all the details of their case to our situation.

    Sure looks from here, like Ms Sandi Levin is heading for 2 straight losers!

  68. Sizzlin, Succinct, Savory, SweeettttJanuary 14, 2011 at 9:04 PM

    A decided case the livingston is most excellant, shows how much more foolhardy with deception her words and intent were. Shame Shame Ms Levin. You know there is trouble in Calabasas and there is a councilperson Mauer and I believe the attorney firm there is Coluntano, also. So now, we see their interests are development and not the public's best interests. But she did what the governing council asked, and you got the Rusty Pipe Shuffle. Cha, Cha, Cha.

    Touche Sir Eric, precision wordplay, like a ballet.

  69. It will all come crashing down on the G4 and the rest who suck up with/to them.
    Their hatred for Sierra Madre cannot continue.
    The arrogance, hubris and greed will blow up in their faces.
    It is inevitable.

  70. I have to agree that the police had no way of knowing that the gas station owners were scamming us. I had a small business and filed for a business license here. Filled out all the required paperwork. It's not a city's job to police the businesses here. If they did, people would be screaming that we don't support business in town. Could have happened anywhere...any business in town could have corrupt employees stealing your credit card information now would you know? YOU WOULDN'T until it showed up on your statement...give the police a break ...there is only so much they can do in a situation like this.

  71. I'm sure the case can be made that the police should not be held responsible for the EVG disaster, Phil. But on the other hand I'm not quite sure their performance should be the cause for celebration either. We pay them a lot of tax money to protect us from crime. When that job is not done we need to question their competence. We should never become so politically correct that we don't dare to speak out.


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