Friday, June 22, 2012

The SGVCOG Gives Nick Conway the Boot

Two weeks after the DA's office raided Nick Conway's home and offices, the SGVCOG membership showed the world that they had finally seen enough and removed him from power. The big question now being whether or not the COG can keep it together long enough to rebuild its reputation to a point where it can survive. Getting rid of Nick Conway was definitely a necessary first step. But is this a case of too little, too late? And why did it take pressure from someone outside of their number to get the COG to at last do the right thing?

Apparently it was quite a contentious behind closed door meeting. And after a marathon of nearly 2 hours alone with the Governing Board, COG President Angel Carrillo and attorney Richard Jones scurried from the room and the long suffering public was finally allowed to come in.

COG VP Barbara Messina (a Conway die hard and a 710 tunnel main mama), attempted to get the meeting going as if nothing had happened, but several board members reminded her that they needed to report out of the closed session. Something that couldn't go down until Angel and the Attorney came back from wherever it is they had gone.

The prodigals eventually did return, at which time Angel turned it over to Lawyer Jones so he could shed some light on the matter. And apparently there was an item that needed to be reported.

Richard Jones informed all present that the Governing Board, in a nearly unanimous decision, voted to put Nick Conway on "immediate administrative leave" as the COG Executive Director. His firm's management services contract would remain intact, but he would no longer be the Executive Director. The only no vote on the Governing Board was cast by David Spence from La Canada Flintridge. Spence being the same guy that approved the secret settlement payment to Conway after the first Caltrans audit.

Additional news comes to us from the SGV Tribune this morning in an article called "San Gabriel Valley COG places Conway on administrative leave; seeks replacement" (click here).

Also, the SGVCOG board announced it had settled a lawsuit with open-government advocate Gil Aguirre, a resident of San Dimas. The COG will pay Aguirre $50,000 to cover attorney's fees, Jones explained.

Aguirre had filed a complaint to the DA's Office in January accusing Conway of using his position as the COG's executive director to award public contracts to Arroyo Associates, Inc., a management company owned by Conway. Aguirre also accusing the COG of violating the state's open-meeting laws and keeping secrets that should be made public.

Thanks to the tenacity of individuals like Gil Aguirre, things have begun to change for the better in the San Gabriel Valley. Hopefully our two City Council liaisons to the SGVCOG will find it in themselves to report on this rather amazing event at next Tuesday's City Council meeting.

The Board voted to have Daryl Parrish, City manager of Covina, handle administrative duties for the COG and to work with the City Manager Committee to locate an "interim Executive Director."

The Board also voted to pay Lawyer Jones for additional services related to the investigation by the District Attorney's office. Jones indicated that he was scheduled to meet with the DA's office to discuss the investigation. He also shared his belief that the SGVCOG was a potential "victim." Jones also mentioning that the search warrant would be unsealed shortly and he would be obtaining a copy.

Lastly, the Board voted to accept by-law changes as provided, something that in effect will throw past Presidents Tom King and Carol Herrera off the Executive Committee. Their past criticisms of Nick Conway apparently not sitting well with some. At the COG good deeds rarely go unpunished.

The Meaglia's get their McMansion

I'm pretty sure that most folks in town might say that 7 bathrooms in a single story home is a bit on the excessive side. I mean, if they all those toilets get flushed at once, our water table could drop precipitously, potentially leaving people here without water. Not to mention what such a deluge could do to our sewer system. But despite just that sort of threat facing Sierra Madre, the Meaglia's at last got what they'd been asking for.

Nine years ago, applicant Richard Meaglia built his first mansion in the Sierra Madre hillsides, a house of 5,755 square feet. Now, after a year of tussling with the Planning Commission, he will get a new 5,675 square foot one to go along with it. This in a neighborhood where the average house size is 3,375 square feet, an average including his present jumbo compound.

What was it that had changed and allowed him the Planning Commission's sanction for this project? It appears that Meaglia had converted his original plans for a two story behemoth into a less looming one story behemoth.

Commissioner Bob Spears expressed his concern that the applicant had already singlehandedly moved the average size for houses in that neighborhood, something which skewed the basis for comparison there. He also talked about a "Creeping Standard," saying the "applicant moved the goal line once already, and now he's looking to move it again." Spears went on to say that we don't want to wake up one day and find that our houses have become outhouses to far larger structures. There is a point where we need to say houses can be too big.

The commission talked about the McMansionization of Arcadia, and the prevalence of huge houses on small lots there. Spears argued that Meaglia's proposal was not in scale with the neighborhood and therefore inconsistent with the General Plan, but four other commissioners voted for approval anyway. Their notion being that the lot size was large enough to support the large house. Apparently the new standard in Sierra Madre is if it's a large lot, you build a large house. Small lot, small house.

A few conditions for approval were added, including a covenant that a covered patio will not be turned into yet more house. A lighting plan that follows Dark Sky preservation practices was also made a condition of approval.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

64 comments:

  1. To Gil Aguirre, congratulations, and thank you!

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    1. Pity about the administrative leave though - the money keeps flowing into Conway's gullet, yeah?

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    2. I think it is a nicety. He is under contract and at this point it would be hard to break it. However, if and when the DA comes down hard on Nick, that contract would then be in breach.

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    3. Thank you for your imput. Let's hope the DA dones his job and breach's Conway's breeches. However, it is obvious that any contracts by/at Arroyo are tainted and suspect.

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  2. So all in all, the Meaglia's will have 11,430 square feet of living space.

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  3. Maybe the Meaglias are building a world to house their followers. It is to be called Meaglia Town.

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    1. Meaglia Town II. Meaglia Town is in Chino Hills, the 11 house development project, in those hillsides.

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    2. Plus extensive tree removal.

      Richard lived in Chino, CA from 2004 to 2010. Richard W Meaglia is related to Brent Meaglia, who is 25 years old and lives in Sierra Madre, CA. This is the history of a family that buys property as private owners and then turns them into developments.

      http://www.championnewspapers.com/articles/2011/09/07/news/doc4e580f4b45446851865022.txt

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  4. Thank you Gil Aguirre for your tireless efforts to shed light on this crook. Shame on the board for dismissing your accusations and waiting for the DA to validate what was crystal clear all along.Also shame on the board who now punish king and Herrera for their refusal to drink Nicks kool aide and challenged his lies and mismanagement.

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  5. Paid leave?? Fire the guy already and watch Spence cry

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  6. Gil Aguirre you're a hero!

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  7. Gil should donate his $50,000 to an open government group instead of pocketing it. Its taxpayer money.

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    1. That is an absurd statement. Gil paid his lawyer fees out of pocket. He out up his own money to get some badly needed justice done around here. He is only being paid back what he took out of his own bank account. This isn't a prize. Go recycle some batteries or something.

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    2. "Its taxpayer money." So is the millions of dollars which the COG has paid, and continues to pay, to Conway via his company Arroyo Associates. My understanding is that the $50,000 goes to the attorney representing Aguirre, which is less than the legal costs he has actually incurred.

      If you are concerned about the waste of taxpayer dollars, I suggest you call for the immediate ouster of each and every COG Board Member who has allowed these abuses to continue unabated.

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    3. People who kiss the a** of power make me sick. Where was 7:34 when the taxpayers were being looted by these punks?

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    4. Is that the same taxpayer money that Dave Spence from La Canada secretly paid out to Conway under a bogus secret deal later called a "settlement"?

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    5. 7:34, that's an idiotic remark.
      Mr. Aguirre is being reimbursed for funds that the unrepentantly corrupt organization forced him to use. But I get it that people with no virtue are angry at him. Hard to be called upon to be your best self and not be able to find it.

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  8. If the Meaglia pile of crap conformed to the Zoning Code, no CUP would have been required, regardless of the lot size involved. Yes, this tactic is known as busting the code by getting exemptions approved in order to establish precedents, thereby making later CUP's much easier to obtain in this area.

    Expect to see these monster homes sold off after each new one is built. This kind of activity is extremely profitable.

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    1. channel 3 watcherJune 22, 2012 at 8:06 AM

      Mr. Meaglia said that he wasn't familiar with Dark Sky standards. That ignorance doesn't bode well from a developer of hillsides land.

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  9. There is no anti-huge house ordinance, no prohibition against extraordinary depletion of resources for frivolous needs. The private property rights outweigh those considerations.
    Will there any way to prevent Meaglia from Sierra Madre Monument to Conspicuous Consumption Number 3?

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  10. Spears: 1 Commission: 0

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  11. Meaglia just ground them down. He knew they'd cave in eventually. They want to be nice.

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    1. Disagree 8:04. They stick to the laws of the town. The four commissioners who gave approval thought that the plan was improved, responded to their concerns, and was an ok project. Pevsner said that if he had enough money he would want to build a spectacular house like that one, too.

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    2. Dr Pevsner with NO architecture or construction background never meet a BIG project that he did not like. Also insufficient parking at medical facilities is also OK with him. He has no business on the Planning Commission. I am very sad to see Gina term out. Russel deserve a nice rest, he has given a lot.

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    3. Pevsner always reports that he thinks they must be very frustrated ("they" being developers, not commissioners). But all points of view are necessary for good decisions, so that's the point of view he speaks for. Pevsner represents the developers.

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  12. Why on Earth would the Planning Commission accept a project with incomplete information? The idea that this one was better than previous submittable was ridiculous. It should have been reviewed as a new project. Bob Spears was right and so was Gina.

    Too many times applicants come to the Planning Commission with incomplete drawings and data. The Planning Commission must come up with a check list of color renderings and other necessary drawings including how the project relates to near by properties for all submittable.

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    1. 9:01 You sound like you have some knowledge about building.

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    2. Great idea. A subcommittee should be formed for this task with Bob Spears and some past Planning Commission members like Gina Hunt, Don Watts, and John Hutt. I am sure that they could come up with a good check list.

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    3. Yes! The universal panacea: a subcommittee. Of volunteers, no less. 9:13 am, tell us just how many volunteer opportunities do you staff? I think after 8 years Gina Hunt is ready for time for herself and her family. Don Watts is not interested in further commission service after the disrespectful way in which he was treated. John Hutt is a member of the GPSC. Why can't the Development staff come up with a checklist? It's their area of expertise and they are paid staffers.

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    4. Checklists and Design Guidelines like these are in use all over California, and are administered by Building Department staff. No need for more volunteer time, especially for something as critical as zoning and code enforcement.

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    5. Our Developer's Department likes it the way it is, otherwise they would demand this simple information. It allows developers to submit incomplete packages like last night. The department could have told the developer to provide complete plans but they didn't. Also staff did not provide the commission with appropriate information.

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    6. 9:01 please apply for the Planning Commission, they are taking applications right now.

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    7. So that's why Mayor Moran wanted to 'discuss' the appointment process!

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    8. 3:02 Your light bulb has been turned on.

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    9. That little gambit ended weakly for the Joshster.

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  13. There you have it folks, the cost of putting your money where your mouth is: $50,000. Remember Gil Aguirre has only initiated the action. Many miles to go in the DA's shoes before (if) any voter satisfaction is accomplished.

    In the meantime Slick Nick continues as the head of Arroyo Associates collecting a paycheck, wheeling and dealing with taxpayers money. Will he eventually be taken down? And at what cost? Anyone's guess.

    Thanks Gil. You're a true hero.

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  14. Nick Conway is a crook. Plain and simple. He still really hasn't gotten what he deserves knowing he's only got more time to manipulate the likes of Messina, Spence and others. And paid leave means nothing - he's still raking in money for illegal contracts. And how are Arroyo employees still working on COG stuff - they work for Nick, paid by Nick by Arroyo in an office paid by Arroyo. So the COG hires an paid interim Executive Director, continues to pay Nick Conway, pays Arroyo, pays legal fees and settlements all at the Cities' expense. Wow.

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  15. I won't be happy until Nick Conway is behind bars. At least he'll have Dave Spence to console him.

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  16. The State of California wants to raise our taxes for what? So they can give to useless organizations like COG? Fat chance I'll vote for that!

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    1. Hey, Jerry dissolved the CRA's. There's hope yet! He may dissolve the COG. Then SCAG.

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    2. There is no money for these kinds of organizations any more. Sacramento is just going to have to find some other forms of influence to peddle to the lobbyists.

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  17. Mr. King, if you're reading the Tattler today, we want to thank you for your noble efforts in the name of all of the residents and property owners in the San Gabriel Valley. It's community leaders like you and Mr. Aguirre that give us hope that there are still honest citizens looking out for us.

    Thank you.

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    1. Amen. Thank you for your honesty and your perseverance.

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    2. And don't forget Carol Herrera of Diamond Bar, another former COG President, who has spoken out against the actions of the former Executive Director and the agency.

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  18. Just how in the world did Dr. Pevsner get selected to the Planning Commission. He is rather new to Sierra Madre moving here around 03. How does a doctor know anything about zoning, land use, architecture.? Maybe it was all part of the BIG plan to develop Sierra Madre by installing pro-development commissioners. His decisions are based purely on personal interests.

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    1. 2:51, I have observed many of the planning commission meetings, and do not think that's an accurate description. My take is that he is trying hard to be fair, and for him that means leniency to the applicants. At least that is his track record. He's obviously intelligent and has the community spirit to volunteer. His taste in houses is different from the majority of Sierra Madreans. But he's not in it for personal gain.
      I hope.

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  19. Thanks for the expressions of support, it is much appreciated. Please take the time to go to a meeting, write a letter...get involved. There is much more to the COG story and hopefully a very bright light will be shined on how our elected officials have, and continue to, allow this taxpayer funded agency to operate.

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  20. Simple Barbara Messina will be the next COG Chair. At last night's meeting where ACE asked for a divorce from the COG Barbara's answer was, throwing up her hands "Oh, it's too complicated". Lord, have mercy on the Simple and give ACE the opportunity to run far and fast.

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    1. Good Heavens. She sounds like someone who would win an election to the Sierra Madre City Council.

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    2. She could win an election in almost city.....based on how she runs her campaigns. Just ask the folks over at the FPPC who recently levied her with a huge fine. Something about secret hit pieces being sent out against her opponent.

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  21. Here's my answer - give an IQ test to the COG Board. Those who pass, (sorry Dave Spence) also get an ethics test (sorry, Barbara). Those who pass get a background check. The remainder can stay on the Board.

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    1. Lie detectors might come in useful. Couple of those characters could use a fluttering.

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    2. Just start all over again from scratch. Send everyone home.

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  22. Let Meaglia build what he wants to on his OWN property. As long as it meets zoning and building codes. I can remember all the fuss when Mursol was building larger newer homes. Everyone was pissed. Mur sol does a great job architecturally. How can one complain. sounds more like jealousy.

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    1. Anything over 4,000 square feet triggers a Conditional Use Permit process. Why? Because the majority of homes in this town are not huge. A few are, and good on them. But if we get casual about it, it will be no time before we become Arcadiaized.

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    2. Take a look at what Mursol built on Parkins Dr or Santa Anita Ct., and tell me that they fit in with the neighborhood. Not a case of jealousy. Have no doubt that the construction is good. The architecture is over the top, with a bit of a piggy flair. More appropriate for Arcadia...

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  23. Thanks to Tom King, Carol Herrera and Gil Aguirre for their commitment to integrity. COG Board, use them as an example - it'll keep you out of jail and out of the papers. The last croanie of Nick made headlines - Sharon Martinez

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  24. Thank you Tattler.

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  25. I just returned from two days miltary reserve service. Unfortunately, I could not go to the SGVCOG meeting. No, I do not deserve any special thanks.

    Leadership is what we do when no one is looking. If you had been to a SGVCOG meeting in the last year or so, you could see that someone was looking: Gil Aguire. There were folks video taping every meeting, recording the days when Arroyo Associates made errors in agendas, postings, budgets, and other sloppy and amateur work. I also informed the incumbent SGVCOG leadership of those issues. Instead the SGVCOG developed a bunker mentaltity, throwing the attorney at Aguire and others who simply said, follow the rules. That is a red flag that something is seriously wrong. Aguire was met with contempt and arrogance. Yet last night they quickly paid his attorneys off. I predicted this over a year ago, when I suggested that the COG follow the law.

    Some of the more "traditional San Gabriel Valley" leaders don't like that. They believe that you never admit that you were mistaken, and will spend other taxpayers' money to prove it. The were wrong again. With the latest $50,000 settlement, the Conway bill is over $755,000 "comforting him, paying him for "lost business", defending him and simply covering up for him.

    I would have loved to have seen that $755,000 put into getting people back to work, or fixing up the animal shelter in Balwdwin Park. But that is what happens when you elect career politicians to positions of leadership.

    Last night was a perfect example of a total void of leadership. The pertinent question is if Conway diverted the rent for the Homeless JPIA to his company. One would think that someone would simply make a phone call. If you find out he did not do it, you vigorously defend him and educate the public that the story is not true. If you find he did do it, then you FIRE him on the spot and SUE HIM for the return of taxpayer's money. It is really not that complicated. It is a decision that should not take two hours. But if, the COG followed their past practice, they were more concerned about who called the cops in the first place.

    Three and a half years ago, I decided to become the President of the COG. I found it curious why Conway did not want me there. Shortly after I took over as President, I called for a Forensic Audit of glaring shortcomings in the SGVCOG Administration. To date, the COG leadership has not shown the guts or the leadership to do one. I am very disappointed in them.

    It all reminds me of Dorothy, the Lion and the Tin Man. Pay no attention to the man behind the screen. One Board Member lamented to me that it is simply a Train Wreck.


    Tom King
    Past President SGVCOG
    Mayor Pro Tem, Walnut

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  26. We tried a forensic audit here. The entrenched political leadership and their hirelings at city hall literally freaked out.

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  27. Here's to hoping the COG board has learned a lesson. And nick Conway goes to jail.

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  28. The COG Board has not learned a lesson....There is more coming next week.

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