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.