Thursday, July 12, 2012

The City Of Walnut Quits the SGVCOG by a Unanimous 5-0 Council Vote

According to an e-mail I received from City of Walnut Mayor Pro Tem Tom King, the City Council there voted unanimously last evening to get out of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments. "We are officially out," is how Tom put it. Other cities are looking into this possibility as well, and residents here in Sierra Madre are asking City Councilmembers that a discussion about our continued membership in this deeply troubled organization be agendized, and soon.

This is yet one more indication that in the San Gabriel Valley resident recognition of local government corruption is leading to an increased awareness that measures do need to be taken in instances such as this one. The old "go along and trust the process" mentality just doesn't seem to be working for people any longer.

In yesterday's edition of The San Gabriel Valley Tribune (click here) the possibility of even more cities getting out of "The COG" was examined. Here is what they had to say:

Walnut, other cities considering leaving the COG - Growing nervous over a criminal investigation into the former executive director of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, and worried about liability spill-over, some of the COG's 31 members are considering withdrawing from the regional agency.

Walnut's City Council will formally vote on withdrawing from the COG at 7 p.m. Wednesday, while El Monte intends to agendize the matter for its City Council meeting Tuesday night. City Council members from West Covina, Diamond Bar and La Puente all said they are very concerned about the criminal investigation and allegations, and the accompanying legal costs, but have not scheduled formal votes on membership.

"The financial risk to the City of Walnut by remaining in the organization is simply too high," wrote Walnut Councilman Tom King, in a memo circulated to the City Council by City manager Rob Wishner.

Wishner's report to the Council recommends "tabling" the city's 2012-13 membership renewal and withholding dues of $13,898 "until such time that the matters of conflict of interest and liability have been adequately addressed."

COG's executive director Nick Conway, 60, was arrested June 29 on four felony counts of conflict of interest in relation to his work with the COG, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The matter of financial risk to SGVCOG member cities is a real one. Cities that obtained grant and other moneys through The COG could, should investigators and the Courts conclude there was actual fraud involved, be asked to return whatever it is that they have received. If you add up all the moneys that have been parceled here over the years through SGVCOG grants and other programs, the hit to Sierra Madre's already at risk budgets could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I have obtained a copy of the City of Walnut Agenda Report on this matter, and here is how they explain why cities could find themselves at further severe financial risk should they choose to remain in The COG:

The management of the SGVCOG is conducted by Arroyo Associates, a private enterprise solely owned by the now suspended Executive Director. The Executive Director of the SGVCOG, Nick Conway, is currently charged with four felony counts of violation of Government Code Section 1090. The SGVCOG continues to pay the Executive Director his contracted salary. For several years the agency has been classified as an at-risk agency due to irregularities in the management of grants by CALTRANS.

(Later) Despite the recent arrest of the Executive Director, the firm Arroyo Associates continues to manage grants under which an apparent conflict of interest exists. Grants administered in violation of Government Code Section 1090 are legally null and void. Under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) the SGVCOG is at high risk for further civil action by government or community organizations.

Attempts to educate the current Executive Committee, President and Board Members of this risk have been rebuffed and scoffed at. The risk to the City of Walnut for continued exposure to RICO Civil and Criminal actions are not justified. The City of Walnut representative has not voted for continuing these apparent grant conflicts two years in a row during budget approval sessions. The budget includes grants likely managed under a conflict of interest.

In other words, there is a distinct possibility that any money or grants obtained by the City of Sierra Madre through the SGVCOG may very well be subject to recall should the findings of the Court require it. And the pay back requirements could go back for as many years as the Court concludes RICO violations existed. By quitting now we would avoid any further exposure. Exposure for past illegal transactions would still exist. We did have representatives there, but unfortunately they were people who chose to look the other way.

All moral considerations aside, I don't think the City of Sierra Madre can afford to take the kinds of severe financial risks continued membership in the SGVCOG could bring. The conflict of interest situation that led to Conway's arrest still exists, and corruption there is so endemic to the place that the current leadership sees no reason to end these practices. They apparently see nothing wrong with the way business continues to be done despite Executive Director Nick Conway's arrest on corruption charges for just those kinds of things.

It is time for Sierra Madre to get out. We cannot afford to take these kinds of chances.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

66 comments:

  1. In the words of my friend Don Watts, "DUH!"

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  2. We could end up paying a stiff price for all of those yummy buffets.

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  3. I thought we were out awhile ago when Don and MaryAnn were on the council. What happened with that, who put us back in, Mosca? Glad that guy is gone.

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    1. Mosca sat there and said nothing while Conway funneled our tax money into a private company that he owns. If we get hit in this mess, Mosca bears a big chunk of the blame.

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  4. When the pro development group got the majority, they reversed MaryAnn and Don's removal from the organization.
    We are back in this "liable" organization thanks to Moran and Walsh.

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    1. Bunch of geniuses, those people.

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    2. Do you think Nancy still sees these as being "distractions?"

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    3. First of all, Nancy is a distraction.

      What I want to know is this:

      What is in this for us?

      What has this SGVGOG done to benefit our little Sierra Madre?

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    4. I think we've been used. Conway would go to state and fed agencies and list all 31 (now 30) cities in the COG and tell them his organization deserves their dough. Then he'd take their money, launder it through Arroyo, and then pocket the difference. I resent being used as corruption bait.

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    5. Thank you, 7:56, that alone should be enough evidence that we need to get out of this COG, and the sooner the better.

      Congratulations, Tom King and your city council.
      You did the right thing here.

      You should be an inspiration to Sierra Madre.

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  5. Looking closer, you will find that COG (Sierra Madre) is paying for a personal assistant to COG Vice President Mary Ann Lutz of Monrovia, and a personal Assistant to MTA representative John Fasana. Then look at the grants in question. Water quality grants, and Edison grants. (of course Fasana works for Edison). So the COG insiders appoint these guys to boards, and give them paid assistants to do the work. That leaves them free to do whatever they do for their regular employers or businesses.

    Then there is the interesting move by Conway to Alhambra, home of President Messina, in a building (CF Braun) that Alhambra was involved in refurbishing. Messina and her husbabd have an interesting history in redevelopment, and purchasing property in Alhambra.

    This is all not too complicated. There just is no institutional knowledge by new COG representatives. Most of them did not know their agency was at high risk. They just knew Conway threw a great buffet.

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    1. Lutz is on the Water Quality Board. So the COG has water quality grants. The FEDS have the resources to put this all together. It is only a matter of time.

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    2. The COG'll keep the Feds busy for years.

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    3. So, if Lutz and company ASKED for an assistant when they are on a Water Quality Board is that a conflict of interest?

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    4. Regarding Messina, I had no idea how much money you were talking about until I googled CF Braun. This property is owned by the head of the SGV Economic Partnership which "partners" with the COG and rents Conway space. The City of Alhambra helped rehab this place with redevelopment funds.
      THE ALHAMBRA BRANCHES OUT IN RENOVATION
      Respected developer plans for business park to draw variety of new enterprises
      San Gabriel Valley Tribune | February, 2001
      ALHAMBRA — The Alhambra, a 45-acre office campus that the California Independent System Operator and California Power Exchange now call home, is attracting new tenants as the sprawling facility undergoes a major makeover.

      Purchased by The Ratkovich Co. in November 1999 for $86.7 million from Santa Fe International, the nearly 1 million-square-foot complex now is a $100 million project that includes capital investment funds.

      “We invested $13 million into renovation in 2000 and will put in a like amount in 2001,” said developer Wayne Ratkovich, founder and president “The complex was 40 percent occupied in November 1999, and today it is 82 percent leased.”

      The Alhambra, which has 20 buildings, is located at 1000 Fremont Ave. at Mission Road in Alhambra.

      “They keep signing new tenants because it is a very important piece of property on a very important street,” said Stanley Smalewitz, the City of Alhambra’s deputy director of development services."

      Money helps make the monkey dance.

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    5. Careful, you are peeling back the secret workings of the political control in the SGV. Fifteen million feet of offfice space brings a lot of juice and lawyers. The Partnership had the Mayor of Alhambra on the Board of Directors. If your phone makes clicking sounds hang up.

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  6. Unsustainable city employee salaries, unsustainable salaries for attorneys who are lobbying for over development.

    Inept and/or corrupt politicians who are in the pocket of big centralized government /over development and over spending.


    De-centralize and get rid of corruption now or face:

    Some California cities 'may cease to exist'...

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  7. The one thing about SGV city governments. For every MaryAnn MacGillivray or Tom King there are 50 Nancy Walshes and Josh Morans.

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    1. The forces of evil are very strong. MaryAnn is gone, now look for the entire COG cabal to unite to banish Tom King. That is how it works in the San Gabriel Valley.

      That is how we end up with the Hernandez type politicians in the legislature. The San Gabriel Valley has had corruption problems for a hundred years. It is entrenched, and pervasive. The big corporations in the valley pay thier tribute in grants to the COG and to the politicians. Watch the personal attacks begin on King.

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  8. Where can we obtain a list of funds COG helped us receive and what projects they were for in Sierra Madre over the last 5-10 years?

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    1. We just paid tribute to the machine.

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    2. Do you know how much? That is the question nobody has the answer to.

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    3. So 15 years at around $10,000 a year ... $150,000? Is that right? And what do we get for that sum?

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    4. THATS AN EASY QUESTION!

      JUST GO TO THE CITY HALL HORSESHOE DESK...

      ASK THE PERSONS THERE FOR THE "GREEN PIECE OF PAPER"

      ASK YOUR QUESTIONS, as many as you like...

      and your friendly city employee must provide you with a honest or bu__ Shi__ answer

      WHICH YOU MUST ASK ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS!

      DO NOT BE EMBASSASSED.... KEEP ASKING QUESTIONS!!!!!

      YOU - THE RESIDENT PAYS THERE LIVING EXPENSES!!!!

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  9. Simply do a Freedom of Information request at City Hall. The COG Conay tribute is in the budget every year. Ask for an annual accounting of COG expenditures, and ask for all reports related to the COG for the stated period of time. They probably throw things out after five years. But if we were in the COG for 18 or so years, you can add it up and then subtract the time when we had responsible leadership and we pulled out.

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    1. IF YOU ALWAYS EXSPECT A TRUTHFULL ANSWER...QUESTION YOUR THOUGHTS!!!!

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  10. This onion needs to be pealed all the way back. Mosca, Buchanon, and the rest that had a hand in keeping us in COG need to be investigated too. We need to follow in the footsteps of the City of Walnut. We need to keep holding our CC's hands to the fire. Good article JC.

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    1. exactly right, 10:07 am.
      I wonder if Joe Mosca is actually a fugitive from justice?

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    2. Especially since grants were coming to cities from utility companies, of which Mosca and Buchanan were more than closely tied, they were employed by them.

      Just wait until the contract with Athens up for renewal.

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    3. I think that contract isn't up for about another 15 years. It was just renewed not that long ago

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  11. Remember Joe missed 19 out of 21 meetings, and then appointed Nancy. Joe never knew what he was doing and Nancy......?

    but MaryAnn knows and rather than appoint her, he appointed Nancy.
    Reason, logic, for the better of Sierra Madre. Now look where we are and they are.

    What more do we need?
    OUT!

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    1. Good point. That will be Joe's excuse. "I didn't go to the meetings! It's not my fault!"

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    2. Can anyone connect Joe Mosca to Nick Conway and his money laundering operation?

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    3. I'm not sure Nick shared. At least not with the likes of Joe.

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  12. The Walnut COG staff report on the Walnut Patch is a bombshell. http://walnut.patch.com/. It was written by a council member which is pretty amazing in itself.

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  13. Amazing as it sounds, most representatives sitting on the COG Governing Board are not informing their constituents of what has, or is, taking place at the agency - including not telling them the Director was arrested or that they settled a lawsuit involving a myriad of open meeting law violations.

    In San Dimas, the COG representative Denis Bertone simply made no report, in La Puente, COG rep Klinakis reported that lots happened in closed session but he couldn't discuss?????

    These COG members operate more like members of a secret cult than public officials! Time for each and every representative sitting on the COG to be replaced....or dissolve the COG.

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    1. That is why every city needs a Tattler.

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    2. Dennis Bertone is the.COG rep to the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy. This organization was set up by Conway & Co. A State audit found the same issues with the agency. Bertone is a big Conway fan.

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    3. "this organization was set up Conway and Co." Do you mean the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy. Isn't that a state legislative body? How does Conway set up a state legislative body?

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  14. Just posted on the SGVCOG Agenda:

    Agenda Item 10.0 Insurance Claim from Nick Conway for indemnification for errors and omissions and defencse costs relating to District Attorney Investigation

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    1. Infuriating.

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    2. Will they do it? Will they pay Nick's legal costs, too?

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    3. Nick Conway took a leash law violation of his dog to the Supreme Court. He has an attorney with a deep pocket. This will bankrupt the COG and it's member Cities. Yes is my guess. The syndicate rules.

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  15. These CC representatives have no idea how to ask the hard questions. They are paralyzed by their incapacity to see through the smoke if they even recognized the smoke.

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  16. Just hanging out for the money and the drinks. Last thing anyone would want to do is say something that might get in the way of bringing a check for the folks back home with you.

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  17. We must ask Nancy on the 24th what happened at the last COG meeting.

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    1. COG actually prepares a sheet of talking points for elected officials. Just for occassions like this.

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    2. Walsh is no longer the liaison. It is now Harabedian. And after his recent demonstation that he cares about following the law, we can hope he will ask the council to withdraw from the COG tout suite.

      You can try and get a little history from Walsh about her time in the COG, but I don't think there will be a response of any substance.

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    3. I thought she was the alternate.

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    4. ..."now, lookie here"....

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    5. My opinion of Harabedian will continue to migrate towards favorable if he calls for our getting out of COG. Measure V was a nice first step. Here is his chance to double down.

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    6. Really...Harabedian defends white collar criminals, just like CONway

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    7. So is Conway a lawyer or a while collar crominal?

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    8. That's what he is paid to do, 4:29.
      Doesn't prevent him as a council member from going after corruption that stinks to high heaven.

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  18. SCAG is the association of the councils of governments, the SGVCOG is a subregional child of SCAG, this incident is just the tip of the iceberg, or rather one crystal in the SCAG chandelier. This corruption is going to be found repeatedly through the whole organization. Someone asked about Sierra Madres part of the grants received. When I started looking, I realized the complete list will be found at SCAG. Sierra Madre and El Monte are member cities of SCAG, but sub managed through SGVCOG. Here is a link, http://www.scag.ca.gov/region/ or go to the SCAG website and use the search engine, imput member cities there will be a link in red a quick link which will show the cities and regions, the money dripped down through SCAG.

    Here is an excerpt, use the search engine to imput Sierra Madre, grants etc, it will take a bit of work.

    Subregional Organizations in the SCAG Region
    ■Arroyo Verdugo Cities
    ■City of Los Angeles
    ■Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG)
    ■Gateway Cities Council of Governments (GCCOG)
    ■Imperial County Transportation Commission (ICTC)
    ■Las Virgenes Malibu Council of Governments
    ■North Los Angeles County
    ■Orange County Council of Governments (OCCOG)
    ■San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG)
    ■San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG)
    ■San Fernando Valley Council of Governments (SFVCOG)
    ■South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG)
    ■Ventura Council of Governments (VCOG)
    ■Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG)

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  19. Correction to 10:04 - the Ecomonic Partnership is not housed in Barbara's home for the Corrupt and Financially Greedy. Their offices are in Irwindale.

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    1. This Alhambra CF Braun property is owned by the head of the SGV Economic Partnership which "partners" with the COG and rents Conway space. The landlord is The Ratkovich Co. Ratkovich is or was the head of the Economic Partnership.

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    2. I think he owns Irwindale too.

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  20. If you pull up an agenda for 2011 you see Sierra Madre representative, Nancy Walsh, and somewhere burried along there was an appointment to a committee on resources. These SGVCOG agendas are so long and dense with committee and subcommittee reports I can see why the average city representatvie or average intelligence and average attention span would have eyes glazed over in short order. This is likely to be intentional that way the corruption can go on hiding in the full view of all who cannot see.

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    1. 5:54, Eureka! You are spot on. The agendas are long and dense and are handed to the folks when they come in the door, if they want them. They are sent an email 1 to 2 days before the meeting with a link to the materials. The links are erased after the meeting. Nick summarizes everything for them, and they are given a summary by email after the meeting in case they forget what they heard. (The world according to Nick.) Nick even gives his officers written scripts written in red what to say before every meeting. It is all very organized (crime). It is not a government body. It is a room full of robots digesting what Nick feeds them. Decisions are worked out prior to the meeting.

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    2. Most head straight to the buffet. The agenda remains stacked at the staff table.

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    3. I realize that the food part of this is a minor point, but it really is the insult added to the injury.
      Stop feeding these people They can fend for themselves.

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    4. They head to the buffet, stuff their plates, sit down and shoot the bull. The show goes on for a couple of hours. They all sign the request for fifty dollars and put down their forks. Very few read anything and it would take a forensic scientist to find the payouts in the packet. It is very cleverly done.

      It is done similarly to how mushrooms are fed.

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  21. If COG wants to continue to survive and even thrive, it's going to need to clean house. Hoping that Conway is going to be exonerated is a pipe dream.

    Here's a suggestion: why not hire a former Mayor of a San Gabriel Valley City and former prosecutor who is on great terms with high-level Dems and Republicans. Somebody with a reputation for hard work and honesty.

    Know anybody like that?

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  22. Nope, kill the beast. The slugs there are feeding at the public trough.

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  23. I still vote Gil Aguirre to run the COG. He's the only one with the brains to know what the laws are to run a public agency. There'd be no more favors, no more Brown Act violations, no hidden agendas, no corruption. And the ones who are not used to operating that way (current members of the Conway circle of trust) will leave out of frustration and who knows, the COG may actually do something worthwhile for the San Gabriel Valley rather than lining the pockets of the greedy. And maybe their one claim to fame, the stepchild ACE project may decide to reconcile rather than flee the house of corruption.

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