Monday, August 20, 2012

The Letter Sent to All 30 Remaining SGVCOG Cities

(Mod: The Star News posted an article on their site Aug 17 entitled "San Gabriel Valley COG distances itself from director charged with four felony counts" (click here). In this article they discussed a letter sent out to the remaining 30 SGVCOG cities detailing the alleged criminal behavior of the COG's former Executive Director, Nick Conway. The research behind this letter, written by Gil Aguirre and Kelly Aviles, is very thorough, and the evidence devastating. The cities contemplating leaving the COG now have all the information they need to pack up and get out should they choose. Many are giving it some very serious thought.)

Re: Membership in the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments

Dear Mayor, City Council Members, City Manager, and City Attorney:

I believe that most public officials are committed to serving the best interests of the community and the public they represent. Further, most of the agencies within the San Gabriel Valley work hard to maintain a reputation for operating in an open and transparent fashion. However, your agency’s membership in the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) has put those admirable goals at risk.

The SGVCOG was formed to further the collective interests of the entire region, an important mission. However, under the direction of Executive Director Nicholas Conway and his management company, Arroyo Associates, Inc., the SGVCOG has ignored its obligations to the public and disregarded numerous laws, which exist to protect the public. Mr. Conway has not only used his position as Executive Director for his own self‐enrichment but has fostered an atmosphere of cronyism and secrecy within the organization, which often seems to operate more like a secret society than a public agency.

Recently, after conducting a lengthy and thorough investigation, the District Attorney arrested Mr. Conway on four felony charges. In addition, the SGVCOG recently settled litigation that was brought against the organization for numerous violations of important public transparency laws. This settlement includes the SGVCOG admission of multiple violations and a stipulated Court Order, violation of which could lead to possible criminal prosecution, should similar Brown Act violations be committed again.

Yet, in numerous reports given by SGVCOG delegates to their respective City Councils, these facts have gone completely unmentioned. Unfortunately, it appears as if many of the City delegates are simply not paying any attention, thereby contributing to the total lack of oversight which has made these abuses possible.

As public officials, you are ultimately responsible for the agency you have created. The SGVCOG delegate from your city receives compensation for their participation in the SGVCOG and owes us, the members of the public, a duty to ensure that we are protected from those who would seek to misuse public funds to their benefit and our detriment. Further, we expect that the public’s business be conducted in an open, ethical, and transparent fashion.

A range of additional issues continue to plague the SGVCOG, just some of which include:

In contradiction to Government Code Sections 6500, et seq., the financial oversight of all SGVCOG finances has been placed in the hands of an unlicensed CPA, who was never bonded.

A budget shell game, where Mr. Conway has presented different budgets to different committees, in violation of the SGVCOG by‐laws.

The recent settlement admitting to multiple violations of the state transparency laws and requiring the SGVCOG payment of $50,000.00 for my attorney’s fees, as required under the law. This payment does not include any additional attorney fees charged by Jones & Mayer, the SGVCOG legal counsel. The funding of this settlement will either require a reduction in the SGVCOG operating budget or additional financial contributions by the member agencies.

The most recent Caltrans Audit, which again concluded that there has been mismanagement and improper billing of grant funds, conflicts of interest by Mr. Conway, and inadequate financial oversight, resulting in the repayment of much of those funds and the agency being designated as “high risk” for future funding.

The proposed split from ACE, in an apparent attempt to protect and insulate ACE from the myriad of problems facing the SGVCOG. The latest proposal calls for the SGVCOG legal counsel to spearhead this process and for ACE to fund the cost of these proposed legal fees to the estimated tune of $100,000.00‐$200,000.00.

Attempts to censor and silence delegates who have spoken out or question the SGVCOG operations under Mr. Conway. After first attempting to implement a “code of conduct” which faltered, these officials have now brought forth a proposal to alter the agency by‐laws so that two outspoken critics will be removed from their role on the Executive Committee.

As if these issues were not enough cause for concern, Mr. Conway has now submitted a letter to the SGVCOG, claiming that he is entitled to having his criminal defense costs paid for by the agency under an Errors and Omissions insurance policy ‐ a remarkable assertion considering his contractual obligation to refrain from“...any other activities that could be considered to be a real or apparent conflict of interest under any federal or state statutes or regulations.”

Further, while Mr. Conway has technically been removed as the SGVCOG Executive Director, he continues to have full and unrestricted access to all staff – after all, the staff is employed by Arroyo Associates, Inc., not the SGVCOG and the SGVCOG and Arroyo Associates, Inc., offices are one in the same. Additionally, he continues to receive payment in full under the 4 separate management contracts he holds with the SGVCOG – including those at issue in the felony charges. In June alone, Arroyo Associates, Inc. was paid some $66,000. This is especially egregious, given that the SGVCOG has had to incur the additional expense of hiring an interim Executive Director. In response to objection regarding the continued payments under these agreements, the suggested solution has been to hire the Arroyo employees as employees of the SGVCOG. Rewarding the company responsible for the SGVCOG’s mismanagement, by hiring them as employees, is an outrageous and irresponsible solution to the SGVCOG’s continued problems.

I respectfully request, on behalf of the public, that you reconsider your membership and funding of this agency with our tax dollars, unless and until there are wide‐ranging, comprehensive changes made to this organization. At a minimum, if your delegate has held their position with the SGVCOG for a prolonged period, replacement of your current City delegate is warranted, as these abuses have been allowed to occur under their watch. To do nothing is to put your agency’s reputation and the good work that your agency has tried to accomplish in jeopardy. The upcoming SGVCOG Governing Board meeting is this Thursday, August 16th. Please urge your delegate to speak up for the public and end this pattern of mismanagement.

Should the Cities and the SGVCOG fail to take action to protect our legal rights and interests, I will look at all available actions to remedy this negligence and outrageous misuse of public funds.

I am enclosing a copy of the recent litigation settlement, as well as my complaint to the District Attorney which addresses some of the issues related to the mismanagement of the SGVCOG. Supporting documentation, including the JPA agreement, By‐Laws, Conflict of Interest Code, and the contracts between the SGVCOG and Arroyo Associates, Inc., can be viewed and downloaded by clicking here.

If you have any further questions or would like to know more about the SGVCOG’s activities, please do not hesitate to contact me or my attorney, Kelly Aviles.

Respectfully submitted,

Gil Aguirre

Kelly Aviles, Esq.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

63 comments:

  1. I hope our city council is giving this some serious thought.
    We need to get out of this SGVCOG.
    To not do so, would be very suspect.

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    1. They will discuss it, according to the city manager's report linked to in the article yesterday, on October 9.
      Not Sept. 11 or 25, but October. Apparently city hall is so used to being connected to corruption, there's no hurry.

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    2. Josh Moran and Nancy Walsh vouched for Conway and Walsh was recently defending the guy saying everything was made up etc etc etc

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    3. The dirts have obviously reached the muddy bottom of their gene pool.

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  2. Yes there you have it. Everything nicely placed in front of you. One would think it was time for COG to come clean, admit mistakes, beg for forgiveness and promise to do better. Instead, in typical COG fashion a letter goes out which denies and denies and denies. Its almost like Nick Conway himself remains at the helm which also would not be a surprise and a dream come true for Barbara Messina, David Spence and Michael Cano.

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    1. What Council Member Walsh reported as mere distractions has turned into a rats nest of cover-up and illegal practices. Not only should we pull out of COG, Walsh should be publically censured for her part of the of the cover-up.

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    2. How about Joe Mosca? COG attendance records showed that he skipped almost all of the meetings there when he was Sierra Madre's liaison. Who was watching out for our interests then? Not "Cut and Run" Joe.

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    3. In Joe's mind, if he wasn't there, he's not culpable.

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    4. Reminding Joe of his chronic COG nonattendance would be uncivil.

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    5. good old goofy Nancy Walsh, she was just saying how great and solid the organization and it's leader was and everything was just grand

      either she's clueless or as corrupt as Conway

      obviously she's clueless and see through self grandiose eyes

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    6. Truly, Nancy Walsh isn't bright enough to be clueless nor smart enough to be corrupt. She's just a ditzy old bat enamored of the sound of her own voice and giddy with what she perceives as power. Just wait'll she's Mayor!

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  3. Thank you Gil Aguirre for holding their feet to the fire.

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  4. Great letter, but who is going to read it to Nancy?

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    1. I think she would find it to be a distraction.

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    2. I'll do it. Woodblocks or fuzzy animal pictures?

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  5. In response to the Aviles letter, the SGVCOG removed Tom King and Carol Herrera from the Executive Board of the COG and CONTINUED PAYING CONWAY. (Tom pulled his city out prior to the action).

    The SGVCOG is a Conway criminal enterprise supported by Nick;s cronies.

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    1. A lot of the really hardcore Conway supporters are holding out in hopes that Conway will be exonerated in Court.

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    2. Yes, it is a criminal enterprise and Sierra Madre should not be part of this. It should not!

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    3. Not only are they holding out hope but they are still paying him to do nothing and now they are paying his employees. So Nick gets the best legal help COG member cities can buy.

      The whole lot of them should be thrown out of office.

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  6. What would it take to have the State AG come in and shut this down?

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    1. Unfortunately our current Attorney General comes from the same world as all of those who turn a blind eye to this kind of corruption.

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  7. Proof. We owe Gil Aguirre Kelly Aviles a huge debt of gratitude for hard work and dedication to providing that proof.

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  8. The SGVCOG members seem to want to make this about Conway, it is not. It is about the wide spread abuses and total arrogance displayed by the COG delegates when it comes to complying with the law. The way Conway operated is only one of MANY problems at the COG - all funded with our tax dollars.

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    1. Add to that fine list, it's about disgustingly oblivious city reps who went to lunch on the public dollar.

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  9. "the financial oversight of all SGVCOG finances has been placed in the hands of an unlicensed CPA, who was never bonded."
    What?

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    1. Makes sense. A real CPA would have called Conway out on his crap. Obviously this individual did whatever it was he was asked to do.

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    2. In this case CPA stood for "Couldn't Promise Accuracy."

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  10. The attorney fees are interesting.

    Might be as lucrative to represent the COG as it is to handle legal work for the city of Sierra Madre!

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  11. Chief Black KettleAugust 20, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Wonderful picture today, Sir Eric. Pinstripes and big cuffs seem to be de riguer for the white collar types these days. Keep up the good work!

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    1. Hopefully they remembered to throw away the key.

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  12. It seems that ALL Sierra Madre City Counsel members, past and present, who were in office (and had fiduciary and other duties to Sierra Madre) during the entire course of this fiasco, should be forced to explain their lack of oversight.

    Sure it's easy -- and altogether correct -- to blame those who agreed to act as delegates for any failures to attend COG meetings or to meaningfully report on COG matters or provide oversight, but it is also correct to ask why the various mayors and counsel members over the years did not demand attendance and meaningful reports and oversight by the delegates.

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    1. As my dear departed grandmother used to say, giggling because she was proper, "You can wish in one hand and p*** in the other and see which one gets full the fastest."

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    2. Really boils down as to who from Council is the liaison to COG. If that person doesn't accurately report, it would be extremely difficult for the rest of Council to know what is going on.

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    3. Sierra Madre's most recent liaisons never leveled once with the people of Sierra Madre. Harabedian has, and that is to his credit. But Walsh and Mosca enabled the cover-up.

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    4. I think the only reason harabedian "leveled" with the folks is because of the arrest of nick Conway and Gil aguirre's efforts. If you'll recall, his first several reports consisted of "not much to report". Don't be fooled, harabedian is cut from the same mold as Walsh and Moran.

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    5. I am pretty sure that Harabedian has been chosen for better things, like Mosca was before he imploded from his own incompetence. Harabedian has no doubt caught the attention of some pols as an up and comer in the party, and so he will be responding accordingly. It is the politically savvy thing to do now, to dump Slick Nick Conway.

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    6. 1:55, the only people Walsh has roused herself to criticize have been her own city's volunteers.

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    7. Conway was good at schmoozing.Joe Mosca and Nancy Walsh didn't stand a chance.Wouldn't surprise me either if both of them haven't at one time or another given Susan Henderson money.

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    8. 4:54- didn't you know? From Ms. Nancy's perspective beating the help is a privilege of elective office.

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  13. Few things in life are binary 1:18, but I believe this is one: You either agree that ALL the mayors and city counsel members during the relevant period owe their constituents an explanation, or you don't.

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    1. The problem is Mayors and Councilmembers by and large do not see the taxpayers as partners. Their partners are in Sacramento and running LA County. The people who elected them to office, on the other hand, are a marketing problem. And therefore are only spoonfed dumbed down sugared crap.

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    2. The only memorable SGVCOG reports that I recall were made by Her Honor the Mayor MacGillivray who reported faithfully and in depth from meetings she attended but was not an appointed liaison person. Buchanan and Mosca you should be ashamed of yourselves.

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    3. Buchanan and Mosca were little more than apparatchiks.

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    4. Now "lookie here". If i remember correctly, Mayor MacGillivray removed Mosca from the SGVCOG liaison position for lack of attendance and incompetence. And when he had a tantrum over it in a council meeting she had to gavel him and was marked as "uncivil" forevermore. She appointed Watts as liaison and took the alternate position . Both attended meetings and saw the corruption immediately and suggested that the city evaluate its membership. When her mayoral term was over and Watts was not reelected she asked for the liaison position but was denied. Buchanan took over.

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  14. Why weren't any of them reading the financial reports? C'mon, different budgets to different committees? Reading and comparing financial spreadsheets and reports isn't quantum mechanics. No mayors or council members should get a pass.

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    1. My guess is a lot of current & past Council members don't understand financials...Shhhh, it's a secret.

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    2. But ... isn't that what staff is for?

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    3. In a perfect and civil world everything would be on the Consent Calendar.

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  15. Lets quit kicking the ball down the road!

    Sounds like the citizens of Sierra Madre, are feed up with those city council members for making bad decisions and treating its fellow residents like _hit?

    WHO was that famous Sierra Madrean resident who stood in front of the CITY COUNCIL PODIUM and fired each and every one of those city council members - city council meeting after city council meeting?

    Any one else Got any _alls?

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  16. Keep their feet to the fire... .And public debate is great; everyone should be working together for solutions, but it is best to have an answer to "the" question before asking it.

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  17. You would think that when a city discovers that taxpayer money was going into an organization at high risk, that failed two audits, that had the executive director arrested on four felony counts, that had search warrants served on it's offices, that two past presidents call for a change....

    That a city would not procrastinate until fall before deciding to bail. What are they protecting?

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    1. Can you imagine what would have happened if it was a private resident of Sierra Madre who had committed crimes approximating these rather than an agency of the regional government establishment? It wouldn't have taken until October to get some action that's for sure.

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  18. Take a momment to look at a SGVCOG agenda and see if you would know where to start to peel back the onion if you were Mosca or Walsh. MaryAnn MacGillivray and Don Watts went to several of these meetings and came back and tried to alert the others to the need to wash ourselves of this mess. No one wanted to listen to them. So John Buchanan is cupable, too, for not listening.

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    1. Another bad legacy from Buchanan. And he didn't just not listen - he actually argued for the COG.

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    2. There were - and probably still are - a lot of ties between Edison and the SGVCOG. SCE pumped a lot of money into that place. Even rented them their offices.

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  19. The SGVCOG is a wonderful example of how politicians seem to think - the end justifies the means. They know, and knew, of all the problems - just didn't care as long as they got whatever pet project they were interested in. The SGVCOG stands as an illustration of what is wrong with our local governance - nobody on the organization did anything and those that spoke out were blackballed......shameful!

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  20. Thanks to the Tattler for drawing attention to the problems over at the COG. I am afraid no real change will come from within, it is up to all of us to compel the needed changes.

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    1. Citizen oversight committees are necessary in every city. Corruption is everywhere and it is our job to make sure we protect our own cities and taxpayer dollars. It is not someone else's job, and every citizen must take personal responsibility. Every commission, committee, and staff member needs to be watched like a hawk. That is the only way we are going to bring California cities under control.

      Self serving politicians who make the back room deals, disrespect and patronize WE THE PEOPLE, need to be thrown out on their ear immediately! I can think of two such council members in Sierra Madre now, who fall in to this category. Thankfully we will have a chance to rid ourselves of these miscreants in 2014.

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    2. I like the idea of citizen oversight committees. The first of these we need to set up is for the Police Department. Can anyone tell me exactly who this department answers to? It should be us, but obviously they run quite independently of those they are supposed to serve. Ask yourself this: If you were to run afoul of the SMPD, who would you be able to talk to to air out your grievance?

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    3. SMPD Chief Giannone reports to the City Mgr.

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    4. Well there you go. Wouldn't she just love a Citizen Police Oversight Committee!

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  21. Rumor has it the Treasurer Conway (not to be mistaken by the criminal Conway) worked for SANBAG for a month only to be canned. Thankfully for Charles Conway the criminal Conway was in to recycling more than batteries.

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  22. You have to State your desire to return to your current position or a similar one at a later date in your letter.


    Emergency Leave Letter

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