Saturday, October 20, 2012
After years of cutting its soon to be former Executive Director Nick Conway a whole lot of slack on some of the crooked sweetheart deals he'd been giving himself there with our tax money, the ethically bereft leadership of the San Gabriel Valley Council Of Governments (aka "The COG") has finally summoned up the nerve to fire the guy. Of course, it did take Conway's arrest on four felony counts of conflict of interest by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office to wake them up to the notion that he'd been stealing our tax money right out from under their noses. Something that up until now didn't seem to bother them too much.
The COG's leadership is hardly going to win any gold medals this year for being faithful stewards of the public trust. Consider this if you will. Nick Conway was hauled into Court by the D.A. late last June, and as a result "The COG" put him on something called "administrative leave." Yet according to today's Pasadena Star News (click here), during the almost 4 months after this momentous event Conway's firm has been paid the lordly sum of approximately $36,000 a month. Or about $124,000 since Conway's being arrested on 4 felony counts of conflict of interest by the D.A.
The question has to be asked. Are these people insane? If you were arrested on a brace of felony counts for stealing from the company you work for, would they put you on a $36,000 a month "administrative leave" while waiting for things to sort themselves out? I really don't think so. You'd be in jail, and in a heartbeat.
And even now The COG is still not properly dealing from the deck marked reality. Check out this quote from the Star News:
"It stops the bleeding," said Fran DeLach, COG interim executive director.
No, it doesn't. If pumping taxpayer money into the pocket of Nick Conway is to be considered bleeding (and, of course, the COG's sensitivity about spending our tax money to solve its problems is suspect), then that bleeding has only just begun.
I have obtained a copy of the settlement agreement cut by The COG and it shows a whole lot of bleeding. Entitled "Agreement Terminating Management Services Agreement Between The San Gabriel Valley Council Of Governments And Arroyo Seco Associates, Inc.," it details the vast sums of cash being paid to Nick Conway and his Arroyo Seco Associates to leave.
Payment to the Firm: As full and complete compensation ... the SGVCOG will pay to (the) Firm the total sum of $155,000.00, payable in one payment of $77,500 made no later than ten (10) days following the approval of this Agreement by the SGVCOG Governing Board, and one payment of $77,500 made not sooner than January 1, 2013 and not later than January 10, 2013.
In other words, in addition to the $36,000 a month Conway has been receiving from The COG for getting himself arrested, his fully owned company, Arroyo Seco Associates, which plays a huge role in the D.A.'s felony conflict of interest case against Conway, is going to receive $155,000 in our tax money.
Which means that between these two payouts to Conway we are talking about a sum total of $279,000.00. For what? Getting arrested for corruption?
But wait, there is more.
Lease of SGVCOG Office Space: The Parties acknowledge that (the) Firm has a lease agreement with Alhambra Office Community, (LLC) ("the Lease") for office space at 1000 South Fremont Avenue ... SGVCOG agrees to pay the monthly lease payments on the Premises in the amount of $5,024.16 per month.
Throw in some additional assorted payments and it looks like The COG is going to be subleasing office space from Nick Conway for a while, and at the rather posh rate of $5,500 a month.
But hold on, there is also this:
Office Furniture, Furnishings and Equipment: The Parties agree that in the event the parties are unable to negotiate as assignment and assumption of the Lease, there shall be a fair market value appraisal of and the parties will have the option to negotiate the fair market value of the Firm's office assets for possible purchase by the SGVCOG ...
It looks like The COG has even worked out terms for buying used office furniture and equipment from Nick Conway. Nice.
So is that where "the bleeding" stops? Not by a long shot. The worst is yet to come. This from the Star News article cited above:
But left up in the air is whether the COG will help Conway pay his legal fees to defend himself against the felony charges, which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. In a Sept 4 letter, Conway "threatened" to sue the COG if the COG did not grant him defense costs of find a way for its insurance company to cover those costs, according to Jones and documents.
"The agreement to (to terminate the contracts) does not resolve any issue to pay his attorney fees. We've agreed to disagree to any immediate issue; that remains an open issue," Jones told the board.
So despite the $279,000 or so given to Conway to leave, there is still the very real possibility that he will sue the SGVCOG for the considerable legal expenses he will incur defending himself against those 4 felony conflict of interest charges. Considering the fact that the attorney Nick Conway has employed gets around $1,000 an hour for his efforts, we are talking a huge sum for that lawyer alone. And should the SGVCOG lose this case, you'd have to throw in Court costs, along with whatever settlement costs would be attached to the Judge's finding.
The entire amount of money involved in all of this? Should The COG lose (and being consummate losers they most likely will), we could be talking about as much as an additional $750,000 dollars. All of which would have to come out of the General Funds of COG member cities like Sierra Madre.
Does the bleeding stop there? No, it does not.
Should Nick Conway be convicted, it could call into question past disbursements of money from various government agencies to The COG. That is, the millions of dollars shoveled to the SGVCOG for whatever reasons would be subject to recall should it be shown in Court that they might have been used in practices that would now be viewed as corrupt.
And if it is shown that after the expected litigation The COG must return these untold millions of dollars in badly abused government funds? The burden of paying all of that back would then be on The COG's member cities. Which at this moment includes Sierra Madre.
There was a post made on The Tattler a couple of years back that deserves a mention here. It was about our discovery that then City Councilmember Joe Mosca, Sierra Madre's liaison to The COG at that time, had an attendance record showing he had rarely gone to any of the COG's meetings ("No Show Joe" May 26, 2009 click here). Between March 5 of 2009, and February 7 of 2008, Joe attended only 1 single COG meeting, out of a total of 12. Which meant that this slothful nonentity was not there representing our interests.
This was, of course, during the time when Nick Conway's conflict of interest operation was in full flower. Now it would be a stretch to say that someone as slavishly devoted to the cause of established power as Joe Mosca would have been any kind of a whistle blower. Joe's ethical compass being for the most part pointed nowhere. But isn't that what someone in the liaison position is supposed to do? Watch how our money is being used, and if something didn't appear right, say something about it?
The reason the SGVCOG is on a death watch now is because nobody spoke out about the rampant corruption taking place there. All of the gutless City Councilmembers from (almost) all of those member cities just quietly sat on their fat buffet fed cans and said absolutely nothing. It really is quite an indictment of just how dismal government is in the San Gabriel Valley.
The COG is the most expensively corrupt battery recycling operation in history. Whether Nick Conway is there or not doesn't really matter much now. We need to get away from those people. We are so much better than that.
Posted by The Moderator at 6:00 AM