Saturday, November 22, 2014

An Hour & A Half With The City Attorney

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If you think about it, the One Carter debacle has been quite a money maker for the law firm owned by Michael Colantuono. After all, he has been there right from the beginning. A gravy train made of taxpayer gold that never seems to quite reach the station.

As you may recall, it was that "knuckle under or you'll be sued" advice the City was given by the  Mighty Michael (and, to be honest, most happily acceded to) in the mid aughts that led to us knuckling under and being sued many times over by various litigious development interests over the last decade. Making One Carter perhaps the biggest money making industry we've seen in this economic backwater for quite some time. And nobody has even built anything there yet.

Common knowledge as this is, you don't have to take my word for it. Or anybody else's for that matter, because here is a brief history of our platinum-plus legal futility from the staff report for Item 2 on Tuesday evening's agenda. Its excessively wordy title being: "Call For Review Of Planning Commission Approval Of Hillside Development Permit 12-01 And Conditional Use Permit 12-08 To Allow Construction Of A Two-Story, 3,125 Square Foot Single-Family Home At Property Located At 610 Baldwin Court."


Making this, if the theory holds true, some of the most specious legal advice the City of Sierra Madre had ever received. Which is saying quite a lot. And approximately one decade into this awful mess, which was initially brought about by that unfortunate decision to cave in by the 2004 City Council (perhaps the worst this City has ever seen), apparently nothing has changed.

As you also probably recall, the Planning Commission, before their reluctant decision to agree to approve the 610 Baldwin Big Build, also had the opportunity to spend an hour and a half with our Colantuono City Attorney. Probably to discuss just this matter.

The possibility presented being that if they didn't knuckle under to the McMansion developer CETT, their attorney, Richie "Self-Serving B.S." McDonald, would probably drag us into Court and sue us. Shortly after that the P.C. gave up what had been a really good fight, and surrendered the baby.

So what is happening early on at Tuesday evening's City Council meeting? The traditional closed session with our generously coiffed City Attorney (all of Michael's legal ladies are generously coiffed, btw), which almost always runs from 6:00pm to 6:30pm, starts an entire hour early.

I seriously doubt that this is any kind of a coincidence.

My guess is that the following screen shot is an indication of what the topic of this 90 minutes of legal lethargy could be all about.


Yes indeed, friends. If the City Council decides to reverse the decision of the Planning Commission on the 610 Baldwin Big Build, the word from our decadal rented legal lulus is we will be sued. And therefore they had better not do that. Which is the same advice Michael Colantuono's legal firm appears to have given the Dumbest City Council Ever in 2004. After which we were sued eight times.

Ten years after. Same law firm, same tactics, same stupid results.

What is it about Sierra Madre and Child Sex Offenders?

We certainly seem to produce more than our share of them. Is there a reason for this? Here is news of the latest local gent most likely to get packed off to the pokey for possession of child pornography (link):

OSU student arrested on child porn charges An Oregon State University student has been arrested by the Linn County Sheriff’s Office for allegedly distributing child pornography.

Philipp Jean Bardenheier, 19, of Sierra Madre, California, was arrested on charges of two counts of first-degree encouraging child sexual abuse.

His initial bail was set at $20,000, and he was scheduled to appear in Linn County Circuit Court on Monday.

Bardenheier, an environmental engineering student who lives at the Buxton Hall dormitory, allegedly sent child porn to a computer in Linn County, according to a news release.

During an interview with detectives, he admitted to possessing child pornography and using the Internet to download and share it.

Numerous computers and electronic devices were seized during the investigation and are undergoing a forensics examination, and additional charges could be forthcoming.

Since Chief Giannone is often the last person to know about these sorts of things, perhaps someone would be kind enough to forward this information to him? The last thing we need is another potential media conflagration like the one that occurred here a few months ago.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

75 comments:

  1. I think it's Ritchie "self-serving B.S." McDonald

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    1. If the project that CETT was at least a decent one, why did they need a lawyer from the outset to try to ram it through the Planning Commission? Doesn't that tell us everything we need to know?

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    2. Good point. Based on our previous track record, Sierra Madre does have a reputation for surrender. Then again, that was mostly during the Buchanan era.

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    3. far as I can remember, we've only had one real practicing actual do something attorney on the Council and that was Kurt Zimmerman, the rest including John Harabedian are settlers, talkers and grandstanders - all create / shuffle paperwork and then settle

      Buchanan was one of the worst cause he was posturing and pontificating to the point of absolute boredom but the entire time he was doing the bidding of his employer to promote development and revenue to socaledison.

      Imagine if we'd elected Noah Green, endorsed by our favorite loon Nancy Walsh.

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    4. our law firm was so glad to see Kurt leave - he had them shaking cause he was smarter than their entire firm and would question them and the attorney would stammer and deflect questions

      he wasn't a peer to our lawyer he was superior

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    5. I wish Harabedian could be like Zimmerman and not just take the legal advice from the City's attorney at face value.

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    6. My fear is that it is not legal advice, but prearranged strategy instead.

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    7. The interesting thing is that the City Council has the opportunity to get this project right which will be a testament to their tenure in office as opposed to being the City Council that allowed an awful project that everyone will have to look at to go forward. It will dog them for the rest of their time in office. There is little downside for them to do the right thing and get all the credit.

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  2. The City should remind residents that 2 of those 8 earlier lawsuits were never settled. Yes, that's right, two lawsuits that could be refiled any time the current owners of Stonegate and Stonehouse want to.

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    1. Time to cut the crap and take the bums to court. We've been pushed around by these jerks long enough.

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    2. There is always going to be the threat of lawsuit. Anybody can sue anybody for anything. Even if those two lawsuits as you say, can be refiled at any time, they can also file new lawsuits at any time. So what. We should never get out of bed if we always going to be concerned about a lawsuit. And a city should just allow any kind of development that is submitted if they are going to be concerned about lawsuits.

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    3. Succumbing to a bully gets you nothing but more bullying.

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    4. Anybody can file a lawsuit. But why is the City Council just concerned about a lawsuit from the developer. A resident or residents may file their own lawsuit. And guess what, the developer has the legal obligation to defend the city in a lawsuit against the city regarding this project. That will cost the developer even more money.

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  3. Wow. One scandal after another.
    Shady lawyers and pedophiles are Sierra Madre's dirty little secret.

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    1. I think there are a lot more pedophiles in this town than anyone knows. Sierra Madre's dismal law enforcement record on child molesters has made it a safe haven for these creeps.

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    2. For the first time I actually think there might be something to the rumors of a child pornography ring here.
      This new guy is of the right age to have been one of Robert W. Matheson's victims, and some of the victims turn into the criminals.

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    3. These psychologically terminally ill people are defended by Janice Bellucci. Her "registered citizens" spiel is a perversion of the civil rights movement.

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  4. The last vestiges for a developer of a bad project, is to threaten to sue the City. They will lose. A City Council has the discretion to control development in their city from developers who simply want to maximize their personal profit. That's what all the documents like the General Plan are for. Sure, some of the policies are subjective, but that's to give the City Council or Planning Commission the maximum amount of discretion to make sure good development goes into their City. The only reason, and I mean the only reason, this process has continued for such a long period of time is because a developer decided to submit it a very bad project in a very sensitive hillside area. This last developer bought the property at a bargain basement price but that's because of the nature of the area where the project would be located. Its not the City's job to help them take advantage of a bad investment.

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    1. Great post 7:10

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    2. I vote for 7:10 as well.

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    3. 7:10 is absolutely correct that this developer got a discount and now want to use some of that savings to try to bludgeon the city into submission. We need to stand up to that.

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    4. Yeah, but does the councl have the backbone to standup to them? My guess is John C, John H and Gene don't. John C was heard to say, that even though he asked for a review, that doesn't mean he supports it.

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    5. I think the men will have more guts than people give them credit for. They will do the right thing here.

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  5. People sue people for good reason and no reason all the time. The lawyers always hope that they can extract some money in exchange for going away - know as "go away" money. Its true it is often cheaper to pay "go away" money than fighting it out in court. But its also true that paying "go away" money encourages more extortion in the future. This same principle is why the United States does not pay ransoms to hostage takers.

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    1. It's very encouraging to read these comments.
      Stay strong Sierra Madre residents .

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    2. That's true, 7:13.

      The USA doesn't negotiate with terrorists, except when we do.

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    3. Richie McDonald belongs to ISIS. "I Sure Is Stupid."

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    4. One Carter needs a project that the City can be proud of because we are going to be stuck with that project for all eternity. Its not like its impossible to build a decent project up there. It can be done if you have a developer who is sensitive to the community's desires and, more importantly, follows the letter and spirit of our governing documents. Now, you can't always expect developers to do that because there's a little motivation out there for them called the all-mighty dollar. But certainly we should be able to expect that our City representatives will look out for the community's interest in the face of predatory developers like CETT that need a lawyer as a spokesman. I'd like to see the developers themselves get up at one of these meetings and tell us why its a good project that we should all support. It won't happen because they know its a bad project meant only to maximize their profit. Because they are too embarrassed to support it themselves, they need Mr.McDonald to do his dirty work with a straight face.

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    5. Of all the places in our city, One Carter would be the last place where we should be stuck with a bad project.

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  6. One Carter = 10 years of legal parasites.

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    1. but God wanted a high school there, what happened?

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    2. Depends on which God you're talking about. The shiny Pasadena high school God or that of the ancient tribal people buried there.

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  7. We should pretend that that this first house at One Carter has just been submitted to the Planning Commission. In other words, forget all the back and forth, that got us to the present design. I can guarantee you that the Planning Commission would have made substantial changes to this present design if this was the design that was first submitted. Let's not get lulled into thinking that the developer made alot of concession here. They originally submitted a project that was so off the charts bad, that any changes would be an improvement and they did make some changes. But it still stinks. I think the developer and their lawyer simply wore the Planning Commission down as the developer was dragged kicking and screaming towards each one of the changes. Now our City Attorney, the very ones who drafted the Hillside Ordiance to supposedly protect our hillsides, is probably going to tell the City Council that they have to approve the exact kind of project that the Hillside Ordiance was designed to prevent. Somebody is not representing the City very well. We should be able to stand behind the document that our City Attorney's own law firm drafted and use it to prevent a bad project from being approved.

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    1. 7:20. you hit it right on. The only reason this has lasted as long as it has is because of the project they submitted. Maybe its their vesion of starting high and hoping we meet somewhere in the middle.

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    2. I agree. The PC should have looked at the design not as improvements, but as a first time submission.

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    3. Great post 7:20

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  8. Hang in there Sierra Madre We can and will bankrupt all these hillside developers

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    1. You are trying to bankrupt China.

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    2. They notoriously get ripped off all over the world

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  9. In terms of raw power here, who is in the driver's seat, the city or the developer. I would suggest that the city is in the driver's seat. The developer is losing money every day that they continue to stand behind a bad project. It is very unlikely that a court will rule against a city trying to enforce its legal documents to protect a sensitive hillside area. The developer does not want to go down the road despite trying to bluff us by rattliing their sabers and hoping we will succumb to these threats. We have the leverage.....if we use it. The developer needs to submit a better project even if it means they tear up this first one and start over from scratch. If that's what it takes, that's what it takes. The developer has only themselves to blame for this.

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    1. Love your comment 7:48
      Let's just bankrupt these people.
      Keep fighting to Preserve Sierra Madre from out of town/country interests. This is not Arcadia.

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    2. If the city surrenders to CETT without a fight, they have cracked Sierra Madre. The hillsides will be filled with McMansions. This is a very big fight. Answer the call!!

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    3. Please everyone show up and help your dedicated neighbors who are fighting for all of us Fill City Council chambers Tuesday evening. Support the Preserve Sierra Madre group. It's your town, your property values are at stake here.
      You can rid this town of these meddlesome developers and the handful of people here in town who support them, either for money or power....we outnumber them. They all lack integrity and we can stop them.
      Please help us.

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    4. Answer the call, Sierra Madre!

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    5. If the gates are breached at One Carter, Sierra Madre will get overwhelmed by developers. We need to plant our flag and make a stand right now. There is no turning back. The start of the Arcadia transformation will start there if the developers are allowed to secure a beach head. Let's not lose our nerve right here at the end game. This is it. If we stay together, we will prevail.

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    6. Yes. It will be a terrible defeat. Like what it would have been like if we lost Measure V.

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  10. Why do you think Nancy and Josh kept Colantuono when we went out for bid on legal services? To defeat the residents. Tuesday's City Council meeting is exactly why Colantuono still works for us.

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    1. imagine or try to forget that those two brilliant minds were making decisions on our behalf - actually on the behalf of the real estate sales lobby

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    2. I think Josh has found happiness and renewed purpose in family life. That is a good ending for him. Serving on our city council was not a best experience for him. Or us. Nancy I have nothing good to say about.

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    3. Wish Josh and his family all the best.

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  11. If you care, you've got to show up Tuesday night. Who was on that awful Council?

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    1. Correct me if I am wrong anyone, but I believe the scoundrels are Pete Stockley, John Buchanan, Enid Joffe and Tanya Torres. George Mauer was also on that council, but he stood up to those jerks and voted against it.

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    2. Rob Stockley

      you may be thinking of Shirtless Pete - the former look at me SMLL Prez who was rumored to be interested in a Council bid till he found out he was more of a laughing stock - used to walk around shirtless at Heasley Field and gross out all the women

      at that time Rob was a commercial banker so he was voting for his employer and so was Buchanan

      Mr. Mauer warned us about voting in so many lawyers and developer employees

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    3. Rob Stockly never should have been allowed to participate in the decision. He worked for a bank that had a financial relationship with the developer. No kidding.

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    4. The 4 people on the council of 2004 made the choice to ignore the Planning Commission, the General Plan and the Hillside Management Zone ordinance and allow that area of the Sierra Madre hillsides to be destroyed. That is their legacy.

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    5. and 10:27 Buchanan works(ed) for SoCalEdison who benefits from each new utility customer

      we also elected a construction company owner, a building industry lobbyist, another utility company employee and a mortgage saleman

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    6. Stockley and Burchanan were quite simply the worst and most damaging City Council members in the history of Sierra Madre. Even decision they made 10 years ago, continue to dog us. They were some really bad people who used their position for their own selfish ends. They should be embarrassed to walk around this town.

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  12. who is this kid and did he grow up in SM? my son who's 20 doesn't know him or ever heard of him

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    1. The theory is lax law enforcement is making Sierra Madre a mecca for molesters. He might not have grown up here but moved in later.

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  13. i'm confused - we're a city - we have a law firm that supposed to look out for WHAT WE WANT and a piddling developer threaten a lawsuit and we cave in

    why not bury McDonald and other developer lawyers in motions and paperwork - just bury them and overwhelm them

    I'd pass the UUT if that money went to fight developers

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    1. City hall wants the millions of dollars in development impact fees. They are enabling the selling off of the last open spaces in this city to fund their retirements. They're like the mafia these people.

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  14. Of what value is our law firm?

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    1. Really you need to ask? No value.

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  15. Actually the law firm is not to blame. It is the law firm's job to advise the City Council of all the courses of action open to the City - and the ramifications of each to the best of their ability. It is the responsibility of the City Council to make the decision on which course to pursue. Because the good citizens of Sierra Madre have consistently made poor decisions at the voting booth is no reason to heap blame of Coluantono's stable of attornies. How do we know the City Council has carefully weighed the advice they were given? We don't. Because the so called "closed" meetings are not open to the public. We need better voters and open meetings! In short, we need accountability.

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  16. Please take the time to be there Tuesday night. It really is important.

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    1. It is the most important meeting in years.

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    2. People should also send an email to the City Council members and let them know you don't like the project that the Planning Commission so reluctantly approved. After all these years and battles that were fought at One Carter, the people deserve something better than this.

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  17. The pressure on the City Council to deny approval will be intense I think. Would you want to go down in Sierra Madre history as one of the politicians who opened up the floodgates to McMansions?

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    1. Not me. Even if I knew three were not going to deny approval, I would vote to deny the project.

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  18. I own many pieces of properties in town and can not wait for prices to increase so I can sell to developers!
    Cheers

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    1. Better sell fast 4:21.

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    2. You have a lot of property in town and you can't wait to sell? Sure Pinocchio.

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    3. Reap what ya sow 4:21. Greed is one of the seven sins.

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