Sunday, March 31, 2013

Is Everything You've Heard About the Hildreth Building Permits Wrong?

Wrong answer
It has long been an article of faith in this town that Jeff and Taryn Hildreth never obtained the necessary building permits when they started digging the largest basement in Sierra Madre. They just went ahead and did it, and without any blessings whatsoever from the local authorities downtown. And as we all know, if you are not on the special side of City Hall and do something that they don't like, there is nothing they won't do to ruin your life.

However, if what is coming out at Superior Court is to be believed, these permits actually were obtained, and do exist. Something that indicates that this City's account might not be an accurate one. Instead somewhere along the line they screwed up, and rather than admit to their errors decided to take the legal route. The idea being that with their legal firepower and cash money resources they could scare these two very nice folks off and nobody would know the better.

Or so the story goes. If the Hildreths prevail the taxpayers in this town will be on the hook for a huge settlement. You can only wonder how things got to this point. Then again, if you follow the affairs of this town, perhaps you do.

Below are four permits issued to the Hildreths that I was able to lay my hands on. Click on them and they will enlarge and be easier to read.

Whether there are more or not I do not know. But I can tell you one thing, these waters are far more murky than they used to be. And you have to believe that yes, the City could indeed lose this case. At which time I think it would be incumbent upon us as taxpayers and residents to take a long hard look at just how City hall handles its affairs.

March was the biggest month ever for The Tattler

Right now we are at about 67,000 hits for March with one more day to go. An increase of 3,000 hits over our previous best month, which was January. It's obvious that our readers are not from Sierra Madre alone, this just isn't that big a town.

So what brings people here? I think it is because we tell the story as it really is, and without worrying about what certain people might think, or if someone won't like us if we do. We don't do publicity releases, nor are we out to help anyone run a public relations campaign. This blog doesn't receive any advertising, and that is not a problem. I earn a decent enough living and don't need to trade my freedom to say what I want for a $50 advertisement.

Tell the truth about government, and people will read and comment. And that is all we're asking for here. If you don't like it, go read those other news sources. There are certainly plenty of them around.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

City Watch: Is Civic Engagement Illegal?

(Mod: As anyone who watches or perhaps even attends our City Council meetings will tell you, it is a pretty frustrating mess. We now have a situation where 3 obviously collusive individuals make all of the decisions for this entire community, which is unfortunate for a unique town such as ours as each of them is more closely tied to the destructive policies of Sacramento, Los Angeles County and the Edison Mafia than what the people actually living here want. The undermining of our long-standing citizen committee system in order to supposedly accommodate the scheduling convenience of "staff" being only the latest of many steps to take the people out of the process ... City Watch is this great site that covers the affairs of that large city down the road a bit, and they on occasion post something that should also be discussed here. I thought today I'd repost one of them today.)

Is Civic Engagement Illegal? (click here): Everyone knows the standard public meeting in America: formal agenda handouts, official presentations, and three-minute speeches at the microphone for citizens. It’s boring. It doesn’t work.

And it’s mysterious—because the past two decades have seen the development of meeting strategies and online tools to change all that, to make meetings truly productive and dynamic. So why don’t American public meetings change?

One major obstacle is legal. The country’s open meetings and records laws include many specific, rigid requirements for how elected officials communicate, meet, and make decisions. For instance, California’s Brown Act severely limits communication between elected officials outside of formal meetings. So a school district that uses an online tool to put members of the school board together with parents may very well be violating the law.

While there are often good reasons behind the laws, many of the rules are unclear, and changes in technology and society have made them even harder to interpret. Lawyers fear that if the standardized procedures are junked and citizens are allowed to participate directly in budgeting or planning decisions, either online or in person, any decisions they make will be under a legal cloud.

Since the old processes of citizen participation offer little real interaction or deliberation, citizen turnout is usually very low; lawmakers often refer to the few people who turn up as the “usual suspects.” On the other hand, if the community has been gripped by a controversy, turnout is often high, and the three-minute commentaries from citizens can last long into the night. (One of the more popular video compilations on YouTube is a set of outrageous three-minute statements by citizens and responses by public officials, culled from public meetings all over the country.)  But neither extreme is helpful.

Many local leaders understand that society and technology have changed, and they want to use new online tools and engagement processes. They also want to involve citizens more directly in budget cuts and other difficult decisions. “If we think we’re going to come out of this recession and expect everything to go back to normal, we’ve got another think coming,” Harry Jones, county executive of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, once told me. “We need to reach out and reframe our relationship with citizens—the people who are the ultimate source of our revenues.”

Over the last two decades, Jones and many other local leaders have pioneered a new generation of participation practices. These include the use of citizens’ juries and other deliberative processes that allow large, diverse groups of residents to tackle hard questions. And there are a burgeoning array of online tools to report problems, generate and rank ideas on government policy, work in small action teams, and visualize options for public budgeting and land use planning.

The trouble is most of these efforts occur outside the scope of official citizen participation processes and the laws that govern them. This has created a host of legal headaches for public officials who want to engage the public but don’t want to face legal penalties or be subject to litigation.

Simply put, opening the doors to civic engagement requires new rules. Over the last year, a working group of scholars and local officials from around the country has drafted model state and local laws that would support more effective forms of public participation. These model laws would exempt new types of civic engagement processes from judicial review, as long as the processes were sound and followed principles of transparency and fairness, with records of engagement made public and processes open to rigorous evaluation.

In the 1980s and ’90s, laws on alternative dispute resolution were enacted to give Americans new alternatives to judicial proceedings. Something similar is required for public participation. We must free elected officials and decision makers to engage the public, even as we uphold the goals of transparency and accountability.

Reaching out to constituents, and making policy with their collaboration, is the essence of democracy. When our public officials try to do this, the law should be on their side.

Why is a Board of Education seat worth so much to them?

(Mod: In this week's Pasadena Weekly - click here - they tally up all the cash being lavished on political machine Board of Ed candidate Ruben Hueso. This in his District 3 runoff with Tyrone Hampton, a candidate that would make a far better advocate for the needs of the people in that district. And the question has to be asked, why is it worth so much to them?)

In the primary, Hampton, a local contractor who, according to his Web site, graduated from Cal Poly Pomona, raised only a few hundred dollars, with one $100 contribution coming from sitting Board President Renatta Cooper, the board’s only African-American member and, incidentally, a Democrat.

On the other hand, Hueso, a teacher with children attending public schools, lists a number of major out-of-town donors to his campaign. Although the district, which was carved out of some of Pasadena’s poorest neighborhoods and includes most of Northwest Pasadena, Hueso has collected more than $30,000 — $1,000 from the California Real Estate Political Action Committee, $1,000 from the local and ostensibly nonpartisan political action group ACT, and $14,000 from the campaigns of Democratic state Sen. Kevin DeLeon of Los Angeles and Assemblyman Ben Hueso, Ruben’s brother, from Encinitas. Hueso’s brother contributed $11,000 from his 2012 re-election campaign, according to the latest financial records filed with the Pasadena City Clerk’s Office. DeLeon gave from his 2018 Assembly campaign fund. Former state Assembly Speaker Fabio Nuñez, also from San Diego and running for state Attorney General in 2014, gave Hueso $5,000 with funds from that upcoming campaign. One of Hueso’s local supporters is Pasadena Board of Education member Ed Honowitz, who gave $250.

This week's Green Action Committee meeting was canceled due to the lack of a quorum

Is it just me, or do these people seem kind of entitled and lazy? They don't get their work in on time (if at all), and their only real accomplishment was the "Green Accords," which they cut and pasted from some rather inane United  Nations publicity releases. Why heaven and earth are being moved by Mayor Josh "3 Minutes" Moran and the City Manager for these guys is mystifying to me.

Don't they have enough low impact people working on city business as it is?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Is the Law Above the Law in Sierra Madre?

This time with patches
You may recall that on Sunday we posted an article here called "Esther Doyle, 'Easy John' Harabedian and the Police Campaign Postcard Back in the News" (click here), and that the California Public Records Act request we had just sent to Sierra Madre's City Manager Elaine Aguilar was discussed there. The reason this matter came up was the elevation of Sierra Madre Police Officer Esther Doyle to the rank for Sergeant, this despite her possibly illegal appearance on an April of 2012 Harabedian for City Council political campaign postcard, and quite obviously decked out in her full duty blues. Sans the SMPD shoulder patch that is normally a part of such drag. This despite state law that prohibits what it regards as being ethically irresponsible behavior.

Here is how my thoughtful PRA read:

Elaine - On Mar 21 of 2012 an article appeared on the Sierra Madre Patch titled "Harabedian Responds to Questionable postcard." 

Here is a portion of what was said:

"Neither of the police officers were on duty or in uniform," said Harabedian. "They’re both complying with the law; neither of them violated the law in either way."

Harabedian said that Delcoure and Doyle are simply wearing dark shirts and pants. "They're not wearing badges, patches or stripes," said Harabedian.

"They were very careful not to wear their SMPD-issued uniform," he said, adding that the two were aware they were posing for campaign mailer material. Delcoure and Doyle were not available for comment at the Sierra Madre Police Station today.

However, Sierra Madre's Public Information Officer Elisa Weaver said that the City is reviewing the photo. "We are aware of the situation and we're looking into it," said Weaver, adding that she has seen the image.

This article can be linked to here -

Please consider this to be a CA Public Records Act Request for information pertaining to Elisa Weaver's investigation. All aspects of that investigation, including conclusions and those who came to them, emails, reports, final report, or any conversations with now Councilmember John Harabedian on this matter are to be included with your submission.

Thanks for taking the time. Adherence to the law, be it by candidates, city employees, police officers or elected officials, is an important matter. 

Thanks for taking the time. I know you are very busy. John Crawford

As I am sure everyone knows, under state law Police Officers cannot be seen campaigning for political candidates while wearing those nice uniforms we buy for them. Here is how that one reads (click here):

Political Activity: A police officer has the right to pursue public office and participate in politics. However, a police officer must be off duty when engaging in political activities in the state of California. In addition, a police officer must be out of uniform before participating in political meetings or functions. A police officer may not wear her uniform while campaigning for public office or while supporting a political candidate. A police officer also cannot be forced to participate in politics.

It should be obvious to anyone who follows the affairs of this place that there was no way the City was going to provide any of the information I requested. We live in a town where a privileged class of people and those who willingly serve them enjoy certain protections that are not often made available to you or I. And it must be said that the law in this case was not enforced by any of the area public agencies, and not just the one that hangs out at City Hall. So such less than benign neglect is hardly unique to Sierra Madre. It is endemic to our ethically blighted portion of God's sorely abused creation.

So anyway, here is the City's response to my thoughtful PRA request:

Dear Mr. Crawford

On Monday, March 25, 2013, the City of Sierra Madre received your emailed Request for Public Records, pursuant to the California Public Records Act, Government Code Section 6250 et seq.

You requested the following records:

Information pertaining to Elisa Weaver's investigation regarding a photograph of two Sierra Madre Police Officers, that appeared in City Council Candidate Haribedian's campaign material. "All aspects of that investigation, including conclusions and those who came to them, emails, reports, final report, or any conversations with now Councilmember John Harabedian."

Pursuant to Government Code Section 6253(c) this letter serves as a formal response to your request and noting that I am responsible for this determination.

California state law prohibits me from providing the information you requested, because the information pertains to peace officers' personnel files. Under Penal Code Section 832.7, a peace officer's personnel file (including Internal Affair investigations) is confidential and can only be disclosed through the discovery procedures set forth in Evidence Codes Sections 1043, 1046 (Pitchess motion procedures). This confidentiality is incorporated by reference in the Public Records Act to exempt such records from disclosure, per Government Code Section 6254(k). I can confirm that an investigation was conducted, but I am unable to provide any additional information.

Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

Elaine Aguilar, City Manager

In a December of 2005 piece called SUMMARY OF THE MAJOR PROVISIONS OF THE PUBLIC RECORDS ACT, written by none other than Michael G. Colantuono of Colantuono & Levin himself (click here), Section 6254(k) would by inference seem to indicate that some sort of attorney-client privilege is in play here.

Privileged Records. Any record which is privileged under other law is exempt from disclosure under Section 6254(k) of the Public Records Act. Thus, all the Evidence Code privileges for attorney-client communications, communications between a patient and physician, etc. are also exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act. In addition to the attorney- client privilege, which extends to communications between attorneys and their clients for the purpose of giving or receiving legal advice, many legal records are protected by the work product doctrine of the civil procedure statutes. That rule protects an attorney’s legal research and analysis from disclosure without his or her consent. In general, we recommend that records of communications between an agency and its lawyers never be disclosed to the public unless the attorneys are first informed and determine that no privilege will be violated.

I found this to be a little odd. So who was the client and who was the Attorney in this matter? And why in this case would the concerned attorney not want his or her "legal research and analysis" disclosed to The Tattler? And was the investigation Elaine Aguilar referred to here one that looked into the matters of Esther Doyle's suspected faithlessness to California law, or was it one conducted to protect her from any possible legal repercussions that might occur should someone want to make a big deal about it? Including affording her the services of a City Attorney and thus effectively locking down any information involved in this sorry mess?

If my suspicions are correct, it would not be the first time that an attorney that we pay worked against our interests. With the bonus suspicion here being that once again the City has acted to protect one of its own from having to face the consequences of a less than aboveboard action.

I guess I have some more work to do.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Case for Jeff and Taryn Hildreth

(Mod: Forget everything you have heard about this case. Obviously the City's message about nonexistent permits and paperwork has pretty much dominated the conversation these last few years. We have all read about it, and many have accepted that version of the story. But what if that account is wrong? How many stories have you heard from the City these last 10 years that haven't turned out to be entirely true? Below is the case that the Attorney for Jeff and Taryn Hildreth has put together. This matter is now before the Superior Court, and the outcome is no certain thing. Read it over and see if you don't come away with some questions that you didn't have before.)

David E. Rosenbaum STATE BAR NO. 49735 484 So. Euclid Avenue, Suite 105
Pasadena, California 91101
(626) 432-7422 FAX: (626) 792-5433
Attorney for Defendants
Jeffrey M. and Taryn N. Hildreth 5

CITY OF SIERRA MADRE, a municipal corporation,
Case No. GC 046442
[Assigned to Hon. Edward C. Simpson, Dpt. R]
JEFFREY M. HILDRETH, individually and d/b/a THE )
and d/b/a THE STERLING OAK; SUN TRUST MORTGAGE, INC., a Virginia Corporation and ) Does 1-50, inclusive,
(b) CONTINUE HEARING 10 DAYS TO PERMIT ) - Other parties to reply to (a);
- City to consider Hildreths’ new architect-drafted ) construction plans; and
- Hildreths’ new engineering firm to review said ) construction plans.
Lodgment of Hildreths’ Architect-Drafted Construction
Plans completed on 2/8/2013;
Copies of Briefs re Receiver’s October 10, 2012 Proposal ) Filed by Hildreths before the October 16, 2012 MSC;
Date: February 19, 2013
Declarations of Jeffrey M. Hildreth and David E. Rosenbaum.
Time: 8:35 a.m. ) Dept: R

_________________________________________________________________________ Defendants’ Supplemental Opposition to Receiver’s Proposals

1 Defendants Jeffrey M. and Taryn N. Hildreth, having previously filed responses to the
October 10, 2012 Receiver’s Proposal in their MSC brief, hereby tender this Supplemental
3 Opposition for late filing. Under separate cover, we have lodged and are filing the following
4 items: (i) A full-sized set of the Hildreths’ new, architect-drafted construction plans, which were
5 completed on February 8, 2013. (ii) Declaration of Jeffrey Hildreth dated February 11, 2013. (iii)
6 Defendants’ MSC brief which responded to the Receiver’s October 10, 2012 Proposal.
7 Defendants respectfully request (1) that the Court consider this late Opposition –
8 especially Defendants’ new construction plans – and (2) that the Court continue the hearing now
9 scheduled for February 19, 2013 for 10 days or for such other period as affords sufficient time (i)
10 for the other parties to respond hereto; (ii) for the City to review the newly-drafted construction
11 plans; and (iii) for the Hildreths’ new engineering firm to review said plans, which review began
12 on February 11, 2013. Our Supplemental Opposition is as follows:
• 41% of the court’s findings of “unpermitted” work Code violations are the result of Richard Temple’s fraud on the court, rendering the injunction and receiver orders void; such fraud may be raised “at any time”;
• Temple’s sworn statements that the Hildreths’ building permits had “expired” as of June 2009 were false; Temple had no knowledge concerning the matter and no reasonable grounds to believe those statements true; this constitutes fraud on the court, compounded by Castro’s declaration, and false representations by Ms. Wynder on 12/3/2011 and Mr. Litvak at the receivership hearing that the Hildreths’ building permits were never issued and were mere “applications” for permits. It also appears the someone in the City intentionally falsified the City records [a felony] for the purpose of defrauding this court;
• The City is estopped to prohibit the Hildreths’ construction based on the City’s claim that it has no approved plans because it violated its mandatory duty to preserve the Hildreths’ approved plans, possession of which its City Manager acknowledged on August 29, 2006.
• As to the Receiver’s 10/10/12 Proposal, our MSC Brief showed: Based on our expert witness declarations, abatement of the alleged Code violations will cost $4,900. The Proposal

_________________________________________________________________________ Defendants’ Supplemental Opposition to Receiver’s Proposals
1 contains no findings or abatement methods for any specific Code violation alleged in the
Complaint; attaches an expert structural engineer’s report that substantially agrees with our
3 expert’s finding that there are no significant structural problems (10/10/2010 Proposal, Ex. 2, p.
4 38). Most importantly, the Proposal contains no findings supporting any need for West
5 Builders’ $400,000 proposal to “convert” the basement or for the Receiver’s proposal to “fill in
6 the hole” (Proposal, p. 5:16-22) except for a single clause in West’s proposal, which states
7 ONLY that the proposal is “based on our observations during the jobwalk ib 9.18.2012.” (Id.,
8 Ex. 1, p. 7, 1st ¶, 2nd sentence.) The Receiver’s Supplemental Proposal is defective for the same
9 reasons, for it simply relies on the non-findings in the 10/10/2012 Proposal.
10 • The Receiver’s Proposals will demolish the Hildreths’ home and/or destroy their
11 $133,921-plus investment in this project without a trial; without any evidence that any
12 condition on the property threatens public safety, health or welfare; and without affording the
13 Hildreths the “ample opportunity” to remedy violations that is required by the Due Process
14 Clause (Hawthorne Sav. & Loan Ass’n. v. City of Signal Hill, 19 Cal.App.4th 148, 158-159
(1993)) and by Health & Safety Code §17980.7(c)(14).
The Hildreths’ instant Opposition is based primarily on matters that transcend the Receiver’s Proposals and go to the validity of continuation of any proceedings herein premised on Orders secured as a result of fraud upon this honorable Court.
1. A ruling obtained by fraud on the court “‘is void, and thus “vulnerable to direct or collateral attack at any time.”’” County of San Diego v. Gorham (2010) 186 Cal.App.4th 1215, 1225, quoting from People v. American Contractors Indemnity Co. (2004) 33 Cal.4th 653, 660. (Emphasis by the court.) This Court’s power to set aside orders obtained by such fraud is an inherent one “not derived from [C.C.P.] section 473” (McGuinness v. Superior Court (1925) 196 Cal. 222, 231), but rather, “from article VI, section 1 of the California Constitution....” Walker v. Superior Court (1991) 53 Cal.3d 257, 266-267. It is particularly important that defendants bring such fraud to the Court’s attention before the court considers ordering their house
_________________________________________________________________________ Defendants’ Supplemental Opposition to Receiver’s Proposals
1 demolished.
2. The Hildreths diligently followed this Court’s suggestion that they find independent,
3 licensed professionals to prepare a new set of construction plans for presentation to the Court and
4 to the City. Those plans were not completed until the afternoon of February 8, 2013, and have
5 been submitted to a new engineering firm for review. The Court should have the opportunity to
6 review those plans and take them into consideration in ruling on the Receiver’s Proposals.
7 Additionally, the adverse parties should have the opportunity to respond to the material
8 contained in this late-filed Opposition. Counsel attempted to obtain a stipulation to a
9 continuance; however, was unsuccessful in his first call during which counsel for Defendant
10 SunTrust advised that his client has no objection to a continuance, but would not stipulate to one.

About 41% of this court’s findings of “public nuisances” at the Hildreths’ premises are based on the determination that the construction was performed without City permits. (See Complaint, ¶24, a, c, j, k, l, o, q, s, u, v, x, and f, adopted by this court in each of its substantive orders.) Those court findings are based on false statements made in the November 29, 2010 declaration of Richard Temple (“Temple”), which formed the core of the City’s evidence on the TRO, injunction and receivership; and on false representations compounding Temple’s fraud by the City’s attorneys in open court. We assert this claim based on the following:
In his 11/29/2010 declaration under penalty of perjury, Temple identified Exhibit G thereto, Photos 52-55 on pp. 17-18, as being photocopies of the actual “building permits” that had been issued by the City to the Hildreths in 1998-1999 [i.e., Building, Mechanical, Plumbing, & Electrical permits]. Each such permit is on a dual-function form entitled “Application- Permit,” completed with the City’s official time stamp at the top and a handwritten City validation at the bottom. After identifying and authenticating those permits, Mr. Temple stated that “all permits ... have expired without final inspection.” (Id., p. 3, item #14.) On this basis, Temple issued a June 9, 2009 stop-work order that has remained in effect for 4 years. (Id., Ex. E)
3 _________________________________________________________________________ Defendants’ Supplemental Opposition to Receiver’s Proposals
1 The falsity of Temple’s statement and the chain of events the led to the discovery of that
falsity in this Court’s library during the October 16, 2012 MSC is traced in detail in the February
3 11, 2013 Declaration of Jeffrey Hildreth, ¶¶2-8, which we summarize briefly as follows.
4 At the time and continuing to date, the California Building Code [“CBC”], as adopted by
5 the City, provided that a building permit only expires if the work is not commenced within 180
6 days or is thereafter suspended or abandoned for 180 days or more. The same provision also
7 controls the expiration of permits under the Mechanical Code (§114.4) and Plumbing Code
8 (§103.3.4). The Hildreths’ receipts and records for the construction work show that construction
9 commenced within the first 180 days after the City issued each permit; that the City’s authorized
10 Building Official confirmed that all of the Hildreths’ permits were active, unrevoked, and
11 unexpired as of June/July 2005; that the Hildreths expended $133,921.93 over the entire period
12 from January 1999 to June 9, 2009 on materials, supplies and services for the job; and that the
13 job was never suspended or abandoned.
14 Temple’s employment with the City began in January 2009 (Temple Dec., ¶ 1), no more
than 166 days before he issued the June 9, 2009 stop-work order. He could not possibly have
16 personally “observed” any [hypothetical] 180-day suspension of work, a sine qua non for his
17 stop-work order. Ergo, Temple could not possibly have issued such stop-work order based on
18 facts personally known to him – which we have shown never existed at all. Mr. Hildreths’
19 thorough review of the City’s files on the project disclosed no report, mention or other indication
20 that the project had even been suspended or abandoned – for a day, a week, or for any other
21 period. Counsel hereby represents to the court that a review of the file shows that each and
22 every time any communication or action occurred over the 14-year history in that file, an
23 individual in the Building Division memorialized it by memo, letter or in writing with his/her
24 name or initials and the date. A supplemental declaration of Mr. Hildreth to this effect will be
25 filed at or before the hearing herein.
The foregoing, standing alone, shows that Temple’s statement about “expiration” was
27 false and made with fraudulent intent under well-settled precedent. I.e., he knew that he did not
28 have knowledge of the matter or had no reasonable grounds for believing what he said was true.
_________________________________________________________________________ Defendants’ Supplemental Opposition to Receiver’s Proposals
1 Civil Code §1710; Lerner v. Riverside Citrus Assn. (1953) 115 Cal.App.2d 544, 547.
However, in this particular case, Temple’s fraud goes beyond “negligent” deceit under
3 Civil Code §1710(b), for it appears that the City’s official record of the Hildreths’ Building
4 Permit was falsified at some time after Mr. Pock checked the status of the Hildreths’ permits in
5 June/July 2005. The falsification was made by hand-printing the word “expired” on that permit
6 [but not on the other two permits that also would have expired if suspended for 180 days],
7 without initials, date or explanation, at some point before the documents comprising Exhibit G to
8 his declaration were assembled by the City’s attorneys. This could have been done only by City
9 employees and officials with access to Building Division files between June/July 2005 and
10 November 29, 2010, the date of Temple’s declaration. Until Temple’s statements, no one in the
11 City made any mention suggesting that the Hildreths’ permits had expired. We submit that in
12 these circumstances, it is reasonable to conclude that Temple is the person who wrote the word
13 “expired” on the Building Permit; and that in doing so, he intentionally concealed the source of
14 the writing, and the fact that such an assertion could not have been based on any facts personally
known to him. But whoever the writer of that word was, his or her concealment of its author and
16 date exhibits a consciousness of guilt that makes this an intentional fraud on the court, regardless
17 of who authored it. For well over a century, the courts have held that when one makes a false
18 statement knowing that he has no knowledge on the matter, this is intentional
19 misrepresentation.1 Worse yet in this case, the misrepresentation simultaneously committed a
20 felony under Penal Code §§115(a), 132, 133, and/or 134.
21 The misrepresentations were compounded by Castro’s 11/29/2010 declaration that the
22 Hildreths failed to inaugurate the conditional use permit by “by failing to obtain ... [a] building
23 permit”; and by Ms. Wynder’s representation at the TRO hearing that defendants never has
_________________________________________________________________________ Defendants’ Supplemental Opposition to Receiver’s Proposals
1 In Knickerbocker Merchandising Co. v. United States, 13 F.2d 544 (2d Cir. 1926) (per Learned Hand, J.), adopted by California in People v. Gordon (1945) 71 Cal.App.2d 606, 624, Judge Hand found that ever since Lord Herschell’s opinion in Derry v. Peck, L.R. 14 App.Cas. 337 (1889), it has generally been accepted that “all unconditional utterances, intended to be taken seriously, imply at least a belief, and, if the utterer does not believe them, they are false, though his mind be quite indeterminate as to the truth. The law in this country is so settled by a great number of precedents....” As one example, such “reckless” fraud was held to satisfy the requisite scienter for deliberate criminal fraud in Irwin v. United States, 338 F.2d 770, 774 (9th Cir. 1964), cert. denied, 381 U.S. 911.
1 obtained a building permit [to which the Court responded that “main issue is securing a building
permit”]; and by Mr. Litvak’s representation on July 31, 2012 that the copies of the building
3 permits in the Hildreths’ possession “were “applications that were never finalized ... [t]hey died
4 on the vine.”
This Court has the inherent power to reconsider its own decisions and orders at any time before final judgment is entered. Le Francois v. Goel (2005) 35 Cal.4th 1094, 1105-1109. Defendants respectfully request that the Court reconsider its injunctions and receivership orders herein and vacate both orders based on the above-described fraud practiced on the Court.
In considering this request, defendants believe that the Court will also be concerned with the issue of whether the Hildreths should be permitted to go forward with their project without the limitations imposed by the injunction. As further shown in the Hildreth Declaration, this issue arose at the end of the MSC, after the Court confronted the City with counsel’s copy of the building permits in Exhibit G of the Temple declaration. When confronted with the showing that the City had in fact issued the building permits, contrary to the City’s representations to this Court, the City responded that it could not agree to the Hildreths’ resumption of their project because the City has no approved construction plans for it. The Court at that point strongly suggested that the Hildreths have new plans drafted, which they have lodged with the Court.
As further shown in the Hildreth declaration (¶¶10-11): Pursuant to the City’s December 7, 2005 request, the Hildreths’ provided the City with their last original set of approved plans in January 2006. The then-City Manager acknowledged that the City had possession of those plans by letter dated August 29, 2006. At all times when Mr. Hildreth has provided plans to the City, his understanding has been the plans remain the Hildreths’ property; that after the period that the CBC requires the City to retain them, those documents are returned to the owners or made available for pick up. His understandings are based on Section 107.5 of the current Code and the general practice of building officials throughout the area.
Defendants’ Supplemental Opposition to Receiver’s Proposals

As will be shown in the Declaration of David E. Rosenbaum, on December 10, 2012 the Hildreths executed and served on the City their Amended Claim For Damages Under California Tort Claims Act and Demand For Damages Under 42 United States Code §1983. One demand therein was that the City forthwith return each and every set of construction plans that the Hildreths have supplied to the City. Thereafter, counsel received a letter from the City denying all of the Hildreths’ claims and demands.
The City’s refusal to return the plans – whatever the cause – violates Civil Code §§ 1822 & 1823; Health and Safety Code §§19850 and 34090; §107.5 of the Uniform Building Code of the International Conference of Building Officials, adopted as California state law in Health and Safety Code §17922(a)(2); City ordinances #1128 § 4, 1996; #1172 § 1 (A), 1999; #1198 § 1 (A), 2003; #1273 § 1 (part), 2007; #1315, § 1, 2011; and Local Government Records Management Guidelines issued by the Secretary Of State pursuant to Gov. Code §12236 in February 2006.
Based on the foregoing, the City is estopped to prevent the continuation of the construction. Medina v. Board of Retirement (2003) 112 Cal.App.4th 864, 868-869.
DATED: February 14, 2012
Respectfully submitted,
______________________ DAVID E. ROSENBAUM Attorney for Defendants
_________________________________________________________________________ Defendants’ Supplemental Opposition to Receiver’s Proposals


I am employed in the County of Los Angeles, State of California. I am over the age of 18 and not a party to the within action; my business address is 484 South Euclid Avenue, Suite 105, Pasadena, California 91101.
On February 14, 2013, I served the foregoing document described as:
on the interested parties in this action by transmitting true and correct copies of same by email to the following individuals at the following email addresses:
Charlene Wynder
Dapeer Rosenblit & Litvak LLP 11500 W Olympic Blvd Ste 550 Los Angeles, CA 90064

Ben A. Eilenberg
Severson & Werson
19100 Von Karman Avenue, Suite 700 Irvine, CA 92612
David J. Pasternak, Esq.
Pasternak, Pasternak & Patton 1875 Century Park East, Suite 2200 Los Angeles, CA 90067

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct.
DATED: February 14, 2013
______________________ DAVID E. ROSENBAUM

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

City Council Meeting: Recycled Jargon and a Whole Lot of the Same Old Nonsense

It's low impact development if you throw in a tree
(Mod: The first 95 comments here are from last night's City Council "live blogging." I figured I'd keep everything in one place for convenience.)

I don't know if you noticed last night, but there were several times that John Harabedian appeared to be a little fatigued. I guess they're driving him pretty hard down at that top billing law firm he works for, because the guy certainly did not appear to be quite as on top of it as he normally is. But whatever the reasons, he was on point at the appropriate times to deliver his "I don't have a problem with much of this, actually none of it, really" line. Something he delivered more than once last night as it seems to be his standard going through the motions patter. He at least still recognized his cues and, of course, stayed on script.

John's got quite a political future ahead of him, just as long as he keeps doing as he's been told. Stick to that and the rest won't matter a bit.

It was funny to hear a special piece of old Joe Mosca jargon being tossed about last night. "Low impact development." It's kind of like clean coal, you know? An oxymoron, but certainly a comforting one. Sort of like when Metro tells people they need to widen the 710 and build that tunnel because it will help make the air clean. Or that those trucks coming out of the ports are new ones propelled by "green diesel." That way they can bring us all of the imported construction materials necessary for our low impact development. 

The big scrape of the night was between those who believe in the more traditional forms of what it means to be green, and the new kind that apparently has a lot to do with low impact development. The lazy daisies at City Hall have been putting in some long hard hours trying to convince people that they are way too overworked and understaffed to have the time to deal with all of these committees and commissions. Such a terrible bother they are. Always wanting something.

Of course, it could have been about all of the cutbacks at City Hall. However, beyond some strategic body shuffling, there never really was much of that. Though they do exist as talking points from the City Manager's post-reality playbook.

Apparently the one commission that really taxes their patience and limited remaining mental resources the most is the Tree Commission. So much so that they want to mulch the TC and turn its titles over to the gentle mercies of Los Angeles solid waste uberbureaucrat and Green Committee potentate Paul Alva. Which to anyone with a three digit IQ and any modicum of pride whatsoever would have to be a fate worse than death by gumming. 

The Tree Commission deals with the noble struggle of keeping trees alive. Pretty much what all of us were raised to believe being green was all about. The Green Committee, on the other hand, is all about serving as local policy enforcer for such atrocious things as SB 375, the Arnold Schwarzenegger spawned monstrosity that claims if you pack lots of so-called low impact development into places like Sierra Madre, the world will somehow be saved from global warming. Condos will save the world.

Which really is a far out thought, man.

Sierra Madre, thanks to things like the Tree Commission, always has been a pretty low impact kind of place. But that is really not the point.

The Green Committee is, of course, typical of how you sell crap like so-called low impact development in California. You tell people it will save the world. Just ask Paul Alva. Or dial up John Harabedian and ask him. He'll be sure to tell you he doesn't have a problem with it.

The highlight of the evening had to be the presence of MaryAnn MacGillivray. She brought with her a speech, which she delivered with all of her usual aplomb. I managed to get a copy of it so that I could post it here.

This is what she had to say:

Consideration of consolidating certain committees and commissions into a "New Commission" is premature and not on point. While such a discussion may address the issues of reducing staff time and freeing meeting dates, it cannot be productive unless the "New Commission" is clearly defined as to purpose, function and benefit to the community. 

Specifically, one of the committees being review for absorption into a "New Commission" is the Green Committee, the very continuance of which is yet to be determined. In an effort to make that determination, over 6 months ago, the Green Committee was asked to prepare a SMART assessment and cost/benefit analysis of the 25 items they believed guided their group. At the November 13, 2012 Council meeting they had failed to complete the assignment and this were not properly prepared to present their findings to the Council.

The Council then painstakingly went through each item, eliminated some and then, for a second time, asked the Green Committee to prepare a SMART assessment and cost/benefit analysis of the remaining items. As of this date, the Green Committee still has not provided the information to the Council.

I attended a Green Committee meeting subsequent to the Council's request in which there was a discussion of the SMART analysis. It seemed that the committee did not know how to develop the analysis; one committee member said that she had "no idea how to do it" and another said it was "way over her head." Probably why, after 2 requests and 6 months, the analysis still does not exist. What then is the value of their self-proclaimed expertise?

The validity and necessity of a Green Committee should be established in a public and transparent process. The community should understand the costs associated with the goals of such a commission in the event that a SMART analysis should ever be completed. And the City Council and City Staff should not propose to make the Green Committee a "fait accompli" without the self-identified "experts" on the committee doing the required work to convince the very community that will bear the costs, that they are needed.

If this is a process to obfuscate that nature of this committee and its impact on the community, it is deceitful. A vote to proceed without proper and thorough process illustrates a lack of integrity.

This discussion should be tabled until a full public vetting has taken place, and the committee and commission considered for absorption are individually evaluated as to purpose, function and benefit to the community.

So I guess we're expected to applaud the gutting of the venerable Tree Commission. Done so that the Green Committee can swipe their commission honors and get all the staff love they want. 

But here is my question. For what? Nobody is sharing that part.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tony Brandenburg: Mr. Ed-ucational Consultant

The Petey Principle
Word is that everyone’s favorite Snappy State Senator, Carol "Lookee" Liu has made our own beloved nonentity, Mr. Ed Honowitz a paid Liaison for Education in the great state of California (click here). In fact, the Senator had a club meeting for Community Schools just the other day. My new bestest pal Bill Bogaard was even there.

“The community schools concept fosters intentional collaborations among school districts; state, county and city government; non-profits; and businesses,” said Liu, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, “By aligning these resources we can make major strides towards ensuring that every child has access to the academic, health, and social supports he or she needs to succeed.  In a time of very limited funding, an effective Community Schools alignment strategy can leverage resources to focus on the needs of the whole child and his or her family.”

Mr. Ed is moving uptown on the bottom feeder chain. This is quite a feat for the, uh,  trained art student turned photographer. It must be nice to come from privilege, and have a wife who tows the financial line.

Mr. Ed is the symbol for  everything that is wrong with education in California. He is among the elite, the type who think that they are better than the poor. As the “preferred” ruling class,  they believe it is their duty to suck money from the system, siphon off a bunch actually, and then serve the reheated scraps to the people they profess to help.

Think about it, the guy takes pictures. That is what makes him an education guru? That is his expertise for making decisions for public education and community schools? Hot damn, sign me up, there’s a camera on the iPhone in my pocket right now. I want to be an edumacation guru too. Say, “Cheese!”

Wow. Any blithering fool can become a consultant in California, if you know the right people.

I sing in a punk rock band. Using that same dynamic logic maybe Carol "Lookee" Liu can make me a rocket scientist. Yo, Senator Liu, give me some chemicals, I wanna build rockets and stuff, just like Jack Parsons. Pasadena Old School style.

Speaking of Rockets, Let’s Talk About San Bruno
Carol "Lookee" Liu is a taken woman. Sorry guys. Her husband is an energy guy. In fact, if you think about it, so is Kenny "Measure A" Chawkins. But Carol is not married to Ken. Apparently, neither is Barbie. So, shall we meet Mr. Lookee Liu?

Mr. Carol Liu is none other than the CA Public Utility Commissioner President Michael "Pet" Peevey. Mr. Peevey was the former CEO for Southern CA Edison. Hey, isn’t that where Mr. Kenny Chawkins works? (click here). And John Buchanan? How about John Fasana? You know, the 710 Tunnel guy?

Is it just me, or is there something about the PUSD redistricting scheme using lots of contribution money to fund a puppet regime that smells funny?

Well, no. Serving the special interests of power is what politics is all about. This situation involves real power though, like in, energy power, not just squash the human insect power.

Keep an eye on Pasadena and it’s dreams of apartment expansion. When you get to write your own ticket on power usage, costs, and taxes, you get more bang for your buck if you have more people to squeeze it out of. Make them dependent on your electric trains, and that is just gravy, isn’t it? Just another thought from the wild and crazy guy that gets yelled at to shut up in Sierra Madre town meetings and council chambers. Your town is so doomed that you don’t even know that your toss away citizens are the only ones who know which way the wind blows.

Listen. It sure seems that  our boy Mr. Liu Mike Pet Peevey - sorry ladies, he’s already taken -  gets to pretty much do whatever he wants (click here). Well then, we can bet Ed Honowitz is in good company, because no one serves his own special interests while pretending to serve the public’s interest like Mr. Ed does. It would be quite a competition of self interest.

Remember how old Pet Peevey named himself investigator of his own mistake, the one that killed people, and then determined what the findings and fine would be? That’s right, that is Mr. Liu and his method of operation. His power, wink wink, knows no bounds.

Look. It is totally consistent with Ed Honowitz who determined the outcome of the Brandenburg child situation - the same one he was involved in. Honowitz knew the outcome prior to it being written. I wouldn’t doubt if he had to help that poor sap Steve Miller write the damn thing.

If you have a minute, take it to sign this petition (click here) to remove Peevey. It is 62 signatures shy. For an added bonus, put in the comments that Ed Honowitz’s best pal Tony Brandenburg sent you.

Flying the Mr. Ed Freak Flag
The  Pasadena Education Network (aka, “PEN. We’re the Other Guys!”) is also flying the Mr. Ed freak flag.  They chose to make him their poster boy for parent leadership. That must mean he’s a great parent leader. He helps bully autistic kids out of schools, and that is a quality the PUSD Board of Education supports, so it must be worthy of the PEN, too.

Listen. For $75 a pop, you can go to the PEN Wine Festival, chug vino, and even rub shoulders with the upper crust of Pasadena Dems and ACTors. It’s like a DEMitasse ball, only it’s with wine. Maybe even some of the good stuff.

As appealing as it is to drop $75 a pop, go in, get smashed with a bunch of snobs, and easily underclass them all. I find that a certain charm can certainly be had sitting out on the curb with a bottle of Maddog 20/20. Hell, I could even upscale it a bit with some Strawberry Hill. I know that would really impress the ladies.

Enchante, madame.

Intermission: Let’s Talk about Edwin Diaz for a Moment
That is a great deal of heady information, I know. For the people who need a quick break to reload their coffee, take it now during this intermission. Never let it be said that I don’t think of others. That brings me to this intermission topic, Mr. Edwin Phonefixer Diaz.

As you know, Big Eddy D.’s big delivery to the PUSD was this: He fixed the telephones. It was what was considered his single greatest achievement. Which is why I am sorry to report that the actual phone fixer was Gary Phonefixer Carnow. This makes perfect sense since it would take a technician to fix something that complicated. That means Eddy D. didn’t exactly do anything at all except smile really big at the wine sipping meetings and other photo ops.

Props to Carnow, and a Bronx Cheer for Eddy Payday Diaz.

An Ego is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Still, there has to be a better way to honor Honowitz. His ego should never outshine the honors heaped upon him. It would hurt his ego. We don’t want to deflate that. Imagine how long it took him to puff it up.

What do I think? Why, it is funny that you should ask.

I think we should honor Mr. Ed in ways that truly serve his needs. Something more permanent than the awards he’s been given already. Awards, as I have already shared, are what are given to the ineffective for mediocrity. Honowitz needs way more than that. Otherwise he might come back for more honors. We gotta send him packing with so many honors, and celebrating how little he did, that he won’t come back.

Listen. As tempting it is to name a building after him, like the Sierra Madre Elementary School did for the former school principal Gayle "I’m glad I live on the other side of Michillinda AvenueBluemel, another Pinocchio Auditorium in the district won’t do. No, no, no.  Simply naming a barn at the John Muir Farm wouldn’t serve the ego of our favorite marble mouthed maven of mendacity. Think about it. The Mr. Ed Barn. It is so, totally lacking.

No. A hypocrite as spectacular as Honowitz should never be canonized in a way so mild. His ego would never recover, and it might force him to talk on, and on, and on ... to the point that he might accidentally immolate himself.

I think we could honor him in some of the ways Kim Jong Il was honored, such as this page filled with pictures of the former supreme leader Kim Jong Il Looking at Things (click here). That was before he died, of course. Though, I must admit that, in a way, the idea of Kim Jong Il still be escorted around to look at things might show advanced reverence to the former supreme leader.

That’s right, we could have a site full of our former board leader just looking at things. We could call it, Mr. Ed Looking at Things, and we could fill it with images of the brayish one, jaw wide open going, “gah!” and just, you know, looking at things.

Or his memory could live on forever, in celluloid grace (click here). There are no limits for our new Pasadena, aka Extremely East Hollywood star. I have seen how versatile he is (click here).

Educational Consultants, Screwing Public Schools One Conference at a Time
What is it that makes a consultant worth their salt? That is my question for today because I see and attend workshops by consultants all the time. I bring this up because consultants are paid thousands of dollars - sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars - by school districts in America every single day. But what do they do, and how is their quality actually measured?

Check it out, they are not. That’s right, it is simply private enterprise. Sure, you can call it a non-profit. All the smart guys do, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t profit from it. That just means you can use loopholes to get the breaks that hard working honest people can’t use.

Educational Consultants, especially the good ones (whatever that means since their is no industry standard) are simply the ones that market their wares best. All you need is an idea, a marketing firm, and some networking skills. Networking skills are critical because, like everything else in a corrupt, broken system - it’s not what you do, it’s who you know.

Ask Mr. Ed. Last month he had the City Council of Pasadena falling over itself because he brought in Comrade Judy Chu to pitch for Community Schools. Community Schools are the latest catch phrase for drumming up taxpayer pity taxes to fund a whole slew of social programs that previously failed, all under a nice new umbrella.

Old wine in a new bottle, right? Hey, maybe there’s more of a tie-in to that PEN Wine Sloshing party for Ed Honowitz than meets the eye.

Revisiting Condoms, Condos, Community Schools; Drugs Bad, Veggies Good
On Tuesday, February 20, 2013, I made a brief reference, and questioned the Pasadena City Council and the Pasadena Unified Board of Education if they knew anything about the Oakland Community School (click here). My point that night was this: I wanted to show everyone in the room that they didn’t know what was being discussed, what its history was, or where it came from. I believe I succeeded. I was an amusing distraction.

What was served on the Pasadena City Council floor was simple. Because Honowitz brought the mess to the table, it was swallowed hook, line, and sinker. It didn’t matter if it was an Edsel, or a Mercedes. It was going to be driven off the showroom floor either way.

After all, Mr. Ed brought in Congresswoman Judy Chu, and she gave an entire presentation on the topic. That must mean something! I’m not sure what, but it must’ve been important because she’s a Congresswoman and came to us all the way from Monterey Park (click here) to talk. I mean, she was even on the California Tax Board! That must mean something to someone somewhere! Color me impressed.

Imagine all of the gas she must have used! Don’t worry, your pretty little head. It was written off.

Worship at the Altar of the Community Schools. Or, The Petey Principle Revisited
Honowitz needs to worship at the altar of the Community Schools, and so do you. After all, his future hangs on the passing of these programs. A bit later Peter Dreier waltzed up to plug his baby IIPK - Invest in Pasadena Kids (click here).

Petey worked on this baby a long time. His non-partisan, non-profit group first came to my attention when they were selling little stickers to local Pasadena businesses in a harebrained program called Buy in PUSD (click here), a total failure concocted with Pasadena Educational Foundation (click here). The idea was that you and I, Joe Spender and Josie Shopper would see that sticker and we would go there to spend our money.

Among the big donors in Buy in PUSD is the Seville Group, Inc (click here), as well as picture takers for all of the schools, LifeTouch National Schools Studios (click here). Sadly, their kick off party would be some of the best business Bob’s Big Boy did over on Del Mar Avenue (click here). Apparently all of the PUSD staff from Hudson Avenue were eating someplace else. I assume somewhere healthier, and more copacetic with the Healthy Food folks.

Like lots of crappy programs, Buy In PUSD didn’t pan out like one would have hoped, not that anyone can really blame IIPK or PEF for that. People generally don’t want to invest in failing business ideas, even one that is supposed to raise revenues for schools - unless there is a bunch of safeguards. Investments need fresh cash flow to do that.  Of course, you never did hear too much about that part.

Fear not, any failure can be resurrected under a new name. It is called restructuring. That is how the guys downtown do it, so it would follow that a non-profit would as well.

One of the howlers at the Joint Pasadena City/PUSD meeting was just that. Honowitz made a pitch to weave the less used programs (that is code for failures) and work them up into better outreach (that is code for repackaging them) so that more funding won’t be asked for (and that is code for right now before he can write up a grant to get a piece of it).

You can bet that you will hear much more from Honowitz and Mrs. Honowitz-Pais (click here) as the Community Schools Program (click here) becomes deeply intertwined with the Pasadena City scheme. Oops, I mean plan. The accolades heaped onto LAEP (click here) come from none other than the Huffington Post. Search Peter Dreier, Ed Honowitz, and Huffington Post and you’ll see what I mean. For even more super duper good times, Google Ed Honowitz and Brandenburg. Pals-4-Ever.

The Pasadena Plan for Poverty
It is a given that the PUSD and Pasadena City Council have a demonstrable need for poverty written into their General Plan, and anticipates its growth for the next twenty years.

The Pasadena General Plan (click here) will go down in recent history as one of the most expensive, cost ineffective collaborations between local government and a school district ever to devise a “progressive” plan to fleece local taxpayers, coming and going.

That is what Community Schools anticipates. It is a plan for poverty, a plan for failure, and a framework for the funding of a Social Engineering Bureaucracy. Then your health, both mental and physical, as well as the dynamics of your family, shopping, travel, and recreation can all be superseded by people who know what you want and need more than you do.

I suppose everyone deserves their day in the sun, even if it’s the desert sun, and Ed Honowitz was basking in the glory. Most of the world class city council were so smitten by Comrade Chu’s visit to the world class city that they didn’t see how badly they were being bamboozled by Honowitz’s very own Community Schools Scheme. Oh, I mean, plan.

Or maybe they did.

I am certainly glad that the spirit of Martin Chuzzlewits lives on.  The smart guys have structured such a plan for us all, and anticipate a utopia that is not only free from Soma, but is everything that a Skinnerian Walden could, and would, provide.

A Letter from Mary to the PUSD
We get 300 page views a week on our Censure Honowitz post. There are people who expect this to happen. Will there ever be a censure of Ed Honowitz put through?

A Response from her Spouse
Haha. Good one.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Our Legendary City Council Meeting Previews Still Happen

As you may have read yesterday, the March 26 confab will kick into gear with Mayor Moran effusively proclaiming that Sierra Madre Police Officer Esther Doyle has been promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Something that, when you consider the controversy involving her possibly illegal involvement with the City Council campaign of John Harabedian a year or so back, might not be the best possible message for our city to be sending. Apparently in this town those who (at best) bend the rules and rely on back room connections prosper. Not a particularly wholesome thing to be communicating to our kids.

The Tattler has filed a PRA with the City and hopefully the as yet undisclosed 2012 City Hall investigation into the campaign shenanigans in question will finally be revealed. But in a City where the "one rule for us, another rule for you" system is so obviously in place, there are no guarantees the law will be followed here, either.

The meeting then gets down to its real purpose, which is selling us on whatever it is the City wants to spend the taxpayers dollars on.

a) RESOLUTION NO. 13-15 APPROVING CERTAIN DEMANDS: The spend this time comes to a petite $521,832.35. This includes payroll transfer, City of Sierra Madre Warrants, and a little something for the Library. Southern California Edison accounts for $42,647.68 of the take, even though we should be charging them for sending those very boring speakers to our City Council meetings. The City's Verizon bill is just under $2,000, so maybe they should switch to an unlimited texting program (LOL!). Colantuono and Levin hauls in $21,582.60, and Dapeer, Rosenblit & Litvak get $11,825.21 for whatever it is they do. First Transit gets $22,208.41 for their award winning empty bus service. The L.A. County Registrar/Recorder gets a check for $15,153.53 for our participation November 2012 Presidential General Election. More proof that freedom isn't free. Or at least its facsimile isn't. The list just goes on and on.

b) RECOMMENDATION TO SEEK BIDS FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF FISCAL YEAR 2012-2013 STREET RESURFACING PROJECT: Including something called a "10% contingency," $686,824 is up for street repair allocation. A lot of streets need repair and, unlike with our ancient water pipes, there doesn't seem to be any hidden few million dollars in old bond debt to prevent this from happening. The streets receiving the blessing of new tar include parts of Old Meadow Road, Old Ranch Road, Pleasant Hill Lane, Grove Lane, Colony Drive, Holdman Avenue, So. Sunnyside Avenue, West Sierra Madre Boulevard, Mariposa Avenue, Elm Avenue and Auburn Avenue. If you are not on this list then you'd better get a set of new shocks for your car.

2 - PUBLIC HEARING - ORDINANCE NO. 1336 AMENDING CHAPTERS 17.20 “ONE FAMILY RESIDENTIAL ZONE” AND 17.68 “PARKING” OF TITLE 17 OF THE SIERRA MADRE MUNICIPAL CODE: This could be a very interesting discussion. Here is how it is described in the City Council Agenda Report:

The Planning Commission has held nine meetings since 2008, discussing R-1 development standards which have proven to be contradictory, difficult to apply, or inconsistent with the City's development goals. Seven meetings were discussions that included recommendations to amend the zoning text, and two of those meetings were public hearings on the proposed Ordinance., held in February and March 2013. Staff has recorded all of the proposed recommendations to amend the zoning text throughout these discussions, by maintaining a working red line copy that was brought back to each meetings for review and approval, leading to the two public hearings.

Pretty much the life's blood of Sierra Madre politics here, folks. I'd be paying close attention if I were you.

3 - DISCUSSION - PASADENA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT (PUSD) CONSTRUCTION UPDATE: The PUSD is now expected to show up every now and again to explain themselves about what exactly it is they are going to do about our Middle School. You know, the razed school building that PUSD President Renatta Cooper wanted us to know she was sorry about the last time the Board of Education rolled into town. I suspect they'll send Fredo, although I am always open to surprises.

4 - DISCUSSION – DISCUSSION REGARDING 186 W. HIGHLAND AND DEVELOPMENT OF WORKFORCE HOUSING: Sometimes the jargon employed by City Staff gets me laughing so hard that I have to go take a walk around the house. Workforce Housing is one of them. Apparently in the minds of City Hall our Sierra Madre is a country estate where worker houses need to be provided so that the horses can be shod and the grounds attended to properly. This is, of course, little more than a sop to get low income housing built at 186 W. Highland so that we can better abase ourselves before our RHNA masters at SCAG. Though there is one hopeful proposal on the Agenda Report, that being to sell the Old Church so someone can  build a single family home on what is a zoned R-3 property. Wouldn't that just frost some people, eh? The folks on West Highland will hopefully be at the City Council meeting to keep the majority faction on the City Council from doing something stupid. You know they are fully capable of it.

5 - DISCUSSION – CONSIDERATION OF USE OF “DUTY-MAN HOUSE” – 579 E. SIERRA MADRE BLVD. AS WORKFORCE HOUSING: John Capoccia brought this one up as a way of lessening our RHNA burden. Apparently the City owns a wee shanty at 579 E. Sierra Madre Boulevard, located at the back of Sierra Vista Park. Currently it is used for storage. While John's idea is a good one, I personally think it should be sold and the money given to the Water Department to pay down some of its massive bond debt. Debt that is literally crushing this City. Property is going for a premium in Sierra Madre right now, and we need to get out from under our water bond debt if the Water Department is going to survive intact. Throw in what we'd get for 186 W. Highland and finally some real progress could be made on the #1 problem in our town.

6 - DISCUSSION – CONSIDERATION OF THE CONSOLIDATION OF CITY COMMISSIONS, COMMITTEES, AND BOARDS: I'll be short. Well, almost. The top priority of City government should be engagement of the people in running our City. That is what is accomplished by enlisting residents in commissions and committees. The very least priority should be whether or not City Staff has the time to help accomplish this important end. If our City Staff cannot find the time or energy to do the work of our commissions and committees, including show up at their meetings, then maybe we need to find some people who will. The last thing that should be done is restricting citizen access to our government because to do otherwise is inconvenient to the paid help. No wonder this is almost the last item on the agenda.

7 - DISCUSSION – STRATEGIC PLAN FROM OCTOBER 24, 2012 RETREAT: A topic that the City Council once again will not get around to discussing. It will show up on another agenda down the line, and likely be ignored then as well. This the one can that needs repeated kicking.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Esther Doyle, "Easy John" Harabedian and the Police Campaign Postcard Back in the News

The Dark Shirts and Pants Club at Goldberg Park
On the agenda for this Tuesday evening's City Council meeting is the following interesting item:

PRESENTATION - Swearing in of newly appointed Sierra Madre Police Sergeant Esther Doyle

Esther Doyle, as you probably are aware, came to the notice of many in Sierra Madre when she appeared on what became perhaps the most controversial piece of campaign material issued during last April's City Council election. The reason for this interest being Police Officers are not legally permitted to appear on things like political campaign postcards while dressed in their uniforms. And with the exception of the patches that normally adorn the uniforms of the Sierra Madre Police Department, the photo in question shows Esther (on the left) obviously decked out in her SMPD blues.

State of California legal code is quite clear about this, and if you are so inclined it can be read by clicking here.

After the appearance of the postcard both this blog (click here) and the Sierra Madre Patch (click here) ran articles questioning the legality of what had become a matter of some controversy in the community. It seemed obvious to many residents that two members of our PD, who by no coincidence are also leading figures in a local police union that had endorsed John Harabedian's candidacy, were politicking for their candidate in a clearly illegal way.

Here is how the Patch reported all of the excitement in their March 21, 2012 article titled "Harabedian Responds to Questionable Postcard":

City Council candidate John Harabedian recently mailed campaign material to Sierra Madre residents that included a photograph of him conversing with the President and Vice President of the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association: Police Officer Ed Delcoure and Corporal Esther Doyle, respectively. 

John Crawford of the Sierra Madre Tattler blog called the postcard into question today, alleging that Delcoure and Doyle "appear to be wearing their police uniforms" in the photo and could be in violation of a state code that prohibits on-duty or uniformed officers from engaging in political activity. The code can be read here under section 3302 (a).

However, Harabedian refutes Crawford's claim, saying that the photo is legal, that Delcoure and Doyle are not in their uniforms and were not on-duty when it was taken.

"This story is a complete farce, like most on the Tattler," said Harabedian.

"Neither of the police officers were on duty or in uniform," said Harabedian. "They’re both complying with the law; neither of them violated the law in either way."

Harabedian said that Delcoure and Doyle are simply wearing dark shirts and pants. "They're not wearing badges, patches or stripes," said Harabedian.

Patch also reported that City Hall had taken a somewhat different view on the "dark shirts and pants" thing, and an investigation was being conducted by Public Information Officer Elisa Weaver. The results of Elisa's investigation were never released to the public, however. Harabedian, who spent what was an enormous amount of out-of-town money to get himself elected, took his place on the City Council and whatever City Hall was doing about this matter was either quashed or stuffed into the special file reserved for things that had become inconvenient.

Yesterday we sent out the following California Public Records Act request to City Manager Elaine Aguilar, with the entire City Council on copy as well. Here is how it reads:

Elaine -

On Mar 21 of 2012 an article appeared on the Sierra Madre Patch titled "Harabedian Responds to Questionable Postcard." Here is a portion of what was said:

"Neither of the police officers were on duty or in uniform," said Harabedian. "They’re both complying with the law; neither of them violated the law in either way."

Harabedian said that Delcoure and Doyle are simply wearing dark shirts and pants. "They're not wearing badges, patches or stripes," said Harabedian. "They were very careful not to wear their SMPD-issued uniform," he said, adding that the two were aware they were posing for campaign mailer material.

The photo in question is pictured above. We've also included a few recent photos of SMPD officers in uniform. Delcoure and Doyle were not available for comment at the Sierra Madre Police Station today.

However, Sierra Madre's Public Information Officer Elisa Weaver said that the City is reviewing the photo. "We are aware of the situation and we're looking into it," said Weaver, adding that she has seen the image.

This article can be linked to here -

Please consider this to be a CA Public Records Act Request for information pertaining to Elisa Weaver's investigation. All aspects of that investigation, including conclusions and those who came to them, emails, reports, final report, or any conversations with now Councilmember John Harabedian on this matter, are to be included with your submission.

Thanks for taking the time. Adherence to the law, be it by candidates, city employees, police officers or elected officials, is an important matter.

I know you are very busy. John Crawford

To some here in town the elevation of Officer Esther Doyle to Sierra Madre PD Sergeant smacks of the kinds of easy cronyism that drive so much of what goes on at City Hall. Doyle had stuck her neck out for John Harabedian during his campaign for office, had taken some heat from that relatively small portion of the community that actually concerns itself with things like ethics and legal issues, and in exchange is now being rewarded with a promotion for her sacrifice.

Throw in the one party L.A. County political machine aspect of elected officials supporting public employee union activities in exchange for political support and campaign capital, and you possibly have a neat little example of the kinds of cozy corruption not atypical of the region.

I believe that before Esther Doyle is promoted the public needs to be informed about the results of Elisa Weaver's investigation. That is, of course, if there actually was one. There is also a distinct possibility that the entire matter was swept under the rug once John Harabedian was elected.

That too would be news.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sierra Madre PD Lawsuit Enters Its Fifth Year

Chief Diaz
(Mod: The following article was written by a gentleman named Tim Hull and showed up yesterday on a website called Courthouse News Service. It talks about an SMPD lawsuit involving Marilyn Diaz and John Ellins that continues to work its way through the Court system. It contains some remarkable details. This article brought back to mind a conversation I had once with a then City Councilmember about the SMPD. In his opinion the SMPD at the time Diaz became Chief was so disorganized and poorly trained that is was actually a danger to the town. Nothing in this article contradicts that option. I believe that anyone caring about public safety in Sierra Madre will find this to be an interesting read.)

Delayed Raise May Link Chief to Retaliation (click here): A California police officer can advance claims that the chief delayed his pay increase in retaliation for union activity, the 9th Circuit ruled Friday.
John Ellins, a police officer in Sierra Madre, Calif., sued Police Chief Marilyn Diaz in 2009, alleging that she had improperly refused to sign off on a 5 percent raise he had earned by completing a training program.
Ellins, who was head of the local police union chapter at the time, claimed the delay was retaliation for his role in leading a no-confidence vote against the chief.
The union membership had initiated the vote because of Diaz's "lack of leadership, wasting of citizens' tax dollars, hypocrisy, expensive paranoia, and damaging inability to conduct her job," according to Ellins' complaint, as quoted in the ruling.
Diaz said that she delayed signing Ellins' pay increase because she felt he "lacked the requisite good moral character." At the time, Ellins had been investigated three times by Internal Affairs, and Diaz had recently "provided the district attorney's office with information about Ellins's alleged sales and use of anabolic steroids, assault with his duty weapons, and other matters 'relating to sexual misconduct while on duty,'" which she claimed to have received from an unnamed fellow police chief. Diaz eventually signed off on the raise after learning that charges against Ellins would not be filed. She retired in 2011.
After Diaz approved the raise, a federal judge in Los Angeles granted her and Sierra Madre's motion for summary judgement on Ellins' claims.
The court found that Ellins had failed to show that he was acting as a private citizen when he led the no-confidence vote against Diaz, and that the chief had immunity.
The federal appeals court in Pasadena reversed on Friday, finding that Ellins had showed enough evidence of potential First Amendment retaliation to survive summary judgment.
Furthermore, "a jury could find that Ellins spoke in his capacity as a private citizen," according to ruling, which also denied Diaz qualified immunity.
"In light of the Supreme Court's longstanding and unequivocal precedents protecting employee speech, we conclude that a reasonable official in Diaz's position would have known that delaying Ellins's application to the P.O.S.T. program because of his union activity, which resulted in a lower salary than that to which he otherwise would have been entitled, violated Ellins's First Amendment rights; that in leading a union vote Ellins acted as a private citizen addressing a matter of public concern; and that depriving Ellins of salary in retaliation for his protected speech was unconstitutional," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for a three-judge panel.
The panel reversed summary judgment as to Diaz and remanded the issue back to the District Court, but agreed that Ellins had failed to make a case against the city.
Concurring in the judgment, Judge Johnnie Rawlinson wrote separately to question whether the majority had exceeded its jurisdictional bounds.
"Having determined that material issues of fact remain for trial, I would go no further," Rawlinson wrote. "Because the record is void regarding whether the activities Ellins undertook as union president were within the realm of his official duties, the determination regarding whether his activities were undertaken as a private citizen is more appropriately made by the factfinder."
She refused to "join the majority's discussion of whether Ellins established a First Amendment retaliation claim, and its conclusion that Ellins spoke in his capacity as a private citizen rather than as a public employee."

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Planning Commission Steps Up and Stops Hui Ru Han's One Carter McMansions

Welcome to the sticks
Once again the Planning Commission proved it is worth its weight in gold. But their careful efforts to protect our town from the McMansionizing of One Carter were opposed every step of the way by noted build 'em big architect Adele "Modern FamilyChang. She was relentless in defending the indefensible, and in quite absurd ways. Her claims, lacking any credibility, fell on deaf ears. Such as: It is the type of grading you approved (Adele must have been speaking to the unquiet ghosts of Buchanan, Stockley, Torres and Joffe) that generated this certain type of home. Apparently her rationale was that she had designed what we had wanted. It had been somehow written in the dirt. Sort of like a crop circle.

Of course, if Adele had actually conjured up the creativity necessary she could have designed something far better. Adele Chang referred often to what she called Sierra Madre's well-crafted set of guidelines. "Our copy of it is dog-eared!" said Adele. That was how many times she claimed to have looked at it. The project meets every single rule was her claim, and she'd followed the design guidelines closely. So how did she end up with something looking like that?

Stream of Chang-i-ness: We did not break any ordinance in any of the books. "We cannot be less obtrusive." We believe we've followed the spirit as well as the letter of the law. I beg to differ about the "boxiness." The complaints about mass and bulkiness were unreasonable. We are compatible with the community. We did our best to minimize the footprint. I have friends in Sierra Madre. The trees that will be planted there will give comfort to the community. The intent is to build custom homes.

So why did she design tract McMansions then?

These residents showed up, spoke out and made a big difference:

Tommy Ann Miller, who has been in Sierra Madre since 1942 and lives on North Baldwin, knows how special the hillsides are. She was not objecting to any kind of building - she objected to this kind of building.

Deborah Sheridan: The architect is not hearing the Commissioners. It is possible to build very large houses that do not appear that way.

Marguerite Shuster: The houses must be fitting for their setting. These particuler houses could be set down anywhere. These houses are "exotic cell blocks." Like La Vina, but worse - more crowded. Pretentious and forbidding. Expensive high-end places. Take advantage of the natural environment rather than ignoring it. Human filing cabinets.

Human filing cabinets!

Leslee Hinton: These are examples of exactly what is not wanted in Sierra Madre. Like Glendale and Arcadia these would be huge houses littering our hillside. The General Plan very specifically calls for harmony with the already existing neighborhoods. The architect paid no attention last Fall when that first house was found to be too big. These houses too massive for the pads, and they know it. You do not have to guarantee that the developer makes a profit.

Teryl Willis: This development is a testament to failure. Failure to protect the hillsides, the watershed, the wildlife; failure on the part of 4 city council members to heed the advice of a Planning Commission and reject this configuration of lots, and the failure of Sierra Madre to implement its own General Plan, which prohibited grading in the hillsides. Implement what the city documents call for and make the homes up there worth it.

The Commissioners also spoke up. They recognized that both the developer and architect have a great challenge. General consensus, you cannot build a house of this size on a lot of that size. Trying to use every square foot allowable and stacking room on top of room just doesn't fit here. Looks like a classic tract development, with Lots 21 and 22 having completely identical floor plans. The houses "reek" of "replication. Lack "freshness" and uniqueness.

Kevin Paschall with the quote of the night: "I'm not up here too help the developer make money. I'm up here to make sure the town keeps its character."

The Commissioners have also been hearing the outcry from the community, and they've been getting letters. It's a special area, it's not "just about getting the math right." Bring the mass down, give us less bulk. What drove this architect's agenda was obviously the numbers and little else. We have to live with these houses, and we don't want tract houses.

Another point that was made: Story poles can be deceiving, if they were covered with a fabric the massing would appear even greater. The entire emphasis is on money and maximum return. The community is not interested in anyone's maximum return. Architects have great talent, and One Carter is going to take some creativity.

A 4 bedroom or 3 bedroom that has space around it for kids to play, with a house that's not overpowering, would sell. There will be buyers. In fact, that's why many people come to Sierra Madre.

These houses will be back for more rounds with the Planning Commission on both April 18 and May 2. The Commissioners encouraged the architect to reflect the modifications the commission has suggested.

Adele said she will "try her best." Hopefully that will be good enough.

Item #2: This one was making the rounds yesterday, but if you haven't seen it yet we're talking about the Carol Canterbury YouTube testimonial to the wonders of the PedEcab (click here). You can also find this video in its natural setting by clicking here. Carol's enthusiasm for this less traditional form of around the town transportation is obvious throughout her talk, and certainly she is welcome to the joy she takes in her PedEcab. This is Sierra Madre after all, and we do welcome the outre' and unfamiliar.

The one question I do have, however, is that since this infomercial was shot right here on the streets of Sierra Madre, and by a very much for profit industry, were all of the proper filming permits applied for and issued by the City? I would certainly hope that is the case.

Item #3: I had lunch with two agents from the FBI yesterday. They are in the process of vetting witnesses for the upcoming trial in Portland of one Cyrus Andrew Sullivan, and now it was my turn to tell my story. My idea of a good time, actually. Fresh ears for well-worn tales. They were great listeners.

I had become another of the many victims of this one man crime wave during the last City Council election cycle when politically interested anonymous persons here using the name of Lady Elizabeth Wistar placed my esteemed person on one of Mr. Sullivan's quite nasty smear sites. With Mr. Sullivan then not so kindly offering to undo some of the Wistarian damage in exchange for a rather large sum of cash. Something folks in legal circles like to refer to as extortion. Sullivan remains in jail to this day because of his indiscretions. I didn't pay this guy of course, and the anonymous Wistar's libel remained live on the Internet until the FBI mercifully shut all of Sullivan's many websites down a few months back.

Sadly, and at the request of my FBI friends, we are now at the point where I need to stop talking about this case. They cannot force me to do so, but I certainly can see their point. So until this trial ends I will no longer be writing about this topic. But worry not, once it is over I will happily tell all.

After all, this is The Tattler, and I will have my day.