Blog Posts - April 2012

SHOW ME THE MONEY or RE-CUSE ME?

By Emilio, on Apr 28, 2012

According to Santa Cruz County Superior Court records, Mayor Eduardo Montesino was sued by the Sea View Ranch Home Owners Association back on December 2011 and his court date was on Thursday, April 26th.  Records indicate that Mayor Montesino has failed to pay Home Owner Association fees and Sea View Ranch was seeking $5,000.00 at the time of the filing.

I called our City Attorney Alan Smith and asked if Mayor Montesino should have disclosed this matter and/or recused himself from voting on the proposed “community garden”. City Attorney Smith responded that he could not provide a legal opinion but could give me a “hunch”. He recommended that I contact the FPPC (Fair Political Practices Commission) and offered to provide their telephone number.

I am beginning to wonder what our city attorney (and his law firm of Grunsky, Ebey, Farrar & Howell) actually does and has done to have earned one million- one hundred eighty thousand-six hundred eighty eight dollars and eight cents ($1,183,688.08) in five years from 2007 to 2011 (according to tax forms 1099’s provided). On average, our city attorney is earning around $237,000.000 annually and I can’t recall when he last tried a case instead of referring them out to another law firm thus incurring additional legal fees. I wonder if he was the one who recommended that the city file the Appeal on the Pilots Association case which ended up costing the city around 1.1 million dollars in legal fees alone.

E-Mail To Our City Attorney:

Considering the continual difficulty of having my questions answered in the process of conducting Due Diligence, I wrote the following email to our city attorney, city manager, and city clerk:

From: emilio martinez [mailto:emar007@charter.net]
Sent: Saturday, April 28, 2012 9:02 AM
To: Alan Smith (alsmith@ci.watsonville.ca.us); Carlos Palacios (carlos.palacios@cityofwatsonville.org); Eduardo (eduardo.montesino@cityofwatsonville.org)
Cc: Beatriz Flores (beatriz.flores@cityofwatsonville.org)
Subject: Questions

Good Morning Mr. Smith

Thanks for returning my call this past Weds.

As I explained, Mayor Eduardo Montesino was sued by the Sea View Ranch Homeowners Association in Small Claims Court. Court records show that Mayor Montesino was served with a Summons and Complaint on 12/27/2011 and the hearing was to be held yesterday on 4/27/2012.  I explained that I believe that Mayor Montesino either failed to disclose this matter and/or recuse himself regarding the “community garden” at Sea View Ranch. You responded that you could not provide a legal opinion but your “hunch” was that because the H.O. Association did not request that Mayor Montesino recuse himself then he (Montesino) had no reason to do so. You said there was nothing you could do, but did offer the telephone number to the FFPC who you were of the opinion was the remedy for this situation.

I find your response very concerning because as you are fully aware the Vice President of the Sea View Ranch, a Mr. Dillon, and other people attending the city council meeting complained that the H.O. Association did not receive notice of the city council meeting and were not properly noticed and informed of the details and hearings for the proposed garden. Also, Mr. Dillion did state that Mayor Montesino should recuse himself and not vote on the process.  I am of the opinion that you should have a duty to properly respond to this serious matter.

On a similar note, I am having difficulty with City Manager Palacios answering some of my questions. For example, one of the many questions is how much we have spent on the fire truck (KME) that was recently purchased (and others).  

Mr. Smith, as an elected official, I am asking for your legal opinion on the following question:

Is the City Manager required to answer questions posed to him in writing (paper, email, fax, text, etc.) by an elected official? If he is please cite the proper authority that requires a city manager to answer an elected official's questions.  In addition, please advise how a city manager could be compelled to answer any and all questions posed to him by an elected official if said city manager refuses to answer such questions.

Mr. Palacios:  As an elected official, I want to know if you, as the City Manager, are required to answer any and all questions pertaining to city government issues that are posed to you by an elected official?

Mayor Montesino: Should you not put this matter back on the Agenda for reconsideration?

Thanks much for your anticipated cooperation and response.

Emilio

Check The Box

____ Will Answer The Question(s)

____ Will Not Answer the Question(s)

____ Who Cares?

 

CITY COUNCIL NOTES

By Emilio, on Apr 25, 2012

Lalala..I Can’t Hear You…Lalala…Who Cares What You Have To Say?

It was about as ugly as it can get at a city council meeting last night and although the issue at hand was about a community garden, the meat of the matter was the conduct of some of our city council members who treated attending members of the public in a condescending manner. It was obvious that they could care less what the residents of Sea View Ranch had to say and it was also obvious how four city council members were going to vote.  

Council Member Lowell Hurst, who in my opinion likes to hear himself talk, seemed at times incoherent and infuriated people with his lecture. I once had a teacher like Hurst. He only listened to himself and thought we were impressed with his wit when we actually agonized attending his forty five minute class. I remember thinking that he probably recorded himself asleep at night so he could hear himself snore he liked hearing himself so much.

Mayor Eduardo Montesino’s comments ended with an incensed Sea View Ranch resident shouting that Montesino was just a bus driver who was losing his home to foreclosure, indicating our mayor had no business being a mayor. This prompted City Manager Carlos Palacios wanting to call the police according to a city council member. Yea, Carlos, shut them up like you attempted and still attempt to do with me. Talk about a “Malicious Bully”, except city manager Palacios seems to lack fortitude.

I went down to talk to the upset people attempting to calm them down and one lady said, “This city is corrupt”. Another talked about a recall.

Recall? Well, three of the four city council members who voted for the garden last night, Lowell Hurst, Oscar Rios, and Felipe Hernandez were appointed by the city council instead of being elected. Do you see the obvious? It is election year and maybe the public is riled enough this time to do something about it other than just sit at home and gripe….but then what do I know? 

PROCLAMATIONS, POLITICS & POPCORN

By Emilio, on Apr 11, 2012

Considering the countless amounts of Proclamations given out by the city, I believe that consideration should be given to awarding a Proclamation to the Pilots Association and the Friends of Buena Vista.

Just recently it was reported that Stockton is considered “The foreclosure capital of the world”. Apparently Stockton went on a house building rampage which has now caught up with them and has them on the brink of bankruptcy.

We can thank the pilots and their friends for suing the city for attempting to build houses near the edge of our Airport’s runways. Granted it cost taxpayers around 1.2 million dollars in legal fees alone to prevent housing from being fabricated which probably would be sitting empty right now costing the city in the hundreds of thousands of dollars just to maintain the infrastructure.

The Proclamation can read and looks like this:

“Thank You for Saving the City of Watsonville from Going Bankrupt. We will be forever grateful. Also included with this award are monthly checks for airplane rental allowances for each and every one of you until we go broke. So, enjoy your 6 months of checks if that much.”

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And, Stockton is also being criticized for having the 8th highest unemployment rate in the state which is at 15.9%? Hey guys look over here…Watsonville’s unemployment rate is almost double that at 27.5%.

Yep, we can thank the Pilots for saving our financial behinds because you can imagine where we would be right now. Well, ok….things are not looking too good right now for Watsonbell.  

Have some you also noticed that nothing is being said about building on Atkinson Lane either? How much money did the city spend for all the studies, meetings etc. and now nada?  

DOUBLE TROUBLE ANNIVERSARY- April 29th  

Why would a city of 51,000 people (Watsonville) need two aerial ladder KME fire trucks? Santa Cruz has one aerial ladder truck, which it recently purchased brand new with a $600,000.00 plus grant. But, Santa Cruz has many more multiple story structures than Watsonville.   

San Mateo, for example, with an approximate population of 100,000 and is one of the largest suburbs on the San Francisco peninsula, has one 100 foot aerial, but Watsonville needs two?

Why did Watsonville purchase an additional older KME aerial with a multitude of mechanical problems? Considering that the city didn’t officially and actually purchase the aerial for almost 3 years after issuing a federally funded check for $225,000.00, a reasonable and prudent person would probably ask themselves, “Was there ever an intent to actually purchase the aerial?” Thus, let’s consider the possibility that the intent was not to purchase the 1999 KME fire truck but rather that the $225,000.00 was to be funneled back into the General Fun-d so the city could balance their budget year after year. It is a reasonable and prudent possibility isn’t it? We can prudently surmise that for 2 years and 8 months taxpayers and some council members have no idea in whose bank account the $225,000.00 sat, do we?

Consider another question; why didn’t Watsonville trade-in their other KME aerial, for let’s say $225,000, and then took the $225,000 federally funded grant money and purchased a used but much newer aerial for $500,000.00 with a warranty? Isn’t it better to have one good operating fire truck than none? Don’t you think something smells fishy?

Now, according to rumors and rumblings, I hear that the 1999 KME fire truck #4471 is still not safe to operate although City Manager Palacios and Fire Chief Mark Bisbee may have given it the blessing to put it into service.   I hope that we’re not talking a leg-raised type sprinkling on the tires as a blessing.

But, I wonder if we may have a solution because we could have a “Parts is parts” win-win situation. What if we dismantle the KME (#4491) we just purchased and explain to the IRS that when we bought it, we only tested the horn and the stereo and reported back that the fire truck was in “excellent condition”? What do you mean an appraisal?  You mean have it appraised for the proper tax credit? I don’t think it was appraised before we purchased it, so we need to appraise it now?g

 But, what about the fact that when we issued the $225,000 check, it was for a different fire truck?      

Are you confused? Well maybe that is how you are supposed to be when it comes to how your tax dollars are being spent…confused.  

Luis and Martinelli

By Emilio, on Apr 6, 2012

On Thursday, Assembly Member Luis Alejo had a Business Tour of four companys in Watsonville.  One of them was with Martinelli’s Juice Company. Alejo is shown here with John Martinelli and around a group of eleven people. I think thats Supervior Greg Caput with the dark hat way in the back. Alejo is the kinda short guy dressed in dark clothing with some kind of plastic hat on his head on the right.  This is the same Mr. Martinelli who attempted to explain at a city council meeting that the fluoridation of the city’s wells would create a problem that could lead to having to close a portion of his business…..Mayor Alejo shut off his microphone. . Yea man, shut up…jobs?…you know nothing about jobs…I know something about jobs! As some of you may recall Alejo was the leading force in wanting to have Watsonville’s water fluoridiated and also having our downtown park named after Dolores Hurerta.  

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I don’t know how it was that Mr. Martinelli decided it was ok to allow Alejo to visit his faciltiy….but maybe they had a telephone conversation and it went something like this: 

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“Hello John…”

“Who is this?”

“It’s me Assembly Member Luis Alejo.”

“Alejo???…You have the gall to call me after how you embarrassed me at the city council meeting? You do remember that don’t you?”

“I called to apologize. Look man, I’m sorry…but you know what? I knew there was no way Watsonville was going to get fluoridated. It was impossible…I knew the money 

3applewasn’t going to be there…but it was politics. I had to convince the Latino voters that I cared about their children’s teeth. Come on man, let’s do lunch. My treat, ok? I’ll pick you up in my new SUV and we’ll go to Jaliscos. Have you seen my new ride? Dude its sweet.”

“Yea I heard about your new car. Read about it on the L.A. Times. I read that ‘Newly elected Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D- Salinas) is taking delivery of a 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid, worth $37,269.’ And that, ’The most expensive new car was purchased for Alejo’. Hey, let me ask you, are you D-Salinas or D-Watsonville because the Santa Cruz Sentinel can’t seem to make up its mind.”car

“Well it depends where I’m trying to convince people that I’m trying to create jobs…politics…you know how that works. I wrote a book about jobs the last time I ran for the Assembly. Did you know that? Check out the title. Man, its sooo cool…just as misleading as fluoridating Watsonville. Where in my book cover does it say I will create jobs? Nowhere, that’s right! All I say is that jobs will solve problems. No Duh, Huh? What, am I stoopid? Besides I had City Attorney Alan Smith help me write the book and the cover…man, that dude is the master of creating new vocabulary! Have you ever heard of an Occupied Vacancy? I bet not. Here, I was the mayor of Watsonville who had as much chance of creating jobs as a chicken laying a goose egg and I am going to say I can create jobs now? Hey, I’m sorry…..here I have been flapping my trompas and I haven’t let you even say a word…so, do you have a question?”6

“Well yes. . On page 10 of your book you wrote that your dad lost your house because he couldn’t pay the taxes and you co-signed on the deed to help him. But, records show that you purchased the home with your dad and that both of you lost it to foreclosure. Is that true? And did you take a second for $20,000 just before the house foreclosed?”

“You know what Mr. Juice Guy, are you trying to disenfranchise me? Because if you are… you just keep one thing in mind, ok? I own Watsonbell! Turning off your microphone is nothing compared to what I can do to your puny little company!”

“Martinelli’s is known world-wide! You don’t intimidate me!”

“I gotta go. This conversation is over. I’m going home…wherever that is… D-Salinas or D-Watsonbell.

In the background…Elias Alonzo? “Horale!”   

PLEADINGS, MAIL, & CALENDAR FROM THE IVORY TOWER

By Emilio, on Apr 2, 2012

1It seems that City Manager Carlos Palacios is reaching out to the firefighters, and other employees regarding his compensation and any other issues and concerns that they may have. He wanting a peace pipe smoke-out type of a sit down may be indicative that there is trouble a-brewing in city hall. And the trouble as in most cases when there is a “family” squabble, it’s usually about Mr. Green or lack thereof.

In a March 26th email to city employees, Palacios referenced the staff as “family” and that, “Recently, a question has been raised about my compensation.  Here are the facts.” He went on to summarize, “In summary, my salary has been reduced by 10%, I contribute an additional 1% towards PERS, and I have voluntarily given up raises of 7% that were included in my contract.”

Granted, Palacios gave up 10% of his pay, but according to his Calendar for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 he rarely worked on Fridays and when he did, it was to attend some type of meetings out of the office. And, almost 5 times per week he blacked out (with a magic marker) time spent on personal or private matters.2

Using the 40 hour work-week formula (52 weeks x 40hrs = 2,080 hrs.), if Palacios earns $200,000.00 (which is about right) per year, his hourly rate is around $96.15. If he doesn’t work on Fridays, which equates to 416 hours annually, he is receiving $39,998.40 for days not worked which is $1.60 shy of $40,000.00. A 10% cut in his pay equates to around $20,000. So, doesn’t it seem he received a $19,998.40 raise instead of a reduction in his salary while working a 4 day work week? How many other members of his staff are working a 4 day work week whose salary was reduced by 10%?

Performance Based Compensation?

Yes, City Manager Palacios also gave up 7% in raises, but does he really expect a raise while the city maintains an unemployment rate hovering at 27% and that we have been leading the county with the highest unemployment rate for most of his tenure? Should a balanced budget alone be the determining factor in his performance evaluation?

What about the creation of jobs? Manabe-Ow? That project isn’t expected to create the promised 2,000 jobs until 20 years from now. We may not even be able to hang anybody in effigy if that plan takes a dump because none of us will be around by then. What about a Wallmart or Costco you ask?

According to the state’s Unemployment Development Department, Watsonville has 6,700 unemployed people in our city which is double the amount of any other municipality in the county. A Costco employs around 200 people per store….do the math…we will need at least 30 type Costcos to get these people employed if the plan is to quickly produce jobs. What about withholding information from your boss or misrepresenting the facts? Is that acceptable performance? When asked about the missing fire truck, the city council was told the truck was being refurbished when in fact the city didn’t even own it.

What about spending over 1.2 million dollars in legal fees alone attempting to build housing near the airport? We not only had to compensate our city attorney and the law firm hired to assist him, but we also had to pay the pilot’s attorneys too after the city lost the appeal.

Is having $18,000 in petty cash floating around for a festival, standard operating, policy, and procedure? How many cities in California do you know that have this much petty cash to pay for the entertainment at their festivals? Ok, you got me there….maybe the city of Bell.

If I wanted a sit down peace pipe smoking session with some irritable adversaries who are questioning my annual compensation, I might consider coming bearing gifts. How about a car or several of them? Palacios and around 8 other city staffers receive car allowances that are costing tax payers around $40,000.00 per year.

I would also consider lifting the Temporary Directive aimed at the firefighters which entails “Member Speech, Expression and Social Networking.” It seems the Ivory Tower does not want the public to know about their (fire fighters) complaints and concerns. This situation may end up in court too.

An open discussion in a Peace, Love, and Macramé type meeting cannot include a muzzle to be used selectively, facts should not be distorted to conceal one’s performance, and transparency should not be treated like a red headed step child; Fire Truck # 4471.

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Guest Column by Nick Bulaich

By Emilio, on Apr 1, 2012

Guest Column by Nick Bulaich to "The Watsonville Fishing Report"

The City of Watsonville wants you to believe a "vacancy" can be "occupied."  I know, you think this is an April Fool's joke, but this really happened.

When motel operators light up their "vacancy" sign out front, it is to inform the public that there is an empty room available for the night.  We all know the word "vacancy" means something is "empty" or "unoccupied", but watch out if someone gives some attorneys enough money to make an argument that a commonly understood word can have a totally different definition.

Back in 2010, Councilman Luis Alejo submitted a letter to the City stating his intention to resign from the City Council.  Rather than actually vacate his seat, Alejo stated his resignation would only become effective at the same time of the appointment of his replacement.  Using such logic meant that the seat was never really empty.

Before the City Council voted for Alejo's replacement, Councilman Emilio Martinez, Kathleen Morgan Martinez, and Ken Adelman filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop this crazy idea of a resigning council member being allowed to vote for his own replacement before the seat is empty.

For unexplained reasons, the City hired an expensive out-of-town law firm to defend their shaky case.  The pricey law firm basically threw the City Attorney's legal argument out the window in order to push a new theory in which they claimed the "vacancy" occurred on the day that Alejo submitted his resignation letter to the City.  This argument means Alejo's Council seat could be "vacant" and "occupied" at the same time.  I'm not kidding.

Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge Tim Volkmann ruled in the City's favor by essentially saying if a councilman states his resignation becomes effective at the same time his replacement is picked, then a resigning councilman can vote for his own replacement for a seat that is not empty.  Now we have a judge saying there can be an "occupied vacancy."

Then things got weirder.  After the City got a judge to support their "occupied vacancy" argument, the City Attorney basically went back to saying a vacancy does not happen until the replacement is picked.  Is Judge Volkmann aware of this flip-flopping by the City?

The City's law firm essentially claimed that the majority Council can do what they want for "vacancies."  This means if one council member who is not kissing up to the majority bloc decides to resign, he might be denied the chance to vote for his replacement if the majority votes against it.  So this new "occupied vacancy" rule only applies to preferred council members.

Just recently, Councilman Manuel Bersamin announced his intention to resign from the City Council and he used the same absurd wording in his resignation letter as used by Alejo.  Once again we saw a council member saying he will only give up his seat at the exact same moment his replacement is selected, and once again the City Attorney gave a different opinion on when the "vacancy" occurred.  What is going on in this City?

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