Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Orange County: same old same old (and see how Tom Fuentes threads through this stuff!)

Councilwoman Pressured City Hall on Behalf of Her Firm (Voice of OC)
Murray & Tait
     Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray this year pressed city officials to approve an event permit for her company, Willdan Group, after it appeared the city would not issue the permit in time for a company barbeque, according to emails obtained by Voice of OC.
     Murray, who holds the position of senior vice president at Willdan, sent an email on April 5 from her company email address to Fire Chief Randy Bruegman complaining that the permit request had been denied. She asked to speak to the city staffer who was handling the request, the email shows.
. . .
     A good-government expert says Murray's intervention on behalf of her company presents a conflict of interest issue that the city needs to address.
     "I think the city ought to think about these issues, because they will inevitably arise again and again whenever you have city council members with outside companies that have interests in the city," said Tracy Westen, CEO of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies.
. . .
     Last month, Voice of OC revealed that Murray voted to approve a report submitted by Willdan Financial, a subsidiary of Willdan. Westen said that the vote was a clear financial conflict of interest.
     Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and other members of City Council did not return calls seeking comment.
     Murray's actions are the latest examples of a string of conflict issues at Anaheim City Hall. Scott Fazekas, head of the city's building division, resigned in October after a Voice of OC story revealed that his firm, Scott Fazekas & Assocates, received thousands of dollars in plan review work. Richard Brooks, an assistant under Fazekas, also resigned….
     Incidentally, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait is a long-time associate of trustee (and former County GOP chair) Tom Fuentes. Starting in the 90s, Fuentes worked for Tait and Associates, Inc. with Kenneth, Thomas, and Richard Tait. (See article at right.) Until not very long ago, Fuentes was "Senior Vice President" of the firm.
     A year ago, I attempted to lay out Tom Fuentes' career--i.e., I tried to understand just what the man does for a living. I wrote:

     In the mid-70s, Fuentes became vice president of Robert Bein, William Frost and Associates, a big OC engineering firm. According to LA Times reporter Dexter Filkins (1996),

     Fuentes performed mostly personnel work for the firm and sometimes lobbied public agencies for contracts. Fuentes had a trademark: a dozen long-stemmed roses for select local politicians.
     "Do elected officials take my phone calls because I am party chairman?" Fuentes asked. "Yes. But the overwhelming majority of my work was internal."
     Earlier last year [i.e., 1995], Fuentes left the firm. He said he did so because he had an opportunity to sell his large stake in the company at a good price.
     Company President Bob Kallenbaugh would not comment on the reasons for Fuentes' departure, but he said the firm and Fuentes are on good terms.
     Early last year, while still with the company, Fuentes lobbied members of the Anaheim City Council for the appointment of Tom Tait. Tait was appointed to the City Council in January 1995. Shortly afterward, in March 1995, Fuentes became a vice president at Tait and Associates, an Orange engineering firm where Tait is president.
     Both Fuentes and Tait insist there was no link between Tait's appointment to the council and Tait's hiring of Fuentes a month later. (Guiding With an Iron Hand, DEXTER FILKINS, LA Times, July 11, 1996) [END]

     Gosh, just why did Fuentes leave Robert Bein, William Frost and Associates? Back in March I wrote:

     I’m reminded of the time that Tom Fuentes and a pal wined and dined a local water district board for the sake of securing juicy contracts for their employer (at the time), Robert Bein, William Frost & Associates.
     Some people started using the dreaded “G” word. There was an FBI investigation. Soon, Tom left BFA.
     Check out this Times article from 1993:

     …[Robert Bein, William Frost & Associates or RBF] employs the services of two well-known political figures—county Republican Party chairman Thomas Fuentes and Costa Mesa City Councilman Peter F. Buffa, who also sits on the agency overseeing the San Joaquin Hills toll road.
     RBF has given officeholders tens of thousands of dollars' worth of gifts and campaign donations. And it has hosted many politicians at special company events, such as an annual Christmas party aboard a yacht in Newport Harbor and an Easter prayer breakfast at Le Meridien Hotel in Newport Beach.
     The company appears to have developed a particularly close relationship with top officials at the Santa Margarita Water District.
     RBF has provided district General Manager Walter W. (Bill) Knitz and his assistant, Michael P. Lord, with nearly $14,000 worth of meals, trips and other gifts in recent years—at the same time the firm was receiving about $13 million in engineering work from the water district.
     The FBI and the Orange County district attorney are now seeking to determine whether Lord and his boss violated federal or state laws governing the gifts that public officials can receive from people who have business before them. 
    Friday, both water district officials were suspended with pay pending the outcome of the investigations.
--That Easter prayer breakfast bit, that's a nice touch. Lobbying plus piety. Genius! [END]

     Kris Murray is closely tied to former Mayor Curt Pringle, the beneficiary of Fuentes' notorious poll guard stunt back in 1988. (It worked; Pringle was elected Assemblyman, the first of many government offices.) The controversy led to Fuentes' losing his PR gig with the Orange County Diocese. Nowadays, Pringle runs a government public relations firm, natch (Curt Pringle & Associates). So it's the old "in and out of government, and cashing in in between." Among Pringle's clients: the County of Orange.
     Did I mention that these people are pious "conservatives"?


Anonymous said...

Seems like the regular stuff in OC. Mostly rotten.

Anonymous said...

Love the self righteous Christians.

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