Full Audio – December 4 Tapo Street Grant Meeting

Today, I received a lawsuit threat from Ted Mackel for posting the article referencing the timeline of events related to the Tapo Street renovation grant dispute. Check back later for the screen capture of the lawsuit threat letter that was delivered via Facebook. This is important to note because it explains why the article was edited shortly after it was published.

For clarification and full disclosure, I’m providing a full, unedited segment of audio. The video embedded below is the full audio of the meeting that took place at City Hall on December 4, 2012, between city officials and a group of citizens. It is over an hour long, but I encourage you to listen to it in full so that you can draw your own conclusions.

For your own copy of the audio CD of the meeting, write to City Clerk, City of Simi Valley, 2929 Tapo Canyon Road, Simi Valley, CA 93063, and request a CD of the meeting between Doug Crosse and the City Manager held on December 4, 2012, pursuant to the California Public Record Act. Give the City at least 10 days to respond.

(Mitch Green has provided a cliff notes summary of the meeting dialogue which can be found here.)

Redevelopment Grant Timeline of Events

The events of the Tapo Street redevelopment grant issue that have played out during the course of the last election and finally concluded with the business owner returning the grant funds involve a series of letters, information requests and other maneuvers. Mitchell Green, former 2010 City Council Candidate, published a detailed account of how things went and when. He allowed me to republish his post here:

For a time line refresher, Kelly Kolarek’s letter to the editor of July 27, 2012,

http://www.simivalleyacorn.com/news/2012-07-27/Letters/Candidates_not_fit_for_council_seats.html

Doug Crosse announces his suspension of his City Council campaign on August 10, 2012, citing Mr. Kolarek’s “attack letter,”

http://www.simivalleyacorn.com/news/2012-08-10/Letters/Behavior_is_an_election_question.html

September 5, 2012, Doug Crosse files his government claim against Steve Sojka for “cell phone reimbursement misuse” and also files his first public record act request with the City requesting documentation of only the K & J Auto Facade Renovation Grant information.

October 1, 2012, Doug Crosse makes his second Public Record Act request, this time authorizing Scott Santino, Bob Huber’s 2010 campaign manager to pick up the documents from the City.

October 4, 2012, the City prematurely denies Doug Crosse’s government claim regarding Council Member Sojka’s cell phone reimbursement, after sending the small claims matter out to a private firm for an unnecessary opinion costing the City $2,622 in the process at $285 per hour legal billing rate. Which makes no sense when under the Government Code the City needed to do nothing and the claim would have been denied by operation of law with no expense to the City and no conflict of interest to the City Attorney, but the, Doug and friends might not have had enough clown time if the matter had run its proper course. This is a key point of perhaps improper government collusion and, in my opinion, a key weakness as any discussion, communication, e-mail or other correspondence regarding any of this by the City Attorney to anyone but the internal City Attorney’s Office, outside retained counsel for the specific matter, or to the entire City Council in closed session is NOT protected by attorney-client privilege and IS subject to disclosure through the Public Record Act. Unless, of course, a personnel action were to result. Or worse. And guess what folks, you can’t delete e-mails from the City’s hard drive, you can only remove it from visibility. But its still there . . .

October 10, 2012, Doug Crosse files his Grand Jury Complaint with the Ventura County Grand Jury.

October 17, 2012, Doug Crosse holds his TEA Party meeting where he openly brags about the City Attorney calling him to discuss his and the TEA Party’s claim against the City, and he jokes with her about speeding up the denial so he can get on with his lawsuit against the City. Which, remarkably, is just what happened. (Remember, I never would have done this in the 8 years I supervised the civil defense for the City – this is just unheard of). Council Member Mike Judge also attended this meeting.

Also on October 17, 2012, Doug Crosse acknowledges his co-conspirators in his Grand Jury Complaint stunt, as follows,

“Guys like Scott Santino and Ted Mackel don’t get involved in these type of things, my good friend Louis, uh, Pandolfi over there, don’t get involved in things like this except for one reason and that is, we want to hold our government accountable.” Doug Crosse, October 17, 2012

[Editor: speculative remarks removed]

Also on October 17, 2012, Louis Pandolfi posts on Facebook the following “poll”:

“1. Did you vote, or would you support, condominiums in the hills at the gateway to our community, at the Happy Face location?
2. Are you in favor of disbanding “our Police Department, firing our police officers and contracting with the County.”

Then, on October 22, the Robo Calls happen with the following script (notice the quotes and then check again Louis Pandolfi’s “poll” above):

“Dear Neighbor, I’m really concerned about crime in Simi Valley. Did you know that Steve Sojka running for City Council may want to shut down “our police department, fire our police officers, and contract with the county?” Imagine wanting to shut down our fine police department? This is the same Steve Sojka who gave $70,000 of our tax money to a friend and campaign supporter to remodel his used car lot, a matter now before the grand jury. Sojka voted for condominiums in our hills at Happy Face. Sojka talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk. Its time to get rid of Sojka before he really hurts our community. Thank you. This message is paid for by Justice Political Action Committee.”

Notice the near exact wording between that Louis Pandolfi uses on October 17, 2012 in point 2 and the Robo Call Script? The 12 Magic Words Gate? Perhaps just a coincidence. Also, there is no Justice Political Action Committee, which makes this Robo Call illegal on its face. And, as there is only one used car lot in Simi Valley, with the implication that because it is “now before the grand jury” that it “really hurts our community” the tie in also makes it actionably defamatory and qualifying for punitive damages in its very face. That is, if the identity of the Robo Caller participants is firmly determined to the satisfaction of a court of law.

October 24, 2012, Barbra Williamson and Mike Judge hold a press conference calling on the City to investigate the grant authorized by Steve Sojka and Glen Becerra.

October 29, 2012, Doug Crosse waives his broom in City Council chambers, giving proper witch hunt imagery to his political stunt.

November 1, 2012, the Ventura County Grand Jury announces that it is declining to investigate the complaint prepared and filed by Doug Crosse and endorsed by the Simi Valley Moorpark TEA Party. Grand Jury foreman Jay Whitney later spoke with the Ventura County Star, where he “characterized the letter as essentially a form letter, saying it should not be interpreted as meaning that the jury made any findings as to possible criminal violations with the grant.”

November 19, 2012, City Council on motion by Barbra Williamson, directs City Staff to meet with Doug Crosse to discuss his concerns regarding the K & J grant. On November 20, 2012, Doug Crosse in an interview with the Star, states that he hopes the meeting will be open to the public. “ “I will cooperate in any way I’m able to,” he said. “I’m glad that at least it’s moving in some direction.” He added that he would like his meeting with city staff members to be open to the public.”

On December 3, 2012, Assistant City Manager Brian Gabler informs Mr. Kolarek’s representative that they are not welcome at the meeting as it is “not open to the public.”

On December 4, 2012, Doug Crosse, Ted Mackel, Tom Mackel, Louis Pandolfi, and Barbra Williamson met with City Manager Laura Behjan and Assistant City Manager Brian Gabler, and instead of discussing the City’s procedures as was the basis of the motion passed by the City Council, a member of the group instead implies Mr. Kolarek committed fraud while others demanded additional documentation not authorized by the Participation Agreement, which demands were promptly adopted by City manager Behjan. Note: this paragraph was edited to emphasize that not all members of the group accused Mr. Kolarek of fraud after I received a threat of lawsuit. The individual heard prominently suggesting fraud was Louis Pandolfi. The audio of the meeting and the lawsuit threat will be posted later today for full disclosure and clarification.

On December 6, 2012, Assistant City Manager Brian Gabler writes to Mr. Kolarek and on behalf of the City, adopts the demand of the TEA Party group, demanding the documents from Mr.Kolarek that the TEA Party group demanded from the City on December 4. Mr. Kolarek, through representatives, declines to participate.

On December 17, 2012, Jared Held, TEA Party Vice President, posts on Facebook copies of K & J Auto business checks with bank name, address and account numbers unredacted. The City later confirms that it erroneously released copies of the checks to Doug Crosse in violation of its own policies.

On December 19, 2012, Mr. Kolarek chooses to return the grant money.

And yet, the TEA Party continues its attacks.

This concludes Mr. Green’s remarks and I appreciate his permission to repost this content.

Redevelopment Grant Money Returned

Editor’s Note: This is really unfortunate in my opinion. Though it’s been stated numerous times in the press that the effort to question this grant wasn’t politically motivated, these audio segments of Tea Party leader Doug Crosse indicate that the timing was such that it would give people a chance to rethink who they vote for. I’m surprised that City officials didn’t show more backbone and stand behind a grant that they approved, or own up to any issues in their process.

To Mr. Kolarek: thank you for keeping your business in town. I would have pulled the plug and moved out months ago. Please don’t ever donate a single penny to any local political campaign ever again. Your support, while generous, isn’t worth being targeted. And thank you for what you’ve done for the Simi Valley Education Foundation. Your charitable efforts have been drowned out by the political noise of this story, but your generous contributions are very appreciated by this community.

Press Release Statement

After many months of public persecution, slander, and defamation of my character, I am publically addressing the Simi Valley Moorpark Tea Party’s investigation of me and my business.  At this point my decision is to return the grant funds issued to me through the Tapo Street Façade Renovation Program.  With the recently approved Proposition 30 Sales and Income Tax Increase Initiative, these funds will cause me huge adverse tax implications.  I have delivered a cashier’s check to the City today.  The money I received is not worth the ongoing attacks on my character.  Peace of mind and focusing on my family and business is far more important to me.  The City of Simi Valley is a small business community, where one strives to work hard to earn a decent living, to raise a family, and support its community.  I have found that this situation to have taken such a toll on me and my family.  I cannot sit back and allow such incredulous acts to continue to happen.

It seems that because of the people I have supported and continue to support politically, I’ve been targeted by the local Tea Party and several other private citizens. This group of irate and mean-spirited people will stop at nothing to try and tear me apart. They’ve come after me, my family, friends and my business.  My wife, along with friends and employees, has received threatening text messages.  Additionally we have been the target of online cyber-bullying and splashed across the local newspapers in a negative fashion. Just this week one member posted copies of my personal bank account information online. Sadly, the City provided my personal information and failed to redact the details of my account number and address. My attorney was successful in having this removed from the internet for the time being, but it does illustrate to what extent this situation has spun out of control.  I’ve seen and heard enough nonsense to know this has to stop immediately.  My family’s safety is more important than money.

I must say it’s very sad to think that our community has members that stoop to this level and have no other greater good to add to the community and invest their time.

When I came to the City with my project several years ago it was to improve a dilapidated corner of the town and beautify it for the community. I was successful in that endeavor and am very proud of the operation my employees and I run. From the beginning we’ve given back to the community through charitable donations to the YMCA, Simi Valley Education Foundation, The Boy’s and Girl’s Club, Wag-n-Walk and other local programs. We plan to continue our relationships in the community and to contribute as much as we can. We will rise above this small group of naysayers and continue to strive for integrity and professionalism despite their tactics.

The Ventura County Grand Jury reviewed this case when it was originally filed by the head of the local Tea Party and stated publicly that they had declined to move ahead with any investigation. On multiple occasions the City Manager’s office assured me that all facets of the requirements for the grant had been satisfied. Unfortunately this group continues to bring forth new allegations of wrongdoing when previous avenues have run short. The City seems to have bent over backwards to satisfy this small group but they continue their bully tactics. If the City wasn’t satisfied with the paperwork I submitted prior to funding, then they would have never released the check to me in the first place. Now, out of 44 grant projects, only my project is being reviewed by this small group associated with the tea party. When will the constant attacks end? I cannot allow this group to target other local businesses that were involved on my project, and to be targeted like I have and suffer the public humiliation and smear tactics. It makes more sense to return the money to the City and forgo the ongoing argument.  My business is financially sound and not a start-up company. We have been open since 1999 and continue to thrive. I will feel better to have no ties to the Tapo Street Façade Renovation Program in order to remove any doubt from people’s minds and move forward with conducting business as usual in our fine community. Once again, my family’s safety and well-being is more important than money.

Kelly Kolarek
K & J Auto Exchange