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Water officials’ meals, travel top $170,000

Posted on 31 March 2014 (0)
Michael Kitada, for the Register

Michael Kitada, for the Register

Orange County Register

They ordered a $50 bone-in aged rib-eye steak and crème brulee at The Falls Prime Steakhouse in Palm Springs. At a dinner for two, the Mesa Water District board members charged $144 to a district credit card.

It was the eve of last year’s Urban Water Institute conference, which featured such topics as “explaining to constituents why water rates are going up while water use is down.”

The dinner was a small portion of what top Mesa Water managers and directors spend on conferences, food and travel. Credit card statements and other expense documents obtained by the Register show that five directors and eight staff members rang up more than $170,000 in expenses over 2011 and 2012.

Spending ranged widely among the 13 – one individual spent less than $2,000, the general manager more than $30,000.

During the two years, they charged $45,500 for in-town meals, at least $36,000 at hotels and $21,000 in airfare.

All the directors rode in jets, three rode in chauffeured town cars and one rented a Cadillac sedan for $409. Four of them also dined at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and several at the Balboa Bay Club.

Four directors also collected $207 stipends for a “general manager meeting” on the same days they dined with the district’s chief executive at local restaurants, with the tab picked up by the district.

“The reason all this is happening is nobody is paying attention to them,” said Robert Stern, an attorney who helped write the state’s Political Reform Act. “Nobody’s watching.”

Read more…

Special Report: Pol’s Address in Doubt

Posted on 03 December 2011 (0)
Mike Reicher, Daily Pilot

Mike Reicher, Daily Pilot

Daily Pilot

A candidate for state office may not have lived in the district he seeks to represent at the time he registered to vote, when he submitted his nomination papers, and when he voted there during the primary election, according to campaign finance and voter registration records and accounts from several neighbors.

Businessman Phu Nguyen, the Democratic candidate for the Costa Mesa-area 68th Assembly District, grew up in a home within the district and stated during an interview that he moved back in before he registered to vote, but neighbors and public records indicate that he did not.

If that is the case, election law experts say, he may have committed perjury on his voting affidavit and on his nomination papers, and may have voted fraudulently. Officials and legal experts cite the California election code, which says an Assembly candidate must be qualified to vote, and therefore have his or her “domicile” in the district.

Read more…

Mayor Votes, Despite Financial Ties

Posted on 04 October 2011 (0)
(Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

(Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

Daily Pilot

Newport Beach Mayor Mike Henn has long championed the revitalization of struggling Lido Village.

He led the city’s efforts to improve the commercial area’s streetscape, redesign streets and parking, and bring more shoppers through its stores. When residents or council members suggested they slow down or focus on other struggling parts of town, such as Mariner’s Mile, Henn insisted that Lido Village remain the top priority.

“It’s good for all the residents of Newport Beach,” Henn said in an interview. “It’s a critical issue to move forward.”

Henn’s council district includes Lido Village — a gateway area to the Balboa Peninsula — so his advocacy to improve the area and please his constituents should come as no surprise. But he is also personally invested in the zone’s success.

As a business consultant, Henn is paid more than $100,000 a year by a shop owner in one of the village’s distressed retail centers, according to disclosure forms he filed with the state.

Conflict-of-interest experts, however, say Henn should have avoided voting on or discussing the issue on the City Council because improving the retail center could directly benefit his client and indirectly help him.

“It’s just too close of a financial connection to participate,” said Bob Stern, president of the L.A.-based Center for Governmental Studies nonprofit and co-author of the state’s Political Reform Act, adding that his point of view should not be considered a legal opinion.

Read more…

Cell towers get poor reception

Posted on 03 August 2008 (0)


Daily Pilot

CRYSTAL COVE STATE PARK — He fought powerful interests: Caltrans, Orange County, the state parks system and the Irvine Co., all in the name of ocean views.

Dale Ghere, then a high school biology teacher, spent the late 1990s eradicating a towering brush from swaths of Crystal Cove State Park. The saltbrush was blocking views — not from his home — but from Coast Highway, where he rode his bike each day.

Everything was clear until May, when a cell phone company stuck a pole next to the state-owned highway. It was not one of those lunar rover-looking towers, but a slender, 30-foot tall pole. Still, Ghere — and a few others — were surprised to see it: The company didn’t announce it publically, nor did it apply for a California Coastal Commission permit or inform the state parks it was erecting the pole.

“They just don’t get it. People have been working for four decades to get this park developed,” Ghere said, agitated. “For me it’s just one more little chink, just one more little thing that gets in the way of the open space.”

Click here to read the rest of the story in the Daily Pilot and here here to read the version in the Los Angeles Times.

Collapsed building had no construction permits

Posted on 01 August 2008 (0)

The contractor working on 493 Myrtle the day it collapsed did not have the city building permits required to do the kind of extensive work that eyewitnesses said was going on before the building fell.

Almas Bhuiyan, the general contractor listed under M & R Construction Brooklyn Inc., was current with his license and insurance requirements, but he did not have permits for the major work on the side wall, records show.

That work appears to include erecting scaffolding, which a photograph taken days before the crash indicates was affixed to the building, and jack hammering, which a witness said he heard that morning. Read more…