Santa Ana’s Joe Fletcher and the Gang That Can’t Get Their Conflicts Straight

Nothing but public trust was hurt in the Gunfight at the ‘Everything Is OK’ Corral.

Selective Conflict Disorder aside, after last night’s meeting, I have to think that the illness affecting City Attorney Joseph Fletcher has now risen to epidemic proportions on the Santa Ana City Council. The City attorney appears to have spread the virus by advising the council that it was okay to vote on projects benefiting developers who have given them money because, get this, the Supreme Court has ruled that campaign contributions are free speech. He also infected the council with the understanding that the only people and businesses directly effected by votes moving a development project forward such as the actual developer or applicant applies to the law. For example, the developers of the Station District project benefit directly, but any of the brokers, lenders, etc. involved are not directly related so a member can take money from them without issue. With this rationale contributions received from Voit, a company in line to receive $22,350 in real-estate brokerage fees for work on the Station District project, are okay. Huh?

Sec. 425. – Disqualification due to campaign contributions.

A council member shall not participate in, nor use his or her official position to influence, a decision of the City Council if it is reasonably foreseeable that the decision will have a material financial effect, apart from its effect on the public generally or a significant portion thereof, on a recent major campaign contributor. As used herein, “recent major campaign contributor” means a person who has made campaign contributions totaling two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) or more to the council member or to any campaign committee controlled by the council member in the twelve-month period immediately preceding the date of the decision. The mayor is a council member for purposes of this section.

So what part of “A council member shall not participate in, nor use his or her official position to influence, a decision of the City Council if it is reasonably foreseeable that the decision will have a material financial effect on a recent major campaign contributor” isn’t perfectly clear? For Santa Ana City Attorney Joseph Fletcher, the definition of “material” is a bit hazy. So hazy in fact that more than $22,000 in brokerage fees is not material. As I pointed out on Monday, Fletcher already doesn’t consider that, as the sole leasing agent for the One Broadway Plaza project, Voit and its agents are not materially affected by the approval of modifications that make the project more likely to be built and space leased. Last night he actually advised the council that taking contributions from a contractor who would directly profit from their vote on a project does not bar their participation because the Supreme Court has ruled that contributions are freedom of speech.

On their agenda last night was rhe recision of the Developer Agreement with Station District, LLC. This came up because members Tinajero and Martinez improperly voted on the project in June due to a conflict that arose because they had accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions before their votes on the project from affected parties. Indeed, contributions are freedom of speech, and the law does not make it a crime to make contributions to a candidate in excess of $250. It makes it a crime for a council member to vote on a project that directly benefits the donor. These are two unique and separate acts, one prohibited, the other not. The outside counsel that the City attorney dragged in to advise the Council told them that essentially they should take their chances. If they vote to rescind, they would bring lawsuits. If they did not they could possibly draw law suits for moving forward on a project without proper authorization, but the liability exposure would be considerably less. In effect, they were advised that two wrongs make a right. So with that in mind, Council members voted 3 to 1 against rescission of their previously improper vote on the Station District. For the record, Tinajero voted to rescind the previous action.

What is annoying about this is that technically the council could heal the conflict by declaring that inadvertent conflicts had arisen preventing a majority of the council from taking mandated actions requiring the council to heal the conflict in order to move forward in their mandated legislative duties. They could have simply declared the conflict and then randomly select enough conflicted members to heal the conflict so that they could vote. To heal the conflict; they simply have to disclose what they are doing and usually, members conflicted by contributions would need to return those contributions in order to heal their conflict, and then they all vote on the project. This process is an exception to be used in rare circumstances (like this one) and should be used as a common practice.

Well, leave it to the Gang That Can’t Get Their Conflicts Straight, they figured it was better to simply ignore the conflict, or claim it never existed. Then Sal Tinajero votes on the matter, because he never intended to do anything wrong. And the conflict that Councilman VInce Sarmiento had back in June, that has mysteriously disappeared. So ends the Gunfight at the ‘Everything Is OK’ Corral.

  11 comments for “Santa Ana’s Joe Fletcher and the Gang That Can’t Get Their Conflicts Straight

  1. cook
    October 5, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Just watched the replay of the council meeting.

    3 council members are feed a bunch of lies from a group of nasty lawyers.

    “They could have simply declared the conflict and then randomly select enough conflicted members to heal the conflict so that they could vote.” why didn’t the lyers tell them to use the rules in SA’s code like Chris pointed out?

  2. art lomeli
    October 5, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    It was done for pure politics. Pulido needs this development to be on the table……not dead for the support of the labor unions during the last stretch of his campaign.

    He also needs this development to campaign on …..as his argument of creating jobs and business. Never mind the development won’t happen, the point is his election.

    THERE WAS NO WAY THE VOTE WAS NOT TO GO FOR HIS POLITICAL BENEFIT. LAST NIGHT’S OBJECTIVE WAS THE VOTE TO GET SUPPORT IN ODER TO GET HIM ELECTED NEVER MIND THE LAWSIUTS AND THE VIOLATIONS OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST LAWS. ONCE MAYOR HE CAN DEAL WITH THESE ISSUES AND IF NEED BE THROW THW LABOR UNIONS UNDER THE BUS.

    THE SANTA ANA VOTERS NEED TO UNDERSTAND PULDO’S STRATEGY AND VOTE FOR AMEZCUA IN ORDER TO CORRECT THIS OUTRAGE.

    The message sent at Monday’s council meeting is ……we are a third world totalitarian government and can and will do what ever we want. Laws do not apply to us.

    In reality the Santa Ana voters have all the power……THE VOTE. The voters need to show them who is the boss here by replacing the Mayor. This way this vote is canceled immediately come November

  3. jose s.
    October 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    prevatt, post fletchers picture for all to see.

    • October 6, 2010 at 12:09 am

      Sorry, I don’t have one at the moment. If I get one I will post it.

  4. Huckster
    October 5, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Kinda unfair representation of Joe. Joe is actually a decent man. Can you imagine the crap that this guy has to deal with, this sanctuary. The City is Million dollars in deficits and all these council members come in to office trying to give more handouts to the illegals, half of don’t finish the free high school. SA is the crappiest part of Orange County not because they are Mexican, I am Hispanic rather it is the quality of people whom have taken advantage of our lack of boarder enforcement and dwell in this poverty written City. The council members and administration are all Open boarders advocates.

  5. junior
    October 6, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Huckster,

    Joe may be a decent guy – but he toes the city line. He is an enabler of illegal actions.

  6. art lomeli
    October 6, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Joe Fletcher is a city employee at the employment mercy of the council. He has to do what they direct him to do…….that is, what the Mayor directs, as he is the individual in charge on the council.

    Fletcher is the messenger of this and other city issues. The saying, don’ kill the messenger applies here and with the rest of staff.

  7. jose s.
    October 6, 2010 at 11:24 am

    art lomeli, joseph fletcher makes plenty of decisions for himself and when it comes right down to it he has the final say in what he’s involved in. please dont paint this devil as some sort of victim just doing his job. i know first hand how he operates and it sickens me to see he still works for this city making a lot of money making bad decisions. he knows exactly what is right and what is wrong he’s just as corrupt if not more than the mayor and anybody on this council. i am really glad that the spotlight is finally on him and i hope it stays on him until he is out of a job.

  8. SA Girl
    October 6, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Chri–Thanks for keeping us informed, those over at the Orange Juice Blog, have been unbelievably quiet ever since the Mayor has bought them. I wonder what he promised Art & Sean to only post lies & more lies about the wonderful job he is doing.
    Regardless keep it up.

  9. junior
    October 7, 2010 at 6:11 am

    “.. don’t kill the messenger applies here and with the rest of staff.”

    I don’t agree art lomeli – the staff in Santa Ana is much more than the messenger – take Dave Ream for example. PLEASE, take Dave Ream, .. far, far away would be good.

  10. art lomeli
    October 8, 2010 at 9:35 am

    I never said Fletcher is a “victim”. He knows, understands and does what is asked of him and acts on his own free will. The definition of “victim” is different.

    Many city employees have resigned rather than to follow blindly. Those that stay and enable third world politics for Pulido’s economic and political manipulation of Santa Ana have a SEVERE CHARACTER FLAW, WHICH MAKES THEM QUESTIONABLE FOR EMPLOYMENT WITHIN A GOVERNMENT FOR THE PEOPLE.

    My point is that questionable and alleged wrong doings can only happen by the leader in charge demanding they happen. A different leader will take action to correct bad and/or illegal actions by an employee.

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