Update: City slams grand jury report
by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator
Sep 20, 2011 | 4008 views | 8 8 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mayor Luis Molina shares his viewpoints on interim city attorney Tom Hallinan's response to the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury Report as council members Annette Smith (center) and Deborah Novelli listen.--Photo by Jonathan
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Patterson City Council members signed off on a response Tuesday, Sept. 20, that slams the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury for its criticism of specific council members.

The response, drafted by interim City Attorney Tom Hallinan, particularly takes the grand jury to task for its call for Councilwoman Annette Smith to be ousted, saying that it appears she was targeted from the beginning.

Council members voted 5-0 to have Hallinan send the written document back to Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Ricardo Cordova before a Sept. 27 due date, though Mayor Luis Molina voiced a few reservations about the harsh tone of the report.

“We all have great respect for the Grand Jury,” Hallinan said. “But this time they were wrong.”

Hallinan said faulty reasoning by the Grand Jury led to faulty recommendations, most of which the response disputes. His opinion was even stronger in written form.

“This is the most outrageous and inappropriate recommendation our City Attorney has seen in 17 years of reviewing Grand Jury reports,” Hallinan wrote in response to the grand jury’s view that Smith should either resign or be subject to a possible recall election. “To engage in political advocacy is completely and utterly contrary to the charge of the Grand Jury.

“This recommendation cannot be implemented by (the city) and as such, shouldn’t even be included in this report.”

In addition to criticizing the tone of the report as being somewhat harsh, Molina said he was tired of a negative tone in Patterson politics in general and wanted to put some of the issues mentioned in the report in the past.

“We (council members) have to be held to a higher standard,” he said. “I think we’ve learned a lot and will continue to learn a lot.”

Patterson resident Jeff Lustgarten expressed concerns about the tone of the response, adding that the public didn’t get much time to review the document, which was released just hours before the meeting. He said that he felt there were probably more findings in the grand jury’s report with which the city could have agreed, such as declaring at each meeting which council members had not completed their ethics training.

“(Hallinan’s response) doesn’t show respect to the grand jury, and it’s hostile,” he said.

Patterson resident Mike Anderson said he hoped that Patterson residents could put the whole episode behind them and move forward.

“The city has spoken, and we’ve gotten everyone’s opinions,” he said. “I hope that we can move on now.”

Smith remained silent as others spoke, frequently looking down to read Hallinan's report as other people referenced it. Yet she made the motion to accept the document and forward it on to Judge Cordova after requesting a slight variation in wording.

In addition for calling for Smith’s removal, the initial grand jury report recommended that former Mayor Becky Campo pay back money she received as mayor because she allegedly lived outside city limits. It also stated that the city should file a complaint with the California State Bar to chastise former City Attorney George Logan for alleged improprieties, such as failing to be in the room when the council voted that developer John Ramos be reimbursed for $27,000 in legal fees. The grand jury also advised that Ramos return that money to the city.

Hallinan’s response dismissed all of those grand jury recommendations.

The interim city attorney particularly questioned the grand jury’s criticism of Smith for allegedly failing to recuse herself from a vote regarding Ramos’ legal fees while she had a financial relationship. While the jury indicated that Ramos had written off expenses for Smith in the past, Hallinan stated that Smith merely rented a storage unit from Ramos and had not rented commercial property from him since 2006.

The landlord did not write off any expenses, but simply reversed erroneous charges that were made after Smith vacated the storage unit, according to Hallinan’s response.

“The Grand Jury ignored this evidence which didn’t even meet the FPPC requirements for disclosure, or the threshold for disclosure as set forth in the City of Patterson City Council Handbook,” Hallinan wrote.

“It is clear from this ‘finding’ that (Smith) was judged guilty from the start by this Grand Jury,” he stated in the response.

He also contended that the council voted to pay Ramos back incurred legal fees only after Logan and former City Manager Cleve Morris had verified those costs.

As for Campo, Hallinan’s report stated she was living at a property within city limits with her mother until the end of her term after a home of hers had gone into foreclosure.

The city response did agree with the grand jury’s assessment that Campo and Smith had been behind in their required ethics training, but the final version of the report approved by the council also indicated that had been true of either Councilwoman Dejeune Shelton or the late Councilman Sam Cuellar. It further stated that the grand jury had been aware of those details.

“The Grand Jury requested and received validation of this fact, and chose to ignore their own discovery,” Hallinan wrote. “This selective prosecution of (Campo and Smith) by the Grand Jury taints the entire report.”

Hallinan noted in his written response that the City Council has since created an official job description for the City Attorney position, something that the grand jury said had been lacking.

The grand jury’s report was released June 27 following a year-long investigation. By law the council had 90 days to respond to that report.

• Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187.

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September 21, 2011
WOW..Looks like shady people attract shady people..this business venture must be the reason Mr. Hallinan dragged his feet on a records request from the irritator? Amazing how this plot thickens..Anyone know if logan mentored Mr. Hallinan?
September 21, 2011
September 21, 2011
P.S. Take a look at the some of the comments made on the Bee's article regarding this troublesome business venture. The one below in particular rings true in terms of the attitude being taken when it comes to our city's response to the Grand Jury.

"Maybe there is nothing wrong. Maybe there won't be any conflict of interest. But maybe there is. There is no harm in asking a few questions and getting a few answers. But to have Mr. Hallinan be so upset automatically makes me suspicious. He sounds like one of my kids caught red handed in the cookie jar. If there is no inpropriety, then he should welcome an investigation, instead of acting like he has something to hide."
September 21, 2011
No one should be surprised by the way in which our interim city attorney handled the Grand Jury response. He's angling to be our permanent city attorney and he clearly wants to make good with slate.

It's bad enough that we have an interim city attorney who has continually dismissed or ignored conflicts of interest happening under his watch. It's even worse that his response to the Grand Jury findings was totally arrogant, hostile and attempted to shift responsibility away from the slate and toward a supposedly politicized Grand jury. If anything, the response he drafted was as political as it gets, and it sounded a whole lot more like Annette Smith's hyper-defensive words than an objective legal response from our city attorney.

Now we learn that he's involved in an investigative side business working with local governments on workplace disputes (by the way, this story is a week old; how has the Irrigator not picked up on this?). This from the guy who's supposed to be representing the legal interests of our city. You have to ask yourself why a city attorney would get involved in an investigative consulting business. How will he be able to protect the privileged and sensitive information he gets as a city attorney, and then work with cities in an investigative function from the private sector? If I was on the city staff and was involved in any workplace disputes, I'd be very, very nervous about this development.

Couple all of that with the fact that he already represents multiple cities within the county in addition to ours, which in and of itself represents a huge potential conflict if we ever get into any legal issues with those cities.

And now he wants to become our permanent city attorney? I don't think so. Come on Patterson, if our council members aren't willing or able to read between the lines we need to help them see the light before they act to make this guy a permanent fixture at city hall. We can and should do much better.

Beware Patterson. You can either step up and do your part to stop this, or as Annette's supporters like to say on here constantly, you can sit back, relax and see what happens next while they tear our city apart to serve the interests of a few.

Check out this link for more info on his latest shenanigans in Oakdale.

September 21, 2011
Me thinks if the facts are on your side, there is no need to get 'hostile'.
September 21, 2011
Only patterson could have an attorney who has an obvious problem with ethics and knowledge of law write up a response and say the report is bogus. This city never ceases to disappoint.

September 20, 2011
BAHAHAHA! That's funny right there.

So let me get this straight. The reasoning that the Grand Jury used for the ouster of Mrs. Smith...they didn't have all the facts on???? Go figure! A one sided report that can't be trusted because if it is not 100% correct then it is a worthless report.
September 20, 2011
Smells like a bunch of Road Apples! But what is to be expected from from a city that is controlled by a few..Sad to know that people in power have such an utter disregard for the law and for their constituents!

Sad Response from a Sad bunch of leaders...

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