Directly or indirectly, Cypress Council Member Frances Marquez is the cause behind three items on the Council agenda for the regular meeting on Monday, July 11:
- Item #13, regarding conflicts of interest related to the Valley Vista trash franchise agreement
- Item #12, regarding a California Public Records Act request made by Council Member Marquez
- Item #11, regarding an amendment to the City Manager’s employoment agreement
Conflicts of interest related to the Valley Vista trash franchise agreement — again
After being censured at the last Cypress City Council meeting, Councilmember Frances Marquez requested that an item about the Valley Vista trash franchise agreement be placed on the next City Council agenda.
In order to create a well-formed agenda item, City Manager Pete Grant requested clarification of what she was asking.
The resulting agenda item appears as Item #13 on the agenda for the regular Council meeting scheduled for Monday, July 11, at 7 p.m. under the heading Items from City Council Members with a descriptive title of Discuss Council Member Marquez’s Concerns Related to Conflicts of Interest Among the Individuals Who Negotiated the Franchise Agreement for the Provision of Solid Waste and Recycling Services with Valley Vista Services, Inc. dba as Valley Vista Services of Orange County.
The staff recommendation for Item #13 is to discuss it and provide direction to staff.
The staff report for this item contained the following discussion:
Mayor Pro Tem Hertz-Mallari and Council Member Peat requested communications to and from the State of California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) related to the complaint from a resident that Mayor Pro Tem Hertz-Mallari and Council Member Peat had a conflict of interest when the City Council made decisions regarding the Solid Waste Franchise Agreement be attached. The FPPC reviewed the complaint, determined the complaint failed to establish any conflict existed, and did not pursue the complaint. The minutes from the February 14, 2022, City Council meeting are also attached.
In addition, the staff report provided links to the following pdf documents:
The City Council Minutes for February 14, 2022 contain the following under the Council Member Reports and Remarks segment (pages 10-11):
Spoke about a conflict of interest complaint submitted to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) by Cypress resident George Pardon. Council Member Peat stated the FPPC dismissed the conflict of interest complaint and requested the FPPC’s response letter to Mr. Pardon, dated February 2, 2022, be included in the minutes of this meeting:
Under the Political Reform Act, a public official has a disqualifying conflict of interest in a governmental decision if it is reasonably foreseeable that the decision will have a financial impact on their personal finances or other financial interests. The facts and information in your complaint failed to establish that either Hertz-Mallari or Peat had financial interests that would have been effected when they made or participated in making decisions regarding VVS.
Therefore, after review of the complaint, evidence provided, applicable law, and communication with the Respondent’s legal counsel, the Enforcement Division will not pursue an enforcement action in this matter. If you have any questions, please contact Ginny Lambing. Sincerely, Angela J. Brereton, Chief, Enforcement Division”
Council Member Peat thanked the FPPC for their quick response in this matter and made additional comments directed at Mr. Pardon.
Unless Council Member Marquez has new information to present about a possible conflict of interest, this topic has been handled and should remain closed.
California Public Records Act request made by Council Member Marquez
The staff recommendation for Agenda Item #12 is to receive and file a California Public Records Act request made by Council Member Marquez (pdf).
Council Member Marquez made the request after being the target of three requests since the beginning of the year, including a huge and mysterious request from Fortis LLP. No explanation has been forthcoming from Fortis as to the reason for its request. (Council Member Marquez was not the only Council Member to be required to respond to the public record requests.)
The agenda item’s staff report notes:
According to the same staff report, the fiscal impact on the City of Cypress will be large:
The staff report ends by stating that the request is being reviewed by City Attorney Fred Galante and special city counsel.
To give an idea of the scope of the pubic records request, one of the fifteen items requested is:
Mr. Grant has been City Manager since 2014. Since no date limit is specified, this item would apparently cover his entire tenure as Cypress City Manager.
An amendment to the City Manager’s employoment agreement
Council Member Marquez did not directly request this item. It comes out of a regularly scheduled annual review of the City Manager.
However, some of the amendment likely resulted from Council Member Marquez’s repeatedly stated hostility toward Mr. Grant, and remarks she made at the last Council meeting regarding making changes should a like-minded majority be elected in the upcoming November 2022 general election.
Here is the staff report text for the amendment, reformatted to make it easier to read:
- extends the term of the Agreement for one year to July 31, 2027; ii) provides Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) to match any COLA that may be provided to the City’s executive management employees beginning following this Second Amendment;
- extends the number of days within which the City Manager may not be terminated following any City Council election from 90 days to 150 days
- increases severance for termination without cause from nine months to 12 months;
- adds language to be included in the severance and general release agreement upon the City Manager’s separation regarding non-disparagement;
- returns to the City Manager 246.3326 unused hours of Paid Time Off (PTO) leave donated by the City Manager to the COVID-19 pandemic catastrophic leave bank;
- converts the City Manager’s PTO to vacation and sick leave and provides that the City Manager will accrue vacation leave and sick leave instead of PTO going forward at the rate of 13.3334 hours per month for vacation and eight hours per month for sick leave;
- provides an Automobile Allowance equivalent to that provided the City’s executive management employees.
All other provisions of the City Manager Employment Agreement remain the same.
Note that this is the “Second Amendment” because a “First Amendment” was made following a prior year’s evaluation of the City Manager’s job performance.