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Cypress Council Member Marquez again features prominently on upcoming Council agenda

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:

At the June 27 City Council meeting, Council Member Marquez requested the City Council discuss her 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.

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):

Council Member Peat:

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:

“Dear Mr. Pardon, This letter is in response to the sworn complaint you submitted to the Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission regarding the above-named individuals. Your complaint alleged that Cypress City Councilmembers Ann Hertz-Mallari and Jon Peat had a conflict of interest when they made decisions regarding the City’s contract (and contract amendments) with Valley Vista Services (VVS).

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:

On July 1, the city received a Public Records Act request… from Best Best & Krieger LLP on behalf of Council Member Marquez. The request seeks 15 different categories of records and includes a litigation hold for records relating to Valley Vista Services. The City Clerk and special legal counsel are assessing the request and estimate it will take hundreds of hours and cost tens of thousands of dollars to process.

According to the same staff report, the fiscal impact on the City of Cypress will be large:

State law requires the city to fulfill all Public Records Act requests and the State does not reimburse the city for staff, legal or opportunity costs.

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:

[A] list of every contract and purchase order City Manager Peter Grant awarded using his authority to do so for contracts under $25,000, including the name contractor or consultant awarded the contract, a description service or good provided, the total amount of the contract, and the date the contract was fully executed or the date the purchase order was fulfilled.

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:

The Second Amendment:

  1. 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;
  2. 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
  3. increases severance for termination without cause from nine months to 12 months;
  4. adds language to be included in the severance and general release agreement upon the City Manager’s separation regarding non-disparagement;
  5. 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;
  6. 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;
  7. 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.

2 Comments

  1. Bring the popcorn! Watch at home or in person & you will see first-hand what happens when one person’s goal is to disrupt a functioning city.

    1. No, not to disrupt but TO HOLD ACCOUNTABLE.

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