LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Orange County): Audit, Orange County Great Park: "Did Consultant Charge Political Donation to Great Park?: ....

* Voice of OC:  "Did Consultant Charge Political Donation to Great Park?" - From the Voice of OC:

A $2,500 payment to the Democratic Party of Orange County is listed on the check register of the lead design consultant for Irvine's Great Park, raising questions about whether the consultant illegally used public funds and charged the city for a political donation.The document was attached as an exhibit to the deposition of Gafcon Inc. owner Yehudi Gaffen and made public late Friday. . . . . . . .

According to Councilwoman Christina Shea -- who sits on a subcommittee overseeing the probe –Gafcon over the years submitted bulk invoices that didn’t itemize costs. Those bulk billings totaled $47 million between 2004 and 2014, and auditors requested the check register to determine what expenses San Diego-based Gafcon used to justify its invoices. None of the expenses on the document have precise dates.


About the check to the Democratic Party, Shea said, “you can’t justify giving money to the Democratic Party and charging the city for it.” Bob Stern, a government ethics expert who helped write the state’s Political Reform Act, agrees. He says asking the city to pay for a “straight donation” to a political party would be illegal, a “misuse of public funds.”

But there are exceptions, Stern said. . . . . . . .

In his deposition, Gafcon owner Gaffen said he couldn’t recall what the payment to the political party was for.


The Great Park has long faced allegations of corruption as consultants -- who funneled tens of thousands of dollars to campaigns to reelect the former Democratic City Council majority -- were awarded no-bid contracts that critics called excessive and wasteful.

A Republican city council majority unseated the Democrats in the 2012 election and ran on campaign promises to bring fiscal accountability to the 1,300-acre project, which was supposed to rival New York’s Central Park but has so far fallen short of expectations. The Republican council members initiated the in-depth audit last year, and Democrats on the council say the investigation is a political witch-hunt aimed at bolstering the Republicans’ election fortunes by trampling on the park’s reputation.

Shea points to what she called questionable payments now being uncovered by the audit as evidence that suspicions about the park’s finances had merit...........................


SACRAMENTO: California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, daughter Jordana Steinberg, feature: "Jordana Steinberg: 'A story of Overcoming'" ....

* Sacramento Bee (Cynthia Craft):  "Jordana Steinberg: 'A Story of Overcoming'" - From the Bee:

It was about noon on a weekday, and Jordana Steinberg, 20, sat at a round-topped kitchen table in her Rocklin apartment, her therapist by her side. A faint aroma of tomato sauce on toasted crust lingered from the previous night’s pizza. Jordana, a second-year student at Sierra College, was prepared to open up about the most private of topics, her mental health. She had a mission: to tell her story publicly for the first time, for the benefit of others.

Lightly freckled, with dark friendly eyes, Jordana spoke candidly and without hesitation. Over the next few hours and in subsequent days, she shared details of her battle against a severe childhood mood disorder and declared her intent to become an activist. “I want to be the person who helps other people,” Jordana said. “I think I’m ready. I don’t want to be pitied. I want to be an inspiration.”

Then, sounding very much like her well-known father, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, she said: “Everybody knows somebody who has something. I want to be a leader who helps stop stigma.”

For more than a decade, the senator, a Sacramento Democrat, has been among California’s most prominent advocates for expansion of mental health services. . . . . Steinberg said he was as surprised as anyone to learn of his daughter’s decision to talk publicly about her mood disorder. It’s not like the family tried to hide it, he said, but they didn’t broadcast it either, opting for privacy. “She was a kid,” he said, “and it was not my right as a parent to talk about her.”

Regardless, and with his blessing, Jordana said she is poised to lay her voice alongside her father’s – to tell her own story of a journey through a sometimes violent, turbulent childhood and troubled teen years toward a hard-fought recovery....................................


MISCELLANEOUS: Opening of Dunkin' Donuts, first Los Angeles area location: "Dunkin' Donuts Opens Its First L.A. Location" ....

* LA Weekly (Amy Scattergood):  "Dunkin' Donuts Opens Its First L.A. Location" - From the Weekly:

Going back to work after the Labor Day weekend just got a little easier, at least for Dunkin' Donuts fans who live in or near Santa Monica. Well, easier if you want to spend your early morning lining up with doughnut lovers badly in need of caffeine. The first Dunkin' Donuts in Southern California will officially open its doors at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 2 at their new Santa Monica location, at 1132 Wilshire Blvd. Pink carpet. Mascots. A "special California-inspired donut." Welcome to Los Angeles.

For those of you who live for this sort of thing, note that the first 100 people in line will get swag (tote bag, etc.) and the very FIRST person in line will get free coffee for a year. Maybe just pretend its the Rose Parade and spend your day off on Wilshire in a lawn chair. Bring a thermos, since eventually you'll be able to refill it with Dunkin' Donuts' very best.

The Massachussetts-based company, which was founded in 1950 in Quincy, Mass., previously had restaurants in California but closed them in the 1990s. The Santa Monica restaurant is the first of a projected 1,000 new Dunkin' Donuts throughout the state; the first 150 to 200 will be open, theoretically, by 2020.

“We’ve been asked to bring Dunkin’ Donuts back to Los Angeles for many years and we’re proud to announce that the first full expression restaurant is opening in Santa Monica ahead of schedule,” said Paul Twohig, President of Dunkin' Donuts US and Canada. A "full expression" restaurant, in case you're wondering, is a free-standing shop which offers the chain's full menu of coffee, doughnuts, bakery sandwiches, etc. . . . . . . .

There are, if you're counting, three "non-traditional" Dunkin' Donuts shops already in California. . . . . . . .

Next up are Dunkin' Donuts in.............


SACRAMENTO: End of legislative session, departure of top legislative leaders, end of Jerry Brown's latest term as governor, commentary (Dan Walters): "An era ends with lots of action but uncertain results" .... 

* Sacramento Bee (Dan Walters):  "An era ends with lots of action but uncertain results" - From the Bee:

The close of the Legislature’s 2012-14 biennial session also marks the end of a noteworthy period – Jerry Brown’s third term as governor and the reigns of the Legislature’s two top leaders.

During his swan song speech to the Senate on Thursday, outgoing President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg called it a “six-year run where California went from the depths of budget hell and dysfunction to fiscal stability and serial achievement.” Whether that is an accurate assessment of the past half-decade or so depends largely on one’s ideological orientation or sense of what state government should be doing for its 38 million constituents........................



LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Orange County): Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, update, investigation, property swap, no-bid city contract: "Santa Ana Council to Consider Criminal Case Against Mayor" ....  

***Following up on earlier item noted here (Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, questions, property-swap, no-bid city contract)....

* Voice of OC:  "Santa Ana Council to Consider Criminal Case Against Mayor" - From Voice of OC:

In closed session Tuesday, Santa Ana City Council members will consider a city-initiated criminal prosecution of Mayor Miguel Pulido stemming from his family’s property swap with a city contractor, Councilman Sal Tinajero confirmed Friday. That option, along with a range of others, will be examined, Tinajero said. Council members will also consider whether to release the results of a city attorney investigation into the mayor’s dealings and a civil lawsuit, he said.

“We want to be very clear on what’s going on. We want a report back on what our city attorney knows,” Tinajero said. “But everything is pretty much on the table at this point.”

In November, a Voice of OC article revealed that in 2010, members of the Pulido family traded a parking lot they owned to Rupen James Akoubian, owner of NAPA Orange County Auto Parts, in exchange for a house in Westminster. According to the public assessor’s appraisals, the fair market value of the house was more than twice as much as the Pulidos’ lot.

The family later transferred the house solely into the mayor’s name, and he sold it for nearly $400,000, netting a $197,000 profit. Meanwhile, Akoubian’s store received a $1.35 million, no-bid city contract to supply auto parts to the municipal vehicle fleet. Good government experts have questioned whether the series of transactions amount to bribery.

Beyond the DA's investigation, the state Fair Political Practices Commission opened a probe and sources have speculated the IRS and possibly the FBI are looking into the matter.............................

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