Thursday, July 14, 2016

What Ambassadors of Negativity?

Torrance Mayor Pat Furey blamed his political problems on a little group of natty instigators whom he called the "Ambassadors of Negativity."

Why do these politicians not get it?

Citizens are entitled to petition their governments for a redress of grievances. If they don't want to hear the complaints, then they should not run for office.

The truth is, if the local governments, and the state agencies attached to them, would simply do their jobs and not wander into business which they have no reason to trifle with, then there would be no problems.

Little reason would remain.

Point of fact, activists in the city of Torrance and throughout the South Bay are not ambassadors of negativity, but are simply invested in making sure that our elected officials remember whom they work for.

Home News Political resignations

On an extraordinary night of political theater in Torrance, the City Council set a public hearing to consider terminating the mayor’s son from his volunteer commission post, while his father railed against “political enemies” he accused of creating the scandal.

Mayor Pat Furey was the only panelist Tuesday night not to vote in favor of holding the hearing at the next council meeting April 12 that appears likely to end with the removal of Patrick Furey Jr., who managed his father’s mayoral campaign, from the Traffic Commission for ethics violations.

• VIDEO: Mayor Pat Furey speaks out against ‘political enemies’

Last month, the state Fair Political Practices Commission fined Furey’s successful 2014 mayoral campaign $35,000 for orchestrating and hiding illegal campaign contributions in concert with a supposedly independent political action committee backing his candidacy.

This is a big deal, and more politicians are getting hit with fines. The State Controller Betty Yee was hit with a fine, too, for not reporting her campaign contributions on time.

Pat Furey Jr. was a rogue political consultant, though, who brazenly broke the law and colluded with PACs to violate elections codes. He had been hit three times for these unethical, blatantly deceptive tactics.

That violated the state Political Reform Act as well as the municipal election code and has prompted an investigation by the Public Integrity Division of the District Attorney’s Office. McCormick Ambulance Service and the Torrance Firefighters PAC funded the PAC supporting the mayor.

McCormick later won the city’s lucrative ambulance contract backed by senior Fire Department officials on a split council vote. The mayor cast the deciding vote despite calls to recuse himself because of a conflict of interest.

McCormick Ambulance has lost its contract in Redondo Beach. I wonder when they will be kicked out of Torrance.

Furey brushed aside suggestions he take responsibility and instead blamed an unidentified group of “ambassadors of negativity” in the community.

Is this some kind of sick joke, or an alternative rock band?

“They always see the negative side of absolutely everything,” Furey said. “You can’t see the negative side for me because I’ve done a great job here. All they can do is point out this whole thing about this independent expenditure.

For the record, I had complimented him and the rest of the city council for relaxing the strict gun laws on the city books. I had blasted the Daily Breeze reporters in the past for their biased or slanted reporting.

“There was a determination by the Fair Political Practices Commission that was pushed through by some political enemies of mine,” Furey added. “And I know who they are. Some of them have been cited and some of them are being investigated as we speak here today. I’m just appalled that it goes to this.”

Uh ... no. The investigation took two years. If political enemies were behind this, they would have wrapped it up much faster. 

Furey spoke amid rising calls in the community for his son to be fired from his commission post and the mayor censured in the wake of the still unfolding political mess that is virtually unprecedented by Torrance’s standards.

The city received about two dozen emails ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting condemning the actions of the mayor and his son and just one — from a city commissioner who previously publicly endorsed Furey — expressing support.

The pressure on the city council was more than partisan politics, but a demand for public integrity.

Many of the emails suggested that both father and son should step down:

• “It looks bad, it smells bad and it’s disgraceful to allow this behavior to continue,” wrote Pam and Phil Burnette. “The council will pay for this at re-election time. The ambulance debacle is on your shoulders as well. Things are adding up and not in the council’s or the residents’ best interests.”

• “I felt that Mayor Furey was sleazy when elected, but even more so now,” wrote Gene Koester, a 44-year Torrance resident. “Adjudicate, stipulate, hypocrisy. An attorney will do and say anything to justify his unethical behavior. I do not trust or respect him any longer.”

• “Mayor Patrick Furey and his son have ruined their reputations and their credibility with their illegal and unethical actions,” wrote Vera and Bob Little. “They’ve also tarnished the reputation of the entire City Council by association, especially those members willing to speak up for honest government.

“The mayor’s son added insult to injury when he blamed ‘political enemies,’ they added. How childish. The mayor and his son have corrupted Torrance city government, making it just like several other city councils in Southern California. Will the Torrance City Council show moral leadership and integrity in this sordid saga?”

Panelists have yet to respond or comment to calls to censure the mayor.

Meanwhile, a discussion on whether to issue a request for proposals to replace McCormick as some suggested fell flat, with only two council members supporting a motion to do so.

More people are supporting this measure.

McCormick officials, faced with the possible loss of the lucrative contract, made a lengthy presentation addressing the “appearance of impropriety” that resulted from the affair. Still, they also suggested the company was a victim of the campaign experts they hired, including a business partner of the younger Furey who later was fired.

The mayor warned that the issue had nothing to do with the level of service McCormick had so far provided — Fire Department officials and panelists also agreed the company had met or exceeded expectations so far — and was instead prompted by political motivations that could have negative implications for the city.

I do not care how well the company may doing. There are plenty of other ambulance companies in Los Angeles County.

Anyone of them could be properly vetted to provide good service for the city.

We need honesty and integrity at all levels of governance.

“We’re talking about a company that has come here and provided an outstanding level of service for the safety of our community,” Furey said. “We’re here to do a request for proposals and they might not even apply. And nobody else may apply because of the treatment they’ve received from the city of Torrance.”

Companies won't apply if they feel that the city council is tipping its hand!

Final Reflection

No, Mayor Furey, I am not an ambassador of negativity.

We just want our elected officials to obey the law, and stop acting as if they are above the law.

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