"Just the facts ma’am" No, Not Dragnet. Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers FACT

Last night I attended a recognition dinner for former Register Editorial writer Harold Johnson who is now an attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation. Harold represented the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers, FACT, in winning a major court battle against the state of California that appeared in the July 4th and July 8th editorials at the OC Register.

The FACT lawsuit blocked governor Schwarzenegger from floating a $560 million dollar Bond in violation of Section 1, Article 16 of the CA Constitution. That section reads as follows: PUBLIC FINANCE. “The Legislature shall not, in any manner create any debt or debts, liability or liabilities, which shall, singly or in the aggregate with any previous debts or liabilities, exceed the sum of three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000), except in case of war to repel invasion or suppress insurrection, …etc.

The Constitution is very clear. Floating Bonds requires a 2/3rds vote of the Legislature. As this bond far exceeded $300,000 the “three judge panel upheld a lower court ruling that said voters–or two-thirds of the Legislature-had to approve the use of bond money to pay the state’s pension obligation.” Register

In his remarks Mr. Johnson said that this was a “landmark legal victory.” The FACT lawsuit exposed for all to see that “major borrowing by the state shall require voter approval.” Harold said this provision in our Constitution dates way back to the 1850s. He added that “starting a lawsuit can be very intimidating. ” He added that “there could be financial risk” as to “people insulated from any judgments.” Mr Johnson mentioned Prop 58, (the 2004 CA Balanced Budget Amendment), wherein “the state cannot go into debt to finance any operation of government.”

Who are the members of FACT? Stay with me. After I post some comments by Register Senior Editorial Writer Steve Greenhut and O.C. Supervisor Chris Norby I will cover effective citizen activism in the Fullerton area.

Steve was in rare form last night. Perhaps it was the casual atmosphere of a friendly crowd as he lashed into unions and elected officials.

After discussing his Register coverage of the lawsuit he stated that “public servants (have become) public masters.” He added that “they have become really nasty and surly.” Steve than shifted his remarks to the BOS commending Supervisors Moorlach and Norby for standing up to unions. He also acknowledged that “the five members of a prior BOS who approved “3 at 50″ were all Republicans.”
We have all read it before but he reiterated what that represents in dollars. Deputies receive “90 percent of final years pay forever.” He added that “Deputies make no contribution at all. Many cops earn $150,000 a year and they are not accountable.” Steve made a brief reference to the homicide of John Chamberlain in Central Jail adding that “the Sheriff is fighting citizen oversight.”

In his final comments he mentioned having been in SAC where there were police officers intimidating and lying to Legislators to block passage of SB 1019. SB 1019 relates to “public disclosure of investigations and proceedings concerning the conduct of peace officers and custodial officers.”

As many members of FACT were also engaged in the Fullerton City Council recall of 1994, Supervisor Norby commented about their effort stating that the “RECALL changed political history.” He said that the “city had enough money and just wasn’t spending it wisely.”

That recall was triggered by the city council imposition of five utility taxes in violation of Prop 62. Bruce Whitaker told us that this is “the only successful recall of a council majority (in Orange County).” He added that, to date, rejecting the utility taxes saved their city residents and businesses over $120 million.

Who is FACT?
Their current president is Thom Babcock was off in Hawaii last night. However, the real question requires peeling the onion back to 1994 when the Fullerton Recall Committee was formed. Before departing several members shared their recall experiences. At that time they were 42 volunteers going door to door, standing in front of supermarkets and anywhere else that they could get Initiative signatures. By the time they turned in their Initiatives they had gathered 54,000 signatures without any outside support. Many of these senior citizen activists later became the core members of the FACT organization. I should apologize. I don’t know their ages in 1994 but they surely are active senior citizens today. Having been an active member in a similar activist group in Mission Viejo I commended them for staying together for the past 14 years. That’s a record that will be difficult to surpass.

In the FACT Recall they nearly also removed Ann York, the elected city clerk. Early in the recall process she had tried to block the effort. She escaped recall and refused to call for a required Special Election. FACT filed a “writ of mandamus” lawsuit, and prevailed. York resigned in disgrace.

Before taking comments from the members Jack Dean presented an award to PLF attorney Harold Johnson which acknowledges his being “litigator of the year” for his successful litigation in the Bond case.

What is the next project for FACT? In addition to monitoring municipal, county and state policy decisions the group is actively observing the current “pension tsunami.” Member Jack Dean is their guru responsible for sharing pension activities around the country. his reports can be found on his web site as follows: www.pensiontsunami.com

Many of these volunteers are loyal supporters of Supervisor Norby. Chris is very fortunate in having such an effective group of dedicated volunteers willing to participate in placing taxpayer interests over their own.

The term “recall” is almost as commonly used today as “eminent domain.” While many may argue that they oppose legislation by ballot box, at times we must take matters into our own hands rather than waiting every two or four years to remove elected officials.


About Larry Gilbert