Fitz Can Be Bigoted – But Are His Assertions Against Murray and Eastman Valid?

I stopped paying much attention to what Mayoral Candidate and gadfly — “gadfly” is practically his new first name — Denis Fitzgerald had to say almost a year ago.

A year ago is when a desperate Kris Murray successfully used Fitz’s gutter mouth to change the subject away from the City Council’s dirty-seeming dealings in the Angels Stadium case.  (Disclosure: while I’m the attorney for the plaintiff, CATER, in that case, I am not writing here in that capacity, but rather as a political observer.)  When I’ve attended Anaheim Council meetings in the past half-year, I’ve generally left the room when he speaks, as my own protest against his squandering his often strong critiques with language that steals their thunder.  (Unless I’m involved in another conversation, though, I can still hear him over the speakers in City Hall.  He has a booming voice.)

Nevertheless, that Fitz can be a bigot — sometimes homophobic, sometimes based on race or nationality, but mostly a sexist, with a penchant for calling the Councilmembers “whores,” which he defends as being an accurate deployment of the term’s metaphorical sense of “selling oneself for money” — does not mean that specific charges that he’s made are necessarily false.

I’d heard that Fitz had cleaned up his act a bit in preparation for his current race for Mayor — in which he’ll surely finish fourth.  (He’d be third on my list: regardless of his grammar-school bad-boy manners, I’d still prefer him to Lucille Kring because he’s not a soulless ghoul when it comes to the rights of victims of excessive use of force by police.  Fitz, like everyone else in the Mayor’s race except Kring, believes in civil rights.  If he did become Mayor, though, I’d like to see him fitted with a shock collar and I would be happy to push the button as needed.)  I had to check out the video of the Anaheim City Council’s Sept. 9 meeting because part of it was useful for some trial prep in one of CATER’s cases against the City.  I saw that Fitz spoke early in the Public Comments Section, so I decided to give it a whirl.

Fitz’s speech was surprisingly obscene invective-free (although some non-obscene invective remained) — and the assertions he makes and questions he raises do indeed demand answers.  And, by gum, Gail Eastman answered them, after a fashion, right after he spoke!  So I thought that it’s worth presenting both those questions and her answers — along with an Instructive Interlude — to the larger public to get your collective thoughts.

Fitz Can Be Bigoted - But What About His Claims

Mayor Candidate Denis Fitzgerald has been known to hurl offensive vitriol from the Public Comments podium like an overgrown 11-year-old boy testing a babysitter’s patience — but he also makes some specific charges against the Council majority that could still be true regardless of his bad deportment. Well, ARE THEY TRUE?  Read on!

I’m presenting his posts as, more or less, a kind of poetry — broken down into sentences and clauses — because it makes them more fun and easier to read and comment upon.  To see the entire video yourself, go to the Anaheim Council meeting videos at anaheim.net (bottom right of the web page), click “videos,” and then click the meeting video for Sept. 9, 2014.  (I’d put my own comments in Angels Red for visibility, but because some of my DPOC colleagues would accuse me of getting subliminally Republican, instead I’ll use a neutral purple.)  Now here’s Fitz!

Denis Fitzgerald, Public Comment, 9/9/14 Council Meeting, 29:50 mark on video
  • Anaheim Streets are in a condition of disrepair.
I do get that sense of them myself.
Fitz 1
  • This is caused by two present Anaheim City Council members, Kris Murray and Gail Eastman, who are running for re-election this November.
Well, of course he’d like us to believe that.  Is he just throwing mud, or can he explain why?
  • Both Murray and Eastman have for years been advisory members of the Disneyland/SOAR political organization.
Really?  Does anyone disagree with that?
  • In fact. Gail Eastman was the Committee’s Co-Chairman.
OK, that starts to look harder to disagree with.
  • The parent [sic] purpose of Disneyland/SOAR is to use financial and other methods for Disney to gain control of the Anaheim City Council…
I’m not sure if he meant “patent” or “apparent” there, which convey different degrees of strength.  One thing that I have to note is that because Disneyland and SOAR — originally “Save Our Anaheim Resorts” and now the “S” is for “Support” — are different organizations, treating them as if they are actually one entity would be controversial.  But it may be that Disney controls SOAR.  Would anyone like to make the case for SOAR being more than just technically independent of what Disney wants?  Cunningham?  Chumley?  Anyone more official?  Please weigh in here, even if by proxy!
  • … So that Anaheim tax funds can be used to benefit Disneyland instead of the children and residents of Anaheim.
Fitz 2“Used to benefit Disneyland…” — what does Fitz have in mind here?  Is it the $200 million ARTIC Train Station?  The “fixed path” Streetcar, designed to (after wiping out some long-lived businesses in its path) take people from that area to across the street from Disney?  (“Across the street” allows them to maintain the fiction that it’s not TAKING THEM TO DISNEY ITSELF, which would be useful in staving off Disney being a Defendant if, oh, someone was killed in an accident involving the streetcar.  (It does mean people having to cross Harbor Blvd, but seriously — WHO DRIVES ON HARBOR BLVD. ANYMORE THESE DAYS?)  Or is he talking about the $500,000,000 spent on the “Mickey and Friends” parking garage — from which the City does not share in any of the fees! — or the sweet deals where Disney’s property tax, sales tax, and transient occupancy (hotel) tax are channeled back into paying off the bonds THAT WENT TO BENEFIT DISNEY (see that half-billion dollar parking garage above) rather that staying in the General Fund to pay for police and parks, and where Disney is willing to call down the minions of hell (NOT the cute minions of Despicable Me) if anyone starts talking about imposing even a modest a gate tax?  Or maybe he’s talking about the City (or at least its residents) bearing the cost of medical services for harm caused by toxic heavy metals from Disney’s fireworks.
Its hard to know exactly what he means; I’d ask him, but we’re not really on speaking terms.  
  • Last year, Kris Murray and Gail Eastman voted $30 million of our Anaheim street repair money to be used only for the unneeded Disneyland ARTIC Train Station instead of for the repairs of our street[s].
Whoa.  Really?  It came down to a choice between them?  (I’m not being sarcastic there — but I would not grant the point without more.)
  • Now, one year later, the horrible condition of Anaheim streets are becoming obvious.
All right, now this is starting to get interesting.  I had thought the “street repair” thing was a bluff.
  • The Disney Corporation gives financial compensation to Anaheim Council members such as Murray and Eastman…
Oh, come on.  “Financial compensation”?  What, Murray’s moonlighting at that park playing one of the wicked stepsisters? … (Seriously, is she?)
  • …To encourage their voting millions of dollars of our tax money to benefit Disneyland.
Has he got Disneyland mixed up with Murray’s boss, Former Mayor and Current  Puppetmaster Curt Pringle?  Not that that sort of payoff wouldn’t be likely to work, of course.
  • Murray and Eastman have been [given] Disney VIP passes for free entries and meals for up to five guests per day at any Disney Theme Part worldwide.
Errrr … what?
  • Gail Eastman has admitted under oath of receiving over $300,000 in just one year from the Disney Corporation in free admissions to Disneyland for her family and friends.
HAKUNA MAWHATTA?  No, I find that very hard to believe.
Fitz 3

“LOOK OUT! HE’S GOT A SHEAF!”

  • I’ll read from public records from her signed submissions:
    • Sample: June 15, $271, Disneyland Theme Park entrance.
    • July the 22nd, $271, Disneyland Theme Park entrance.
    • July the 29th, $271, Disneyland Theme Park entrance.
    • August the 9th, $283, Disneyland Theme Park entrance.
    • And three days later. August the 12th, $283 Disneyland Theme Park entrance.
All right, now I find it A LITTLE LESS hard to believe.  But still not $300,000 worth.
I’m not sure what Fitz is quoting from, but it seems to be page 6 of the 700 Form that Eastman filed at the end of 2010 — when she had just ascended to the City Council.  I find only $3700 of expenses listed there (and he misspoke on July 29th.  Specifically:
12/20/09             $184

01/12/10             $271

02/25/10             $271

03/05/10             $271

04/09/10             $271

06/07/10             $184

06/15/10             $271

07/22/10             $271

07/29/10             $184

08/09/10             $283

08/12/10             $283

09/10/10             $283

09/30/10             $283

10/23/10             $192

12/02/10             $192

Total 2010         $3694

Then again, Fitz was brandishing a much larger document — and Eastman seemed to know what it was and to say that evidence towards the end would exonerate her.  So we don’t know what the total figure really was in the documents that Fitz had.
  • And it goes on and on, thousands and thousands of dollars of little gifts that these people get.
$4000 is, indeed, literally “thousands and thousands of dollars” — but if that’s all that Fitz can show then this is still Cunningham-level misleading.  That said, $4000 ain’t chickenfeed, either, and this is for just one year — AND if there’s evidence that Eastman did pay it all back, it’s not clear where it is.  OBVIOUSLY, GAIL EASTMAN SHOULD PRODUCE THE CANCELED CHECKS OR OTHER PROOF OF HER REPAYMENT.  I expect that she can — but given that she probably can, she definitely should.  If she’s lying — even about fulfilling her promise to repay $4000 or so — then that speaks to her character.
But let’s back up here for a moment to look at the larger picture.  Eastman had a VIP path that she could use to walk visitors to Anaheim and community members into the park.  This was a thing of value, especially for someone running for office at the time.  At the time, she was already on the City’s Planning Commission — already subject to the ethics rules.  Yet she apparently had a VIP “Red Pass” from Disney — if she wants to deny it and explain that she was able to get people through the gate some other way, she can be OJB’s guest — and it didn’t even occur to her that such a privilege not generally available to the public might be a quid pro quo.
What exactly failed to click with her?  It suggests such a chummy relationship with Disneyland — which has gotten HUMONGOUS concessions from Anaheim, and not because of fears that it’s going to move to Tustin or Reno — that getting the power to, through her direct intervention, decide who got $4000 worth of freebies from Disney seemed completely natural.  That’s disturbing.  Well, it’s not disturbing for Disney — this “it is natural for Disney and me to do favors for each other because Disney is my friend” attitude is exactly what Disney wanted for SOAR — and for City Council.
Softie that I am, I want to believe both that Eastman didn’t break the law any worse than this and also that Fitz’s $300,000 figure doesn’t suggest some sort of internal mental explosion.  Unless Fitz can produce some extra documents, he’s wrong on the critical charge by — let’s just estimate that she did this for three years, maybe $12,000 — about 1½ orders of magnitude.  That’s a serious problem, sir!  But if Fitz is wrong on the details, he’s still apparently right that Disney bought off Eastman’s loyalty and got much more than what it paid.  He just misestimated the price.  What Fitz missed is that Eastman — unlike Murray (and I will not speculate about Kring) — is a REALLY CHEAP DATE.
And that brings us back to Fitz’s speech.
  • And in return, they, uh, essentially, in return it’s – the real problem is that Murray and Eastman will be paying back Disneyland …
Yes, although one charges more for the service than the other.  [NOTE TO SELF: need to review Murray’s “Masters of the Universe” email.]
  • … by voting hundred of millions of our tax money to benefit Disneyland.
I don’t know that it’s “hundreds of millions” already.  But once they’re reelected, and heading towards being termed out, then we can have literally no idea what their limits might be.  If any.
  • We ask Anaheim voters: in order to save Anaheim from Disneyland control, do not re-elect Murray and Eastman to the Anaheim City Council this November.  Thank you for your time.

Now just an egg-sucking second here.  “Disneyland control”?  I mean, yes, Disneyland does seem to have a “hand up the puppet” sort of relationship with SOAR — “Resort District” means nothing if it doesn’t mean “Disneyland” — but is even SOAR really trying to “control” Anaheim politics?

Wait — wait — this just inprobably in your mailbox, if you’re from Anaheim:

SOAR PAC 1

This mail piece endorsing the running SOAR slate is literally too large to be scanned using the equipment in a normal home office. It seems to have been sent to LOTS OF HOMES — and therefore OJB will have the pleasure of pulling it apart in an extended series we will call … PAINFUL SOAR.

SOAR PAC 2

In PAINFUL SOAR, we’ll look through ALL of the numbers (within reason) regarding how much the “Resort District Gives Back” — which, given the tax breaks and subsidies, is even less than you’d think, and given the creative accounting going on is probably even less than you’d think POSSIBLE. And we’ll talk about that juicy bon-bon in at the bottom in Blue — the ATID — that the Council Majority ITSELF doesn’t understand!

SOAR PAC 3

By the way: because this slick brochure — this isn’t even the whole thing! — was LITERALLY TOO BIG TO SCAN, OJB has used the “Poor Person’s Scanner” technique — taking a color photo an stretching it into shape using Photoshop. When you see distortions in the image, that’s our responsibility. When you see distortions in the TEXT, that’s SOAR’S responsibility!

SOAR PAC 4

What (if anything) do you have to do to be a member of SOAR? Why, that’s a very interesting question! Another interesting question is: if the profits from an “economic engine” DON’T go to Anaheim itself, and instead largely go to people and businesses OUTSIDE OF the City, is it really ANAHEIM’S economic engine? And did they leave an “L” out of “Growling”?

OK — uh, maybe SOAR does get a lot of finger-waggling from Disney to make its lips move.  Anyway — all that aside, let’s go back to the meeting, where Gail Eastman had been waving for the Mayor’s attention.

Tait: Councilmember Eastman, what did you want to say?

Councilwoman Gail Eastman, Council Counter-Comment, 9/9/14 Council Meeting, 33:30 mark on video
  • Yes, I would just like to clarify, uh, that, uh, Mr. Fitzgerald is one of those people that likes to take advantage of the fact that you can say anything you want at our podium.
This coming from a woman who sits next to Lucille Kring at these meetings!
  • However, the information he gives out regarding Mayor Pro Tem Murray and myself is patently false.

We’ll see.  But first, this really happened.

Eastman - 'is patently false'

Then again, perhaps she was just trying to push away the taste of ashes.

  • Uh, and the actual record that he reads from is the proof that all of those walks into Disneyland were paid for by me.
Uh — WHAT?  It may be many things, but it is hard to believe that it is proof of THAT.  Why would you have to file any sort of a form stating what you BOUGHT?  Does she have to file a form stating how many times she has had to pay her “hair stylist” over the past four years?
  • So if he would research to the end of that he would see that, that those were all paid for.
She seems to think that her promise to pay means that she paid.  Even if SHE HAD BEEN CAUGHT RED-HANDED AND HAD TO PAY BACK MONEY TO UNDO A VIOLATION OF THE “GIFT RULES,” her statement that she intended to pay doesn’t mean that she actually did.  (Does she really believe that it does?)  If the figure was around $4000, it’s plausible that she repaid — even given that Eastman is not a woman of great means.  But if Fitz is anywhere NEAR right about that $300,000 figure, then how did she POSSIBLY pay it back?  Could she use campaign funds — and thus a lot of fundraising?  I can’t wait to hear what document Fitz is talking about.
  • And those were all people that were walked into Disneyland from the community, by me, and I paid for it out of my pocket.
Huh-huh-huh — holy — wow.  She was paying to walk people into Disneyland at what looks like three at a time and paying for it out of pocket?  Really?  Is that your final answer, Councilwoman?  I have to say, I have seen people spend an awful lot of money for votes before, but this would truly have to take the cake.  ARE YOU SURE THAT THIS DIDN’T INVOLVE ANYTHING CALLED A RED PASS? Not to put too fine a point on it, but unless you were on a bender exceeding anything ever done by your seatmate, spending $1476 on Park Entrances in less than ten weeks for community members to get into Disneyland, when even if you didn’t have a pass yourself you knew plenty of other people who did sounds VERY INCREDIBLY UNLIKELY.
YOU DID NOT “PAY OUT OF POCKET,” GAIL EASTMAN.  YOU ALMOST SURELY PAID USING A VIP PASS.  AND THEN WHEN YOU WERE CAUGHT, MAYBE YOU REPAIDOUT OF POCKET.  BUT THIS WAS NOT OUT OF THE GOODNESS OF YOUR HEART, BUT BECAUSE YOU BROKE THE LAW.
YOU SHOULD ADMIT THIS.  AND, FURTHERMORE, IF YOU HAD BEEN SENTENCED TO TEN WEEKS OF COMMUNITY SERVICE, YOU DON’T GET TO TAKE CREDIT FOR HAVING BEEN A “VOLUNTEER SPENDING MANY HOURS BEAUTIFYING THE HIGHWAYS,” EITHER.  YOU WERE BEING PUNISHED.
  • So I just want to make that clear in case someone that might be viewing this and hasn’t seen his performance before would have a clear understanding of that.
I’m right there with you on that, Councilwoman.  I want them to have a clear understanding of it too.
  • Uh, and I am not receiving any compensation from Disney in any way.  Thank you.  [34:03]
Eastman - 'Mission Accomplished'

AND SHE STICKS THE LANDING! Mission Accomplished!

Oh, no.  

No, no, no.  That sets off every piece of radar equipment in the array.

(Here, those of you old enough to remember the character just have to read what I’m writing in the voice of Peter Falk as Columbo.)

Thank you, Councilwoman.  Uh, before I go, there’s just one thing that still bothers me.

You see, you and others on the City Council and Staff have made a great deal about Disneyland being a different legal entity than SOAR.  So, when a person in your position specifies that you’ve never taken any “compensation from Disney in any way,” that leaves two questions in my mind.

First, that could be true if whatever you received didn’t come from Disney itself — but from SOAR.  And if Disney does have effective control of SOAR — something that can be nailed down, you know — then that may be a distinction without a difference.  Think about a RED PASS, Councilwoman.

And if you got something of value from Disney or SOAR that wasn’t “compensation” — you weren’t an employee or a contractor, but were maybe gifts in appreciation of your sitting on a corporate board — then your statement would still be true as well, whether you took in $4000, or $12,000, or even if you took home literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And before you think of going in this direction, Councilwoman, having received a whole bunch of money and then having to pay it back to avoid legal trouble doesn’t mean that you never received it — because between the time that you received it and the time you paid it back there was ALREADY the opportunity for a “quid pro quo.”

And then there’s the question of how you paid it back if you did pay it back.  If you got into some hot water at some point, as the recent or current or soon-to-be Chair of the SOAR Advisory Committee, did Disney REALLY just abandon you?  Or did they “help out” somehow?

What did Fitzgerald really get his hands on there, Councilwoman?  Don’t worry, we’re almost done.

Next — and this it just theoretical, you understand — if you knew that some outside organization was going to dump hundreds of thousands of dollars — heck, maybe even a million dollars — into an “Independent Expenditure” for your campaign for re-election, are you still confident that you didn’t get “anything like” the sort of compensation you describe above?

Finally, there’s this — and this will cheer up your Republican voters, or the Republicans who would have voted for you without any unpleasant facts getting in the way.  It’s your choice of tense that you used just before you gave that big smile and, if you were a young African American rapper, would have dropped the mic to the floor.

Do you get what I’m talking about, Councilwoman?

“I am not receiving any compensation….”  And then you smiled really wide.

Oh yeah, that present tense.  It’s classic.  “There is no relationship with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”  It’s almost like you memorized how to say it right.

So all I’m saying, Councilwoman, is that — putting aside of whether this slick and widely mailed-out mailer from SOAR counts as “compensation” — your statement leaves open the question of whether you ever did receive any compensation in the past.  Because that is when the problem would have occurred — right, Councilwoman?

Now, I’m not making any accusations here — I’m just pointing out how your answer, in the context of your strange claim about having paid back at least several thousand dollars (and could it really be $300,000?) for taking people to Disneyland using your Red Pass or whatever it was, leaves me wondering whether, at the end of your short statement, you really should have been smiling so brightly.

To be continued.  This is all very, very much to be continued.  So much to say, so little time before voting begins!


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)