Garden Grove Citizens Ask: Can I Get That in Writing?

Fester in a box


The City Council meeting on Tuesday night in Garden Grove was full of fireworks. There were several concerned residents in attendance that expressed their anger over the $24,000 verbal report that City Manager, Matt Fertal, had planned to pass off as a reliable investigation into the Garden Grove Fire Department’s vote of non-confidence in Fire Chief, David Barlag.

Much of the speculation and distrust stems from the fact that Barlag may have been chosen to lead the department, by Mayor Bruce Broadwater, with the condition that Barlag ensure that the mayor’s son would be made a fireman. The concerned Garden Grove residents demanded that the the $24,000 contract be printed and made available to both the council and to the public. I was one of them.

I would love to give you all specific quotes and a proper recap of the testimonials made but once again, for the second council meeting in a row, there was a “Problem” with the video taping of the Council Meeting. The first 45 minutes of the meeting has no audio and the majority of the speakers cannot be heard during oral communications. The city has not taken written minutes of our council meetings for years but rather we record the council meetings on live camera and make them available through the city web page.

I have requested that written minutes be taken but was told that that is not going to happen. So, let’s say that you are deaf and cannot hear the meetings, too bad. So let’s say that the audio was magically lost, too bad. I find it ironic that the previous meeting’s video was unable to be posted to the web page for over a week, perhaps that was a strategy for a cooling down period or maybe as a way to keep the press from reviewing the story for accurate reporting.

I have posted many links to the council meetings on social media pages to share them with a public that may not usually pay attention to what is going on. Without the videos available, the people attending the meetings may be the only ones to really get the whole picture. The written word can only go so far, but the video shows so much more. Regardless, I would like the minutes to be written down, which seems to be a popular theme here.  So moving ahead, without my video reference, I will share my memories of the night.

Once again, the Garden Grove Fire Department was there in mass, wearing matching red shirts with their logo. They took up a large portion of the council chambers, again. The first speaker to take the dais regarding the  lack of a written report was Scott Kuhlman, representing the firemen. He spoke of the morale problems within the department and questioned the was obliged by Mayor Broadwater as the Mayor then instructed Matt Fertal to have a written report available before the next council meeting. Fertal seemed to be uncertain if he could have the report available by the next meeting but it appears that he will make an effort.

This is something to think about. Shouldn’t Manageent Partners, Inc. have a ready to print copy of the the investigation in their hands already? I would expect a company to have a pretty hefty file on this, even if Fertal had asked them not to release a written report, considering all of he the research that had supposedly been done. I would think that Fertal could have that report in a Dropbox or other cloud based file the next day, if the report really exists.  I just can’t get past the fact that he had not asked for this report to be in writing. There is something so dark and menacing about that. I have to wonder how many times this has happened before.

I was up to the dais next. I started off recalling the last council meeting and our city being in the news so much more than normal, over the nepotism and the Management Partners, Inc. fiasco. I said that this has been an embarrassment for us that is not going away but rather getting worse. I expressed my utter disbelief that we would spend $24,000 on an important investigation report and to have it written down. I questioned the legitimacy of the report as it was not intended for anyone other than for Fertal. I said that this looks shady, as if they were friends meeting in some dark bar, discussing the report over cocktails. I cannot recall the majority of my statements but I know that I felt good laying into them about this poor excuse for an independent investigation.

Thankfully, I was not the last person to bring it up. There were eight of us. Out of the 175,000 plus residents of Garden Grove, eight of us were upset enough to show up and speak at the council meeting. There were some great moments from each of the eight speakers. Perhaps the heaviest hitter was mayoral candidate, Bao Nguyen. This was the first time that I had heard him speak in such a serious manner. The entire room fell silent when he began speaking. He blasted the mayor for allowing Fertal to attempt to pass off his interpretation of the report. He blasted the mayor for failing to pay attention to the residents of this city for the past 22 years. He went on to state that he had no faith in the mayor any longer and that all hope was with the four council members. Broadwater had no comment.

The last speaker of the night was Rod Powell, who advised Broadwater that Chief Barlag had most likely been pressured into hiring Broadwater’s son. He said that Broadwater was an intimidating person but that he would not be intimidated anymore. Rod, you are not alone, at least there are seven more of us that have your back.

About Josh McIntosh

Our man in Garden Grove.