Fullerton laughably calls itself “The Education Community” owing to the multiple colleges in our town, yet the one thing our City excels at is refusing to learn from their mistakes.
We now have concrete proof that the Joe Felz case is a great example of what happens when unethical and corrupt individuals hold sway over our government.
That’s right folks – the wait is over and we finally have the body camera footage from the fateful night when then City Manager Joe Felz ran over a tree and tried to flee the scene on election night 2016.
A standard arrest on DUI and Hit and Run, instead turned into a nearly 5 year cover-up and I can finally prove what I and the Friends for Fullerton’s Future blog have said since day one – this case stinks on ice.
When the police were called about a drunk driver trying to flee the scene of an accident on November 9th, 2016, they should have done what they do a thousand times a year and get MADD awards for and run their tests and arrested the suspect. A simple phone call to the Watch Commander, followed by one to the Police Chief and Mayor to inform them that the suspect and arrestee was the City Manager and that should have been the end of things that night.
In an ethical city that’s what would have happened. In a smart city, the CHP or a neighboring agency would have come in immediately to run the investigation to avoid any conflicts of interest.
Instead the then Police Chief, Danny Hughes, and then Mayor, Jennifer Fitzgerald, lied to the public and engaged in a cover-up for their friend, then City Manager Joe Felz.
We can watch the video and take apart the entire memo that Chief Hughes sent to the City Council the next day – which I published at the time and I’ll post the full, unedited videos in another upload to show that there is manipulation on my part as I’ll leave that to City Hall.
In the memo, Hughes claims that Officers arrived on the scene of a single vehicle accident. This is a lie. They did not. Officer Gibert used what’s known as pit maneuver to push Felz’s car into the curb because he was trying to flee the scene. Officers on scene agree that Felz had engaged in a clear case of Hit and Run.
In the memo Hughes claims the Sergeant on scene administered a Field Sobriety Test and that Felz didn’t meet the threshold for arrest according to said Sergeant.
He omits that Felz sat in the Sergeant’s car for about 45 minutes (while he spoke to Hughes and who knows who else on the phone) BEFORE that test was administered and Officers on the scene, at the time of the Sergeant’s arrival, were saying he was, and I quote, “shitfaced” and “the worst they’ve seen”. He reeked of alcohol.
When Sergeant Corbett finally DID conduct the test he positioned his camera away from the suspect AND positioned his clipboard to block any view in a clear attempt to hide the truth and despite all of this we can STILL hear Felz trip at the start of this walking test AND watch him stumble over his feet at the end of this walking test. Felz likewise didn’t follow instructions on the Romberg Balance Test when he forgot to say stop after 30 seconds and had to be prompted by the Sergeant.
This isn’t shocking, because this Sergeant is on video nearly 45 minutes earlier lamenting that no Field Sobriety Test or Breathalyzer had been done so they didn’t “need to go Deuce”.
Deuce is a slang term here in CA for Driving Under the Influence as that law is Vehicle Code 502.
When Chief Hughes claimed that Felz was given a test, he was technically telling the truth. However, when he stated that Felz didn’t meet the threshold it was a straight up lie and it was an intentional lie because Officer Haidt and Sergeant Corbett are on video before the FST was administered discussion how they could make it go away with Haidt going so far as trying to spin that the City owned tree that Felz ran over was “scheduled for removal”.
But it gets worse. Officer Boline accurately admits that if it were an Officer involved DUI that Officer would be bad for them and he instructs Officer Gibert, who initiated the Pit Maneuver, to push back hard enough to be told no (presumably told not to arrest Felz) so he wouldn’t find himself “in a sling” over it.
Gibert says it’s not his call and that this is for the Chief to decide and that he knows they’re all going to be pulled into the office and told not to talk about it with anybody – thereby proving that these Officers know, for a fact, that there is a culture of corruption and cover-up in Fullerton PD.
While giving this advice to save Gibert’s career, Officer Boline goes so far as to admit that Fullerton Police Department body camera footage “can disappear”, unlike videos recorded by the public.
This too is a stark admission of truth showing yet another example of the corruption of our police department and city hall.
But that admission is actually more troubling in context with other crimes committed by a member of the Fullerton Police Department.
If we skip ahead to 2018 we have evidence of one Officer Jose Paez who used his Body Camera to film up the skirt of a 16 year old student at the school he was assigned to protect.
In the audit and investigation of Paez, which the City tried to hide and bury, we learned that there is no oversight to how Police Body Camera footage is logged and that it is set to auto-delete after a set amount of time depending on the circumstances of the video.
This means that a traffic stop might have a different retention timeline and deletion schedule than an assault or an actual investigation. This seems normal and reasonable until you realize that the Officers who log each file for a specific deletion schedule are also the ones who recorded the files on their own body cameras.
Nobody is Watching the Watchers.
This begs the obvious question of what all did Paez delete? How many other victims did he have? Did he do worse things that we’re not being told about? Does this apply to other officers? Is this a pervasive problem within FPD?
We don’t know because the City has zero interest in honesty or accountability. Not one person from the City Council, Police Department or School Board has honestly addressed this case or these issues.
We can use another case to prove that the Police Department and City Hall haven’t learned their lessons about transparency, ethics or honesty because in September of 2020, if they learned from their mistakes, they would have admitted publicly that a City Council Member, Ahmad Zahra, was arrested on a Domestic Violence charge.
I know some of the statistics of domestic violence and know that arrests skew against men. I also know that domestic issues are messy and complex and often times there isn’t just one aggressor.
But I cannot give Zahra the benefit of the doubt because the Police Department and City Hall went into immediate cover-up mode the same as they did with Joe Felz. The Body Camera footage from the night of Zahra’s arrest is being buried by the same City Council, Police Department and City Attorneys that buried the Felz video and this time the law hasn’t changed to force their hands. Fullerton kept the arrest of an elected official hidden from public view and tried to keep it need to know in the hopes that they could sweep another black eye under the rug.
Then it got out because somebody thought people had a right to know, sent me the information which I was able to corroborate with the courts and I published it while the local papers were too busy running cover for this non-stop culture of corruption we have in Fullerton. It’s hard to get the truth when most of the people who are tasked with asking the questions are instead making excuses for bad behavior and immortal actors.
And here’s the kicker with the Felz video being shared today – the stars basically had to align for this video to even make it to the public.
Had the law not changed when SB1421 required files to be released when Officers lied in their official capacity, sexually assaulted citizens or caused great bodily injury this body camera footage would have been buried forever – like the Zahra domestic violence videos.
I need to pause and point out that most police departments and their unions were against this change and this law known as SB1421 as they’re still fighting it up and down the State of California. To this day Police unions are fighting this as well as similar sunshine laws because apparently our “heroes” behind the Thin Blue Line think it’s a bad idea to let the public know when their own fellow officers sexually assault people and lie to wrongfully arrest people and so on and so forth. For an industry that crows about it always being “just a few bad apples” when something shows up that makes their profession look bad, they sure do fight pretty hard in the courts to hide the worst deeds committed by those very apples wearing tin badges.
The only reason the body camera files related to the Felz DUI are releasable under SB1421 is because a local resident at the time put in a citizen complaint which required an investigation and that investigation proved that Sergeant Corbett falsified his files on the case. That sustained finding of dishonesty is what got the public release ball rolling when 1421 became law in 2019 (a full two years after the incident).
But even after SB1421 become the law of the land the City of Fullerton tried to torture the meaning of the law to not release the files which itself required somebody, in this case me, to sue the City for violation of the California Public Records Act. That lawsuit was initiated back in October of 2019 and cost several thousand dollars to fund.
Now the City has released these files – while still not releasing the vehicle dash camera as required by law – because I told my attorney I wouldn’t allow any more extensions and we’re headed to court in a few weeks.
A State law had to change, one citizen had to initiated a formal investigation under penalty of perjury and another citizen had to spend thousands of dollars to sue the City into telling us the truth.
All of this took two weeks shy of 5 years and an entire changing of the guard. In that time we’ve gone though 4 acting or full time City Managers, 2 Police Chiefs, our entire City Council, save one member, has changed and not a single officer on the scene is still with the Department.
It’s good to know that it takes this much effort and this much time to get to the truth when it’s too late to hold anybody involved accountable.
Frankly nothing will change because a City this immune to honesty, ethics and learning from their mistakes will do what they always do – make empty promises that things are different now and ask we proletarians to trust them because this time they mean it.
Second verse, same as the first.
If this issue is even addressed by Council or the Chief of Police expect them to wax poetic and pull out the tried and true boilerplate hero worship they always use when trying to deflect from the fact that our City and our Police Department protects corrupt officials and hides the deeds of bad cops every chance they get.
Despite being the Education Community, the one thing Fullerton excels at is never learning from it’s mistakes. We should have had honest and thorough oversight after members of the Fullerton Police Department beat Kelly Thomas to death in 2011, costing the City over $5 Million in settlements, but here we are a decade later discussing the ingrained and insulated corruption that we have on video.
Corruption that the citizens have to fight to expose all while City Hall dithers and complains and decides how much of our tax money these heroes who can’t pass an ethics class are entitled to steal from our children. The cops knew what they were doing was wrong and they did it anyways. The Police Chief knew what he was doing was wrong and he did it anyways. The Mayor knew what happened was wrong and she gave it her stamp of approval going so far as to cry for her friend while trying to blame the situation on the blog who told you the truth.
These people, our local government, like all government at every level, always demands more and more and yet we can’t even get the truth from them after taking them to court. We have to twist their arms to tell us what we already know.
And now that you do know, they expect you to not care. They’ll expect you to pick teams and to let the truth die because it suits them to control you, to manipulate you, to lie to you and steal from you. If they can get you to pick sides you’ll let the truth die a lonely death. With each lie they convince you to believe, the next one gets a little easier to swallow.
Wait and see. Watch which members of City Council respond rationally. Watch which ones grandstand. Listen for the idle chatter of disingenuous pageantry. Then come back in a year or five to find the same problems persisting. To find the same corruption manifesting. To find the same cover-ups being exposed by the same or newer malcontents all while the city wishcasts away the truth.
It’s the never ending cycle, the long tangled web, the pointless tug and pull of the honest voice and powerful liar. They say one honest voice is louder than a crowd of liars, but the honest voice will never be heard when the lairs use the power of the law, the size of the State and men with guns and cages to keep honesty silenced.
The worst part of this whole charade is that we didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know, now we just have proof that Fullerton’s leaders have been gaslighting us for years.