Category Archives: Notices
The problems in La Habra Heights started with llama poop.
Phil and Aida Lough were so convinced their eco-friendly fertilizer — Llama Brew — was their ticket to success that they tried to entice investors on ABC’s reality show, “The Shark Tank.”
FOR THE RECORD:
La Habra Heights: An article in the Feb. 2 California section about ongoing disputes between residents and the city of La Habra Heights said that George Edwards has gotten into physical fights with residents at council meetings. Altercations involving Edwards have occurred at a public vote-counting at City Hall and at a meeting of the La Habra Heights Improvement Assn. —
The case set off years of controversy that officials say has nearly paralyzed the small town’s government.
The Loughs and a handful of local gadflies with their own agendas have filed thousands of public records requests, so many that the city had to hire additional staff to fulfill them.
City Hall limited its public hours in January because the nine full-time employees were overwhelmed by daily visits from the group. The city’s finance manager quit, saying she couldn’t take the stress. The city attorney announced her resignation in December.
City Council meetings devolve into yelling matches and sometimes drag on for hours.
“Everybody take a deep breath in, a deep breath out,” Mayor Roy Francis said as he called a recent meeting to order. “I’m asking the people that speak today to keep it civil, to keep the names out of it.”
During another recent meeting, one man looked at another man and grinned.
“What brings you down?” he asked. “Bad government?”
“No. There’s nothing good on TV.”
All the hubbub is a huge departure for a town known for its quiet locale and sprawling lots.
With a population of about 5,300, the wealthy hillside community on the Los Angeles County and Orange County border prides itself on its avocados and rural nature. Its winding roads have few streetlights and no sidewalks, and its only businesses are a private golf course and a small real estate office. One resident in its only park called it “just a bunch of mansions on a hill.”
Angry about the city’s meddling in his home and business, Lough unsuccessfully ran for City Council in 2011, saying he was fighting to uphold La Habra Heights’ motto of “Rural Living.” A self-described watchdog, he has accused the city of threatening residents, awarding contracts to friends and stifling public comment.
In November, the council limited public speaking time at meetings because the Loughs and two friends, George Edwards and Stephen Blagden — authors of local opinion blogs — spoke so often that annoyed members of the public stopped attending meetings, council members claim. The group responded by coming to a meeting dressed in black to protest the “death of free speech.”
City officials, Lough said in an email, blame him and his wife “for every ill in this city, and also the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, too.”
The Loughs’ latest allegation is that La Habra Heights failed to provide details for hundreds of checks and did not account for at least $500,000. At one meeting, Aida Lough said the money is being funneled into a “secret bank account.”
“This is government gone wild,” said Phil Lough, a former high school economics teacher.
No checks or money were missing, City Manager Shauna Clark said. But an accounting technician — who was later fired — failed to list unused or voided checks in monthly warrant registers, according to city officials and documents.
The city also has created a section on its website called “The FACTS” to publicly dispute claims by the Loughs and a few other residents.
The Loughs, Edwards and Blagden have filed numerous complaints about the city with the district attorney’s office.
The D.A.’s office did recently chastise La Habra Heights’ Planning Commission and City Council for violating the state’s open meeting laws. The council “unlawfully engaged in serial communications” away from public meetings to approve security cameras outside City Hall and the creation of the FACTS site, according to letters from prosecutors.
But the D.A. has taken no action against the city over the missing checks, city officials said. Head Deputy Dist. Atty. Anne Ingalls — deviating from a general policy of keeping complaints and their statuses confidential —said in a letter to city officials that it found no proof of missing checks or a secret bank account.
Aida Lough said in an email that the investigation “was a sham” and that they will take their complaints to state officials.
All the accusations have La Habra Heights’ tiny city staff feeling under siege, Clark said.
The small group of gadflies visits City Hall nearly every day. They bring cameras, snapping pictures and posting them online. Clark said she and other officials can’t even go to the restroom during public meetings without being followed.
And it seems as if the accusations never stop, Clark said. She’s been accused of putting a rat in the Loughs’ mailbox and abusing their children.
Edwards has gotten into physical fights with residents at council meetings and sued the city over its renovation of City Hall. Blagden regularly reports the city to the district attorney.
Then there are the public records requests. From January 2011 through Nov. 30, the city received 2,110 requests. More than half have come from the Loughs, Clark said. The city has spent more than $468,000 in staff time and expenses pulling 26,000 pages of documents, Clark said.
The city’s finance manager, Rochelle Clayton, was one of the handful of employees who spent hours a day retrieving documents from a small metal storage shed behind City Hall. Each request could require a search of hundreds of documents.
Clayton said she worked weekends to try to catch up — but never could. Finally, in October, Clayton said she couldn’t take it anymore. She resigned, claiming “out-and-out harassment” from citizens bent on stopping the city government.
“In my 20 years in government finance and accounting … I’ve never experienced the level of bashing that I’ve received in this city,” she said. “We can’t do our jobs.”
In an effort at transparency, the council voted in 2012 to put city records online and hired a deputy clerk to index and upload documents — but she hasn’t done so yet because 90% of her time is spent filling records requests, officials said.
City Councilman Kyle Miller, a 15-year resident, said that when he was elected last year, he thought he could help end the polarization. Instead, he is accused at nearly every meeting of criminal behavior and backroom deals.
“When you have efforts like this where they’re initiating investigations based on unsubstantiated claims and you pair that with voluminous public records requests … that leads to massive distraction and the inability to function day to day as a city,” he said.
Now, city officials fear the controversy — and the very public bashing — is starting to hamstring their ability to recruit a replacement for Clayton.
The city has spent more than $1,400 to advertise the finance manager position, but numerous applicants have been dissuaded, Clark said, after seeing online comments from city detractors and watching meetings. Because of this, the council in November approved $25,000 to hire a recruiting firm for the position.
The city is even subjected to mocking from a llama.
The Loughs’ Llama Brew business mascot, Eden the Llama, frequently takes to Twitter to show her disdain for La Habra Heights.
“My cat friend is apply’g 4 the Fin. Mgr. job. He can do a great job,” the llama tweeted
EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY FIRE CAPTAIN II Salary: $73,144
The City of La Habra Heights is seeking a full-time fire professional to be an Administrative Fire Captain II.
The Captain II will assist the Chief on all administrative aspects of the department, including recruitment, analysis, special projects and training. This position would be ideal for someone looking to advance in professional fire service by providing the opportunity to work directly with the Fire Chief and exposure to command-level decision-making.
Experience/Education: The ideal candidate will have at least four years of professional Fire Department experience (Captain level preferred), the equivalent to two years of college with major work in fire science, public administration or a closely related field. Experience may be substituted for college coursework. Paramedic certification is a plus. First review of applications and resumes will be July 31, 2015.
Obtain an application at www.Lhhcity.org or at City Hall. Return completed application and resume to humanresources@LHHCity.org or at 1245 N Hacienda Road, La Habra Heights, CA 90631.
All questions should be directed to Gabriella Yap at (562) 694-6302 ext. 233. EOE.
Instead of being held in March as they have been since 1995, they will be consolidated with local school and water board elections and run by Los Angeles County.
The City Council on Thursday on a 5-0 vote approved the second reading of the ordinance making the change.
“It just seemed like in the long term that it is less expensive for us,” said Mayor Michael Higgins. “It also takes some of the burden off of staff.”
City Manager Shauna Clark said the city could save between $20,000 and $40,000 depending on whether La Habra Heights Water District’s board has a contested election.
If it doesn’t, the city would be responsible for all of the cost. Otherwise, the expense will get shared.
La Habra Heights blogger Stephen Blagden criticized the move because it will extend council terms by nine months – from March to December.
“It’s self serving,” Blagden said. “They’re extending it without a vote of the people.
Blagden said he would be OK with the change if the council members promise not to run again.
Higgins said the eight-month extension isn’t that big a deal and has happened before. The council during the mid-1990s moved the election from April of even years to March of odd years, giving council members an 11-month extension.
In fact, Higgins said he’s not that happy about the extension.
“I’m not thrilled about it, being the one who has to sit in the mayor’s chair for an extra eight months,” he said.
This year’s municipal election cost the city nearly $184,000. Two-thirds was the result of having Measure A, the anti-oil initiative, on the ballot. That was another reason to make the change, Higgins said.
“It cost a lot of money and hours in staff time,” he said.
The city was sued a couple of times and had to go through a recount.
LA HABRA HEIGHTS – The City Council Thursday voted 4-1 to begin a process that could end up in the sale of city-owned property to a developer who would put in a neighborhood shopping center.
The council approved an 180-day exclusive negotiating agreement with Prism Realty about the nearly three-acre property at the southwest corner of Hacienda and West roads.
“It’s an empty lot, a non-performing asset,” said Mayor Michael Higgins.
“It could be very good for this community,” Higgins said. “We’re being responsive to the needs of the community. We’re looking at a potential asset that could bring in a little more revenue.”
The city purchased the property in the early 2000s with the thought of building a new fire station, but it never happened.
Several residents opposed the agreement, saying the city’s general plan doesn’t allow commercial projects and such a development would ruin La Habra Heights’ rural character.
Councilman Roy Francis cast the lone no vote.
Source: Whittier Daily News
Name: FREE Household Hazardous Waste Roundup for La Habra Heights
By Daniel Hernandez
La Habra Journal
A new letter from Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe’s office clarifies the funds donated to the La Habra Heights Community Support Foundation for the Jaws of Life gifted to the city.
La Habra Heights Mayor Pro Tem Kyle Miller obtained the letter from the county supervisor’s office to outline the large sum donated by Supervisor Knabe to the foundation, explaining that not all of the money was intended for the Jaws of Life project, which was recently donated to the La Habra Heights Fire Department.
“It’s really a nice accomplishment that the residents of the community came together, over 50 of them, and donated towards the fundraising efforts,” Miller said about the resident’s portion of the donation for the equipment.
According to the new letter, the breakdown of the $28,734.58 donated by Knabe is that $22,000 was for the Jaws of Life fund, while $6,734.58 was sent for the Heights Watch Program, a neighborhood watch organized by the La Habra Heights Community Support Foundation.
City council members voted unanimously at the June council meeting to accept the Jaws of Life donation totaling the amount of $28,712.78, according to City Manager Shauna Clark.
With Knabe’s donation, this means LHH residents contributed approximately $6,712.78.
“If you don’t clarify, it appears like Knabe’s office paid for the entire thing, and we’re sort of hanging on to the resident’s donation, which is entirely untrue,” Miller said. “I’m disappointed that a fundraising effort for our Fire Department, where over 50 residents came together along with Don Knabe’s office, would come into question from a false allegation.”
Members of the community contributed to funding of the equipment through donations and some fundraising through the Foundation’s Address Post Program, Miller explained.
The Address Post Program allows residents to have a clearly marked white plastic post filled with cement installed in front of there house with their address on it.
The idea behind it is to help emergency vehicles clearly see the address and respond quickly in an emergency.
The labor was conducted at no cost by volunteers, and the foundation charged residents $75 to install a post. All proceeds from this fundraiser contributed to the Jaws of Life fund.
Residents who donated larger amounts to the foundation for the Jaws of life fund were recognized at the June city council meeting.
Also, members of the La Habra Heights Fire Department displayed the new equipment at the June council meeting while residents observed.
The Foundation pursued donations for the Jaws of Life after they asked La Habra Heights Fire Chief Doug Graft what he believed was the most needed important improvement for the department.
Earlier this month the La Habra Journal reported that Knabe’s full $28,734.58 donation was intended for the use of the Jaws of Life donation.
This information, taken from a county document marked with a received date of January 30, 2015, was obtained by a Heights resident through a public records request, Miller surmised, and was left at the La Habra Heights city clerk’s counter during the last city council meeting.
According to Miller, the information acquired from that letter was incorrect and confusing, and that it was merely an internal letter from the county supervisor’s office.
The county supervisor’s office made a mistake in not including the specified amounts in what it called its internal memo obtained through a public record’s request according to Angie Valenzuela, deputy of Los Angeles County Supervisor, Fourth District.
Valenzuela also confirmed the breakdown of the amounts outlined on the letter recently obtained by Miller.
“In the future, we will ensure that all funds allocated are clearly specified,” Valenzuela said in an email.
Miller emphasized that no members of the foundation are paid, and at times members of the foundation use their own personal money to support community-related projects.
One of these projects, the Jaws of Life, is now in place with the La Habra Heights Fire Department.
Source: La Habra Journal
Although we adjusted for population in our crime rankings, it is still difficult to compare a small town to a large city. To account for this fact, we separated the safest cities into three categories: towns with populations between 5,000 and 20,000, midsize cities with populations between 20,000 and 50,000, and larger cities with populations greater than 50,000. Here are our findings:
Fire up your cameras & cell phones and show off your community’s patriotic spirit!
Photo concept ideas:
Scenic Shots, Family photos, Showing Your Patriotic Spirit, and Fabulous Food For The Fourth. If it Shouts American Pride capture it and share with your neighbors.
More Idea Samples: Rules:
Must be a resident of La Habra Heights, CA or La Habra, CA.
Must be an original photo.
Photos will be featured on LaHabraHeights.com
Deadline for submissions will be July 10th, 2015
Submit photos via email to: KevinAllen@FirstTeam.com