Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blind Men and Elephants

In the realms of the brain-dead, the half-wit is king!

Manteca’s Police Chief, David Bricker, sent me a letter telling me (again!) that my case is dead and closed - never to be re-opened - don’t contact us again – call an attorney – have a nice life. He was sounding very much like he had been promoted to City Manager, having the authority to direct and speak for all city departments. While suffering through a Pavlovian rush of endocrine secretions (adrenaline, testosterone, etc.), my mind dissected the idiotic letter and its status quo non-solution. Innumerable mental, verbal, and physical responses to the letter spun in a whirlwind (most were illegal, of course.)

(Because I cannot get the thumbnail/expansion thing to work, a transcript of the letter is below.)

Manteca Police Department
1001 W. Center Street, Manteca, CA 95337 (209) 239-8401

December 3, 2008

Mr. Richard Behling
786 Fishback Ln.
Manteca, CA 95337

Dear Mr. Behling,

This letter is to serve as a closing document regarding our investigation into the matters you have brought to the attention of the City of Manteca. Your concerns have been thoroughly investigated by the various City departments having jurisdiction over the issues.

The property you brought to our attention is, in our opinion, a “legal non-conforming” property and the City of Manteca has no intention of changing that designation. Regarding the complaint that the current owner of the property is producing excessive noise, we also find that there is no violation. Regarding the complaint that the owners constructed an alternative power source illegally has been investigated and they are in compliance. Regarding the complaint of abandoned or inoperable vehicles on the property, all the vehicles were found to be functional though not regularly used and parked entirely on private property.

With regard to your currents complaints, we will not conduct any additional investigation regarding this property, nor will we accept any additional complaints from you regarding this property as to its proper use or noise.

As a result of our review of available information, our conclusion is that the City of Manteca needs to take no action regarding this property. This closure applies to all departments within the City of Manteca. There may be other civil remedies available to you. I would recommend that you consult an attorney for advice in this area.


David H. Bricker
Chief of Police

CC: All Departments and Parties Involved

Beginning to calm down, I recalled the ancient fable of several blind men encountering an elephant; whereupon, each man described the animal in wildly different terms based on feeling only one body part, such as trunk, ear, leg, or tail. I realized that Manteca’s current code enforcement minions are blinded by the orthodoxy of the myths surrounding TLC Catering, and their responses have all been to piecemeal the problem - each standalone piece being technically legal - and to ignore “the elephant in the room,” or the totality of the illegal commissary. It occurred to me that I am one step closer to “exhausting my administrative remedies,” a phrase my attorney said is necessary before suing.

You want a Yes? vs Won’t take a No!

Happily, I repaired to the keyboard to create this written response:

December 9, 2008

Mr. David Bricker,
Manteca Chief of Police
1001 West Center Street
Manteca, CA 95337

Re: No more complaints re: 810 Fishback Street

Dear Mr. Bricker,

You have finally convinced me of the City's inability or deliberate refusal to comprehend the terms of "grandfathering" in this case. You quoted the "legal, but non-conforming" clause in the second paragraph of Mr. Cantu's letter of June 29, 1993 - a designation I did not ask you to change. However, my neighbors and all City departments completely ignore the restriction found in the third paragraph, namely, "The use may remain, but may not be expanded or enlarged." It is this illegal business expansion I have referred to repeatedly since last August. All additional equipment and processes after annexation are restricted from "grandfathering" and are subject to a Conditional Use permit (pre-1992) or a Home Occupation permit (1992 ordinance), which the owners never obtained - and, likely, could never qualify.

But, I am a reasonable man and I will acquiesce to your dictum by no longer filing complaints in this matter with the City.

From now on I will only make demands for public records under California's version of the federal government's Freedom of Information Act. Indeed, I have already done that on November 14th when I requested nine specific items from the City Clerk, who is the custodian of the City's public records. While walk-in freezers, additional vehicles, a solar power system, an excessively noisy icemaker, and the comings and goings of commercial suppliers delivering food products to the property at all hours - taken individually - may or may not be illegal, when the dates and circumstances of their acquisition are combined with County Health Department's permit and inspection records, the unassailable conclusion is that my neighbors consciously and deliberately made the decision to illegally "expand AND enlarge" the business use of their property. On November 17th I made a public records request for four specific groups of records from the Director of the Environmental Health Department to augment the records I obtained last August from that agency.

Because you mentioned several investigations in your "closing document," I now make a further public records request (this letter is copied to the City Clerk).

The subjects and scope of the requested files and records are:

810 Fishback Street,
Lynda S Allen and/or Theresa A Brassey (810 Fishback property/business owners), and/or
TLC Catering (business name),
From annexation to present.

This records request covers all City Departments, including City Council and City Attorney, and is for:

All correspondence (in whatever media), all business records, all applications submitted (including drawings or diagrams), all permits issued or denied (reason for denial), waivers issued (such as refuse pickup or liquid waste storage), complaints lodged by or against the property or owners (especially the 1992 complaint), investigations made and enforcement actions taken or denied (reason for denial), and all other relevant documents, relating to the property, its owners, the business use, and their neighbors. Specific communications subject to rapid destruction (internal emails, telephone and voice mail messages, memos, meeting notes, etc.) must be immediately protected in order to be made available.

(Joann, duplicates in this request of the items requested previously will not be necessary.)

Mr. Bricker, I have already taken your suggestion and consulted an attorney on three occasions. I have again visited the Environmental Health Department and will obtain copies of their entire files on the illegal growth of this operation. Following a City Council meeting many months ago, you offered the City's resources to assist in prosecuting this matter. I am now calling that marker due. Please furnish any and all documents relating to the subjects above.

Respectfully submitted by,

Richard W. Behling

cc: Joann Tilton, City Clerk (and please cc: All Departments and Parties Involved, as noted on Mr. Bricker's letter, enclosed.)


(Stay tuned for our next episode, “Fire Drill at the Health Department.”)


American Hero said...

You're killing me! I need more pixels or an electron microscope to read the letter.

noisemaker said...

I apologize for my lack of tech-savvy. A transcript of the letter is now posted.

The Manteca Response said...

OH MY LORD! You have got to be kidding me. This is unreal, but yet I can believe it. Manteca's code enforcement...or, uh, Manteca's non-existent code enforcement really sucks. This is laughable to Laurel and Hardy. At least they made sense out of nothing at all. Sort of reminds me of the 'Soap and Water' episode.