Fast Track for Tony Ramos.
Eyewash and Window Dressing for the Public.
Another BK in Tony Ramos' Past...
By now it's common knowledge that the plan hatched last Monday (Nov 21) by at least 3 members of the city council is to "fast track" the appointment of Assistant City Manager Tony Ramos to the soon-vacant position of City Manager. A "Done Deal" the Courier calls it.
Here's what passes for public participation and transparency in Claremont:
November 21: Closed session council meeting to discuss "vacancy"in CM position. Parker and Ramos orchestrate Amen-Chorus of reliable business-types touting Tony Ramos for CM in brief public comment prior to meeting. Those not in the know wondered, "Gee, here we just had a vacancy announced and already we are discussing a specific candidate. That's weird." "Surely this is just a process meeting of some sort."
November 22: Jeff Parker announces The Plan (during city manager's report at regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting):
Over Thanksgiving Holiday: Sam Pedroza and Larry Schroeder are to negotiate a contract with the sole and only candidate for the position: Tony Ramos.
November 28: Closed session council meeting scheduled to review and approve contract negotiated with Tony Ramos
November 29: Draft contract--already approved in closed session by city council--made available for public review with agenda for--
November 30: Special open meeting to publicly approve contract with Tony Ramos. Coronation to follow immediately.
Mayor Pro Tem Larry Schroeder has been known to remark, in the frustratingly interminable Claremont processes that unerringly ensue when dealing with problems of regular citizens that, "Heh, heh, Claremont is not 'slow', it's 'deliberate' Heh, heh." Oh, he just loves that line. Well, deliberation has nothing to do with this procedure.
From what we hear, probably all five council members pre-judged Ramos based on their personal assessment that he is a good guy and a go-fer for Jeff Parker of the first magnitude, and decided that all such extraneous process matters such as a search, candidates, vetting, background check, public participation, etc., could be dispensed with. Sam Pedroza seems to be the head cheerleader for this idea if you read the black letter of the Courier and Bulletin. And then they decided to negotiate with him from the enviable position of strength [sarcasm alert for you Democratic-club types] that he's their sole candidate.
Parker--the man behind the curtain--foresaw the problems that Ramos' BK would pose and helpfully hypnotized the council members that they were prohibited from considering it. Make no mistake; Parker has been working this one hard.
We have always thought that this is less about the fact of personal bankruptcy on Ramos' part, and more about the light that the bankruptcy shines on his judgment. What do we have on that score?
According to today's Daily Bulletin, Ramos' bankruptcy petition in March 2011 was dismissed (that is, he was given no relief from his creditors) because he failed to make certain post petition payments. See the article, here (but it may go behind a paywall soon). We are unclear whether this conclusion is the result of reporting by Wes Woods II, or simply an interpretation of the BK documents posted here or available after registration on www.pacer.gov. But the fact remains that it was dismissed and it appears that Ramos took the mere filing of the BK as a get-out-of-jail-free card with respect to those mortgage payments. His probable thought process: "If I'm going to go bankrupt anyways, it might as well be for a large amount as a small amount."
The Courier--in an excellent pair of articles last Wednesday--actually interviewed someone in the office of the BK Trustee in Orange County. It is clear from the Courier article that we mis-interpreted the wet-stamp on the court order posted last week.
From the above document (click to enlarge, and see in the box, middle of page, right), it appears that Ramos' BK was approved on July 21, 2011, and he actually was scheduled to pay $2125 on Aug 9, Sep 9, and Oct 9. Thus, by the time he had missed THREE monthly payments, on October 12, the Trustee threw in the towel and filed for a dismissal of the current BK. Said motion was later withdrawn, where it stands as this is written.
The Courier notes in it's article that last week, four months after the final court action on Tony Ramos' BK, he was behind more than half the amount due. He had paid $3592 of the $8500 now due the BK trustee, with the balance due by November 30.
We will post the Courier page here until the Courier objects. You should go out and buy the paper, or better yet subscribe to it. If the page is pulled, you should look in the Courier archives on its website. Look for the November 23, 2011 issue. Click image, right, to enlarge.
Pattern and Practice:
Not His First Rodeo
One of the advantages of crowd-sourcing is that there are a lot of minds working on the problem. We got a tip that the current matter is not Tony Ramos' first recourse to bankruptcy. Sure enough, in May of 1986, there was a Tony Ramos in West Covina with the same last four digits of our Tony's SSAN who was discharged under Chapter 7. We are reticent to get cross-wise with the bankruptcy court, so we will redact the SSANs and addresses. However, follow our instructions at the bottom of the prior post, search the LA BK court records for "Ramos", scan the list for "Anthony" and pull up the one-page record. Note the last four of the SSAN there match the last four of the SSAN when you search for the current case in the Central District BK court. That's our Tony.
One curious feature of this 1986 case is that Tony's attorney was Victor Tessier. Who is Victor Tessier? He was at the time a Pomona attorney doing quite well, thank you, and buying up troubled properties. His sons Jerry and Ed are the owners/operators of the Claremont Packing House and Lessees of the Padua Hills Theatre. Both venues are heavily entwined with City of Claremont finances and business perks. Jerry and Ed are involved, through family partnerships, corporations, or interlocking directorships, with the Hip Kitty, for example, which received--surprise--a Community Development Block Grant from the City of Claremont last year. And Tony--this will shock you--is the go-to guy for City economic development.
It's just like one big happy family. None dare call it cronyism. But the whole process involving Tony Ramos carries the odor of cronyism over due process and best practice.
It's our considered opinion that Ramos' is eminently unqualified to manage any city. This has nothing to do with the bankruptcies per se. But the insight the record gives to his breathtaking lack of judgment, as evidenced by his continually getting into the financial quicksand and more notably by his very recent, contemporaneous, and relevant actions in not strictly following the orders of the court--these traits make us think that Tony Ramos is a time-bomb waiting to explode.
We are watching very carefully how our councilmembers carry themselves on this one.