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Transparency and Timing of Adelson's "11th hour" $20,000 Taxpayer Funded Award Questioned

Just days before taking office, and during a fiscal crisis, Council President Fran Adelson was awarded $20,000 of taxpayer money. Where is the transparency Adelson promised?

Calls for Adelson to return the taxpayer's $20,000 and to hold a public city council vote: DA asked to investigate for criminal activity.

It appears City Council President Fran Adelson may be in a better position to pay the 16 percent property tax increase her administration is proposing. That is because despite her attempts to keep the award quiet, it has been revealed that she was quickly and silently awarded $20,000 courtesy of Long Beach taxpayers.

Recently obtained city documents reveal that just a few weeks before Council Member-Elect Adelson was sworn into office the city wrote her a whopping $20,000 taxpayer funded check to settle a frivolous lawsuit she and her husband filed against the city. Adelson's $20,000 tax payer funded award was the result of a lawsuit filed by Adelson and her husband Steven. The lawsuit claimed that while she was on the boardwalk she "fell on sand" and "lacerated" (cut) her knee. It appears her husband wasn't even with her when the injury occurred, but he sued the city as well. 

Since taking office in January, Adelson, Mandell, Torres and Schnirman have been very vocal and critical about many last minute financial decisions that were made in the closing days of 2011. The city was eerily quiet about the matter, until Adelson was forced to respond to a Freedom of Information Request. The Freedom of information Law (FOIL) requires that the city release public documents to someone within 30 days of the request. I filed my FOIL request for the settlement documents on March 1, 2012. The city finally and reluctantly released the documents on the 32nd day, at 5:07pm after a being reminded of the legal time limit. So much for change and transparency!

The $20,000 award to Adelson is $5,000 short of the legal amount needed for public City Council approval. There was no press release, no announcement, no City Council resolution, and ironically no criticism of this particular 11th hour expense during a “fiscal crisis." City Manager Jack Schnirman was quoted in the Long Beach Herald saying, “All last-minute decisions done at the eleventh hour that were unbudgeted are always under review by an incoming administration.”  He was also quoted stating that, “The real question is why were many unbudgeted, unaffordable expenses done during a fiscal crisis, at the eleventh hour, by an administration on its way out the door?” Did Mr. Schnirman, Adelson and the members of the City Council overlook this particular 11th hour unbudgeted expense? They obviously did, but the question is why? Especially when one of the central themes of their campaign was “transparency”! 

The new administration has scrutinized and criticized nearly every single financial decision made by former City Manager Charles Theofan. In fact, many of the expenses he approved in November through December were rescinded and/or reversed. In fact, some decisions he made in August were reversed . Schnirman, Adelson, Mandel, and Torres have publicly called Theofan's fiscal decisions reckless, and in some cases called for criminal investigations. But for some reason Adelson's 11th hour $20,000 award slipped right through the radar; no comment, no criticism, no reversal despite the fiscal crisis the city was supposedly facing. Why did the new administration approve of Theofan's decision in this matter, but criticize and publicly condemn nearly every other?

Adding insult to injury at the same exact time Adelson was quietly negotiating her own $20,000 taxpayer funded award she was in court trying to get a judge to stop LB Police Commissioner Tom Sofield Sr. from collecting the unused sick, vacation, and compensatory time he had accumulated over a distinguished thirty-five year career. Adelson, Mandel and Torres claimed that because of the financial mismanagement of the prior administration the city was having trouble making payroll, was in a fiscal crisis and thus couldn't afford to pay Sofield his hard earned and contractually owed money. This is typical Adelson: On one hand the fiscal crisis should prevent others from getting paid their hard-earned money but she should get hers right then and there despite the city's fiscal woes. This is nothing short of hypocritical, yet it is typical of this new administration. For the record, the court denied Adelson's request to stop Sofield's payment and the case was thrown out of court promptly.

Just two months ago the city council approved a similar $25,000 settlement with Long Beach Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Stephan Chernawski. The Long Beach PBA, under Chernawski’s leadership, endorsed, donated to, and campaigned extensively for the Adelson, Torres, Mandel and legislative candidate Darlene Tangney. Like Adelson's award, this one did not meet the legal requirement for city council approval.

Despite that, however, President Adelson insisted that  and brought to a public city council vote, specifically for reasons of public transparency. That matter was voted on and approved by the City Council in March. If, for reasons of transparency, Adelson and the rest of the city insisted on a public council vote on Chernawski’s award, why didn’t they feel the need for a public city council vote on Adelson’s personal award of a similar amount? Why publicly vote on Chernawski’s award but not on Adelson’s?

Adelson's $20,000 award and settlement raises a number of serious questions:

  • Is it simply a coincidence that this case was settled after Adelson won the election and just before before she took office? 
  • City Manager Jack Schnirman as well as Fran Adelson, Len Torres, and Scott Mandel reviewed, criticized and reversed many “last minute” or “11th hour decisions” that were made in the last days of the outgoing administration. Why were they so quiet about the settlement of Adelson’s case for $20,000? They obviously reviewed all “11th hour decisions” very closely because many were reversed and/or rescinded; why is it that no one questioned or objected to this particular expense?
  • Did anyone from City Hall contact Adelson in her capacity as councilmember-elect to informally offer her the settlement, or did it go through proper legal channels?
  • Was there any “quid pro quo” in the settlement of this case? Was anyone offering this settlement in an effort to befriend Adelson and possible save themselves from being fired ion January when she "cleaned house"?
  • Did anyone contact Council Members-Elect Torres, Fagen, and/or Mandel about the settlement? Did they approve or disapprove in any way?

It is also my understanding that President Adelson’s husband Steven was also suing the city even though he may not have even been with Ms. Adelson when the accident occurred. Was he awarded any money, and if so, why and how much?  In addition, how much did President Adelson’s attorney, Larry Elovich, receive for representing Adelson?

Time and time again Adelson, Mandel, and Torres have condemned the actions of the prior administration. Yet, for five months, time and time again they have not held themselves to the same standard to which they held the prior administration; that is unacceptable, especially in light of the campaign they ran and the promises they made.

They criticized the prior administration for hiring “friends and family” to City Hall jobs and as a result they made a public pledge they wouldn’t hire any family or friends. Yet, to date,  since Jan. 3 has been a family member, friend and/or political supporter of Adelson, Torres, Mandel, and/or Schnirman. In fact, just last week, Adelson’s best friend, Johanna  Mathieson was hired to head the City’s Youth & Family Services Department. Adelson, Mandel, and Torres also hired former Democrat candidate and political operative Larry Benowitz, who on top of his $30,000 part time salary (with no experience in the job) also collects a Social Security pension. In addition, they hired longtime supporter Mike Cruz to a $30,000 part time job while he is also is collecting a $37,000/year pension from the city!

As candidates, Adelson, Torres, and Mandel criticized the prior administration for their “lack of transparency” and they made a public pledge to be transparent in their actions. They have repeatedly broken this pledge as well, especially by not publicly disclosing and publicly voting on Adelson’s $20,000 award.

Some will say, “Jim, how come you never complained about these things when the Coalition was in power,” like these questions somehow excuse Adelson’s actions. The difference is that as candidates Adelson, Torres, and Mandel made these very specific public pledges regarding transparency and promising not to hire friends and family during their campaign - only to break them time and time again.

In 2001, I sued the city and the Chief of Lifeguards, Steve Kohut, for violating my civil rights when he fired me from my lifeguard job in retaliation for my nearly winning the City cCouncil election that year. Two years later, like Adelson, I settled my case just before I took office in 2004. Here is the difference: I did not take one single penny from the city or anyone else; not in lost wages totaling over $30,000, compensatory damages, nor in punitive damages that were valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I always said, ”I just wanted my lifeguard job back- it was about the principle," and that is all I received in my settlement. I was reappointed to my summer lifeguard job! I felt very strongly that the taxpayers of Long Beach shouldn’t have to pay for the mean spirited, vindictive, unethical, illegal, and politically motivated actions of Steve Kohut and the clubhouse political boss at the time. By the way, Steve Kohut was Adelson, Torres, and Mandel's campaign manager - that itself speaks volumes.

In light of these revelations I am calling on President Adelson to return the money immediately, and bring the matter to a public, transparent City Council vote.

Adelson was quick to support rescinding the promotions and raises of 15 CSEA employees totaling $50,000 that were supposedly promoted in December ( because they were “11th hour” decisions. Because her settlement was also an “11th hour” agreement, she should give the money back and put the matter to a public City Council vote.

Furthermore, she should abstain from any voting on the matter, as a conflict of interest exists. She was quick to take money from the pockets of the 15 hard working CSEA city employees; let’s see if she is willing to hold herself to the same standard.

Furthermore, I am calling on the other members of the City Council to urge Adelson to return the money and to hold a public vote in the spirit of the transparency they promised during the campaign. As a result of a public vote residents will be able to ask the essential questions and get answers regarding the nature and merits of the case and the settlement. Or, the City Council should let the case to go to trial and let an impartial jury decide the merits of the case and what, if any money, Adelson should be awarded.

In addition, I am calling on the Adelson and the council to make public all privileged and non-privileged documents, memorandums, communications and emails relating to the case, including any communications and documents between the corporation counsel’s office and former City Manager Theofan or any city officer regarding every aspect of the case and the settlement.

During the campaign, Adelson had a lot to say about how the city should give out information relevant to the city’s operations and specifically talked about the Freedom of Information. In October, Adelson called for ".” As a candidate she made it clear the she wanted to give the public access to as much information as possible regarding the city’s operations. Here is her chance to put her money where her mouth is.

Furthermore, President Adelson should waive her right to privacy regarding and all related legal documents and release them to the public prior to the meeting. All documents, including the transcript of her hearing appearances, should be made available to the public with the council agenda prior to the council vote so we can have time to review them and prepare appropriate questions.

Finally, I am calling for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice to investigate the entire matter to determine if there was any criminal activity involved.

This is an opportunity for President Adelson and all members of the new City Council and City Manager Jack Schnirman to put their words into action and be truly transparent. If a real fiscal emergency existed and ever expense was scrutinized under a microscope this one should be handled with equal vigor.

Let’s see if Adelson, Mandel, Torres and Schnirman will hold themselves to the same standard to which they have held everyone else.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

larry benowitz May 08, 2012 at 02:05 PM
no, there's plenty of lead in the pencil, but after a decade of trying to have the public hear your calls for fiscal conservative management, you realize the people of this city generally don't care. I wanted to serve this city, I wanted to be in a position to help solve this crisis, I have made tough decisions in the past, job cuts effect peoples lives, but as Miss maginnis said need to be made now. Child and Family services was not challenging my expertise and I decided not to continue in a $20 an hour position, the job was not $30,000 a year
Nathan Jessup May 08, 2012 at 05:01 PM
MS mcginnis you hit it on the head. They represent the whole city and should cut ten percent across the board and let the fallout from the unions be what it will be. Im hoping they do the right thing. Its time for all the unions to step up period or mangement will have to make those ten percent cuts to avoid more taxes.
Jesse Halperin May 08, 2012 at 07:22 PM
The shrew should be ashamed of suing her employer. The citizens of Long Beach put there trust in her and she turned her back on them and screwed them immediately to pad her own pockets. Now, by raising taxes 40%, she's driving down the value of every house by at least $100,000. How many will she, as a real estate broker, buy for investment? We used to call that blockbusting, and it was a staple of the Far Rockaway Democrats forty years ago. This woman is self serving scum that gives our kind a bad name. The first step is accomplished. She has been exposed. The second step is to throw her out on her cheating, lying stealing dishonest rear end. She has no shame.
oceanview May 08, 2012 at 07:25 PM
this was mismanagement period Karen. To blame the unions is ridiculous. overtime should have been curtailed. Overtime was given to the chosen like beach maintenance and hooked up PD detectives. They had 3 city mgrs. No show rec jobs. so those union workers who just did their jobs should now suffer because of political favor jobs and handouts. town needs patrolmen, fire/ems, and sanitation. I would tell my children to do something good in life help people. Not be a sheep in the herd of politics.
Jay Gusler May 08, 2012 at 09:56 PM
@Nathan Jessup. How would laying off 10 UFA (now known as the LBPFA, by the way) constitute "equal distribution" in your mind? The LBPFA are 33 members in total. Do you consider eliminating nearly 1/3 of the job "equitable"? More importantly, how do you suggest that the work performed by those who are laid off gets done? I sincerely hope that none of you that are calling for cuts in the FD have occasion to call on the pared back force that you advocate for. For if you should find yourself in that predicament you will undoubtedly reconsider the wisdom behind cutting the FD. A reduced LBPFA response translates into 10's of thousands of dollars MORE DAMAGE in the event of a fire, or greater tissue death to the brain or heart that is deprived of oxygen while awaiting the response of our volunteers. As you, Nathan Jessup, would yourself say: "It's that simple". Clearly those calling for cuts to the LBPFA are willing to gamble that the 4700+ runs we handle every year won't involve them, their loved ones, or property. But I can assure you that the majority of those runs are from people who also thought they'd never find themselves calling the LBFD for help. If you polled those who have received our services I'm quite certain that, to a man (or woman), they would all disagree with cutting our paid force.
Jay Gusler May 08, 2012 at 10:07 PM
@LB Citizen, Speaking of 'don't be fooled'; you do realize Jenna Goldberg is another Hennessey pseudonym, don't you? He can use all the names he wants, he can attempt to use bad grammar, misspellings, and typos galore to hide his identity. It's to no avail. Jimmy is still scorched over his crew having been ousted from power, and is intent on turning the screws to the new administration. I don't have a problem with this except for the dishonest way he goes about it. His limitless resort to pseudonyms is nothing more than a feeble attempt to make it appear that there is a groundswell of support for his views. As Theofan would have said, "the reality is" just the opposite.
Eddie May 08, 2012 at 11:19 PM
It's incredible that a candidate is elected by the people to represent them while suing those same people who elected her, increasing their tax burden. Then she endorses a 40% tax increase on those who elected her. And even more amazing is that people would elect a such self serving opportunist. Only in Long Beach, my friends. This one needs to be put out in the street.
Eddie May 08, 2012 at 11:26 PM
What a shame that Patch deleted and disabled comments on this article.
Candygram for Mongo May 09, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Where be all da comments?
Sidney May 09, 2012 at 01:18 AM
I agree the money should be returned to Long Beach. Also what kind of investigation was conducted? Were witnesses interviewed? Is there video from security cameras near the accident scene available? Where is the paperwork for the investigation? Why weren' others injured in the same manner?Maybe a general request on the Patch could have citizen watchdogs living near the scene produce video and pictures that might show the real truth! I believe there is a 5 year statue of limitations for purjury, so once a new administration takes over next year a criminal investigation should be commenced.
Fred Barnes May 09, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Decisions, decisions, decisions. Keep passing the buck to taxpayers. Or, stop passing the buck, face the facts -- LB cannot afford the services its paying for. What it is paying for is employee-related costs. The police will say (and have) if you cut us, you must want to be murdered and robbed, the fire will say (and have), if you cut us, you or your loved ones must not want to be saved or must not care about tens of thousands of loss to your property. If that's right, we must need 50-100 more police and fire, so we are even better-protected. Or, guess what, we must not care about murder, robbery, fire, heart-attacks, right? Wrong! i believe we need our own police force, and probably am more on the side of needing our own fire/rescue. not every one in town or this or past administrations would agree with that (in private, anyway), so the quesetion is what can we reasonably afford? same with all the other city departments. we cannot afford what we have now. and the proposed increases - 16% this year do nothing to improve or address city improvements. and benefit increases -- with no employee contribution -- are crushing us.
Jenna Goldberg May 09, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Sorry Jay Gusler I am not Jimmy. I live in the canals go do some research. I blog because i have friends in City Hall and I dont beleive this administration is doing the right thing. Politics all around stink, but I voted for them and I thought there would be change I was wrong.
Karen McInnis May 09, 2012 at 02:15 PM
There is enough blame to go around for everyone. So, if you want to do something good for the families and children in this community now, and for generations to come, encourage your City Council members and City Administration to impose, and city staffers to accept, substantive budget cuts and end the delusion that while the whole world went through a recession starting in 2008, the City Long Beach doesn't have to.
oceanview May 09, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Fred and Karen I do agree with you guys on some points. I think we need much more security and accountability on beach revenue. There are still plenty of non vital jobs in LB that should be cut before emergency services.
Publius May 09, 2012 at 03:37 PM
KM -- perfectly stated.
anna May 09, 2012 at 03:38 PM
"It is also my understanding that President Adelson’s husband Steven was also suing the city even though he may not have even been with Ms. Adelson when the accident occurred" Spouses can sue for loss when services where their spouse is injured, and do not have to be present for the injury to recover. However, falling on sand on the boardwalk should not be compensable. That said, there are numerous raised boards on the boardwalk which have been in that condition long enough to charge the city with notice of them, and which constitute tripping hazards.
Eddie May 09, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Jimmy, she's a Long Beach real estate broker. What do you expect?
Harry p May 10, 2012 at 11:37 AM
I hear Frannie Mae is embarrassed and upset about this blog. Rightfully so she should now do the right thing and return the money. While she encourages layoffs she profited from the city during a fiscal crisis. Corey the attoneeu for the city doesn't sound like he is doing the right thing for the city you have to question his integrity as well. Give back the money!
Jay Gusler May 10, 2012 at 01:46 PM
@ Jenna Goldberg (AKA JH), I guess that settles it? You've proclaimed yourself to be legit, and the rest of us should just consider the things you post valid based upon nothing more that the fact that you say you're real? Tell you what Jim, I'll do one of those lists you're so fond of: 1) A Google search (admittedly not the most scientific method) of your name reveals no results in Long Beach. These days no one can be so 'under the radar' that there name doesn't show up in a Google search. Indeed, the only results for Jenna Goldberg in LB are these very "authentic" Patch postings. 2) There are two Jenna Goldberg's registered here. Me thinks that when one has such a massive cache of pseudonyms, it's easy to lose track. 3) I too work in City Hall and haven't heard any mention of your name. LB is a small town. Folks who espouse their political opinions as freely as you would undoubtedly become known amongst the rest of us political junkies. 4) I've not seen you at a Council meeting. Granted I don't attend them all, but anyone who posts here with the gusto that you do would likely avail them self of the opportunity to voice their opinions directly to their targets. I know I do, and many other here do as well. That's my case for outing Jenna as just another of Jimmy's imaginary friends. The same argument would apply to the dozens of other names he uses. Please people, don't be fooled.
Jay Gusler May 10, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I want to start by saying that I don't have the facts concerning the circumstances that led to Adelson's lawsuit, but I do have extensive knowledge on the frequency with which falls on the boardwalk occur. Unfortunately, there is no data base of such incidents kept, but I would venture to say that the LBFD alone responds to 40-50 falls on the boardwalk a year. It's likely that at least as many occur that are not reported to the LBFD. Using a conservative 75 as the baseline number of incidents, we then turn to how many of them result in litigation. Again, there is a dearth of data to rely on, but when the Council used to have to vote on the settlements, there were usually a half-dozen or so settled every year. Since the "quiet settlement" amount was raised to $25K without Council approval, these measures have disappeared from the Council agenda, but that doesn't mean these suits have gone away. It just means the settlements are not publicized. Adelson's incident occurred before she was a public figure. Suits such as hers are unfortunately all too common. Had she never run for public office, her settlement would have been among the many hundreds that have likewise anonymously, and quietly, led to the resolution of potentially costly litigation. This matter is no different than the 100's of others that have been handled the same way over the years. That she's a political figure entitles her to no lesser rights than we as ordinary citizens benefit from.
Candygram for Mongo May 10, 2012 at 02:09 PM
including fire and police
Jay Gusler May 10, 2012 at 02:17 PM
As to the timing of the settlement, one must press those questions with the prior administration that handled the negotiations. Was there a quid pro quo? I can see where Adelson's political enemies would want to promote that theory, but I lean toward the theory that this was just a routine settlement on a par with many 100's of others that have gone unnoticed over the decades. It further occurs to me that the timing of it may have been influenced by the fact that Adelson was about to become an officer of the City. Wanting to clear up an outstanding legal matter before it increased in complexity (by virtue of Adelson's service with the City) is a legitimate reason for having resolved the matter before she took office. I'm sorry if this attempted explanation doesn't jibe with the Machiavellian plot proffered by Jimmy and his cohorts, but this really is much ado about nothing.
Jay Gusler May 10, 2012 at 02:20 PM
How 'bout it Colonel?
Candygram for Mongo May 10, 2012 at 03:21 PM
If the lawsuits are legit, that's one thing. If 100's (on the "inside"?) have lined up over the decades knowing that they could fabricate a lawsuit and simply sue the city to get an easy $25K payout, that is entirely another.......
Eddie May 10, 2012 at 03:28 PM
I know of at least three others who have filed suit against the city. They are hoping to offset the absurd tax increase with their gains, just like Fran Adelson is doing. Who's the fool?
Candygram for Mongo May 10, 2012 at 03:55 PM
all residents should come together and file a class action lawsuit - $25K a pop
Jay Gusler May 10, 2012 at 04:19 PM
I don't know how many "insiders" have plied the lucrative 'fall-on-the-boardwalk' scam over the years, but I'm venturing not many. Indeed, my experience has shown that 'trip & falls' on our boardwalk make no distinction between Dem or Rep, rich or poor, white or black, connected or . . . unconnected. Look, our boardwalk is in horrendous condition. People bust their a$$es on it all the time. I've been called there for scrapes, I've been called there for broken bones. It's condition is indisputably hazardous. The City should consider putting 'walk at your own risk' signs at every ramp. As far as the legitimacy of the lawsuit, or any lawsuit for that matter, that's for judges and juries to decide, not wannabe political pundits. Of course settling resolves the matter before any determination on the legitimacy of the action is rendered. Settlements happen everyday. Indeed, the vast majority of lawsuits are resolved via settlement. Our courts would be at a standstill otherwise. Moreover those footing the legal bills (in this case the taxpayers of LB) would face crushing legal costs were it not for the settlements arrived at early in the litigation. As long as we live in a world with lawyers lawsuits are going to happen. It is thus an inescapable fact of life that settlements are going to happen. That this one involved a political figure does not change the mundane nature of the transaction.
MikeC. May 11, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Speaking of lurking lawsuits, what ever became of the sunbather who was run down on the beach by the police officer who was allegedly using his cell phone while operating his SUV on the beach?
Nathan Jessup May 12, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Mr.Gusler , nobody is saying that any of the ufa,pba or city workforce dont do a good job but come lets be honest here.The salaries listed above are unsustainable and the payouts are costing the taxpayers 3million more.Its time for all the unions to step to the plate then and take pay cut so we dont have our taxes raised 40 percent over the next 3 years. If the unions give back there is no need for this ridiculous tax hike bottom line. All i keep hearing is pba has binding arbitration,csea has contract and the ufa evryday is attending democratic clubhouse meetings.All unions need to stop playing politics and give back .Again those salaries are unsustainable period and the taxpayers have had enough.High six figures salaries and payouts of over 500000 have to stop.
Nathan Jessup May 12, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Mr.Gusler are you kidding me ,the council president took money on the downlow for tripping on sand in long beach at the same time shes proposing to layoff workers including your department ,tax increase of 40 percent over three years and your defending this,72 hours before she took office,lol. I guess the rumors of ufa and csea attending democratic meetings is a ploy to save your jobs .

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