fire truck

Where has that fire truck been all these years?

By Emilio, on Nov 19, 2011

Published in The Register-Pajaronian

The Register-Pajaronian’s Nov. 12 story regarding the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury’s 2011 final report being online touched on the surface of what actually occurred.

Almost four years ago, on April 20, 2008, the city issued a $225,000 check to Fire Tucks Plus (a fire truck dealer in Rancho Cucamonga) for a fire truck described as in “excellent condition” to our City Council at the time. 

On Nov. 30, 2010, almost three years after the city issued the check, I wrote an email to City Manager Carlos Palacios asking where the truck was located and when we could anticipate delivery. You know, thinking, “Wow, almost three years now and no fire truck?”

On Dec. 1 Chief Bisbee responded with an email. He wrote: “1. Fire Trucks Plus, Rancho Cucamonga. 2. No hard delivery date yet, but refurbishment is well under way.”

I don’t know what compelled me to call Fire Trucks Plus, other than maybe investigative instinct, but whatever the reason, I did. I spoke with owner Paul Batista. I asked Mr. Batista how long before the refurbishments were completed. Mr. Batista said the fire truck was in Pasadena and not at his facility. What? Refurbishments are not “well under way” as Bisbee stated? Nope, but Mr. Batista explained, the Pasadena Fire Department was doing a lot of work to the truck and Watsonville was going to get a great deal.

“Did you cash our $225,000 check?” I asked. Yes, he did, a few weeks after receiving it. “But, how could you sell something you didn’t own?” I asked. Basically, he said, it involved a three-way deal and gave me the cell number to the city of Pasadena Fire Battalion Chief Scott Dandridge for further explanation.


By Emilio, on Jun 30, 2011


Due to the amount of information needed to explain the purchase of the fire truck a series of 3-4 segments will be written. Thank You for your patience.


~Emilio Martinez

The Grand Jury’s Mr. Steve Johnson explained at yesterday’s (Wednesday June 29th) news conference that a news article prompted the Grand Jury to look into the City of Watsonville’s practices. That “article” was probably written by Mr. Steve Bankhead whose op-ed in the Register-Pajaronian questioned the approval by the Planning Commission to allow Jalisco’s restaurant to construct an outside patio where hazardous materials existed. The Planning Commission, which I was a member of at the time, was not advised by staff (John Doughty and Keith Boyle) of the hazardous materials while recommending the approval of the Special Use Permit to Stella Romo.


By Emilio, on Apr 12, 2011


The Sentinel’s April 12th story by Donna Jones about the Watsonville AWOL fire truck is partially factual. She failed to mention one very important thing.  The mileage on the fire truck has attracted an investigation by the Department of Motor Vehicles. According to an April 2008 report provided to the Watsonville City Council, the KME fire truck had 43,527miles which are the exact amount of miles reported by the previous owner, the city of Pasadena, on December 16, 2010 when they traded in the truck. It could be possible that the truck did not move more than a quarter mile for two years and eight months, but on October 29, 2010 a company that serviced the KME fire truck listed the mileage as 46,725. But, DMV documents the City of Watsonville produced indicate that the truck had 45,937 miles when it obtained the title of ownership on December 8, 2010. The DMV may be also looking into other possible impropriates.  

One of those impropriates may include that the dealership may have accepted the city’s check for $225,000 back in April 20, 2008 for the intent and purpose of selling a fire truck that it did not own or have possession of. According to DMV records, the City of Pasadena did not trade in the truck to the dealership until December 16, 2010. Yet, DMV records produced by the City of Watsonville state that we (the city) purchased the truck on December 8, 2010.  You may be confused, as I was, and that may be the possible reason the DMV is conducting an investigation.   


By Emilio, on Apr 8, 2011

 When ex-council member Antonio Rivas screamed at a city council meeting audience to “Shut up, Shut up” I don’t think he knew that maybe his words could soon be Watsonville’s new motto because a pattern is beginning to emerge that anybody who dare question City Manager Carlos Palacios may possibly be targeted with intimidation tactics.

As more information comes in, it seems that ex-council member Bill Neighbors was being pressured not to question fluoridation, the already in progress Atkinson Lane Development by Owen Lawlor, and the Code of Ethics violation investigation of yours truly. And most recently City Manager Palacios voiced his displeasure with Neighbors for sharing their e-mails with me, which are public records. But, it didn’t matter because as you can see I already had made a public records request for the emails to our city clerk the day after Mr. Neighbors resigned because like many of you, I too wondered what role City Manager Palacios had in the matter. I have yet to receive a response to my following e-mail:
From: emilio martinez []
Sent: Wednesday, April 06, 2011 3:58 PM
To: Beatriz Flores (
Subject: Public Records Request

Good Afternoon Beatriz
Please provide copies of all emails between City Manager Carlos Palacios and Mayor Pro-Tem Bill Neighbors from February 20, 2010 through today’s date.
Please advise of the date when these documents can be anticipated.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

By Emilio, on Apr 3, 2011

As some of you know things are getting interesting in City Hall. I missed the city council meeting where some upper echelon members of the staff took to the podium as “private citizens” and blasted me for implying they are lazy, and was called a “malicious bully” by soon to retire Redevelopment Agency Manager Marty Ackerman who got a little over-animated. This was all because I wrote a column (R-P and Sentinel) about how much these members of city management staff earn. I compared their wages to those of the City of Pasadena which unbelievably, position by position, earn not much over what we compensate our city employees. But, instead of taking exception to the fact of how much they earn and that they receive car allowances they resorted to talking about Pasadena. Real soon they will find out why I used the city of Pasadena as an example. Maybe you can tell them. 

As many of you know I am a private investigator and have been an investigator for the majority of my life. It is difficult to turn on, or off, investigative instincts acquired through education, training and experience. As the result many times I find myself between a rock and a hard place which is going to happen more often now because as I become better informed how our city works, the more questions I have. 

REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY FUNDS (you know, the money to be used for redevelopment of blighted areas)  Eleven city employees and other “personnel costs” for Code Enforcement, Planning, and Accounting, are being paid over a Million Dollars from Redevelopment Funds. Marty Ackerman led this team of employees with $107,774 and add another $44,021.00 from another unknown source of funding for a grand total of $151,795.00 for a year’s pay. There are several others in the $100,000 Plus Club. Doug Mattos, a Sr. Administrative Analyst, earns a total of $104,867.00, almost $40,000 of it coming from redevelopment funds. Tamara Vides, another Administrative Analyst, earns $108,948, $54,474 of it from redevelopment funds. Kurt Overmeyer, Redevelopment Economic Manager earns a total of $116,760 with $17,514 coming from “other funds”.

Here is the kicker; have we been paying Jan Davidson as an “Assistant Redevelopment & Housing Director-Temp, Part Time” $57,801 from Redevelopment Funds for this past fiscal year? Is this is the same lady that City Manager Carlos Palacios recently announced that she was coming back on an interim half-time basis? If we have been paying Ms. Davison that amount of money it may be possible that we may have been paying $209,596 a year for 2 people to manage our Redevelopment Agency. So we are paying around 2 million per year to 20 city employees?

Where is our fire truck, I asked. I found that our city wrote a check in the amount of $225,000 back in April 2008 for a ladder truck that we still don’t have possession of. After I asked about the location of the truck, we finally purchased it on December 8th, 2010 and received the title, but not the truck. But why, for over 2 years and 8 months, did $225,000 of our federal tax dollars inexplicably sit in a fire truck dealership’s bank account gaining interest while we were asking both our fire and police departments to take cuts in pay? But, this isn’t the worst of it. After conducting due diligence, I found out that the truck we “purchased” still belonged to the city of Pasadena and not the dealership. This left me little choice but make a public records request from the City Clerk in Pasadena. They provided me a document that was produced to their city council whereupon it was reported that the fire truck, which our city council was led to believe was in “excellent condition” by Fire Chief Mark Bisbee, could not be sold because it did not meet state safety requirements and standards. And, as the result the Pasadena City Council was told that the value of the fire truck was $20,000, if that much, and could only be used as a trade in.

What our city council was led to believe, what we paid for the truck, or that the money sat in a bank account other than our city’s, for almost 3 years, may seem astounding. But what is additionally concerning is that it took me since November 29, 2010 until a few weeks ago to determine the majority of the facts. An elected official should not have to spend 3 months and over one hundred hours of due diligence, and require the use of the Freedom of Information Act because of a simple question; “Where is our money”?   

I have been accused of being a “malicious bully” by RDA Manager Ackerman, and currently being investigated for a Code of Ethics Violation by an Ad-Hoc Committee appointed by Mayor Dodge all because a lobbyist (Elias Alonzo) for a multi-millionaire developer wanting redevelopment agency money with direct connections to our city manager, mayor, and some council members, is demanding that somehow I have to go. What’s next, another smear campaign or as Antonio Rivas demanded a recall?

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