City hall snowflakes? Hurt by criticism, Elk Grove's outside counsel calls District56 litigation defendant 'nefarious'

More litigation threatened by the city's outside counsel Kronick, Moskovitz | 

A term popularly used by conservatives and liberals who say their opponents are overly sensitive to criticism is snowflakes. The website Urban Dictionary defines a snowflake as someone "who is easily offended or felt they needed a "safe space" away from the harsh realities of the world, but now has morphed into a general putdown for anyone that complains about any subject."

While the Sacramento white-shoe firm of Kronick Moskovitz Tiedemann and Girard didn't use the term in a recently obtained letter, they made it clear their client, the City of Elk Grove, was a snowflake while at the same time investigating a critic of the city. That was the message of KMTG attorney Mona Ebrahimi in a letter to the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

The letter (see below) to the FPPC was in response to a complaint filed against three city employees - engineer Jeff Werner, public works director Robert Murdoch and city staff attorney Jennifer Alves. That complaint alleged the three employees were not acting in the best interests of taxpayers and had violated conflict of interest laws. 

The complaint focused on the city's ongoing litigation against contractors involved in the city-initiated lawsuit regarding the overbudget and late opening Elk Grove aquatics center and District56 community center. Among many people arguing that the concrete construction defects were design flaws by Willdan Group - the city's largest outside contractor and longtime campaign contributor to Elk Grove City Council members - was Big B Construction co-owner Brian Erickson and employee Crystal Cornelison.  

Big B was a subcontractor to Arntz Construction - the primary contractor on the largest public works project in the city's history. The project ran over budget and opening was delayed for one year. 

Ebrahimi's response letter to the FPPC asserted the complaint, which was filed by Mr. David Anderson, was without merit. Along with arguing the three city employees did not violate state laws on conflict of interest, Ebrahimi said Alves, Murdoch had no financial interests related to the project.

Aside from her legal argument, however, Ebrahimi put into question the actions taken by Erickson and Cornelison publicly voicing concern about the city's lawsuit, and its effects on the Big B. 

Expressing her client's views, Ebrahimi wrote Erickson "has negatively commented on the City efforts to resolve the issue by disseminating false and misleading information about the City during its Council[sic] meetings, in public podcasts, in public videos, to various news outlets and community blogs, and through multiple public comments."

In a testament to the effectiveness of the critical public comments made about the city's action in the District56 litigation, the city took the unusual step of issuing a statement in October - something government entities rarely do when involved in litigation - pushing back. In that statement, the city said Big B "has garnered attention and created a story without the benefit of important facts surrounding the lawsuit." 

KMTG makes an oblique legal threat

Ebrahimi also makes an oblique threat to take further legal action implying privileged attorney-client communication from Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Alves was obtained. 

The letter says "The City is unsure how such a document was obtained by Big B or Mr. Anderson, but the City certainly has not waived any privilege as to this confidential communication, and the City intends to take action to seek the return of this and any other such privileged material."

Anderson said he has not been contacted about potential litigation regarding the documents that were acquired through a public document request. Without specifying, Anderson also suggested the documents were from city staff attorney Alves, one of the named city employees in the FPPC complaint.

"The Alves email in which she instructs Mr. Werner to withhold expert reports about the failed design was obtained through a Public Records request. Any suggestion the email was obtained improperly is simply incorrect," Anderson said. "As for being sued for its return, no one from the City or their attorneys, including Kronick and Moskovitz, have contacted me or Crystal [Cornelison] about this. To learn of this threat from another state agency is disturbing and troubling."

In a heading titled "Big B's History of Misinformation and Public Shaming of the City," Ebrahimi expressed the city's anger that Erickson tied political contribution from Willdan Group to city council members and sway the management of the city. Ibrahimi noted Willdan's history of cash contributions to Elk Grove City Council members is within state law. 

Ibrahimi stated that "Willdan does not influence the City's functioning" and that the city "does not have any obligation to make any payment to Big B."   

During 2019, Willdan gave $12,500 to Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly and $7,500 to Elk Grove District 1 City Councilmember Darren Suen. 

Also, Ebrahimi says an investigation was conducted on Cornelison seemingly to impune her actions on behalf of her employer. The letter noted Cornelison has filed a public information request with Elk Grove and "is vocal on social media about her displeasure of the ongoing litigation."

In an attack on the credibility of these critics, Ebrahimi claims Big B maintains offices in Stockton and not Elk Grove. Big B did have an Elk Grove through late last year but was forced to close that outlet and layoff half of its employees as a cost-saving measure as it defends itself against the city. 

Stating the city's views on Anderson, Cornelison, and Big B, Ebrahimi adds, "while the City is familiar with Big B's nefarious tactics, it is an egregious escalation of their meritless campaign for Ms. Cornelison and Mr. Anderson to press the baseless complaints onto the FPPC."

Commenting on the city's communique via the FPPC letter, Cornelison said she will not be bullied and will not back down.

"I am deeply concerned that the city feels it needs to investigate me for making a public comment about a situation that directly affects me. It also troubles me that the city would resort to name-calling and accusations of being a liar," Cornelison said. "I was raised to stand up for myself and what I believe in and I will not let the city Bully me into doing anything otherwise."

Images of private citizen's social media postings criticizing 
Elk Grove included in KMPG letter to FPPC 

Letter to the FPPC from KMTG

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2020. All right reserved.

Post a Comment Default Comments


D.J. Blutarsky said...

This taken from Kronick's web page:

Mona is an AV rated attorney who enjoys practicing municipal law and the opportunity to see her work come to fruition in the communities she represents. As City Attorney to the City of Rio Vista and the Town of Atherton, as well as General Counsel to the Fulton-El Camino Recreation and Park District and Suisun/Solano Water Authority, she provides general counsel services in a broad range of municipal and public law matters. She also serves as the Assistant City Attorney for the City of West Sacramento and the Town of Loomis".

My question is why can't our own City Attorney and his full staff of attorneys handle this case? Why does he have to borrow another attorney who has multiple cities assigned to her? Can't he handle his one city he is assigned to? Ka-ching!

Unknown said...

My question is how do they get away with lying?
These lawyers are not in any hurry to get this case settled . They are making bank so of course they are going to drag it out as long as they can..

Eye on Elk Grove said...

Elk Grove taxpayers are paying $1.9 million dollars a year for the city of Elk Grove's City Attorneys' office (four attorneys and a paralegal). And yet, City Attorney Jon Hobbs continues to farm out lawsuits to his old law firm where he was a partner.

What do these four attorneys do all day long? Play "Words with Friends?"

Smell fishy? Maybe because it is!

Follow Us



Elk Grove News Minute

All previous Elk Grove News Minutes, interviews, and Dan Schmitt's Ya' Gotta be Schmittin' Me podcasts are now available on iTunes

Elk Grove News Podcast