THIS TIME: Who Knows Where You’re Going? Who Knows Where You’ve Been? Well, The Modesto Police Department…And Some Of Its Friends…Do!

For several years now, the MPD has been collecting data on your travels by photographing your license plate and storing the data, first locally then, later, in a central database to which public and private security operations have access.

It is the perhaps unintended consequence of an anti-auto theft program that has created a treasure trove for hackers who could tell where you went and when, but, also, where you liked to shop, worship or get a massage.

The technology used is often called ALPR for Automated License Plate Reader. A camera on a patrol car or affixed to an object such as a light pole, captures the image of a license plate on a stopped or passing vehicle. An algorithm converts the image to a digital input for storage, noting the time date and location of the plate “capture”.

Beginning in 2014, the City of Modesto teamed with Macerich Property Management Co., LLC, operator of the Vintage Faire Mall to install ALPR cameras at the intersections of Dale and Standiford and Sisk and Standiford, two primary feeder streets for the mall. Macerich donated $33,057 towards the purchase of the cameras for one of the intersections and the City paid for the other, plus another eight mobile cameras.

The City currently has 12 mobile units, plus the fixed locations near the mall. The City has put out for bids, cameras to cover all directions at the intersection of McHenry and Briggsmore, probably the busiest intersection in the city.

To try to determine how many “captures” the police make each year, we asked the city to provide us the captures for a random week, last September. If that week was typical, about 11,000,000 captures are made each year from both the fixed and mobile units.

The initial idea behind license plate reading technology was to allow something akin to “real time” knowledge of the whereabouts of stolen vehicles, vehicles involved in situations such as Amber Alerts, and other “wanted” vehicles.

The police would have a “hot list” of plates and officers would be alerted if the ALPR pinged on one of those plates. Nobody thought that was a bad idea.

Concern has been raised about what is called “locational privacy.” That is, do the police get to know where you have stopped for whatever reason. The ALPR vacuums up all license plates, not just the bad guys.

And, the system is such that a hacker with your license plate number could see, by location, everywhere the ALPR spotted your plate for at least one year. In a manual for use of the system, an illustration is shown which points out where a suspect “is known to frequent (home, work, girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s house, etc.)”

Hacking and “leakage” become concerns. No system is hack proof (Target, Equifax et al.) so the trick is to keep the treasure trove as small as practical.

The City of Modesto’s policy calls for retention nfor not less than one year. In contrast, the CHP, where it uses ALPR, is allowed to retain the data for only 60 days.

Leakage could come at the local level if an unauthorized use is made of the system or, now, at a regional level since the MPD has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) to store the ALPR data downloaded by the MPD.

The NCRIC is a regional agency composed primarily of law enforcement agencies around the Bay Area and out into the Valley.

(This agreement does not appear to have been taken up by the City Council.  On behalf of the City it is signed only by Chief Carroll)

Pursuant to this agreement, all agencies participating have 24/7 access to the NCRIC data. A few of the listed agencies appear to be private concerns, such as the Core Madera Mall.

Its involvement brings up an interesting conundrum. The company which makes the system used by the MPD, 3M put out advertising material which said that, in a pilot project, an unnamed mall in Modesto coordinated with the MPD. The mall had ALPR readers on vehicles which cruised the mall parking lot, reading plates and comparing them to its own “hot list”, which included disgruntled employees, suspected shoplifters and VIPs.

The MPD says no such project was undertaken.

A Takeaway: The idea of real time capture of the location of a stolen car, or a wanted suspect, of an abductee is laudable. Some have raised concern about “locational privacy”. This becomes more of a concern when the data is stored for as long time. What do you think?

And, while we are asking questions, let’s find out why the “Things to Remember” section of the ALPR manual starts with “Don’t mention LPR in Police Reports.”







Those signs are up again, you know, the ones which tout Jeff Denham as a “local farmer”. Just another “not quite true” spin used to gain and keep the congressional seat he now occupies? Let’s use our “wayback machine” and see if we can detect a pattern:

It’s 2009, Jeff Denham is a State Senator and has been since 2000, He is eyeing a move up the political ladder. He wants to be Lt. Governor and has amassed quite a war chest. Then, George Radinovich, Congressman for California’s 19th District decides to retire and Jeff refocuses.

There are federal laws which do not allow him to use money raised for state campaigns in a federal run. Why? The rules regarding who can contribute and how much they can contribute differ between state and federal campaigns.

Denham had represented a senate district which sprawled from Monterey into Stanislaus Counties but did not have any real overlap with Radinovich’s district which included several foothill counties and much of the population of Fresno County. So he had little “name recognition”.

A non-profit group called Remembering the Brave decided to host a fund raiser at an Indian Casino in Coarsegold featuring some country western singers. The net proceeds were to go to fund a special license plate to be used by Gold Star families, families who lost loved ones in combat.

The state said they would okay such a special plate if $300,000 was raised to offset the costs. Jeff had an interest in the cause and had enough campaign funds to cover the entire $300,000.

Instead, he made a series of gifts and loans (later forgiven) to the non-profit group totaling $225,000. He became a spokesman for the event, appearing in radio and television ads and on the internet. The ads did not say anything about his run for Congress but he was identified by name, as a veteran and as a State Senator.

The ads preceded the event which was held close to Memorial Day, less than two weeks before the primary election.

The event netted $105,000, far less than would have gone for the cause had Denham simply contributed directly to it.

At about the same time, an Independent Expenditure Only Committee was created. These committees are supposed to be independent of the candidate and can use contributed funds to support or oppose candidates without coordination with the primary campaign.

The organizer of this committee was an official of the tribe which hosted the event in Coarsegold. That tribe and one other Southern California tribe each contributed about $25,000 to this committee. The committee, within a day or two of its organization ran a series of attack ads against Denham’s opponent, Fresno mayor James Patterson.

(That committee spent all but $3,000 of the $50,000 within a few days before the primary. It did not, thereafter, collect any more contributions or spend any more money. The committee was suspended by the FEC early in 2017 for failing to make required reports.)

Jeff went on to win the primary over Patterson, and then the general election in November of 2010. He also prevailed in elections in 2012 against Joe Hernandez, 2014  and 2016 against Michael Eggman in what had become the 10th District through re-districting.

Complaints were made to the Federal Election Commission regarding the use of the state funds, claiming Denham was gaining name recognition as spokesman for the casino event and, with regard to the attack ads, claiming there was coordination with the candidate.

The FEC uses a two-step process. First, the FEC General Counsel prepares a recommendation based on submissions by the parties, primarily letters and other documents. If the Commission finds, based on the recommendation of General Counsel that a full investigation is warranted, then document subpoenas can be issued and depositions taken.

The General Counsel’s report recommended no action be taken with regard to the Independent Expenditure Only Committee but, did recommend a full investigation be undertaken with regard to the use of the state campaign funds.

The second step, the full investigation, proceeds only if the commission votes to do so. At the time, there were three Democrats and three Republicans on the Commission.

The seventh seat was for presidential appointment. President Obama’s nominee had not been confirmed. The six members voted along party lines and without a tie breaking vote, the matter was dismissed.

It was akin to a hung jury, not an acquittal.


We jump forward to 2012 when a fire of undetermined cause and origin  swept through warehouse in Salinas which was the base of operations of Denham Plastics, a limited liability corporation. Denham Plastics has become the main source of Jeff’s wealth and income.

Right after the fire Denham Plastics moves to another commercial property in Salinas which has triple the space of the burned facility, leading to a doubling of the company’s income, according to the trade publication Plastics magazine.

This move triggers the creation of another LLC, MTJ Properties, which then buys the property to which Denham Plastics moved after the fire, and then to the creation of Kanaha Properties LLC which buys the commercial property next door.

It is these two purchase which leads us to question which Jeff didn’t disclose, publicly, the sources of the loans made to buy these properties. It was JPMorgan Chase Bank. MTJ got a loan for $1,820,411 and Kanaha got a loan for $740,000.

Both the booklet which tells representatives how to disclose, and the page on which loan obligations are set forth, say that business loans need not be disclosed unless there is a personal obligation to pay them back.

In the usual course of business, a “personal guarantee” would have been required of the owners of an LLC for loans such as these, where the LLC is recently created and created for the purpose of buying commercial property.

So, if such a personal guarantee was given, the loans should have been disclosed; The MTJ loan on the 2014, 2015 and 2016 disclosures and the Kanaha loan on the 2015 and 2016 disclosures. They do not appear on those documents.

If no personal guarantee was given then the question raised is whether this congressman got loan terms more favorable than available to you and me, which fact should have been disclosed.

Creation of and use of an LLC is a legitimate way of doing business, unless it is done for the purpose of concealing that which should be disclosed.

Would you want to know that your representative was in hock for $2,000,000 to a national bank at the same time he is voting on banking regulations?


The Wayback Machine lands on 2015. California has some pesky laws regarding hours of service and pay per-mile systems which apply to interstate drivers operating in California.  Several large companies take the state to court, claiming federal regulations of trucking pre-empt state laws.

Federal trial and appellate courts disagreed, and the state regulations stand. So, the only solution is federal legislation which would clearly pre-empt state law.

Up steps Jeff with an amendment to a transportation bill. It does not fly then, and when attempts are made in several other instances to pass it. They include one where an attempt is made to attach the amendment to the Federal AVIATION Authority reauthorization package.

Why is this “inside baseball” kind of thing here? Well a moving force to go around the California laws is Walmart. Oh, wait, doesn’t Jeff have some kind of indirect connection to Walmart. Yep. His wife, Sonia, worked for  Earthbound Farms, largest supplier of packaged salad fixings in the west. And Sonia is the national account manager for…you guessed it…Walmart.



Now let’s jump ahead to late October 2016, the last time the 10th District seat was contested. Out comes what looks like a personal letter from Sonia Denham, Jeff’s wife, to her “friends” in which she defends her husband from attacks she thinks are too personal. Good letter. Strong. But, it was virtually identical to two other letters sent at the same time (same date) with similar language, theme, salutation and ending.

The Bee’s Jeff Jardine has outed Jeff on this one, pointing out he cynical nature of the personal letter he prevailed on his wife to sign; how he played himself as a victim.

Now it’s 2018 and out comes the “farmer” signs. And, the claim he has made that he “fought” in Desert Storm and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.

We will not denigrate his service in both campaigns when called up as a Reserve with his unit which maintained air refueling tankers. But, is ”fought” the right word. In Desert Storm he was stationed in Saudi Arabia, not Iraq and in Operation Restore Hope his unit was stationed in Spain, not Somalia, not anywhere near Somalia.

Maybe this “fought” business is a quibble, but “farmer” isn’t close. For many years, Jeff has included a piece of property of about 20 acres near Atwater among his holdings and has disclosed income from that property as rent. In the latest disclosure he categorizes the property as “investment property”.

Not sure what would be appropriate for his signs, that is what would be accurate. “LLC owner”?

The Takeaway: Whether or not you think any of these activities is “sneaky” is entirely up to you and your neighbors. Talk amongst yourselves.





Last time we looked at the total of individual CONTRIBUTIONS to the Democratic Candidates for the 10th District; pointed out who was giving or loaning money to their campaign, the percentage of campaign contributions made up of loans; fund raising for the third quarter of 2017, and for the year to date.

(It was in one section that we made a mathematical error in TJ Cox’s fund raising, which we corrected and for which we apologize, unreservedly. That interim number, the fourth quarter funds raised,  however did not change the totals, the percentage of loans, the relative funds obtained or any other year-to-date figure.)

We got a nudge from someone who said you could not equate money raised with the number of supporters. Maybe, maybe not. But, the relative number of supporters might mean something

So, we have tried to figure out the number of CONTRIBUTORS. Publicly reported figures come from the official filings made to the Federal Elections Commissions. There are two issues regarding the use of those numbers, but the issues apply to all candidates.

First: The FEC data does not require the candidates to include those whose donations do not total less than $200, individually or in the aggregate. Those numbers may be known to the candidates but, cannot be independently verified.

Second: We wanted to find how many individual contributors there might be, so we needed to avoid duplications. That is, several contributions by the same supporter. This did have the effect of making contributions from a husband and wife with the same last name, for example, appear as one supporter. And, contributions from family members with the same last name also appeared as one individual.

In the end, however, all contributions from individuals were totaled and that is why you will see different totals for contributors and contributions.

We also did not include loans to the campaign made by the candidate in the total monies raised.

Really, this view is designed to simply see if there is some relationship, or even if there is a big disconnect, between the overall individual contributions and the number of individual contributors.


But, they are what they are and there are some trends:

Josh Harder led the field, Democratic and Republican, in funds donated by individuals as of the 12-31-17 reporting period. He had raised $935,122 from 581 individuals (distinct last name) and 844 donations.

Jeff Denham, the Republican incumbent, has raised $644,900 from 326 individuals with 594 donations. (Denham leads overall fund raising because he got another $1,162,137 from various committees.)

TJ Cox has received $191,325 in individual donations from 70 contributors (last name distinct) who made 110 contributions.

Virginia Madueno raised $129,325 in total individual contributions (most of that in the fourth quarter of 2017) from 24 individuals who made 26 contributions.

Sue Zwahlen has banked $76,283 in individual contributions by 36 individuals who made 49 contributions.

Dorothy Nygard showed 23 contributors with 69 contributions. A significant number of her contributors made serial contributions but were not family members.

Michael Eggman only recently decided to un-retire as a candidate for the 10th District seat so his 12-31-2017 figures are paltry. Over the entire 2015-2016 campaign he did garner contributions from 764 distinct last name individuals and a little over $1m through the end of the election cycle from individual contributions.

One Takeway: The total individual supporters for Democratic Candidates up to 12-31-2017 is nearly equal to the total Mr. Eggman tallied for the entire period leading up to the 2016 general election.  So, obviously, interest runs high in the race to see who will challenge Mr. Denham.

A Second: Mr. Harder outpaced Mr. Denham in both funds raised and in the number of individual contributors, as of 12-31-2017, and has nearly equaled the total of individual contributors that Mr. Eggman tallied through the end of the 2016 election cycle, even though there are still about eight months left in this two-year election cycle.

A Third: Ms. Madueno came on strong in the last quarter of 2017, raising more money in that period that every other Democratic candidate other than Mr. Harder. Both Mr. Harder and Mr. Cox had a few months jump on Ms. Madueno because of her relatively  late entry into the race.



All the remaining candidates for the 10th Congressional District have now filed their year end (2017) fund raising and spending reports. What follows is taken from the Federal Election Commission database.


While Jeff Denham, the incumbent, leads the field in total money raised, one challenger, Josh Harder, has raised more than Denham in individual contributions. This despite the head start Denham had with money left over from previous campaigns.

Denham reported a total of $1,988,905 raised, with $644,900 in individual contributions. (32 percent of the total)

Harder reported a total of $935,949 with an individual contribution total of $926.949. (99 percent)

The big difference comes from “committee contributions”. Denham has received $1,162,137. Harder has received $1,833.

Harder has a clear lead over the other Democratic challengers, based on the 12-31-2017 year end filing posted Wednesday and yesterday. One other, major difference, is the amount loaned to the candidate’s committee by the candidate. Harder has loaned nothing; for some of the others, loans make up a major portion of their totals.

For example, TJ Cox, second highest money raiser among Democrats, reported total receipts of $408,897 with $207,500 listed as loans made to the committee from himself. That’s 50 percent.

If my math is correct, and no one should assume that to be the case, TJ raised only about $70,000 in the last quarter of 2017 from someone other than himself. (Harder raised about $300,00 during that some period).

Virginia Madueno reported $149,838 for the year with $129,436 from individual contributions (86 percent) and a loan of $10,000. She has raised more than $100,000 in the last quarter, second only to Harder.

Sue Zwahlen reported $207,055 as of 12-31-17 with $76,283 from individual contributions (37 percent), but with loans from the candidate of $130,000 (62 percent)

Dotty Nygard has raised $49,090 as of 12-31-17 with all but $3,000 of that from individual contributors.

And then there was Michael Eggman whose statement of candidacy was filed only Wednesday so he shows nothing new raised.  But he did have about $45,000 left from the $1,639,589 her raised for his second unsuccessful attempt to dethrone Denham.

Obviously, the big bucks committees for the Democrats have not yet weighed in.


This piece was first posted last September.  More people have become interested in the race for the 10th Congressional District seat since then. For some, the background on the incumbent’s finances may not be known and may ultimately influence their participation and or their vote. So, read or re-read!

QUESTION No. 1: Just how wealthy is Mr. Denham? The answer, of course, depends on your perspective. But, by our count, he is worth between $5 million and $15 million. There has to be a range because the federal disclosure forms filed each year do not list specific values but instead give a range of values. Read on and do the math yourself.

Mr. Denham has utilized a specific corporate form for the vast majority of his holdings. He is a member of six Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs). His interest ranges from 50 per cent to 25 percent ownership. We discuss each in the order in which it was created.

DENHAM PLASTICS LLC: The bulk of Mr. Denham’s wealth lies in his 50 percent ownership of this LLC.  It is owned by Mr. Denham and Charles S. Hutchings of San Francisco who is involved in all of the other Denham holdings. The origin of this business is currently described on its website as follows:

“Denham Plastics LLC was established in December 2000 in Salinas, CA. We started out with a 700 sq. ft. building in an industrial park in the center of the packaged salad market. Jeff Denham with an expertise in the produce market partnered with Mike Hutchings an expert in the plastic container industry and formed Denham Plastics LLC.”

The LLC sold and rented plastic containers for agricultural use and recycled these containers.

In his first disclosure as a Congressman for the Calendar Year 2010, he valued Denham Plastics at $1,000,000 to $5,000,000. His earnings from Denham Plastics for 2010 included a salary of $42,154 and “dividends” of $15,000-$50,000.

In July of 2012 a fire of undetermined cause burned down the leased Denham Plastics warehouse at 1037 Abbott Street in Salinas. Most of the inventory was stored outside the building so the company was able to quickly relocate to a much larger facility nearby at 1057 Pellet Ave., Salinas.

The new facility had about triple the space of the burned out one and this allowed the company to double their income, according to a trade publication, Plastics magazine.

This is confirmed by the calendar year 2012 federal disclosure in which Denham Plastics is now shown at a value of $5,000,0000 to $25,000,000. This is the valuation which continues up to and through the most recent federal filing.  Mr. Denham notes the income from this LLC as between $100,000 and $1,000,000, then and now.

MTJ Properties: In early 2013, a new limited liability company was formed with Mr. Denham as a one-third owner. In early 2013, MTJ Properties LLC was registered with the secretary of state and the purchase of the property at 1057 Pellet Ave., leased by Denham Plastics  after the fire was begun.

Escrow closed on June 28, 2013 at which time a note and deed of trust in the amount of $1,312,500 was recorded by the lender JPMorgan Chase Bank. The assessed value of that property at the time of the sale, was $1,820,411.

Mr. Denham, for the 2013 calendar year disclosure, listed his one-third interest in MTJ Properties at $500,000 to $1,000,000. He carries that company at the same value in the latest disclosure.

Kanaha Properties LLC: In late 2013, Mr. Denham and Mr. Hutchins registered Kanaha Properties LLC with the Secretary of State. Mr. Denham discloses a 50 per cent interest in this LLC.

In early 2014, Kanaha purchased a warehouse property next door to 1057 Pellet Ave. for $1,017,500 according to the transfer tax calculation. On February 26, 2014, a note and deed of trust was recorded on that property for $740,000. The lender was JPMorgan Chase Bank.

For 2014, Mr. Denham listed his interest in Kanaha Properties as between $500,000 and $1,000,000 the same figure listed in his most recent disclosure. His income from that property is shown, then and now at $15,000-$50,000.

Cleantec Logistics LLC: This LLC was apparently formed to utilize the newly purchased warehouse at 1073 Pellet purchased by Kanaha. According to its website, Cleantec provides washing and decontamination services to owners of lessees of plastic containers such as those sold by Denham Plastics.

In 2014, Mr. Denham reported the value of his 25 percent interest in  Cleantec as being worth $250,000 to $500,000, the same value as in his current disclosure. Then and now, he shows no income from his interest in Cleantec.

Sphere Material Handling LLC: In July of 2015, Turlock attorney Michael Warda registered this LLC but a required Statement of Interest which discloses the members of the LLC has not been filed. Mr. Warda has been involved in the registration of other LLCs in which Mr. Denham has an interest. Mr. Denham lists a one-third interest in Sphere worth $15,000-$50,000 and no income from that LLC.

Websites which listed addresses for Cleantec and Sphere in Turlock led us to the purchase of a warehouse complex at Sixth and D Streets in Turlock early this year.

680 D STREET, LLC: On January 4th, 2017, Mr. Hutchins registered with the Secretary of State 680 D STREET LLC and on March 9, 2017 a Fresno law firm filed a Statement of Information, as required. That statement showed Mr. Hutchins and Mr. Denham as the only members, without stating a percentage share.

The business address was listed at 2730 Franklin St., #3, San Francisco, CA which is Mr. Hutchins personal address, even though, by that time, 680 D STREET LLC had purchased a warehouse complex at 600-680 D Street in Turlock. Denham Plastics had obtained a business license for that address by March 2, 2017.

Based on a transfer tax calculation, the property was purchased for $2,123,000. A deed of trust dated February 21, 2017, evidence a loan from Pinacle Bank of Salinas in the sum of $1,4255,000 to 680 D STREET, executed by Mr. Hutchins and Mr. Denham as “members” of the LLC.

This holding will not have to be disclosed on the federal form until after the primarily next June.

WORLD WATERS HOLDING LLC: This seems an almost whimsical investment in the company which makes Watermelon Water, a beverage. Others investing and/or promoting Watermelon Water include Beyonce. It becomes more practical when you learn Mr. Denham’s wife, Sonia, is Director of National Accounts for the product, according to Linked-In

Watermelon Water is made from the pressings of watermelons so “ugly” they would not be effectively sold in retail outlets. The product is self-nicknamed “liquid love.”

RECAPPING: The Denham Plastics value is listed as the total value so his 50 percent interest would be, therefore, $2,500,000 to $12,500,000. All of the other LLC values are of his interest but it is not clear whether or not the values reflect the liabilities to the lenders. This gives us this approximation of $5,000,000 to $15,000,000 assuming the values are net not gross.

Mr. Denham has other investments. He has $150,000 to $350,000 in a retirement account, for example. He also has three real estate holdings: The Longview Ave. farm in Atwater; his personal residence in Turlock and a residential property in Washington, DC, which had been listed as a rental but in the latest disclosure is listed and a second residence. All three are mortgaged, two by Valley First Credit Union and the DC residence by JPMorgan Chase Bank.

DISCLOSURE OF LOANS TO THE LLC: The instructions regarding the listing of liabilities both in a manual for members of Congress and on the top of the disclosure form page which contains liability listings says members are not required to disclose “liabilities of a business in which you own an interest (unless you are personally liable)”.

So, unless he had personal liability for the JPMorgan Chase loans to MTJ Properties and/or Kanaha Properties, he was not required to disclose this $2 million relationship.

Many times, lenders require members of an LLC to sign what are called “personal guarantees”. This side agreement, not usually recorded, allows the lender to look to the personal assets of the members in the event of a default, eliminating the shield of the LLC structure.

The loans to MTJ and Kanaha were made soon after the creation of the LLC and the LLCs did not have any assets beyond the properties which were going to be the objects of the loan.

Whether or not personal guarantees were made is a question left to Mr. Denham to answer.

SOURCES: The information herein comes from the federal filings of Mr. Denham available online from the Clerk of the House of Representatives and can be searched by member and year; the records of the Assessor’s and Recorder’s offices of Monterey and Stanislaus Counties, some of which can be obtained online or through a visit to that office; the California Secretary of State’s Business Search page; websites for the LLCs and the City of Turlock’s business license online search tool.




THIS TIME: That Nagging Question About TJ Cox’s Integrity: Has It Been Answered by An Arbitrator’s Finding That He Lied Under Oath?

First, was there a “spin”?  Did Mr. Cox try to lead us to believe it was his money when he said, on his website, that he invested $65 million in businesses? That amount was steered by Mr. Cox to developers, earning for himself, a small percentage. The $65 million was never his money.

Then, did he “fib”? Did he tell a LA Times reporter that he had registered to vote in the district and was going to move his family into the “home” he listed as his residence in the district? That’s what she wrote.  But, the listed “home” is a one-bedroom apartment, way too small for his family.

Finally, was there was a “lie”? We have come across court documents about an arbitration in which Mr. Cox testified under oath. In his written decision, the retired judge who acted as arbitrator did not mince words.

He said Mr. Cox testified “untruthfully”, and “falsely” about material facts.

The background, as retired Superior Court Judge Warren Conkin saw it: A Limited Partnership controlled by Mr. Cox sold storage units to another unrelated company. The units had been constructed by a corporation also controlled by Mr. Cox.

Roof leaks in some of the units were apparently caused by the installation of pre-fabricated structural steel columns or posts which were too long, as ordered.

At page 4, paragraph 29 Judge Conkin finds: “T.J. Cox testified untruthfully that he observed Tony’s Construction cutting the front columns down by 1-1 ½ ‘. The later evidence provided by both Claimant’s and Respondent’s experts established that the posts were not cut, and were installed as delivered.” (emphasis added)

The buyers claimed that the seller had given a warranty and the argument against that was that Mr. Cox did not have knowledge of the defect.

Judge Conkin dealt with that by saying that Mr. Cox “falsely testified” about the post installation and goes on to say at page 6, paragraph 42: “Finding the need to so testify raises a reasonable inference that Cox knew the posts were improperly installed…” (emphasis added)

In other words, Mr. Cox testified to having seen something which had not happened.

The arbitration award of $1,338,953.52 was confirmed as a Final Judgment in that amount On October 1, 2012.

But, the drama continued as the buyer tried to have Mr. Cox give a statement under oath about assets of his companies. After Mr. Cox failed to attend a session, one judge found his absence to be cause for issuance of a bench warrant.

He set bail at $1.3million.

Mr. Cox appeared for questioning and the warrant was recalled. The buyer then obtained a writ of execution and levied on property in Fresno. The court file does not reflect whether or not the judgment was satisfied.

The words used by Judge Conkin in his decision were unusually harsh. Sometimes an arbitrator will say something like “I find X’s testimony more credible than Y’s”; or that “X was mistaken”. He was unequivocal about Mr. Cox’s testimony.

Judge Conkin is no lightweight.  A Boalt Hall graduate, he retired from the Superior Court in San Luis Obispo County and since 1996 has served as an independent neutral. About a third of his cases are construction contract, or construction defect actions.

TAKEAWAY: Why are we talking about this now? All the information in this piece comes from records which are available to anyone willing to dig for them, friend or foe. Are the issues raised best dealt with before the endorsements, or the primary, or after?


(Sources include: Fresno County Superior Court Case Nos. 12CECG-1119 and 09CECG02451; the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Arbitration Tribunal File Number 72110Y0014810LGB (Award dated 2-29-12) and LA Times of July 5, 2017, story by Sarah D. Wire)




THIS TIME: The Chase Is On–A Study of High Speed Pursuits.

The two largest law enforcement agencies in Stanislaus County allow their officers to chase just about anyone for just about anything.

So, they do.

Sometimes they chase real bad guys. Other times it’s for trivial vehicle code violation–fix-it ticket kinds of things– at speeds of 100 mph in both instances.

We have obtained four and a half years of reports by the Stanislaus Sheriff’s Office and the Modesto Police Department, reports the agencies are required by law to file with CHP Headquarters within 30 days of any pursuit. The reports are cryptic but do contain information about the speed and duration of the pursuits as well as the offense which prompted the attempted traffic stop.

Our study focused on the full calendar years 2014, 2015 and 2016. It includes 272 chases by sheriff’s deputies and police officers. We consider the sample to be a minimum. Nobody makes up chases that don’t occur so, if anything, they are under-reported.

We found one instance which we think allows for the conclusion that the reports are reasonably accurate. Only the officer initiating the chase is supposed to prepare a report, but on one occasion two officers prepared separate reports. One officer said the top speed was 90 mph while the other one said 85. Close enough, we thought.

To give you an idea of the “pace” of some of the pursuits, we looked at the combined chases of the two departments: Of 272 pursuits, 103 were at speeds of 70 mph or more; 80 at 80 mph plus; 66 at 90 or more and 22 at 100 or higher. (More details will be provided later in the piece).

In about 25 percent of the pursuits there were collisions resulting in 23 injuries to either the pursuing officer, the driver of the pursued vehicle, a passenger in that car, or to a bystander. This ratio of pursuits to collisions is exactly in-line with the statewide average for all California law enforcement agencies for 2016, according to the CHP’s annual report to the Legislature. (May 2017).

There were no deaths as a direct result of chases during the study. Three teenagers died when their stolen car crashed into tree in 2014, but that occurred after the officer had terminated his pursuit. It is injuries (and deaths) to bystanders that is prompting a re-examination of pursuit policies by many law enforcement agencies.

Some agencies have markedly worse results than we have had locally. The Los Angeles PD has one bystander injured for every 10 cases. The LA Civil Grand Jury is calling for change. While our local experience has not been that bad, it may be a question of luck.

Both local agencies have essentially identical written pursuit policies. Not surprising since they subscribe to the same company who provides “templates” which comply with California law and are the basis of the policies. There are minor differences but the part of the policy which governs when you are allowed to pursue is the same.

The policies are considered “permissive” because they provide: “Deputies (Officers) are authorized to initiate a pursuit when it is reasonable to believe that a suspect is attempting to evade arrest or detention by fleeing in a vehicle.” The word “detention” encompasses traffic stops for vehicle code violations, ranging from reckless driving to equipment violations which would normally result in a “fix-it” ticket.

In considering when to start a chase, or when to terminate that pursuit, the policies provide a check list of 12 points, primary of which is a balance between the “known or suspected crime and its relationship to community safety.” Some agencies have addressed this problem with “bright line” restrictions on who can be chased. For example, some agencies allow pursuits only of persons suspected of violent crimes.

The San Jose PD has an interesting rule: For vehicle code or other minor violations, the officer can put on the red light and sound the siren and continue to follow the car if it does not stop. But if that vehicle starts to drive dangerously, the pursuit must be stopped

That policy, if in play in Stanislaus County in 2014, 2015 and 2016, would have significantly reduced the number of chases, collisions and injuries resulting from pursuits by the two agencies.

Both local departments recognize the risks inherent in high-speed pursuits and say so in their policies. The policies also say that no officer will be criticized or punished for not engaging in a pursuit, or in terminating a chase.

Is the reverse true? The Modesto PD says all pursuit reports are reviewed to determine if they were “within policy”. If not, the individual officers are counseled, receive additional training or have “letters of discussion” placed in their personnel file. The Sheriff’s Office has a similar review policy. Neither department is willing to talk about specific cases and specific discipline because it would involve an officer’s personnel file.

The problem with supervisorial review of a discretionary decision may be that no one wants to be a “Monday morning quarterback” so questionable decisions are unpunished. If there is a bright line, like no chasing for minor traffic violations, it would be much easier to review and react.

In every high-speed pursuit there are at least two vehicles going over the speed limit. Even if the pursuing officer is adequately trained for high speed driving, the driver of the other car may not be. A car going 90 behaves very differently than one going 70. The braking distance changes radically and losing control comes easier.

And, there is an ongoing transition to SUVs from sedans as patrol vehicles. Those SUVs, with a higher center of gravity are more difficult to control. A possible example occurred in May of this year when a Sheriff’s SUV went out of control in a curve of Crows Landing Road causing the deaths of the deputy who was driving and his community service officer passenger. That incident was not a chase but simply a Code Three response, a type of high speed driving which we may touch on in future.

Part of the potential problem arises in the disconnect between policy and practice. It would seem like a clear violation of policy to have an officer chase someone for 19 miles at speeds reaching 100 mph for a Municipal Code violation (parking in an alley) but that happened on January 1 of this year. And, the policy limits the number of pursuing officers to 4 but a video of a chase in May showed 14 marked and unmarked units following a carjacker. Here are some specific stats:

MODESTO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Of 166 chases during the calendar years 2014, 2015 and 2016, 32 percent reached speeds of 70 mph or higher; 26 percent hit 80 or higher; 13 percent topped 90 mph and 6 percent reached 100 mph. Of the 22 pursuits over 90 mph, only eight were for felonies and 14 for misdemeanors or traffic infractions. Collisions occurred in 23 percent of chases and injuries occurred in 30 percent of the collisions. The overall rate of all injuries to chases was 7 percent.

STANISLAUS COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: Of 106 pursuits during the calendar years 2014, 2015 and 2016, 47 percent hit speeds of more than 70 mph; 33 percent hit 80; 22 percent were at 90 or higher and 11 percent topped 100. (The higher percentage of speeds over 70 may have been, in part at least, due to the fact that the deputies patrolled on rural, open roadways. There were 29 collisions (27 percent of chases) with 11 injuries (27 percent of collisions ending with injury) and an overall rate of chases to all injuries of about 10 percent.

A TAKEAWAY: To avoid the risks inherent in high speed chases, local departments may want to reduce the number of chases by adopting bright line policies which forbid chases in specific circumstances. Letting someone get away without a front license plate may be a good trade-off for a chase related injury.

SOURCES: We made a Public Records Act request to CHP Headquarters in Sacramento for all pursuit reports for the years 2013, 2014, 2015 and the first half of 2017. We received 527 reports in electronic form. Thereafter we created spread sheets showing details from the reports such as the speeds involved, the offense cited as the reason for the stop, the number of collisions and the number of injuries, among other less relevant facts. We reviewed but did not include the 2013 reports in our study because we felt three full years should give us any pattern. We did the same with the partial year 2017 reports as we did not want to compare and contrast whole years with a partial year.