By Tina Richards
The Villa Park City Council took advantage of a light meeting agenda, Oct. 23, to revisit perceived wrongs and give the city manager a questionable assignment that many in the audience and two on the dias believed unnecessary.
Aside from the consent calendar, a variance request postponed to a future meeting, and a report on the planned synchronization of traffic signals on Katella, the main discussion item on the agenda was a suggestion by Councilmembers Bob Collacott and Bill Nelson that the city formally adopt a military unit to demonstrate its support for the nation’s servicemen, women and families. The program was created by the nonprofit America Supporting Americans, and has been taken on by three Orange County cities.
Bill Nelson presented the idea, noting that, if agreed to, the city would work with nonprofits to fundraise, send care packages and correspondence, hold parades and host parties, bring unit members to speak to community groups and aid the families of a deployed unit. Participating municipalities do not generally use city funds or staff resources.
No rest for the weary
City Manager Steve Franks applauded the idea, but cautioned the council that he and city staff already had plenty to do, and could not be the administration point for the program. He also noted that Villa Park’s Marine Thanksgiving, held for the last 16 years for personnel stationed at Camp Pendleton, is already something the city does to support the troops.
The Marine Thanksgiving is co-sponsored by the Rotary and the VP Community Services Foundation, but is coordinated and financially supported by individual residents. “We don’t want to mess with a good thing,” Franks said. “We have limited staff. They’re overworked. Nonprofits should be the ones to embrace another program. The city can bless it, but we can’t use city resources for it.”
“It’s a great idea,” Diana Fascenelli said, “but is this something we should vote on? Shouldn’t we take it to the foundation or to Rotary?”
“We should ask these groups if it’s something they want to take on,” Robbie Pitts added. “We shouldn’t tell them, but ask them.” As the city council liaison to the Villa Park foundation, he volunteered to bring it up with that organization.
Do it, but don’t spend money
Nelson motioned to ask staff to create an implementation plan, and for Steve Franks to talk to the city’s nonprofits. When reminded that Franks had already explained why city staff should not take this on, Nelson clarified that the request be satisfied without using city funds and only limited staff time. “I’m just asking Steve to talk to nonprofits,” he said.
“You’re asking the city to use its resources,” Fascenelli pointed out. “Why spend city funds when we have a liaison willing to do it?”
“Robbie might politicize it,” Vince Rossini offered. “I’m not saying I think he would, but why can’t the city manager make a five-minute phone call?”
“I’m going to vote no,” Fascenelli said, “because we have a foundation that does exactly this.”
“I’m amazed,” Pitts said, with a note of exasperation. “I continue to be amazed. I don’t want to vote on this. I’m going to talk to the foundation anyway.”
Resident Donna Buxton took the mike to suggest that the council leave philanthropy to the foundation.
“If we can't agree on it,” Rossini said, “Let’s not vote.”
Nelson overruled his colleagues, asking that his motion be voted on. It passed, 3 to 1, with Pitts abstaining.
Caustic public comments
The adopt-a-unit discussion was in keeping with the tense atmosphere that had veiled the council chambers since the first public speaker had taken the microphone earlier.
VP resident Jim Reichert used the public comment period to chastise Bob Collacott, running for re-election, for a “hit piece” he sanctioned against Diana Fascenelli, also running. The flier portrayed her as recklessly wasting city money on a lawsuit filed after Collacott backdated his campaign papers to meet the deadline. “This is trash politics,” Reichert said. “You don’t care about the community, it’s all about you. You started off by missing the deadline, and narrowly missed disqualification. Your response is a political hit piece.”
When the discussion returned to the dais, Bill Nelson announced that everything in the flier about Fascenelli was true and that he, in fact, had paid for it, that he did it himself with Collacott’s permission. “The public needs to have this information,” he said.
“Nice way to go out,” Pitts said to Nelson, who is not running for re-election. “It goes against the values of our community.”
Reichert was followed by resident Kathy Moran, who shifted the attention to Fascenelli. Fascenelli had posted on her personal Facebook page that a sheriff came to her door after Collacott’s accusation that she had stolen his campaign signs. “The sheriff's department said that never happened,” Moran challenged. “I’d like an explanation.”
Fascenelli, shaking her head, did not offer one. She does, however, have the case number, 18-039244, on the report written by Deputy Ota after he spoke to her about Collacott’s missing signs. She says she didn’t take the signs, and doesn’t know who did. The incident was still under investigation at the time of the council meeting.
VP Council meeting marked by disconnected deliberations