It’s hard to be an American. Both in civic knowledge and participation, more is demanded of the American citizen than in most democracies, and certainly more than authoritarian governments. There, public acquiescence is either rewarded or enforced; in democracies (the American in particular), next to systematic checks and balances, civic engagement is the only obstacle placed before corruption and oppression. In his travels throughout the United States in the 1880s, distilled in his magisterial, The American Commonwealth, Lord James Bryce outlined this civic burden: “For the functions of the citizen are not, as has hitherto been the case in Europe, confined to the choosing of legislators, who are then left to settle issues of policy and select executive rulers. The American citizen is virtually one of the governors of the republic.”  Bryce, while impressed by Americans’ public virtues, was understandably dubious of our ability to assume the weighty responsibilities of citizenship, describing the American as “a sailor who knows the spars and ropes of the ship and is expert in working her, but is ignorant of geography and navigation.”

Most are no doubt familiar by now of the fiasco that is the City of Bell.  The municipality with a population of 40,000, located about 10 miles south of Los Angeles, was paying its city manager almost $800,000.00, its police chief, around $475,000.00, with most of its City Council pulling down about $100,000.00 each. Investigations by the State Attorney General, and Los Angeles County are underway, but an initial look at the history of the debacle reveals an almost total breakdown in civic engagement in response to an effort to bring more “local control” to the Los Angeles-area city.

It sounded like a perfectly Tocquevillian idea back in 2005.  Then, Bell’s City Council along with the City Manager, Robert Rizzo, placed a measure on the local ballot to change the city’s bylaws – making it a “charter city” rather than “general law”. Effectively, the alteration disconnected the city from that evil bureaucracy that is the State of California, devolving power down back to the city, including the ability to set Council salaries. Former City Councilman, Victor Bello, was convinced to support the ballot by Rizzo, recounting, “The way I understood it, we would have better control of governing ourselves.” Then-mayor, and current City Councilman, George Mirabel, recently added, “It enabled us to create our own vision for the future. That was the way I look at it then and now.” I guess part of that “vision” was Tammany Hall.

The good people of Bell approved the ballot measure overwhelmingly: 336 to 54. That’s not a typo. In a city of 40,000 people less than 1% of the total population charted, or better, “chartered” its ruinous course. Within months of the vote, Council and staff salaries began to balloon. What’s more, it took five years to uncover the cabal, and even then, it occurred when two intrepid Los Angeles Times’ reporters were investigating possible malfeasance in a neighboring city.

Since the LA Times’ story broke in mid-July, apologists have come forward to defend the disengagement of Bell’s citizens.  The Times’ James Rainey (and several others) claimed – rather self-servingly – that it was the emaciation of news staffs over the last decade that allowed Bell’s corruption. In his recent piece Rainey propounded that because of cutbacks in print media, “The result is that officials in places like Bell can blithely go about their business — racking up 12% annual pay raises, keeping a pal on the payroll in a make-work job — without anyone in the news business sniffing around for months, or even years.”

Well-known Time’s columnist Steve Lopez has also jumped into the fray. Leading the “it’s not their fault” chorus, Lopez wrote recently that since Bell is predominantly Hispanic and working-class, “immigrant populations…are too busy working to pay close attention to City Hall, which means they can be easily exploited. Voter turnout is low, in part because many residents are undocumented and even many legal immigrants aren’t yet qualified to vote.”  Added to this has been the reasoning that since these immigrants come from native countries where corruption is accepted, they come to expect at least something similar when they reach American soil.

But with all the excusing, and condemning (rightfully so) of the public officials involved, little blame has been cast on the residents who let this happen. At the same time, the Bell story highlights in dramatic fashion the challenges to devolved local governance. While centralized bureaucracies lack the ability to customize policy to local circumstances, and are by nature unresponsive to regional concerns, the cries by many to “bring government closer to the people”, also demands a concomitant movement of “the people” closer to their government through habits as mundane as reading the local newspaper, attending the local Council Meeting, or running for office. Without these practices “home rule” can easily become rule from somebody’s home, as it appears to have occurred with the aforementioned Mr. Rizzo.

What’s going to happen in Bell? A thoughtful essay by a colleague of mine, Ventura City Manager,  Rick Cole, calls for combining several cities in south Los Angeles County (including Bell), forming larger municipalities. By creating these larger cities out of smaller, corrupt ones, the thinking is that larger populations were bring greater participation and accountability. As Cole sees it, “such a solution would not be a panacea…but the dysfunctional and easily plundered fiefdoms would be swept away. There would be a substantial population of homeowning, taxpaying voters that neither politicians nor the larger media would be able to ignore.”

This is a bold proposal, but not without some precedent – dwindling populations in school districts and towns have forced several consolidations here in California over the years, but rarely, if ever, has such an action been carried out due to civic incompetence.  Without knowing directly, I wonder if there is a “Bell culture”  – beyond its ignominious governance – that would be lost through such a merger.  As hundreds of Bellians have taken to the streets in protest during recent weeks, one wonders if perhaps they are not only be decrying the historic corruption of their local government, but also fighting to save the very existence of their city.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Pete,
    I agree with everything you write here – but for the last two paragraphs. The thrust of your argument points to the need to foster practices that result in abilities to undertake actual local governance, not the appearance of local governance that is sanctioned by less than 1% of the population. The Anti-federalists understood that local rule was not something done by someone else, but a mutual and shared endeavor of attention and commitment. The take-away from this story, it seems to me, is not consolidation, but better instantiation of what local rule would look like. You write, “without these practices ‘home rule’ can easily become rule from somebody’s home,” yet you conclude by endorsing a plan that would appear to aim at just that goal. Before jumping to the conclusion that a more distant and centralized form of government is better (here echoing the Framers, who put into place the scheme that relieved most of us of the need to exercise the muscles of self-governance), we should ask whether a society based on the fundamental idea that governance is done by SOMEONE ELSE (or by remote control) is the best starting place for then setting up forms of local rule. The outcome of Bell’s experiment is not surprising – not because it disproves the idea of local governance, but because it shows today’s “citizens” (more appropriately called “consumers”) to be fundamentally unprepared (and under-trained, as it were), for what such governance would entail. If (following Aristotle) virtue is the result of habit and practice, then we can expect little virtue where there is only lassitude and inexperience. Consolidation won’t provide such opportunities, but give us more of the same.

  2. Further, it goes without saying that any actual instantiation of self-government would start with a very different idea of what constituted public service. Ours is a society that has increasingly defined every job by one desideratum – financial success. This aim has not only crowded out the idea of “res publica” for those in private roles (once understood to be part of every vocation, whether “public” or “private”), but even those officially charged with serving the public. We now have public unions, whose goal is to defend public servants from…themselves? It’s a short step to an overarching ethic in which “public servants” understand their role as effectively self-advancement, including (and not limited to) financial gain. Recent stories about Congresspersons Rangel and Waters only accentuate the problems that we see in public “servants” like those in Bell. I think your analysis treats too much the symptoms, and not enough more fundamental causes and deepest assumptions, of our situation.

  3. The City of Bell and the Beauty of Local Control
    The only people affected by this are the 40,000 citizens of Bell, CA. Additionally, the issue will likely be resolved quickly.

    Compared to the problems of federal control that are decades old and have little chance of being resolved any time soon (ridiculous income tax laws, Social Security, etc) the “problem of local control” looks quite favorable.

  4. I suppose I shall only be echoing Patrick here in stating how distorting this and most accounts of local government and administration are. The narratives are always prefabricated: local officials indulge in graft and corruption until their malfeasance is unveiled, then, a higher echelon of authority promises to step in and, having raised the level of administration to a greater height, corruption ends and transparency and adherence to the law are restored.

    Such a narrative is, again, prefabricated: those who purvey it have images of sinister tribal chiefs lurking in their imaginations, swarthy luxuriant fellows whom only the light of universal administration may vanquish. Why do we persist in damning the city official for snatching after petty pelf, when the higher official mis-allocates billions? The distinction between bad and good government in the modern age does not break down along lines of local self-government and universalized bureaucracy, it breaks down along lines of communities who have endured the hard work of building up traditions (and habits) of self-government and those who have built up traditions of passivity or who have simply not acquired any habitus whatever.

    I appreciate your rounding out the picture, here, with empirical observations (e.g. voter participation), Pete; you at least leave open the door for a prescription other than that mentioned in your closing paragraphs.

    Finally, what would anyone expect but corruption in a city where a sizeable proportion of the population is not only recent-immigrant, but illegal immigrant? Bell has only reaped the kind of citizenry that our immigration policies sowed, it appears.

  5. James Matthew Wilson,

    You should have left out your final paragraph. That, too, is a prefabricated narrative, just like the one you were criticizing above.

  6. I suppose the question would be the adequacy of the narrative to the form of reality. I proposed an alternative distinction to what I see as the mendacious one of local/universal regarding corruption in government. What would be the alternative one to that of considerable immigrant and illegal immigrant populations undermining the public sphere in consequence of their a) inexperience with it, and b)their necessary formation of a shadow-public realm, as has happened in most communities in the South West, where up to 1/3 of the population is off-the-books?

  7. What can be expected when Americans allow themselves to be dominated by a political and economic belief system that puts self-interest before social contract?

  8. There are many reasons for the sorts of problems faced by cities like Bell. I tend to zero in on those related to my one time profession of city management. A major problem is that those in local government tend to belong to professional organizations like the International City/County Management Association, or the American Society for Public Administration. These groups have strict ethical guidelines, notably the ICMA, but they are almost never enforced. The Progressives and Good Government advocates in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries tended to think that public corruption was almost entirely an Irish phenomenon, and that if we could only get highly educated WASPs back into power, especially if they were Progressives, then the evils of corruption could be eliminated forever, and we could run government like a business using Scientific Management methods. They ignored the little problem of Original Sin.

    I have seen a fair amount of corrupt actions by supposedly ethical professional administrators. I once followed a city administrator who had no particular budgeting skills, and the number of bank overdrafts, and other maneuvers were so numerous that skilled auditors were having a hard time auditing the city’s finances. Others slide business under the table to sitting aldermen, and help public boards to break the law by conducting votes to buy property with public money in closed session. Generally, nothing happens. The states attorney may conduct a quick investigation sans grand jury investigation, and then whitewash the actions. But the supposedly self policing professional organizations keep their heads buried in the sand.

    To me it looks as though the appointed and elected officials, led by the former, carefully plotted a course of action to enrich themselves at the public expense by abusing the California equivalent of home rule authority. Abusing the extra powers granted to home rule entities is a sadly frequent method to get around the normal requirements to have public referendums to support the raising of tax rates, or the building of public edifices. Public administration is becoming increasingly populated with those who have an extremely negative view of their citizens and residents. This is not surprising, sadly enough, due to the profession’s roots in the Progressive Movement. In any event, it is extremely corrosive to responsible and active local government citizenship and civic virtue. Those citizens who speak out and take an active role are generally ignored, despised, and if possible, shut up. Here in Illinois the corruption is so pervasive and deep rooted, that it will likely destroy the finances of the state and local governments as thoroughly as it has wiped out the moral and ethical framework necessary to a functional democratic republic. I am hoping to get out of this town and state before the imploding revenues and exploding borrowing result in the inevitable default on their bonds. Things are looking rather bleak for many years due to corruption, and stupidity.

  9. Hard to be a citizen in America? Really? With 30% voter turnout, where does the hard part kick in? Strained credulity?

    I thought Bell, California was a marvelous psychodramatic parable for the age we inhabit like whipped pups. California’s State Government pays its employees in scrip because it’s Proposition Happy Government is bankrupt and in this little town, the cabal of top dogs pays themselves like kings …though kings dressed in sweatshirts and jeans while the poor populace claim themselves to be victims.

    e pluribus unum should be replaced by In Victimhood We Trust.

    Meanwhile, in Iraq, $8 billion bucks vanishes without a trace…..supposedly.

  10. I did my dissertation on local government citizenship. I tracked it from its origins in Ancient Greece through to the current situation in the town where I live. For the latter, I did qualitative interviewing of elected officials, appointed officials, members of the local elites, and some citizen activists. What I found is that there seems to be some people who are always actively involved as citizens. They are active on boards and commissions, sometimes run for office, but generally work less visibly. Some of these are the local bankers and real estate people, who are rent seeking. Others support certain aspects of local government congruent to their personal non-pecuniary interests such as the park districts, and high school interscholastic sports. More people get involved when their own ox is gored, especially if a local “icon” is being endangered by governmental folly. If you really want to stir up a hornet’s nest propose a new fence ordinance. Most people are very busy, and do not get involved in local political matters unless they are threatened by governmental actions.

    It is not a matter of victimhood. Most local governmental activities are relatively routine. The citizenry does not really need to be all that involved so long as little is being done, and it is being done well. I am not that familiar with Bell, California, but from what I can read, it is heavily populated with Mexicans who have a drastically different view of the role of citizens, if they really are citizens of the U.S. at all. Their political culture is different, and is more family focused. The American Progressive political culture is very different from that of much of the citizenry, too. The Progressives view themselves as the epitome of Darwinian Evolution, and need to rule with Scientific Methods over the unenlightened. Any public protests against this are reactionary and need to be ignored and preferably suppressed. The hubris and lack of ethics of many in my profession make me gag. We were better off under Tammany Hall than under Value Free Scientific Public Management.

  11. James Matthew Wilson,

    I agree, some narratives are more adequate than others. The problem is who decides which is best? I certainly think yours is probably apt to some degree, but of course so is Pete Peterson’s. I guess all I was trying to say is all narratives are prefabricated to some degree, and I am not certainly qualified to judge between them. Especially where Bell, California is concerned.

    The only narrative I feel comfortable in offering is this: Man is inherently sinful and self-absorbed. He occasionally rises out of the muck, but more often seems intent on wallowing. Raise the curtain, sit back, and enjoy the show.

  12. For half a millennium, since the Americas first appeared on European maps where previously they’d shown “Beyond Here There Be Dragons”, this has been seen as the Land of Opportunity. The opportunity in question being the opportunity for rugged individuals to plunder the resources of the wilderness for personal gain. Closer to our own time one might remember Horace Greeley’s injunction, “Go west, young man.” In short, the dominant theme has been individuals should vote with their feet, always moving on to stake their next claim. Oh, there are a few counterbalancing myths about small town life where families endure for generations, passing on their land and values from father to son to grandson and so on, but these Norman Rockwell/Hallmark made-for-television movie notions are more nostalgic kitsch than reality for most Americans. Nearly every high school kid not seen as a total loser cannot wait for graduation so they can leave town, explore the world, and move somewhere else to make it big. Is it any wonder, then, that we have such an anemic sense of civic responsibility?

    Anyone who has ever paid attention to local politics can undoubtedly think of examples that show how a tiny fraction of a town’s voters can mobilize to effect or block changes in their town, regardless of the opinion of others. Given the way local property taxes are the major source of K-12 education funding in so many communities I suspect I am not alone when I say I’ve seen small groups of property owners join together to defeat school budgets many times.

    The situation in Bell is no surprise. And efforts to impugn its citizenry as consisting of too many immigrants of dubious status to explain the situation are both distasteful and beside the point. Should anyone care to hunt for statistics about how many citizens show up at public hearings or for town council meetings in towns of similar size across America where there are not the same sort of strongly immigrant demographics I doubt you will see any significant change in overall participation or awareness. And, more to the point, I strongly suspect that the overwhelming majority of the tiny minority of Bell citizens who voted to become a Charter Community and thus set the wheels in motion that resulted in the bloated salaries for the public officials stood to gain (and probably did) from the situation they created.

  13. My favorite story about Tammany Hall comes from a sprightly little auto biography by Harpo Marx. He grew up in the German district of Gotham once known as Yorkville, redoubt of the German Immigrant and redolent of the breweries that used to dot the place. Now it is just part of the Upper East Side. One of the finest little urban parks in America is there, Carl Schurz Park. Carl wern’t Irish. The antique mayor’s mansion that don’t quite pass muster for the current Croesus-like mayor crowns one end of the park and the bumptious East River careens along side. That nincompoop Bantam rooster of public programming Fred Kent of the gew-gaw Trust For Public Spaces likely assigns it a place in its “Hall of Shame” for not having enough things to “do”. Being a lovely space of respite in the urban maze is not enough anymore, one must be “entertained” and rus in urb aint sufficient entertainment. It is a place for strolling, one of our lost arts. Italy manages its way out of the prevailing chaos because of La Passeggiata. I digress.

    Well, on election day, Groucho, Harpo and Chico Marx’s old man, and their grandpappy would watch out the window for a horse and carriage to show up in front of their building to squire them down to the polling place to vote. They would climb aboard and like kings, prance down to the polling place , exercise their citizenship and then be squired back homeward with a cigar and proudly tarry a bit at curbside to finish the cheroot for all to see when dropped off. For a while at least, they was an American Everyman big shot. Then, carriage and snorting, shitting horses gone, they would sit in the parlor and contemplate their democratic responsibilities. Later that day, the carriage would return , pick them up and drop them off again, replete with fragrant cigar. Harpo remembered his grandpapa asserting that this great land of America was so great that they not only asked you to vote once but to do so twice because they wanted your opinion so much. The German principalities were never quite so interested in how the citizen felt.

    Tammany don’t need us so much anymore. Tammany has been cleaned up. 30% voter turnout is enough and there is not even a pretext of democracy because after all, Schedule 1040 and her earnest cadre of enforcers has reduced citizenship to a big bill come due on April 15.

    The disappointment of this day is that the powers that be don’t even need a narrative to back-up their shenanigans. They possess the license of the disaffected, too busy or perhaps too distracted to even enjoy a good fleecing. You want a cigar? Get one yerself but don’t smoke it because you might offend somebody.

  14. Rick Cole’s solution is what Madison called ‘extending the sphere’ in Federalist No. 10. The difference is Cole hopes it will increase civic participation, while Madison correctly saw that it will DISCOURAGE it. Increasing the number of citizens will make it difficult for any particular group to come to the forefront since they will be offset or checked by the others. ‘Extending the sphere’ encourages citizens to remain at home because his voice will not be heard anyway. Madison and the other Federalists saw active citizenship as a source for militancy which is why their goal was to water it down to mere voting on Election Day.

  15. “And efforts to impugn its citizenry as consisting of too many immigrants of dubious status to explain the situation are both distasteful and beside the point. ”

    Why is that distasteful and beside the point? Most of the population aren’t citizens at all, which may have some bearing on the question of the quality of Bell’s citizenry.

  16. Steve,

    He means it is “tasteless” in the way it is “tasteless” to mention that someone is black or Asian, etc. That is, it sends shivers of white guilt down the spine of the spineless.

    The argument, however, introduces a significant question that has grown more salient as the U.S. has declined from an already too Whiggish republic to a mass democracy. Even now, we justify the existence of public schools as a public or common good precisely because we have inherited a conception that citizens need to be educated for liberty and self-government. If such education is not necessary, and anyone who happens along no matter whence or by what dubious path comes ready to exercise civic responsibility, please let us know, so we can stop paying taxes for the schools.

    Further, illegals cannot have serious stakes in the civic sphere (since they cannot normally enter it) and they generally cannot have the kind of private-sphere stakes that are at the root of both ancient and modern conceptions of liberal society: or do they own homes for extended periods, cultivate the value of their property for short term (property value) and long term (passing on to children) benefits? Rather, they live within a penumbra, a shadow society, milk social services to whose public purpose they are indifferent and of which they are most likely ignorant, and a sense of the temporary necessarily informs the features of their every activity.

    One does not need to be opposed to left-wing conceptions of immigration reform to acknowledge that life as an illegal has massive negative individual and social consequences. If it did not, then those who want a path to citizenship in immigration reform would not be so adamant about the idea. Those of us who think the rates of illegal and legal immigration have been subject to malignant neglect, of course, hold such opinions precisely because of a sense of the deleterious effects of reducing a society’s institutions to a mass of individuals and a great, blind managerial state, and because uncontrolled immigration is one of many effective tools post-Kantian liberals have used to dissolve society and bring about such a condition.

    But why do I go on thus? As I began, Chris White’s comment (like his Dickensian name) is a mere caricature of a position. Fretful at the mention of race, he cannot even entertain arguments that account for the obvious and that start with premises to which, presumably, every American is at least nominally receptive (e.g. the social function of education).

  17. Nothing like coming late to the maelstrom…shame on me for missing FPR for a couple days!

    It appears I’ve been misunderstood in communicating the intent of my piece. I am certainly NOT advocating the plan laid out by Rick Cole. I described his piece as “thoughtful” because I believe it is (though I disagree with it), and I know Rick to be a thoughtful person. What I was hoping to communicate through the essay is how the Bell story casts the importance of civic engagement in such stark terms: the lack of it, might (if Cole’s ideas are taken up) condemn the city to “death”.

    Put another way, and to wax Tocquevillian, it seems that in the Bell fiasco we see this law at work: In a democracy we do get the government we deserve, but we will also find it devolved to the proximity where informed, participatory citizenship both demands and supports it.

    Now on to some individual responses:

    @Thomas: I wish you were correct about the localized damage of the Bell breakdown. The fact is that the total estimated value of the pensions due these overpaid employees is somewhere around $30MM. This price tag will not be borne by Bellians, but by all Californians through the State Pension system. It’s one of the interesting sidebars to this story that the disengagement of Bell’s cities will have real financial impacts on all Californians.

    @JWWilson: The “narrative” you accuse me of “purveying” is not the one I’m offering here. The one you describe is the standard smoke-filled room of corrupt local politicos. The twist, it appears to me, in Bell is that the skullduggery was enabled by public vote, which was sold on a premise (local control) that many of us here on FPR would heartily endorse. Your narrative is one of commission – the one I depict here is both one of commission, but, more importantly omission.

    @Jordan: As I cite in the piece, even some of LA’s most liberal columnists have excused the abuses in Bell, by saying that its residents could/should not be expected to fulfill their roles as engaged citizens – yea, even engaged residents – because of where they came from. I dismiss this of course, but I was hoping to raise at least a hint at a bigger question regarding the immigration discussion. More often than not this conversation has been framed in purely economic terms – ie, “they do the work that we’re not willing to”, etc.. What’s missing from this framework is deleterious effect on society from not assuming the civic/political responsibilities of citizenship. Put simply: it’s not just about making money, and “contributing to an economy”; it is about participating and contributing to a civilization.

    @DWSabin: I’m not sure if you’re making my point or not. Suffice it say that there is both a legal and subjective evaluation of “citizenship”. One may be a “citizen” formally, but by not voting or engaging, I think it’s fair to call him a bad one.

    @Steve: Great point about ICMA. I’ve been working with them for a while now, and am actually co-facilitating a training seminar in public engagement at their national conference in October. They’re a great group, and both HQ and local chapters have issued condemnatory statements. Unfortunately, they have no real authority in individual cases like this.

  18. Well, Pete, it is clear several of us misunderstood your closing sentences; my apologies.

    On the other hand, that’s what you get for daring to call someone with whom you disagree “thoughtful.” As a rule, it is best to call such persons “misguided” or “jackass” to help the humble reader along.

  19. Rick Cole’s idea is “thoughtful” in the way that putting Interstate 81 right through the center of the City of Syracuse was “thoughtful.” I can almost hear the thoughts of the managerial class that thunked up the Department of Transportation: “The sensible step to address both the inadequacy and congruity of the nation’s diverse system of highways and byways would be for the next President to place all the highways into receivership, in which they would be managed as a single entity.”

    Home rule does indeed have the ability (if not the tendency) to become rule from a person’s home. However, if the citizenry were to become engaged, it would be much easier to remove the person who ruled from the porch across the street, rather than the palace 50 miles away. First, because I know who the SOB is; Second, because if this were anything of a functioning community, I most likely have more in common with the tyrant on the porch than I do with the tyrant in the palace, thus better enabling me to communicate my concerns. There is also a real question of how much harm the tyrant on the porch can do to me, being tyrant of only these many porches, whereas the tyrant at the palace, has much more wickedness at his disposal.

  20. City of Bell Salaries? How about the purposeful routing of business resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars per year?

    Upon meeting with Captain Becker of the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Department to inquire why the Department has engaged in the illegal routing of business and allowed a single company to monopolize the industry, Captain Becker replied, “It’s easier”; however, allowing an officer to act as judge and jury might be easier, but is certainly not legal either.

    Originally, the Santa Clarita Sheriff attempted to quiet the questions of their conspiracy by claiming to utilize three towing companies; however, upon obtaining internal documentation to substantiate in fact that only one towing company is being used, the Sheriff’s Department had to admit their original mistruth.

    Obviously, there is an underlying reason as to why the Sheriff’s Department continues to favor just one company and is willing to go to extended lengths to hide and justify the fact.

    Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste and City Manager Kenneth R. Pulskamp have declined to discuss the issue; even going so far as scheduling a meeting, only to later cancel.

    The Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Department has engaged in and established a pattern, which has involved the purposeful routing of tow calls to a single local business for more than 20 years.

    This improper relationship between the Towing Company and the Santa Clarita Sheriff is not only illegal, but also encourages corruption and improprieties.

    In a 24 month review, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Department (SCV Sheriff) generated 1095 tow calls; of those one Towing Company received 1091, 99.6% of calls generated, and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Despite several attempts, the SCV Sheriff refuses to open their towing calls to competition; thereby restraining trade, and acting with intent to willfully and illegally allow a single local towing company to monopolize the tow calls generated by the SCV Sheriff.

    It is believed that the SCV Sheriff’s and the Towing Company have engaged in an unlawful conspiracy to eliminate competition in, and ultimately to monopolize, the tow calls of the SCV Sheriff’s and prevent other potential new entrants from competing in that business.

    Due to the SCV Sheriff’s and the Towing Company’s anticompetitive conspiracy and conduct in furtherance of their conspiracy, others in the industry have been directly and significantly injured. The anticompetitive conspiracy and conduct in furtherance of their conspiracy have no legitimate business objective and constitute a per se violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1.

    The SCV Sherriff’s and the Towing Company’s unlawful conspiracy and conduct to foreclose competition, acquire and maintain a monopoly in the tow calls generated by the SCV Sheriff, violates Section 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2.

    The SCV Sheriff and the Towing Company’s unlawful conspiracy and conduct to foreclose competition and acquire and maintain a monopoly in the tow calls generated by the SCV Sheriff violates Section 16720 of the California Cartwright Act.

    The SCV Sheriff and the Towing Company have colluded to acquire and maintain a monopoly in the tow calls generated by the SCV Sheriff, and to foreclose competition from other tow providers, and have engaged in unfair and illegal business practices in violation of Section 17200 of the California Business & Professions Code.

    Show your support in changing the unprofessional practices of the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Department; visit http://www.PetitionOnline.com/scvtow/petition.html To sign our petition!

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