At approximately 5 p.m. today Huntington Beach Mayor Joe Carchio was sighted at the Albertsons super market in the Sea Cliff shopping center at the corner of Yorktown and Main St. near downtown Huntington Beach.
The sighting was made by this reporter while he shopped for Dryer’s ice cream (selling at $6 for two cartons) for my 91-year-old father, who eats lots of rocky road and vanilla ice cream and who is famous among the store’s check-out cashiers for buying more tapioca pudding than anyone.
It’s not unusual to see local celebrities shopping at my favorite Albertsons. Other notables sighted include: former city administrator Paul Cook; former mayor John Erskine; and, former city treasurer, now our county treasurer, Shari Freidenrich.
Curious about an announcement for the free giveaway of one paring knife per customer, provided the would-be recipients arrived “within three minutes in the center of the deli section,” this reporter, who has no desire for another paring knife if he even has one already (I have no idea), walked slowly from the ice cream freezers to the deli section out of curiosity only, wanting to know what kind of people would rush from one side of the store to the other within three minutes to get a free paring knife and what devious corporate scheme was under way.
When I arrived in the deli, long after another shopper, who smiled eagerly as she pushed her partially full shopping cart past me at high speed, I observed a line of about 20 people waiting for their free knives. Standing with them was the mayor.
He was dressed casually and had been browsing the deli without a shopping cart, unaware that I was watching every move he made.
At first, I tried to hide my face, fearing that he might be angry at recent stories I have written about his political performance, stories that—like all of my other (many) stories about the mayor—probably didn’t show his better side, very much.
But far from holding a petty grudge, the mayor was gracious, cheerful and bouncy—like the former restaurant host that he is. With a big smile on his face he shook my hand, nearly jumping for joy, and said, “We’re going to get a free knife,” gesturing to me to join him in line.
I respectfully declined, but did say out loud to the store employee who was handing out the free knives, “How about some free health care for your workers?” Nobody else seemed to listen, but the mayor laughed.
Then I headed for the checkout stand where I told the cashier that I had given up a free knife just to stand in her line. She informed me that the knife giveaway had been going on for several days straight and that it was getting annoying to hear the announcer everyday telling the customers to run to the deli within three minutes to get a free knife.
“I’m about to use one of those knives on that guy if he says that one more time,” she threatened, laughingly.
Then I wondered, did the mayor, who has been spotted by this observant reporter before at the same Albertsons, have heads up about the free knife?
Was he running some sort of racket at my local Albertsons?
Had he been coming into the store for several days in a row, only pretending to shop so that he could pick up a free paring knife each time?
How many paring knives does he have at home, anyway?
Will the mayor report the gift (or gifts) on his 700 form at City Hall?
Rest assured, the Surf City Voice is investigating.
Joe Carchio’s first act as the new mayor of Surf City will be to appoint himself as the city’s representative on the governing boards of four county agencies, giving him a combined salary increase of $15,040, according to a proposal he has submitted to other members of the city council. The increased responsibility and accompanying boost in pay would be a significant although temporary career advancement for Carchio, whose term as the new mayor lasts for one year.
The draft document was leaked to the Surf
City Voice by a source at City Hall.
Combined with his mayor’s annual salary of $22,615, Carchio’s potential earnings would reach $37,665 a year, not including regular city provided benefits which last year ranged from $5,380 to $13,984 per city council member, according to Executive Management Salary Benefits Final August 2010 (2).
Carchio proposes to appoint Councilmember Don Hansen’s protégé, Matt Harper (elected to the council for the first time in November), to SCAG which pays $120 per meeting with a maximum of four meetings per month.
Traditionally the mayor has appointed his/herself to the Sanitation District board. That position pays $170 per meeting with up to six meetings or $1,020 per month. Last year, Mayor Cathy Green appointed herself to the Sanitation District but put other council members on the remaining county agencies that pay their members. Read the full story
Councilmember Joe Carchio will drive his shiny white (and, finally, fully licensed) 2010 Toyota Venza into the Huntington Beach mayor’s official parking space for the next year, thanks to the same council member who had hoped (informed sources say) a few months ago to put him out of office.
Don Hansen was supposed to be mayor, with Carchio following next year, according to Resolution 6320, which says that council members will rotate based by seniority to serve as Mayor and
Mayor Pro Tempore for a one-year term.
Any council member who declines his or her turn goes to the end of the line, according to the resolution.
The 1991 city council enacted the resolution in order to prevent future councils from manipulating the selection process on behalf of special interests, according to current council member and former mayor Keith Bohr.
This is the first time since the resolution was passed that a city council hasn’t followed it.
But the resolution can be broken by a majority vote and that’s what happened during last Monday’s City Council meeting at Don Hansen’s request, with Carchio gladly accepting the honor of becoming mayor.
The vote was no surprise to readers of the Surf City Voice, which exclusively revealed last August that the seat swap between Carchio and Hansen—which will theoretically give the latter a campaign image boost if he decides to run for higher office in 2012—was as good as a done deal.
Don Hansen: Economy is bad, but it will be fine in one year. Photo by Arturo Tolenttino, SCV
Carchio and Hansen both strongly denied the assertions made in the Voice story—as well as subsequent rumors that included Devin Dwyer becoming mayor—all the way up to Monday’s swearing in ceremony.
New council members Joe Shaw, Connie Boardman and Matt Harper, as well as reelected City Attorney Jennifer McGrath, were also sworn in.
As Hansen started the new city council’s first meeting with the motion to make himself Mayor Pro Tem and Carchio the mayor, his reason for it came across like the proverbial student’s claim that the dog ate his homework.
“As many of you know, I work in the financial sector and the economy…has really taken a toll on my business,” he explained. “And I had always looked forward to serving as mayor when I could do the best job that I possibly can.”
Unfortunately for Hansen and citizens both, “after deep reflection” about what would be best—not just for him and his family, “it did not seem to me that this would be the time where I could do the best for the citizens of Huntington Beach and the best job that I could possibly do.”
Considering that the mayor of Huntington Beach is a figurehead, with few additional duties attached to the role, one wonders how Hansen can give sufficient devotion to his current—less glamorous—but equally demanding role as a city councilman during the same economic hard times that, regrettably, now prevent him from serving as mayor.
Fortunately for Hansen and Surf City’s “citizens,” however, his admirable sacrifice can end in exactly one year. That’s because—almost paradoxically—even though the economy is bad now it is also getting a lot better now, according to Hansen.
“We are seeing the resurgence of my business,” he continued, “and I don’t want to forfeit in any way my ability to serve [as mayor] and do like to serve [as mayor] in 2012.”
Thank you, President Obama.
The new city council approved Hansen’s plan unanimously, 7-0. He will be Mayor Pro Tem now and Mayor in 2012, just in time for the next election campaign season, if he so chooses.
But as Carchio read an unusually coherent acceptance speech that he, wishfully perhaps, claimed to have “hasently” (sic) written, there seemed little doubt that a deal had been signed, sealed and delivered.
“When you get elected to the city council,” he said in deep reflection, “you realize that one day it would be your turn to be mayor.”
Mayor Joseph John Carchio is in good company, however, at least some of the time. “It’s so humbling to follow in the footsteps of some of the great mayors in the past,” he said, noting some of the ones who left well honored paths: Ralph Bauer, Dave Sullivan, Shirley Detloff, and Debbie Cook, to name a few.
“These are big shoes to fill,” he said in conclusion, promising that, “I will continue to carry the great traditions of the city.”
Huntington Beach City Council member Joe Carchio has driven a brand new Toyota Venza for the past year without license plates. The car shows dealership plates that advertise Huntington Beach Toyota, where Carchio “has bought lots of cars for his family,” according to a salesperson there.
Carchio's Venza, parked at City Hall without license plates. Photo: SCV
A car windshield sticker that is supposed to show ownership information is completely blank.
Planning commissioner Blair Farley, Councilmember Jill Hardy, and another City Hall official who asked not to be named, told the Voice that they have seen Carchio’s unlicensed car parked in its official space at City Hall various times during the past year. The Voice photographed Carchio’s unlicensed car there on two recent occasions.
The Voice left a message for Carchio at City Hall asking him to call about his car, but he didn’t respond.
The sales agent said that state budget cuts have created waits of 6 -8 months before the DMV delivers plates and that the dealer is not responsible for customers who don’t comply with the law after buying or leasing a car.
But Toyota HB’s General Manager, Bob Miller, told the Voice that Carchio has leased two different white Venzas from from his car lot in the past year and that it takes 8 -12 weeks for plates to arrive in the mail.
Agents for two major insurance carriers, however, say that license plates usually arrive within 4 – 6 weeks; if not, the dealer probably waited too long to send in the paper work to the DMV, one agent said.
Toyota of HB generously allows the city to use a fleet of 17 lifeguard vehicles in exchange for allowing it to advertise on those vehicles, the Voice of OC (no relation to the SCV) reported last summer.
Was a similar deal extended to Carchio? A 2009 Venza runs at about $28,000. A lease would probably be $500 – 600 a month. No such deal exists, Miller told the Voice, laughing politely.
City officials must report gifts and cannot take over $420 in gifts from any one source within a year. Violators can receive a $5,000 fine from the State.
Maybe Carchio just wants to plow through red lights and toll roads without being caught on camera.
Or maybe he just made on “honest mistake,” like he claimed to have done before the Voice exposed his six-month-long attempt to avoid returning $6,600 in health insurance payments by the City for his ineligible “wife.”
That would be the same wife who (as the Voice was first to report) divorced Carchio several years ago, when he had over $50,000 in tax liens filed against him by the IRS, and then collected the money from the sale of a downtown restaurant—that Carchio claims he owned but that she claimed (at that time) he was trying to steal from her—as part of a divorce settlement that he did not lift a finger to contest.
In 2001, according to County records, Carchio was doing business as Carhio’s Imprinted Sportswear on Warner Avenue in Huntington Beach. That business folded and Carchio went into the restaurant business.
His restaurant business was gone as of 2008. As of 2009, according to his latest 700 form, Carchio was unemployed, and according to a knowledgeable City Hall source Carchio was still unemployed as of last August.
But Carchio’s former appointee to the Investment Advisory Board, Angela Rainsberger, wonders if he hasn’t gone back into the T-shirt business.
While talking to Carchio a year ago about the problems with downtown bars and revisions to the Downtown Specific Plan (DTSP) that Carchio had voted for a month earlier, they were joined by two of Mike Ali’s sons. Ali owns Zack’s Pier Plaza, a shop that rents surf boards and sells T-shirts, located on the beach next to the pier.
Joe Carchio. Jill Hardy in the background. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino for the SCV
About mid-way into the conversation, Rainsberger wrote in an e-mail to a friend a few weeks later, “Joe gave his car keys to the boys and asked them to unload the boxes of tee (sic) shirts from his car for their dad. They pulled a few t-shirts out of the boxes and held them up for inspection. Joe was, and I guess is, in the tee (sic) shirt printing business…It didn’t dawn on me until today that Joe is doing business downtown because he is printing t-shirts for Zacks. Shouldn’t this require he recuses himself from the vote on the DTSP? The more tourist (sic) come to HB, the more t-shirts are sold, the more money Joe makes.”
Mike Ali did not respond to requests by the Voice for comment.
Carchio did not recuse himself from consideration of the DTSP the first time and voted for the revised plan. In January, when the required second reading and vote occurred, he did recuse himself, but not because of his alleged T-shirt business.
“In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been in negotiations with a restaurant to try to fill the vacancy that’s been left by Luggatti’s. So that might, according to the City Attorney, that might constitute a conflict of interest so I will be refraining from voting on this item,” Carchio told the City Council.
The restaurant ended up under the ownership of another party.
But if Carchio was doing business downtown, why didn’t he report it on his 700 form and why didn’t he recuse himself for that reason on both DTSP votes?
This time the Voice managed to speak to Carchio by phone. Unfortunately, however, he was in the middle of an Orange County Vector Control meeting and said he couldn’t talk just then. Those meetings must be boring, though, because a glance online at the same time revealed that he was also busy adding friends to his Facebook account.
Carchio did not call back after the meeting.
Who Will be the Honorable Mayor?
Interesting rumors abound about who will be crowned as the next mayor of Huntington Beach at the Dec. 6 meeting of the City Council.
As the Voice first reported last August, it looked like Huntington Beach City Council members Joe Carchio and Don Hansen were openly and secretly negotiating a deal so that Carchio would become the new mayor, out of turn, instead of Hansen.
The city council can vote for any one of its members to be mayor, but traditionally its members have gone in order based on their previous time served. It would normally be Hansen’s turn to be mayor starting in December with Carchio following him the next year. But if the two of them switched places, Hansen, who is termed out of office in 2012, would be well poised to run for higher office as mayor instead of a mere city councilman.
Since August, however, a series of revelations, most of them first reported by the Voice, have made it less likely that a council majority will take a chance of embarrassing the city by electing Carchio mayor this year-or any year.
But well-placed City Hall sources have spread the following titillating rumors about who will be the next Surf City mayor:
That Hansen knew about Carchio’s tax problems, fake marriage, insurance scam, etc., before they were revealed in the Voice, and threatened that he would reveal that information if Carchio did not agree to swap their mayoral terms;
Carchio doesn’t want to be mayor, but Hansen offered that if he agreed to switch places for mayor he (Carchio) would be allowed to appoint himself as the council’s liaison to the Orange County Sanitation District, which pays $170 per meeting;
That Councilmember Devin Dwyer will be the next mayor.
Hansen told the Voice that “none of these [rumors] are even close to true,” and added that we “forgot the rumor that I was going to move to City Treasurer. That was one of my favorites to date.”
But Dwyer indicated that there might be some truth to the rumor that he would become the next mayor:
“I don’t know. I was asked by a businessman in the downtown area if I would be willing. That there was talk of shuffling the order. I said I would consider it.”
Informed and “reliable” sources have told the Voice that Joe Carchio has stated his understanding that, following his self-assumed reelection to the Huntington Beach City Council next November, he will become the city’s mayor for 2011.
According to practice established by the city council in 1991, however, councilmembers rotate in set order into the mayor’s docket for one-year terms. According to policy, it would be Councilmember Don Hansen’s turn to be mayor in 2011, followed by Carchio the next year.
The resolution was passed to
prevent manipulation by special interests (the Huntington Beach Company in particular) of the mayor selection process, according to councilmember Keith Bohr.
Since its inception, the resolution has been followed without exception, but the city council can adopt a new selection method by majority vote anytime.
Reform advocates wanted to make the resolution part of the city charter so the council could not alter it. Their efforts failed at a June 7 city council meeting when councilmembers decided not to place the proposal on the November ballot along with other proposed charter changes.
Carchio issued a statement by e-mail firmly denying the assertion that he said he would be mayor out of turn.
“Your source is ill informed and unreliable. I have never had conversations with Don Hansen about switching rotation for mayor nor has Don Hansen had that conversation with me. Also, I am not assuming nor have I ever assumed about being re-elected, that (sic) is entirely up to the voters and I will be judged on my record over the last four years. I think we as a council have made some difficult decisions, but mostly positive. I hope you will print this response correctly.”
Likewise, Councilmember Don Hansen told the Voice that he did not have “any kind” of a deal with Carchio.
The sources did not assert that Carchio claimed he made a deal with Hansen, only that he would be mayor starting next December.
Carchio Reaches Out
Regardless, in the city’s official video record of the June 7 city council meeting it’s obvious that Carchio is reaching out to Hansen during a heated debate over whether the resolution should be put before the voters or not.
And, likewise, Hansen dropped strong hints of his own desire to politicize the process for selecting the city’s mayor.
Councilmembers Cathy Green, who Hansen accused of trying to block former mayor Debbie Cook from taking her term as mayor in 2008, and Jill Hardy, who warned that a deal might be in the making, voted for placing the charter revision on the ballot.
Both Green and Hardy are termed out under current city charter rules, meaning they have served two consecutive terms on the council and must sit out an election cycle before they can run for city council again. If elected again in the future, they would have to go to the back of the line for the office of mayor.
Hansen is termed out in 2012.
Hansen, Devin Dwyer, Keith Bohr and Gil Coerper voted to keep the charter as is, but Hansen led the argument.
But Hardy warned that if the charter isn’t revised future councilmembers will play with the mayor’s term for political purposes. It was clear she was thinking of Carchio and Hansen when she said “Watch the votes” when one council member decides to defer his term to another so that he can be mayor as he heads into a campaign for higher political office.
“They can’t be switching around to get their buddy, who says, ‘I’ll switch this year and you can have that year,’” Hardy complained. “That’s just playing the system…Like I said, watch the votes. If it doesn’t end up being in the charter, then just watch what happens. I know. I know what I’m sayin (sic).”
Then Carchio, who by various accounts is not liked much anymore by OC Republican Party big shots, and who at recent city council meetings seemed, embarrassingly, to echo every utterance of favored party acolytes Hansen and Dwyer, all but extended an official invitation to Hansen to reverse positions in the rotational cycle for mayor.
“If someone came to me, and I knew the situation were (sic) dire and that person needed to, you know, skip a term, and switch, I would switch with that person. It wouldn’t make a difference to me.”
Carchio bumbled on. “If I knew that it would help the person or make sure that if they had a serious illness in the family or an extenuating circumstance from work—”
Hardy shot back. “That will be interesting to see if since you’re due in 2012 to see if anybody asks you to switch your year.”
“If it was a legitimate request, I would probably do it,” Carchio answered.
Loathing and Politics
Of course, Carchio or Hansen are “great people,” Hardy pointed out, but “it might be two buddies trying to help somebody with a title in their future. And it might not be anyone of the seven of us, but I have my suspicions about the way it is right now…”
Then councilmember Cathy Green expressed her views, based on personal experience.
“I think the fact of the matter is that most of the games were played with me, so I can probably attest to this. And the second thing is, that’s why you have a mayor pro-tem,” she blurted out.
Hansen pounced on Green’s self pity with obvious loathing.
“As if your hands are clean and you weren’t trying to engineer it on prior mayors yourself behind closed doors. So, let’s not take a holier than though approach when all of these scenarios are played out and people have been involved on both sides of the equation.”
The council needs flexibility, Hansen explained, and the fact is, “Like it or not, there’s still some politics to this office. And I think if any games were played, it was to bring attention to that whole unity factor of working together wasn’t really working.”
By “flexibility” Hansen may mean that he wants the power to stack the city council with people who will obediently help him tackle the city’s budget problems, most notably by cutting the city’s pension funding obligations to city employees while providing him with a convenient pedestal—the office of mayor—in 2012.
City council candidates and, relatively speaking, political neophytes Barbara Delgleize and William O’Connell may foot the bill: they have spent $5,432.25 and $5,400.55 each, respectively, on Red Zone Strategies, a political consulting firm that operates out of Hansen’s home, and they should be well trained by swearing in day.
Carchio, until now at least, was left hanging by his former Republican friends possibly due to some spending votes that were contrary to Party doctrine and duly noted, but not detailed, on the blog Red County.
Hansen has been trying to remove Carchio from office, local political insiders say, because Carchio has been Green’s lackey and Hansen, like some other council members, despises Green, and due to his (Carchio’s) close association with former Surf City mayor and convicted felon Dave Garafalo.
There is also Carchio’s own perceived vulnerability to corruption—he no longer runs a downtown restaurant, his most recent financial statement at city hall indicates he is currently unemployed, and he likes to be a big shot.
But Carchio has been as legally clean as any other councilmember by all accounts. He is also by nature eager to please the powers that be, carefully following his cues during city council meetings, an approach likely to intensify due to his apparent dire straits. All this could make him the perfect city council patsy for Hansen.
Meanwhile, by almost all accounts, true or not, Hansen is the OC Republican Party’s chosen one and is also being groomed for higher office.
A few words of caution are in order: rumors are like tumors—once they start growing they are hard to stop.
But anything can happen in politics.
As for his future, Hansen told the Voice, “I don’t have any plans at this point after my term ends in 2012. I am looking into a career as an investigative journalist.”