OC Toll Road Follies: CEO Resigns Amid Funding Anti-Enviros

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Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) CEO Neil Peterson, who was placed on leave last month, has offered to resign in exchange for receiving a hefty out-the-door payment. This from an agency suffering low toll revenues and misguided attempts to extend their roads against environmental rules and opposition. The board told him to blast off after he was caught funneling public funds to a number of consultants to fight “environmental-extremists.”

Orange County Toll Roads, transportation, corruption

CEO Revolving Door: OC doesn’t need TCA, which holds 51-miles of freeway hostage to tolls, paid for by the public but unaffordable by the vast majority. Infographic-Toon By Jerry Collamer.

TCA CEO Neil Peterson, who was placed on leave last month, has offered to resign in exchange for receiving about $79,000 over the next 90 days while not working.

Additionally, TCA would be prohibited from telling any of Peterson’s future employers about the contracting issues or any other concerns about his work. Facing intense scrutiny over a series of secret contract approvals that have upset board members, the chief executive of Orange County’s toll road system has offered his resignation.

TCA Chief Engineer Mike Kraman replaced Peterson, who took the helm of the embattled agency last summer on an interim basis, said TCA spokeswoman Lisa Telles. Peterson and much of the TCA leadership came under intense fire earlier this month after county Supervisor Todd Spitzer grilled him  over $600,000 in contracts that were authorized without board approval.

All of the contracts were approved under the CEO’s or the CEO-plus-board chair’s signing authority but drew significant criticism because of the  nature of the contracts and their amounts.

There are also questions about whether some contracts were signed outside the CEO and board chair’s authority.

For example, a contract with former Gov. Gray Davis’ law firm, Loeb &  Loeb, was approved by the board chair and CEO using a special authority, allowing the chair to sign off on CEO-approved contracts above $25,000  if they have a legislative purpose.

The board chair — Dana Point Mayor Lisa Bartlett — and Peterson were stripped of that special contracting authority as a result of OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s questioning.

Strategy, advice, media relations and public affairs consulting were common themes under the TCA contracts.

They were handed out to at least a dozen consultants, including firms involving former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, Republican insider Matt Cunningham and former Gov. Gray Davis.

Most of those agreements and amendments, totaling $593,582, were awarded in  2013 when the agency faced significant public resistance to its plan to  extend the Route 241 toll road 5.5 miles south.

TCA officials  initially declined to publicly release the contracts but relented after  being contacted by Voice of OC’s open-records consultant, Terry Francke  of CalAware.

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OC’s Eco-Extremists New Title – Job Creators!

By Jerry Collamer, Published in the Voice of OC

Didn’t know until today, I’m an environmental extremist. Labeled such by Orange County’s toll road purveyors, the TCA.

Orange County Toll Roads, Jerry Collamer

TCA’s Secret Lobbyist-Take-A-Congressman-To-Lunch Fund Revealed. Toon By Jerry Collamer.

Me and my extreme ilk are TCA’s excuse for hiring a secret army of high-paid lobbyists (TCA’s Board didn’t even know, oops) to stuff hungry congressman with TCA schmooze, booze and food, as TCA’s secret sell-squad extoll the virtues of OC toll roads while Pierre flames the soufflé and Andre pours more bubbly.

TCA claims their failing toll road effort is our fault.

Us eco-extremists, credited with stopping their long dreamt 241-south extension from paving pristine habitat. But after reading the Orange County Register’s secret lobbyists’ funny money fund expose, the accurate title for us is — Job Creators!

TCA’s secret feedbag lobbyists owe us eco-extremists for their exorbitant, ongoing, lunchtime sell-fest up in Sac & D.C.

Hail to us. We’re your Job Creators, you secret, free-range capital table hoppers.

The main course, please: Reported in the Register, OC’s toll road purveyors-TCA’s been secretly slipping tens of thousands of dollars to lobbyists (unbeknownst to their board), to counter our (environmental extremists) success: stopping TCA’s moronic 241-toll road extension from paving South County’s pristine natural habitat, the San Mateo Watershed.

A toll road plan so lame, if paved, would have become the least used vehicle venue in all of OC by 2030, according to the Orange County Transportation Authority. Hence the funny business that is TCA: creating underperforming, financially fraught OC toll roads few reading this ever use or see turns out to be a fat lunch op for sharp-suit lobbyists, paid for under TCA’s secret lunch table, out of sight of TCA’s too-busy board of directors.

Had TCA’s too-busy board bothered squinting at TCA’s mice-type Tome of Confuscation, kept purposely murky as not to burden TCA’s too-busy board with teeny-weeny details (where the devil always lives), they’d find TCA’s Lobbyist Donor Lunch Fund slithering between soup and salad, looking to circumvent what us eco-extremists succeeded at stopping: TCA’s irrelevant 241-south extension, while TCA’s secret lobbying army lunch, munch and lavish voraciously in D.C. & Sac, feeding needy SoCal electeds (Rep. Issa from Vista: richest in Congress, loves free toll road hospitality); (Rep. John Campbell, Riverside, notoriously overstuffed, a big eater of free); (Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Huntington Beach, loves toll roads, eats anything free).

Scroll TCA’s list of Sac & D.C.’s Free Lunch Bunch.

It’s as obvious as the foie gras juice dripping down the congressman’s triple-chin.

And it’s all due to us eco-extremists!!!

We’re TCA’s secret-sell-jobber’s Job Creators.

Without us, there’s no secret TCA lobbyist lunch cart.

Without us, hungry legislators would have to troll elsewhere on K Street for free lunch chits.

Who knew we’re responsible for keeping TCA’s secretly funded lobbyists fat and happy, and their Congress of Luncheon Co-conspirators even fatter?

But does TCA’s Free Lunch Bunch Brigade text us for lunch?

We eat too ya’know. And we eat cheap, being vegan and all.

So for all you fat-cat, shiny-suited TCA lobbyists forking it into that succulent congressman, guzzling his second bottle of 2008 Didier Dagueneau Silex Sauvignon Blanc on TCA’s dime, you owe us.

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About Jerry Collamer

Jerry Collamer is a creative communications specialist. Backgrounds in National Advertising and Television Communication. Writer. Artist. Native Californian with a world-view career arch. Pragmatic and common sense urban activist -- co-founder of Wild Heritage Planners.