In February, two months into her position as mayor, Mayor Sandy Rains placed a review and possible dismissal of City Manager Tammy Letourneau onto the agenda. Drama ensued. Council members Oddo, Jennings and Gennawey passionately eviscerated Rains for daring to review Letourneau, citing a section of the City Manager’s contract that stated she couldn’t be dismissed for 90 days after a change of council members in the city. The contract in question was approved by Rains, Ray Gennawey’s mother Elaine Gennawey, and Kelly Jennings’ husband, John Mark Jennings.

The three city council members against Rains never discussed why Rains wanted to review Letourneau. The three alleged that Rains was a bully and accused Rains of ‘Quid Pro Quo’ in offering to negotiate agenda language regarding Letourneau. Oddo and Gennawey had worked to remove the new city attorney Chris Neumeyer and placed his review and dismissal on the agenda.

Drama on the Dias

For her part, Rains removed the agenda item and apologized to Letourneau and city staff, despite a separate master clause in Letourneau’s contract stating she was an ‘at will” employee who could be terminated at any time. Oddo used the political situation to threaten a scorched earth war on Rains to have her removed from all positions across all boards she was involved in.

At Will Employment Clause in Latourneau’s contract with Laguna Niguel

A History of City Over Citizens

Free Laguna dug into the history of Tammy Letourneau and uncovered a startling scandal that almost went all the way to the FBI. In 2005 and 2006, Letourneau was city manager of Yorba Linda, operating under the name “Tamara Gates”. At the time, a developer called “Old Town Yorba Linda Partners” was given exclusive rights to develop via an alleged “Quid Pro Quo” scheme and build a new ‘Town Center’, much like the one being planned for Laguna Niguel.

Yorba Linda residents were far more organized than Laguna Niguel residents are now. Citizens began a campaign to force citywide votes on new developments, something city council members and city staff didn’t want. To that end, city council members, city staff, and city attorneys colluded with the developer and it’s consultant to hire ‘blockers’ to intimidate and prevent citizens from signing petitions to stop unwanted developments in their town.

Intimidating Citizens with “Blockers”?

When the deal began to unravel, city council members turned on the developers and news of what went on in back room deals began to come forward. One of the partners in the developer group, Greg Brown, provided emails and evidence that not only had the city been aware of the developers nefarious actions, they were actively involved, to the point of changing design and terminology on flyers created by the developers. Allegedly members of the city staff, either Letourneau or her underlings, were alerting the blockers the locations where petitions were being signed. According to emails released by one of the developers named Greg Brown, the “blockers”, hired by influential campaign consultant Dennis Desnoo, were hired to look like ‘Guerillas’, a direct implication that intimidation was the goal.

Coincidentally Dennis Desnoo was also a paid campaign consultant for many of our recent city council members and mayors, including Laurie Davies, Robert Ming, John Mark Jennings (Mayor Kelly Jennings husband), and Elaine Gennawey (Council Member Ray Gennawey’s mom).

The city council was very upset about the petition drive when it was discovered there were over 8000 signatures, far more than needed. The city, under Letourneau’s direction, then utilized every trick it could think of to stop the ballot measure including:

  • having the petition certified to disqualify signatures
  • authorizing a city clerk to sue the city to block placing the petition on the ballot
  • coordinating a similar lawsuit with the Building Industry Association

Ultimately the lawsuits were lost, and the election for citizens to vote for major developments was won.

According to notes by Greg Brown, Letourneau didn’t just attend meetings with developers but asked pointed questions about the funding of their ‘Blockers” campaign. Greg Brown did not respond to our media enquiry.

According to an article in the Yorba Linda Star:

Brown said, “It was made very clear to the OTYLP team that the funding of an information and [petition] suppression campaign was a requirement of any, future extension of the exclusive negotiating agreement beyond the…expiration date.” 
Brown stated, “[City Manager Tamara] Letourneau directly asked me in an Ad Hoc meeting…if OTYLP had reserved sufficient monies to wage the campaign and what our projected budget was to be.” 
Brown said he responded, “Yes” and told her that “political consultant Dennis DeSnoo had advised us to be prepared to fund up to $150,000” for the campaign.

Developer shares e-mails on anti-referendum efforts
Jim Drummond, Yorba linda star, 10/26/2006

In the fallout, Letourneau was removed as city manager despite having just received a $22,000 raise. She refused to resign and instead negotiated a massive severance package of over $200,000.

Free Laguna recently obtained a follow up of the investigation titled “Town Center Performance Review” ordered by the city of Yorba Linda. In it there was some confusion as to whether or not Letourneau attended meetings with developers as they planned their intimidation campaign on her own or if she had been ordered by the city council. In a letter provided by Letourneau she states she was invited by the Building Industry Association and went on her own accord as part of city business.

The case appears to have merely burned out from lack of interest, but the allegations of Brown Act violations and even civil rights violations reverberated for years after. The final report investigating the city’s actions initially exonerated Letourneau’s actions, but further review of her statements resulted in the council instructing the investigators to remove language exonerating Letourneau.

And the only evidence the report was edited was this line through the exoneration statement.

The city of Yorba Linda was only able to provide a partial final report, with a line drawn through the exonerating language. In one document we obtained, it was suggested the investigation be turned over to a Julie McWilliams at the FBI.

History Repeating?

Tammy Letourneau’s behavior could easily be written off as a mistake, except that the city of Laguna Niguel has experienced its own dramatic events with developers under Letourneau’s watch. In the last year, the city of Laguna Niguel approved the development of a a set of condos at the base of a previous landslide despite the objections of scores of residents concerned the construction and disturbance of the area would trigger another landslide.

Development is a component of city improvement, but when cities conspire with developers to subjugate the will of the citizens, a line is crossed that must be addressed.