Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz – who crashed his car after drinking on election night, will retire at the end of the month

Fullerton, California

Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz, who has been leave since he crashed his car after drinking on election night, will retire at the end of the month, according to a letter Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald read during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

“After many years working in public service, I have decided that my family now needs to be my first priority, and I will take some time away from working to spend time with my children as they enter their high school years,” read Fitzgerald from Felz’s letter while choking back tears.

In the wee hours of Nov. 9 after attending election night parties, Felz crashed his minivan within a half a mile from his house in a residential neighborhood north of downtown – driving it over a curb and into a tree. When police responded to the scene, they smelled alcohol on Felz but did not give him a breathalyzer test.

A police sergeant conducted a field sobriety test and apparently determined Felz was not drunk, according to a memo former Police Chief Dan Hughes sent to some council members later that day.

New Mayor Bruce Whitaker, who has been outspoken about the incident, wasn’t included in the email from Hughes to the rest of the council.

“Joe (Felz) has not had the opportunity to discuss with (then) Councilmember Whitaker so he asked that I delay sending it to him until he has an opportunity to do so,” read the email from Hughes, who left the city last month to take a job at Disneyland.

Whitaker previously said Felz called him the day after the crash and said he lost control of the car because he was fidgeting with loose wires underneath the steering column.

The city attorney’s office has denied requests by Voice of OC for both the police report on the crash and body camera footage. The case has been sent to District Attorney Tony Rackauckas for review.

Although the city referred a Voice of OC reporter seeking a report on the incident to an internal affairs investigator, neither the department nor City Attorney Dick Jones will confirm or deny an ongoing internal affairs investigation.

On Tuesday, Fitzgerald said Felz helped bring aboard Hughes to clean up the police department after the city was engulfed in controversy following the 2011 beating death of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, at the hands of Fullerton officers.

“When we needed a leader to step up and lead us through those tough times, Mr. Felz stepped up and was there,” Fitzgerald said.

“I can’t thank him enough for his decades of hard work in the city,” Councilman Greg Sebourn said.

After the meeting, Whitaker said he plans to press Rackauckas’ office for more information about the case.

Meanwhile, the city will hold a special meeting Jan. 5 to begin the selection process for an interim city manager. Human Resources Director Gretchen Beatty has been the acting city manager since the election night crash.

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC contributing writer. He can be reached at spencercustodio@gmail.com.

http://voiceofoc.org/2016/12/fullerton-city-manager-announces-retirement/

Fullerton city manager Joe Felz – smelled of booze – lost control of his car – taking a sidewalk – crashing into a small tree – before skidding back on the street

Fullerton, California

Fullerton city manager Joe Felz failed to curb his enthusiasm after making the rounds at election parties. He lost control of his car around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning taking a sidewalk at the 300 block of W. Glenwood and crashing into a small tree before skidding back on the street.

An internal Fullerton police department memo obtained by the Friends for Fullerton’s Future blog reveals that a sergeant noted Felz smelled of booze when stopped by police. Fullerton police chief Dan Hughes, who’s leaving soon to head up security at Disneyland, notes in the memo that he got an early morning call from the watch commander about the incident and told a field sergeant to conduct a field sobriety test.

A source tells the Weekly that Sgt. Jeff Corbett was the one who determined that Felz had been drinking, but not enough to warrant a DUI arrest. Fullerton police offered no response when asked if its within policy for a sergeant to do a field sobriety test, and if it was conducted alone without another officer present to stand as witness.

A tow truck hauled away Felz’s wrecked car. Debris from the crash was visible at the scene the morning after. Hughes assured his department that if Felz had driven drunk, the investigation would have been handed over to the California Highway Patrol. No need, the chief said. Felz was merely involved in a “minor single vehicle collision.” But Fullerton police logs were unavailable online as of yesterday afternoon.

http://www.ocweekly.com/news/fullerton-city-manager-involved-in-post-election-party-car-crash-smelled-of-alcohol-7663250