Paseo Del Sur near Haaland Glen
  • Paseo Del Sur near Haaland Glen
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In April 2011 Farhad Bastani, a resident engineer for the City of San Diego, watched drivers punch their accelerators the moment they arrived at the newly widened section of Camino Del Sur, near the intersection with San Dieguito Road in Black Mountain Ranch.

The high speeds and high road elevations near Lusardi Creek concerned him. He feared drivers wouldn’t see pedestrians who were crossing Camino Del Sur to access the popular Santaluz hiking trails until it was too late.

Santaluz hiking trail

Santaluz hiking trail

The following day he met with one of his supervisors, Lisa Adams, to report his findings.

During his four years working as a field engineer for the City of San Diego Bastani had discovered other safety issues. In that time, he had learned the department’s unwritten policy for reporting any safety issues; do so verbally and refrain from mentioning them in any emails. Email, according to a 2013 email from then-supervisor David Zoumaras, could potentially make the city liable in case any lawsuits are filed.

Farhad Bastani

Farhad Bastani

To reduce speeding and poor visibility on Camino Del Sur, Bastani recommended installing temporary speed humps or electronic speed-limit signs. His suggestions were not employed.

Three months later, on August 30, 2011, Lawrence Farry was driving over 80 miles per hour on Camino Del Sur, near the intersection with Haaland Glen. Meanwhile 56-year-old Joan Milazzo, her husband Paul, and her sister, who had all been hiking the Del Sur Canyon Trail, were midway across Camino Del Sur walking to pick up the other side of the trail.

Farry saw the two women crossing but was unable to stop. His red Nissan Altima struck and killed Joan Milazzo. Her husband watched from a few feet away.

Near site of accident

Near site of accident

Bastani saw the emergency vehicles at the scene of the accident. In an email on the following day Bastani told his supervisor, Mike Arnold, about the accident. “…I heard a lady was injured there. I should mention that I have noticed some problem[s] in traffic control implementation and [the subcontractor] was aware of that.”

Arnold was not pleased. “Reporting to me this accident is unrelated to your duties as a city inspector,” Arnold wrote. “Please do not report on such events in the future. In addition, any concerns you have regarding traffic control or anything else related to your project should be brought to the attention of the project manager and the appropriate city staff, but not in this context.”

In 2012, Milazzo’s husband Paul sued the city. He blamed the city for his wife’s death. He believed the city was aware of speeding on Camino Del Sur and did nothing to reduce vehicle speed or prohibit pedestrian crossing.

Attorneys for the city denied any wrongdoing. In legal documents, lawyers stated that the city “did not have actual or constructive notice of the condition of the property in question,” nor was the city responsible for safety issues and poor visibility. City attorneys cited an encroachment agreement it entered with a subcontractor, which indemnified the city in case of any issues with the median and landscaping.

The statement, says Bastani, is grossly inaccurate.

According to Bastani, the city attorney’s office requested information from his replacement on the Camino Del Sur road-widening project and never contacted him directly. “No one ever asked me even one single question in any investigation about the incident in Camino Del Sur, although I was the resident engineer of the project at the time of the incident.”

He says that the city’s unwritten policy was responsible for the death of a mother and wife and prevented her widower from finding out the truth.

Paul Milazzo’s lawsuit was dismissed in 2014. Milazzo’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment. Attempts to reach Milazzo family members were also unsuccessful.

“If this unwritten city policy is not resolved, I have very little doubt that more people will be at risk in the future,” Bastani says during an August interview at a coffee shop in Grantville.

He tosses his hands in the air often when speaking of his time as a city employee. He is passionate. His voice quivers and he stammers trying to find the correct words.

“People have lost their lives because of such unlawful practices. Safety is the most important matter that at no situation should be disregarded.”

Bastani was fired for personnel issues in 2013. According to city documents, Bastani’s supervisors accused him of “threatening and intimidating behavior.” Bastani, on the other hand, says the city is attempting to distract from his complaints about trying to keep employees from using email to report safety issues.

He is currently suing the city for wrongful termination. He believes his supervisors fired him in retaliation for blowing the whistle on the department’s no-email policy.

In the years that followed Milazzo’s death, as the lawsuit languished in superior court, Bastani rebelled against his department’s unspoken email policy. He considered it a threat to public safety. At the same time, he fought to implement safety measures for all road-widening projects.

In May 2013, Bastani emailed Alireza Sabouri, a supervisor in San Diego’s Traffic Engineering division, requesting speed-limit signs be installed before any new lanes are opened, placing temporary speed reducers at the beginning of new lanes to prevent speeding, and the placement of electronic speed-limit indicators.

Bastani’s work to improve public safety and ensure transparency didn’t win him any friends.

That same month, Bastani wrote to then–deputy director of field engineering Zoumaras about the no-email policy.

“Why such sensitivity exists not to use city email for such an important issue [that is supposed] to be our first priority of a public employee?

“Apparently my supervisor does not like to talk about the public safety and the responsibilities of a [resident engineer] through the emails [sic]. Is there any reason that why some people [do] not like discussions about public safety in email?”

Zoumaras responded, “In general, the city is subject to litigation which result from injuries to the public [sic]. Often the plaintiff alleges an unsafe condition, which the city was aware of before the injury. In the past the city has been hurt in court by email communications related to specific safety concerns, which were poorly written, contained erroneous information, and/or wrongly identified something as being a public safety concern. Since litigation and Public Records requests involve discovery of all documents/communications, we are protecting our employer and the people who pay for city services by being mindful of this.”

Spokesperson for the City of San Diego Katie Keach says there is no policy in any city department that prevents employees from reporting safety issues in writing.

“The City of San Diego encourages employees to come forward to report concerns about safety, waste, fraud and abuse in whatever manner is most appropriate to ensure we continually work to strengthen our services to the community,” Keach wrote in an August 17 email.

“The city is looking into how the miscommunication in question could have occurred.”

Experts in government transparency, however, believe that public agencies prefer to keep sensitive topics from the record.

“We certainly know that many agencies try to keep certain conversations ‘off the record’ by not using emails,” says open-government advocate and attorney Kelly Aviles.

Adds Aviles, “Any policy to keep information from being documented is a horrible policy. It is only compounded where the issue relates to safety.”

Bastani says the problem goes much deeper than a fear of legal culpability. He says the problem is with municipal government as a whole. “Many of the managers and supervisors only have a title of public employee, but the only thing on their minds is attending work for eight hours a day, collecting their pensions and retirements. The concept of public service is one of their last priorities.

Bastani vows to continue his fight against the city. In July 2016 he filed his second wrongful termination lawsuit. That lawsuit is now making its way through the court.

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Comments

Cassander Oct. 26, 2016 @ 10:01 a.m.

Bastani is a hero, and I hope he wins. Shame on the city knowing a situation was dangerous yet letting people die.

But you're right about the bigger issue, Dorian. We need a lawsuit to follow up on civil servants intentionally and consistently going around The Brown Act and California Public Records Act.

These laws were implemented to eliminate government being a "black box" with no transparency and therefore no accountability. Elected officials and staff clearly resent written communication for providing this clarity. I'd say the emails you quoted provide presumptive evidence for such a suit.

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Fbastani Oct. 29, 2016 @ 11:15 a.m.

Corruption in The City of San Diego is beyond the subject matter of this article. In another incident during my employment, I was even retaliated for my opposition against "FINANCIAL CORRUPTION FROM PUBLIC FUND" with the amount of about $150,000 , in favor of "BROTHER" of one of the Managers in the City who was the CEO of one of the developers in San Diego. There was heated arguments in the office of work about this corruption. The name of that Manager was "Darren Greenhalgh", Deputy Director in the City of San Diego. I even received the following "Statements from Supervisors" in my "Performance Evaluation" to calm me down and "Covering Up" this conduct:

"Although there are sometimes disagreements and on-going negotiations between the City and the developer during Course of construction when reviewing invoices and change orders, I have observed Fred(ie. me Farhad Bastani) always remains calm and professional and threat others with respect" (Performance Evaluation by Mike Arnold and Lisa Adams)

Before receiving Performance Evaluation, Lisa Adams (Section Head) approached me in the office of work and stated to me:" Why you do you oppose this Change Order? Do you know that the CEO who talked to me is Brother of Darren Greenhalgh". This statement of Lisa Adams had sparked arguments in the Office of Work.

The title of the projects that this Financial Corruption occurred was "Camino Del Sur Inside Lane Widening, T6". The names of the supervisors were: Lisa Adams and Mike Arnold.

Later, Darren Greenhalgh, participated in Termination of my Employment.

Farhad Bastani

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Fbastani Oct. 29, 2016 @ 2:27 a.m.

Fbastani Oct. 29, 2016 @ 2:03 a.m.

The Statement of "Katie Keach" , The City Spokesperson, in the article is "False Statement". She has replied to San Diego Reader that:

"The City of San Diego encourages employees to come forward to report concerns about safety, waste, fraud and abuse in whatever manner is most appropriate to ensure we continually work to strengthen our services to the community".

As a former Resident Engineer and Employee of the City, I have no doubt that this statement is TOTALLY False.

As another example: In another incident in 2013, I was even "REPRIMANDED" for "Sending" a "Correct Safety Warning" via the City Email to one of the residents of San Diego in an "Unsafe Conditions During Construction" to prevent "Injury" to that resident.

In 2013, when I opposed such an unlawful item in a "Written Reprimand", even "JAMES NAGELVOORT" , who is the "DIRECTOR OF THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT" , supported "Unlawful Statements" by David Zoumaras against me and the Public San Diego although he knew very well that my "Safety Warning" was correct and reasonable ....Unfortunately, some of these irresponsible individuals such as "James Nagelvoort" are in "MANAGERIAL POSITIONS" in The City of San Diego.

Farhad Bastani

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Fbastani Nov. 1, 2016 @ 3:25 p.m.

DAVID ZOUMARAS in LADIES OUTFIT.

Dorian... Today 11/01/2016, DCA Keith Phillips with The Office of The City Attorney contacted me. He was very upset of the "Picture of David Zoumaras in Ladies Outfit" in this page. 1- Actually, the issues behind this picture is that David Zoumaras, had "offensive" and "insulting animus" against "MINORITIES" . In a Ceremony in San Diego, he selected "Ladies Outfit". Then he first started making Joke on "Ladies". Then started making Joke on "Gays" in the Office of Work, while "Gays", as a society minorities" pay "TAXES" to The City of San Diego. In my opinion, "MAYOR KEVIN FAULCONER" should "APOLOGIZE" the Public of San Diego for existence of such "Managers" in the City. Yesterday, 10/31/2016, I introduced David Zoumaras to "San Diego Gay/Lesbian Community" via the email below for claiming against The City of San Diego: [email protected] Without any doubt , The City of San Diego should not "INSULT" this minority of the society. They pay TAXES to the City of San Diego and part of their TAXES goes directly to the pocket of individuals such as "David Zoumaras" and they should not be "INSULTED" during "WORKING HOURS" of a "PUBLIC SERVICE" by a "Public Paid Employee" like David Zoumaras.

2- Another issue with this picture is that with many respect to "Gay Communities", I have been always "STREIGHT", but David Zoumaras was "PARANOID" that I had "Sexual Tendency" to him, after he appeared in Ladies Outfit. During my employment, I had reported him to James Nagelvoort for such paranoid animus. In 2016, I discovered evidences that David Zoumaras, even had perception that I had "CHASED HIM" to Costco at Fraiars Rd. because of these types of "Paranoid Animus". This person was totally an INCOMPETENT Manager. I had clarified for the City that I am "STRAIGHT" and did not like any "Relationship" and/or having any "Sexual Tendency" to David Zoumaras. I am not even aware of "Actual Sexual Orientation" of David Zoumaras and it was not even important to me. Please do not remove this picture, even if The Office of The City Attorney contacted you.

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Fbastani Oct. 29, 2016 @ 7:38 p.m.

Dorian, as another evidence in support of the statement of Ms.Kelly Aviles (Attorney) in the article that:

"We certainly know that many agencies try to keep certain conversations ‘off the record’ by not using emails"

see the"Attached Picture" of an email dated 01/30/2013. The "NO-EMAIL POLICY" not only is "Supported" by Managers in the City but also has been emphasized in "TRAINING COURSES" for the employees. As an example, among many other examples,the Training Course with subject of "Temporary Traffic Control 101" dated 01/30/2013 was held by "Traffic Section Head" in The City of San Diego, AHMED ABURAHMAH.

Without any doubt , the "PUBLIC RECORD" in the City of San Diego is not "RELIABLE". Even in many situations there are "WILLFUL FALSE RECORDING" in The City of San Diego and Managers in the City are supportive of implementing such "UNLAWFUL POLICY" against the Public.

Without any doubt, these types of Managers in The City of San Diego are responsible for the "Injury" to public as a result of existence of such Unwritten Policies.

Farhad Bastani

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Fbastani Oct. 29, 2016 @ 10:19 p.m.

Dorian... following is another example of "No-Email Policy" in The City of San Diego:

I received a "Performance Evaluation" on 02/25/2016, in which the immediate supervisors attempted to "CONCEAL" and "COVER UP" the "Serious Wrongdoings" of the City in the incident of the Death of Ms. Joan Milazzo in 2011.

The same day on 02/25/2013, there was an "Argument" between me and supervisors for their conduct against "Public Records" and "Public Safety".

On 02/26/2013, I requested electronic copy of my "Performance Evaluation". In 2015, I discovered that on 02/26/2013, Lisa Adams (Section Head in the City) had sent an email to Mike Arnold (Immediate Supervisor) and directed him:

" Do not reply....Talk to him in person . Don't reply on the last email either" (Lisa Adams)

See the picture of the email in attachments.

Managers/Supervisors are very ATTENTIVE to follow "NO-EMAIL POLICY" in sensitive topics such as "Public Safety". Their conducts are totally against "Public Safety", "Public Interest" and "Public Records Act". They attempt not to leave any "Written Track/Evidence" of any of the "Wrongdoings" in "Sensitive Topics".

The so called "Public Records" in The City of San Diego is not reliable at all.

Farhad Bastani

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Fbastani Oct. 30, 2016 @ 4:24 a.m.

Dorian... I just read this "JOKE" in The City of San Diego Website:

"Mayor Faulconer Makes Dozens of Public Data Sets Available Online to Increase Transparency"

https://www.sandiego.gov/mayor/news/releases/mayor-faulconer-makes-dozens-public-data-sets-available-online-increase-transparency

The City of San Diego has already have "Unwritten Policy" against "Public Records" and then Mayor Faulconer "WASTES" public fund for such programs.

"Fish Rots From Head to Tail"

Someone should chase down these guys at the Court.

Farhad Bastani

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Fbastani Oct. 30, 2016 @ 7:46 a.m.

Dorian...find the following recent statement of Mayor Faulconer in the link below:

“Transparency and efficiency should be a part of every local government’s DNA..." (Kidding Me!!!)

https://www.sandiego.gov/mayor/news/releases/mayor-faulconer-makes-dozens-public-data-sets-available-online-increase-transparency

It would be more beneficial for public that Mayor Faulconer instead of talking about "DNA of a Transparent Local Government" , spend his time and energy to take care of the "Irresponsible Managers" , such as James Nagelvoort, and "Unwritten Policies" against the "Public" and "Public Records" in The City of San Diego. Without any doubt managers such as "James Nagelvoort" , is bigger than DNA and Mayor Faulconer can see him.

Farhad Bastani

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Fbastani Oct. 30, 2016 @ 3:40 p.m.

Dorian.... I was hired by The City of San Diego in 2008. My first so called 'Supervisor', (who was a very incompetent/dishonest supervisor), was Reza Taleghani. He was the "FIRST" individual in The City of San Diego who elaborated "Unwritten City Policy" against "Public Records Act" for me. His statement was worse than the statement of David Zoumaras in the article against "Public Records Act".

Reza Taleghani, for multiple times, elaborated for me that there should not be "Any Written Evidence/Track" of sensitive topics in the City Email System. He called this matter as one of the "RED LINES" of the employees in "The City of San Diego" for the managers.

In an incident in 2010 and in an "Email" to the Section Head in the City , Lisa Adams, I opposed against one of his "Fraudulent Concealment".

In 2011, He was also one of the individuals in the City , who rejected and denied my "Safety Warning" which resulted in death of Ms. Joan Milazzo. Taleghani's repeated words for me was ((((( WHO CARES )))).

In 2012, I declared , in written, the participation of Reza Taleghani against "Public Safety" to the Deputy Director, David Zoumaras.

In another incident in MAY 2011, I noticed the possibility of development of "MICRO CRACKS" in "LUSARDI BRIDGE" in San Diego and requested the "Bridge Section" for Bridge Inspection. Reza Taleghani "CRITICIZED" and "BLAMED" me that why I had brought this matter to the attention of "The City Bridge Section Head", Frank Gaines , by email, and Taleghani had no other choice to be involved in the "Email String". He requested me not to involve him in any EMAIL with subject of "Public Safety", although he was a so called "Supervisor". Shockingly, I encountered the situation that even "FRANK GAINES" , The City Bridge Section Head, was "ANGRY" and "UPSET" of me that I had brought up the "SENSITIVE SUBJECT" of "DEVELOPMENT OF MICRO CRACK" in "LUSARDI BRIDGE".

In 2011, Reza Taleghani had requested Lisa Adams (Section Head), that he DOES NOT LIKE to be in the EMAILS with subject matter of "Public Safety" because of the "Possible Responsibility" that might be caused for him.

Following is the picture of this Irresponsible so called "Public Employee". I strongly believe that the existence of such "Irresponsible Individuals" in supervisory positions is "WASTE OF THE TAX PAYERS MONEY". These individuals are against the people of San Diego.

Farhad Bastani

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Fbastani Oct. 30, 2016 @ 6:13 p.m.

Dorian... Currently I have a case against The City of San Diego. This is my Second Case against the City. In both Cases, I have been "Self- Representative" and encountered "Discriminatory Judges" who have been "BIAS" in favor of "The City of San Diego".

The name of the presiding Judge in my current case is "JOEL M. PRESSMAN". I should wait and see how this "Discriminatory Judge" make decision and manage a FAIR JUDGMENT which should be his duty.

This Judge, Joel M. Pressman, is fully aware of the conduct of The City of San Diego against me, Public Safety and "Public Records Act". Following is the Picture of the Judge:

So far this Judge, attempted to "UNLAWFULLY SUPPRESS" me in the court. I am self-represented and he has assumption that I do not understand his unlawful conducts. This Judge is abusing his "Judicial Immunity" against me in favor of The City of San Diego and against the "Public of San Diego".

It is "RIDICULOUS" and "FUNNY" that how this JUDGE , click with the "Deputy City Attorney" in the court hearings against me !!!

I have filed a "Motion to Substitute" this Judge from the Case.

Farhad Bastani

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Fbastani Oct. 31, 2016 @ 6:16 p.m.

Dorian... Another example of "Unlawful Practice" of the City of San Diego:

Managers/Supervisors in the City are "Sensitive" about "Sharing Safety Information" with Citizens. As a former employee of the City of San Diego, it was CLARIFIED for me for Multiple times that "NOTHING" in regards to any "Hazardous/Unsafe" conditions should be SHARED with Citizens "EVEN IF" there was a possibility of "HARM" and "INJURY" for the Citizen. This was a "RED LINE" for an employee in The City. As some examples please see the PICTURES of the EMAILS in this comment.

In April 2013, one of residents of San Diego sent an email to The City asking for recommendation for a situation which was occurred for him during construction. I was AWARE (Per my observations and other's Experience/ Observations) that the Situation could potentially be Hazardous/Unsafe. I notified the resident by email and clarified the situation for him. As a result of my email,I received an ITEM in a "WRITTEN REPRIMAND" 3 weeks later, because I had passed the "RED LINE".

See some recommendation by Section Head , LISA ADAMS, in the emails as:

"This is why we do not want the private citizen’s email on the internal emails. (I know you understand this)" (Lisa Adams's Statement)

Or

"Whine[While] you forward emails from citizens I recommend deleting the citizens email address"

Unfortunately, this is an ESTABLISHED UNWRITTEN POLICY by MANAGERS in The City of San Diego against The Public and "Public Record".

One of the "IRRESPONSIBLE" managers in The City of San Diego who is "Supportive" of this unlawful practice/policy is "JAMES NAGELVOORT" , DIRECTOR OF THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT.

Without ANY DOUBT , The City of San Diego is "RESPONSIBLE" for any "INJURY/DAMAGE/DEATH" to the Public as a result of this unlawful Practice/Policy.

Farhad Bastani

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