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BVN Opinion

EDITORIAL: Tooley Retires After Nearly 25 Years with City - Tribune Attacks Council and Administration Over Salaries

EDITORIAL – Last night at the Madera City Council’s closed session meeting City Manager David Tooley offered to take an early retirement and resign from the city. The city council accepted and by the end of the year Tooley will no longer be an employee of the city. Though he has offered to help with the transition to new leadership. Those are the facts.

This is exactly what happened last night and nothing more. Well that is not exactly true a little more happened last night that you might not find on the pages of Saturday’s Madera Tribune. Last night David Tooley showed what kind of man he is and demonstrated extreme leadership in the face of journalistic speculation and innuendo. Last night David Tooley put the city of Madera above his own self interest. I doubt that will ever appear in the Madera Tribune. News like that doesn't sell newspapers.

The Madera Tribune has been running a series of stories on the salaries of the senior administration of the city. The stories are based on information local developer Michael Pistoresi found on a website, TransparentCalifornia.com. The Tribune has taken the salary and benefits numbers from that website and misrepresented what is salary and what are benefits.

They don’t tell their readers that David Tooley’s base salary is less than Madera County’s CAO Eric Fleming’s base salary by over $22,000. Mr. Tooley’s benefits package cost the city a couple thousand dollars more and he also receives another $48,000 in “other pay” which could be reimbursements for out of pocket expenses or a vehicle, phone or other contracted allowances. The website does not make that clear and the Tribune reporter doesn't clarify the definition of “other pay” which would be available had she put a public records request in for Mr. Tooley’s actual city contract.

It’s funny that the Tribune is so concerned with the benefits packages of the city administration that they completely ignore the out and out corruption of the Madera County Board of Supervisors and the county administration. But then again one of the Madera Tribune’s biggest advertisers is the County of Madera with all of their legal advertisements from the county clerk, assessor, tax collector and auditor’s offices. The struggling now two day a week Madera Tribune knows you don’t bite that hand that feeds you.

As for the county we have a district attorney claiming that two Madera County Supervisors are under investigation. Big Valley News has only been able to confirm that one supervisor's campaign finances, David Rogers, is actually being investigated. But there are so many other conflicts of interests on the board of supervisors and the county planning commission that the DA is ignoring possibly because those conflicts involve his friends from up in the mountains. Why isn't the Tribune working on these stories?

And what of the allegation from a former Madera county administration employee that claims CAO Fleming sexually assaulted her at a county gathering at Casey’s Iron Horse Bar and Grill in 2014?

What of the credibility of Property Developer Michael Pistoresi, the Tribune's source in their story about city salaries?

Anyone that has lived in the city of Madera for more than thirty years knows the Pistoresi name. Michael is the son of Emilo Pistoresi, founder of Pistoresi Dodge Chrysler. The younger Pistoresi worked with his brother Chris and father until he was forced to surrender his license to sell cars and boats following an investigation by the state of California Consumer Affairs Office in the mid 90's. Just read the Fresno Bee’s archives from the nineties for all the details.

I know a few years ago I was talking about this issue with developer David Berry, who was Mr. Pistoresi’s partner until his retirement. He said Michael actually never did anything wrong but took the blame for his father Emilio, who was turning back boat engine clocks and car odometers. Ironically following the death of his father, Chris Pistoresi hired Madera Private Security for 24 hour surveillance to keep one person out of the Pistoresi car dealership on Madera Avenue, Michael Pistoresi.

So as a reporter I do not know that I would trust the credulity of Mr. Pistoresi. Especially with a city council election next year where Pistoresi’s childhood friend, former Madera County Supervisor Rick Farinelli may be on the ballot facing incumbent Cece Foley in her district.  The Madera Tribune also endorsed Farinelli over Robert Poythress in the last Madera County Supervisor District Three race. Poythress handily won that election while Farinelli out-spent Poythress in Tribune advertising. But then again that is just speculating a connection here and a good reporter doesn’t report on speculation and innuendo, just facts.

Here is a fact that the Madera Tribune hasn't written about Mr. Pistoresi. In the Madera City General Plan a bridge at Westberry Drive and the Fresno River is on the books. The developer of the Ranch housing development was to build that bridge, just as David Berry did years ago with the bridge at Granada and the river when he developed that area. This bridge was supposed to connect the westside of Madera with the retail outlets on the eastside of Madera on Country Club Drive. The Ellis Street overpass has been built, along with the road that connects the bridge over Freeway 99 and the railroad tracks to Country Club. Where is the Westberry Bridge and why hasn't the Ranch developer, Michael Pistoresi, lived up to his obligation to the city?

What are Mr. Pistoresi's real motivations for this strategic attack on the city administration?

I would like to thank Mr. Tooley for over 24 years of service to our community. I didn’t always agree with his decisions but I knew Mr., Tooley never did anything as a city manager to line his own pockets. I am not sure I believe this with the county.  I am sorry that someone from my profession has misrepresented the facts on base pay and benefits just to sell more newspapers. It is very upsetting to me what has become of the Madera Tribune. I wonder if it still for sale.  Anyone want to join me in buying a local newspaper and making it great again?

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