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It’s been four weeks since Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz’ election night car crash, and Felz remains on paid leave while the police are continuing what has become a mysterious investigation into the incident.
When a Voice of OC reporter visited the Fullerton Police Department last week to check on a public records request for the police report, he was referred to Sgt. Tim Petropulos, a member of the department’s internal affairs division.
Petropulos said he couldn’t confirm or deny an internal affairs investigation. He referred the reporter to City Attorney Richard Jones, who also refused to comment on the investigation.
In the wee hours of Nov. 9 after attending election night parties, Felz crashed his minivan 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 Police Chief Dan Hughes sent to some City Council members later that day.
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.
Councilman Bruce Whitaker said he doesn’t know much more now than he did at last month’s council meeting, when residents showed up and demanded information from the City Council. Whitaker said the way police are acting makes him think it’s an internal affairs investigation.
“The whole thing is being handled like there’s an internal investigation on of one of their own… why in the world has it taken a month and the council and the public are in the dark about it?” Whitaker said in a phone interview.
“In all my years of activism, I haven’t encountered a case quite like this. Think about if it was John. Q. Citizen here, with the same circumstances,” Whitaker said. “I’m not sure what we can trust at this state.”
Councilman Greg Sebourn also expressed frustration.
“I am concerned about the way data gets released to the public. Is it timely enough? Too much, too little?” Sebourn said. “It seems like sometimes officials will pick and choose which data gets released and that gets frustrating.”
Meanwhile, Felz remains on personal leave and the city has hired an outside firm to investigate the incident as a personnel matter.
Felz’ performance review is on the agenda for the closed session portion of the council’s Tuesday meeting.
“I have a feeling the City Attorney is going to give an update on where things are at,” Sebourn said.
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC contributing writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.