'Goodbye and Good Riddance'

Ian Patton

Grunion Gazette editor and LB Post publisher are moving on.

It’s nice to see the LB local media scene being cleared of the dregs of dishonest, self-satisfied, politically and ethically compromised newsroom leaders. First in succession we had corrupt political appointee, editor and “journalist” Harry Saltzgaver, of the Grunion Gazette, pathetically self-deporting to the private sector to accept a golden handshake out of the genericized news business.

Now we can wish bon voyage to one of the most dishonest, sanctimonious, miserable pieces of work I’ve ever had the misfortune of knowing, David Sommers (who long ago blocked me on FB and Twitter, like an enormous infant, so he wouldn’t have to view the mirror I’ve mostly refrained from holding up to him). He’s off to some anonymous landing spot in Oregon called the Rogue Valley News; God help the poor souls there.

They definitely shouldn’t look for anything “rogue” out of this tool, at least not in the heroic terms of romanticized journalism which ideally intends to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” David, during the period he was allowed to run the Long Beach Post, essentially turned it into an unregistered political action committee (PAC) acting on behalf of his unofficial boss Robert Garcia, particularly in the 2020 2nd District City Council race.

And yet the sanctimony and self-congratulations at the Post under Sommers were endless, constantly reminding readers that they were purportedly an “independent” journalistic voice (ironically, the best work they ever did was by Kelly Puente after Sommers was eventually, although not permanently, sidelined). This from the e-newspaper that was co-founded by Robert Garcia.

Garcia went on to sell LB Post to the woman he’d later import from her home in Orange County to run for the LB 2nd Council District, Cindy Allen.

Allen not only paid Garcia an undisclosed amount to take over LB Post (which was then in serious trouble after the tragic passing of Shaun Lumachi, the co-founder who had worked to build it into a going concern), she even began paying him a salary as the government affairs rep for her ETA Advertising company.

Yes, that’s the same ETA that not long thereafter (following Garcia’s 2014 election as mayor) started receiving every advertising contract City Hall could imagine: Long Beach Transit, Port of Long Beach, the Water Department, Economic Development, a taxpayer-funded ad campaign for Measure A, and the list goes on. Indeed, ETA even apparently did, very illegally, $11K worth of free work for Garcia’s ‘14 mayor campaign, far in excess of the $800 contribution maximum (https://www.lbreport.com/news/feb20/etak1.htm).

A few years later, Allen then trades LB Post away to its current owner, John Molina. John will get upset with me if I say mean things about him, and he is a nice enough guy, but there’s no way to delineate the Long Beach swamp without the name Molina. Sorry.

John has so many deals running that pass through Long Beach City Council it’s ridiculous – from the Breakers to 110 Ocean to Community Hospital to the Armory, and probably other stuff I’m not aware of. John was tight with Robert Garcia from the very get go of his political career, literally from his first City Council fundraiser back in 2008. And John knows very well that, as much of a service as it is in concept to keep local media going, it doesn’t hurt for folks to know you own the printing presses, so to speak, when you’ve got big deals running before council.

So, John takes over Garcia-cofounded LB Post from fellow Garcia crony Cindy Allen for another undisclosed sum and puts his former Molina Healthcare media relations guy in charge of Long Beach Post, David Sommers.

And then Allen goes off a year later to run for City Council at Garcia’s behest. Garcia really had one goal there: Stop Robert Fox at all cost. Fox being the frontrunner, community activist, Long Beach Reform Coalition co-founder candidate for the seat at that point. Robert Garcia knew that no one would shut Fox up in terms of criticizing City Hall on everything from parking to land use to public safety to homelessness to the shell game of Measure A’s regressive bait and switch sales tax – a nightmare scenario for Garcia as he prepped to run for Congress.

And with the disgraced 710 Freeway freakshow incumbent councilwoman Jeannine Pearce bowing out of the race, Garcia leaned hard on Allen to run, of course lining up all the corrupt special interest campaign cash and endorsements in the usual Long Beach fashion.

Nothing we’re not used to in Long Beach, but what was new was the role of the Long Beach Post, under Garcia-friendly (and Garcia campaign donor) David Sommers.

First there was the profile of Fox that literally fabricated, out of whole cloth, a racist connotation to an old-fashioned phrase he used once, an uncorroborated accusation from a political opponent, which two minutes of googling (or one call to Fox himself, to get his reaction to the accusation) would have revealed as unserious, defamatory garbage. But it was printed and later incorporated into campaign literature, of course.

Then there was a piece about Fox polling poorly, based on a poll from another political opponent, and later proved in the election to be a political trick.

Then there was the scandal that emerged before the primary when it was revealed in the Beachcomber that Cindy Allen had gotten rid of her conflicts of interest-ridden ETA Advertising. Well, actually she hadn’t gotten rid of it at all!

Allen actually just put out a press release that she had “sold” ETA, as later revealed, to a guy in Georgia with criminal record and a fake-looking “media” web site, before getting caught and admitting she, oops, still did actually own ETA. At the same time, it came out that Allen had actually been residing in Fountain Valley for well over a decade, using two Ocean Blvd. condos as Long Beach pied-a-terre/AirBnB rentals.

Every newspaper had to cover the story at that point, but Long Beach Post’s story was by far the most watered down and somehow failed to mention the whole controversy over Allen’s residence, which LB Post staff who were holdovers from Allen’s ownership knew better than anyone.

But that was nothing compared to what LB Post did later in the campaign, when it went all in defense of its own side, the Long Beach swamp.

The campaign season insanity truly reached its peak when there was an LB Post story about a former Fox campaign volunteer going over to the Cindy Allen camp, which included a series of absurd and defamatory allegations with zero corroboration (other than FB messages from the Fox campaign agreeing that Allen should be exposed for living in Fountain Valley).

That turned into a succession of attack pieces from LB Post, which really should’ve been reported to the FPPC for what they were, independent expenditure campaign hits against the Fox campaign, not “news.”

Sommers made his first ever personally signed editorial an attack against me, personally, as the volunteer community activist manager of the Fox campaign, following a gratuitous misleading hit piece by Tim Grobaty, as well. It was one of the grossest examples of the political weaponization of a news outlet locally since the bad old days of the Ridders using the Press-Telegram to control City Hall (back in the ‘60s and ‘70s).

LB Post was co-founded as a sort of copycat/anti-dote to first every all-online news outlet in Long Beach, Long Beach Report (aka LBReport.com), founded in 2000 by the late insatiable, dogged investigative journalist Bill Pearl. Bill and LB Report were the ultimate thorn in City Hall’s side, uncovering everything politicians and bureaucrats in that building didn’t want the public to know or notice.

The only chance the public has is independent local investigative journalism, like what Bill Pearl did for more than 20 years until his untimely passing a little over a year ago. Robert Garcia identified an opportunity to create a sort of anti-LB Report when he co-founded the Post. From its start in 2007, it seemed to be, as Pravda was to the Soviet Union or Xinhua is to the PRC, it was to Long Beach City Hall.

I will acknowledge that it has incrementally improved in the most recent couple of years, especially after Sommers left as publisher the first time and Kelly Puente in particular was allowed to do serious investigative pieces.

But, historically, LB Post has been without a doubt the Pravda or Isvestia of City Hall. It quite simply never published an article that was directly aimed at holding the political leadership of the city personally accountable, by name, for their own promises and failings.

I could go on about the public disservices of Long Beach Post under Big Baby Sommers’ tenure, like the campaign contributions graphic that rewrote history to exonerate Garcia from upwards of a million dollars in police union fealty during the George Floyd riots – and I do in the original Facebook post from which this piece was adapted: facebook.com/groups/LBpolitics/posts/6041849635880502.

But instead I’ll just say, as with Saltzgaver, goodbye and good riddance to an amoral parasite.

Ian Patton is the executive director and co-founder of the Long Beach Reform Coalition as well as a former candidate for the Long Beach City Council 5th District.



In my opinion, your descriptions of both "newsroom leaders" are too kind.

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