Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Facts and Faxes?

It's been raining faxes at the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

All anonymous and with showers peaking in February, July and most recently, late September. No, these periods of electronic activity do not appear to have anything to do with the return of the El Nino scheduled for later this year, but precipitation is expected to continue as long as this episode remains part of the forecast of Riverside's "other" law enforcement agency.

Not many rain drops fell from the sky last February, but apparently faxes did, and so it began. Representatives from several federal agencies soon came to town to take a gander but left their umbrellas at home.

The FBI and Department of Labor both paid visits to the Riverside Sheriff's Association earlier this week, after launching an investigation of the labor organization after a flurry of anonymous faxes were sent to the sheriff's department alleging misconduct. Agents were sent to the office to serve a warrant to search the premises. They left a while later, carrying several boxes apparently containing legal documents.

FBI raids sheriff association office

FBI raids deputy unions office

The investigation began after a series of anonymous faxes were sent to the sheriff's department alleging serious misconduct last February and July. The faxes named the RSA's president, Pat McNamara and were descriptively titled, "Corruption within the Sheriffs' Association". McNamara later filed a defamation of character law suit against former Scott Teutscher, who had served as the legal operations manager until he was fired in September 2005. Teutscher denied that he had been responsible for the faxes. He later countersued McNamara and the RSA, alleging that money had also been taken from the union's 11-99 Widow and Orphans' fund.

The RSA has released a statement through its attorneys that it has cooperated with and will continue to cooperate with the investigation and that it expects to be fully vindicated by its end.

According to this Press Enterprise article, the FBI began a probe into allegations that over $100,000 of union fees were misused by members of the association to finance the legal expenses of former sheriff deputy Duane Evan Winchell. The previously mentioned unsigned faxes that appeared at several branches of the sheriff's department alleged that the expenditures were inappropriate because the funds were being used to pay for Winchell's criminal defense even though the alleged crimes occurred while he was off-duty. Winchell was charged with misdemeanors counts of trespassing and vandalism stemming from an incident involving his girlfriend and the destruction of some property including trees. He plead guilty, received two years probation and the case was later dismissed.

The U.S. Attorney's office filed a motion this summer to halt discovery in McNamara's law suit, a motion that was supposed to have been sealed. Naturally, it instead wound up posted on the Riverside County Superior Court's Web site where it was discovered by the Press Enterprise. The U.S. Attorney's office had filed the motion, explaining that both the FBI and the Department of Labor were conducting a criminal inquiry concerning allegations of misconduct involving the RSA. The court had granted that motion. That inquiry became a raid in late September.

More mysterious faxes appeared after the story broke about the FBI's raid according to this Press Enterprise article. Apparently, these faxes centered on requests to remove the leadership from the association and not allow them to have access to the union's legal funds until the completion of the criminal investigation. That appears fair enough to not allow them to have access to the union's finances if their actions are in question. It's important that the integrity of the union's dues be protected until it is determined whether or not any of them were misspent from any fund, for any purpose by anyone. Whether or not the leadership remains at the helm, that's up to the union's members. They need to make that decision collectively, not by conducting the process via the fax machine.

Court cases filed in Riverside County Superior Court:

McNamara v Teutscher (RIC438168)

Teutscher v RSA (RIC456858)

The Riverside Police Officers Association still has no new contract signed with the city, but they are on the agenda to meet with its representatives at the city council. The union's members opted not to accept Brad Hudson's contract that he had his sidekick, Tom DeSantis present through power point last week. Here's hoping that during this past week, Mr. Hudson and his sidekick have learned how to properly conduct contract negotiations, because their record so far is not very good. In fact, it's pretty poor, certainly when it comes to getting contracts signed and people leaving happy.

This state of affairs does not look good for the city especially not with the semiannual performance evaluation coming up for the city manager not to mention city elections next year, which may be one reason among others why we have this.

For more information on the upcoming "Riverside Renaissance" go here to read this. In this once proposed 20-year plan to revitalize our city that's now been shrunk down to five years, is a wish list of everything this city has truly needed for the past 20 years, from new parks to better looking, if not wider streets, to new police and fire facilities, including a new 911 dispatch center, which is hopefully earthquake-proof.

What is there to say no to, or argue against?

Well, the fact that the city is pushing the idea that it's going to be largely funded through raising property taxes $20-30 for the next several decades even though it's clear that a lot more money will have to be moved from quite a few column As to fit Columns B, C, D and so forth. With these grand proposals, of course questions always arise. Will the city have to borrow a lot of money? What will that do the city's line of credit and bond rating? Who will take over the helm of the process that Hudson may fully intend to initiate but may not complete if he decides to move on(or up?) from being employed by the city of Riverside in the near future.

Then there are the projects.

The grade separations for Columbia, Magnolia and Third alone will cost quite a bit of money, and the original completion dates for these were pushed into the future for different reasons, including issues with the federal government regarding expenditure. They clearly need to be completed, but what will it take to get all three done in five years, given that nothing has been done to initiate these projects to date? Other projects have also stalled in terms of being implemented in the past. The only difference is that there seems to be more hot air in the room this time around.

Missing from this proposal is language on the state of Riverside's main thoroughfares, many of which are overcrowded particularly during rush hour periods. This problem will only worsen if it is not adequately addressed soon. The problem is, that when ever there are projects like "Riverside Renaissance" and the "villages"(part of the 20 year plan), there is never any similar commitment into ensuring that city residents(which currently number 290,000) will be able to travel to and from these different places on streets that do not resemble parking lots.

Also missing from the report is the state of affairs involving the city's labor force, which is still undergoing its worst contract negotiations in years. After all, the city will only be able to contract certain components of the project out to businesses from Orange County and other places including those out of state. A lot of its success will depend on city employees from all the various departments and they will be the ones who will be charged to complete Hudson's project in the time frame. Hudson clearly expects the city employees to get it done, but aren't these the same city employees who have had to hold strike votes and file law suits to negotiate new contracts? Maybe that's why the city was shooting for all the unions to sign four year contracts rather than the usual two year ones. With all the work that the city employees will be doing in the first two years(while Hudson's still here) of these contracts, which ones will have the energy to reopen negotiations in the hot summer months of 2008?

Also, what will happen to the competitive bidding process in this city when it comes to contracting(there's that word again) companies to do the work needed with this project? Attracting bids, considering them and making the decision on which to work with and so forth, these things take a lot of time, and there's only so many days during a five-year period for all these bidding processes to take place simultaneously. I mean, this is the same city which had difficulty launching simultaneous bids for mobile data terminals and digital video recorders for the police department, so how are they going to handle probably dozens if not hundreds of bids involving multiple city departments?

Will the bidding process suffer? Has it suffered already in this city? Maybe that should be left up to the nine to answer.

These projects are all so necessary. Many people have wanted them for years. Others have fought for each one of them, only to be told it could not be done for one reason or another. That history makes it easy to embrace the projects in the present, but what is really going on here?

Is this renaissance real or are these projects simply tantalizing carrots being dangled in front of a populace hungry for growth in Riverside? Is this city biting off more than it can chew? And what will be the price paid and by whom?

The problem is that if you argue against anything or more likely address any concerns with the projects, you will likely be told by the city council that you are blocking the benefits of progress in this city. However, the city residents' responses to this project appear to be mixed and many explain their positions.

Press Enterprise Survey

Many of those who responded to the survey proposed taking a project of this magnitude to a public vote in the form of a ballot initiative. That might not be a bad idea. To do all these wonderful things in only five years at this point sounds more like a feather that city officials might want to include in their hats, rather than a viable, realistic plan that the city's residents need a voice in.


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