Over 100 community members and Riverside Police Department officers congregated at the city council meeting in protest of the decision of the city manager's office to convert three management positions in the police department to "at will" and contracting with the city manager's office.
Two of the officers accepted the offer although it wasn't clear what the exact circumstances were in terms of when the "at will" offer was first made. A third one allegedly refused, for obvious reasons.
The positions in question didn't actually exist as separate positions under those titles. If you read the annual or quarterly Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports for the police department, you will find the department's deputy chiefs included under the designation, "captains" because essentially they are captains who are appointed by the police chief to serve in management positions "at will" in terms of that particular assignment but not "at will" in the sense that they can be terminated from their jobs as police officers. The best recent example is Capt. Mike Blakely who came to the police department from San Diego as a captain and was appointed deputy chief under then chief Ken Fortier. When Fortier left, Blakely returned to being a captain under the new chief.
But apparently, the city council was being asked to approve appropriations for supplemental salaries and fringe benefits for two newly created positions that the body hadn't even approved. Not only that, but it turns out that the positions were not able to be created in the first place, according to an apparently belated opinion by the city attorney's office.
The issue involving the police department that was put under a microscope this past week, is actually an issue that has plagued the city for several years as department after department has been subjected to having its management positions and even supervisory positions converted to being "at will" by the city manager's office. The only difference is in this case was that there was a very loud response from the involved department.
The city council and city manager apparently got that message.City manager accused of meddling in police promotions
People crowded into the city council chambers, even lining the walls on both sides. Mayor Ron Loveridge had been bumping public comment to the end of the meeting agendas, as of late but apparently after seeing how many people had appeared, decided to leave it where it was and hear comments. Initially, he invited City Manager Brad Hudson, Chief Russ Leach, Riverside Police Administrators' Association president Lt. Darryl Hurt and the president and vice-president of the Riverside Police Officers' Association, Det. Ken Tutwiler and Det. Brian Smith.
A flustered Hudson told the city council and the audience that there had been many discussions about this situation in the past couple of days. When I had first arrived, Hudson came up to me and said that what he said he had done, he hadn't done and couldn't do because the city attorney said so. His presentation at the meeting helped clarify his current position further.
Yesterday, was also the first time Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis called my office and told an individual there that he was so proud of me for having emailed his office(as well as the city council and police chief) about this issue last week when I had heard about it. That's really sweet of him I guess, compliments are always nice and often rare but I don't go fishing for them. I make inquiries to hopefully receive answers to questions and more often, the barometric checks come from the opposite end of the spectrum. But what it did say, is that there were some discussions taking place in that office about how to handle this bungled situation and that's always nice to know that if something's broken, it's on its way to being fixed. But was it something that was even broken in the first place?
I guess there's a first time for everything and yesterday, it was the first time Hudson and his office backed down from their attempts to create an "at will" workforce who can only be loyal to those who can fire them without giving a reason.
However, DeSantis had never actually responded to my email even though it was an analyst from his office who initially put the controversial item of the latest "at will" positions on the agenda.
The only two who did, were Councilman Art Gage and City Manager Brad Hudson. Gage said that he would inquire into the matter as he had concerns about the situation and Hudson said that he offered "at will" positions to over 100 positions, they usually accepted and these two latest candidates in the police department had as well.
It was on Tuesday night that he had told me before the meeting that the positions had been rescinded after a conversation with the city attorney's office.
He said in his speech on March 27 that he had been pleased to recommend for the two positions, Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa and Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel. No one who spoke argued against the promotions themselves or the individuals involved, just the process that apparently had taken place.
Hudson said that he supported the current police chief."Simply because I approve two appointments doesn't mean they work for me," Hudson said.
Given the questions people have asked me the past several days, Hudson needed to voice his support of Leach, but his comments last night when stacked up against his actions during the past week still haven't erased doubts in people's minds.
Last year, Hudson said that he had pushed for the two positions to be open to recruitment and to serve "at will". He said that the positions had been approved by Leach, but opposed by the RPAA. Those were the positions that had been brought up just recently, with slight pay increases. Hudson said that he had began this process involving other city departments last year, but in the past couple of days was informed by City Attorney Gregory Priamos that he could not do this with the police or fire departments so the two positions were cancelled.
"There are tools available to other departments that are not available to the RPD or fire departments," Hudson said.
He said he was not trying to run the department for Leach.
"I handle the money. He handles the police work," Hudson said.
Hurt spoke next about his concerns involving the creations of the new positions and what he called the "balancing act" between the executives and whom they would be serving, when making decisions in their positions. He had first raised the concern at a city council meeting on May 23, 2006 about changes in the language to Section 4 of the Classification Plan. He said that Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis had told him that the language had only been needed to adopt particular budget items. Months later, the situation had raised its head again.
(excerpt)If the city manager's office wasn't attempting to directly influence or make promotions at the police department, then ponder these questions. Why were we led to believe that the police department's system of promotion would remain status quo and no contract positions for assistant or deputy police chief would be created by the proposed budget resolution's action in May of last year?Why in fact did Chiefs DeLaRosa and Esquival sign "at will" contracts with the city manager's office as conditions to their promotions?Why were there not traditional job announcements and a promotional process for these positions?Can a manager at the RPD, expect merit based promotions without having to sign an "at will" contract?Why is it necessary to have to two classifications of exempt "at will" positions?Why was item 20 on the "tentative agenda"-which was the proposed amendment to the salary and fringe benefit resolution to create these "at will" assistant and deputy police chief positions-suddenly pulled from this week's final agenda?
Tutwiler spoke up next, and said that he was glad that the city council had disapproved of the creation of "yes" men, adding that "at will" employees are too often at fear of losing their jobs to act independently. He added that many of the city's departments faced the same situation as the police department nearly did.
He said to allow the police chief to do his job and run the department."Chief Leach has done a great job at leading us through the consent decree," Tutwiler said.
RPOA vice-president Brian Smith told the city council that although a decision was made to rescind the "at will" positions, it still had an obligation to support the police chief that they had hired seven years ago."We are going to remain watchful of what you do," Smith said.
Leach came on deck next making his first appearance at a public meeting in weeks. He said that the officers in the room were very passionate about what they do and took great pride in what they do. He had met with his command staff, officers and civilian employees for four hours discussing the implementation of the department's Strategic Plan which will be reported to the city council for only the second time since the March 28 workshop last year, regarding its progress and its problems.
He referred to the controversy as a "miscommunication" between him and the city manager's office and left it at that. He said that the officers had congregated at City Hall out of pride in their jobs, not out of anger. Indeed, none of the officers appeared to have any animosity towards Leach or expressed less confidence in him, but like other city employees, their issues of confidence appear to be directed at the city manager's office and that confidence is waning with each passing day in a workforce which in the past 12 months has seen law suits, rallies at City Hall and threatened strike votes.
Leach complimented the same officers who had come to the city council to advocate for him, which is probably what the situation boiled down to in the end."I am an advocate for them," Leach said, "I am an advocate for good policing."
Community leaders came up to the podium as well to chide the city government for the decision that it had almost made without even knowing it.
Jack Clarke, Jr. who had headed the Mayor's Use of Force Panel in 1999 made a rare appearance at a city council meeting to express his concern about first, the city manager's banishment of former Community Police Review Commission executive director, Pedro Payne from public meetings."I think that concept has poisoned the community," Clarke said
Clarke also said that one of the major concerns of his panel had been whether or not the city would support the police department's infrastructure. He failed to see how the creation of the "at will" positions would allow the chief to have autonomy over his department and implored people to remain vigilant.
NAACP Chair Woodie Rucker-Hughes said that two strategies came to "at will" employees from the city manager's office."Limit your public appearances and keep your mouth shut," she said.
People also spoke of the racial discrimination at City Hall that's taken place in the past two years. At least 13 men and women of color have left or been fired from positions at City Hall, several speakers said.
Hudson came prepared with a power point presentation on the city's management staff in which his numbers showed that the percentages of Black and Latinos employees in management had increased slightly, but the departures of Art Alcaraz, Jim Smith, Tranda Drumwright and Pedro Payne just in the past year still resonate strongly, because they put faces to what community members believe is a serious problem at City Hall and there was sentiment expressed by some that they didn't want to see any of the three Latino men who were asked to serve "at will" on that list. Many people hear the words, Black, Latino, city employee and "at will" and shrug, believing that person is probably on his or her way out. That's what the situation in the city's workforce has come down to when people think about it and it took less than 18 months to get to that point.
Concerned people also spoke of Deputy Chief Dave Dominguez who has been praised by community members and police officers for his ties to the community, his work in community policing and his actions that he took regarding the expulsions of four community members including two elderly women at a Feb. 27 city council meeting. Several speakers feared that if he had taken the "at will" position, he wouldn't be employed much longer. At least one person tied it to his alleged refusal to have these four individuals arrested if they appeared at the night meeting on Feb. 27, which was especially important given that none of these individuals had even been notified by the city council that they would face arrest.
Indeed, Leach patted the shoulders of one of those individuals, Marjorie Von Pohle, 90, on his way out of the chambers.
Vickie Jackson said that she was concerned about the removal of Black and Latino employees from City Hall and said she had been told that they want to bring federal and state investigators in to take a look at Riverside's employment practices."This is discrimination. This is racism," she said.
It's also Riverside, on March 27, 2007 where the city government is allowing its direct employees to take actions without consulting the city attorney's office to see first if it's even legal in terms of compliance with policies, procedures, ordinances and the city's charter. If it is known now that the police and fire departments were exempted from Hudson's "plan", why was it not known then?
Why was the city council being asked to vote on appropriations for two management positions that did not exist?
Why were they being asked to approve appropriations for two management positions that could never exist?
And when I say, "approve", I mean it as stated, because this item was originally listed as #20 on the consent calendar where items are placed when they're not expected to arouse much discussion or disagreement. That's where most of the city's business is placed these days, especially since July 12, 2005 when the city council voted to bar city residents from pulling items off of the consent calendar.
So as originally written, it was supposed to be approved by the city council as part of a long list of blanket items that would have been enacted in the seconds it takes for seven council members to press their voting buttons. But what happened instead, took longer and became the latest chapter in a book that is still in the process of being written about the antics at City Hall under the current regime.
And if Hudson is racially discriminating employees in the city, he has the blessings of the city council who has had little to nothing to say on that subject despite the rallies, candle light vigils and impassioned speeches at city council meetings on this issue. So if people criticize him for these actions, they shouldn't turn around and praise certain city officials who through voting a hefty pay raise for Hudson earlier this year, are supporting these actions.
The buck starts and stops with the elected government. Yesterday, they received a reminder that they are supposed to be holding their direct employees accountable.
What is past is prologue. If you don't believe that, then you should go check out Rick Thatcher's report again, then look up the Riverside County Superior Court case which was recently closed out, The people of the State of California v The City of Riverside
The rest is history. It's history that's been repeated more times than most city residents can count. History that hopefully this time around, won't be coming down the pike again."If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there."
--Lewis Carroll, who swears he's never been to RiverCity. Time line:Friday, March 16:
An announcement is made about Asst. Police Chief John DeLaRosa and Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel being promoted to those positions, through press releases issued by the police department. Deputy Chief Dave Dominguez's job responsibilities are taken on by Esquivel and he's moved to DeLaRosa's old position.Last week:
Item #20 is included on a tentative city council meeting agenda for the March 27 meeting, by analyst Jeremy Hammond. Some people have said that Hammond plays a large role in decision making for Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis in the Human Resources Department. And the item was included under the heading, "Human Resources"Amend salary and fringe benefit resolution and create Assistant Police Chief and Deputy Police Chief classification-A Resolution of the City Council of the City of Riverside, California amending Resolution N. 21052 to amend Parts I, II and III describing the Fringe Benefits, Salary and Salary Plan(addendum) to reflect various updates and changes-Waive further reading(All Wards)Wednesday, March 21:
Item #20 is pulled from the agenda according to the city clerk's office and never appeared on any official meeting agendas that were circulated or posted.Thursday, March 22:
Emails and notices are circulated asking people to attend the city council meeting on March 27.Sunday, March 25:
Councilman Frank Schiavone said that he had returned from vacation with calls from among others, Councilman Steve Adams waiting for his response. He immediately calls City Attorney Gregory Priamos that evening about the situation. During that discussion, Schiavone asks Priamos of they are basically funding positions that don't exist, and Priamos said, yes. Schiavone said that he was driven to act because he felt that policy decisions fell within the venue of the city council, not the city manager's office.Monday, March 26:
Representatives from the RPOA and the RPAA address the city with this issue. They credit Schiavone's efforts for aiding them in this process.Tuesday, March 27:
People appear at city council meeting and speak on the issue. Hudson announces that the positions have been rescinded. Leach calls it a "miscommuniction" and many people express concerns on this issue and related issues with micromanagement of other city departments by the city manager's office.
Labels: Black city employee watch, business as usual, public forums in all places