"Doesn't the mayor make all the appointments?" ---Councilman. "It's a waste of my time to involve myself with a commission that is toothless and has been entirely politicized"---Individual who withdrew his application rather than be interviewed.
Riverside's Mayor Nomination and Screening Committee met Tuesday to discuss the selection of a new commissioner to replace the departing Steve Simpson who vacated the Community Police Review Commission last week. However, those at the meeting had a difference of opinion of what the process would be. It didn't seem like there even was a process. At any rate, it was interesting to watch politics in action.
At this point, the CPRC has moved so far away from what it could have been. There's been a lot said about the limitations of the charter in what it can do and there's plenty of merit to those arguments but the charter has little or no impact in some of the decisions that have been made regarding its operations lately, which can be blamed more on politics.
Political appointments including those which have been witnessed in recent months only send to push it further down that path towards becoming the public relations machine that the current regime at City Hall appears to want it to be. The sad thing is that it is even failing at that as complaints in at least one neighborhood seem to be shuffled elsewhere besides the CPRC. As one individual told me when sharing his knowledge of this reality, what does this exactly say about the commission
I spoke with one individual who the city council members and even the city clerk had allegedly said had been interviewed by the city council, but he said that he was never interviewed and in fact had withdrawn his application. He had done some research for the position and after talking with police officers who laughed at it, lawyers including individuals at the Riverside County District Attorney's office who opposed it, and representatives of a police department that didn't want it, he had come under the conclusion that to serve on the body would be a waste of his time, because he had hoped that it could make a difference rather than be a toothless tiger.
Call me back when the process for appointment gets less politicized, he said before hanging up on the city.
It's just as well, even though he had a lot to offer to the CPRC with his service, even in his own words, he admitted that he'd probably only last a week before being expelled if being outspoken and challenging the directive of City Hall was enough to get it done.
A conversation like this one leads one to think that the only people who will be interested in serving on it are not those who could truly make a difference and want to push it in that direction, but those who want it on their resumes for future plans at future dates. After all, if you just need a resume filler, serving on a toothless tiger is perfectly fine, even preferable because you don't have to face making the decisions that might endanger your future plans. Most of those who have resigned in the past year were people who felt they could make a difference through their service. They expressed their frustration but no one really listened. Instead of seeing their departures as the losses they were, some saw opportunities opening up instead.
It's not unusual that I encounter at least one person a week that I think would make a great commissioner but it's hard to get anyone to apply because they don't want to deal with what appears to be a body that has been mismanaged by a city management team that has no experience in this area. They laugh and say they don't need the politics in their lives. Call them back when it's a commission again, they say.
As one commissioner said last week, the city treats us well when we agree with it. We've all seen what happens when the commission doesn't agree with the city and the police department and its difference of opinion becomes public like with an officer-involved death case rather than behind closed doors as it might on a citizen complaint.
Not much in term of surprises arose at this latest committee meeting to select the new commissioner.
Councilman Dom Betro wanted his long-time political supporter and current Human Relations Commissioner, Chani Beeman on the commission. He was joined in this recommendation by Councilman Frank Schiavone who said he had changed his mind, reversed his "nay" votes against Beeman and would support her recommendation for appointment. It's funny watching Schiavone advocate so absolutely, positively for one position on an issue one month and then the next, switch fences in a way that is described as being an organic progression but probably has every bit as much or more to do with back room politics.
However, Mayor Ron Loveridge vetoed that process in a sense and said they had applications to consider and they should select individuals from that group to vote for. That's how the process used to be done once upon a time in a matter of speaking. A point in history which at this point seems like it took place when the words, "transparency" and "process" weren't just sound bytes tossed around that aren't ever meant to be put into practice.
Betro advocated strongly for his selection, saying that Beeman had received the most votes in the "also ran" category during the selection process in March.
However, technically speaking, the record shows that she had received three votes, which put her in second place behind candidate, Sharon L.B. Tyrell, who received four votes but apparently is no longer under consideration. Tyrell gave two fairly decent interviews and should be in the running too, but has apparently been removed from consideration. Her exclusion was troubling because she had the most votes, but this time it wasn't going to be the highest two vote getters out of four but only the highest vote getter period would be counted and obviously, since she got the higher number of votes last time, she could pull a repeat which would put her on.
So initially, the person who was thought to get the most votes is supposed to be granted the recommendation for appointment based on that. But wait, it turns out to be someone else and that person is disqualified from further consideration, despite that.
Such is politics at City Hall and politics is paramount when it comes to board and commission appointments. It's not what you can do, or offer. It's who you know. Only instead of rewarding someone with an interview for having the best block party in the city, people get rewarded for other reasons.
give the best interview? Yes, she would bring many good qualifications to the commission but she is also the most political candidate. What she's brought in her work to the CPRC makes her a much better advocate than a commissioner.
But is this a political appointment? It's hard not to see it as such given her tight political connections with Betro, the same councilman who is pushing her appointment without even pushing for any equal consideration of people who submitted applications to serve on the commission. She is currently serving on the Human Relations Commission and has turned that body around in a big way, but it would also be nice to actually see a commissioner on the HRC who was not so eager to jump ship from one commission to one that fits their needs and wishes better as if it were out with the old and in with the new. This is especially true because 99.9999% of those who live in the city have very little chance of even being interviewed to serve on one commission, let alone being picked to serve on two commissions. Most of those who apply even those who have been longtime residents and have a lot to offer on their applications have virtually no chance of being interviewed. And there are those who not only have served on one commission but have served on two.
Not to mention that all the city's boards and commissions are important and deserve to have commissioners appointed to them who will serve out their complete terms. The Human Relations Commission deserves much more than being used as a stepping stone to the CPRC. It shouldn't be losing its stronger members to other bodies yet it may lose its second commissioner to the CPRC in the past nine months. But unless someone passes a requirement that commissioners serve out the terms that they have committed themselves to before jumping off and joining another commission, that won't change. What complicates the situation greatly for the HRC was that until the hemorrhage began at the CPRC late last year, the HRC had the highest turnover rate of any board or commission by a fairly large margin. Exactly why, is a question that different people have offered different reasons for, ranging from personality clashes, to time commitments to the delayed gratification of goal achievement when in comparison to other commissions. It's probably a combination of different factors added to which it underwent a period of time transitioning out of its micromanagement by the city manager's office to the protection of Loveridge's office. The hiring of Yvette Pierre as its new director has helped ensure some stability to its structure but still seems that some of its commissioners remain on it until they get tired of it or what they see as a better opportunity comes along.
By leaving this commission to jump on the CPRC without a second thought, that sends the message that the HRC is not good enough for these commissioners, which is a bad message to send to the majority of applicants for commissions like the HRC who never are even considered for interviews to serve on it. One long-time resident who applied in the late 1990s who had a MSW degree got frustrated after submitting for a position on it three times and not even getting called in for an interview with the city council.
Like the HRC, the CPRC needs to have members who represent a cross-section of the city's population who live in its different communities and neighborhoods. They should be individuals who haven't been politically tied to it during its past and present but people who should have a high level of commitment who came to it from a different path outside from its politics. Unrepresented on the CPRC are the Eastside, Casa Blanca and Arlanza who historically have had the most turbulent relationships with the police department. Bob Garcia, an original member of the commission who termed out earlier this year was the only representative of any of these neighborhoods.
The CPRC's demographics hardly reflect this, given that the following commissioners who currently sit on it have served on at least one other commission. In fact, Betro and Councilman Ed Adkison tried to push for people with prior board and commission experience for the CPRC so they "could hit the ground running" given the "current situation" involving the commission. A "current situation" that had their blessing, by the way through their silence on the actions taken involving the CPRC during the past 18 months. A situation that they only appeared to be interested in when it meant being able to put their own choices on the CPRC, especially in the case of Betro, who ran purportedly supporting the CPRC but has done little of consequence to show his support of the CPRC. During the past year, he could have taken the opportunity to speak in support of it in public, yet he never did. Given his recent endorsement by the police union, don't expect him to break that trend.
Some argue that the only role a city council member or mayor can play in relation to the CPRC is through the appointment of commissioners to serve on it. However, once one leaves the city of Riverside and travels to other places where there are boards and commissions similar to Riverside's, one will see elected officials who speak in strong support of civilian review and their city or county's civilian review mechanism, even if their opinion puts them in the minority on their governmental body.
But then Riverside's city government is still waiting and has been waiting seven years for a strong, vocal supporter of the CPRC to come from the dais. Some support the idea of it and seem unprepared to face the reality. Others, like Loveridge, have embraced its definition as a "symbolic gesture". Others including what was known as the GASS quartet opposed it and were backed and some say fronted by the Riverside Police Officers' Association to oppose it.
GASS definitely didn't care for civilian review, but what about its successor, BASS?
A lot of people who were strong advocates of civilian oversight and the CPRC put all their eggs in Betro's basket, but was that a worthwhile endeavor? The silence from his corner regarding what's been happening to the CPRC the past year speaks volumes. His dismissal of the city manager's thorough disregard for the CPRC's finding on the Summer Lane case that he exhibited when discussing the subject at several community meetings also speaks volumes. There hasn't been a positive public word out of his camp since the passage of Measure II which was endorsed by Betro, Loveridge and two other city council members.
Betro chastised individuals for supporting the Riverside Police Officers' Association's right to due process in its labor negotiations as virtual traitors to the CPRC due to the decision of Officer Ryan Wilson to sue the CPRC to overturn the finding it rendered against him in his shooting of Summer Marie Lane. He also bashed the union for the law suit filed by one of its members. Yet six months later, he accepted the union's endorsement and its money in his election campaign even though the Wilson law suit was ongoing. However, none of Betro's closest supporters went to city council to protest against the Wilson law suit either. These individuals should have been the first of line and showed the community that they expected to protest in force how to do so through their example. But of course none of them did.
Betro and Adkison who are both members of BASS, both were staunch in their belief that prior board and commission experience was a necessary requirement.
Here's the list of commissioners who either currently serve on another commission or did in the past.
1) Chair Brian Pearcy also chairs the Downtown Parking Committee
2) John Brandriff was appointed on the CPRC while serving on the Human Relations Commission.
3) Peter Hubbard served on the Board of Public Utilities for 10 years as a commissioner and alternate.
Someone called what was going on with the boards and commissions "bastardization" of the process by City Hall so they could pack them with people who have proven their loyalty or "paid their dues" as if either should be criteria to use when selecting commissioners. This unwritten rule that was sprung on the public during the selection process would eliminate over 99.9999999999% of the city's population from being considered from service on the CPRC. It's a qualification thought up on the spot when it was needed that makes absolutely no sense at all especially for those of us who aren't insiders at City Hall and have no desire to be.
Most impacted by this unwritten requirement would be men and women of color who are less likely to be able to serve on one commission and if that's the case, wouldn't be among the selection process for the CPRC if prior board and commission service was even an unwritten requirement. Sure enough, none of the commissioners who fell within the unwritten requirement of prior board and commission service were any race but White. Currently, the CPRC is less racially diverse than the Riverside Police Department.
It's difficult to keep up let alone keep score with who wins a position on the CPRC because the selection process lost its integrity months ago, as a series of political appointments have been used to fill the vacancies which keep coming from within its ranks. Those who make the appointments are so brazen in what the process has become, that to sit in on these selection and interview meetings and listen to the discussions that go into selecting commissioners is truly an education in City Hall politics although probably at the introductory level. And that's just the discussions, debates and lobbying efforts that happen in a public forum, the conversations that go on behind closed doors must be even more of a fascinating study in the political structure of what is Riverside. It's great to watch if you want to write a thesis paper on the dynamics of city government but it's not healthy for the well-being of the city's boards and commissions.
The excuse by several councilmen for their appointments on the CPRC is that there aren't enough applicants who know how to be CPRC commissioners. One wonders how they can say that when they admit that they haven't seen the list of applicants until just before the meeting and have their minds are clearly so made up that they don't really participate in any semblance of a screening process. It's interesting watching one councilman be so adamant against one appointment last March, but by August, he's taken a 180 degree turn. In between, was the appointment of a woman who was vying for the same elected position that this councilman will be fighting for next year. And so it goes. They sit there in stony silence grunting a yay or nay in response to a name that Loveridge picks out from the applications he at least takes some time to read through.
But what bothered me the most about this appointment process was the conversation I had with Schiavone in late June when he started asking me questions literally on the street about Simpson's mental competency, based on what he had read on my blog about the clash between Simpson and City Attorney Gregory Priamos. Even then, in between questions about whether or not I thought Simpson was mentally fit enough to serve on a commission and realizing later that along with malfeasance, mental incompetence could be grounds for removal from a board or commission by the vote of the city council, I understood later why there was already talk of who would replace him.
Did Schiavone believe at the time believe that he had the votes necessary to have Simpson removed? And if so, how would he know this? But if he didn't, why would he be considering and discussing a candidate he would vote to replace Simpson?
After all, one would think that this wouldn't be a question that would be answered until a final vote was taken after a competency hearing. Given the unpredictable nature of such a proceeding and its potential outcome, not to mention the final decisions in terms of the votes cast of at least five elected officials, one would think it would be premature to discuss replacement candidates.
What was also amazing was that the short list of people provided in the conversation by Schiavone had come to him discussing Simpson's mental competency included no one who had talked to him or even spent much time observing his behavior before expressing their alleged concerns about his ability to serve on the commission.
There certainly hasn't been much transparency about how these concerns came about, even as questions were asked about Simpson's mental fitness. Any concerns about this issue most certainly happened behind closed doors and it appears that until his meeting with Pearcy in July, Simpson was kept totally in the dark about what was apparently transpiring behind the scenes concerning him. It's difficult to believe and very disappointing if it's true that this is what was going on, given that the city council members take great pride in how they conduct themselves on accountability issues with boards and commissions. These city council members should be above engaging in such behavior.
Simpson said that he had been threatened with removal. He also said that CPRC Chair Brian Pearcy had taken him out to eat and told him to tone it down, toe the line or he was gone. Pearcy did not respond to Simpson's words at the last CPRC meeting but it seems to me, that a chair should represent his commissioners' interests, not those of City Hall. There needs to be some inquiry and some level of accountability to investigate what Simpson said at the latest meeting about what happened to him because not much seems to be known about what exactly did happen.
Will this happen? Of course not.
This city is still struggling with an ethics complaint process that is as strong as a paper tiger and that individuals have said is being used unfairly against elected officials even though two out of the three complaints received against elected officials that are supposedly unfair have not been accepted by the city council for a hearing, let alone vetted in a public forum where both sides would get to present their sides. How can anyone decide whether or not the complaints themselves are unfair or unfounded without even knowing what evidence is available? How can anyone judge a process in that way that seems to change its rules with the seasons?
Any inquiry into the process that ended with Simpson's resignation but appears to have begun much earlier will not garner much support. But what of the process concerning addressing potential mental competency in commissioners if the situation does arrive? Is there even such a process in place? Probably not.
If there ever is a mental competency issue involving a commissioner, then there needs to be a process in place to address this issue in a way that doesn't strip a commissioner of his or her dignity. How would the city council members feel if they were treated in this fashion by each other over the same issue?
But then that's hard to explain to a city government if it believes it's perfectly okay to try to push that process simply to replace one commissioner with another for reasons that might have little or nothing to do with fitness to serve and everything to do with politics and trade. It's not clear that the campaign against Simpson that was clearly going on had anything to do with legitimate concerns about mental competency. What cast doubt on it was the differences between Schiavone's conversation with me and what Simpson related involving his own experiences at the CPRC meeting last week.
What was interesting even as it was also appalling, is that the concern that the "seventh floor" showed regarding Simpson in terms of his interaction with Pearcy did not appear to involve mental incompetence but instead appeared to be about a commissioner with strong opinions about certain things including several taboo issues including the commission's right to even discuss retaining an independent counsel, let alone actually do it. Was there any concern raised by Pearcy about his mental competence to remain on the commission and if so, why was the message instead to tone down his rhetoric? If there was concern about mental incompetency, wouldn't it remain consistant among the parties involved in all their interactions?
Even though Simpson's position on the independent attorney was in line with what many people believed and in fact, several said at his last meeting that they fully supported all his recommendations, it's doubtful anyone will support his right to a due process examination of what led to his decision to resign. They will already be throwing in their support of the next step, which whether intentionally or not comes at his expense. Why worry about the means when it all worked out in the end?
What appalls me now about the whole affair is whether or not there was a willingness on the part of one or more city council members and maybe other individuals as well to put someone like Simpson through the humiliation of a mental competency hearing for some other reason. Was it done to create a vacancy? Was it done to try and remove someone whose opinions and style the "seventh floor" as it's called, disagreed with?
To me, the idea that behavior like this could have taken place in connection with the CPRC or any commission for that matter is too repulsive and disgusting to even contemplate. If it was not carried out as an action of concern for the well-being of a commissioner and the CPRC but for other reasons that are more selfish and self-serving among politicians, then we are really at a nadir in the CPRC's history and in the history of our city government as well.
If the appointment process of commissioners to the CPRC has descended to that level, then it's not worth promoting to prospective community members interested in serving on a commission they can believe in. The police officers and most definitely, the community members especially those who engage the complaint process deserve much better than this and they deserve much better than elected officials who would engage in such behavior if that's indeed what they did. All of our politicians have the capability and have shown that they are capable of great good, and sometimes courageous stands. This episode most definitely was not an example of their finest hour whatever underlying motives or reasons were involved.
But what of community leaders who impose strict ethical requirements of leaders, but first and foremost do so regarding those they personally or politically disagree with? If you support a politician, a candidate or an elected official, you should hold them to a higher standard than those that you oppose. In part, because their behavior good and bad reflects somewhat on those who support them, stump for them, campaign for them and believe in both their potential and what they do.
The hardest part of being a watch dog is when you must choose a process over a person or people and often that can be a difficult process. But if you choose people over process, most often you apply double standards involving different people who undergo a process based on how you feel about that person or people and what they stand for. Then, people watching, say wait a minute, you criticize this person for doing this but when it's someone you approve of, you push for it. What gives? What do you really represent? Is it do as I say, not as I do? What do you stand for again?
What does the community receive from all of this intrigue inside City Hall which nearly saw a spectacle of humiliation enforced on one of its commissioners? It's interesting among those of us who have been involved in the police complaint system to watch the behavior of those who don't know what it's about. For us, the CPRC means something entirely different than to those to whom it remains an academic exercise. The only problem, is that those who file complaints and undergo the experience of doing so aren't considered "stake holders" by City Hall in the process. But complainants and police officers who have complaints filed against them are major stake holders, before politicians, city employees and community leaders who speak for those who have or will file complaints. Yet no one thinks to even ask members of this population what they think should come next for a body that was purportedly created to meet an important need.
Communities who have disproportionate numbers of their residents file complaints are definitely stake holders, but often don't have a voice either. These communities have been denied a voice in the actions taken involving the CPRC by City Hall during the past 18 months including the politicization of the appointment process. Not once did those at City Hall ever ask the community for its opinions about what it was doing. In fact, those in City Hall did whatever they could to keep it out of the public eye.
Some situations are taking place as a result of all that's happened, like ripples on a lake after a rock splashes its surface.
With complaints allegedly being funnelled in at least one neighborhood straight to the police department to be "resolved" rather than through the CPRC or even the Internal Affairs Division, it's clear that this development which contributed to zero complaints being filed in the Eastside last year can be read in two ways. Some say, it shows greater confidence between the neighborhood and the police department but some see it as a reflection of what the CPRC has become in the past 18 months, which is nothing less than what it was intended to become when the city first passed the ordinance to create it in February 2000. Exactly what it does mean needs to be examined and evaluated. It could be one or the other. It could be both or other things. But it deserves a look.
But then the whole process used by the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee that is turned into an exercise where elected leaders sit around a table with binders of applications in front of them that don't seem to be opened. In the past, city council members had actually read all of them before discussing which ones to interview and there were some good, interesting discussions even if back then, it came down to who knew who.
Now, it's still who knew who and who paid which dues to get there, when in reality, it's a venue where those questions shouldn't be asked let alone imposed as unwritten requirements. Every applicant deserves equal footing no matter who they know or don't know or support at City Hall. This is a commission that performs an important function, not a political tool which unfortunately is what it has become.
What is past is prologue? That's a question that needs to be answered too.
Are Riverside County employees abusing their work mail systems? Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle is leaving his job, but apparently not before conducting an investigation
about whether or not a lieutenant in his department inappropriately used his email address to stump for the man who is expected to be the interim acting sheriff, Neil Lingle. Doyle urged people working for him to just calm down with the emails.
(excerpt)Sheriff Bob Doyle confirmed Tuesday that an investigation was in progress over an unconfirmed allegation an employee had violated the county's e-mail policy.
County spokesman Ray Smith said the e-mail policy does not specifically address the type of uses connected to the allegation.
"When an allegation comes up, it would be appropriate to look into it and determine if it is a violation and that sounds like what is going on now," Smith said.
The sheriff said appropriate disciplinary action would be taken if the allegation was confirmed, although it was not readily known what that action would entail. Doyle declined to name the employee.
It's not clear what impact this will have on the emails that are sent out regarding the ongoing situation with who will replace Doyle when he departs the building. As for the department's fax machines
? They remain quiet at least for now.
The Press Enterprise
also voiced its view through this
editorial about the abrupt announcement regarding Doyle's departure. It seems to be an enthusiastic supporter of Lingle.
(excerpt)Lingle brings experience and expertise that outsiders -- even former employees -- cannot match. The undersheriff, a 17-year department veteran, runs the day-to-day workings of the $450 million, 3,000-employee agency. Lingle in the past three years has been at the center of every key decision and effort, especially plans to bolster county jail space and build two new jails in the next decade. The supervisors and the undersheriff agree that the fast-growing county's No. 1 priority should remain slashing the number of prisoners the sheriff releases from jail early because of crowding.
Lingle would sustain momentum on those key initiatives while repairing relationships with elected officials and the sheriff's deputies union. Doyle stopped speaking with union representatives over policy disagreements; Lingle vows to end the silence. And he would mend ties between the department and the district attorney and supervisors, which frayed under Doyle's watch.
Electrical shortages and even blackouts could be on the horizon
through out the state, according to the Associated Press. Increased use of air conditioners in the wake of the latest blazing heat wave is to blame.
Today and tomorrow are expected to see electric usage that will set new records as temperatures are expected to range between 105 to 115 degrees. Hopefully, blackouts will be avoided.
On that note, there are more letters on the decision by the Riverside City Council to reverse its vote on the electrical rate increases including one
that supports that decision.
Several postings ago I made a reference to Press Enterprise reporter Phil Pitchford being an "old face". I meant not that he was old but that he's been around the newspaper a while. I first met him in 1996 when he was reporting on the city government in Riverside before departing. In a newspaper where quite a few of the "old faces" have left, it's nice to see one that is still around.DHL Noise Forecast:
Is DHL keeping you awake tonight? Is it your night to have its planes fly over your home?
Here is a list of neighborhoods reporting noisy air traffic courtesy of DHL and of poor decision making by the March Joint Powers Association.
If you are on this list, all I can say is you're stuck buying ear plugs, or white sound machines and praying that either the DHL flight path is moved again like a hot potato or we get in some new elected representatives who will take responsibility for the problem and provide a viable solution to it rather than a bunch of rhetoric which just adds to the already noisy atmosphere.
Labels: business as usual, Making the grade, public forums in all places