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

Friday, September 26, 2008

Are two of the city council's direct employees at odds?

This is one of the funniest blog postings I've read in a long time but it's hard to fully appreciate it unless you too, have had a Tamias carnivorus hanging off of your finger by its teeth.

That's a chipmunk.

Not the Chip 'n Dale Disney duo and not Alvin and his bodies either, though if you're sitting in the emergency room waiting to get treated, every chipmunk in the cinema Hall of Fame will have his or her name invoked at least once. Not to worry, it's nothing about half a dozen shots won't fix.

Riverside will be increasing the maintenance of the lakes at Fairmount Park which it spent millions drudging last year. It had begun the process by hosting a luncheon for city officials and dignitaries as the hoses sucked up and spewed a medley of mud, silt and assorted debris not too far away. Some said this scene also had a metaphoric overtone, but at any rate after some months, the dirt, silt and assorted debris were but a memory.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"It's like a fish bowl," said Randy McDaniel, a project manager with the city's parks and recreation department. "If the water is stagnant it gets moldy, but if you have an aeration device, it will stay cleaner and healthier for the fish."

Lamiell said it's evident the fish are thriving in their newly cleaned home by their frequent leaps out of the water. For years, Lamiell stayed away from the park.

"There was no point in coming down," he said. "The water was filthy and the park was filthy. It's wasn't a place to come with family."

But now Lamiell, 25, frequently enjoys his day off fishing with his dad at the park. Not only is the water cleaner, but so is the rest of the park, he said.

One of the most interesting topics that has come up lately is what's up with the rumors of dissent between City Manager Brad Hudson and City Attorney Gregory Priamos. Its hard to believe that it could really be true that the two male direct employees of the city council might be at odds with each other because on the dais, they look like they get along. Except that Priamos hasn't been seen on the dais or several other meetings he attends as often in recent weeks.

The reason provided for this alleged collision between the two men? Priamos is allegedly upset at having to serve as the public figure to sell an agenda set by Hudson while Hudson sits in the background and hits his department heads and commission members with memos, in lieu of conversation and definitely lieu of having to issue any public statements about his recent activities. While it's definitely true that Hudson has been busy enough commenting on the recent departures of two out of three of his assistant managers, that does leave him with several minutes here and there to comment on the recent slew of memos leaving his office including one aimed at the Community Police Review Commission.

One potential difficulty that could arise is that the more memos that Hudson tosses out in lieu of speaking out and up on his own actions, the more he needs someone else to do that work. And more and more, it does appear that it's fallen on Priamos' lap. You'd think that if Hudson couldn't speak up for himself and his minion, Tom DeSantis couldn't speak for Hudson, then what about public information officer, Austin Carter?

Instead, it looks more and more like Priamos has been selected to fill that bill, which has the unfortunate consequence of making him a convenient target for criticism as well while those pulling his strings are conveniently spared from the public even knowing what they are up to, let alone issuing public statements.

How does that fit in with the city's organizational pecking order? Not as much between the city government and both Hudson and Priamos, but between Hudson and Priamos?

This recent trend with assigning Priamos to write letters for Hudson was very noticeable when I submitted two separate California Public Records Act requests to Hudson's office, one asking about the operational budget of the Community Police Review Commission, the other about the factual evidence to back DeSantis' claim that the department was "fully staffed" with an average officer to supervisor staffing ratio of about 4.2 to 1 (which conflicted with the department's own ratio of about 6.1 to 1). DeSantis, sitting in the big chair, had offered this as a defense of criticism by a consultant hired by his office to do audits on the city's police department.

As stated, the interesting thing was that Hudson didn't respond to the public records request in writing or otherwise, but Priamos did. It seemed interesting but what else to chalk it up to except that it is possible Hudson had added another public information officer to his department in Priamos. The appropriate response for a request for information within the city manager's office would have been from the city manager's office with perhaps Priamos reviewing the letter to make sure it was within the boundaries of the CPRA. But instead Priamos actually did the letter writing for the city manager.

The information provided by Priamos in both requests was actually incorrect. To the request about the CPRC budget, Priamos provided instructions to check out the city budget's link on its Web site. However, there was no actual information about the CPRC's budget on that link until just recently when it was added by Administrative Analyst Mario Lara who allegedly advised the CPRC (which at one point was completely unsure how to distribute to the public copies of its own budget or whether it even could) in August that it wouldn't be available to the public until the middle of September and only it would be provided online. No explanation provided as to why information that could have easily been included with the budget report in July had to be added in September but if there had been one, then would it have been left to Priamos?

To the second request, Priamos provided the same direction yet the information cited by DeSantis was not included either. But then a responsive letter written by Chief Russ Leach about the department's work product used to determine its cited figure for the staffing figures pointed me to a power point presentation which didn't even include this information. The responses to all three CPRA requests did make me wonder if any of these people read the documents or have read the documents at all to ensure that the requested information is even included in their content.

That took place during the contentious second round of the Governmental Affairs Committee's attempt to actually perform an annual review of the city's ethics code and complaint system that complied with the written resolution defining the application of the ethics code. But even though the committee chair was supposed to invite Mayor Ron Loveridge and the chairs of the city's boards and commissions to participate, apparently no one received their personal invite. Mayor Ron Loveridge found out about it after round one ended and said that he had not received any notice to attend the meeting. Initially, Loveridge said this oversight would be remedied the next year, but given that the committee met again a week later, it's probably a given that Loveridge changed his mind about that.

There was one moment during the second rendition of Governmental Affairs which stood out and that was when Priamos was pushed to admit publicly that he had drafted the letters rejecting at least one ethics complaint that had been filed and it hadn't gone to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee which by ordinance is where it should have gone. While the council members were talking, Priamos sat there with this look on this face that almost looked like he was wondering if he was about to be the fall guy in this situation. But did he make the decision to bypass the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee on his own or was he acting on the instructions of his employers on the dais?

It's been Priamos that has been hit in the Press Enterprise for the recent controversy surrounding the barely there Community Police Review Commission including whether it should or should not have its own attorney, with the Press Enterprise Editorial Board stating yes and three city council members saying no. What was kind of funny about the latter argument is how the article's authors said that the Press Enterprise writers were uninformed when it was the triplets who were unable to distinguish between the charter-mandated CPRC and the non-charter-mandated Law Enforcement Police Advisory Committee.

But at any rate, while Priamos does deserve some criticism for his actions, the bulk of it belongs to the City Council which is directing both employees to place restrictions on the CPRC in a manner that seems somewhat less than open? The city council directs the city employees to do its agenda and then when that agenda gets criticized, it lets its employees take the heat for the city council's own decisions. This is not a example of what good leadership is all about, but then are there any good leaders on the dais? I guess we'll find out during next year's election cycle.

Unfortunately for Priamos, Hudson apparently utilizes the same strategy. Although occasionally he places DeSantis in that role as well as Hudson's allegedly assured people that when DeSantis goes too far, he pulls him back.

So is there really conflict and is it at the point where both men should be handed boxing gloves so they can settle it? And if so, would it be a violation of the Brown Act if it didn't take place in a public forum?

It's really not clear enough whether any such feud exists but the idea of it has attracted a lot of interest in recent weeks and people are waiting to see what happens next to either refute the rumors or strengthen them.

Granted, Priamos hasn't been as visible at the city council meetings or the meetings of the Community Police Review Commission meeting in the last couple of weeks but there could be a multitude of reasons for that. And if Priamos felt a bit piqued at having to bear the brunt of the criticism most of which should really be aimed elsewhere, you couldn't really blame him for that.

The Riverside Transit Authority is planning to cut back on the hours of the downtown green line trolley. If you are concerned about this, public hearings will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 22 between 12:30-5:30 p.m. on the seventh floor at City Hall. Each public hearing will be one hour long.

Lake Elsinore has laid off nine employees due to budget cuts.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Layoffs officially begin Wednesday, though some of the employees may opt to take paid administrative leave effective immediately, city officials said.

Layoffs officially begin Wednesday at Lake Elsinore City Hall, though some employees may opt to take paid administrative leave.

"It is a dark day," said city code enforcement officer Scott Burns, who was not laid off. "No matter if you are staying or leaving."

The nine employees represent the human toll of the city's budget crisis, which the Lake Elsinore City Council temporarily stayed Tuesday by approving a $2.1 million budget cut and revising its five-year economic forecast. The city's economic decline was the primary culprit of the budget shortfall.

The other cause was a $759,000 budget miscalculation of the city's contract with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. The Sheriff's Department reassigned five people, including a deputy and a school resource officer, to correct the error. The reassignment will not affect the number of officers patrolling the streets, said Riverside County sheriff's Capt. Joe Cleary, who serves as Lake Elsinore's police chief.

In addition to layoffs, remaining city employees will take one furlough day a month until June 30, 2009.

A candidate for a spot on the Hemet Unified School District board has been placed on administrative leave.

Coming back soon to the Inland Empire, the Santa Anas. How long will they stay this year?

But here's a bright spot, the Inland Empire has a place in line for assistance funds for the housing crisis. Then again, this region wouldn't be vying for them if it weren't so high on the foreclosure list.

What's left of the Press Enterprise staff won some journalism awards. If you want to learn more about what's been going on at this newspaper and all the buyouts of employees there by Belo Enterprises, read this site.

Four years ago, a medical miracle.

Mr. Cool Dude died yesterday. (Jan. 26, 1925-Sept. 26, 2008)

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