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

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ethics complaints and the confusion around them at City Hall

With Halloween coming, here's the annual coverage of haunted haunts in Riverside. The most haunted locale is of course the Mission Inn Hotel in downtown. It's got hosts of ghosts and it's hard to find someone who's worked there over a period of time who doesn't have a tale or two to tell. Partial and full apparitions. Strange smells. Strange music. Even a spirit which allegedly pushes newlywed couples down flights of stairs. Stories not included in the Mission Inn Hotel's official guide.

Stories also abound from owners of local businesses about strange occurrences. Books falling out of shelves in the bookstore by themselves and strange noises in one of the antique stores nearby.

In the midst of the Halloween season, Riverside's very own City Hall is gearing up for yet another city council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 28 beginning with the session of the Redevelopment Agency (aka as the city council) starting at 2 p.m. This agenda is filled with items for both the afternoon and evening sessions but alas, there won't be discussions for most of them although the consent calendar is robust.

Up for discussion in the 6:30 p.m. session is this report from the Governmental Affairs Committee on its annual review of the ethics code and complaint process which was actually scheduled for an earlier meeting but was postponed. Actually, it's two attempts at the annual review by the committee that took place and were recorded because it forgot to follow its own written guidelines under the resolution passed by the city council which included inviting the mayor and the officers from the city's boards and commissions. The mayor and chairs were no-shows at the first meeting held on Sept. 3 although Mayor Ron Loveridge dropped on by at its end and that was the first he heard about the annual review having not received an invite. Not surprisingly, there was an attempt to review the code and complaint process again on Sept. 12, this time with Loveridge and some of the chairs of boards and commissions in attendance. What was discussed will now be discussed by the full city government.

This of course includes a recommendation that the complaints against elected officials will actually be handled the way they're supposed to be under the policy and procedures outlined in the resolution passed by the city regarding the Ethics code. That language states that the complaints against elected officials are to go to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee to be processed and decided upon. Yet, on the majority of complaints involving elected officials, instead the complaints completely bypassed this committee and being sent to City Attorney Gregory Priamos who sent out rejection letters to the complainants. Instead of serving as a "resource" as stated in the resolution, he was the designated arbiter.

But this category of complaints isn't the only one where elected officials either have problems understanding the process or implementing it properly. In these letters, Councilman Frank Schiavone appears to have some difficulty outlining the appropriate process for ethics complaints filed against members of boards and commissions.

In his letter to Police Review Commissioners Chani Beeman and John Brandriff, Schiavone writes the following.


"While in my judgment the letter might not rise to the level of a formal complaint to be reviewed by the Mayor's Nomination and Screening committee for any ethics violation, others may differ."

However, this is not the correct process for this category of complaints.

Here and here it states that complaints involving boards and commission members are supposed to be sent to the city clerk's office which passes them along to the chair of the relevant board and commission for resolution. If the complaint isn't resolved at this level, it goes back to the city clerk's office which then forwards it to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee. In his letter, Schiavone who chairs the Governmental Affairs Committee and serves as a member of the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee omits the first couple of steps. A situation of error which might be resolved by providing a refresher course in the process to the current city council because if a committee of elected officials or the entire city government for that matter are going to review, discuss and make decisions on the ethics code and complaint process, then they should be fully cognizant in its rules and regulations. And it doesn't seem as if at least some of them are judging by these recent examples.

At any rate, Tuesday night should be an interesting discussion of this process which doesn't seem to be very well understood at City Hall, given all the fumbles that have taken place implementing the provisions of the resolution for the code since its inception. And remember attendance for this debate is free to the public.

Speaking of the PRC, one of the reports that was given to the commissioners last week was one about the letter written by Loveridge and Mayor Pro Tem Rusty Bailey in support of City Manager Brad Hudson's directive to essentially halt timely independent investigations by the PRC of officer-involved deaths. What the city government has essentially done is to convert investigations of these deaths into "reviews" because no one is going to come out and say that an effective investigation of an incident can be conducted six months, a year or longer after it took place unless they've got a horse in this contest. Because the city government has essentially converted these investigations into "reviews"(and in this opinion piece, three city council members essentially reduced the PRC's role even further to that of its predecessor LEPAC which is to engage only in a policy review and recommendation process) which doesn't seem even close to really abiding by the language that was included in what about 60% of this city's voters intended to put in the city's charter.

But Riverside's been busy doing more than just impacting the role of civilian oversight in this city. There's been more movement on the labor front when it comes to filing lawsuits against the city alleging unfair employment practices.With labor contract negotiations colliding with an election cycle beginning in early 2009, who knows what will happen. The city's negotiators, City Manager Brad Hudson and his assistant, Tom DeSantis come into the process with a record of negotiations from the long, hot summer of 2006 which resulted in two strike votes, three lawsuits filed against the city and several employee rallies at City Hall. Hopefully, their record is more successful than it was two years ago in terms of avoiding all this strife and in having better relations with those they negotiate with, but then again, quite a few people seemed to think that the contract negotiations improved last time out when DeSantis was absent from the room.

But allegations of union busting have been made since that summer, including in civil litigation. The Riverside Police Administrators' Association appeared to wrestle with that issue given that some of its members were assigned to positions which were at the management level and that is the union which was allegedly targeted for union busting. And many employees at the management level in Riverside including department heads are "at will". Hudson once said that his employees jump at the opportunity to be "at will" and take the offer. But others say that they fear "at will" because they think if they take it, their careers will be shorter than they would otherwise like. Others are afraid those who are "at will" will become "yes men" for the city manager's office.

Here are some of the lawsuits which have been filed against the city in the last several years by current or formal employees. These come in the wake of a $1.64 million trial verdict in the case of Officer Roger Sutton and the quick settlement behind closed doors of another lawsuit filed by a former female police officer in 2005.

The first two lawsuits come from the code enforcement division of the city.

Mary Furfaro, Todd Solomon, Steve Livings v the City of Riverside

Kathie White, Theresa Steffen v the City of Riverside

This one below involves two lieutenants who are suing two city councilmen, the police department and the city for retaliation for their involvement in the Political Action Committee of the Riverside Police Administrators' Association during Election 2007. Hurt was president of that labor bargaining unit at the time and while the unsuccessful attempts by Hudson to make three upper management positions in the police department "at will" was taking place. Some people wondered why the lawsuit filing received very little press including the lack of mention of the plaintiffs' identities. Did City Hall play a role in that?

Lt. Darryl Hurt, Lt. Tim Bacon v the City of Riverside

Another female police officer filed this one before going to trial on criminal charges associated with workman's compensation fraud.

Laura Digiorgio v the City of Riverside

Riverside's got to wait until next year before it will hit another one of its election cycles with the mayor's position and four city council seats being up for grabs, but it's a busy election year just about everywhere else.

Here is some blogging on the Murrieta local elections.

The Norco political candidates are selling their qualifications to the voters.

Who's winning the campaign fund raising race in Temecula? The incumbents, that's who!

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

As of Oct. 18, Mayor Mike Naggar has $29,606 and Councilman Chuck Washington has $26,408.97 left in the bank. Between the two, they raised nearly $11,000 from Oct. 1 to Oct. 18 and have spent more than $65,000 this calendar year, according to state-required campaign disclosure forms submitted Thursday.

By comparison, challengers Al Abbott, Rita Hernandez and James "Stew" Stewart have raised a combined $17,900 since Jan. 1. They spent just under $12,000 since then.

The five are running for two four-year seats on the five-member council, which serves staggered terms.

Despite the fund raising gap, Stewart, a barber making his second City Council run, said he's satisfied with how his campaign is going. He said his campaign Web site has gotten more than 17,000 hits.

"I ran it the way I wanted to this time," he said. "Win or lose, I'll be happy either way."

All this election intrigue in a county which might set records in voters' turnout at the polls this year.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board has made its decision and it's that San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus must go.


Postmus is not the victim of a political witch hunt, but of his own actions. The grand jury's revelations are only the latest entry in Postmus' long record of ethical lapses.

A county government with a history of corruption does not need officials who shrug off questions of integrity. Postmus' attitude toward the accusations against him is unacceptable. He needs to go.

A San Bernardino Police Department sergeant spoke out against a plea arrangement for defendants in a murder conspiracy case.

The federal corruption trial of former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona continues with testimony expected to begin this week. Over 100 witnesses are expected to testify for the prosecution alone.

An interesting series in the Los Angeles Times about the history of the Los Angeles Police Department vs organized crime.

What aren't nearly half of all law enforcement officers wearing when they are on duty?

Former Bolingbrook Police Department sergeant, Drew Peterson's lawyer met with a judge to discuss his upcoming trial on weapons charges.

What are bloggers saying about the Inland Empire in the wake of the "Obama Bucks" mailer scandal?

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