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, November 09, 2008

Will the city be laying employees off mid-year?

****UPDATE****The hearing on the motion to unseal the arrest warrant on the case involving Riverside Police Department Officer Robert Forman has been continued. More details will be forthcoming in future blog postings.

More trouble might be brewing for the much beleaguered Community Police Review Commission in the months ahead. The key words to look and listen for, are the mid-year budgetary revisions which will take place in January. The commission's already taken some huge cuts and perhaps that's why the city manager's office delayed placing specific line-item information about the CPRC's 2008-09 budget online until the middle of September (and that was under pressure to comply with the California Public Records Act) which was more than three months after the preliminary fiscal budget was passed by the city council. City Attorney Gregory Priamos who apparently has been assigned by the city council to respond to public information requests made to City Manager Brad Hudson's office like some administrative analysist or assistant unknowingly referred people to the city's online budget not knowing that the city manager's office had not submitted a line-item budget of its expenditures.

Not that Priamos doesn't play a role in vetting the letters written by city department heads in response to public information requests but you'd think there was at least one employee in the city manager's office who was capable of writing a letter given that they are proficient enough to author memos. Using Priamos to do so instead is not fiscally prudent during these difficult times.

But there's concern that the city is going to use the budget crisis to do what former Councilman Art Gage failed to do and that's whittle down the CPRC's budget even further than it's been cut down already.

One line-item allocation which will likely be gone in January if it's not already is the $50,000 allocated to the CPRC's professional services line-item which is used on its independent investigations. Which will be interesting considering that it's at least within the realm of possibility (however unlikely) that the police department may be ready to pass along at least one incustody case so that the CPRC will be able to investigate it six months or so after the fact. But alas, it's not clear if the money will even be there to do so, even if City Attorney Gregory Priamos does sign his okey dokey to provide the CPRC with part of its allowance and gives them permission to spend their budget. After he of course gets permission from Hudson to give permission to the CPRC which of course can only happen if the vocal minority (if it were majority, it could constitute a Brown Act violation) of the city government gives Hudson permission to give Priamos permission and so forth.

But here's something to keep in mind. The settlement which arose from the lawsuit filed in one officer-involved death case could have financed the CPRC's 2005-level budget nearly three times over and its current budget, nearly four times. The payout in the next highest settlement case could have financed the current CPRC budget for 18 months. And this doesn't count litigation expenses before these cases are settled.

The family of Marlon Oliver Acevedo had a lawyer present at the Riverside Police Department's briefing in front of the commission last week, so if they file a lawsuit, how many years of the CPRC's budget could be financed by that settlement. And lest you think the city settling a lawsuit that's not even been filed yet is premature, in a sense yes that's definitely true. But you have to temper that with the recent pattern and practice the city has used by paying out about $1.5 million in settlements so far in relation to officer-involved death cases. Someone sues and within two or three years at most, the city settles.

One proposed offered settlement in a nonfatal force lawsuit case could have financed the CPRC at its current budget about 2 1/2 times over, even though that particular case is being litigated to trial in federal court.

Still, the city's cut many of its departments' budgets just as Riverside County has cut its budgets (and will be facing layoffs) and just as the state's hitting a huge deficit that the governor's office has attributed as much to decreasing revenue resulting from lack of consumer confidence in the economy as it is to spending that revenue. The city's discovering that the loss of revenue is higher than was anticipated several months ago which is not surprising considering what took place during what is being called, "Black October".

On the same subject, layoffs may become part of the city's vernacular beginning as early as January when the city readjusts its budget expenditures at the fiscal year's half-way point. Who gets laid off is the ultimate question which will be asked if that's the direction the city moves in. Will the city start with its temporary and/or part-time employees or will they lay off any full-time positions? The city already has apparently been laying off employees who are independent contractors. But in lieu of laying off full-time employees, it's been freezing vacated positions including those in the public safety departments.

The police department so far has one vacancy at the management level since former Deputy Chief Dave Dominguez retired from the police department to become the police chief in Palm Springs. It also has one vacant lieutenant position and four vacant sergeant positions. Not to mention over 20 civilian positions in the department are vacant including those in customer services and records.

So far, retirements anticipated to take place at the end of the year are in the single digits, but there are over 25 fewer police officers on the streets due to different factors including eight vacancies created through terminations, resignations and retirements. Even as the police department cited a figure stating that during portions of work shifts that overlap, there might be as many as 50 officers on the street.

The police department also has difficulty applying for grant money for any equipment, personnel or programs because most grants are matching grants and the city no longer can match any grants with money from the city's general fund. Also, if there were any personnel positions which would be created through any grant money received, those positions most likely would have to be laid off or vacated after the grant money expired especially if the economic picture doesn't improve. State grants might also be adversely impacted by the budget crisis up in Sacramento.

Other departments like Libraries and Park and Recreation have already taken large cuts and will see more, including possible layoffs of at least part-time positions.

In the fire department, the management position created by the retirement of David Austin hasn't been filled and the fire department won't receive one of its fire trucks that it had been expecting.

It's interesting given that the city council and city manager's office is selling its budget as being one that hasn't contributed to any permanent employees being laid off and if this is the case, then it should be celebrated. However, it's one thing to say you have a budget without city employees being laid off but six months into it, this action may actually be taken and layoffs might result, which could strongly impact several city departments.

But until then, it's a wait and see situation.

Riverside's newest cities say that that they will survive the recession just fine.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Wildomar City Manager John Danielson said that, despite the economic uncertainty, incorporating was the best way to protect the local quality of life.

"What would have happened if we hadn't incorporated? That's the alternative," he said. "Now you're dealing with one of the largest counties in the country ... spreading less money more thinly and we wouldn't have had much say about how that was being spent."

Thompson, who now works as Menifee's financial manager, said studies of both areas accounted for a drop in property and sales tax from pre-2005 levels. He readjusted the numbers in 2006 because of signs of an impending housing market collapse. He listed off: a rise in default notices, a faltering mortgage market and a sudden stall in home building.

Thompson said Menifee is in a stronger position fiscally than Wildomar simply because it is bigger, with more residents and businesses and hence a larger base of property and sales tax.

Menifee Mayor Wallace Edgerton is reassuring residents that fiscally the city is going to be OK. During a recent talk with a group of about 40 members of the Sun Terrace Seniors Homeowner's Association, Edgerton said that voters had elected a fiscally conservative council.

"When I look at a group of citizens and tell them we're going to be fine, I mean we're not going to have to go out and pick your pockets to continue to run a city," Edgerton said. He referred to raising fees or increasing taxes, which voters must first approve.

What exactly is the relationship between San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos and the San Manuel tribe? That question is being asked by Press Enterprise Columnist Cassie MacDuff and perhaps by those who consider a 21 year suspended prison sentence a bit odd. It's true that Ramos got campaign contributions from San Manuel but what did Ramos say about any possible connection between the two?


"We don't work that way," Ramos told me Friday.

Yeah, okay.

Are the Republicans losing their stronghold in the Inland Empire?

Word is, the city of Riverside has now gone blue, because of massive voters' registration drives this past year.

The future of DHL in this country may be shakier than previously believed.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Deutsche Post said this year that competition, rising fuel prices and other factors had put its U.S. DHL operations on track to lose $1.6 billion by the end of the year.

In May, Deutsche Post Chief Executive Frank Appel announced a restructuring of the U.S. operations, which have posted recurring losses. At the time, Appel said the company's U.S. freight flights were to be taken over by rival UPS Inc.

In May, UPS and DHL proposed a collaboration in which UPS would carry some air packages for DHL. The deal, if completed, could last up to 10 years and infuse up to $1 billion in annual revenue for UPS.

UPS has said the contract would mostly involve the transport of DHL packages among airports in North America -- not the pickup or delivery of DHL packages to customers.

Thousands of jobs could be lost at an air cargo facility in Wilmington, Ohio, if the agreement between DHL and UPS is consummated.

Deutsche Post slashed its earnings forecasts for 2008 and 2009 late last month, saying it expected pretax profit to fall 8% in the third quarter "as the global economic environment deteriorated markedly."

Deutsche Post is scheduled to release its third-quarter results today.

If you want to be a police chief, Stockton is looking for a new one.

But there's a caveat. If you are hired, you will be the fourth chief this city has hired during the past five years. Just something to think about before you send off your resume.

Among a group of thieves caught ripping off hundreds of thousands of dollars of merchandise at Walmart stores were two police officers who work for different departments in New York.

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