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, December 19, 2008

Communication and transparency, buzz words in the wake of Hound-Gate

As Hound-Gate continues to unfold at Riverside City Hall, Ward One Councilman Mike Gardner admits that mistakes were made by himself on the issue of the ouster of Greyhound Bus Lines from the downtown terminal and set the record straight to the Press Enterprise, the medium of choice these days for the city government when discussing issues with the city residents.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

I believe that the city should have taken steps to clearly communicate the parameters, including cost, of the settlement with Greyhound regarding the closure of the facility. While the city attorney was technically correct in saying there is no legal requirement to disclose the settlement information absent a specific request, meeting the legal minimum does not always make for good government.

I believe that responsibility for this oversight lies solely with the city's elected officials, and, in this case, mostly with me -- since the Greyhound station lies in Ward I, which I represent.

I was too focused on the issues surrounding the station and potential new locations, and not on the need for a public process in negotiating the settlement. I did not suggest that the council give staff clear direction to bring the final settlement back for council discussion and approval. For that I apologize.

I am a proponent of making government as accessible and transparent as possible. The Greyhound settlement is an example of the type of final resolution that I believe should be placed on the agenda for council ratification.

It's a good step in the wake of editorials and columns already appearing in the publication chastising the city government for back room discussions and secrecy involving first the latest round of restrictions against the Community Police Review Commission and now with, Greyhound. Wait a few days, and watch to see if the list of topics grows.

And at least Gardner comes forward and admits his mistakes when criticized about them. I once tried to correct a "mistake" made by his predecessor, Dom Betro when he made statements that the city was finalizing a contract with a consultant (who actually hadn't even heard from the city for several months) and was subjected to one of his screaming matches just for questioning the validity of his statement. And that guy can really yell.

Still, if Gardner ran for office on pushing for city government to be more responsive, more user-friendly and more transparent than he needs to do that pushing while he's in office. But that goes for any politician who ran for office espousing the same platform and even some of the city council's more recent converts to open and transparent government. You know the ones who always show up around election year. Transparency and accountability just doesn't seem to be one of this city council's strong points but then it hasn't been since the city council which fired former city manager, George Carvalho.

And what's interesting about the article is how Gardner challenged the ruling of City Attorney Gregory Priamos, not necessarily the legality of it but whether it was an appropriate standard for the city council to make a decision about regarding an issue. Whether or not meeting the minimum of a legal standard makes for good governance. A standard which could be applied to the situation involving Priamos stance involving the Community Police Review Commission which has so little independence that even its agendas and its budgetary allowance are in the hands of Priamos.

There's a very interesting dialogue of sorts going on here about this video tape where a man talks about Ward Four Councilman Frank Schiavone. I hope those arguing for and against different declared candidates in the Ward Four race don't wear themselves out before the filing deadline which is still several months away. In contrast, not much of a peep out about the three other local elections including the mayoral race which will take place in 2009. But then as stated earlier, Election 2009 hasn't even officially begun yet.

This comment makes allegations against the man in the videotape as not only breaking the California Political Reform Act but claimed the man's words violated some biblical test. Now if you want to follow this anonymous individual's train of thought wherever it goes, you could then say that the mention of the "biblical" test standard in governmental elections is a violation of the exclusionary clause of the First Amendment of the also-cited United States Constitution, but then that would show you how unusually stated it is. Although it was interesting to see the "biblical test" and the "habeas corpus" term used in the same paragraph because that rarely ever happens.

It's clear already even in these early days that this might be one of those most entertaining election seasons in the history of Riverside.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board stated that troubled San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus should leave office but the board of supervisors shouldn't spend a lot of money and time trying to oust him.


Unless the board can find a way to oust Postmus sooner and at less expense, the effort to remove him makes little sense. San Bernardino County faces sharply lower revenue thanks to the economic slump, with near certainty of deep budget cuts. Supervisors can hardly justify spending $1 million or more on Postmus while reducing services to county residents.

And the removal process could still be under way when Postmus' term expires in 2010. But the election that year could bring Postmus' departure without the need for the extra spending.

A politician with any sense of shame, not to mention concern for the county's reputation, would have resigned already. Postmus vows to remain in office, to his discredit. But if the board cannot easily oust him, better to keep a close watch on his activities and let voters boot him in two years.

The investigation into two feuding council members in Banning takes an interesting new turn as controversy erupts about the expenditure of an inhouse investigation into the matter.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

City officials hired attorney Brenda Diederichs to conduct the investigation, and while they have not received an invoice for her firm's services, they anticipate it will total about $13,000, according to Banning's finance director, Bonnie Johnson.

Nakamura, who has the authority to spend up to $25,000 without the council's consent, did not approach the council on this matter.

Franklin said Friday that she wanted an investigation, but she does not think the one that was conducted was valid because, she believes, other people who are black were not interviewed.

"I think it was a waste of money the way it was done," she said.

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition in San Rafael, questions why an investigation was done in the first place, since he says council members are not city employees.

"The city can have no liability," he said, adding that he views the investigation as a "colossal waste of time."

A state commission cleared one of Temecula's elected officials of a conflict of interest complaint.

A former Riverside County employee charged with embezzlement will go to trial.

More turmoil in Pomona after the ouster of its latest police chief.

Hemet is shutting down one of its fire stations in the wake of the budget crisis.

Testimony ends in the federal corruption trial of former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Michael S. Carona, the highest-ranking law enforcement official to be prosecuted in Orange County, has steadfastly denied charges that he sold the powers of his office for cash and gifts, hawked badges for campaign donations and even took advantage of a deputy's widow by steering her to an attorney friend in a kickback scheme.

But the former sheriff never took the stand. And the final witness called to testify in his legal soap opera was a no-show, underscoring the struggle by his defense team to line up witnesses, some of whom were reluctant to appear at the high-profile trial.

"They don't want to have their name . . . in the paper," Carona attorney Brian A. Sun told the judge this week.

Jurors in the federal trial, released for two weeks over the holidays and ordered to return Jan. 6 for closing arguments, will have plenty to ponder during the break.

Three police officers in Richmond, Virgina are facing criminal charges in connection with an assault at a local bar.

(excerpt, Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Ian McCloskey, the officer involved in the assault on Jan. 22 in a bar in Shockoe Bottom, was charged with obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor, because he threatened a witness after she accused him of carrying out the beating, prosecutors said.

"This is aberrant behavior on the part of the police," Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael N. Herring said in disclosing details of the case to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "But the overwhelming majority do good work day in and day out, and I continue to have faith in the work that they do."

Herring added that his office made the mistake of charging McCloskey with a misdemeanor assault, when prosecutors should have charged him with a felony, given the severity of the victim's injury and the "absence of mutual combat."

Herring also said Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Matthew P. Geary used poor judgment in dismissing the misdemeanor assault charge. Geary did so -- and Herring approved the decision -- after McCloskey agreed to pay $5,000 to cover the victim's medical expenses.

Further, Herring said the Richmond Police Department improperly failed to inform prosecutors that the other two officers, Floyd T. Campbell II and William A. House, had failed to report the assault or properly investigate it.

In St. Louis, dealing with crooked police officers was a very difficult task.

(excerpt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

City police officers Bobby Lee Garrett and Vincent Carr stayed on the streets despite years of corruption complaints from lawyers and suspects.

They stayed even after their bosses heard a rumor of someone putting out a hit on Garrett for stealing his money.

They stayed until a week ago, when federal authorities arrested them on charges alleging they planted evidence, stole money, arrested an innocent man and dealt drugs.

Officials say that what sometimes looks like a lax attitude toward policing the police is really an illustration of how difficult that job can be.

Criminal defense lawyers said they had been complaining about Garrett and Carr for years.

One, Joel Schwartz, estimated that 50 to 100 of his clients over the years have told him Garrett planted drugs or stole cash. "I have had allegations from clients ... as far back as I can remember."

One of the worst police misconduct stories in a while comes out of Galveston, Texas with the filing of a lawsuit, stemming from an incident where undercover vice and narcotics officers beat and grabbed a 12-year-old Black girl and accused her of being a prostitute because she wore tight shorts.

She was hospitalized for injuries and then arrested after the fact weeks later, for "assaulting a police officer"

(excerpt, Injustice in Seattle

Three weeks later, according to the lawsuit, police went to Dymond's school, where she was an honor student, and arrested her for assaulting a public servant. Griffin says the allegations stem from when Dymond fought back against the three men who were trying to take her from her home. The case went to trial, but the judge declared it a mistrial on the first day, says Griffin. The new trial is set for February.

"I think we'll be okay," says Griffin. "I don't think a jury will find a 12-year-old girl guilty who's just sitting outside her house. Any 12-year-old attacked by three men and told that she's a prostitute is going to scream and yell for Daddy and hit back and do whatever she can. She's scared to death."

Since the incident more than two years ago, Dymond regularly suffers nightmares in which police officers are raping and beating her and cutting off her fingers, according to the lawsuit.

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