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

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Riverside City Hall underreports employee layoffs

"People matter more than buildings"

---A city employee who's not been laid off...yet.

"Isn't it grand? Isn't it splendid?
Peace is at hand. Warfare is ended.
Are we not blest in this best of all possible worlds?
All's for the best in this best of all possible worlds."


"Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive."

---Sr. Walter Scott

"Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it. "

---Lewis Carroll

"We've done extremely well, from a management level, when you look at what other jurisdictions are going through,"

---- Riverside City Councilman Frank Schiavone to the Press Enterprise

"Being bopped on the head with a thunder stick is hardly provocation for what occurred here.

Foreman David Williams to the Orange County Register on the jury's decision to convict one-time Riverside Police Department Officer David Hackman of felony battery.

Earlier this week, the Press Enterprise published this article about the city of Riverside tightening its belt in light of the budget crisis. Most of the people quoted including elected officials have praised the management of this city and said that Riverside was doing a lot better than other jurisdictions. The article mentioned the six employees who were laid off several weeks ago and then added to that list, one additional employee from the Fire Department who was laid off this week.

The article stated that Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis said that an additional employee, a civilian worker, had been laid off with a 30 day notice. And yes, that paints a better picture than what's faced by other cities like Hemet, Corona and Lake Elsinore.

The only problem, it wasn't true.

Riverside did not lay off just one employee this week. It laid off at least two other full-time employees and possibly more in what is being called merely the first wave of employee layoffs in this city. More waves of layoffs are to come and some think it will be quite a bit more employees laid off in upcoming weeks and months. The situation will be pretty serious this fiscal year with the worst yet to come, given that the city manager's office has underestimated the tax source revenue for the city by at least $12 million and that's just for this year. Since the majority of the money spent is on Human Resources, meaning employees, it's expected that it's employees that are going to be used to balance the city's budget.

Among those laid off this week but not mentioned in the article were Yvette Pierre, the Community Relations director who works under Mayor Ron Loveridge and a civilian employee in the Riverside Police Department whose identity hasn't been confirmed.

Pierre was given a 30 day notice on Monday, Dec. 1 that by the beginning of the new year and half-way through the current fiscal year, she would be out of a job. She had the option of working until January but instead is out trying to get another job as the community has rallied around an employee they care about very much because Pierre is about one of the nicest people you'll ever meet.

Pierre will be greatly missed as she made a large impact during the time she was employed by this city.

Among other duties, Pierre directed the Human Relations Commission which will be left without any real staff support, given that more layoffs are expected including from the Mayor's office during the next waves of pink slips in the months ahead. She brought a lot of energy, hard work and talent to the position and to the Human Relations Commission for the several years that she filled that position.

She began working for the city after the HRC was transferred out of the city manager's office and went under the umbrella of Mayor Ron Loveridge's office. That happened after City Manager Brad Hudson had transferred one full-time employee out of community relations and reduced another one to only working in that division part-time not long after receiving an uppity letter asking for employment statistics to that office, pertaining to the race of management level employees. Many community members believed that Loveridge took this step to preserve the HRC from losing its staff entirely.

However, people are also asking questions about why City Hall is being so circumspect when it comes to talking about laying off its employees while pointing fingers at other cities' layoffs as if they're not in the same category. Instead of talking candidly about personnel cuts, Riverside's city council and city manager's office are acting like there's a contest among cities in the Inland Empire as to who has it best or worst.

And yes, there are more employees being laid off than those being mentioned by DeSantis. Unless he's unaware that other employees are being laid off. By not including them, he's essentially rendering them invisible as if there aren't city employees forced to empty out their desks and take their things home in front of everyone in their working environment. Being watched by people who probably are very sympathetic but are also hoping that it's not catching. This is while city officials are claiming that the city's doing so much better than the rest, that there is a "healthy" reserve and that they've done "extremely well" even as employees are getting pink slips, packing up and the people around them know that there's more to come.

Maybe to the city council members who get to keep their full salaries and their legislative aides, it looks much rosier than it does to an employee who's got to face the holiday season with the fear of not being able to find another job. Not one city official was quoted saying, we're really sorry about what our laid off employees are going through, we're going to do what we can to personally ensure that the experience is a little less horrible especially in a holiday season. That's what should have done as well as telling the truth about the fact that the city's not just laying off one employee but others as well. If the city manager's office isn't presenting an accurate picture, then the elected officials should be doing so.

There's a serious problem when people who brought the best of what they could offer to their jobs are laid off and that should be admitted up front. It's unlikely that given the current economic crisis that layoffs are unavoidable but the way that these ones are being handled is just patently dishonest. And treating it this way doesn't inspire confidence among the public that their city is being honest and even handling the difficult situation well if it's muddling the facts about the city's financial picture.

City Hall is trying to sell this portrait that it's not cutting positions, well except those that are inconsequential. That it's not eliminating its programs and providing all its services even as it passed a resolution yesterday that will force businesses to pay for police services if they receive too many calls for service. One person I spoke with today read about it in the newspaper for the first time and asked, if they are going to have to do that, then they'll just stop calling and someone will get killed because of it.

I've been asked why I don't participate in promoting the image of the city, the police department or whatever but that's not the public's job. The city's hired people to do that for it. But promoting the city's image is the city's job and really, the best way to do that is to create a reality that's worth promoting. But what the city's trying to sell is that the impact to the city by the economy has had minimal impact on labor (amid layoffs of contract and city employees and freezes in many city departments) and less than minimal impact on city services (yet saying that the city has to charge for police services due to the "strain" on public safety). Just because other cities may be laying off more people now than later or might just be more forthcoming about their layoffs than Riverside doesn't negate the impact of the current situation.

Each time the city parades out one layoff when in actuality it's laid off more employees than one, it renders these employees that aren't included on that list as not really being there
, like they don't and never have existed at all, let alone put in months or years of hard work.

Maybe they believe keeping their employee force in the dark (when they're really not) by under reporting layoffs will promote morale but it doesn't usually work out that way. Painting rosy pictures that don't exist like Pangloss in his garden doesn't really serve much except to make politicians look and feel good, like they're doing something when the city is in trouble around them. And if you read some of the quotes in the newspapers lately, it was about elected officials praising their own actions as successfully leading Riverside through a much more benign recession than surrounding smaller cities and towns (which often are hit harder anyway) when they should be saying what type of leadership they're going to show and how they're going to help their employees who are laid off.

They should be more honest with the public whose money they're spending and who they were elected to represent. Tough times like these demand honesty, more than reassuring words that don't ring true.

But what the city's doing is putting out on information that is misleading and in the long run, could erode the trust that the city residents have that in difficult times, their city government is at least being honest with them with how rough it's getting and will get. If the city continuously paints a rosy picture of only one layoff this week when there are more of them or a few layoffs when there may be more of them, then how can it be relied upon for the truth about what the current crisis is and how it will be addressed? If the city government tells the public something when times are really tough, how will the public know that it's believable or just a case of being told the Emperor has clothing.

It's interesting how cities like Hemet say that it's laying off up to 20% of its police officers and other cities like Corona, Norco and Lake Elsinore are talking layoffs. Meanwhile, Riverside's leadership was claiming months ago that those stories would not be part of its reality. Layoffs would be minimal, the services would still be provided because of what was called the "healthy reserve". The reserve fund that's been invoked a lot in speeches but never seen.

Councilman Chris MacArthur invoked the word in a recent comment made to the Press Enterprise.


"I think the reason we have a rainy-day fund is for times like this," he said.

There's a bit of discussion on whether there should be a betting pool (cookies, not monetary of course) whether or not there's actually a "reserve" fund and if so, how much it is. Whoever is the closest should get a jar of cookies.

And please don't say it's the sewer fund, the non-official credit card of the city.

To be continued because yes, unfortunately they'll be more layoffs and we'll only hear about a few of them but they're all people and people matter more than buildings.

A former Riverside Police Department officer who made racist remarks at the scene of where Tyisha Miller was shot to death by four police officers was convicted of felony assault in connection with an assault and battery at a baseball park in Orange County.

David Hackman had worked for the San Benito County Sheriff's Department but had medically retired from that agency not long after the county paid out in a civil rights lawsuit filed involving him. He had also worked for Hollister Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

After the playoff game between the Angels and the Boston Red Sox, Hackman, who was off duty from his job as a deputy for the San Benito County Sheriff's Department, pushed the man, who suffered skull and vertebrae injuries, Schroeder said.

Years before, Hackman was suspended from the Riverside Police Department for making inappropriate comments after Tyisha Miller was fatally shot in 1998. He eventually resigned from the force.

Attempts late Wednesday to reach Hackman's attorney, Ron Brower, were not successful. In a previous interview, Brower said the victim, Daniel Slama, was drunk and attacked Hackman because he wore a Red Sox cap. Slama fell after Hackman touched his shoulder, Brower had said.

The prosecution argued that the victim's brother tapped Hackman on the head with an inflatable toy noisemaker called a "thunder stick." Hackman believed Daniel Slama was responsible, Schroeder said. Hackman followed Slama up some stairs, grabbed him by the shirt with one hand and the throat with his other hand and threw him backward down the cement steps, Schroeder said.

While working in Riverside, Hackman had appeared at the 76 gas station on the corner of Central and Brockton after Miller was killed. While at the scene, he engaged in making racist comments there and later in a locker room at the police station.

At the scene, he allegedly made a comment, "NHI brother" in response to comments made by former Sgt. Gregory Preece who was fired over the shooting incident. "NHI" for those who don't know stands for "No Human Involved" and is a term often reserved for men or women of color who have killed by police officers.

Hackman also made the following comment while in the station's locker room. He caricatured to another officer the grieving of Miller's grandmother, Joan and called her tears, "the Watts Death Wails". His comments along with racist comments made by other officers were reported by former Officer Rene Rodriguez and he received a suspension before he ultimately resigned from the department in May 2000.

(press release)

The Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability has recognized Mr. Jim Ward with the William (Bill) Howe Award for Police Accountability.

This first-ever conferral of the annual Bill Howe Award took place at the ‘Celebrating Community Wards Breakfast’ organized by The Group. The award was created by the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability to recognize a community member for promoting police accountability work and for their commitment to the principles and implementation of police oversight.

Mr. Ward is currently in his second term on commission and has served since 2002. In their remarks, Co-Chairs, Deborah Wong and Michael Dunn said, “The RCPA recognizes Jim Ward for his principled long-term work on the Community Police Review Commission. As a member of the CPRC, Mr. Ward has consistently offered a much-needed community perspective. He has sometimes—or perhaps we should say often—been a minority voice but has neither given up nor stepped back from the table.”

One of the nominators for the award noted Mr. Ward’s “consistent courage” in his work for the Commission. RCPA Co-Chair Deborah Wong noted that he “has fearlessly represented community concerns at times when it was lonely work.”

Mr. Ward has lived in Riverside for 47 years. He worked for the State of California Department of Corrections as a corrections officer for 23 years. During that time, Jim was promoted to several positions including correctional officer, counselor, lieutenant, and captain. His duties and responsibilities were diverse and included personnel training officer, program administration and review of personnel training programs, staff supervision and training, conflict mediation and resolution, and designing, implementing, and assessment of departmental policies and procedures. Since retiring in 1985, Mr. Ward has devoted his time to his family and church, community service, and personal property investment and management.

RCPA Co-Chair Michael Dunn said, “Mr. Ward models the principles of accountability and oversight that this award represents. We are honored to have this opportunity to recognize Mr. Jim Ward for his outstanding work on the Community Police Review Commission.”

The Group also awarded three community service awards to Mary Humboldt, Damon Castillo and Woodie Rucker-Hughes, three individuals who work hard in the city to make it a better place.

Humboldt couldn't attend the breakfast as she was busy rocking at a Planning Commission meeting at City Hall but told Secretary Katie Greene she was very humbled and honored to receive the award.

Castillo, who worked in the Alvord Unified School District and Rucker-Hughes who works in the Riverside Unified School District and is the president of the Riverside chapter of the NAACP were very thankful for their awards.

The breakfast was attended by many people including Councilmen Andrew Melendrez and Chris MacArthur, Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff, Riverside Fire Chief
Tedd Laycock and Riverside Community College District Trustee Janet Greene.

Canyon Lake elects its first mayor and city council. Whoo Hoo!

The Coffee Court which got written up is a cool place. Great food and nice people. "The Works" breakfast sandwich featured in this article might harden some arteries but is very tasty. It's up there with the Kiwi Breakfast burger which has one all-beef patty, onions, hash browns, lettuce, fried eggs, slabs of bacon and some nice sugar beet slices. That and a raspberry cola plus some nice Kiwi company will get you through a morning down under. Quite a nice brekkie.

The Works sandwich is of course about 6,000 miles than the Kiwi version and doesn't come with Kiwi (bloke or sheila, take your choice) company. Fair Dinkum.

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