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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who's hiding behind the curtain?

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

---L. Frank Baum

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board is at it again. After chastising the Riverside City Council on numerous occasions over its attempts to dilute or to allow its direct employees to dilute the powers of the Community Police Review Commission, it's stating that the city council's secrecy around its settlement with Greyhound is "shameless silence". And the editorial board is absolutely right.


Of course, just how the city expected people to know enough to ask about a deal the city never announced was not clear. City Attorney Greg Priamos says the city had no legal requirement to disclose the buyout, since the parties did not reach agreement in a closed City Council session.

But regardless of legal requirements, the city had a responsibility to announce the settlement. Greyhound's future in Riverside has been the focus of much public discussion. And the company's departure from downtown is certainly a matter of civic interest.

Residents might also wonder why Riverside would spend $625,000 to buy out a lease worth $1 a year. Priamos said going to trial could have cost the city much more to move Greyhound out. But taxpayers cannot judge whether the decision to settle was wise if they never find out it happened.

Transparency in spending and decision-making is key to good government. Riverside's silence on the Greyhound settlement only invites needless skepticism -- and, yes, questions.

Yes, all this hiding secrets behind closed doors on technicalities does invite questions and it fosters doubts that these city employees including Priamos are acting on their own accord without receiving any instructions unless there is a lack of collective leadership from the dais. It's puzzling because most people in most cities think that their elected officials are accountable to their constituents and the direct employees of the city council including the city manager and city attorney are accountable to the city council. However, somehow in Riverside, the hierarchy of accountability and power became reversed during the past several years. This city essentially has city residents who are answerable to the city council which serves at the pleasure of its direct employees. In other words, this city went down the rabbit's hole. How on earth did that happen?

The answer's fairly complicated but it's a dynamic which has slowly developed during the past two or three years as the leadership has fallen away from the dais and been placed instead on the direct employees. More and more decisions appear to be made behind closed doors rather than in public forums and meetings. Most of the city council's subcommittee meetings have reduced their numbers of meetings during the past two years including the used-to-be formidable Governmental Affairs Committee (which has met about seven times this year) and the Finance Committee which believe it or not is scheduled to meet twice monthly but has only met four times this entire year.

It's unfortunate that this is what happened but it's interesting to blog about, because if the repercussions weren't potentially like in this situation, disturbing and embarrassing, it would almost be funny. But the questions that have risen up in the meantime are quite serious, including those surrounding the Greyhound situation which has twisted and turned and baited and switched, undulating through its various forays to public forums during the past several years.

Why is it that tax payer money can be spent to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars for such a cheaply leased parcel of property without knowing if any questions would be asked? And why do Priamos and those city council members who work for him believe it's none of the public's business?

Priamos is usually the lightning rod for decisions made by him whether they are ordered by the city council or not and he's a lightning rod for decisions made via memos from City Manager Brad Hudson's office. But he's not the one responsible for this latest snafu in city government brought to you courtesy of your elected representatives. The city council as the alleged employer of Priamos is the responsible party, something to keep in mind during election seasons.

But then you had to jump through hoops just to get the preliminary operational budget for the CPRC for the current fiscal year. So it's not just the situation with Greyhound that's showcasing this curious dynamic at City Hall. You have to jump through hoops just to get basic information about the staffing levels from the police department, information that was more freely provided just two years ago.

You have city council members who ran for office on promoting transparency in government including Ward Three Councilman Rusty Bailey who it seems in practice doesn't really believe in it at all judging by his communications with the CPRC on behalf of the city council regarding the Hudson directive that no one on the dais seems to know about until they read about it in the press. If the city council believed in transparency as a majority viewpoint, the terms of this huge expenditure in tax payer money during a fiscally difficult budget year would have been announced to the public. Instead, the city relies on Priamos to push the excuse that yeah it's public but people have to ask about it. And if they don't know what's going on or that this is what they have to do, tough luck. Then it's not really their business even if it is their money. That's how secrets are kept using information that should be public knowledge in the city of Riverside.

The situation involving Greyhound Bus Lines has been so poorly handled by City Hall from the city manager's office which acts disdainful and writes off 80,000 riders each year as just a handful of vocal complainers but that's not as bad as other factions who wrote off those same people as criminals and felons, blaming them for being magnets along with the bus service for attracting the "wrong" element to downtown especially in close proximity to the currently-being-renovated Fox Theater project. The "wrong" element is actually tens of thousands of poor families, elderly individuals and/or the disabled. These, are the elements that it's pretty clear City Hall didn't want hanging around downtown. Enough so that you had elected officials joking about driving them to San Bernardino's terminal to catch a bus there.

Now that Greyhound's been evicted and paid off, individuals in leadership are attributing the crime to the Riverside Transit Agency's portion of the parcel that housed the bus terminal and the city's moving divisions of the police administration which had been housed in leased office spaces to the city's building, which makes one wonder if that was the objective all along.

It's interesting the discussions that I've had since I've been blogging on the 10th anniversary of the fatal officer-involved shooting of Tyisha Miller. The consensus seems to be that while there was much progress made by the department and city in the first few years after the shooting and with the stipulated judgment, that the last few years have caused a great deal of concern in the communities of Riverside. Mainly because of both the decision making by City Hall and the growing lack of transparency inside the police department, a trend which has extended to the CPRC.

Some of the items which have come up in discussions involving the police department have been among the following.

Three officer-involved deaths of Latinos since Sept. 1 and the lack of independent investigations by the CPRC into these deaths due to micromanagement by the city manager's office, city attorney's office and several members of the city council.

The incident of alleged racial profiling and excessive force involving Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Wayne Guillery by police officers and the comments made by Chief Russ Leach to Press Enterprise columnist, Dan Bernstein.

The October arrest of Officer Robert Forman on sexual assault charges

The potential reinstatement of former Officer Jose Nazario

The failure of the department to respond to community concerns about particular officers

Whether more officers are being hired and if so, what process do they undergo to check their backgrounds and if there will be shortcuts taken for budget or other reasons for newly hired officers

The further implementation of community policing

Staffing levels and response times of officers

Discussions in these and other issues have been going on for a while but have become more apparent as people reflect on the past 10 years in Riverside since Miller's death.

Other boards and commissions in the city besides the CPRC have been interested in finding out what's been going on in the police department. The Human Relations Commission voted to receive the next traffic stop study and analysis which was to have been already released by the department but after three years, it still has to see the light of day. The study was actually paid for by money from the city's general fund in 2005 but over three years later, there's still no report on that study for the HRC to receive.

That commission also voted to sponsor a public forum when the report was issued. That was before it lost its community relations director, Yvette Pierre who was laid off during the first round of city employee layoffs. But maybe the public's not seeing this belated report because the numbers just aren't that great enough for a good analysis. If that's not the case, then the department should rethink the message it's sending by not releasing a report which was originally supposed to be released in March 2006.

The Human Resources Board has expressed interest in the situation inside the police department involving the retention of female officers which was low enough in comparison to the men for the department to audit the situation. The board has invited representatives from the department to come and talk about the retention issue involving its female officers but what will be said?

Back pay is being sought by some employees in Riverside County.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The workers and the Service Employees International Union Local 721 filed a lawsuit in Superior Court on Tuesday challenging the salary structure for Riverside County's decade-old temporary worker program.

The lawsuit -- and a claim filed with the Board of Supervisors seeking $20 million in pension benefits for 12,000 current and former temporary workers -- are the latest salvo in the SEIU's battle with the county.

Since March, the union, which represents 80,000 government employees in Southern California, has sought to represent workers in the county's Temporary Assignment Program.

The county created the program in 1998 as an alternative to using outside temporary employment agencies.

"During my 17 months with the county, one of my duties was to train full-time staff who were paid more than me from their first day on the job," former temporary employee Tammika Kelly, a plaintiff in the suit, said in a statement.

The lawsuit claims the county, notably Human Resources Director Ronald Komers, violated a 2004 salary ordinance by paying the program's workers 5.5 percent less than their full-time peers.

From April 2004, the lawsuit claims, the back pay owed to the temporary employees totals $7.2 million.

County spokesman Ray Smith said the county would handle the lawsuit like any other.

"We will look at the allegations in the lawsuit, assess them and the county will determine the best way to respond," Smith said.

But in other employment news, Riverside County has picked its interim legal counsel.

Another city councilman in Riverside County faces embezzlement charges. And in Murrieta, former councilman Warnie Enochs was convicted by a jury of 12 counts.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Enochs faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 6 on those charges, as well as conspiracy, inducing someone to commit perjury and offering false evidence, said district attorney spokesman Ryan Hightower.

"Juries almost always see the truth. This jury found the truth. They held Mr. Enochs accountable," District Attorney Rod Pacheco said Wednesday.

No further information on whether the United States Attorney's office plans to file charges against former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Deputy Ivory J. Webb for his videotaped shooting of a U.S. airman after a pursuit.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

We have placed several calls with the U.S. Attorneys office and nobody has returned our calls," said attorney Eugene Ramirez, defending former Deputy Ivory J. Webb Jr.

With that, U.S. District Court Judge Otis Wright sighed and said, "swell."

This morning's court hearing, at the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles was the first hearing after Dec. 8, when Wright had ordered attorneys to announce whether the federal prosecutors would pursue criminal charges.

For the few people who don't know this, the recession has come to the Inland Empire

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The report, released Wednesday by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., examines the recession's toll on California's 58 counties and 20 largest cities. Its purpose, Boxer said, is to ensure the Golden State gets its fair share of funding from President-elect Barack Obama's proposed economic stimulus package and other recovery programs.

While global in its scale, the recession's impacts are most visible at the local level, she said.

"Before you can move people to act, you have to show that this is real," said Boxer, whose staff collected the information in interviews with officials from each of the counties and cities. "This isn't just about state and national numbers ... when you see how many places have budget cuts and layoffs and program cuts and (increasing) crime rates."

One in 10 Riverside County residents is out of work, and 1 in 8 households is facing foreclosure, the report found. In San Bernardino County, 1 in 9 are jobless and 1 in 9.5 homes faces foreclosure.

The national unemployment rate is 6.7 percent and across the country, 1 in 44 American households are facing foreclosure.

The region leads the state's metropolitan areas in both categories, making it a poster child for what Obama is billing as the largest public works program in more than 50 years.

"The Inland Empire region is one of the hardest hit," Boxer said.

Former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona is struggling to find witnesses to testify on his behalf during his federal corruption trial.

(excerpt, Orange County Register)

Carona's attorney, Brian Sun, told the judge that they are encountering "resistance" in getting people to testify for Carona.

"They know it's a high profile case. They don't want to have their name … in the paper," Sun said. "I've mentioned to the government that it's hard to get people to respond to us."

Here's an interesting letter that the NAACP received in Jacksonville from a "security supervisor" from the city's public library.

Jacksonville. com

Responsible members

The NAACP's request for a Civilian Review Board would be fine as long
as the personnel on it are qualified to sit in those chairs and judge
the officer. This would mean individuals who have had to face
life-threatening situations.

I mean people who have experience in judging the situation from the
officer's standpoint and not there to play politics or for their own

I do not want the "armchair" person who is there to promote hatred
toward the police and would only give a biased interpretation of the

If you want a Civilian Review Board, then make it consist of veterans,
firemen and others or the like who have had to put themselves in
harm's way.

At least they would have an open mind to the facts instead of coming
in with preconceived notions as to the officer's actions and guilt.

It is not easy to take a life, and the continued belittlement of the
officers out there does not help them do their jobs.

The worst part is the accusations of the officers being "executioners. "

This is just a ludicrous and irresponsible statement.

I would welcome a review by the U.S. Department of Justice. Maybe once
they have cleared the officers and found no wrongdoing, the
individuals making these outlandish statements will do something
productive with their time and energy.


security supervisor,


Did your television pass the analog shutdown test? Sometime in February, all analog broadcasting televisions will go blank for good. You need a digital television, digital cable or a special box to be able to maintain your addiction to the boob tube.

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