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

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Boards and Commissions: A panel of your peers?

"If he did something, it would be contrary to everything I know about him. This was not the person I knew."

---Sam Goepp about Riverside County Sheriff's Department Investigator Kevin Duffy who killed himself. Duffy was the subject of a criminal probe at the time of his death.

There's been a lot of discussion about the appointment process of the Community Police Review Commission in the wake of the passage by voters in November 2004 of Measure GG which brought ward representation to the boards and commissions and also may have politicized the process. The city council to avoid appearances of doing this maintained the interview process for three boards and commissions: The CPRC, the Planning Commission and the Board of Public Utilities. Has it worked? One never leaves a Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meeting that addresses upcoming board and commission appointments thinking that it doesn't politicize the process, including the one in January where several city councilmen lobbied for candidates to be interviewed for several of the boards and commissions or be appointed for others who were on their campaign contribution and/or endorsement lists or had relatives who were on those lists. For one thing, you're dealing with politicians and often they just can't help themselves.

But then that's not exactly news even before the implementation of Measure GG into the city's charter several years ago during the same election which placed the CPRC in the city's charter.

The appointment process for commissioners is problematic because of the passage of Measure GG and because prior to that there was no uniform selection process for commissioners on the CPRC for several years. The city council members have a difficult time understanding let alone accepting that ward representation means geographic representation not elected official representation.

This became clear during a debate that took place during a recent meeting of the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee in January when Mayor Ron Loveridge and several council members had a disagreement about whether commission appointments who were chosen city-wide should remain city-wide or be converted to ward representatives if through attrition, they became the only person from their ward sitting on the commission. Some like Councilman Frank Schiavone said that if the city-wide commissioners became ward representative due to that attrition then it would give the mayor more power than city council members to appoint members of boards and commissioners who represent their own wards.

Loveridge of course disagreed. The charter gives him power to make an appointment on any board or commission if it's been vacant 60 days or longer after a notice has been posted in a public venue about the vacancy. This applied to both city-wide and ward representative spots in the wake of Measure GG. But in fairness to the mayor, he opts to consult with the councilman of any ward vacancy before making his selection which currently, he doesn't have to do. And for three of the aforementioned boards and commissions, it's an interview and selection by five elected officials out of eight (and if there's less than eight, a minimum of four votes are needed for an appointment). But Loveridge is fairly conciliatory, especially if you consider how few times he's vetoed the city council on its legislative votes.

He's never actually done a veto during his years as mayor. He's threatened twice in 2004 against former Councilman Art Gage's motions to defund the CPRC by up to 80% of its annual budget.

But what of the role of a city-wide appointed commissioner as compared or opposed to a ward-specific one? Who or what do they represent actually, and does that representation shift during their terms? And what impact does this "representation" have on their ability to remain independent as individual members and as a body?

And that's where the problem lies along with manipulation by several elected officials. They don't understand that under a "representative model", the commissioners who are ward-specific represent the people who live in those wards not the elected officials who represent these individuals But looking at their roles as being "representative" is fraught with problems. Still several of them think it's the other way around and that can easily lead to belief systems that somehow these commissioners are beholden in some way to these elected officials. That was the belief in a manner of speaking expressed by CPRC Ward Five specific Commissioner Ken Rotker at one meeting which caught the attention of the other commissioners present including Chair Brian Pearcy.

Actually, Measure GG never said that individuals had to represent their wards, it just stated that the boards or commissions had to include at least one member from each ward. Maybe that's because a ward is not a solid bloc of monolithic people but consists of many different neighborhoods. There's often more diversity within wards than between them. The implementation of Measure GG could actually work without politicizing the process or giving any elected official too much power but it has to be seen as promoting inclusion not representation. It's not likely that any of the city's elected officials could see it that way even if they wanted to do so. And some of them bemoan the politicization of the process by Measure GG while taking full advantage of it. If they were really all that concerned, they would work on making it more inclusive, less representative.

Still, there's this perception among some of the elected officials on the dais that the two statements mean the same thing. that ward inclusion means ward representation and they really don't. It was promoted in part because the composition of the city's boards and commissions were skewed heavily in favor of Wards One, Two and Four and included fewer or no members from Wards Six and Seven. Adopting a requirement for ward-specific appointments (which passed the muster of the city's voters) was one strategy for dealing with these imbalances.

But as stated, the CPRC shares a selection process with two other "special" boards and commissions rather than direct appointment.

All the commissioner applicants for any opening on the CPRC go to a screening process by the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee and then selections are interviewed and then voted on by the city council. The "at large" positions should theoretically be less political than the "ward representation" (because the majority of the council often votes in accordance to the wishes of the city council member of that ward which may mirror direct appointment) but actually it's not worked out that way at all.

The only exception to the new trend was former commissioner Linda Soubirous who was a straight political appointment for ward representation despite undergoing a similar interview and selection process. But then her background as a candidate for office had already politicized her. She was appointed to the commission by the city council despite having received $30,000 in PAC funds from the RPOA (and several hundred thousand from the Riverside Sheriffs' Association) while running for Bob Buster's seat in 2004. Several council members claimed they knew nothing about her receiving these contributions which considering that they also received financial contributions from the same union, is a bit difficult to believe. Only former Councilman Art Gage (who also received RPOA PAC money during two campaigns) said he didn't cast his vote in support of her appointment because she had accepted this money as part of her political campaign. He did vote against her appointment.

Soubirous never was mentioned during an earlier screening meeting even when Schiavone was asked by Loveridge for suggestions to fill the Ward Four vacancy. She was slipped in at the last minute before the interview process got started. Her selection saw a softening in Schiavone's stance towards city-wide appointment, Chani Beeman and he switched his "no way" vote to a "yay" vote and pulled others in that direction after the appointment of Soubirous facilitating Beeman's eventual appointment which was stumped by former Councilman Dom Betro. Maybe the appointment of one changed the fortunes of the other.

The two men did vote for each other's candidates in the final rounds of their respective selection processes.

Peter Hubbard, who manages AMR which has a public safety contract with Brad Hudson's office and who makes findings on cases involving AMR employees as witnesses, was another political appointment who was city-wide. It would seem that his involvement with the city as a management employee of an independent contractor would create a conflict of interest situation and limit his expression during meetings or at least provide that perception.

In contrast, John Brandriff is the only commissioner who was actually chosen by his ward's council member (which would seem to make him the perfect tool) but he's the one who got letters along with Beeman from Schiavone and was sent to spend three hours with Priamos as part of special "ethics training" b/c of his criticism of Hudson and Priamos to the PE. Besides Jim Ward, he's the closest to being his own person on the panel. Commissioners have been harassed, threatened with lawsuits and pressured to lose their independence by City Hall in various ways and Brandriff's stances that he's taken as a commissioner have elicited negative responses from at least one city council member.

Here's a list in brief of the commissioners, their particular paths to appointment by the city council and their issues which present potential problems. This is under the current system of citywide appointments potentially converting to ward-specific through attrition of the involved board or commission.

Linda Soubirous (Ward Four) by interview and vote process. While running for the District One Riverside County Board of Supervisor in 2004, received an endorsement and financial contributions from law enforcement unions including the Riverside Police Officers' Association. Resigned to take a job in the Sheriff's Department.

Sheri Corral: (alternate, at large appointment-turned Ward Three representative) Active law enforcement officer with Riverside Community College District Police Department. She's backed the police and been threatened with a lawsuit by one police officer during her tenure on the commission but swung about 180 degrees about a year ago.

Peter Hubbard: (at-large appointment by city council) Manages American Medical Response, which has an ongoing public safety contract with City Manager Brad Hudson. Involved in same police department training program that got Riverside County employee Claudia Smith disqualified from consideration for a Ward Four appointment interview by City Attorney Gregory Priamos at the recent Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meeting. Priamos' declarations of what constitutes a conflict of interest and what doesn't are fascinating to witness but seem a bit opportunistic in favor of reducing civic liability risk to his primary client, the city.

Jim Ward: (alternate, appointed in at-large position, turned Ward Two representative)Former state corrections officer and counselor but also active community leader.

Chani Beeman: (at large appointment by city council) Founder of Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability, former Human Relations Commission member and has son who has been employed with the Riverside Police Department since 2004.

John Brandriff: (appointed as Ward Seven representative by Councilman Steve Adams to fill vacancy) Former Human Relations Commission member

Arthur Santore: (appointed as Ward Six representative to fill vacancy by city council. Initial vote by council favored another applicant but when Councilwoman Nancy Hart said she didn't like that particular person, the second vote swung the other way)

Kenneth Rotker: (appointed to fill Ward Five vacancy by city council) Rotker said at a public meeting that he believes that the commissioner serves the city council member who appointed him or her.

Brian Pearcy: (appointed at-large by city council) former LAPD officer, current LAPD reserve officer, serves on another city commission and as part of his law practice, takes "police officer rights" and "police labor law" cases, according to his firm's Web site. He flips a bit like he did on the creation and support of the ill-fated ad hoc committee he later cast a vote to put on the back burner, essentially contributing to the dissolution of a committee he created as commission chair. It makes you wonder if he's considering a run for political office in Riverside down the road.

How's the commission split? 4-4 with 3-3 and two that fluctuate their votes and comments made on various agenda issues. At least until the appointment of Soubirous in February to meet the March 1 deadline to seat all new commissioners. Another reason why this most recent appointment might be viewed as being critical.

The fault lines probably don't neatly line up with which appointments on the commission are more political than others. For example, again, the aforementioned Brandriff did get scolded in writing by Schiavone and attended the impromptu "ethics training" because he was critical in comments towards Priamos and Hudson's office. So he's not exactly a pawn being pushed around by some councilman especially since he told one of them that he was going to be independent anyway,. In contrast with Rotker who was appointed through vote by the entire council who apparently thinks that is exactly what he's supposed to be given his comments at recent meetings about how he has to answer to who appointed him. Comments which had Pearcy (who often holds side bar conversations during public meetings) responding somewhat uneasily that what Rotker said was another discussion altogether.

Beeman's appointment was clearly influenced by the presence of former Councilman Dom Betro in office, but she's been on the receiving end of one of Schiavone's letters of chastisement as well. Still, some say she's anti-cop based on one public statement she made about being concerned about a recent spate of officer-involved deaths during the latter quarter of 2008 which was recorded in the Press Enterprise. It's kind of interesting to hear that she's anti-cop, attacks officers and an even more descriptive, "hater of all cops" when her own son is employed by the same police department and she's been very supportive of the police department including through service on the Chief's Advisory Board. But then "anti-cop" is a term that gets thrown around so much anyway. I think the last time that I heard that I was called "anti-cop" or something equivalent was about two weeks ago.

As far as "corruption" within the commission, as long as the city council remains divided between a vocal minority who opposes the CPRC, a non-vocal minority who fully advocates for it and a few strung in between who aren't even educated on what it is, then the vocal opponents will continue to provide Hudson and Priamos with 100% of the direction to micromanage it, weaken it and yes, corrupt its charter-mandated powers including independent investigations of officer-involved deaths. Because it's clear that their direction is coming from as one commissioner used to call it, the "Seventh Floor".

As long as you have an executive manager forced to serve two masters with one master holding the reins and all the power, you will have a diluted, weakened commission that will be in conflict with its executive manager because it's really in conflict with the city manager's office.

As long as you have an attorney who is in a conflict of interest situation, the same applies.

As long as you have a relatively inactive populace (though that's changing on a lot of different fronts including the CPRC), nothing will ever change with the commission and there's no one to blame at the end of that day unless you include that populace. The leaders who remain silent on these issues need to realize that those they purportedly lead are not.

Civilian oversight and review is only as strong, effective and independent as the populace demands. That's true in every city from Berkeley to New York City in this country. It's definitely true in Riverside.

The Press Enterprise's Editorial Board supports the Riverside Police Department's use of the injunction filed against Eastside Riva Gang. It brings up the former alleged range war between Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco and Police Chief Russ Leach which took place mainly on the pages of that publication and which was denied by both parties later.


But the city's strategy shows the large difference between a political stance and practical policing. Under normal circumstances, arresting everyone who violated the ordinance -- a misdemeanor -- would accomplish little beyond clogging the county's already overburdened justice system. And such tactics could upset the delicate balance of police community relations.

Riverside police view the injunction as a weapon to use when violence threatens to spread, as it has recently. At such times, enforcing the prohibitions strictly offers an effective way of obstructing violent gang activity and protecting the community.

Turns out Riverside police are not lax about enforcing the injunction at all. They merely realize that the skill with any weapon is knowing the right time to use it.

What's the future of Metrolink in Perris? Residents can speak out at several meetings.

Meeting Info (Press Enterprise)

A public meeting and a public hearing are planned to let residents asks questions about the proposed Perris Valley Line Metrolink extension, and comment on the plan.

Public meeting

6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 4

TownGate Community Center, Banquet Hall, 13100 Arbor Park Lane, Moreno Valley

Public hearing

9:30 a.m. Feb. 11

Riverside County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon St., Riverside

Source: Riverside County Transportation Commission

Concerns were included in the public environmental impact report which is available at the Riverside County Transportation Commission office at 4080 Lemon St. on the third floor and at the Riverside Downtown Public Library as well as libraries in Moreno Valley and Perris.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The report also noted some possible impacts to sensitive areas, mainly at the southern end of the 24-mile route. While significant, transportation officials do not think the impacts will be enough to derail the project.

The report, called an initial study/mitigated negative declaration, isn't as comprehensive as the reports required for major road projects, explained Riverside County Transportation Commission deputy director John Standiford. Because the rail project isn't as intrusive, the lesser report is needed, but still addresses similar issues required to receive federal money.

The $168 million project is slated to get $75 million from federal coffers.

Standiford said the project could get a bit of a boost from the proposed federal stimulus package under consideration. If a premium is placed on long-term projects that reduce congestion on area roads, adding commuter trains could apply.

Search warrants in connection with the investigation of San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus have been sealed.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"They're sealed, and we intend to do our best to keep them that way," spokeswoman Susan Mickey said this morning. "We feel the investigation would be compromised if the information were released."

The sealing means the public won't yet learn the details behind Postmus' early morning arrest on Jan. 15 at his Rancho Cucamonga apartment.

On that day, about 50 investigators executed search warrants involving Postmus in Highland, San Bernardino, Apple Valley, Victorville, Rancho Cucamonga and Santa Margarita in Orange County, a news release stated.

Shifting postins not laying off employees is a strategy being considered by San Bernardino County while it balances its budget in the economic downturn.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

If county budget cuts result in the need to shed employees in a given department, the Temporary Assignment Program, if approved by the county Board of Supervisors today, would allow the displaced workers to move to other jobs.

More painful actions like layoffs and furloughs are not imminent, county officials said, but no options have been ruled out in dealing with budget problems brought on by the economic crisis.

"I would say, in general, we are going to have to consider every option that is available to the county to get past these tough economic times," said Andrew Lamberto, head of the county's human resources department.

Bob Blough, general manager for the union that represents 12,646 county employees, supports the reassignment program. He said layoffs and furloughs should not be an option as the county attempts to plug a $60 million budget shortfall, he said.

"I don't think layoffs are on the horizon for this fiscal year," said Blough, of the San Bernardino Public Employees Association. "I know... the county wants (furloughs) available for this year but I don't think it's necessary."

A Los Angeles attorney might be hired by the county to head the probe into Postmus potential removal.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The County Board of Supervisors will vote today on whether to hire John C. Hueston of the Los Angeles-based law firm of Irell & Manella LLP to look into the possibility of removing Postmus from office. According to his company biography, Hueston served as a lead prosecutor in the trial of former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeff Skilling.

Before serving on the Enron Task Force, Hueston served as chief of the Southern Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.

The contract would be capped at $250,000. The county's head lawyer has also said that taxpayers would have to pay for Postmus' legal defense if a public hearing for removal moves forward.

A Riverside County Sheriff's Department investigator who was on leave while being investigated apparently committed suicide.

The community of San Jacinto reacted in shock.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

David Hall remembers the first time he met Duffy through the Police Activities League in Hemet.

"He was a good guy," said Hall, 20, a Hemet resident. "He made a difference in my life. He made a difference in a lot of peoples' lives."

Hall said he had heard about the criminal investigation but believes Duffy is innocent until he learns otherwise.

Jim Foreman, a former Hemet police officer who knew Duffy for more than a decade, said it is hard for him to believe the veteran investigator would commit any crime, but leaves open the possibility.

Foreman, now a Hemet City Council member, said he and other officers were stunned by the suicide and are trying to reconcile the investigator they knew with the news of his death and the allegations against him.

Foreman said he has no specific information about the case against Duffy, but indicated the suicide may give some insight into the allegations.

"I don't believe an innocent man would kill himself," Foreman said. "An innocent man fights to prove that he is innocent."

Lots of comments on both article threads, including those from people who knew and worked with Duffy before his death.

A controversial study claimed that police officers write more traffic tickets during difficult economic times to generate more revenue for budget-strapped cities. Needless to say, some local high-ranking law enforcement personnel had plenty to say about that.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The authors of "Red Ink in the Rearview Mirror" compared revenues, miles driven, the number of traffic tickets written and other factors in determining that "anecdotal evidence supports this revenue motive."

But two local law enforcement officials dispute the conclusion, saying growth is responsible for a ticket increase in the Inland area.

"There is a temptation to view traffic citations as a revenue source based on police activity," Redlands Police Chief Jim Bueermann said. "But for a thoughtful police executive, there should not be a connection between revenue generation and justice issues."

"I don't think there's any correlation," said retired Corona Police Chief Richard Gonzales. "In 36 years, I've never been aware of any issues like that."

More meetings:

(All are open to the public and free. Dress is casual and refreshments are optional)

The CPRC meets on Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall in the council chambers.

The Human Resources Board meets on Monday, Feb. 2 at 4 p.m. on the Fifth Floor large conference room at City Hall. The agenda hasn't been set yet but one possible item is a report from the Riverside Police Department on the retention levels of female officers in the department. Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel has said that the department would definitely be interested in providing a report to the Human Resources Board. The board had asked for information on the police department on this issue but City Attorney Gregory Priamos made it difficult for the board members even to receive statistical information surrounding female officers.

The Governmental Affairs Committee drives another stake in the heart of the Community Police Review Commission on Wednesday, Feb. 4 at 3p.m. in the Mayor's Ceremonial room at City Hall.

Also coming soon:

The city council will hold two public meetings to interview and select people to fill appointments on three of the city's boards and commissions. These will be the CPRC, the Planning Commission and the Board of Public Utilities. City Clerk Colleen Nichols is still working on the interview schedule.

Dates and Time: TBA

Definitely mark the following on your calendar. The Charles Dickons Festival will be held in downtown Riverside on Feb. 6-8. Dickons was a family friend and tried to intervene in the long-standing feud between my great, great, great, great, great grandfather and William Wordsworth which started during a carriage ride in England they took with Samuel Coleridge and Robert Southey. At least he tried.

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