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, March 25, 2009

CPRC Commissioner Jim Ward resigns in protest of City Hall Micromanagement


In Riverside County Superior Court, Judge Sharon Waters granted and denied different portions of Councilman Frank Schiavone's writ against a campaign statement written by his political rival, Paul Davis. She struck the statement involving the return of a voice to City Hall but denied the request to remove references to prior law enforcement employment so Davis will be allowed to refer to himself as a former law enforcement officer of both the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and the Riverside Police Department.


"I don't think anyone questions the notion that it should be an effective commission."

---Mayor Ron Loveridge about the CPRC and apparently he had a straight face when he said it.

Community Police Review Commission member Jim Ward has resigned in the wake of the decision by employees at City Hall to veto an agenda item (as reported here earlier) he had asked to have placed on the agenda to discuss the role of the CPRC's manager Kevin Rogan in relation to both serving the commissioners (which he really isn't assigned to do) and his boss (who can fire him), the city manager. If you recall, Las Vegas odds for that item actually making it on the CPRC meeting agenda were calculated and posted on this blog at about 1000 to 1. And the house didn't pay out on this one, figuratively speaking. That agenda item was indeed missing from the agenda to the huge shock of maybe about five people.

Ward received in response some excuse in writing as to why yet another round of City Hall censorship had been waged at the CPRC through the strings of the fifth and seventh floors of City Hall which have the CPRC (which is located on its sixth floor) sandwiched in between. But the excuses have been too many and too weak in nature for the exclusion of agenda items from being discussed at meetings. And unfortunately, if that's the case then you don't have a commission that meets, you have a puppet show which performs occasionally.

It was the last straw in regards to City Hall's micromanagement of the CPRC which has been ongoing since the dissolution of the city's stipulated judgment in 2006 so Ward resigned, believing that since he had only one year left, things wouldn't get better. Certainly not under the leadership of two commissioners who during the rare times they actually attend meetings make it clear they're loyal to City Hall first, the police second and the community last. But then this is no surprise, as one city employee told me about the time that the city hired its latest executive manager, how it was going to go down and this employee called it pretty closely so far and it will be interesting to see how the rest of this person's predictions play out in the next six to 12 months. Some of his predictions will be included in upcoming postings of this blog and we can all wait together to see how many of them and which ones come to pass.

Ward was the only Black commissioner on a nearly all-White commission.

Several other commissioners have also considered resigning but as of yet, Ward's resignation letter is the only one that's been submitted. Allegations had already been raised that comments were made at one meeting that the protocol for drafting the public report for the 2006 shooting of Joseph Darnell Hill was discussed in a closed session meeting although there's no written record that this case ever appeared on any meeting agenda. And the Brown Act would prohibit any general discussion of the protocol for writing public reports in closed session.

And speaking of public reports, the CPRC has failed in its charter responsibility to issue an annual report to the city council and mayor, struggling just to accomplish that in the past several years. But it's hard to do so when few commissioners are even interested in doing such work and there's only one full-time employee staffing the office.

That's just the latest in a series of embarrassing faux pases performed by a commission in the past several years since it's been overseen by City Manager Brad Hudson and his adjutant, Tom DeSantis with City Attorney Gregory Priamos appointed as its budget director.

Ward's resignation comes in the wake of the latest round of micromanagement of the CPRC coming from the fifth and seventh floors of City Hall. It's believed that at some point after the dissolution of the stipulated judgment between the city and the State Attorney General's office that some form of directive was issued out of City Hall to first its city manager's office and then later its city attorney's office to begin a campaign of intense micromanagement of the CPRC.

While not quite the hemorrhage that occured after the first round of micromanagement took place beginning in the autumn of 2006, Ward was the most senior member of the CPRC, having been appointed as an alternate during the original process in 2000 and becoming a permanent member, replacing the late Jim Redsecker in 2001. He was also popular with community members who attended meetings because he always spoke with them before or after the meeting in sharp contrast to almost every other commissioner who acted like shaking hands or even looking at community members would give them the cooties. Many community members spent a couple of hours watching commissioners joke and talk with police representatives while often causing community members to feel as if they weren't wanted there, particularly first-time visitors, several of which who asked upon leaving. When he sees even upset groups of community residents, he reaches out to them and listens and doesn't think about coming to the next public meeting packing heat.

Speaking of meetings, the CPRC had to cancel its meeting on March 25. Why? Because it couldn't reach a quorum. Meaning it couldn't find five people to meet out of eight.

It wouldn't be at all surprising if it didn't have anyone there to chair or vice-chair it anyway. And don't be surprised if because of this, the words "interim chair" will be the CPRC's newest catch phrase this year. But then again, maybe they can bring back Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis to chair another meeting, given his performance commandeering the Bylaws, Policies and Procedures committee meeting right out from under its chair, John Brandriff.

Are these city residents or city employees? That's probably one of the major questions asked about the commissioners themselves.

That's actually not an easy question to answer and the answer is different for each one. Does one commissioner actually work for the city through a company that's an independent contractor with the city? Is one commissioner trying to still get a job with the city?

The Press Enterprise covered the resignation here.


Ward, a retired prison captain, served seven years on the commission. He was the only black member and one of the few minorities on the nine-member body.

Over the years, he has been an advocate for police accountability.

He has raised the ire of commissioners by voting that a shooting was not within policy and by how he handled a minority report.

In the past year, some commissioners and city officials have debated the body's role and scope.

Ward said that has gone too far.

"At this point, we're nothing but a rubber stamp for city officials," he said.

Fellow Commissioner Brian Pearcy described Ward as a "necessary counterweight" for informed discussions.

"We're rapidly losing our institutional memory as to where the CPRC came from, what its original goals and objectives are and why," Pearcy said.

Pearcy's comments are very revealing of the dynamic of the CPRC by his positioning Ward as the "necessary counterweight" for informed discussions. In reality, there should be eight counterweights if the CPRC truly represents a diverse cross-section of the city. The fact that Pearcy, the former chair puts Ward in that role, means that the CPRC has very little diversity among its membership.

As for rapidly losing institutional memory, that is greatly facilitated not just by the high turnover of commissioners in the past several years but because those involved in the micromanagement of the CPRC never had those memories to begin with or in Loveridge's case have forgotten them.

If they did, they would not have chosen to follow the course that they have taken. And the problem with the mayor's comments about the city council and city staff wanting the commission to work is that if that were really true, then these individuals would be incompetent in achieving this task beyond all belief. Because what they have done in the past several years is everything they possibly could on different levels to render the CPRC ineffective. Are they truly that incompetent? Maybe, but if so, maybe that in itself is an issue that needs to be raised in the even-numbered elections being held this June. Although in Ward Four, that might take a while because it doesn't appear that actual ward and citywide issues will be discussed during the campaign.

The City Council will be reviewing Ward Two applicants on April 7, in less than two weeks. Not a whole lot of time to find themselves another puppet of City Hall. They better get busy.

The Ward Four election is living up to everything people thought it would be, which was a one-sided mud wrestling contest and it's only in its second month. But it's not much in terms of educating the ward's residents on where the candidates actually stand on the issues which impact the standards of living in neighborhoods from Casa Blanca to Canyon Crest to Mission Grove. Instead, it's mostly consisted of episodes out of politics' version of a soap opera, River City style.

One candidate, Paul Davis, is actually doing some...campaigning on the issues. The other, Frank Schiavone, has yet to actually issue a platform or provide information on exactly what he stands for besides personalizing a political process. And some of the Craigslist comments say much more about those individuals as nameless as they may be than they say about the candidate they are writing about. Including where they are from.

It's interesting how you have one candidate walking the neighborhoods in the ward and meeting people to discuss issues pertaining to the ward and the city itself. Then you have another council member who's filing lawsuits over semantics against the city (and if it wasn't, City Attorney Gregory Priamos would be sitting in his office not appearing in court) and his supporters instead of talking to Ward Four residents are hanging out on Craigslist making insinuations about his opponent in hopes of winning votes for their guy.

But it's interesting after talking to residents in different places in the fourth ward who are more than ready for a change in representation and most of them don't follow what's going on in Craigslist where the latest jab against candidate, Paul Davis involves allegations about his first marriage to a Riverside Police Department employee. Which kind of gives you some clue as to who these anonymous individuals represent because the majority of the city of Riverside isn't privy to the police department's water cooler discussion forums. And after hearing what's being discussed lately that's spilling over elsewhere, maybe that's not a bad thing.

And mudslinging has a way of backfiring. After all, look how well it worked for Schiavone last year. And the candidates incumbent or otherwise who engage in this behavior usually aren't the ones who do well in places like political forums or public debates. So it will be interesting indeed to see if that adage plays out this time.

A proposal to change the political system in Moreno Valley to allow the public to elect its own mayor is headed to the ballot.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The City Council unanimously decided Tuesday to put a measure on the ballot asking voters whether they want a directly elected mayor.

"I think it's something we ought to be able to ask voters ... 'Do you want to elect a mayor or not?' " Councilwoman Bonnie Flickinger said.

Currently, City Council members from the five districts pick one member to serve as mayor for a year.

If residents vote to directly elect a mayor, another election could be held in November 2012 to formally approve the changes in government, including the possible changes in council districts and determining the mayor's term in office.

The first election for mayor could then take place in November 2014.

Daryl Terrell, a supporter of having an elected mayor, said an advisory measure on the November 2010 ballot would be a waste of time because the community has long debated the issue.

"It's time for an up or down vote ... Let's be done with it," Terrell said.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board comments on the Riverside County supervisor giving campaign funds to his sister while telling everyone she's actually pro-bono.

San Bernardino County is shaping its investigation into former Assessor Bill Postmus.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The probe has zeroed in on former assessor Bill Postmus' campaign fundraising and real estate deals, and broadened to include expensive gifts from a developer who received a $102 million settlement from the county.

Investigators have raided more than a dozen government buildings, homes and offices throughout Southern California and sought documents in New York and Washington, D.C.

"What I think is happening here is when you have a bunch of people involved in this type of culture of corruption, whenever one of them gets into trouble, they try to get out of trouble by ratting out others," former San Bernardino County District Attorney Dennis L. Stout said.

"It takes a while to run all this stuff down," he said. "The more people involved, the more there is to look at."

San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry (who had his chief of staff resign in disgrace) has hired an anti-immigration activist who has been photographed hanging out with individuals waving Confederate and Nazi flags at a demonstration. His vote was ratified by the entire board with one absence.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Turner's group has come under criticism from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights law firm in Montgomery, Ala. In 2005, the group reported that rallies organized by Turner attracted white supremacists who hoisted swastika pendants and Confederate flags.

Brian Levin, of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, called the Turner appointment "outrageous."

"This is someone who I believe crosses the line," he said.

Turner, who was not at the meeting and did not return a message seeking comment, has said that he was unable to control who attends his rallies.

Gil Navarro, a San Bernardino community activist, called Turner's hiring an insult to minorities in the community.

"You already have a cloud of corruption in this county," he said. "Now in appointing Joseph Turner you're adding racism to this county."

As if San Bernardino County's government weren't enough of a laughing stock in this region.

Turner was already hired by the San Bernardino Police Officers' Association as some type of "outreach" worker.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board expressed its displeasure at this turn of events.


The supervisor said he hired Turner for his writing skills, which are not easy to find. But surely a region with high unemployment and substantial job losses has no shortage of available skilled writers who do not come with Turner's political baggage.

Derry also hired Turner the day after Jim Erwin resigned as the supervisor's chief of staff. Prosecutors arrested Erwin last week on felony perjury charges. The choice of Erwin as a top aide had already raised questions about Derry's judgment: A candidate who ran on cleaning up county government could have made a far wiser choice than picking a longtime insider with a history of ethical lapses.

The supervisor foolishly saddled himself with another unnecessary distraction from public business, while further damaging San Bernardino County's reputation. Inexperience might have explained Derry's first hiring blunder, but the latest one simply suggests a failure to learn from experience.

In a decision which is certain to elicit controversy, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchins had revoked some concealed weapons permits that were issued by her predecessor, Mike Carona.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Those who have received notices of revocation from Sheriff Sandra Hutchens include Michael Schroeder, chief political and legal advisor to Carona and a former chairman of the state Republican Party; Adam Probolsky, a GOP pollster; and Stephen Mensinger, a political ally of Carona and business executive for major GOP benefactor and developer George Argyros, public records show.

Schroeder, for one, is fighting back.

He said that on Wednesday his attorney sent a letter to Sheriff's Capt. Dave Nighswonger alleging that Hutchens' "abrupt and inappropriate attempt to strip the license violates Mr. Schroeder's rights."

The letter alleges that Hutchens is not following penal code requirements for revoking permits. Schroeder said he believes he will eventually file a lawsuit.

"The penal code sets forth the grounds under which you can revoke them," Schroeder said. "People, once they have them, have to engage in certain violations to have them taken away, and that has not occurred here."

More information emerges in the case of the lies told by a Bio-Tox laboratory technician who's connected with thousands of cases prosecuted in Riverside County.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Authorities estimated this week that 4,500 San Bernardino County cases may be scrutinized. About 3,700 Riverside County cases are being reviewed, and public defenders have requested so far that two cases be reopened.

All included evidence that was tested by lab tech Aaron Layton, who admitted to lying "hundreds of times" about work he did in Colorado, according to records from a polygraph test.

Layton, 30, was most recently a technician at Bio-Tox Laboratories in Riverside, which tests blood and urine samples in drug- and alcohol-related cases for San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties.

Investigations are also under way in San Diego County and throughout the state of Colorado. It's unclear how many cases have been affected in those areas.

Layton has not returned several calls seeking comment and has not responded to multiple subpoenas by the Riverside County public defender's office.

Bio-Tox is retesting samples in Riverside County cases. District attorney's officials have said they have no evidence Layton mishandled any blood samples or lied about lab work while working at Bio-Tox.

"Never my intention to be dishonest" said the technician who's under a microscope now.

A quite vigil in Oakland

An asteroid finally hit Earth.

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