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

Monday, March 16, 2009

Election 2009: Who's misleading who?

Another city council meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, March 17 at both 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. If you've never attended one or seen your elected officials in action, come check it out. It's still free, although alas, no refreshment stands yet during the intermissions.

An interesting development with a changing of the guard on the Planning Commission.

Councilman Frank Schiavone lobbied really hard to get Tavaglione to be included on the list for being interviewed on the Planning Commission, even postponing the decision making on his application by the Mayor's Nomination and Screening meeting at its Jan. 6 meeting to the meeting the following week. Schiavone's attempts to clarify whether Tavaglione had any prior experience on the Planning commission wasn't noted in the minutes of the Jan. 6 meeting, perhaps because quite a bit of the lobbying occurred after the meeting had adjourned though he is included in the list to be interviewed. But if you notice in the minutes for the Jan. 13 meeting which was scheduled to discuss Planning Commission applicants only, Tavaglione's name is again included in the interview list. The only reason they had that meeting was to clarify whether or not Tavaglione had served on this commission before and if he hadn't, to officially add him to the interview list.

Tavaglione wasn't selected to represent a specific ward but was at the Feb. 27 meeting of the city council, appointed as a "first alternate" which is a fascinating development (but less surprising in the wake of the first election conducted by teleconference in CPRC history) only considering the fact that several years ago, the city council decided to no longer select alternates to serve on any of the city's boards and commissions as part of its implementation of Measure GG which placed ward representation in the city's agenda. This applied to both "ward specific" and "city-wide" vacancies and sure enough, all the alternates including those on the Human Relations Commission were kicked off their respective boards and commissions and sent home.

Tavaglione is the first and probably only "alternate" let alone "first alternate" that's been selected by the city council since the enforcement of Measure GG. There had been some discussion initiated by Schiavone at the Jan. 6 Mayor's Nomination and Screening meeting about restoring alternates but it was dropped when City Clerk Colleen Nichol explained the problems with implementing that system during the current process. There was no public announcement that this change in protocol had ever been approved by the city council. Instead, it's only included in the above minute order and mentioned in passing during the backup provided on this appointment.

What the city council needs to do is to contact all the "citywide" alternates that were purged several years ago and invite them to come back to serve out their terms and be eligible for appointment on their respective boards and commissions. And to apologize to them for sending them to the sidelines for so long.

Now he's being nominated as an "citywide position" without undergoing another round of screening, interviews and votes among members of the applicant pool. Schiavone himself led the charge that the same process for filling new appointments would be the same used for filling unexpired terms for this commission as well as the Board of Public Utilities and the Community Police Review Commission. These three were "special" (which it's become clear since then is city code for "micromanagement") so any opening should be filled through a vigorous screening, interviewing and selection process whether it was expired terms being filled or those where commissioners had resigned.

And it doesn't seem to matter if the applicants have gone through that process already for the appointment being approved via the blanket vote on the consent calendar during the March 17 meeting.

Just ask current CPRC commissioner, Chani Beeman who underwent three screening and interview processes for her seat, which is almost unprecedented. Two during the normal process that takes place annually to seat board and commission members by March and then a later process again, about six months later to fill an unexpired term. So is this a change in protocol? Maybe not, but it's interesting how many hoops she had to jump through to get appointed on the CPRC in comparison.

But there might be one fundamental difference between Tavaglione and Beeman and the answer to that might just be present on some documents in the city clerk's office called campaign disclosure forms. Both Tavaglione and Schiavone did endorse Councilman Rusty Bailey when he ran for officer against former Councilman Art Gage. But Beeman had been tied to one city council member as well, but a different one.

Tavaglione might be the best candidate for the position as Beeman surely was during all three of her interviews, but Beeman had political ties to the councilman who pushed her appointment and clearly switched some councilmen to change their votes so that Beeman finally won appointment in August 2007. Despite her credentials and her superior interviews, she never would have made it on the CPRC without some obvious deal making in the background. She should have been allowed to pass or fail without that but then again, the climate of interviewing and selection on either the CPRC or the Planning Commission has become as politicized as some of those who have politicized this process claim that the CPRC has become.

And that left an uncomfortable feeling in people's mouth although to her credit, some elected officials are clearly cursing the reversal of their votes during the first two rounds when she tried to get appointed, what can only be described as "buyers' remorse". Hopefully, the first alternate commissioner since the enforcement of Measure GG in 2005, will also be independent.

The boards and commissions are supposed to be wide-open to all city residents over the age of 18 who live in the city limits and are registered to vote. But in reality, some really great candidates go by the wayside and many don't even wind up on interview lists because in reality, it still appears not to be based on what you're willing to offer as a volunteer to this very important mechanism in the city but who you know. So the city could perform a great service by letting applicants know this going into the process.

The city council agenda's not that full but there's some interesting items. Unfortunately, the public can't pull most of them for further comment and discussion before a vote is taken.

For the discussion calendar, there's this report on the graffiti program. Det. Kathy Nelson and Officer Steve Warlick from the Riverside Police Department have worked very hard on that program. But as far as collection on graffiti fines including the placement of liens on people's houses go, despite the proclamations by City Attorney Greg Priamos and Councilman Steve Adams on television, one of Priamos' subordinates admitted last year that it probably costs more to collect than what money is collected in return.

This country and especially this region is caught in the throes of a recession and that might mean more garage sales and the expansion of what a garage sale is by the city government.

So why many people are struggling to earn money in a region with a high rate of foreclosure and two-digit unemployment rate, is the city council set to amend an ordinance to place restrictions on these sales?

Money is being appropriated from the citys' canine trust account to replace Officer Mike Carrol's canine, Max, who passed last week.

This interesting posting was put up on Craigslist from an undisclosed source. Whether it's an uncredited news article or a press release from the political campaign of Schiavone, its author won't say. Yet this individual writes about the importance of disclosure of information and transparency and this posting does raise some interesting issues about just that.

Election 2009 is still young and apparently the first lawsuit in relation to it has already been filed in Riverside County Superior Court by Schiavone against rival, Paul Davis regarding the campaign statement submitted by Davis. Actually, Schiavone's technically suing City Clerk Colleen Nichol who is in charge of city elections (in areas not under Riverside County Voters' Registrar purview) including the receipt of campaign statements from those running for office.
It's case #RIC521455 so if you want to look it up, go to this site to the civil division and look it up under "Frank Schiavone" or by the case number cited.

Essentially, Schiavone is filing his petition challenging Davis' claims that he was a former law enforcement employee of both the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and the Riverside Police Department. Schiavone stated in his petition first that Davis had made a "personal attack and criticism" against him in violation of a state election code. The statement that constituted the personal attack was one where Davis stated that he would "return your voice to City Hall."

But then Schiavone uses a state code called PC 830.1 to challenge whether or not Davis ever worked as a law enforcement officer although he was hired and employed by two law enforcement agencies. Schiavone bases his argument on the fact that Davis left both agencies before completing and passing his probationary period. He defends his argument by saying that this provision of PC 830.1 doesn't specifically identify "probational officers" or "trainees" as "peace officers" so they must not be considered to be included in this category which the state code defines.

However, what significantly weakens that argument is that based on the text of PC 830.1, it doesn't appear that they should be defined. It could be argued that "probational officer" and "trainee" are included in the definition of the term, "police officers" or "deputies" depending on whether it's a city or county agency. The definition of a "police officer" within that provision is any police officer employed in that capacity and appointed by the police chief. And under this criteria, probational officers and to an extent, trainees which are officers going through the field training program are considered police officers. One would think that if they weren't, there would be language in PC 830.1 or any related code specifically stating that they weren't included in that definition. There's no such conditional statement in PC 830.1 as presented.

Schiavone's attorney does include a prior 1992 court case addressing this issue which excluded probational officers and it would be interesting to research that case to see how that judge reached his or her conclusions given that there's no specific language barring probational officers and trainees from not being included in that code. However, there would need to be a further examination of all relevant case law in this area which hopefully a judge overseeing this writ will do. The issue is that only a judge in each case particularly one which as presented by Schiavone only has one related case decision can decide on the interpretation of PC 830.1 as it pertains to probational officers.

Exhibits included in Frank Schiavone's declaration filed on March 13 included California Public Letter Act requests to the Riverside Sheriff's Department requesting employment information on Davis at that department, information on claims filed against him and the pay scales for his position at the time he was employed. The letter was written to Joseph L. Lucsko, a former Banning councilman with Floyd & Lucsko Incorporated, a political consulting firm, on Feb. 18 days. Since by state law, CPRA requests have to be responded to in writing within 10 business days, Lucsko's letter was most likely written earlier that month.

A similar letter was sent by Lucsko on or around Feb. 6 to the Riverside Police Department requesting the same information as well as copies of any complaints, claims, dispositions and cost to the taxpaying public of processing these actions. He also asked for the conditions of Davis' departure from the department and whether or not he was eligible for rehiring by that agency and any compensation he received from the department.

Lucsko received a response in writing from Chief Russ Leach that most of the information except for Davis' monthly salary and times of employment would be denied pursuant to state laws governing the confidentiality of peace officer records. That's a typical response from most law enforcement agencies within the state of California to similar requests.

These records as stated are included in Schiavone's declaration and you should read them in preparation for the following statement allegedly made by Schiavone. And the heads of both law enforcement agencies should be thankful that Schiavone did include these records because one would think through the statement below that they engaged in behavior while providing information that violated state laws. The distinction needs to be made that at least in terms of those written response letters, they didn't.

“My opponent is trying to deceive the voters,” Councilman Schiavone said. “Public records show that he washed out as a trainee at both the Riverside Police Department and the County Sheriff’s Department. For him to tout his failures to keep a job at either department as law enforcement experience is disgraceful. It’s like someone talking about their military experience that was dishonorably discharged from the armed forces.”

I couldn't find attribution for this statement beyond Craigslist and it's difficult to believe that Schiavone would actually say such a thing. Because if he did, not only would his behavior be very ignorant but he would be doing what he accused his rival of doing and that's misleading the public.

Now if Schiavone really said this, it is he who is not being honest with the public about what information he received or did not receive in his "public records" which presumably are those accessed through these two information requests in February. No where in those public records will it state that Davis "washed out as a trainee" in either department let alone both. Neither record even states that he was terminated from employment for failure to make probation, pass field training or another reason. Does it mean that he didn't wash out or that he failed to pass probation? No it doesn't, but it does mean if that were the case, then the information not only didn't come from public records, it couldn't come from public records. For an agency to provide that information, would be in violation of state law.

If you write a CPRA request about the employment status of a law enforcement officer in an agency as Davis did, the only information that you will receive in return is whether or not that officer is still currently employed and the dates that he or she worked for that agency. You won't be told whether that employee resigned, failed to pass probation and/or was fired. The reasoning behind a governmental agency not providing this information is that to do so would be a violation of state law most notably PC 832.7 which pertains to peace officers' employment records.

If Schiavone raises the issue of Davis misleading the public by claiming to be something he's not, a law enforcement officer (which in Schiavone's mind clearly means having a lengthy tenure in an agency and/or that profession) then Schiavone is doing the same thing by stating that Davis "washed out as a trainee" because he left agencies during the probational periods and then claiming that was stated in public records. If Schiavone is correct that Davis "washed out" and he knows it, then the information that he received didn't come out of a public record. It came from elsewhere.

If it came from a public record in the city of Riverside, then City Attorney Gregory Priamos (who was Cc-ed on Leach's letter) and Leach need to explain exactly which one stated that Davis "washed out as a trainee". If it came from a public record in Riverside County, then Sheriff Stan Sniff and that county's legal counsel need to explain that as well.

The Sheriff's Department in its letter did give a resignation date for Davis which does indicate that he either resigned of his own volition or in lieu of termination, the two typical reasons for resignations. But state law prohibits any further disclosure.

It's logical to assume that because Davis' tenures in both agencies were brief, that it's possible he did "wash out" but that information was not included on any public records and it's being presented by Schiavone as if it were found there. And if Schiavone's making the assertion that his rival "washed out" then either he's gotten some information outside the scope of public information or he's deducing what he believes is the reason behind Davis' relatively short tenures at both law enforcement agencies without having any information confirming his hypothesis.

If Schiavone's going to make that accusation which he is not on the behalf of his campaign of course but on the public's behalf, then he has to make it clear that his information didn't come from public records before he asks another candidate to authorize the release of his confidential records.

It's obvious from early on that like last year's foray involving the District One supervisory race that critical issues which impact the lives of families living in these districts or wards up for grabs is again, going to take a back seat to mud slinging.

Is it a legitimate issue to raise about Davis' law enforcement background? Yes, both if there's questions about it and if there's not.

But then when issues were raised at the Community/Police Forum about the prior living arrangements of Schiavone and one of the city's department heads, that question was summarily dismissed and there was no similar disclosure. The forum wasn't really the appropriate venue to raise this issue even though it was a rumor that has been floating around for a while. The thing is, if Priamos has given this living arrangement his blessing as the self-determined decider of whether conflicts of interest are real or imagined then one would assume that he cautioned both parties on any such difficulties when he was informed of the past living situation before giving his blessing as the lawyer who represents the city's interests. Which naturally means that the city's residents must trust the city attorney's discretion in this manner even though a lawsuit involving two city employees filed in federal court might challenge his judgment on this matter. But it's fair to raise questions in a political campaign on this issue, and it's up to the other candidate to disclose what he or she chooses to disclose especially in terms of how potential conflict of interst situations were handled.

So if this election comes down to Davis being accused or insinuated to have "washed out" of the two law enforcement agencies and Schiavone and this department head having been former housemates, it might be a ratings-grabber and sensationalist campaign fight for the ages in the mud pit. Both issues present legitimate issues for concern and discussion but most often, instead what you get is actions taken including lawsuits like this one.

A response has been filed by Davis but hasn't been scanned and placed online yet by the court clerk's office. He did provide these documents online. The first one is a performance from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department dated for a six month period in 1991. The evaluation uses a four category scoring system of "Very Good", "Competent", "Improvement Needed" and "Unsatisfactory". In seven categories covering different job skills, he received scores of "Competent". The comments he received during this evaluation tended to be fairly positive, including that he's had no disciplinary action taken against him and several reports of commendation from other employees in the department or in related fields. The report evaluated the last six months he was employed by the Sheriff's Department.

From the Riverside Police Department, there's a resignation form that includes that his status for rehiring, is "doubtful" although his performance level was "standard". Which means that the department evaluated him as being similar to "competent" in the Sheriff's Department but couldn't decide whether or not to rehire him instead drawing a middle line and calling it "doubful". Any time an agency issues that kind of nonrecommendation, it s a concern that could be fairly addressed by a political rival but then again, the police department in 1992 was no where near the agency that it is today.

His reason for resigning included on the form was that he'd received a job offer.

There's no evaluations provided from the Riverside Police Department but it's not clear he was employed there long enough to receive one.

Because Nichol is the defendant, the city has to pay for an attorney to defend her, in a lawsuit which involved issues that really should be raised on the campaign trail, not in Riverside County Superior Court. Most political candidates don't sue over statements made by a person who claims to be something they're not, or is making claims that they will return City Hall to the people. Most candidates launch campaigns to either challenge those contentions in public forums like debates or to challenge them on criticisms either with documentation or through example by their own behavior. They don't file lawsuits which incur costs at the expense of the taxpayers of Riverside.

And please don't file lawsuits at our expense accusing someone of misleading us while you're doing exactly the same thing.

People were surprised to read that former Riverside Police Department Capt. Pete Curzon was working as a police chief up in Oregon, joining former management personnel, Dave Dominguez and Richard Dana as moving on from retirement to heading law enforcement agencies.

Though there's one thing to add to the situation and it's this isn't what Jesus would think, but something nearly as good.


The FBI is checking out an alleged beating of a man by police officers in New Orleans.


The New Orleans Police Department hasn't opened its own formal internal investigation into the incident and hasn't spoken to the man or to any witnesses, a spokesman said Thursday.

The case of Leroy Allen, 26, was made public last week by The Times-Picayune. It was brought to the newspaper's attention by a couple who live nearby and who produced a grainy videotape of the incident, which they called a "blatant misuse of force."

Allen also complained to jail officials that he had been beaten by police.

FBI spokeswoman Sheila Thorne confirmed Thursday that an investigation was opened by the bureau, but declined to say whether a citizen complaint prompted the probe or the agency chose to pursue it on its own.

The incident occurred on the night of Feb. 27 near Second and South Roman streets in a blighted and mostly vacant section of Central City.

The ex-wife of a former Ohio officer who stalked women urged people to report police misconduct.

(excerpt, Plain Dealer)

Marsha Sanchez said she has heard numerous stories of officers harassing people and using excessive force. Reporting the abuses to the Police Department is useless, she said. The ad, at Leavitt Road and East 21st Street, directs people to report incidents to the U.S. Department of Justice and lists the telephone number.

Sanchez's husband, Jesus, was convicted in December of menacing by stalking. His victim was a woman he met while he was on duty. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 30.

"Throughout my husband's investigation we kept hearing from people who said they were being harassed by the cops," she said Wednesday. "They would get pulled over for nothing, thrown up on the car and abused. And who do you report it to, the cops? They do nothing."

She said people don't know where to turn for help, so she had the billboard ad put up last week. It will remain for at least a month. The Sanchezes declined to say how much the ad costs.

The president of the police union said the whole situation smacks of irony.

"What's ironic is that we do have a good system for investigating our police officers accused of misconduct," said Lorain Fraternal Order of Police President Buddy Sivert. "In the past two years we've investigated three police officers which resulted in the filing of criminal charges, one of them was her husband. She complains that the police don't investigate their own - her husband is living proof that we do."

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