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, April 23, 2009

Election 2009: Who's endorsing who?

Following the endorsement process in the city council races in Riverside has been very interesting particularly in the hotly contested fourth ward including those given out by the city's employment associations and unions. A lot of people don't know that the endorsement process isn't as easy as it looks or what many people think. It can be very rewarding but is often quite difficult as well especially the decision making part. Anyone who says it isn't, hasn't done it themselves.

All four labor unions have very mixed records when it comes to picking successful candidates and in fact, some of them are on quite a bit of a losing streak that no doubt, they hope to break this time around. But what causes the successes and failures? Good analysis and picking of candidates with excellent winning chances or the fact that many voters tend not to follow the endorsements of labor unions whether they support incumbents or challengers. Certain candidates just get the votes or they don't, regardless of who or what is included on their endorsement lists. And it's not just the labor unions, it's developers too although their record is slightly better but not much.

But here's how the known endorsements by the labor union PACs currently stand:

Andrew Melendrez (Ward Two): RPOA, SEIU, RPAA, RFA

Frank Schiavone (Ward Four): RPOA, RPAA, RFA

Nancy Hart (Ward Six): RPOA, RPAA, RFA, SEIU

The Riverside Firefighters' Association is endorsing the incumbents this time around which is hardly surprising given that traditionally its PAC has endorsed incumbents across the board. Many municipal labor associations and unions do so as to not risk alienating the incumbents if they do win reelection and they have to then lobby them or their direct employee, the city manager on various labor issues including labor contract negotiations. So it appears that the RFA is playing it a bit safe, given the mixed records that other union PACs have had when it comes to endorsing candidates off the dais and perhaps given the history of the members of one union PAC raising allegations of retaliation they experienced as a result of their political leanings during the endorsement process. The alleged retaliation was denial of promotions to captain in the police department and there's been some concern that those promotions are more politically influenced than those at lower ranks to the extent where some have expressed the opinion that it's who you know at City Hall and whether or not you're on the "right" team that makes the difference.

Does this sound off the wall? It shouldn't after that unfortunate episode when members of the RPOA and the RPAA protested enmasse at City Hall against attempts to take three police management positions and converts them to serving "at will" meaning those who filled those positions could be fired by City Manager Brad Hudson. And what often is lost is that this "at will" situation might have come to a head quickly but actually was in the works for almost a year since a controversial set of classification changes for management positions came to the city council about nine months earlier during the period of bargaining talks without raising similar concerns from the dais then.

The SEIU's General Unit which represents hundred of city employees working in various departments appears to be endorsing incumbents at least in terms of endorsing Andrew Melendrez in Ward Two and Nancy Hart in Ward Six. They held a forum for the election candidates several months ago which was widely attended.

The Riverside Police Officers' Association had struggled in recent years to endorse winning candidates. It stumbled when endorsing incumbents like former Councilmen Dom Betro and Art Gage as well as newcomers like Donna Doty-Michalka and Roy Saldanha. And that was just in the last election cycle. Its PAC flirted with possibly hiring a political consultant to help it improve its track record, which some members blamed on personal feelings about political candidates interjecting themselves in what can be an arduous endorsement process. One example, might have been friction that erupted into conflict between the RPOA's PAC and Councilman Steve Adams during Election 2007, which was apparently resolved not too long ago.

This time around, the RPOA opted to endorse the incumbents after undergoing its endorsement process several months ago. The decision to endorse Melendrez over retired Riverside County Sheriff's Department deputy, Ruben Rasso which it had endorsed in the past raised a few eyebrows but it's difficult to believe that Melendrez will even be forced into a runoff round with either of his opponents in his ward. And it's likely that this was part of what motivated the decision to endorse Melendrez this time, given that he's a supporter of the CPRC.

Rasso did apparently claim he was being endorsed by Police Chief Russ Leach. Not true, Leach said, claiming he was supporting no one and was apolitical. A different stance than he took last year when he endorsed Schiavone for the Riverside County supervisor race as an individual member (in what's believed to be the first time he ever endorsed a political candidate while police chief) of a state-wide association of police chiefs, according to a robot phone call message that he recorded for Schiavone's campaign last year.

The most interesting developments appeared to have taken place during the endorsement process for Ward Four when the RPOA PAC was left to decide whether to endorse Schiavone or challenger, Paul Davis. Unlike the other wards, the RPOA did have a strong candidate, an incumbent who despite what he claims opposes the CPRC. It's likely that the RPOA at least has the impression that he's as much as an opponent as he was when it first endorsed him, given that the Davis camp said that the CPRC was a major bone of contention in his interview with that PAC and the discussion about it was lengthy and quite vigorous. At one point, Davis said that he supported the CPRC and thought the police union should do so as well. Was the CPRC a major deciding factor in who to endorse in Ward Four? Maybe, then again there might have been other reasons as well. It's hard to tell given that endorsement processes take place within PACs themselves and a multitude of factors and issues can come into play.

An anonymous poster on Craigslist claimed that the decision to endorse Schiavone was anonymous but the RPOA president, Chris Lanzillo said that wasn't the case except on the day the vote took place. That assertion makes a lot of sense and does match information that there were members of the RPOA board who have endorsed Davis including on his campaign literature. But it does wonder raise some questions as well as accounts of the actual voting process vary though not in a way that necessary means they are contradictory. Some say the actual vote or an initial vote was very close. Others say that the PAC members that showed up on a particular day all cast their votes towards Schiavone and those who favored Davis weren't there.

The versions of events coming in about the actual voting process itself differ somewhat but seem to indicate that at some level, the PAC committee's members had different opinions on where to cast their votes and that's remained constant.

Allegations that an anonymous poster at Craigslist made that Davis threatened to sue the RPOA over his personnel file appeared to be news to several members of the board who participated in the endorsement process who simply said that the RPOA returned the file to where it came from after the interviews.

Both PAC chairs, Sgt. Christian Dinco and Sgt. Pat McCarthy resigned from the committee at some point. McCarthy was assigned late last year to the Internal Affairs Division as an investigator so it's likely that this played a role in his departure. Dinco resigned after about 10 years on the board including a long stint as its secretary. Some said he was tired which is not surprising considering his history serving on the board gave him the distinction of being one of its longest serving members. People on the board were sad to see him resign.

But the RPOA has been divided for some time as one member of the Riverside Police Administrators Association pointed out not long after its last presidential election, saying that he was happy that his union was experiencing less political turmoil.

Lanzillo prevailed in November 2007 winning by 180 to 100 votes with at least 70 undecided between him and his predecessor, Det. Ken Tutwiler. But it's challenging for any leader to address issues in a union that's divided as even in the best of circumstances, leadership is a tough job to carry out. And a lot of different issues have arisen in the past couple of years including the freezing of sworn officer positions, most of which are from the RPOA's side of the fence. It's a more difficult situation than with a smaller association like the Riverside Police Administrators' Association which has about 28 (plus or minus frozen positions)where conflicts can be more serious but that's countered by the relative easier time of achieving cohesiveness among membership. Yet, the RPOA's membership is much smaller than that of the SEIU which has many more conflicts within its ranks than the other city unions do so often the union's size plays a role in its dynamics and the past two years haven't been easy for any of the city's labor unions. And difficult economic times including recessions challenge many a labor union including its leadership like few other things do, a situation faced by RPOA leaders in the latter 1990s as well.

In the sixth ward, the RPOA PAC endorsed Nancy Hart who will likely win easily when votes are counted in June. In the past, she pledged support of the CPRC but it's pretty clear that she's changed her mind on that issue, voting alongside with the council members who oppose it. One speaker who advocated for the CPRC at the most recent city council meeting said that she made a snarky comment from the dais in response.

The RPAA which consists of lieutenants and captains recently released its endorsement list for the city council races. What's interesting about this is that originally, the RPAA had decline to make endorsements and had opted to remain neutral in the election citing the need to be able to work equally well with whoever was elected to serve on the city council. However, in recent weeks this stance softened a bit and candidates were contacted in some cases for discussions In the end, the RPAA opted to go with the incumbents, Andrew Melendrez, Frank Schiavone and Nancy Hart.

It's an interesting development from that labor association in the wake of civil litigation filed by two RPAA members. Lt. Darryl Hurt, the past president of the RPAA and Lt. Tim Bacon filed a claim for damages against the city and later a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The claim filed in March alleges that the city tried to "union bust" the organization that represents police lieutenants and captains. In January 2006, lieutenants Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt joined the political action committee for the union and voiced their concerns.

In June 2006, the union sued the city. According to the claim, City Manager Brad Hudson and Assistant City Manager Tom DeSantis asked for a list of everyone who voted for the lawsuit and told the lieutenants to "be careful."

During last year's City Council elections, the lieutenants opposed Councilman Steve Adams, a retired officer. The claim stated that since then, Adams and Councilman Frank Schiavone have made "negative and retaliatory remarks," including Schiavone telling an officer to distance himself from the pair if he wanted to be promoted and Adams telling an officer that he would not be promoted because he was supporting another candidate.

Both council members called the lawsuit "frivolous."

The claim states that only Chief Russ Leach can make decisions on promotions. In February, Bacon and Hurt were passed over for promotions to captain. Their attorney, Michael McGill, said the rejections were a result of the campaign activities.

About that time Hurt told the chief they would be suing, and both lieutenants were placed on watch commander duty -- an assignment they described in the claim as punitive.

The city has 45 days to respond to the claim. Priamos said the city had not yet taken action.

So essentially while a lawsuit is apparently still active in federal court, the RPAA has opted to go with the councilman who is accused of engaging in retaliatory conduct against two of its members. Is this because the majority of the RPAA's PAC believes the lawsuits are meritless or are there other reasons? Do any of these reasons have to do with the alleged fallout that the association took during its initial foray in establishing a PAC to engage in the endorsement process during the 2007 city council election?

During that period when Hurt was president, the association's PAC backed different political candidates but opted out of endorsing Ward Seven Councilman Steve Adams in his reelection bid. The RPAA joined the RPOA in terms of opting for another candidate, Roy Saldanha for that contest, but Saldanha failed to be much of a factor in the election results not even making it to the final round which pitted former city councilwoman and mayor, Terry Frizzel against Adams in a tighly contested race.

Still, it's highly unusual to see a bargaining unit or union choose a city official over its own members especially when the complaint or lawsuit hasn't exhausted its legal battles yet.

When you look at it from a strategic viewpoint, the RPAA has very little to gain from endorsing in the Ward Four race and could risk political turmoil within its own ranks. The stance it took earlier seemed to be a prudent one at least in that ward because of the ongoing litigation but by endorsing a candidate who's being sued by two of its members does make it appear at least on the surface as if the union's PAC is choosing City Hall over two of its members who have an active grievance lawsuit process going on in federal court. That might not matter to most of their members as long as it's not them in the role of those who have filed grievances against parties at City Hall but it's a strange development in Election 2009 certainly.

Just after the Community Police Review Commission gave an RCC class of about 30 students a civics lesson it won't quickly forget, people were talking about the dynamics of the CPRC and how it reacted when city residents attended meetings.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein took the city council down memory lane when writing on the CPRC.

If you remember while the city council gutted the CPRC's predecessor, LEPAC in the 1990s, it took the gamble back then. It lost.


If the "real work" doesn't start right away, what's the hurry? said Gardner, an original Riverside police review commissioner:

"The community sees that this independent body is doing something, not just waiting. Things can kind of fester. If there's any controversy, deserved or not, the public feels better if they think an uninterested party is looking at it and not just waiting for the department to look at itself."

But 17 other California police review boards hit snooze alarm until law enforcement finishes its work. Gardner at the meeting: "I don't care what other cities do." One other elected could have spoken with even greater authority about why it doesn't matter what other cities do.

"I'm the only one up here who was an elected city official in 1998," MayorLuv could have said. "Many citizens were frustrated by how long these investigations took. A panel I appointed found community distrust of police. The police review commission must start its investigation early to safeguard a priceless commodity: the confidence of our citizens."

Alas, Mayor Milquetoast remained muted. Gardner: "He can count (council votes), too." They voted to gamble that Riverside will never again face another Tyisha Miller-type incident. Maybe they were feeling lucky.

The column hits it right on the head in terms of what one of the major problems is between the CPRC and its micromanagers and that is that the majority of those who are messing with it now either weren't here during 1998 or were elected to office as part of a backlash to both the city council votes for the creation of civilian investigation and review in 2000 and the stipulated judgment by the State Attorney General's office in 2001. Two of the elected officials who fulfill the latter qualification still remain in office and in what must be one of the most amazing coincidences in modern history are the ones who are leading the charge to dilute the CPRC while at the same time acting as if they are its saviors. Well, at least that's what one of them is posting at his campaign Web site.

But the communities of Riverside know the truth. Those students who witnessed a commission that has become an arm of City Hall and the police department and not the community didn't need the CPRC's history both of effectiveness and current micromanagement to them because they could see what was happening right in front of them and they left with a very negative opinion of the CPRC's responsiveness and representation in the community.

The Press Enterprise profiled Ward Two City Council candidate, Ahmad Smith.

An interesting discussion taking place regarding the ongoing trial of Former Moreno Valley Police Department officer Dave Kushner.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Mr. Bill you said it. I worked for RSO for over 20 yrs. and I can tell you if the bones in the closet could stand up, the sheriff's administration would have a storage problem on the second floor. Kushner is guilty of "on duty booty" that is for sure. I can't tell you the numbr trainees I warned about this stupidity (I was very out spoken against this practice). I have always been amazed how some kept their jobs after this, while others were fired. The higher your rank, the safer you are at keeping your job (or if you socialize with the higher ups and politically influential).

I am finding some of the stories I have read about this as hard to believe, but I will wait and see what happens. Kushner would not be the first RSO deputy to be politically prosecuted. I do want to slap him though for being H.U.A.

will4u, deputies do not have to arrest on all warrants. If it is a misdemeanor, the officer can cite at their descretion, except for domestic violence or child related crimes/sex crimes. If it a felony, is a mandatory arrest (except if your the kid of a deputy chief-trust me on that one).

Out of state warrants are tricky. If it is a state we have an agreement to pick and drop off from, i.e. Washinigton, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona, then with that states permission (and it is a DV, child crime or major felony) we will arrest. If it is not one of our local states, i.e. New York, we will ocntact them to see if they want the suspect.

A lot of states will deny the arrest becuase of the cost to pick the suspect up (they figure they can catch the suspect in their state someday). I have had people detained before for felony arrants and the state will deny the abstract of the warrant, so I have to let the suspect go. If the state wants them, I then have to call the jail, speak to a supervisor and explain the arrest warrant and that the state wants the guy.

The supervisor can deny the booking because of over crowding. If it is a homicide, molestation, major violent cirme or rape, the supervisor usually will not deny the arrest. This topic had pissed off many cops in the field when they get to the jail to book the badguy.

I remember Kushner when he was a trainee at MoVal. He seemed like he was doing well in training, so I was disappointed to hear about his arrest on this. I worked with another deputy in the jail who was arrested for stopping illegals on the freeway and taking money from their wallets. I was blown away about that one. I guess the saying you never really know, is about as true as it gets.

I think for the most part this is the case of another cop caught dirty and now doesnt even have the fortitued to own up to his deeds.I can maybe see 1 or 2 aligations and put a big questionb mark on it but 18 felonies come on lets not push it. If he is found guilty by a court of Law than I think his penalties should be more extreme than that of a normal citizen. Whats he doing participating in that kind of behavior any ways.

Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco wants a Riverside County Superior Court judge to recuse himself from a criminal case involving Pacheco's former campaign treasurer.

But is this actually a move to remove a future political rival?

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Reached in his courtroom on Thursday, Zellerbach said he could not comment on a pending matter.

"I'd love to, but I can't," he said.

The judge has 10 days to file a reply.

Assistant District Attorney Bill Mitchell said he had no qualms about the uncompromising language in the motion.

"There's more than just an appearance of impropriety and violation of judicial standards here," he said.

Mitchell said that in his 24 years with the DA's office that he recalls only two cases where a motion was filed to disqualify a judge for bias.

The motion was filed in the case of Jurupa-area financial adviser and civic activist Holly Gunnette, who is charged with embezzling $1.2 million from two elderly clients.

Pacheco has emerged as a central figure in the Gunnette case because she served as treasurer for his successful 1996 run for the California Assembly.

Just months into the campaign, Gunnette was fired amid suspicions by campaign officials that she had embezzled $3,000 from the campaign.

No police report was ever filed, and Gunnette was not prosecuted in that case.

Are rattlesnakes in Riverside County the most lethal in the state?

Five police officers from Philadelphia's department have been given their notices of intent to terminate their employment.

(excerpt, ABC-Local)

Sergeant Paul Seeger was dismissed after being charged with misdemeanors for allegedly threatening other officers.

Officer John Safarowicz is charged with more serious crimes, felonies, for allegedly entering a home and assaulting the person inside.
Story continues below

Ramsey says officers Anthony Ferriola and Donald Swan used racial epithets toward students at Audenreid High School.

William Thrasher also allegedly made racial slurs, while interviewed by a student journalist.

The Mayor has released this statment:

"When allegations of police misconduct are made, we are always cautious not to rush to judgment. Instead, Commissioner Ramsey rightfully conducts full, thorough and timely investigations before making any decisions. Several recent investigations have concluded and today's action to suspend with the intent to dismiss indicates that when wrongdoing has occurred, action is taken swiftly and decisively."

San Bernardino County's most famous gadfly convicted again for refusing to leave the podium. He once did six months in jail for exceeding the three minute speaking rule at a county board of supervisors meeting.

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