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

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Will Riverside's residents be reinbursed for Bradley Estates?

Yesterday's posting on the situation involving the Press Enterprise and the Bradley Estates report attracted quite a bit of traffic to the site including apparently employees from that publication, including that coming from and going to the Save-Riverside Web site. If you haven't been to that site already, you should visit it and read the Bradley Estates Report and the links to the public documentation referred to in the extensive and very interesting document about how one land deal involving a councilman's property apparently wound up having a lot of its legal bills paid by the city. Not to mention allegedly violated state laws in the process according to the authors of the Bradley Estate report, an issue that the Press Enterprise's article didn't even address. Fortunately, the Bradley Estate report does address these issues and provides documents to support its arguments.

As to what happened, each person who reads the documentation can decide what they think about it. But now apparently, the Press Enterprise has decided to stop delaying and dragging its feet on its coverage of this issue and within 24 hours of the Bradley Estates brief being circulated after being posted on the Save-Riverside Web site, this article has been published tackling the issue.

Would the Washington Post have dragged its feet so long? How about the New York Times? But the Press Enterprise is a newspaper struggling to survive financially having lost most of its veteran reporters in one purge or another and rumors say that its own work facility, that shiny new building on 14th Street, is up for sale or at the very least, renting out its space for retail.

So now people can read the article that's the final product that was initially completed quite a while ago by the newspaper in some form and then published in a quite different and more washed out form and see what they think. If you stack it against reporter Dave Danelski's other articles about what's been going on in other cities, it's a bit more tepid than his usual hard-hitting work product. Some say it was the most rewritten article in recent history, but who's to know for sure?

But then it appears that covering River City for the only daily within miles is somewhat different than covering the rest of the Inland Empire. Why that is exactly will be the subject of future blog postings.

At any rate, quite a quick turnaround for the newspaper, don't you think? Kind of makes you wonder but then take a look at the article.

The usually quiet and reflective City Attorney Gregory Priamos does most of the talking in this article, on behalf of one of his employers, Councilman Frank Schiavone who benefited from the city spending over $130,000 to defend his development project, the Bradley Estates, in a lawsuit. It's doubtful that Priamos has ever been quoted so much in any news article before this one.

He definitely earned his paycheck being interviewed for the article but it and his own comments still raise challenging issues including why do the city's residents had to pay the legal expenses for settling a lawsuit involving Schiavone's own property, the first time anyone can remember the city ever doing so.

The fact that this settlement had to be passed by the city council at some point or it had to authorize a settlement range is disturbing as well and makes you wonder if this city council that "works so well together as a unit" enough so that it endorses incumbents against any outsiders is really what the city residents need. Maybe a little bit of conflict and difference of opinion, even boisterous (as long as it's respectful as opposed to San Bernardino and Colton) is just what the city needs. Maybe more diversity of opinion is just what's in order. The voters will decide if that's the case in the current election. And the voters who will decide who represents them in the fourth ward but if this disturbing episode turns out not to be the only one, then the one thing that they can't say is that they were left in the dark the next time something like this comes to light.

So how does Schiavone react? He thinks of how it affects his election bid first which is in a sense, natural because after all, the Press Enterprise rather surprisingly published its articles while ballots are still being marked by voters and sent back to be counted on June 2. But you wish he would have put the city residents first before his election ambitions, by offering some sort of restitution for the legal fees spent on his behalf with our money. That would have been the way an elected official should act, except for the fact that this whole episode shouldn't have been allowed to happen at all. And it's a lot better than having Priamos fall on his sword, by trying to explain it all away because if you noticed, nobody denied it in the article.

Schiavone calls it a deliberately well-timed smear job against his reelection campaign and says nothing about whether or not he plans to reimburse the city's residents for his share of the legal funds but instead insists he's the victim in all this, even though earlier documentation showed that he didn't appear to come forward and claim that he was the owner of the land being developed in the earlier stages of that process. If his land project truly got devalued $400,000 and cost him money, that's part of the game of real estate speculation especially during these trying times. Land's just not worth as much as it used to be. Maybe it will be once again, but if so, those days are quite a bit into the future. And any type of ownership of real estate has always been a bit of a gamble as much as an investment, kind of like the stock market.

No, if there are victims, they're the people who live in this city who had their tax dollars spent defending an elected official's development deal without any chance of reimbursement. And it's telling that the first thing that this councilman does when it comes to public attention, is to label himself the victim of a smear campaign. Frankly, I thought Schiavone would actually be signing his first check to provide funds of reimbursement for what the city gave him but I guess that's not in the cards. I had hoped that he would have gone a different route in his response to this issue and this news story. But it is, what it is.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Kevin Dawson is a member of a citizens' group called Save Riverside that obtained information about the lawsuits through the state public records law. He contends that only Schiavone's company benefited when the city paid legal expenses in the case.

"In this instance, it didn't serve the public or serve the city," Dawson said. "It was to serve the developer."

Schiavone countered that his political enemies timed the release of documents in an effort to smear him politically just before ballots in Riverside were placed in the mail. Dawson contacted The Press-Enterprise in late April; he said the group did not have all the documents earlier and needed time to make sense of the ones they had.

A two-term incumbent for the city's Ward 4 seat, Schiavone faces a challenge from Riverside businessman Paul Davis. Ballots are by mail only. The city sent them to voters on May 4; the deadline to return them is June 2.

The "Friends of the Hills" thought the blanket settlement which added the Bradley Estates project to the list was pretty odd.


The environmental group's attorney, Temecula-based Raymond W. Johnson, said the legal challenge to Schiavone's Bradley Estates didn't affect the other two suits and that city officials insisted the three cases be settled at the same time.

"The Bradley suit didn't seek changes to the city code," Johnson said. "It said the Bradley project was inconsistent with the existing code."

Johnson really seemed perplexed by the whole thing.


In the suit over Schiavone's project, the city paid $86,262 in legal fees charged by Best, Best & Krieger, according to invoices to the city from the law firm. The city paid another $50,000 to cover the Friends' legal costs as part of the settlement signed Oct. 15.

Johnson said his firm logged 172 billable hours in the Bradley lawsuit, which included roughly 10 hours in negotiations with city officials.

"What the case got down to was the issue of nine lots verses eight lots," he said.

When the city wired the settlement money to the law firm, Johnson said, he was surprised to see that the $50,000 for the Friends' legal cost came from the city. He said he has represented clients challenging land-use decisions in several Inland cities for 12 years. The Bradley suit was the only instance in which he has seen a city pay legal costs, he said.

Responses to the article so far are interesting.

(excerpt, comments)

Mr. Schiavone should have been treated as a developer in this instance, not a councilman. With the city complaining that revenue is down due to the economy, why are they paying for legal bills that obviously do not belong to them. This is another example of how those at City Hall take care of each other and think that we will never find out. Please vote this man out and all those who helped him. I am sure he violated state laws because of this.

Priamos needs to be held accountable for this also. Who overlooks the Citys dealings? We have a tight group who work together much of the week. What else has been going on in City Hall?

Another taxpayer shakedown.


Make him pay his own legal bills on these shaky deals. Pay back the taxpayers !! Then get out of City Hall for good.

But one of the most interesting comments is this rebuttal to the ones posted before it.


Missing is the acknowledgement that this private group "Friends of Riverside's Hills" has been running on all Riverside an extortion game for its self-aggrandizement.

Now trust me, I'm no friend of Schiavone, but the case's end result was what? Eight lots, instead of the nine proposed by Schiavone AND approved by Planning Commission; incurrence of $132,000 in legal fees; and a $50,000 pay-off/bribe to "Friends of Hills" to go away. Once again:

ONE LOT LESS, that cost the City $132K, and resulted in a $50K payoff/bribe to "Friends"!

I detect a huge amount of BS here, but mostly not from the City. It's from the group that uses lawsuits to supplant the normal planning policies, to tie up the City, to extort private developers, and ultimately to cost the ordinary, end-use homebuyer a bunch of dough!

I have no way of knowing if Schiavone's estimate of $400K "devalue" is right, but let's say that the total legal costs and everything was just $200K. At eight lots, that means $25,000 extra was passed on to each homebuyer in the cost of their homes!

It would be different if "Hill Friends" really won anything of substance here. But instead they just got a reduction of ONE LOT!

Meanwhile, their EXTORTION costs regular people $25K each (and what's the bigger tragedy is that $25K each just goes into the wallets of fatcat lawyers). The Extortion is the REAL scandal, that is unconscionable!

This comment calling a group of community activists a bunch of "extortionists" is just ridiculous. It speaks volumes about exactly where the democratic process in this city has gone and that's into hiding.

Actually, if the city simply abided by the growth-control measures C and R passed by the city's voters instead of either challenging or defying the will of the voters without use of the ballot initiative process, then this "extortion" as you call it, would probably end.

If the city government doesn't like C and R, why not sponsor a ballot initiative process to bring the issue back to a vote? That would be something more akin to a democratic process?

The city settles or loses its battles with "Friends of the Hills" because the court backs those growth control measures that were passed by city's voters.

And if the "Friends of the Hills" are a group of extortionists preying on the city, they are the first band of them who pay their legal bills by holding yard sales in between court appearances. It's a good thing to have citizens like them committed to ensuring that the city council stops trying to fight the implementation and enforcement of voter-backed initiatives in ways that are somewhat less than democratic.

It was also good to see city residents turn out to show concern about the city council's attempts to do like against another voter-backed initiative, Measure II which was intended to protect the Community Police Review Commission from City Hall.

Inland Empire Craigslist which is where some anonymous members of the Schiavone campaign hang out mostly to insult people had this to say about the whole affair.


WOW, someone is getting really desperate! What a shame that you have to resort to a massive smear campaign at the 11th hour.

The above comment's useful mainly in terms of its comedic value because one response to it and its anonymous author could be the following. Oh, you mean as opposed to resorting to a "massive smear campaign" during hours one through 10 and going strong of the election? Even if this article were a "smear campaign", is this a sign that you can dish it out for weeks ad nauseum but can't take it?

One can hope that the attitude that analyzing a thorny issue like the Bradley Estates affair is akin to a "smear campaign" doesn't permeate any higher in the hierarchy of the Schiavone campaign than this rock dweller who's been working so hard on its behalf. But after learning some of the names of strangers to me (well except for one past harasser) who might have participated in harassing me because I blog on the city's election, it's just amazing that these same individuals would accuse anyone else of doing a "smear campaign".

It seems that the entire Schiavone campaign from the start beginning with the lawsuit was about smearing his opposition. After all, read his campaign disclosure statement and look what firm he hired to do his campaigning him, one which people say has a history of using smear tactics and mudslinging in its campaigns, most of which at least locally have been losing ones including those involving Ruben Rasso and Sam Cardalucci, who ran against Schiavone four years ago.

I was very disappointed in Schiavone's last two campaigns, this one and his one last year for county supervisor just as I was disappointed in Supervisor Bob Buster's campaign in that race as well. Schiavone really is capable of much better than what he's shown and I think if the Schiavone who first ran for office would even put himself in a position like what happened with the Bradley Estates, he would step up before his voters in his ward and the city residents at large and pledge to make inroads to pay off the city's money that went towards his legal expenses. Just like he came forward and pledged to donate the $25o he received from developer Doug Jacobs to the Save Our Chinatown Committee's efforts to save that piece of history.

And as someone who's been on the receiving end of smear tactics by members of this campaign myself, including some who apparently are so proud of what they've done they tell people what they've done which in some circles, isn't the most prudent choice of actions, I can read a comment like this and just think how pathetic and ridiculous that it is.

Then there's this comment which by invoking the word "losers" in caps no less, just comes off as sounding like junior high.


The man has no campaign platform.
The man is unprofessional, unethical and unreliable.
Don't quit your day job Paul Davis, your going to need it.

Doesn't really say much either. Davis' platform is on his site under "issues". Agree or disagree with him, there they are and it's doubtful this anonymous commenter ever spoke with Davis to ask him any questions about where he stood on the issues before claiming he has no "campaign platform". But then this guy only shows up to slam people like Davis or myself online when someone else does it first. As for the rest of it, no one anonymously or otherwise has been able to cite any reliable sources to the personal attacks they made about this individual apparently on behalf of the Schiavone campaign.

Indeed it would be refreshing if candidates ran on the issues and solely on the issues but that hasn't happened in Election 2009 except much more quietly in the other two ward elections where the supporters of all those candidates have been very civil and haven't engaged in harassment of the opposition candidate or anyone perceived to be critical of their own candidate. Sadly and it's very sadly, this didn't happen in the more hotly contested Ward Four council race.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein writes about Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco and his 'domed' building.

The jury hearing the case of the former Moreno Valley Police Department officer, David Kushner on trial for sexual assault under the color of authority released a split verdict being convicted on two out of the 27 felonies he was charged with committing. These verdicts came after about 11 days spent deliberating.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

After the verdict, jurors said they found Kushner guilty of the two counts because the prosecution presented more evidence corroborating the victim's testimony including a timeline and log entries. Jurors recounted taxing days of deliberations that required time outs from heated discussions.

Morgan said this was the longest a jury in his courtroom has deliberated in his more than 20 years on the bench.

Defense attorney Virginia Blumenthal was pleased with the outcome because her client no longer faces a life sentence.

She said the challenge in this case was the sheer number of witnesses who testified over the two-month long trial.

"I'm disappointed in the two guilty verdicts because I really, really believe Mr. Kushner is innocent of those I'm very pleased with the remainder of the verdicts," Blumenthal said.

Deputy District Attorney Michelle Paradise said it was difficult to encourage reluctant victims to testify when they feared retaliation from Kushner's colleagues at the Moreno Valley Police Department.

"To me, in this case each of the victims deserved equal justice and I don't think that happened," she said.

Some comments were left on an earlier posting at the newspaper's blog.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

jason on May 19, 2009 6:47 PM said:

what kind of reporter writes an article that fails to list the actual counts he was found guilty of?

Juror Number on May 19, 2009 7:21 PM said:

First, he was found guilty on 2 out of 18 counts.
One count was undecided. Guilty on one count of simple kidnapping and one count of oral copulation.

Many law enforcement agencies are being forced to cut personnel and budgets from coast to coast in light of the recession.

(excerpt, U.S.A. Today)

"For the first time, because of the economy, police departments ... may have to change how they do business," says Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement think tank. "People will see a change in the basic delivery of services," from longer police response times to a dramatically reduced police presence in some communities.

Harlan Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, said political leaders are "choosing whether they keep the streets open or the police on patrol," though it's too early to tell whether the changes will increase crime.

The Obama administration's $787 billion stimulus plan gives about $4 billion to local law enforcement, including $1 billion to hire and retain officers. But the hiring money has not been distributed, and applicants have requested more than is available.

Among the recent cuts:

*In Pennsylvania, 19 suburban and rural police agencies have closed in the past 15 months, and seven others have cut patrols. The "unprecedented" closures and cuts have forced the state police -- who face their own budget struggles -- to assume full or partial public safety responsibility for about 54,000 more people, says Lt. Col. Lenny Bandy, deputy commissioner of operations for the state police.

*In Minnesota, nine small police agencies have closed in the past five months, leaving sheriffs' departments to protect the public. The Elko New Market Police Department was briefly the 10th shuttered agency, until residents last month demanded that the City Council reverse its 2-week-old decision to eliminate it. "A lot of people felt that we were sending a potentially dangerous public message ... without a police department," says Mayor Jason Ponsonby, who opposed the closure.

*In Portland, Ore., police are consolidating operations by eliminating two of five patrol precincts. Portland police spokesman Greg Pashley says some residents fear response times will rise and established officers will be replaced by others who are unfamiliar with local problems. He says the move, which takes effect in June, was needed to cut costs, but he believes it will not compromise safety.

*In Southern California, Indio and its neighbors Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City and Beaumont have merged some key functions and also plan to combine dispatch operations to increase efficiency. "It's the legacy of the budget crunch," Indio's Capt. Richard Banasiak says.

Making cuts in the Inland Empire were Hemet which cut officer positions and Corona which cut civilian positions. Many other departments have either frozen both civilian and sworn positions or instituted furlough programs.

Many agencies are applying for the new federal COPS grants out of that office in the Department of Justice. However, some agencies have been banned including these in Illinois.

(excerpt, Chicago Sun-Times)

The Chicago Police Department stands to gain $20 million in stimulus funding to buy sport-utility vehicles, equip cars with video cameras and pay overtime.

But Harwood Heights, Calumet Park and Stone Park are among 26 departments across the country that have been barred from stimulus funding because they had failed to meet the guidelines of the Community Oriented Policing Services program.

COPS was formed in 1995 to allow police departments to hire more than 100,000 officers, authorities say.

"They are lucky in one way: typically, grantees that misuse funds have to pay them back to the federal government," said Edward T. Waters, a co-managing partner at Washington-based Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell and former president of the National Grants Management Association.

"Here, the Justice Department, in an unusual move, allowed the departments to agree not to take any federal funds for three years rather than having to actually repay the money.

Riverside's police department is currently in the process of applying for grant funds to thaw out 15 frozen entry level sworn positions but it remains to be seen who will get the money as this newly passed stimulus package is not as large as a similar one passed in the 1990s.

Also laying off police officers is Orlando which is laying off 15 of its officers. Orlando is one city which has been hit hard by the recession. It will be applying for federal grant money to try to avoid the layoffs.

(excerpt, WFTV)

“It doesn't sound like that many but we need them,” one resident told Eyewitness News.

The Fraternal Order of Police is upset because both the union and Police Chief Val Demings have submitted budget proposals that did not require cutting actual officers. But the union says the city rejected those ideas.

The police union thought the Orlando Police Department was only cutting certain programs and vacant positions. Now, city hall is hoping to save an additional $100 million in OPD's budget by putting 15 officers on the chopping block.

“I think we should look at other ways to try to cut the budget,” one resident told Eyewitness News.

Two off-duty Atlanta Police Department officers were among four people arrested for shooting at a lake.

(excerpt, WSBTV)

Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to a Lake Allatoona community early Monday morning after receiving numerous 911 calls about gunshots in the area. While patrolling the area, deputies heard additional shots and were able to determine it was occurring at a home on Cedar Drive.

Residents at the home were shooting guns into Lake Allatoona, police said, near where other people were fishing.

Four people were arrested, including two off-duty Atlanta Police Department officers. The two officers, Dan Rasmussen, 43, of Woodstock, and Chad Armstrong, 31, also of Woodstock, were both charged with reckless conduct.

Gallatin County Sheriff Raymond Martin in Illinois was arrested after getting caught selling marijuana off-duty.

Pleading guilty were two off-duty Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies who beat up an off-duty fire fighter.

(excerpt, San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Deputy Joshua Titel, 32, entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor count of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury, Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Shiara D vila-Morales said in written statement.

Deputy Brian Richards, also 32, entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor count of battery in connection with the attack on the off-duty firefighter, she added.

"Norwalk Superior Court Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell took the plea and immediately sentenced each defendant to three years of probation," D vila-Morales said in the statement.

The firefighter required several weeks of medical treatment before he could return to work, District Attorney's officials said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said the deputies have been relieved of duty without pay since criminal charges were first filed against them, which occurred in October of last year.

"Nobody's above the law," Whitmore said.

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