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, June 23, 2009

Hundreds witness the changing of the guard

A packed city council chambers at Riverside's City Hall witnessed the swearing in of two familiar faces and that of a newer one before beginning its evening session.

Incumbents Andrew Melendrez and Nancy Hart were joined by newly elected Ward Four Councilman Paul Davis to be given the oath of office by City Clerk Colleen Nichols. Elected officials of the past, including former council members Dom Betro, Art Gage and Maureen Kane joined residents of the even numbered wards, many of whom gave standing ovations when their council member's name was announced.

The politicking began right away when it came down to voting upon who would be given assignments on both city council committees and regional organizations. Many speakers went to the podium to ask the mayor and city council to appoint Davis as one of the members of the March Joint Powers Commission. Davis was originally picked by Mayor Ron Loveridge and Melendrez who served as mayor pro tem to be an alternate to Melendrez on that commission. However, Loveridge flatly refused to even consider having Davis become an active member of the commission and the city council voted against it. It was the first power play from the dais of the evening as Loveridge tried to remind everyone else that he's not just there to cut ribbons at ceremonies but a power player of his own.

The Riverside City Council spent nearly an hour trying to decide what to next call itself. Something to do with being the city of arts, culture...something like that.

Mel Opotowsky of the Press Enterprise analyzes City Attorney Gregory Priamos' role in the Bradley Estates Scandal. Something not really addressed in the earlier article which addressed the role of former Councilman Frank Schiavone.


Priamos jumped in, replying that this use of a modesty veil was actually a badge of honor. He said in a letter that Schiavone deliberately hired another company to process the tract "to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest."

Huh??? By hiding it from the public, there could be no appearance of a conflict? Isn't there something in the city's code of ethics about accountability?

Legal folderol

Asked whether the issue was really transparency, not a conflict of interest, Priamos said in a phone conversation, "Could have, should have -- that's not for me. I was saying he had no legal obligation to reveal his interest, as he did -- and did do -- when it came before the city council" of which he was a member.

But let's get back to the legal and unprecedented wheel-of-fortune where Priamos arranged for the city to pay for the councilman/developer's legal bills. A dogged gadfly outfit with the apocalyptic name of Save Riverside put together a Web site report that starts when the City Council approved Schiavone's development Jan. 23, 2007; the approval included the requirement that he had to execute an indemnification agreement. Those routinely required agreements state that any legal costs incurred defending the tract approval would be paid by the developer, not the city.

Sure enough, the Friends of Riverside Hills sued both Schiavone and the city the very next month, saying he was squeezing too many houses on the property.

The Friends prevailed in a settlement that got much of what it wanted from Schiavone. The Friends also won agreement to collect $50,000 for its legal costs in the case.

Now comes the legal folderol that rationalized the city's picking up the legal tab for its councilman. Priamos claimed the Schiavone case was "intertwined" somehow with two other actions the Friends had filed against some basic city development ordinances.

Priamos engaged Best Best & Krieger to work on the city's Friends cases. And while they are at it, he tells the law firm, work on Schiavone's little problem.

The Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach has been currently missing in action since April because he's recovering from back surgery. I guess it took the Press Enterprise two months to notice he wasn't in the office. But that leaves an assortment of chiefs left to run the department, including those from inside City Hall.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Leach said Tuesday that he hopes to return to work full time in July.

The spinal fusion surgery resulted from a job-related injury Leach suffered about four years ago, he wrote in an e-mail. Leach would not say how he became injured.
Story continues below

Leach had the surgery April 28.

He said he speaks daily with Assistant Chief John De La Rosa and the city manager's office. He also meets with staff members at his house.

"Again, simple fact is I'm still here, still in charge," Leach stated.

But that's been the question which is often most debated. Who really is in charge of the police department? The perception coming out of that agency is that it's a multiple choice question.

According to one of them, the Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa, it's not been decided yet whether the captain's position vacated by the retiring Mark Boyer will be filled with his replacement or whether it will join the growing list of frozen positions inside the police department. The current list of candidates for the captain's position will still stand for about two more months before people will have to be reapply(but not be retested). The list of frozen sworn positions now stands at two captains, one lieutenant and at least three sergeant positions with more retirements of both sergeants and lieutenants expected this year.

All the detective positions have been filled so far with Officer Lisa Johnson filling the one vacated by Det. Steve Pounds. However, testing for the detective rank is scheduled to begin next month.

The city's reaction to the blog posting about the alleged raises given to the city's department heads were that the raises were proposed as part of a maximum scale that was increased from January 2008 to December 2008 but that not a single department head accepted any of these raises. If the blog posting is truly in error on this issue, then an apology is in order but one has to ask as to why there would be incremental increases in these maximum scale salaries as they are called at the point in time when the city and all surrounding areas are entering into a major recession? An unprecedented recession which would certainly mean major budget cuts to city departments including loss of personnel or personnel positions. Why would such attention be placed into raising the maximum salary rate for department heads amid all this economic turmoil?

After all, are there documents that introduce incremental increases in maximum pay scales for the employees who have had salaries frozen or have not received bonus pay, or for those employees who have been laid off? This situation bares watching within the next fiscal year to see whether or not these raises exist solely on the piece of paper which listed them.

Seriously, most of the documentation released has been about what to cut, what to freeze and what to reduce in terms of services (i.e. a proposal to reduce hours at libraries and community centers) yet amidst all these mandates for cuts and reductions comes documentation that City Hall had planned to raise the maximum salary scales for department heads and other select employees by 15% or higher. Amidst what's going on with the rest of the city's economic picture, seeing documents about department heads having their maximum pay scales bumped up just seems a tad bit out of place out of the city's doom and gloom portrait of the economic situation.

One thing which would greatly clarify this issue is if these department heads and assistant city managers would in a public forum tell everyone that they will not accept any salary raises until the situations involving the employees in their respective departments improves as well meaning that positions are unfrozen, salaries are unfrozen and bonus and step up pay is received. The next city council meeting would provide a perfect opportunity to do so.

Portrait of a Hemet Police Department officer

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Maddox, a Hemet native, has earned five "10851" pins that are named after the California Vehicle Code regulation number and refer to grand theft auto. The California Highway Patrol awards the pin to officers who excel at arresting car thieves and recovering vehicles.

To qualify for a 10851 award, officers must stop and capture at least six stolen vehicles while they're still occupied or arrest at least three crooks as they are driving "rolling stolens," Baker said.

Lt. Dean Evans said patrol officers such as Maddox tend to gravitate to certain areas while still handling all their regular duties.

"That's where he puts his extra time," Evans said.

In 2007, the latest year that figures are available, the Inland area ranked 20th nationwide with 27,188 auto thefts, according to a report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

That is down from 11th three years ago and 12th in 2003 in the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area, according to the report.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein salutes Yolanda Garland. Bravo.


An irritant to some, a dogged champion of the little guy to others, there was no disputing that in her civic heyday, Yolanda Garland was a gadfly who lighted most often near the public microphone in the Riverside City Council chambers. The 79-year-old La Sierra resident, who weighed in most memorably in land use dust-ups, died this month of cancer.

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