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, June 22, 2009

The Unkindest cuts of all around us

A proposal to cut the hours that Riverside's libraries and community centers would be open as part of the latest round of budget cuts was nixed even before it even went to a city council budget workshop. Given how popular these resources are to people, that was probably a wise choice.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

City officials plan to add $321,000 to the proposed $6 million library budget in an effort to keep doors open more hours at the main library in downtown Riverside and the six branches citywide.

The City Council is expected to approve the annual budget, effective July 1, following a public hearing this afternoon at City Hall.

The libraries would be open for a combined 378 hours a week, according to a city report.

That's seven hours less than the hours posted last week on the city's Web site.

Similarly, a $101,323 boost to the $14.1 million parks, recreation and community services budget would preserve 1,732 public hours at community centers during the fiscal year, the report said.

Earlier this month, City Manager Bradley Hudson said in a public meeting that he planned to refocus library and community center hours to the busiest times.

So far it appears that Hudson etal have changed their collective minds but you just never know with that crew. Of course all the management personnel in Hudson's office including Hudson have not only not frozen their own salaries in solidarity with the city employees who might or will be facing that, they have instead gotten their own wages raised last December. Hudson raised his salary by 7% and his assistant city managers both got increases of 15%.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board praised the Riverside County Board of Supervisors for sharing in the pay cuts being experienced by the employees in the county. But the Board also urges department heads to participate in similar cuts.


People sacrifice more willingly when they know that others are sharing the burden. In requesting a 10 percent pay cut, Riverside County supervisors are sending a useful signal in a county that faces a $130 million shortfall in the 2009-10 budget year.

The county's department heads and 20,000 employees should in turn acknowledge that they, too, will need to make concessions to help preserve public services.

Supervisors Roy Wilson and Marion Ashley this month sought the salary reductions and urged other supervisors to do the same. Last week, Supervisors John Tavaglione, Jeff Stone and Bob Buster joined the pay cut movement. Auditor-Controller Robert Byrd, Treasurer-Tax Collector Don Kent and Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder Larry Ward have also requested cuts.

Pity that the city of Riverside has gone in the opposite direction with its department heads.

This blog posting which featured the raises that the city government gave to its department raises in December received quite a bit of response from readers, who were amazed that during some of the most fiscally difficult times in Riverside's history, the city government saw fit to give its department heads and some other management employees raises, while engaging in laying off other employees, installing hiring and salary freezes and in some cases, eliminating merit pay in many of these same departments.

Here's a recap of some of the raises that were given department heads on December 2008. These came off a document that listed the raises for executive and management positions at City Hall and other city departments. It's public information but apparently not the easiest document to find.

City Manager: $256,680 $275,004 $18,324 7%

Assistant City Manager: $191,316 $225,516 $34,200 15%

City Attorney: $203,850 $208,668 $5,088 2%

City Clerk: $131,820 $135,120 $3,300 2%

Department Heads:

Police Chief: $234,000 $277,176 $43,176 16%

Fire Chief: $221,208 $254,388 $33,180 13%

Director, Public Works: $173,928 $205,008 $31,080 15%

General Manager, Public Utilities: $193,740 $250,692 $56,952 23%

Human Resources Director: $148,908 $175, 524 $26,616 15%

Director, Planning: $165,660 $195,276 $29,616 15%

Director Parks & Recreation: $165,660 $195,276 $29,616 15%

If you look at this list, you will see that the department heads even in the face of the recession and resultant budget cuts, even in the face of what former councilman Frank Schiavone called "a global meltdown", the department heads still got rather generous raises while the employees they oversaw were laid off (especially if they were part-time), their salaries were frozen (as in the case of the members of the Riverside Fire Fighters' Association during their latest contract negotiations). In the case of the fire fighters, they were forced to engage in salary freezes while their new chief gets a 13% raise in salary.

What about the Human Resources Department which is facing some of the largest cuts and has frozen positions? The director herself receives a 15% pay raise.

Or witness the police department where the barely there police chief, Russ Leach, received a 16% salary raise while 80 members of his own sworn division were unable to obtain merit raises or step increases as promised by their MOUs. How could a city government that calls itself a cheeerleader for public safety vote to give a department head a huge pay raise while denying merit increases for so many of its police officers? If there's no money for these merit raises, then there's no money to give a department head a raise. That is if your priorities are straight.

Hiring by Express?

Rumor is that the son of a Riverside County supervisor was hired as a police officer at the Riverside Police Department away from another police department last year. The question is, did this officer undergo a thorough background check or was he the "political emergency" hire of 2008?

Every police officer and member of the public out there should be praying right now that the department didn't skimp on his background check (or provide him with $5,000 of "frozen" incentive bonus funds that were denied other applicants) when they brought on this police officer apparently in the middle of a hiring freeze.

Frankly, I hope this rumor is false because if it's not, then the others that were listed after it about other troubling issues just might be true as well and might warrant further scrutiny.

Riverside County will see very little economic relief in the next several years.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"The next two years look pretty bad here, especially in Riverside County," said Adrian Fleissig, an economics professor at Cal State Fullerton and one of the study's authors. "California is lagging the nation in the recovery, especially Southern California. And Riverside County will be even a little more behind."

The county commissioned the economic forecast to verify and add detail to its projections for county revenue and to aid in budget planning.

On Tuesday, supervisors are set to consider negotiating a multiyear contract with the study's researchers at Cal State Fullerton's Institute for Economic and Environmental Studies. The cost of the study was about $24,000, county spokesman Ray Smith said.

"It validates the foundation we have used to do our multiyear budget planning, and that's a wise thing to have," Smith said of the report. "It's more reasons to believe in the numbers we've used in building budgets out over the next couple years."

Riverside County's executive staff instructed department heads to slash expenses in the face of what they say is a $130 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The year after that will bring yet more cuts, county Executive Officer Bill Luna has cautioned.

But taking huge budget cuts is Hemet.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The city's $33.8 million general fund cuts about $4 million from public safety, $1.4 million from community development, $600,000 from administration and $500,000 from community services.

The number of city employees will drop to 332 positions in fiscal 2009-10 from 432 positions in fiscal year 2006-07, a 23 percent decline, according to an analysis by Thomas Kanarr, interim finance director.

Police and fire departments with 190 combined personnel three years ago will see their ranks drop to 145 in the next fiscal year. Hemet's community development department -- which encompasses planning, building, housing, code enforcement and engineering -- will be cut to 21 workers, or half of its staffing level three years ago.

Norco making concessions in its fire fighters' salaries might narrow the deficit gap in that city.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The council will vote tonight on a $50.8 million budget that includes $16.5 million in general fund spending. City officials have been meeting for several months with firefighters in hopes of reducing their budget. They were unable to agree until Thursday.

That agreement rescinded preliminary layoff notices for six firefighters and eliminated firefighters' scheduled raises over the next two years.

Doing away with raises and extending other concessions firefighters made in January -- such as reduced holiday pay and paying for their own gym memberships -- is expected to save about $250,000 in the new fiscal year, Finance Director Andy Okoro said.

Norco Firefighters Association President Ron Laursen could not be reached for comment Monday.

City Hall in Moreno Valley will be placed on a four-day-a-week schedule.

The Los Angeles Police Department yielded good approval numbers in a recent poll, according to the Los Angeles Times.


The positive opinions of the LAPD stand out as a bright spot at a time when Angelenos are feeling battered by the recession, highly critical of public schools and generally pessimistic about life in Los Angeles.

Four in 10 of the voters surveyed said they had seriously considered leaving the city in the last two years, most commonly because of the high cost of housing.

More than a third said they or a member of their immediate family had lost a job; 12% said their homes had been foreclosed. And only about 1 in 4 rated the quality of education at local public schools as excellent or good.

The poll of 1,500 registered voters in Los Angeles was conducted for The Times by two firms based in Washington, D.C.: Greenberg Quinlan Ros- ner Research, a Democratic firm, and Public Opinion Strategies, which polls for Republicans. The poll was conducted from June 10 through 16 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

The findings on the LAPD indicate that Police Chief William J. Bratton has made considerable progress on a centerpiece of his tenure -- reinventing the image of the department in the eyes of the public and, in doing so, moving the department and city beyond a past marred by incidents of police brutality and corruption.

Almost 8 in 10 registered voters said they either "strongly approve" or "somewhat approve" of the police performance today. The response was 18 percentage points higher than in The Times' last survey of the city, in 2005.

The percentages of blacks and Latinos who approve of the LAPD both rose by double digits since the 2005 survey, almost closing a long-running discrepancy between white and minority attitudes. Among Latinos, 76% approved of the department's job performance while 19% disapproved. Among blacks, the split was 68% to 25% and among whites, 81% to 11%.

Interim Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchins who's running for office next year cites the many improvements she believes have taken place in the department during her tenure.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Using the end of her first year in office as the hook, Hutchens cited a number of changes she’s made in jail management, claimed to have restored public trust in the office and said she’d fire any deputy caught lying in so-called code of silence situations.

She also touched briefly on her handling of concealed weapons permits, saying there are roughly 200 fewer than a year ago. About half of the reduction resulted from her review.

The issues have been the most publicized and, in some cases, the most controversial in Hutchens’ first 12 months in office. The Board of Supervisors appointed her to fill the term of Michael Carona, who was convicted this year of witness tampering and sentenced to 5 1/2 years in federal prison.

A retired division chief in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department when appointed, Hutchens has never run for office.

Hutchens inherited a much-maligned jail management system, underscored by the October 2006 beating death of Theo Lacy jail inmate John Chamberlain at the hands of other inmates. A county grand jury and the Orange County district attorney issued a scathing rebuke of some deputies’ failure to do their jobs and later impeding an investigation of Chamberlain’s death, including lying to the grand jury.

Hutchens, flanked by her six-man command staff, said the changes include installing digital cameras in key locations and replacing paper logs of deputies’ activities with electronic logs that can’t be altered. Supervisory sergeants and lieutenants will inspect the jails more frequently on each shift and sergeants will work with the same deputies on each shift for more continuity, she said.

Hutchins talks more about her role in improving the department here.

The San Bernardino County Judge again refused to unseal the record in the case involving former County Assessor Bill Postmus.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

As he has before, Superior Court Judge Douglas Elwell said he could not release the information without damaging the district attorney's investigation or endangering confidential informants. The San Bernardino County district attorney's office has opposed unsealing the warrants.

"Release of that information would or could significantly impact the ability of that investigation to proceed in an unimpeded way," Elwell said.

The judge sealed 10 search warrants on Jan. 14, the day before investigators unexpectedly found methamphetamine inside Postmus' Rancho Cucamonga apartment while searching for information relating to his political activities.

Postmus has not been charged.

Elwell previously denied the newspaper's request on Jan. 30, Feb. 17 and April 15.

The newspaper's attorney, Al Wickers, asked Elwell to consider unsealing the documents with portions redacted. He noted that, with the county's release of an investigative report by attorney John Hueston last month, some of the information already is public. The judge denied that request as well.

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