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, July 28, 2009

Borrowing Peter to pay Paul, and how it might impact Riverside

"I'm seriously concerned we're going to lose some employees."

----Riverside City Councilman Mike Gardner at city council meeting during discussion of state budget picture. The city council discussed and even prayed for the laid off employees during the meeting. But what does the future hold?

"He wouldn't be a good member of this commission."

---Mayor Ron Loveridge about a CPRC applicant at the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meeting. Who is it? Answer in a future posting.

The state budget signed by the governor up in Sacramento was a big topic at the evening session of the city council meeting in Riverside on July 28. Riverside stands to lose about $23 million at this point and time including $4,688,343 of its general fund monies. The state has to pay back the money it takes in three years with interest but can reborrow so it might be six years until the money is returned. Also being taken will be millions in redevelopment funding and housing funds including those used to finance a new city program of buying foreclosed homes and then selling them to first-time home buyers.

The California League of Cities is getting ready to possibly sue along with some cities over the legality of the taking of redevelopment funding and other issues. No word on whether Riverside is joining in any legal actions.

But the city vows to save Citrus State Historic Park from being closed by Sacramento.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

City officials say they're determined the citrus park won't be aong those shut, but they don't have a specific plan.

"This park is just not going to be closed," Riverside City Councilman Chris Mac Arthur said. "There is too much from the community invested in this park."

Riverside Councilman Mike Gardner suggested the city could negotiate with the state to take possession of the park. Mayor Ron Loveridge said another alternative is a long-term lease under which the city could run the park.

For now, city officials are waiting news from the state and working on a Plan B even as they hope they won't need it.

The state has gone to the brink before and then backed off," Mac Arthur said.

It's great talking and it needed to be said, but one wonders where the money will come from if the city's laying off employees and contemplating laying off more. But the state didn't close it the last time it said it would though these times are a bit tougher.

About a dozen people including museum volunteers spoke in front of the city council to protest budget cuts and the layoffs of employees including two in recent days from the museum's employee roster. This department has been especially hard hit and a point of irony in the "City of Arts and Culture" or is it the "City of Arts and Innovation"? It's lost half of its employees in recent years although other city departments have faced some serious losses as well including up to one-third of positions frozen and in others like the police department, that figure stands at 10%.

But currently there's no plan to "save the museum" though some city council members did say they wouldn't allow the museum to get to the point of closing down.

Federal stimulus COPs funding monies are being given to cities to provide money for law enforcement positions including $20 million in the Inland Empire.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Six Inland agencies, including San Bernardino police and the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, were among more than 100 statewide to be awarded funding. Other Inland agencies requested funds but were turned down based on a combination of economic factors and crime statistics.

The region's biggest winner was Riverside County. Fifty sheriff's deputies will benefit from the $13 million awarded. Statewide, only Los Angeles and San Francisco police received allotments for that many positions.

Though they had requested funding for 75 positions, sheriff's officials were elated by the news. Undersheriff Valerie Hill said that the award, coupled with an early retirement plan, would likely save the department from forced layoffs and allow some new hires.

"The timing couldn't have been better," Hill said Tuesday, noting that the department is down more than 250 sworn deputy positions from what was previously budgeted.

In keeping with the grant program's provisions, the awarded positions will be federally funded for three years. To receive the money, each agency had to agree to pay for the positions for at least one full additional fiscal year.

Other cities which have struggled to keep officers or have lost them like Hemet and Redlands received money but one of the big winners was the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. San Bernardino's police department also fared well in receiving $5.4 million.

Not mentioned in the article was Riverside Police Department which applied for money to fund 15 currently frozen patrol positions but was turned down. The city council and City Manager Brad Hudson said it was because Riverside's finances were "too healthy" and Councilman Steve Adams said it was because crime was declining in Riverside while rising everywhere else. The department patrol vacancy is believed to be around 19 for officer level positions, though freezes in supervisory positions have complicated the situation.

Meanwhile, two more retirements at the middle level will take place. Lt. Brian Baitx in about a week and Lt Bob Meier in September. Meier's position has been filled by Lt Mike Perea while the official word is that Baitx position may or may not be filled depending on the police chief's say. Unofficially, it likely will remain empty leaving two sergeants in the Audit and Compliance Bureau including Sgt. Jaybee Brennan who also wears hats as the department's public information officer and adjutant to the chief.

The department's five-year Strategic Plan that it was mandated to develop and implement by the State Attorney General's office as part of the stipulated judgment is set to expire in December. Leach has said at public forums that a new five-year strategic plan will be developed with community input and be implemented on the heels of the first one which would be excellent planning particularly in the areas of community policing but not much has been mentioned about it lately.

The National Day Laborer Organizing Network is suing the Riverside Police Department over what it alleges is it and Chief Russ Leach's failure to comply completely with the California Public Records Act.

The Networks' brief stated that in January 2009, it noticed that numerous officers had concentrated in a particular neighborhood area in Riverside unprecedented numbers focusing on day laborers seeking work. According to the brief, the police department only detained Latino men to ask for identification or proof of residency. The men being detained or stopped had not committed any legal violations or only infractions such as riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. The Network stated that it found this practice by the police department "unusual" and believed it was a new policy or program in effect. If a person couldn't produce identification or proof of residency, then they were arrested by police officers, the brief stated.

In May 2009, the Network submitted a CPRA request to the police department for information including the following:

1) All records, documents, communications, correspondence, memoranda including but not limited to pre-operation plans "BP Alert" program.

2)Any and all of the above for correspondence between the police department and Board Patrol, Department of Homeland Security and Office of Customs since August 2007.

3) Any and all records of infractions, state and local misdemeanors since August 2007 of total number of arrests, ID of individuals, legal basis, location and time of arrests, nationality, race and gender of those arrested, those offered options of planning to appear and those arrested who offered ID under P.C. 853.5

It asked for the above for all individuals who were cited and released or not taken into custody on infractions and local and state misdemeanors.

On May 20, 2009, it received a letter from Leach on behalf of the police department producing only five pages of requested documents including a list of all department employees by position and a four-page policy on detention of people for determination of residency status. There was no explanation or legal language cited by Leach for failing or not complying with the majority of the request, according to the brief filed by the Network.

Lawyers for both parties will meet in Dept. 10 of the Riverside County Courthouse on Aug. 12 at 8:30 a.m.

Riverside's still looking for that perfect fit meaning finding a restaurant that can actually survive being housed at University and Main in downtown. But actually, no restaurant has survived being housed at Sixth and Main either. Probably because the restaurants housed in both areas are trying to make a living off of more than just the municipal/judicial lunch crowd. Not easy to do in an area of the city that turns into a ghost town after 5 p.m. and on the weekends and holidays.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Kevin Palmer, assistant development director for the city of Riverside, admitted the site, originally a bank before it was converted to restaurant use, has certainly proved challenging.

Via Veneto Trilussa closed and moved out in February after opening there in August 2006.

Before it, Joe Greensleeves left after seven months, even after the city offered free rent.

Toad in the Hole preceded both, moving to downtown Riverside from Moreno Valley when the city's redevelopment agency offered a loan. The restaurant ended up defaulting on the loan when it left in July 2005.

All three restaurants had fine-dining concepts.

The only incentive offered to Phood's owners was an assurance that elements of the building that could amount to costly repairs -- worth about "10,000 sandwiches," Cohen joked -- would be the city's responsibility during a certain period of time in the lease: for example, an air conditioner breaking down or roof repairs.

The city's restaurant assistance program, which provided the loan to Toad in the Hole, no longer exists. That program's aim was to increase foot traffic, especially at night and on weekends, after downtown workers went home for the day. But signs of life in the city's center at night remain scarce.

Cohen talks about the capital investments at the new location in terms of sandwiches, which cost $3.95 each at her restaurant. The $8,000 to $9,000 spent installing a welded floor and improving the walls and ceiling in a storage room? That's about 2,100 sandwiches.

Phood has moved from the basement of the Mission Galleria swap meet store a block away. There, Cohen heated soup on hot plates and cooked using induction burners that had less wattage then a common hair dryer, she said.

"We've proven we can fill up a hole in the basement of a swap shop," she said of the restaurant's popularity.

Riverside Wi Fi Update: A rocky start to an upgrade

The network is still either up or operating very slow citywide and at times has been out of service, a situation not uncommon in network and/or server upgrades when they are first completed.

According to the 311 center, this is been blamed on the inability of computers using Microsoft Vista to access the new network. Operators at the 311 Center are telling these people to await phone calls from another representative to get instructions on how to "upgrade" Vista wireless cards to be able to access the upgraded internet system for Wi Fi. And some people might just be waiting for that phone call with instructions but it's probably not coming.

Vista, one of the less popular operating systems released by Microsoft gets blamed for a lot of things and some of it's deserved but a network would have serious problems if it couldn't allow access to Vista-equipped computers given the number of them that are out there. So the 311 Center's statements about Vista were a bit perplexing.

But actually, the 311 Center is the only source of this Vista incompatibility and upgrade information and it's unlikely that Vista system users would be unable to access the network at all if there were problems with a component of that system. Microsoft has no such update for this type of situation if it were occurring having only released an update of drivers for one brand of wireless card which had trouble accessing public networks while Vista was in Beta testing several years ago. Common sense would be to look first at a network that recently underwent upgrades for issues if there's problems and what about that network that differs from the one it's replaced.

The network was back up and running by evening but while some pages load quickly, others with ads and widgets continue to load fairly slowly, hanging at the "transferring data" point of page loading and some of them not loading at all.

San Bernardino County's trail of corruption and investigations of corruption continue showing that the only good news is no news.

Former supervisor chief of staff, Jim Erwin alleged that the district attorney's office in that county had targeted him unfairly.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Erwin resigned as Derry's top aide days after his March arrest. The charges against him concern gifts he received in January 2007, when he was working as assistant assessor.

The claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, seeks unlimited damages and includes allegations that Ramos engaged in affairs, sexually harassed a colleague and used county funds to travel to Sacramento to see a mistress. Erwin also repeats allegations he made shortly after his arrest that Ramos retaliated against him because Erwin and Derry did not support budget requests from the district attorney's office.

District attorney's spokeswoman Susan Mickey said the office would not respond to the individual allegations in the claim. She dismissed the claim as "fanciful, inaccurate or outright false."

"The only reason this case was filed was because Jim Erwin violated the law," Mickey said. "We will wait to sort this out in a court of law."

On Thursday, Derry called for the board to hire an attorney to look into allegations that Ramos had engaged in improper relationships with subordinates and colleagues. Erwin's claim includes some of the same allegations. Most of the other supervisors have rejected Derry's call, but he still is seeking to have the issue discussed at a board meeting this month.

No criminal trials will be coming to family or probate courts in Riverside County any day soon. The state appellate court has ruled against the use of speciality courts for criminal trials.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Tate, who is overseeing the appeal of the case, said Monday district attorney supervisors do keep in contact with trial attorneys to assess last-day cases as they head for court. "I don't think the court has dismissed a serious and violent case that we could not re-file," Tate said

"Others need access to the courts," said Assistant Public Defender Robert Willey of the appellate court decision. "Child custody and support hearings need to be heard in a meaningful and expeditious manner. ... There is a need to protect our elderly citizens when they are at their most vulnerable; there is a need to protect children when they are in abusive or neglectful situations. This is a wise use of court resources for all of those needs."

The district attorney's office has automatically filed appeals in the speedy trial dismissals. The misdemeanor appeals are decided by a superior court panel, and the felony appeals go to the state appellate court.

But prosecutors first pursue the re-filed felony charges in trial court. If they are resolved there, the office drops the speedy trial appeal, Tate said.

In Wagner's case, Tate said prosecutors decided not to re-file the charges. Tate said the decision was independent of his action.

"That was a totally separate decision made by someone else in the office, and it opened the way for me to appeal," Tate said. If the ruling stands, the charges cannot be re-filed against Wagner, the appellate judges ruled.

No word on whether Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco has decided to paper the whole appellate court.

Riverside County's reached an impasse with its labor unions on contract talks.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

County supervisors approved a budget June 30, saying they would achieve planned labor savings this month through negotiations or else through layoffs. The county has roughly 20,000 employees.

County officials continue to negotiate with the Deputy District Attorneys Association and the probation unit of the Riverside Sheriff's Association. Their leaders did not return calls for comment Monday.

The county will impose the contract on service employees until the end of the fiscal year on June 30 or for less time if an agreement can be reached sooner, county Executive Officer Bill Luna wrote in a letter to the union.

The service union's employee lead negotiator, Catherine Eide Nelson, said the union will seek mediation and further contract talks but has the ability to sue if it chose to do so.

"This was a huge disappointment," she said Monday. "We have been very actively negotiating trying to work toward a solution to the county's budget crisis. We honestly believed today would be an opportunity for us to come to a successful conclusion to our negotiations."

County supervisors have said they want union members to agree to 10 percent cuts to their compensation, but the union says the county's cuts will represent more than 15 percent for many members.

The county plans to impose two furlough days a month and two unpaid holidays on service employees.

The union was willing to accept those concessions, but it wanted written assurances that the county would not increase the number of furlough hours or force employees to work unpaid overtime, Eide Nelson said.

The city manager in Temecula could have his contract extended.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Nelson, 49, has been city manager for more than a decade. The 15-month extension includes no pay raise or additional benefits. Once the contract expires, Nelson would have the option of extending the deal until April 1, 2012.

"If I have my way, he'll stay longer," said Mayor Maryann Edwards, who lauded Nelson's leadership and character.

On Monday, Nelson said that if the extension is approved, "I'm just really honored by it and I'm honored to serve the City Council and the citizens of Temecula."

While he hasn't made a decision about when he'll retire, Nelson said "there's a possibility" this amended contract will be his last.

The contract was set to expire June 30, 2010. Nelson and the city agreed to the contract in 1999, and it's been amended several times since then.

Nelson's salary is $285,854, according to Deputy City Manager Grant Yates.

Do not investigate the D.A.'s office. So says the Press Enterprise Editorial Board.


Without more solid grounds for an investigation, examining Ramos would serve no higher purpose than to distract both Ramos and the public from the DA's corruption probe. Supervisors should not participate in such a circus. Nor should the county assist a criminal defendant in mounting a smear campaign against his prosecutor.

Ramos' investigation is vital to exposing a web of official misconduct in San Bernardino County, and holding the perpetrators accountable. The DA's probe -- along with an independent report on Postmus' activities released in May -- depicts a county government steeped in sweetheart deals and cronyism, where top officials cater to special interests and use government as a means to attain personal goals at public expense. These allegations transcend a rogue assessor, and cut to the very way government operates in San Bernardino County. One source in the independent report, compiled by attorney John Hueston, described a broad "pay-to-play" scheme involving county land deals and assistance with planning and assessment issues. This type of malfeasance -- collecting payment for county contracts and services -- formed the core of the scandals that devastated San Bernardino County government a decade ago.

Derry and the other supervisors need to let Ramos complete his work unimpeded, not throw up roadblocks and diversionary flares. The public interest does not lie in county scrutiny of what might have happened in an elevator three years ago. The far more pressing questions center around how top officials in county government behave every day.

It's who you know or who on the council knows you

The Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee met in Mayor Loveridge's office to discuss and decide upon applicants to interview for the Ward Two vacancy on the Community Police Review Commission. They picked nine people to interview, well eight if it turns out that one of those chosen actually lives in the first ward.

More will be posted on those selected to be interviewed by the full city council and the meeting itself which was quite the eye opener when each committee member for the first time ever was asked to describe what qualities they looked for in a prospective commissioner.

Interestingly enough, the number one quality cited by them was objectivity. If that's really the case, then why is that the one quality sorely lacking on the embittered panel?

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