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

Sunday, July 12, 2009

While your salary goes down, is your department head's going up?

The Riverside City Council is having its bi-weekly council meetings that it holds during the summer months and per usual, it packs a crowded agenda of items including six public hearings and three discussion items including this one about the use of Fox Theater.

The city council through Councilman Steve Adams, the ex-police officer who retired after hurting his leg in the line of duty or playing basketball depending on who you ask, is honoring three Riverside Police Department officers, Frank Hoyos, Silvio Macias, and Henry Parks (who's the first Korean speaking officer hailing from Rialto Police Department). It's not clear what they're being honored for but it's very ironic that the city council has chosen to honor its city police officers when at least 80 of them haven't received their bonus or step up pay. Are any of these three officers included on the list? And it's ironic that it's honoring city employees even as some department heads have threatened to layoff employees if they don't take the raises that are part of their MOU, including SEIU members who had a 2% raise that was to go in effect this summer as part of their last contract signed in the summer of 2006.

So Adams will be broadcast on Charter to city residents as bolstering his pro-law enforcement image by giving these awards but behind closed doors, what's his actions and those of others involving the issue of the bonus pay? Is he or the council advocating for that, or are they aware that allegations of threats by department heads about laying off employees have been floating around the city for months? Maybe, maybe not. The city council members who just hand the reins of the entire city government to their direct employees wouldn't have a clue. Those who are a little bit more active and remember their job responsibilities might be paying slightly more attention as they should be.

Rumor is that on Tuesday, July 22 at 6:30 p.m. city employees to protest an environment which has forced salary freezes and threatened layoffs on city employees while department heads and assistant cat city employees will be showing up at the city council meeting on Tuesday, July 14, at 6:30 p.m.

Why when salaries are being frozen for many employees and threats are allegedly being made, have department heads and assistant city managers among other management employees had their maximum ceilings for salary increased raised by up to 15% or even higher? In the middle of a recession, why weren't the ceilings for raises maintained at the same level or even dropped for these employees? Have any of these people gotten these raises (the city says no) and will they get them?

When the police chief signed a new five-year contract late last year, did he agree to a salary cut as one of the conditions? Did he get a salary increase? What about the new fire chief? Did he freeze his salary or take a pay cut?

My advice? Keep an eye on this situation for the rest of the year because why raise the ceiling on raises that can be authorized as being given unless you plan these salaries accordingly down the line? Why even think of doing so and then combine that with enough drive to go out and do it?

If your department head has received a salary raise while you and your other department members are taking salary freezes, cuts and not getting your bonus increases, this blogger would like to know. Contact information is at the top of the blog.

The Riverside County employees will be protecting by forming a human chain at the administrative headquarters in downtown Riverside to protest pay cuts there.

The library in Casa Blanca has been renovated.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Redesigned and expanded the circulation desk with a 360-degree view and added shelving so patrons could access their reserved items themselves.

Created a niche in the back for donated materials and moved the photocopier out front. Recently, Ward 4 City Councilman Paul Davis contributed 500 DVDs worth $5,000 from his personal collection.

Maria Salazar, 33, and her two children, walk over at least three days a week. "I love it here," Salazar said in Spanish. "We use everything."

Her daughter, Karla Salazar, 15, completed homework at a computer. Her brother, Enrique Avalos Jr., 7, curled up in a chair with "The Ultimate Lego Book" while awaiting mime Mark Wenzel, the star of a recent event.

Littlefield said 600 youngsters signed up for the summer reading program. He started working at the original Casa Blanca Library -- just a tiny room with a patio -- a decade ago. The city demolished the building in 2000 and temporarily stashed the collection at Villegas Park while the new facility rose from the dust and plaster.

It now contains 50,000 books, videotapes and CDs, twice the number of the former library.

"We have people waiting outside at 10 o'clock," Garcia said. "And we don't open 'til 11."

Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco has been invited to attend a meeting by the county's chapter of the SEIU.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Service Employees International Union regional director Steve Matthews extended the invitation after receiving a letter from Pacheco seeking a better relationship with the union.

In the letter, Pacheco says he was misquoted by members who criticized him during county budget talks. He asked Matthews to agree not to let others pit his office and the union against one another.

"Clearly from the comments made by Mr. Pacheco, it would seem that he should be out there with us, and I would like to make a public invitation for him to join," Matthews said Friday.

Pacheco was on vacation until today and could not be reached about the invitation, said John Hall, spokesman for the district attorney's office.

SEIU Local 721 represents about 6,000 of the county's roughly 20,000 employees. The union is embroiled in contract negotiations with the county, which is seeking concessions as part of its leaner budget for this fiscal year.

Some union members have publicly criticized Pacheco for arguing against proposed across-the-board 10 percent budget cuts to all departments. Pacheco did not submit a budget that included the cuts requested by the county executive office.

"Our office is not a widget factory," Pacheco told supervisors at May 4 budget hearings. "Our office is not about processing cases to process cases. Our office is here to render justice, and if that means that something's in the way, we are going to go through it."

Because Pacheco's name was mentioned in the article, people are already starting to comment about it.


SEIU members and union leaders must answer this question:

Did Pacheco's arrogant refusal to cut his bloated budget, and his outlandish demand for even more taxpayer money to fund his empire, result in the county demanding MORE money from the pockets of SEIU memebers?

If the answer to that question is yes, then Pacheco has a lot of fence-mending to do with the SEIU and their well-funded political action committee. And he better try and fool the SEIU into believing that he is their "friend," before the next election for DA in 2010.

By the way, if Pacheco does agree to march "hand-in-hand" with hardworking, underpaid, SEIU members, someone better keep an eye on his hands. Someone better make sure that one of Pacheco's hands is not patting SEIU members on their backs, as his other hand reaches deeper into their financially strapped pockets, to increase the size of his office and thereby further his own political ambitions.

The Union and Pacheco must go! Instead of public servants they are self-serving. Overpaying for services by government used to be called graft and corruption, now it is called "union contract" "prevailing wage" and "unfunded liabilities" (ponzi-scheme pensions). It is time to clean house.

Who's the toughest man alive? This Riverside Police Department officer who's been training for a world-wide competition.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board is still pushing for that ethics commission planned in San Bernardino County. But it warns the county's officials not to water the process down in the process. The Board must have been keeping close tabs on what went on with the City of Riverside's attempts to disregard yet another public vote for a charter amendment by diluting the ethics process down there to something totally self-serving and meaningless.


An effective commission would also need the power to investigate officials' actions, and authority to levy fines and penalties for violating ethics rules. A commission with no effective way to enforce the rules would merely waste time and money. And the penalties would need to be strong enough to deter misconduct.

But an ethics commission would not be enough to fix the county's shameful political culture. Ethics commissions focus on objective rules about campaign donations, gifts, lobbying and similar concerns. Those types of violations pale compared to the scandals that repeatedly have rocked San Bernardino County.

An ethics commission could not prevent top county officials from taking bribes, as happened in the 1990s. Nor could it prevent the county assessor from creating an unqualified executive staff that did political work at taxpayers' expense, as Bill Postmus did upon becoming assessor in 2007.

San Bernardino County needs to abandon a political tradition that puts self-interest ahead of the public good, favors well-connected insiders over taxpayers and uses government as a personal gravy train. County politicians should discard the longstanding attitude that official misconduct is only an issue when it threatens their particular agendas.

Proposals such as Derry's might help, if not watered down into meaninglessness. But neither an ethics commission nor a sunshine ordinance can change that pattern. The county will continue to see recurrent government scandals as long as the political community keeps enabling corruption.

That sounds majorly important but remember what happened in Riverside? What happened was one of the sadder stories of micromanagement that can be taken from City Hall's Era of Micromanagement.

As you recall, the Charter Review Committee in July 2004 recommended that Measure DD be placed on the ballot that if passed, would place language in the charter to bring an ethics code and complaint process to Riverside.

In November 2004, Measure DD passed with over 73% of the vote, which should have sent a loud message to the city government that this was something its constituents really wanted put in place. In January 2005, Section 202 was added to the city's charter and the process was put together through the help of a committee created of city residents from each ward.

And where can you find information about the ethics code on the city's Web site? On its front page? No, Hidden on the City Clerk's page. And you have to have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer to access it.

Here's the FAQS in English and the FAQS in Spanish. The resolution is also included on this page.

If you read the FAQS and the resolution, the problems with the whole process are readily apparent especially in terms of complaints filed against city council members or the mayor. Why? Because as you can see, the complaints go to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee and who's on that committee? The mayor and three city council members. And yes, while members of that committee aren't allowed to hear complaints against them and other members are substituted in their place, the political dynamic is such that any city council member who's ever heard a complaint (and believe it or not of the complaints filed only one made it past the city attorney's office) is going to automatically side with the council member it's against, just as Councilwoman Nancy Hart did when hearing a complaint filed against former Councilman Dom Betro several years ago. The council members at least of that time were too politically dependent on each other for votes that they couldn't really challenge each other in any meaningful way.

The most interesting part of the complaint process which adds to the conflict of interest is that the city attorney's role was only meant to be in an advisory capacity yet the Mayor and Nomination Committee turned the entire process of judge and jury to City Attorney Gregory Priamos and he deftly through one weakly crafted excuse or another kept several complaints against Betro and Councilman Steve Adams from even making it to that committee. The Governmental Affairs Committee then chaired by Former City Councilman Frank Schiavone even had an impromptu meeting one July with Betro on board to change the rules midstream about when city officials could be subjected to complaints even though there was an active complaint against Betro in the pipeline. Self-serving quests and conflict of interest issues didn't get much more blatant than that.

Schiavone later last year tried to do the annual review of the ethics process without contacting board and commission chairs and the mayor as required by the ordinance. When the mayor found out about that, he insisted on redoing the entire process so they had ethics process take two, a week later. But then Schiavone was so confused by the language of the whole thing that when threatening Community Police Review Commission members, Chani Beeman and John Brandriff (with Brandriff remanded by Schiavone to three hours of "ethics" training with Priamos who among other things suggested he run for political office) essentially with opening their mouths in disagreement with the City Hall Agenda involving the CPRC, he said that ethics complaints filed against them would go directly to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee when in actuality, they first go through a process with the CPRC and go to the latter committee (via the city clerk's office) only if they are not resolved. Well, maybe it wasn't ignorance as much as making (or changing) the rules as you go along which has definitely served to water down the ethics complaint process in Riverside much as it has done to the CPRC. And they have the assistance of Priamos as their legal representation because after all, the man wants to keep his job.

But the sordid history of Riverside's own flirtation with the ethics complaint process makes you more fully appreciate what the editorial board is asking for, and that's an independent commission to hear and decide all complaints. Exactly what Riverside needs but short of another charter initiative vote, will never, ever see. Our city will continue to serve as a proud model of how maintaining a checks and balance on ethics is not done.

But there's a silver lining in this cloud. Both Betro and Schiavone were sent packing by voters in part because of their attitudes involving how they handled the issue of ethics and the ethics complaint process. Something that the elected officials who would praise the virtue of the current nonaccountable ethics process to the ends of the city, should keep in mind. There are ethics complaint mechanisms outside the control of elected officials.

The recession may be heading towards its end towards the end of this year but not in the Inland Empire.

Twitter comes to Redlands!

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