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, August 31, 2009

The City Council appoints the new CPRC commissioner

To Pick a Commissioner

[City Councilman Mike Gardner and Mayor Ron Loveridge get ready to cast their votes to fill the Ward Two vacancy on the Community Police Review Commission]

[Commissioner candidate Garth Newberry from Ward Two is interviewed by the city council. Seated opposite him are Councilman Rusty Bailey and City Attorney Gregory Priamos]

What: The appointment of the new Ward Two CPRC commissioner

Where: Mayor's Ceremonial Room, City Hall

When: Tuesday, Sept. 1 at 2-4 p.m.

The city council met in the Mayor's Ceremonial room to interview and ultimately select the new commissioner who would represent Ward Two filling the vacancy left by the resignation of Jim Ward in March. Ward's were tough shoes to fill and it would be difficult to find anyone to do so since the city council wasn't particularly interested in doing so as a group. There was a lot of dropping of the word, objectivity and impartiality and Councilman Steve Adams' usual diatribes about agendas but if you're looking for some of those, you need look no further than those making the decisions about who gets appointed to serve on the city's boards and commissions if history is any indication. Some electeds seem to be searching for someone who was fair and just. Others appeared to be just looking for more of the same of what currently sits on that panel right now, right down to almost locking themselves in another conflict of interest situation or two.

But first they had to get there which meant conducting interviews of the six candidates who showed up to be interviewed including two who were added to the list after the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee had picked nine candidates to be interviewed about a month ago. Most often, the winning candidate comes out of those 11th hour addition lists and spoiler alert, this time would be no different.

The meeting was attended by about a half dozen city residents, City Clerk Colleen Nicol and City Attorney Gregory Priamos. City Manager Brad Hudson popped in just in time for the final vote by the city council. One city resident, Bob Melsh said that Officer Paul Stucker who was working security had briefly prevented him from entering the room where the meeting was held, telling him that it was a closed meeting but he was finally able to enter the room where the meeting was being held. Stucker and the other officer working didn't tell anyone else who attended that the meeting was a closed session and didn't intervene when they saw people walking in and out of the Mayor Ceremonial Room.

The city council didn't place a sign on the closed glass door announcing that what meeting was taking place and that it was open to the public.

Councilman Andrew Melendrez who represents that ward opened up the meeting when he said that he wanted individuals who were objective and fair in their factual determination and involved in the community.

The interviews were conducted briefly and the afternoon went by quickly. Most of the city council members asked each commissioner the same question in the interest of continuity but others like Councilwoman Nancy Hart asked each commissioner a different one like she couldn't quite make up her mind. Loveridge didn't consistently question the candidates during their interviews and his discriminative behavior provided the audience with some insight into which candidates he favored over others.

The questions were fairly good ones. Several dealt with the current conflict without dwelling into the deeper pinning of that conflict. Former commissioner turned councilman, Mike Gardner asked the commissioners whether they had the time to commit 30-40 hours a week reading cases including all the evidence in the investigations and watching 80 hours of training. Adams threw in a trick question about whether candidates believed the commission should play a role in "punishing" officers even though only the police chief (if he's afforded the power to be in charge) has the power and responsibility to assign discipline in cases of sustained allegations against officers.

The Candidates

Amy Aldana who works for Riverside County said that she tried to foster better relations between the police department and her neighborhood including one time when there was a police pursuit which ended on her front lawn. She said she called a community meeting to "calm these nerves" and invited city officials and police representatives. She said that she would be objective and listen to all different perspectives and point of views on a case. She said she would need to "see all the facts before I made a decision."

Listening to city residents would be important and seeing to their needs, she mentioned several times in her interview.

Restaurant owner, Trey Pitruzzello was up next and did quite a bit of name dropping calling himself a "Riverside boy" who hung out with other "Riverside boys" including the Yaegars and Tavagliones. He said when hearing a complaint, he would weigh all the options and not be galvanized by one side. He would insure that the "public had a voice" and that he would "keep the peace". He had applied after receiving a phone call from some individual and a clerical person at City Hall had told him that the CPRC was a "go-between between the community and the RPD".

He said the police "have a difficult job to do and people love them and hate them" but that he would be in the middle.

Daniel W. Waldo who works for Chevron was heavily stumped by Councilman Rusty Bailey who never flagged in his support for him.

"I never signed up or requested this commission[CPRC]," he said, during his interview. He said that he was pretty busy but would make time to serve on the commission. When asked about the controversial situation involving the CPRC's decision to ban minority reports, he thought it was on the "up and up" and in the right direction but admitted he didn't have all the facts.

"I have no problem being impartial," Waldo said, when asked about police, "I am more partial to respecting them and what they do."

Garth Newberry who teaches art and once briefly considered running against Melendrez for city council was interviewed and said he didn't know much about the conflicts on the commission but that he believed outreach was the answer and increasing public awareness and improving community and police relations were important as well.

When told that to do the job well, he would have to spend 30-40 hours a month reviewing complaint investigations and 80 hours training, he said, "do i have to sit for 80 hours" but said he would be able to do it. He said he would try his best to give an unbiased approach to the CPRC's reviews.

Joe Vazquez who attended the CPRC meeting during the controversial vote sided with the majority that minority reports needed to go. The majority opinion has to be supported or else there would be an "independent report" which he didn't favor. Controversy arose during Vazquez' interview which was more extended after he revealed that his security firm contracted with a large number of Home Depot stores in Southern California including Riverside's Madison Avenue store specifically to provide security concerning day laborer populations. Several city council members including Ward One's Mike Gardner, a former CPRC commissioner, expressed concerns about what might be a conflict of interest, given the controversies involving the police department, the U.S. Border patrol and their arrests and detentions at Home Depot in Casa Blanca.

The issue is currently being litigated in Riverside County Superior Court over whether or not the police department fully complied with the California Public Records Act when it responded to a request for information submitted by the National Day Laborer Network. Both the Human Relations Commission (willingly) and the CPRC (not so willingly) have been asked to address this issue, with the CPRC being asked to address it from a policy and procedure level. Efforts to do this were refuted by CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan likely on advice by Priamos that it was outside the purview of the CPRC and somehow would be construed as a sign of disrespect against the HRC. But it might be difficult having someone involved in a business arrangement with Home Depot in relation to that issue, sitting on the CPRC.

Later, during the vote, City Attorney Gregory Priamos said "there is no conflict" as Vazquez no longer engages in criminal investigations for defendants arrested by the police department but that his work is limited to security. It's interesting how Priamos completely ignored the conflict of interest situation raised by city council members involving his company's contract with Home Depot.But then on the issue of conflict of interest, he's never really been all that consistent.

Christopher Lorenz, a federal employee, didn't show up to be interviewed.

Last up was Rogelio V. Morales who graduated from law school in Washington state and is considering employment with the Riverside County District Attorney's office and resides in the Eastside. His brother had worked as an undercover officer with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and he had personally dealt with many officers.

He believed the commission had to be involved in the process and be involved with the community.

"Excluding the opinion of the commission would be a mistake," he said.

None of the elected officials asked him why he checked off a box that answered "yes" to having a felony or misdemeanor conviction in his background during his interview though Councilman Chris MacArthur brought it up afterward during the vote. Priamos said that he talked with Morales and it had been checked off in error. All commissioners are required to have live scans before being appointed.

The Votes

After some discussion, the first straw vote was cast.

Round one vote:

Gardner: Morales

Melendrez: Morales

Bailey: Waldo

Davis: Pitruzello

MacArthur: Waldo

Hart: Vazquez

Adams: Vazquez

Mayor: Aldana

The split vote in round one led to much more discussion before a revote was taken by the city officials. Mayor Ron Loveridge clearly wasn't keen on Morales and wondered out loud if he would have to resign after appointment if he did wind up employed by the D.A's office. Bailey stuck by his choice, Waldo because he said he was a "concerned citizen" (which is a fairly broad generalization that by itself, could fit more than one candidate) and Davis liked the scientific background of his choice, when looking into the area of complaint fact finding.

Others seemed to defer to Melendrez' preference of Morales although Loveridge wasn't willing to give his full vote without a fight. He said, what if they pick Morales and he goes off and joins the D.A.'s office? Then what? Others like Hart argued so what, any one of these applicants could get hired in another position after being appointed, not just Morales.

After that flurry of emotion died down, the elected officials took another stab at voting.

Round Two:

Gardner: Morales

Melendrez: Morales

Bailey: Waldo

Davis: Morales

MacArthur: Waldo

Hart: Morales

Adams: Morales

Mayor: Morales (with some reluctance)

And with that, Morales became the first commissioner appointed from the Eastside.

Ethics Review 101

The Governmental Affairs Committee at City Hall in Riverside will be reviewing the ethics code and complaint process which it does annually under the city's ordinance. The committee is required to invite the mayor and the chairs of all the city's boards and commissions as part of this review process, something it failed to do last year. Hopefully, this year will go more smoothly.

The meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 4p.m. in the Mayor's Ceremonial room at the top floor of the 'Hall. The committee report is here and it includes the language in the resolution which instituted the code and process.

Some organizations in Riverside have submitted comments on the city's handling of the issue and recommendations to improve the process. They had done so in previous years but the Governmental Affairs Committee didn't really take them seriously, probably because it wanted to winnow down the process not enhance it.

The Group which is a community organization has been following the ethics code and complaint process since its membership introduced the concept to the Charter Review Committee in early 2004. After the passage of Measure DD by over 70% of the city's voters which put the ethics code in the city's charter and led to the creation and institution of a complaint process, the Group chair Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely chaired a research committee which made recommendations to the city council after a series of meetings.

The Group has continued to monitor the process including at annual reviews and has repeatedly issued various recommendations to improve the process and to promote greater accountability and transparency. Two things the city government clearly hasn't wanted, at least not so far. And that's reflected in the rather shameful history of what's happened when complaints have been filed using this so-called ethics complaint system. But the Group's members and other people have kept attending meetings trying to improve what's already a broken system.


1. The City has done a better job of promoting the Code of Ethics, especially on the web site. There is a video We continue to recommend that the city clerk, mayor, city council members, board and commission members go out to service and community groups and faith groups to promote the Code of Ethics.

2. Currently the Code of Ethics and Conduct calls for the Mayors Nominating and Screening Committee to handle complaints filed against the mayor or council member. It has provisions for the committee chair and the mayor to recuse themselves. If the mayor and council truly intend to create trust in local government as stated in the Resolution 21752 Establishing the Code of Ethics and Conduct, The Group feels strongly that an objective and impartial body should be appointed to review all complaints filed against the mayor and council members. It is our recommendation that this be a panel of three (3) retired judges. The mayor and council has resisted this recommendation for the past four (4) years.

3. The procedures and timeline for handling complaints needs to be clearer. The Code of Ethics and Conduct does not state within what period of time the complaint should be addressed and it needs to be clearer regarding who will handle and present the complaint. Complainants need to know what will happen to their complaint, how it will be processed and within what timeframe. They need to be notified in writing.

4. Section III , Implementation of the Code calls for the mayor, city council, Part A. Implementation, Monitoring and Oversight calls for the mayor and council to review the Code of Ethics and Conduct at a regular meeting. The Group continues to recommend that the annual review be conducted as a noticed public hearing. This will require special notice to the public and allow for opposition and support to the recommendations that are being proposed. We also recommend that the code of ethics state the public hearing for the review will be held at a time specific each year. This change has not been included in Resolution 21752.

5. Last year the Governmental Affairs Committee agreed to our recommendation for a Code of Ethics and Conduct committee be re-convened for a comprehensive review the code every five years. We asked that this be included in Resolution 21752.

6. The sub-committee of The Group felt the allegations against former Council member Frank Schiavone and his involvement with the Bradley Estates needs to be forwarded to the Governmental Affairs Committee.

7. In light of the alleged unethical behavior surrounding us (San Bernardino County, Grand Terrace) we feel it is important for our elected officials and commissioners to engage in a public discussion of ethics. We have recommended that a public discussion of ethical behavior and what it means to our city be conducted. We further recommended that Judy Nadler, Senior Fellow in Government Ethics at Santa Clara University ’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and former city council member in Santa Clara be invited to lead this discussion.

Also submitting recommendations was Kevin Dawson of Save-Riverside who saw first hand what the process really involves and how watered down it is when he tried to submit a complaint against former Councilman Dom Betro after a troubling incident that happened when Betro was going to give a speech at the downtown Fox Theater as an elected official. His complaint was blocked from proceeding to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee as required by the city's resolution by Priamos who was only supposed to serve the city council in an "advisory" capacity under the resolution. Soon after, an abrupt Governmental Affairs Committee meeting was held in the summer of 2007 and two of its members voted to change the language defining "official capacity" in terms of greatly narrowing down this category of circumstances so that the disturbing incident between Betro and Dawson wouldn't qualify under the ethics code. At the time, Betro was a member of the Governmental Affairs Committee.


While it might not be possible to fix everything at once, there are a couple of points that are worthy of correction this next week.

I believe that the resolution improperly inserted into the Code limiting its application to only when council members are acting in "their official capacity" needs to be rescinded.

In its place should be new language stating that our City officials hold a special place in our community. They are high profile public leaders and are looked to as role models of our society. While we honor their privacy, their behavior in public is a reflection upon our City. The principles of behavior outlined in the Code of Ethics should be viewed as the minimum standard for our officials; we wish them to set the example of model behavior whenever they are out in public. Therefore, Resolution 21560 amending the Code to only apply when Council members are acting in official capacity must be rescinded.

New language should also be added to remove the temptation of political interference; complainants should have the choice of having their complaint heard by the Mayor’s Nominating and Screening Committee or request their complaint be heard and resolved by an independent board of retired judges.

The two above lists of suggestions are very good ones and should be implemented if there's any hopes that the complaint process stemming from the ethics code is going to provide accountability and transparency and actually promote professional ethical behavior from this city's elected officials. Unfortunately, it can be predicted right here and now that they won't get the proper discussion let alone implementation that they deserve. When asked about chairing his first review of the ethics process, Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Andrew Melendrez said he was fully prepared to handle the process and that there might be changes made. It remains to be seen if that's the case and what they will be.

But it's more likely that the two other members of the Governmental Affairs Committee will want to stick with the status quo involving the complaint process and that's on a good day.

Labor Pains:

When the city council asked city management to sit down and negotiate with a municipal labor union, did that happen?

To Be Continued...

With all the investigations going on in San Bernardino, the parties involved have taken to blogging to get their points across.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Erwin said blogging is a way for him to get information out that isn't covered by the mainstream press or talk about the news in greater depth.

"It's a way of putting a picture out of what's going on," he said.

He recently became one of the administrators of, a blog devoted to San Bernardino County politics that has become one of the main sites for news and speculation about the ongoing district attorney's investigation.

Sharon Gilbert, a county employee who started the blog , said the site averages about 13,000 hits a day but has had as many as 40,000 visitors on big news days.

The site mainly includes stories from local newspapers and press releases from local politicians but also includes postings from Erwin, Gilbert as well as anonymous commentators..

Gilbert, who said she believes Erwin will be exonerated, said she sees nothing wrong with giving Erwin a forum.

"He has as much right to get his side of it out there as anybody else," she said.

I.E. Politics discusses politics in this most interesting canvas called San Bernardino County. Included on its pages is a list of other blogs which cover the Inland Empire including this one. Also the Big Bear Observation Post and one with an interesting name, Inland Utopia.

San Bernardino County is ripe for great blogging and these bloggers and others take full advantage of that.

A newer blog on the front is The Real San Bernardino.

Riverside County Superior Court presiding judge, Gary Tranbarger has struck another blow to the discrimination and harassment case filed by police officers at the Mt. San Jacinto Community College Police Department.

Riverside County's board of supervisors are expected to approve a labor contract and toss out programs that provide services to the disabled, the elderly and the young per usual.

Some vandals torched the American flag on Mt. Rubidoux.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The flag, which flew over the popular Riverside walking trail a few hundred yards from the famous white cross, was little more than a charred pile of nylon on Sunday. Remnants of the flag were still stuck to the three-story flagpole.

"It's an act of terrorism," said hiker Jaylene Welch of Riverside. "It's just wrong."

A Canyon Lake city council member faces censure.

Job Opening:

JOB TITLE & Executive Director, Human Rights Commission and
DEPARTMENT: Executive Secretary, Police Review and Advisory Board
Human Rights Commission


CIVIL SERVICE: Not subject to civil service rules and regulations

HOURS OF WORK: 37.5 hour workweek, includes evening meetings


DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES: This is a dual position, with roles administering two City agencies. The Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission serves as the City's chief civil rights officer and enforces the local civil rights ordinances that prohibit discrimination (CMC Chapters 2.76 and 14.04). The Director coordinates the City's civil rights functions and responsibilities, in conjunction with City agencies, supervises agency staff, works with the appointed Human Rights Commissioners and City officials in enforcement of these ordinances and applicable state and federal civil rights laws, ensures citywide civil rights compliance by coordinating various training and education programs and provides direct technical assistance and supportive services to City agencies and designated officials. For the Police Review and Advisory Board, the Executive Secretary is responsible for the daily administration of all Board activities, advising on and executing the policies and procedures as established by the Police Review and Advisory Board. Duties include processing and investigating complaints, mediating disputes, reviewing Police Department policies, preparing reports and presenting cases before hearings of the Board.

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS: Applicants should have strong knowledge of civil rights issues, laws and regulations, especially in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations; excellent administrative, management and organizational skills; strong oral and written communications skills; demonstrated investigative and mediation experience; a record of accomplishment in civil rights activities and successful work within a multi-cultural, diverse community. Candidates should possess sound judgment and interpersonal skills. Candidates should have at least three years experience in a related professional capacity and one year of experience in a supervisory capacity. JD degree from an accredited law school, and member of the Massachusetts Bar Association preferred; bilingual skills a plus.

PHYSICAL DEMANDS: Ability to access, input, and retrieve information from a computer. Ability to answer phones and maintain multiple files and be able to lift a minimum of at least 10 pounds. Sufficient mobility to travel back and forth to offsite meetings. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential functions.

WORK ENVIRONMENT: Standard office environment with fluorescent lights, air conditioning, computers and other standard office equipment. Noise level can be moderate to high when the office is active with phone calls and walk in applicants.

RATE: $68,500-82,500

APPLICATION PROCEDURE: Internal applicants submit a job bidding form and 2 copies of both your resume and letter of interest; external applicants submit 2 copies of both your resume and letter of interest by 5pm on the closing date via email to:> or to Personnel Dept, Room 309, City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA 02139. Fax 617-349-4312


Funeral information for John Sotelo, the first Latino councilman in Riverside's history has been released.

(source: Press Enterprise)

A funeral Mass will be at 9:30 a.m. at St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church, 4268 Lime St., Riverside. As a U.S. Navy veteran who served in World War II, Sotelo will be buried at Riverside National Cemetery, 22495 Van Buren Blvd., Riverside, where a service is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

A remembrance will be at 2:30 p.m. at Bordwell Park's Stratton Community Center, 2008 Martin Luther King Blvd., Riverside. Those who want to contribute may bring a dish that feeds about 15 people in a disposable container.

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