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, January 05, 2010

Thar He Blows: Councilman Steve Adams and his latest dais diatribe


Another Riverside Police Department officer arrested in December on child molestation charges. Since October 2008, five police officers in the RPD have been arrested.

More details to come.

"Blogs are like something brown that you flush down."

---Riverside Councilman Steve Adams, at a city council meeting winning himself yet again the municipal version of the Golden Tongue Award.

"Upon information and belief, Defendants Hudson, DeSantis, Schiavone and Adams have in fact, directed, manipulated or made promotional decisions in the department despite city personnel rules, regulations and mutually agreed upon MOUs indicating that Defendant Leach makes all such promotions."

----Darryl Hurt vs the City of Riverside, one on a long list of "frivolous" lawsuits.

"Off with your head."

----The Queen of Hearts in Wonderland

There are four things that are certain in this world that can always be counted on taking place. Birth, death, taxes and Riverside Councilman Steve Adams verbally attacking some city resident, usually a woman from the dais while at a city council meeting. And at the afternoon session on Tuesday, Jan. 5, it was my turn again. Unless you go up there and flatter the city council on a regular basis, it will probably be your turn some day too. And it's not just in Riverside, or even California. I actually heard from a guy in another state who tried to speak on gender related issues in law enforcement in his city and was subjected to a diatribe by a male public official that was pretty close to being identical to the rant given by Adams towards me.

It's a shame because even a broken clock is right twice a day and Adams actually does take some principled stands such as on the railroad issues that plague this city even by himself which have earned him deserving credit and praise. Unfortunately, most of the time particularly in his current term of office that hasn't happened.

After I spoke on the issues pertaining to the criminal case of former Officer Robert Forman and the resultant claim for damages filed by Katheryn Boesen, the woman he's convicted of forcibly orally copulating under the color of authority, Adams launched his attack in the form of "public comment." While making my comments, I saw his face go red and his body twist in his seat looking very much like a small child about to throw a tantrum so I guessed that I might be the target of a verbal rant. Adams didn't pound his fists on the dais and engage in a full blown tantrum because after all, he's an elected official being paid for by tax payer dollars, who has a physical disability retirement already paid for by tax payer dollars stemming from an injury which was either a result of a work-related injury or a recreational activity depending on which version of it that is circulating at the moment. In reality, it seems that Adams never actually left his policing career at least in his own mind, since he always refers to it in the present tense when it comes up as it does often.

But elected officials don't really need to act like children and throw tantrums because they have the power of the dais. They have an elected body that will just sit and smile and listen to them, with occasional nods of agreement and they have a mayor that pretty much allows elected officials to act as badly as they choose to act because when he needs to be reelected to office for another term so he can be elected vice-president, president or King of the League of Cities, he needs to abdicate his responsibilities as meeting chair to indulge in the whims of those hands which feed him so he can place himself in the necessary position to achieve his own political goals.

Because after all, politics is everything once you actually get elected and if the council members in your charge act out at city residents including repeatedly, you just pretend it's not happening because when you're up for reelection, you need the hand that's attached to that mouth to scratch your back with a dais endorsement. And so it goes, because that's what happens with the city council every election cycle is that it issues blanket endorsements to members of its own dais who are up for reelection sending the message that it's a closed club not really amiable to outsiders, and it's interesting even when some of those "outsiders" get elected into office after defeating incumbents endorsed by other council members and then start playing the endorsement game themselves soon enough.

Anyway, Adams behaved as he often has behaved in the past when a woman comes to the dais and speaks their mind. He insults a male speaker here and there to keep himself sharp but most of the targets have been female and have included individuals like Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely, president of the Group, Mary Humboldt, who is involved with Friends of Riverside's Hills and the late Yolanda Garland. It doesn't seem that Adams doesn't want particularly women to come up and make comments he doesn't like.

Adams began his latest tirade in a growing list of them by saying I had insulted the city council with my comments. That I knew nothing, I had no authority, that I was "showboating" and that what I said about my concerns of the Forman incident were a "dog and pony show" indeed. Adams himself was actually engaging in a bit of "showboating" because were it for the two police officers standing in the back of the room, it's very likely he never would have made his comments claiming I made a negative comment about the department when actually I complimented several officers on their responsible behavior during the Forman case. I also spoke about the need to pay careful attention to police departmental staffing as well as the ongoing situation involving the filling and refilling of a critical police position that's currently sitting idle because the city's not following the appropriate process for filling a police department position which has additional requirements that have to be satisfied that aren't true with many other positions in the city's other departments. Just another one of many questionable labor decisions being made about this public safety department by City Hall because no department head has the power to authorize interdepartmental employee transfers within the city's employment ranks. Only one city department has that kind of authority, and that's the city manager's office.

And once again, the rest of the dais cast sat and listened to Adams verbally attack yet another woman and said nothing. Loveridge said nothing, as the meeting chair. There's really not a strong leader on the city council and the only way one ever seems to emerge to rule the pack is through boorish and rude behavior on the dais. People whispered about the dominance of Schiavone on the council while he was in office and people said the same about Betro and both of them made numerous diatribes from the dais at the public. Two council members who incidentally might have made enough of an impression of control on the city council to keep the rest of the members in line but alas for them, not enough of the right impression with their voting populations because they found out that ultimately their power doesn't come from their dais mates, it comes from the city's voters. The only power that really matters anyway which is why it's so important for city residents to be actively involved in the voting process.

However, it's not exactly true that the city council didn't respond in some fashion to Adams' latest diatribe. It met again several hours later and appointed Adams its current mayor pro tem, giving him even greater carte blanche in the next six months to throw verbal temper tantrums while running meetings rather than just participating in them. That shows through actions (which are always more powerful forms of expression than words), the city council's allowance of boorish behavior from its own membership on the dais. But that's perfectly fine because the next election cycle is only two years away and if bad dais behavior continues, it most certainly will be an election issue deemed worthy of consideration by voters as it has been in past elections. And cleaning up one's act during an election cycle does little to override the long-term memories of voters as Schiavone found out when he toned down his bullying and ranting from the dais during his election cycle and saw himself out of a job anyway. Besides, birth, death, taxing and Adams' rants from the dais, the next certain thing is how effective the city's voting population is at holding its elected officials accountable at voting time for their public meeting decorum.

Adams' rants are never really worth commenting much on in terms of their content. They are what they are, an elected official launching on some tirade before his brain catches up with his verbosity which hopefully is not reflective of how he acted while employed by the city as one of its police officers. That's his own choice on how to define himself and he's obviously quite proud of his behavior. Clearly, he has a lot to be proud of.

My comments are on the public record and so are his. I was reminded of that when individuals contacted me about what they had heard on the meeting's recording and wondered how Adams could have misread what I said. But some shook their heads in a manner of speaking and just said, there goes Adams again.

The City Council and Its Need for an "Alpha Male"

It's actually hard to believe that this city council only a decade ago was dominated by women, well in numbers anyway. But over the decade that's changed markedly and so has the dais behavior especially what's tolerated and tacitly approved of and what's not. And what's most amazing even as it's also telling is that the political pressure and the tensions within the city's fabric faced by those women and men back then were much, much more challenging than really anything faced by the city council since. In fact, it's pretty unlikely that most of the city council members elected since the tense period around the end of the last century and the beginning of this one could even handle that situation. Adams certainly could not, because at the time the city's residents and police officers were appearing en masse at city council meetings pouring emotion and concerns into rather heated debates, he was seen photographed on the front page of the Press Enterprise leaving an June 1999 police union meeting where quite a few of the 2/3 of the department's officers had shaved their heads to protest the firing of four white officers in relation to the Tyisha Miller shooting. When confronted with that photo by one of his ward's residents, Adams had said he had merely attended that meeting because he was "curious" about what would happen.

But only a decade later, Adams has backed city management officials who have told members of that same police union that they are "overpaid" and that anyone could do their jobs. And he's backed a city management and for all we know, could be directing it to be heavily involved in the operations of the police department. He's been accused of personally being involved in the police department's promotional process himself by two police employees.

And there are many allegations floating around that the city management is even more involved in running the police department than that and if that's the case, then how is Adams as one of the city management's direct employees responding to that problem? A possible answer is located further down in this same posting.

The saddest dynamic about the city government is that time and time again, it allows a boorish member or two who have histories of behaving just like Adams did, dominate its operations and the rest of the elected officials even Loveridge quickly fall into line behind the city council's latest self-designated "Alpha Male". In the past, those ill-acting public officials have included former city council members Dom Betro and Frank Schiavone and apparently, the city council has failed to take notice of one very important thing. That both Betro and Schiavone failed to be reelected during the very first election cycle that came up after they began engaging in making personal attacks from the dais (and in some cases, other venues) and are now at least for the moment, out of municipal office. Adams nearly followed them into political retirement when a candidate who spent less than $10,000 to his over $175,000 came within 13 votes of ousting him. The next time he runs for city council (and this is assuming the rumors about him running again for state assembly aren't true because he would never stand the heat in that much bigger kitchen), he will most likely be defeated in large part because of his conduct at city council meetings. And prospective candidates for his 2011 election are already lining up in anticipation of what some people actually view as easy pickings.

But the "alpha males" can and apparently do quickly bring the rest of the city council into line by not agreeing to vote on other elected official's items or pet projects when they come up to vote and then knuckle their allies into line to do the same. One current elected official made the mistake of endorsing the rival to a former councilman in a non-city election and paid for it later on when this councilman froze this dais mate out for a long time, putting this individual through "hell" in the process. The only fortunate thing in this unseamly dynamic is that the voters usually don't put up with such nonsense for long and has been stated many times, they usually send these "alpha males" packing. This of course could have all been avoided if these elected officials had some idea how to behave while in elected office and failing that, if they had just watch a season or two of the reality television show, Survivor which might have assisted them with coming up with better coping strategies.

The City Attorney's Office Calling Civil Litigation against Riverside "frivolous"

Here's just one example of many where Priamos had commented on behalf of the city saying that a lawsuit lacked merit. This particular lawsuit just settled for $175,000 this past October. Priamos also made similar statements regarding lawsuits that the city eventually paid out $390,000, $300,000, $75,000 and $800,000 on in the form of settlements. The city attorneys' office makes these statements because its direct employee, the city council directs it to speak on its behalf on legal issues. Every elected official serving on the dais is aware or should be aware that this has been the case each and every time a claim for damage or lawsuit has been made public including those filed involving the police department. Adams himself is a former police officer and still acts as if he's in that job, even though it's been over 15 years and as an employee of a very different police department since he policed any streets.

He still greets every police office or fire fighter like a politician in public even though in private, as part of the elected body, he makes decisions which have been detrimental to the department. He has taken no action to address the ongoing issue of the city manager's office's heavy and some say heavy handed "direction" of the police department, in fact there's been litigation filed from within the police department which indicates that he might play a role in that behavior himself.

The lawsuits filed by police lieutenants, Darryl Hurt and Tim Bacon list Adams as a defendant stemming from behavior that they said he exhibited towards police officers around the time of his last reelection bid. These lawsuits are interesting because they're the first documents filed in the public record which outline some of what's allegedly been going on with the police department in private, that being that City Hall plays a greater role in making decisions for it that usually are made by its department head, the police chief. Chief Russ Leach along with his assistant chief, John DeLaRosa did make an appearance at the afternoon session of the council meeting purportedly for discussion of the two claims for damages involving the department but quickly retreated to the conference room to await the city council.

Adams along with Schiavone were actually asked to respond to the Press Enterprise on their reactions to being sued by these two lieutenants. This article provided their eloquent response to such inquiries.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

During last year's City Council elections, the lieutenants opposed Councilman Steve Adams, a retired officer. The claim stated that since then, Adams and Councilman Frank Schiavone have made "negative and retaliatory remarks," including Schiavone telling an officer to distance himself from the pair if he wanted to be promoted and Adams telling an officer that he would not be promoted because he was supporting another candidate.

Both council members called the lawsuit "frivolous."

Adams always has said that when he says something he means it, well, it's clear when he labeled this latest lawsuits against the city as "frivolous", he probably meant it. And when it comes up for discussion in closed session like it did not too long ago, it's likely that behind closed doors, he's saying the same thing about it even while ranting in public about how "insulted" he is that anyone would ever think that he as a city council member and the city council as a legislative body wouldn't take all civil litigation seriously. It must be interesting to be a fly on the wall during those closed sessions to see if Priamos ever admonishes Adams about the clear conflict of interest represented by him even participating in such discussions as both an elected official and an individual civil defendant on those two lawsuits. And it would be very interesting to hear whether or not Adams talks about the need to take this particular lawsuit seriously. After all, the claim filed that preceded it was denied, like just about most every other claim for damages.

Adams is included in those lawsuits in part because he allegedly told an officer because he didn't endorse his city council bid for election and had actively backed his opposition (in this case, candidate Roy Saldanha), he would "never fuckin get promoted". Pretty shocking words coming from an elected official, one whose supposed to have nothing to do with how a department head in the city conducts his promotional process, yet according to the lawsuit, a list of characters all made comments indicating they either influenced or even controlled the promotion of at least upper management positions in the police department including Schiavone and City Manager Brad Hudson. It's easy to believe that Adams said what he is alleged to be said, as the dead giveaway is the use of the word "fuckin" in his alleged threat as many people have said that Adams' choice of language is "colorful", "salty" and full of profanity, to the point where one of the alleged reasons the Riverside Police Officers' Association chose to endorse Saldanha over Adams in the 2007 city council was because of his so-called liberal use of profanity.

But the lawsuits which were in their deposition gathering stage not long ago, and will continue throughout the U.S. District Court. There's been no settlement talks yet and there won't be for at least a while because current and former city council members including one who's probably participating in any such decision making are listed as individual defendants in both lawsuits. Yet, it will be a cold day, well for some place that's is usually warm before the city ever allows this case to be heard by a civil jury either especially after seeing the last "frivolous" labor lawsuit that was tried in front of a jury in November 2005 and resulted in a huge payout by the tax payers of this city, to the tune of $1.64 million.

The city just doesn't want to go down that road again although the resultant trial would probably be one for the books. But it might be too late. Rumor is, the current dynamic involving the police department's alleged management by City Hall is already attracting outside attention.

Two Adams, Two Lawsuits Against the City

Adam is as stated, also one of the subjects of civil litigation filed by two police lieutenants that he threatened to deny promotions to those officers who didn't endorse his reelection to office. Through this action, Adams was once again throwing his support behind public safety employees. However, this is a funny way of showing it, most people would agree. And if the city pays out on this lawsuit, Adams will be the second law enforcement member of his family to be the focus of a lawsuit filed against the police department, in his case by another employee, former Sgt. Christine Keers who included former Officer (and current city employee) Ron Adams in her sexual discrimination, harassment and retaliation lawsuit against the city in 1996, a lawsuit that was ultimately settled in the high six figure range several years later. One of the allegations in that lawsuit was that Adams and two other former police officers violated a directive issued by the Riverside County District Attorney's office not to be involved in Keers' arrest and investigation in a criminal case because he and they had been the subject of the original grievance filed by Keers not long before her arrest on criminal charges that it took a jury one hour to acquit her on after her trial. The city settled that lawsuit after spending a mere $19,000 and change litigating it in court. It might have claimed that it settled this case to "save money" but the best way to do that in the short and long run is to ensure that messes like that in the Keers' case don't happen in the first place including the violation of prosecutory directives.

But as far as attending future city council meetings, I'd rather not because Adams' diatribes get tiresome and watching the rest of the dais occupants defer to his behavior as their latest "alpha male" is just not fun to watch. Besides, city council meetings taking place these days follow the same pattern and a lot happens with the city's money as each agenda clearly shows, but there's not much discussion of exactly how that money's being spent especially since the city council in toto has pretty much abdicated their responsibility to ensure financial accountability and transparency in budgetary spending to its administration.

Invocation: (where religion and state intertwine and the council promises some religious deity it will behave itself each week)

Pledge of Allegiance:

Presentations (which the mayor changes the order of appearance but the recognition of city residents and city employees is pretty much each meeting's highlight)

Discussion Calendar which is mostly receive and file reports or "updates" rather than real discussion items to be well, discussed.

"Public Comment" (which gets shuffled around a bit and merely provides fodder for Adams to rant against though most of the time he gets up and disappears during that time period)

"Consent Calendar" (which is where most of the high ticket items wind up and aren't discussed because all that process took place behind closed doors or the decisions are made by city management not the legislative body encharged with making decisions on the city's budgetary expenses)

Closed session announcements: This list has grown considerably and one might conclude that the City Attorney's budget has grown tremendously during the current recession period by the considerable bulk of this portion of the meeting calendar.

Meeting announcements (which alleviate some of the intense suspense regarding whether the city council's committees will actually meet that month).

In the past, the city council's engaged in some serious and thoughtful debate on items which belong on the discussion calendar and asked city staff real questions, not rhetorical questions that they already knew the answers to but asked to just prove a point. Unfortunately, those days were quite a while and several ruling regimes ago. And it's not clear that at least in the near future those days are coming around again. So there are plenty of other things to do than attend the weekly "dog and pony show", since it's clear who is out to win the "best in show" award, with his regular diatribes from the dais.

Hopefully, a situation to be remedied in the next election cycle or two. After all, at the end of the day, the city's voters ultimately get the city council they want and deserve and the city's ongoing problem with voter apathy and lower vote turnout doesn't seem to be building a legislative body that's accountable to the public and interested in increasing governmental accountability rather than coming up with another avenue to vote it away.

Riverside approves another railway project at its meeting. And apparently just after most every orange tree in this city has been ripped out of the ground, City Hall is having some regrets about the destruction of Riverside's citrus heritage. There's a saying about closing the barn door after the animals have left the building which fits quite aptly here.

Employee Upheaval in the City's Development Department

This small-sized but large sized in labor problems, department really needs its own "watch" label given how many employees have departed from its ranks in the past year, especially since its newest director, Deanna Larson took over its helm. Employees have left feeling they were used up and spit out by the city management. They are dropping out of this department like flies, it's been said.

And now, the Human Resources Board after reviewing a recent round of employee statistics involving this department has sounded the alarm button speaking at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 4 about how deeply concerned it is about what's been going on inside this city department. Even as Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout and Asst. Director Jeremy Hammond tried to assure them that they were the ones with the information on the individual departures and thus there was really no reason to think the numbers were any worse than they looked, the members of this nine-member board still aired their opinions on the matter.

[The Human Resource Board at City Hall met to discuss the ongoing sad situation involving the tremendous upheaval and sizable exodus of employees primarily non-white, non-male employees from the Development Department.]

According to the statistics, the Development Department's employees use a lot of sick leave, and have had two terminations, both of which were men of color. And six resignations including one African-American, one Latino and four white women. Three of these employees who resigned were over the age of 50 and it's a good bet that those who departed at this age were female employees. The only white male employee in this department which left was one who retired at the age of 60. Human Resources Board member and NAACP Riverside Chapter President Woodie Rucker-Hughes expressed some concern about these statistics and asked questions about the inclusion to a high degree of "protected classes" in the statistics. She did say they were losing prospective employees to Orange County, Los Angeles County and even Rancho Cucamonga because those were better places to work...and play.

Strout, who seems to spend most of her time defending the city's position to the board at its meetings again said that she and Hammond had gone over each individual departure and in hindsight, there really weren't as bad as the statistics might look. But it seemed that at least three members of the board weren't buying it. After all, this isn't the Community Police Review Commission which spends its meetings for the most part, rolling over when the city asks it to do so. This board actually asks some difficult questions and tackles some important issues.

But there have been women over the age of 45 who have put in valuable years of work in the city and there's been sentiment that there's a pattern of ageism pertaining to female employees in the city's work force the past several years which if that's the case is highly unfortunate. Bennett commented on the age of the departing employees and it's clear that she believed that a red flag had been tossed up.

"Age-wise we lost people who otherwise won't leave," she said.

Chair Erin House said he was told that some of these employees were leaving the city for better paying jobs, although that's difficult to swallow if a sizable portion of the resignations are by people over the age of 50 as it's usually much tougher for these employees to find other jobs, let alone better jobs at this juncture in their careers.

House did say he found the departures from the Development Department "absolutely alarming".

"I'm still very concerned about this," House added.

Vice Chair Ellie Bennett who works for Riverside County said that if Larson were her employee, she would be asking her for explanations.

"If she were my employee, she would be sitting at my desk," Bennett said.

Member Bob Gordon chimed in with similar comments.

"We're losing good people," he said.

Strout told the board that the merit increases in city departments aren't going forward and that along with other budget cuts, have led to employees seeking other job opportunities. Hammond said that he knew the numbers looked "offensive" but that he and Strout again had the benefit of having reviewed every individual case and have benefitted from hindsight.

Another member, Norm Powell spoke up, not sounding all that impressed.

"We need to find out what's happening," Powell said.

His statement was backed up by the other board members who wanted to take some action involving the development department. Some asked if exit interviews had been conducted of the departing employees but another member said that such exit interviews were difficult to conduct because people didn't want to alienate their city employers if they had to come back or needed job recommendations as part of their job search process.

"I would like to get my hands on those people," Gordon lamented.

The board said it was going to hold Larson accountable.

"This is an HR issue," Gordon said, "This is so in our ballpark."

It's not likely that the city would ever allow that to happen, that a board or commission should ever actually be allowed to serve its function as defined either through the ordinance or even the city's charter. After all, just four years ago, the city council voted to strip the board of its investigative powers, likely on someone's recommendation to do so. Because the board's investigative powers were stated in the municipal code and not the city's charter, it was much easier for the city to do with the Human Resources Board than it has been with the CPRC though the latter has essentially been stripped of its investigative powers for officer-involved deaths in practical applications.

It's however good to see the Human Resources Board at least try to take the initiative on doing its job. Hopefully, it won't face any repercussions from City Hall simply for verbally taking that stand. But the employees of Riverside including its Development Department really deserve no less than that answers are provided and released as to why so many of them are fleeing one of the city's departments and what is going to be done about it.

And if saying things like this is going to lead to myself being labeled in public as a "show boater" or engaging in a "dog and pony show" simply because that council member is more uncomfortable with his own conduct than even what I said, then I guess that makes me guilty of those things. But hey, at least I'm not Adams and if I ever do get elected to the dais, conduct like that exhibited by Adams towards any city resident who addressed him would effectively and quickly be nipped in the bud as there's really no place in any legislative body for an "alpha male" who's given carte blanche by those around him to engage in such boorish behavior.

Metropolitan Museum Board Upheaval?

Two more members of this board which has been in the news a lot lately have resigned as rumors of micromanagement of that city board in light of its advisory role in the process of any proposed expansion of the downtown museum proliferate as well.

New National Water Quality Study Being Done

The group that conducted that controversial water quality study that hit the media across the country is apparently retesting some water samples in places including both Riverside and Riverside County in response to some heated words aimed its way by different cities and counties since the study was released.

Apparently, the Press Enterprise took some heat from the city over this to the point where the city didn't want to place paid announcements in the publication but had no choice because apparently there was no other venue to do that.

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