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, March 01, 2010

Brad Hudson to Human Resources Board: "You just aren't going to see that anymore."

[The Human Resources Board meets on the fifth floor during the first Monday of each month at City Hall.]

[ Newly elected Human Resources Board president, Ellie Bennett and member, Woodie Rucker-Hughes participate in discussion at a monthly meeting.]

City Manager Brad Hudson Establishes Perimeters for Human Resources Board

The Human Resources Board met on March 1 and showed signs of struggling to redefine its role under the city’s charter and ordinances after two of its members including outgoing chair, Erin House met with City Manager Brad Hudson. The board had wanted to meet with Hudson since the issuance of his directive which forbade the board from interviewing the city’s department heads. This arose after the Board had wished to interview Development Director Deanna Larsen over the high number of employees leaving that department during her tenure in that position. Hudson told the board that it couldn't interview department heads but it had to leave that task to Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout.

Hudson appeared at the Human Resource Board meeting to clarify his directive leaving some board members believing that he had changed his mind. Not really as it turned out, he may have instead been looking for a better choice of lexicon. He told them that Strout and Deputy Human Resources Director Jeremy Hammond could handle most of the issues that would arise. Hudson even said he had no problem with his department heads providing statistics to the board but any “concerns” or “challenges” with department heads, should be sent directly to him and not the city council.

“The city council will just send it back to me,” Hudson explained, “With these caveats, I’m cool with you doing what you need.”

Hudson further addressed several of the powers once employed by the board including that to look into employee grievances.

“You are never going to see one of those again,” Hudson said, adding that the employee would hire lawyers and it would go through City Attorney Gregory Priamos’ office.

In regards to the board’s ability to conduct investigations and utilize subpoena power (which by charter, is assigned to a board and commission by the city council), Hudson was equally dismissive.

“You are just not going to see that anymore,” he said, before suggesting essentially that the board find other things to do with its time and energy.

Hudson then told the board he was a member of it as well as all the other city boards and commissions, a power granted to him by the charter. He just rarely attended any of the meetings. But then again, he really doesn't have to do that.

Board member Jackie Rawlins looked at him and said in two years attending meetings, she didn’t remember seeing him.

“I never met you,” Rawlins said.

Hudson moved on to a different topic and provided an update on how the city was operating with 200 fewer employees due to layoffs and unfilled vacancies but providing eight times the services as previously. He added that there were fewer employee grievances perhaps because the employees were too busy to file them. The city council voted to restore step pay and merit pay, which meant that employees went from saying he was the worst city manager in the state to the best. He then moved back to suggesting that the board redefine its mission and essentially find something to do because some of its powers were no longer able to be used.

One board member asked him about the hiring process for the new police chief and that the board could play an instrumental role in that process. Hudson didn’t seem thrilled to hear that comment but went on to say how it was going to be a “pretty laborious process” what with gathering community input and utilizing a “headhunter”. They would work diligently during the next few months to come up with five to six candidates who would meet the qualifications and the expectations of city residents.

After he left, the board members held elections and elected former vice-chair Ellie Bennett as chair and Art Butler as vice-chair. The board discussed redefining its vision for the future as suggested by Hudson and facilitated by Strout. A couple of members also wanted the board members to keep a close watch on the recruitment and hiring process for the new police chief including proposing to Hudson to appoint members of the board to at least one of the interview panels.

But the discussion about its role as a board continued as Robbin Treen, one of the members who had met with Hudson essentially said that Hudson told them that the exercising of certain powers wasn’t going to happen and they could wait all day. They had to think of something else to do, Hudson advised. The board was not in the position to push on anyone or cause displeasure. Bennett said that they should spend some time on developing that vision statement and then run it past Hudson and the legal department.

Treen wanted the board to play a more active role in issues.

“We don’t want to just sit here,” he said, “We want to do something.”

Bennett said that the board shouldn’t be viewed as “acrimonious” because it was comprised of members who were there because they really cared. They weren’t getting paid nor were they on the front page of the newspaper.

And so with that discussion, it’s clear that the city management has launched its power play against another one of the city’s boards like it had done earlier with others including most notably the Community Police Review Commission. This time involving a board that answers not to that office but the city council. Not a mean feat actually in the discipline of micromanagement. Plus, all the blame can be put by Hudson's office on its nemesis, the City Attorney's office, something that no doubt will absolutely thrill its head, Gregory Priamos.

Strout did tell the board that six more employees mostly in the Public Works Department were laid off on Monday, Feb. 22.

A Wrinkle Appears in the $25 million Downtown Hotel Proposal

Chamber of Commerce torn between Hotels and City Council?

Let's get ready to rumble. Two downtown hotels voice their objections to the $25 million deal for the Hyatt hotel including the owner of the Mission Inn Hotel who himself benefited from money from the city's coffer when he renovated the landmark structure. With these two high weights now piqued at the deal, the Greater Chamber of Commerce is reconsidering its support of the city's position on the loan, in an emergency board meeting. Is a face off of some sorts looming in the downtown business sphere?

If the Chamber withdraws its support and joins in with the two hotel owners, it could be a test of its influence on the current city council and thus could shape the direction taken by a few key city council elections taking place next year.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The new Hyatt would open in 2012, but Barry Lall, president of Marriott owner Pinnacle Hotels, said he doesn't expect a rebound in revenues until at least 2014.

"The concern is that whilst we're suffering significantly, whilst we're trying to keep our doors open, we're hearing that a developer is going to be given public funds to build a hotel," Lall said Friday. "That just seems totally irresponsible."

In a letter to Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge, Mission Inn owner Duane Roberts wrote that "there is little the city could do to cause greater economic harm" to hotels than to grant the Hyatt loan.

If the Hyatt project is viable, Lall said, the developer should be able to get private funding.

But Siavash Barmand, principal with MetroRiverside, said there's simply no private financing out there right now, and projects like the hotel are what these stimulus bonds were intended for.

"If we hadn't taken advantage of this, the bond capacity would have been taken away from the city" and doled out elsewhere, Barmand said.

But it's interesting how the two hotel owners already downtown see the picture for new hotels and even more established ones as being fairly bleak (and the foreclosure rate for hotels is highest in the Inland Empire) and a new hotel a threat to their profit making. Would a new hotel drive room prices down at places like the Mission Inn that provide prices that few people in this city can afford? Possibly. But a good point was raised about putting the cart before the horse and hopefully there will be more discussion of that, because usually hotels are the last pieces of the economic puzzle to be added when commercially developing an area for entertainment and commerce (through shopping and eating at restaurants) purposes. The person who will have to navigate through this field of land mines will be current Ward One (and downtown) Councilman Mike Gardner who is up for reelection next year. The two hotels are big players in the economic and political scene in the downtown world.

But then Gardner won election through a grass roots campaign in large part because many Ward One voters were weary of having elected representatives who only focused on the downtown at the expense of the rest of the spacious ward.

It remains to be seen what will happen in this situation but the city council is meeting to vote on the $25 million worth of certificates of participation for the proposed hotel and a parking garage for the Fox Theater at 3 p.m.

City Hall Prepares for New Chief Forums

As City Hall readies itself to hold three community forums regarding the hiring of the next Riverside Police Department chief, city residents are still discussing what really happened during the early morning hours of Feb. 8 and the aftermath of what took place involving the former police chief, Russ Leach. The police department continues to crack down on vehicles being driven about town on flattened tires and several officers including those involved in the Leach incident are conducting DUI investigations and have been arresting and booking these errant and intoxicated drivers at the local county jail. By doing so, the police department has shown how it handles mere mortals driving about on flat tires which means in several cited incidents that the officers have conducted DUI investigations and in these cases, arrests of the motorists.

But that just generates greater concerns and more questions about the handling of the traffic stop involving Leach after he had crashed his car and had driven around missing both tires on the left side of his black Chrysler 300 and totally confused about what had happened. Why were these other individuals who were probably not "high profile" individuals (as defined under Hudson's policy which apparently was violated by the department in Leach's case) arrested and booked while Leach's case didn't even warrant a DUI investigation in the face of evidence presented indicating that this process should have been done? Even as that question gets asked again and again in different venues, the city still continues to sweep the whole affair underneath the rug in the guise of a "sweeping" investigation that will never see the light of day. Essentially the so-called investigation of a coverup which will naturally, be covered up. The secrecy of this probe will no doubt be a key issue that will be raised during the four city council races up for grabs in 2011. Because if there was any impropriety then those in City Hall who participate in that code of silence are accomplices after the fact and that's how they'll likely be viewed by the public.

But while the city fiddles in terms of what to do with the ongoing and highly secretive Hudson Probe, the city manager will be moderating three forums in the Eastside, Orangecrest and La Sierra areas of the city for input on the next chief. Interesting given that the past chief, Leach, was rarely ever seen by the city's residents during the last several years of his tenure with the city. Some questions were included in the city's press release for city residents to consider while attending these forums but one question was noticeable in its absence and that involves whether the new chief will be micromanaged by the city manager's office. Whether he or she will actually be a police chief or a puppet. Hudson has waved the city's charter around a lot lately and with the police department he does so saying that he has the final word on hiring, firing and promoting. It will probably take him all of five minutes before he does that with any newly hired police chief.

Which is interesting indeed considering that allegations have been raised that positions in the upper management had been pushed toward being at will by Hudson's office in 2007 and that several promotions were initially given out under the condition that those promoted would be working "at will" at least before the big showdown at a city council meeting in March 2007. That showdown turned out to be a pivotal moment in the path taken by the police department in ways that weren't known until later on.

Any new chief from the outside will be at a disadvantage when hired because of being shut out of a major aspect involving the department which is the Hudson probe, given that the police department's investigative division handling it will ultimately be reporting to him with the new police chief left out of the loop. Hiring inhouse of course would be problematic because many city residents believe that there was an attempt to cover up Leach's accident and resultant stop by members of the command staff and nothing the city has released or said so far has dampened that perception. Given that the only information the city has released is a police report by Sgt. Frank Orta that has raised more questions than it can even begin to answer. The city has pretty much guaranteed that this perception of upper management involvement in the situation involving Leach will continue unabated due in part to the secrecy of the Hudson Probe.

City Wi Fi Update

AT&T is repairing up to 14 pieces of equipment that experienced damage in a rain storm 3-4 weeks ago. New parts have been ordered to replace those that experienced problems and they will be installed in the devices. The outages numbered 13 and have impacted fairly large areas of Riverside including La Sierra and Canyon Crest/Mission Grove.

The Riverside National Guard Armory at Fairmont Park might be moving.

A man fights a parking ticket he received from Riverside after parking legally downtown.

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