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, May 16, 2010

Contracts Are Like Counting Daisies...Honor This One...Break This One...Honor...

The Center of River City's Current Firestorm

[After the city poured millions of dollars into this theater's renovation after seizing it through eminent domain, allegations arise of serious problems with its management of its operations and personnel in just a few short months after its grand opening in January.]

The city's been pouring tens of millions into the downtown ensuring that people with big wallets inside and outside of Riverside have more venues to dump their money rather than take it to Los Angeles and Orange Counties for their entertainment needs. Then it entered into a multi-year $200,000 contract with consultant, William Malone to manage the theater which as it turned out, might not have been much better of a financial investment. But Riverside should really learn that the bulk of its population is working class and not wealthy and that the majority of its population hasn't been to university which in this country and state can sharply reduce an individual's earning power. But regardless, these individuals are much more likely to "shop Riverside" for their goods and entertainment than their wealthier counterparts.

Even Orange County's cities have figured that out but a bit slow.

Yet Riverside's government has limited the development of entertainment opportunities for the bulk of its city residents especially in the downtown area where it's trying to create a playground for an older, wealthier crowd and over the years, has grown less and less friendly to families. This decreases the odds that the downtown area will ever really be anything but a day hangout for the public sector employees and those who go to the city and county facilities and the federal and state courts to conduct their business. Riverside's governmental officials kept lauding how affordable the Fox Theater was to Riverside's residents when many were just scraping by and had to greatly reduce their entertainment budgets during the most difficult economic period since the Great Depression in the 1930s that because of the high unemployment rate is still going on. In fact, Riverside's not expected to "rebound" from the latest recession until 2013 at the earliest.

But some of the people who were telling people to "support" the Fox Theater with their money were themselves getting tickets subsidized by Riverside's residents. So it's hard to look at the Fox Theater as anything but providing entertainment for those who can afford it to a very limited degree (and with little in the way of money going back to the citys' general fund) on the backs of everyone else (through the massive expenditure towards the city-owned theater). The city's approved even more questionable projects to prop up the Fox Theater including a hotel during the worst economic climate for hotels in the region with the highest foreclosure rates on hotels and inns in the state. Stimulus money, maybe, but who provides the funds for that?

[Riverside Councilmen Mike Gardner and Paul Davis having discussions about what's been going on with Fox Theater and its management during the past few months.]

With all the allegations involving what's gone down at the Fox Theater with general manager William Malone and whether or not there were contract violations or other improprieties going on has generated no small amount of controversy and upset at City Hall. Councilman Paul Davis came forward and said he had evidence of misconduct involving the Fox Theater and complaints by various individuals and that the city needed new management at the tax payer subsidized theater and an audit of its financial books. There's been several lengthy meetings on this issue and there will be more of them. But the fallout of what's been going down won't be known until later on down the road.

Other elected officials most notably Adams have been upset at Davis' allegations as they would if anyone dared criticize City Hall. Now Adams if you examine his own history of running things or trying to run city departments, you'll understand that this is one of those glass houses kind of deals. But that's part and parcel of most of the individuals sitting on the dais to not want to even really look too closely at what their direct employees especially City Manager Brad Hudson and City Attorney Gregory Priamos are actually doing. Which means that the city council as a voting legislative body that oversees these two employees probably isn't really equipped to provide any real direction to them as a legislative majority. This is italicized because of the reality that minority interests on the dais have given direction to city employees like Hudson and Priamos in the past, including with how city departments are run like the Riverside Police Department and even the handling of boards and commissions like the Community Police Review Commission. In these latter two cases, Adams and former city councilman, Frank Schiavone were as former Police Chief Russ Leach (who shared housing with Schiavone for a period of time up to Schiavone's ill-fated reelection bid last year) constantly all over the department.

Adams' role in the police department's so prominent that apparently if people in the department want to get promoted into upper management, they need to clear the air with him first. Apparently he had more control over the promotional process as a councilman than he ever did as a rank and file officer while he worked at the department. But both he and Schiavone were alleged in a lawsuit to have gone around telling individuals in the police department how much control that they had.

But when it comes to allegations about contract violations and even breached contracts, it's really even harder to view this Fox Theater debacle as an isolated event because it's really not in that category at all. After all, there have been allegations of contract violations and breaches involving the city manager's office since Hudson and Assistant City Manager Brad Hudson first arrived in their positions in the summer of 2005 by most of the city's bargaining units beginning not long after they first arrived. And when labor unions have taken these complaints and grievances through the legal channels, the city usually comes out on the losing end.

But it's important to go back in time when Hudson and DeSantis first began playing with this whole concept of contracts.

The Long, Hot Summer of 2006

[Hudson and DeSantis' alleged handling of contract negotiations with ab0ut a half dozen of the city's bargaining units led to three lawsuits, two city council rallies and one strike vote. ]

The contracts should have all been negotiated and signed by summer, the heads of several of the citys' bargaining units said about July 2005 when in actuality, only two contracts with the SEIU Local and the Riverside Firefighters Association had been signed after Hudson and DeSantis allegedly engaged in violation of the "good faith" negotiations with another union, the Riverside Police Officers' Association. In order to get the two other labor unions to sign on the dotted line, the city management allegedly told them that their medical benefits would be in line with what the RPOA would be receiving under its own contract. The problem with that is that while Hudson and DeSantis allegedly made these promises to the two unions to get their contracts in order, they were in active negotiations with the RPOA including over medical benefit issues. So essentially, they were making promises to the SEIU and RFA negotiation teams over what they claimed the RPOA would get when as far as the RPOA was concerned, those issues were still under "good faith" negotiation.

The RPOA got wind of what had happened and its leadership confronted city management and in response, it was locked out of its own contract negotiations for nearly two months. But then most of the bargaining units had complaints about the negotiation tactics of city management most particularly those utilized by DeSantis who they said would place something on the table, the unions would accept it and then for some reason, DeSantis would withdraw it. Kind of like Lucy Van Pelt pulling the football out from Charlie Brown, in the Peanuts cartoons.

Whether the city management team was too inexperienced in this area to know better or simply didn't care, the labor negotiations continued to drag and the city council and mayor back then were more inclined to run interference for their golden boy than to redirect him towards more productive behavior.

At any rate, the rallies started during city council meetings, first by the SEIU and then later, by both police unions and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. This latter rally took place in early September and attracted hundreds of police officers and community leaders to speak out on the violations of the labor negotiations which resulted in the RPOA being locked out of negotiations when they complained about them. Why the city government allowed this situation to linger on for several months without taking a leadership stance with their city manager just goes to show how tentative the city council historically has been when reining in the excesses of those it employs.

The SEIU took the strike vote, and the lawsuits were filed by the SEIU, the RPOA and the Riverside Police Administrators' Association. The latter lawsuit was filed over the alleged violation of a 2004 MOU item related to health benefits and the percentile differential between those received by lieutenants from those of sergeants (who are currently members of the RPOA). Before the lawsuit, then president Lt. Darryl Hurt had met with the city management to address issues from the MOU in conflict. He also addressed the city council and Mayor Ron Loveridge who said that they would talk with city management about the resolution of these problematic issues.

In June 2006, the RPAA voted to sue the city for breach of contract in relation to alleged violations of its MOU with the city without any dissenting vote cast. And apparently the news of that didn't please Hudson and DeSantis at all. According to a lawsuit later filed by Hurt and Lt. Tim Bacon in U.S. District Court, the management duo went to police management representatives including those who were members of the RPAA and demanded to know who voted to file the lawsuit against the city. Hudson and DeSantis wanted the name of every union member whose vote contributed to that decision. The management in turn said that they were told by the two men that the union needed to be careful about what it was doing because Hudson and DeSantis were vengeful and would retaliate.

On July 18, 2006, the RPAA formerly filed its lawsuit against the city and while the city filed a motion against it for dismissal, it lost and then offered a settlement to the RPAA which was voted down by its membership in January 2007. It was alleged that Hudson and DeSantis wanted a list of names of union members who had voted in favor of rejecting the settlement.

That went down several months before the city management's move to convert two RPAA positions as being "at will", in what was seen as an attempt to "union bust" by that office.

It's very interesting if indeed Hudson and DeSantis were so eager to get a list of RPAA members who had voted twice to file and then further the lawsuit filed against the city. One doesn't have to speculate for very long the purpose of obtaining such a list. It would clearly be done as a means to discover who was involved with the legal action by the city and to naturally send them all thank you letters for voting to sue the city.

The city later settled all the labor lawsuits filed against it as it usually does in these cases. But is it any real coincidence that the first time that the new city management team had to involve itself in labor negotiations that it's the stormiest process in recent history? And while all this intrigue was taking place, Hudson and DeSantis had also been entrusted by the city council through a unanimous vote taken during a public workshop in March 2006 to implement a plan to oversee the continued implementation of the original Strategic Plan for the police department by contracting with a police practices consultant who would then do quarterly audits for two years.

Well, it took a couple of months but it turned out that Hudson and DeSantis not only hadn't achieved that task entrusted to them by the city council and mayor but had apparently tried to reengage on the terms provided by the city council and reduce the terms of the contract with the consultant. This was an attempt to low ball the consultant so that he wouldn't sign a contract with the city manager's office and then Hudson and DeSantis could go back to the city council and mayor and say that he asked for too much money, even though the city council had voted to agree to contract negotiations. You might call that having a Plan B and Hudson allegedly even went to an individual in the State Attorney General's office to assist him in getting the consultant to take a lower offer by using his position as a assistant attorney general but this individual did not cooperate. It's quite probable that the Attorney General's office including its criminal division were getting weary of having to address the actions taken by Hudson and DeSantis involving Leach and the police department since they first arrived in 2005. No less than three investigations were launched by the criminal division involving the city management and the police department by this office in less than two years.

Yet the city council including two members who were tied into what was going on to the police department in other areas didn't appear to address these pressing issues in their evaluations of Hudson's job performance. Odd, considering how much was actually taking place behind closed doors involving the fate of the city's law enforcement department and strong suspicions that the city manager's office was misusing its powers and its resources for personal reasons.

That sorry episode involving the firestorm over labor negotiations and the failure of Hudson to ensure the continuation of the Strategic Plan was covered by this blog extensively while it was playing out including in a blog posting titled, "What Would Lockyer Think" which as it turned out, was read by then State Attorney General Bill Lockyer and things got really interesting after that. But eventually Hudson was redirected to deliver on that contract by the same city council members that had been running interference for him for months because this all went down before a pivotal election cycle for several of them.

But by then, most of the department's management had gone astray in pushing the Strategic Plan and the department in the direction that both needed to go. The department became mired in this failure of management and its continued reform process was jeopardized. And there wasn't any real leadership in the department or City Hall including on the dais to really steer things right for very long. Does that problem still exist today? In the wake of the disruption of the police department in the wake of Leach's DUI incident the answer to that appears quite obvious at least to most people. And in the light of the damage that has been done to the department over the past five years by City Hall, it's not that hard to see the current situation involving the management of a publicly owned theater in a similar light as part of a larger pattern and practice of missteps and problematic management practices in this city. At least the city council's waking up from its ennui with the Fox Theater even as it slept through most of the mismanagement of the police department.

But it's unlikely that you'll see much leadership from the dais on either of these issues besides that exercised by Davis and possibly Gardner. Since Councilman Andrew Melendrez is running for mayor, he won't want to make any waves to upset that apple cart. The others are too indecisive in terms of understanding that they lead the city management. It doesn't lead them, which appears to be an easy concept to grasp until it involves someone like Councilwoman Nancy Hart who chairs the Finance Committee and doesn't allow that body to meet until she gets the okay from Asst. City Manager of Finance Paul Sundeen.

And What of those Police Department Promotional Lists?

One of the most complicated situations in the city involves the decision of who will get to promote officers within the police department. But it's also one of the easiest to answer and that is that these decisions appear to have been left to a cast of characters at City Hall during the past five years at least at the highest levels. The process involving the promotions of upper management including captains was changed about five years ago not long after Hudson and DeSantis first rode into town. A series of promotions followed during the next several years and those who followed had to take a few steps outside of the customary process of promotions given that not only was Leach involved in making this decision but so were individuals inside City Hall including at least one elected official who alone, approved one promotion and vetoed another in the captain's rank.

City Hall was so impressed with what it had done with the upper management promotions even though it had failed to make the captain's rank and above, "at will" because its first dominoes didn't fall properly. In fact, the happiness with this process led to changes first with the lieutenant's promotional process and then that involving the sergeants. The city and department still ranked candidates on numerical lists but those involved in the process were now free to promote from anywhere on the lists, meaning that if the preferred candidate were say, #11 on the list, that person could be promoted over the 10 candidates higher on the list. That happened in July 2008 when Leon Phillips was promoted to lieutenant. It also happened this past January when the #6 candidate, Andy Flores was promoted over the five ahead of him on the list which included three women and one African-American male sergeant.

Flores who had worked under Capt. Mike Blakely and Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa in Personnel and Training hasn't been lieutenant long enough to evaluate his performance but in the case of Phillips, he had been serving as the watch commander during the graveyard shift on Feb. 8 when Leach had been drinking, popping prescription medication and driving in two counties as well as the city of Riverside where he was ultimately pulled over. Even though clearly DUI (and his extrapolated blood alcohol level was estimated at 0.22), he wasn't tested nor was he evaluated even though the two patrol officers clearly had done just this by listing off to California Highway Patrol investigators their list of objective signs of drunkness in Leach while they were interviewed for the belated DUI investigation.

But the patrol officers after calling for supervision in the form of DUI expert Sgt. Frank Orta were essentially patted on the head and dispatched away from the scene of the traffic stop while the coverup began. Phillips at some point was contacted out of the blue at 3 a.m. by current acting chief, DeLaRosa's cell phone and the two conversed twice during the time of the stop. About what exactly only they know and in the aftermath of the firestorm erupting from the stop, DeLaRosa kept his watch commander under close surveillance in some cases threatening to veto his friends from talking to him without DeLaRosa being present. It's pretty clear under the hubris that Phillips was ordered by DeLaRosa to arrange a ride (and not in the back of a squad car in handcuffs) home and not to investigate him for DUI. And Phillips agreed to do it perhaps in an attempt to keep his job.

Phillips has been described as highly ethical but also as someone who would take orders from superiors and carry them out without question which makes it clear that someone higher than him ordered him to not investigate Leach for the DUI. But it makes one wonder if that quality of complete deferrence to the chain of command is what led to a candidate ranked at #11 to become the first choice for lieutenant ahead of 10 other candidates. It does put that candidate in a no-win situation when it comes to having to face being given an unethical and potentially illegal order by a superior officer. But whether or not the changes in the promotional system for lieutenants helped create the situation which erupted in Riverside earlier this year is not clear but the indications are that this process might have already created some serious problems.

Both the sergeant and lieutenant lists are fairly diverse at the top, with three women and an African-American male dominating the top five positions of the lieutenant's list including its top spot. On the sergeant's list, a woman and an African-American male detective are near the top of that list. Previously there had been two women in upper positions of the sergeant's list but neither one of them or the African-American male detective were promoted to sergeant when three positions were unfrozen in January. There was quite a bit of furor over the passing over of five women in the promotional process and not long after, Det. Linda Byerly who had over 20 years of experience including eight in investigations was promoted to sergeant with many people thinking that this should have happened in the previous promotional round given that wealth of experience and the reality that a position had been given to a male officer whose termination from the department had been purged.

She was the third and final detective who worked on the investigation of former officer, Robert Forman to be promoted to sergeant following two men, Julian Hutzler (now assigned to Internal Affairs) and Michael Barney who both hailed from the Oceanside Police Department. Most people expect her to easily pass probation given her abilities, experience and her work ethic but that's been a tougher road for females in supervision than their male counterparts in recent years.

Women, African-Americans Not Promoted into Supervision After Consent Decree

The other female candidate on the sergeant's list was ranked #2 and has been on the lists awaiting promotion for over four years. The African-American detective on that same list has been on it for over three years, has worked a variety of assignments and has a Bachelor's degree from a university. Until Byerly's promotion, no female or African-American male candidate has been promoted into supervision since before the dissolution of the stipulated judgment in 2006 even those holding high positions on the lists. There had been no "successful" promotion of a female officer into supervision since Michelle Jackson's promotion to sergeant in November 2005. This is a pretty interesting statistic and it would be even more interesting to do a statistical study on the promotions of Black and female officers into the supervisory levels during the period of the consent decree and compare it with records from after its dissolution.

Currently, three women comprise the top five positions on the lieutenants' list amid rumors that the list might expire prematurely well ahead of its natural period of expiration sometime in October 2010. The hiring of the police chief is cited as a reason why this might take place but it still makes you wonder that if these rumors are true, if that has to do with the composition of the list which currently is as follows:

The RPD Lieutenant Candidates (by race and gender)

1) Jaybee Brennan (white, female)

2) Daniel Hoxmeier (white, male)

3) Lisa Williams (white, female)

4) Val Graham (black, male)

5) Melissa Bartholomew (white, female)

6) Andy Flores (Hispanic, male)---promoted, now White male

7-13) White males

It's interesting to note how much representation there are by women in the top five which kind of eliminates at least on this list the usual argument about there being "low numbers" of female candidates. It's not clear if the women were passed over solely on the basis of gender as Hoxmeier (another high ranking candidate) who's been on the list for a while has been passed over as well that means that if gender and even race play a role in the promotional process, that other factors do as well and one that is mentioned often is whether or not candidates play for the right "team" meaning that just like in the entertainment where you have "Team Jennifer" and "Team Angelina" when it comes to who should have Brad Pitt, inside the department there are certain "teams" with allegience to certain management personnel as well, including "Team Leach" and for a while, "Team DeLaRosa".

At the moment, the teams are changing because management personnel is also changing and in fact, especially if there's a chain of retirement parties in the future, this dynamic could change quite a bit. Apparently this isn't an uncommon dynamic inside city departments including public safety agencies. But the formation of such teams can lead to fragmentation inside a department particularly if the leaders of such teams are at odds or in competition with one another as happened in the Riverside Police Department. Allegations were made against Leach's promotional process as favoring members of his "team" including those who allegedly went drinking with him or on vacations and similar allegations arose with DeLaRosa and his "team" especially when DeLaRosa briefly rose to power, an ascension tempered by revelations of his involvement in the handling of Leach's traffic stop. Many candidates didn't feel like they even had a chance at promotion because they weren't in the "right" camp or drinking crowd (or even in a crowd at all).

The obvious problem with promoting on the basis of membership on whatever team captain's in power at the time is that it potentially creates a situation where you could have one person promoted who is loyal to his or her captain but may be at odds with the other one. And what if this team player's captain asks or orders this individual to engage in questionable behavior? It would be great to say that the team player would say no, of course not but that didn't happen in Leach's case and it's not clear that the refusal to follow an illegal order would result in anything else but severe professional repercussions to the officer refusing the order inside this police department. If an officer refused to carry out a questionable or illegal order by his "team captain" or anyone else, would they be investigated for insubordination, which can bring with it severe penalties? Did someone like Phillips or Orta for that matter believe so?

The rumors of the endangerment of this list centered around the role played by one particular captain in trying to ensure that individuals he or she had mentored were afforded better positions on the list than they currently hold. In fact, several lieutenant candidates mentored by this individual didn't pass the required test and others didn't make the top 10. So will this list be scrapped prematurely in the guise of giving the incoming chief a new list of candidates and if so, what would this new list look like? Because a new chief who's completely outside of the department will come in knowing very little about its employees and the politics so if given the task of making promotions, the new chief might pay closer attention to the ranking of candidates on the list, at least if the chief has any semblance of autonomy over this process which given the history of Riverside definitely won't be a given.

It's ironic that if this is indeed true that this would happen with the lieutenant's list showing more diversity near the top than perhaps it ever did, at least in terms of gender. But it remains to be seen whether or not this will transpire and what will be the outcome and potential fallout of such an action.

Dan Bernstein of the Press Enterprise writes on the Fox Theater.

A former Redlands Police Department lieutenant is jailed on child molestation charges.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board endorses Paul Zellerbach for Riverside County district attorney.


Riverside County can do better. Zellerbach vows to initiate policies that will ease the court clogs, including giving prosecutors more discretion to resolve cases without trials. And he would bring a cooperative approach to both court business and the county budget, instead of Pacheco's confrontational stance.

Zellerbach is not blemish-free, but voters should put an incident Pacheco raises about his challenger in context. Zellerbach left a murder trial during jury deliberations in 2004 -- only to have the jury reach a verdict with the judge not available to hear it. The state Commission on Judicial Performance in 2006 reprimanded him for that act. Zellerbach admits he made a mistake and takes responsibility for his error. And that one lapse hardly justifies re-electing a district attorney who has repeatedly demonstrated poor judgment on the job.

Riverside County does not need four more years of a DA more interested in posturing than practical policy. The office needs a leader who can fight crime without abusing the courts or public coffers. Zellerbach promises change, and voters should accept that offer.

Musings about problems in Menifee, the city.

Public Meetings

Monday, May 17 at 10 a.m.
The Public Safety Committee will discuss this agenda on registration for a reverse 911 system.

Tuesday, May 18 at 3 and 6:30 p.m.
Riverside will be holding its weekly city council meeting and discussing and voting on this agenda. Looks like a pretty short agenda.

Wednesday, May 19 at 12:00 p.m. The Community Police Review Commission has a meeting scheduled but will the body make quorum to take any reportable action given that four of its members voted to pass a motion to change meeting times knowing some of their own members couldn't attend? At any rate, whoever does show will be discussing this agenda.

Is the Inland Empire doomed by this geological chain of events?

The jury is still out about whether or not this region could boast beachfront properties some day.

A Wireless Network Splits?

[Three different ATTMETROFREE signals compete for identification under the network management system of Windows Vista Computers. This bug occurs when the wi fi signal weakens and the management system identifies them as separate ISPs. This can slow the network speed down and/or completely inhibit the upstreaming of outgoing packets so that sending emails is very difficult and impossible even if page loading isn't impacted. If it happens, the fix is to load your networks list and to then disable your wireless card, go back and delete the excess networks and then re-enable your wireless card.

For example, downloading each photograph above took 10 minutes and several attempts on the Wi fi due to reduced upstreaming. ]

Riverside Police Chief Search

With all the rumored candidates out there, this should be a very, very interesting process that lies ahead. Individuals applying from different agencies in Southern California and across the nation. The current applicants stands at 60 but the city management plans to narrow it down to 10 finalists to be interviewed by a panel of individuals from different backgrounds selected by Hudson. Among those rumored to be applying for the chief's position is a blast from the past, a different era in the Riverside Police Department who didn't completely turn himself out to pasture but is working in a well-paying position in the public sector. Could it be that he is applying for the chance to return to his roots? Where he had almost made it to the top of the blue summit but not quite?

Remember which individuals spoke out publicly from the city wanting an "insider" and what's the next best thing if there's no one left inside?

Also, a key player in the ill-fated Feb. 8 DUI accident and traffic stop involving Leach has been retired by the city.

Stay Tuned....

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