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

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Former Councilman Frank Schiavone being Investigated for Influencing a Witness in Leach Case

[The investigation into the DUI incident involving Riverside's former police chief reaches inside City Hall as a former elected official is allegedly investigated for tampering with a witness.]

"The pen is mightier than the sword."

---former President and anti-government gadfly, John Adams

"A frequent recurrence to fundamental absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty and keep a government"

---Congressman, inventor and treasonist, Benjamin Franklin

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."

---U.S. President, university founder and anti-government activist, Thomas Jefferson

"They don't know how big my cock is and I'm going to put this big cock up them."

---allegedly said by former Riverside City Councilman Frank Schiavone, champion of democracy and decorum at City Hall, to two officers who were to testify about it, according to court records.

I read this blog posting with interest after reading about how the latest revelations involving the alleged criminal conduct by a former councilman, Frank Schiavone have finally hit the press. I wrote this posting in response to the litany of events and incidents that have been placing Riverside in the national spotlight or have been painting a portrait of how San Bernardino County isn't the only place in the Inland Empire that needs to clean up its act. Did it provoke some thought or some reaction? Perhaps and that's fair enough but I fully stand by what I wrote and the stories that the Press Enterprise has covered in recent months make it clear that there's reason to think about seriously examining what's going in Riverside's sphere of powers. That includes inside its halls and perhaps even restaurants where decisions that impact the pockets of developers as well as each and every city resident and city employee have been made. And the daily newspaper provided one more compelling reason why this is necessary just today!

You would think anyone could figure that out when police chiefs drive drunk, crash and then there's efforts to cover that up and more important and offensive than that, this entitlement and expectation floating around that it will be covered up. You would think that when elected officials have the city's residents pay their legal fees generated by their work as private developers and City Attorney Gregory Priamos defended that action including in public, interesting now that Schiavone's involvement in the Bradley Estates debacle is also being investigated by Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco's office.

Consequently, it's very unlikely that Priamos is any viable force for the restoral of accountability, democracy and certainly not transparency at City Hall by doing what one media outlet apparently advocated, which was suing anyone who disagrees with how the city government does business and voices that in a public forum. And isn't doing that and advocacy of going after alternate media outlets who some might believe are "anti-establishment" or "anti-government" simply because they are critical, popular actions themselves of just about every Communist regime? The methods and tools may be different but the intent and often the results are the same, and that's to silence dissent.

Beware of fighting the enemy, including Communism, that you don't become it.

Advocating the government to use whatever tools it chooses or you recommend to silence its critics at meetings or through the press is not democratic and is in itself anti-government. Which includes the filing of what are essentially SLAPP suits which are lawsuits filed to discourage public participation by threatening to charge their targets with the city's legal fees. Their only purpose for a government is to inhibit the public expression or use of democratic mechanisms by city residents. And this blog regularly posts strategies that can be followed by city residents or anyone else who finds themselves the target of such lawsuits, because there are laws in place to protect you from being SLAPPed.

In fact, Priamos, this blogger's champion of choice, allegedly had tried to deny in the wake of Leach's accident that alcohol was involved in that incident and as we all know, that's utter hogwash. In the past, he has sent out letters cced to the former police chief to individuals threatening them with arrest for being too boisterous (yet those who are loud, or "obnoxious" and less critical of the government don't receive them). Priamos upon direction of his bosses has also filed civil litigation against community grass-roots organizations for doing the very "anti-government" practice of gathering signatures for ballot measures. Yet at the same time, the city council members are allowed to insult the public by making personal attacks as happened to several people who have spoken in front of the city council. The only time these elected officials soften their rhetoric is when running for office.

Not that the city residents haven't responded loudly including at the polls sending council members Dom Betro and Frank Schiavone (both who engaged in obnoxious behavior on and in a couple well known cases off the dais) back into the private sector and nearly sent another, Steve Adams (who does like) packing. Some other city council members felt bullied or even intimidated by some of these former council members and they certainly looked and acted like it. Some members engage themselves in ways that challenge what needs to be challenged but the vocal majority that the city council needs is lacking in terms of taking more of a role in ensuring accountability and transparency in city government.

Democracy in action by the majority of the voters in those respective wards to vote in or out their own elected representatives as they saw fit. Riversiders have made it clear time and time again, that they want a government that's accountable, accessible, civil to it and transparent. And you know what, there are no more pro-democracy sentiments that could be raised concerning government than those four qualities that I hear expressed by city residents including those who read this blog time and time again. People really dislike what has been going on in Riverside during the past several years in how elected officials act in their capacities as public servants in the areas of accountability and transparency and the Leach incident brought that to the forefront.

And now surprise, surprise a former city councilman already sued for threatening two police lieutenants who didn't back him politically is the subject of two separate investigations by the Riverside County District Attorney's office, with one of those investigations, the witness tampering one, hitting the press. And guess what, the residents of this city have no role in making any of the above individuals commit these actions, alleged or otherwise. These individuals all made the decision to do what they did, just as at least two members of upper police management made the decision to hide behind their own code of silence while hanging lower ranking officers including two new patrol officers to dry just for having the misfortune to have to perform a traffic stop on their boss who was drinking and driving at the time. These individuals in the face of what's been exposed still have remained silent on their roles in the Leach incident including any involved parties at City Hall.

What can be more anti-police than threatening officers who don't buckle down to endorsing you for office? Saying that you intend to sodomize them (which Schiavone did according to an officer and the approximate language used is above) is acceptable conduct by an elected official in Riverside? Where is the outrage about that from anyone who would advocate the lawsuits against city residents for much less?

When did that become acceptable behavior, at the same time it became acceptable for the police chief to receive a ride home after a DUI stop when most city residents would have been carted off to jail? And unfortunately when it comes to questionable actions taken by city management and current and former elected officials involving the operations of the police department, there's plenty more where that came from and you'll be reading about some of it here in the days and weeks ahead. After reading some of what has been happening outside any semblance of a democratic process in Riverside during the next few weeks here, perhaps the other blogger will have a better understanding of why this blog's posts are not designed to flatter or promote City Hall if they don't have that understanding already.

Not that this blog won't and hasn't praised City Hall and the police department when they do their jobs but it's really hard to read and to listen to the stories I've heard about what's not praise-worthy, to take out a pair of pom poms and serve as the city's cheer leading section when it engages in questionable conduct. Besides, not all of us look good with pom poms!

Is there a Communist Conspiracy Against River City?

It's very unlikely that there's a conspiracy, Communist or otherwise, to destroy our government in Riverside. And no, this blogger's not a Communist, or participating in any Communist conspiracy but if Senator McCarthy's still around and wants to bring me before a committee on Un-Riverside activities, then he can use the email address listed above and I'll get back to him so we can coordinate our schedules. But no, if Riverside's going down the drain, it's some individuals who served or do serve in city government who need to take long looks in the mirror. The public is doing its job at the polls and keeping its city government accountable and some elected officials were sent packing in both 2007 and 2009. To blame the city's residents or "rioters" for what's happening with the Fox Theater, the police chief's decision to drink and drive and the attempted engineering of a cover up of illegal conduct by an employee is just ridiculous. And to blame the public for speaking out against the handling of these issues is just as much.

Beware those Grey-Haired "Rioters"

Democracy is actually alive and well in Riverside despite attempts not by the city residents but by City Hall to limit public participation by reducing opportunities to speak, by using police officers on one occasion to oust four people from a city council meeting including a 90 year old woman who put over 50 years of public service into making Riverside and its parks much better, even cleaning out Lake Evans during the years long before it was a Riverside Renaissance project. A "rioter" who was an elderly women over 80 years old petitioned the city council for help when a broken city pipe flooded her pipe and was escorted away from the podium for exceeding the speaking limit several years ago upon direction by a city council member.

Interesting, that since the dissolution of the GASS/BASS quartets, there's been fewer elderly women expelled from meetings or escorted from the podium by police, who are just doing what elected officials order them.

City Hall Blocks Release of CHP Report of Leach Investigation

What's so democratic about the city pushing for the continued suppression of a criminal investigative report done on Leach by the CHP from both the media and the public as the city has done for months continuing after the actual criminal case has been fully adjudicated? The city's asked this of Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco, the same top prosecutor who probably was hoping that any probes into Schiavone wouldn't come to light during an election year, given that Schiavone donated to his political reelection campaign. And Pacheco has agreed to suppress the report, keeping it out of the hands of media outlets and the public. So instead of keeping only one probe of the Leach incident top-secret, City Hall has managed to do that for both of them, including an outside criminal investigation. How's that for democracy folks?

Are city residents responsible for the city's actions to persuade Pacheco not to release this report until an undetermined date? No, that action came straight out of City Hall and it's a violation to the public's right to have access to a public report especially after a criminal case has been completed. And the question bears asking as to whether City Hall put that gag order on the CHP report because it might contain information about the alleged involvement of a former councilman?

Is Advocating SLAPP Lawsuits Pro-government?

The city also filed a harassment suit known as a SLAPP against Ken Stansbury and Riversiders for Property Rights to prohibit them from performing the democratic function of soliciting signatures to put an initiative on Eminent Domain on the local ballot, even threatening to hit them with six-figure legal fees in what was clearly an attempt to intimidate them. Is that democracy in action?

Is that type of litigation paid for by city residents the type of behavior that fosters democracy in this city? Is there anything less supportive of the democratic process than using tax payer money to block a democratic process being legally exercised by city residents simply because of the fear that voters could very well ban Eminent Domain used to benefit private developers, which is the foundation of what this city's building itself on? The city government used tax payer money to shut down a group of citizens' legal right to use the ballot process and then told that organization while threatening to charge them the city's legal fees (when it initiated the lawsuit in the first place) that it was doing this to "help" them.

The government's own actions are what's creating tension in the city's populace but in ways which might actually increase civic involvement and participation at the polls. And there's definitely nothing "anti-government" with that, in fact that's what true democracy is all about, to cast a vote and to speak your mind at meetings held by government. It's about the ability of the people through those mechanisms including voting and speaking out in public forums to make it clear to City Hall, or to Sacramento or the White House that it's the people's government and elected officials are tenants on four year leases (and being subject to recall) to occupy that space and perform a function. Because you have to remember, government works for the people, not the other way around. The people both hire and fire their representatives based on job performance.

As for being anti-government, that makes no sense at all because anarchy is chaos but the best way to be pro-government is to advocate that responsible government is accountable, accessible, civil and transparent. Riverside is somewhat lacking in some of these areas at the moment, falling somewhat short and who knows what other scandals are lurking? And if Schiavone for example did this kind of conduct while not in office, how did he behave while holding it?

Senator McCarthy, You Know How to Reach Me

I'm not Anti-American, I'm not even Anti-Riverside. But I was raised to speak out and to speak up, a useful skill in a family of 10.

I also had three direct ancestors, William Ellery, Robert Morris and Benjamin Rush who signed a document once declaring the independence of the colonies from England, what was considered a subversive, anti-government action in those days, especially given that less than 50% of residents in the Thirteen Colonies even supported the War for Independence. I'm only alive today because the war was won by the colonies. Had it not been, then quite a few of my ancestors would have been hung for committing treason and as traitors by the British Empire.

Most residents either didn't care or opposed that action as it turned out. I had two ancestors that signed the U.S. Constitution and one who refused to sign it on behalf of Rhode Island. I'm directly related to the founders of both the Unitarian and Universalist Churches, which combined to form one church.

And I was raised to know my ancestors, what they were thinking and believed and why they played the roles that they did, even if it didn't make them popular.

So you can blame this blogging at least partly on bad genes? And what's this about rioters coming to City Hall? Did we all miss this riot? If even someone who is loud at a city council meeting is equated to an explosion of violence inside a neighborhood or a city or a country, then that person has very little understandings of riots and how much longer it takes to recover from than to take place.

But the blog posting was an interesting read even though as you can see, I strongly disagree with most of it. And again, I'm not a Communist, Mr. McCarthy.

Weather Forecast for Riverside: Cloudy near but Clearing Ahead toward fair weather.

(DISCLAIMER: This weather forecast was in no way cast by someone with a meteorology background (except for publishing a daily weather bulletin in the fourth grade) and this blog's not responsible for decisions made based on this forecast as weather remains a fickle force of nature, not always easily predicted or anticipated. )

Rumors had been fast and furious the past couple weeks that former Riverside Councilman Frank Schiavone was being investigated for witness tampering in connection with the DUI investigation that the California Highway Patrol had conducted on former Chief Russ Leach earlier this year. People heard the story about how a girlfriend or an employee at Club 215 received coaching from Schiavone while she was being interviewed. Most people weren't surprised but some people thought how could anyone be so stupid to try to coach a witness while they were actually being interviewed? It appears that this faux de pas is being attributed to what one inside source from some agency told the Press Enterprise, bad timing.

Now the ball's apparently in the hands of Riverside District Attorney Rod Pacheco who in the past received money from Schiavone in his "reelection campaign" (of which so far there's only been one which means it's a recent donation) to decide whether or not charges will be filed against someone connected with a city government that did help Pacheco financially rather than the swath of corrupt politicians charged by his office who didn't do that. The reason why there's renewed interest in this situation are two-fold. One is that Pacheco is up for reelection on a "tough on crime" campaign, and the second is because news of this investigation began to leak out and it's when criminal conduct by the power players of this city, whether police chiefs or politicians, leaks out or threatens to be exposed that well, criminal investigations suddenly are initiated or are dusted off and put back together.

The ironic part of this is that this is only one of several investigations being done on the former councilman and alleged member of the Sire's restaurant crowd or what some people called, the Sire's shadow government given the decisions which were allegedly made within those four walls over steaks and plenty of liquor among some of the former and current power players in Riverside.

Morales Breaks His Silence...Alas...

Councilman Paul Davis received an ethics complaint from former FOX journalist, Michael Morales who has closed ties with Schiavone (having allegedly worked on his campaign for city council in 2009 in some capacity) just one day before the Schiavone investigation story finally broke into the public arena. He also came out at nearly the same time as Schiavone did after the Leach incident and argued at city council meetings and online that Leach hadn't been drinking that he had been on prescription medication. Even though video tapes of the Club 215 showed CHP investigators that Leach had downed seven "doubles" in about four hours. Morales became quiet about Leach after that, even though the anonymous posts lambasting another elected official are generally believed to have been posted by him.

He came out swinging this week with another council member receiving his attention besides his prior favorite target, Councilman Mike Gardner.

It's Morales' right as a city resident to file an ethics complaint through the process available if he feels there's been a violation of that code involving someone within its scope. But the code doesn't apply to spouses and his ethics complaint dissolved into personal attacks against Davis' wife. And after having witnessed his recent campaign against another councilman where he equated that individual to a serial killer because they shared surnames, it's tough to take him very seriously.

It's not clear what in this case any business owned by Davis' wife had to do with Davis being a councilman. The ethics code's scope doesn't include the family members of elected officials. But then women have been largely the recipients of Morales' vitrol, not surprising considering the company he keeps in political circles. But the complaint's been initiated and will go through the process of determination whether it falls within the scope as part of a process put in place by the voters. And if so, will go through the complaint process which would be the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee. And if so, the involved parties will present their cases. But it's hard to see Morales presenting a good one especially given the misleading information posted on Craiglist in connection with Gardner. Including trying to pass off boarded up businesses near University and Chicago as being in Gardner's ward.

Morales made personal attacks against Davis' wife which is totally unnecessary if your purported intent is to file an ethics complaint against Davis. But then Morales' attitude towards women has always been invasive and rude not to mention sexist.

Morales launched a campaign anonymously on Craigslist posting pictures back when he had a disagreement on an issue with Gardner and began posting that Gardner was everything from a cop hater (and then claiming he forced the police to commit violence against the public because of his prior affiliation with the CPRC) to being a child molester because he had the same last name as a serial killer arrested in San Diego County. Morales posted anonymously (and it's clear it was him because his Craigslist content mirrored that he said at several city council meetings) that Gardner was responsible for the failure of Ward Two which isn't even his ward. He's launched campaigns against city employees including a code enforcement officer who's actually very much liked by the city residents in the area he works which isn't always the case with code compliance workers who have a difficult job.

After Morales' appearance at city council filing a complaint, similar comments began appearing anonymously on Craigslist tied with Davis' support of Riverside County sheriff candidate, Frank Robles. But Morales has been allegedly tied to Schiavone and Betro and not coincidentally which kind of takes an element of randomness out of his choice of targets.

A complaint has been filed, it will be evaluated and whether or not it's heard will be revealed as it should be. But whether it qualifies for further examination under the code or not, Morales' personal attacks against a non-political figure were just tacky and sexist. It's one thing to try to utilize a mechanism offered to city residents, it's another thing to make personal attacks. But that's all part of the process though just following Morales' line of thinking is difficult enough.

Brad Hudson Picks His Chief's Panel

The city manager's office has announced that it's selected its new interview panel for the police chief hiring process. I apologize for its lateness but not all of us are on City Manager Brad Hudson's contact list because he's not really a fan of this blog. Not that it matters because frankly, it's really hard to be enthusiastic about the interview panel. Not because of the individuals chosen for it, but because of the process involved especially if it mirrors those in the past where boards believe they have hired the best candidates or the best one they all agree on (as in the case of the manager of the Community Police Review Commission). A panel can agree to hire a candidate it believes is the best, and then sit back and watch with the rest of the city residents who don't serve on interview panels and watch the city management turn that employee into a puppet. But then Hudson and DeSantis still haven't shared with the public why the city is paying and giving full-time employee status to one of these more recent hires who puts in part-time hours.

I'm familiar with all the panelists in one way or another and it's pretty easy to shape the dynamic of the interviews based on how it's likely that these individuals chosen will act in a group situation and it should be very interesting indeed. And the process in the group setting will probably be a good and productive one.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

City Manager Brad Hudson announced the panelists Tuesday. They are police consultant Joe Brann, retired Alvord schools Superintendent Damon Castillo, , retired UC Riverside Police Chief Bill Howe, Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce President Cindy Roth, Riverside NAACP chapter President Woodie Rucker-Hughes, Greater Riverside Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lorraine Hernandez Saint, and Detective Cliff Mason, president of the Riverside Police Officers' Association, and Lt. Ed Blevins, president of the Riverside Police Administrators' Association.

The city got about 60 applications from people wanting to fill its top police post. Officials have not disclosed the applicant names.

The panel will interview five to seven of the top candidates and make a recommendation to Hudson, who makes the final choice, a news release from Hudson's office said.

The panel's got some really smart choices on it, and it's good to include representatives from the segments of the population, both community and law enforcement. and the only thing that's really lacking is representation of Riverside's youth. But then the city routinely ignores the fact that a huge segment of Riverside's population is under the age of 40 when it makes many of its "community" appointments.

Still, it's really hard to be excited by the inclusion of this panel in the process because so rarely have community panels been used to really In past cases when community panelists had served on past interview panels including the 2007 hiring of Community Police Review Commission Manager Kevin Rogan, they weren't even able to pick the questions to ask, you know questions which may reflect the unique perspectives that purportedly had led to their selection on the panel but were instructed what questions to ask the panelists. It's hard to believe that a labor representative or a hired police consultant would be told or given what questions to ask so why should community representatives be treated any differently? There should be a process that allows questions to be submitted by panelists beforehand so that they can be standardized to all applicants but there should also be questions that are given to applicants for the chief's position ahead of time and others that are more impromptu.

But the use of a panel is road scenery to prevent the examination of the larger picture which is the actual hiring of the employeee based on the "recommendations" of such panels. If the recommendation is done by consensus, it often leads to panelists recommending applicants who weren't really their choices. More than one has said in the past, well this person wasn't really my choice (usually when that employee begins to go south) but I wanted to help pick the new employee. Others say, well it's not my first (or second) choice but again, to be involved in the process of picking the new employee. But isn't the point of being on a panel to bring your unique perspective, be it community, labor, business or expertise in policing practices and use your experience and knowledge to help provide a well-rounded interview and then to make a recommendation that others might disagree with?

Consensus building is wonderful but often times, it allows the dominant personalities to become even more...dominant. And there's already concern in this process that more than one of these panelists already has the next chief picked out in their mind going in, given that some panelists were involved in the recruitment process already. So it will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the interview process. Oh no wait, the public doesn't get to see it. Unlike Riverside County's most recent appointment process of its sheriff, this process takes place behind carefully sealed doors at some undisclosed location. Hopefully not the banquet room at Sire's.

Several panelists commented on their selection.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Mason, the police officers' union head, said the panel is reflective of Riverside's diverse community. He called it "a good faith gesture" that Hudson included police representatives on the panel.

"It's very important to us that we have a strong leader that understands the needs of the community but also appreciates the needs of the patrol officers," Mason said. "There's a balance there."

Rucker-Hughes said she will be looking for "proven experience with community relations and community policing" as well as integrity and a strong knowledge of police work.

Inviting people from the community to serve on the panel was crucial, she said.

"It preserves the integrity of the search," Rucker-Hughes said. "The police chief is responsible to all of the citizens, not just the City Council or city manager."

Mason's comments make sense though the reality of the balancing act of the police chief between the community and employees is often a very difficult one in reality and in the end under the current system, it doesn't matter because this is a four-way scale, with the community ends being the smallest weight. The department employees being the second smallest. Council members being the small third smallest (well except for Councilman Steve Adams who remember, carries more weight) and the huge weight on the other side of that being that held by City Manager Brad Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis.

And even the most qualified chief probably won't be an independent thinker because it's likely that most of those inclined to be just that have already been weeded out during the selection process, the one that takes place which is so secretative that even a racial and gender breakdown of the applicants won't be released by the city.

Which goes into the second comment made by Hughes, is that the selection of a community "preserves the integrity of a search" which isn't really the case. Before the community panel was selected this "search" and reception of these alleged 60 applications was already completed and the results of both are being withheld from the city's residents. And it's up to the panelists selected to ensure the integrity of that part of the process, but simply by having a community panel by itself, that doesn't ensure that there will be any integrity in the actual selection which is out of the hands of the panel and it doesn't just as importantly, ensure that the chief will be able to function as an autonomous department head any more than his or her predecessor.

It's also hard not to think about the panel and wonder how many votes a certain alleged applicant from the public sector in the neighboring county will get. But this process will be very interesting to follow to its completion.

The two Riverside County District Attorney candidates meet in the same place, but don't debate.

More budget cuts and woes expected for Riverside County's public transit system.

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