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, May 10, 2010

Pacheco Bails Another Forum and Who Will Bail out the Fox?

"Let's stop the bleeding. Let's get an operator that can run the Fox without excuses."

---Riverside Councilman Paul Davis on the controversy surrounding consultant William Malone. He wanted to do an audit. Asst. City Manager and sole holder of the keys to the city's coffers, Paul Sundeen said, not necessary. Hmmm, sounds like a perfect issue to go to the city council's Finance Committee.

Government run entertainment. Yeah, that'll work"

---"Guest" at

Riverside County District Attorney Candidate Forum

[Over 40 people attend the Riverside County District Attorney candidate forum being held at the Stratton Center in the Eastside in Riverside.]

[Once again, incumbent Rod Pacecho was a no show. Rumor was it, he was "concerned" about what people would think of him in the Eastside, but he's too big to appear before those he represents and answer questions by voters. Not that he wasn't too big to denigrate the forum's sponsors most likely from his downtown palace with the nifty dome.]

[Lone attendee, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Paul Zellerbach fields questions from those who attended the forum.]

Several dozen people attended the candidate forum sponsored by organizations such as the NAACP, The Group, Latino Network and the League of Women's Voters which featured surprise, surprise only candidate and "gadfly" (as political consultant for hire, Brian Floyd called him) Riverside County Superior Court Judge Paul Zellerbach appeared to express his opinions and issues and answer questions at the forum.

He related about how ironic it is that his rival, incumbent Rod Pacheco (again a no-show) called him "soft on crime" when Zellerbach said that during his 22 years as a prosecutor at the D.A.'s office (where he once won California prosecutor of the year and handled cases like that of serial killer, William Suff) that he had supervised Pacheco in the Homicide/Robbery unit and Pacheco had endorsed his candidacy when he ran for judge about a decade ago. If he were so "soft on crime" why did Pacheco endorse him, Zellerbach asked the audience. He spoke on issues ranging from gang injunctions (which must be reevaluated periodically and not left on the shelf and better coordination between the goals of both the D.A.'s office and the law enforcement agency involved), the Three-Strikes law and the death penalty (used judiciously and he said he would review ever current death penalty case if elected) and many questions on education and collaboration with the public. A lot of questions had to do with the increases in real estate and mortgage fraud that accompanied and contributed to the collapse of the housing market.

He mentioned a screaming match that Pacheco had inside his chambers one time on an issue that stems from the congestion of both the criminal and civil courts in Riverside that began when he returned to the District Attorney's office and essentially ran it until he was elected to the top spot four years ago. Since then, over 750 trials resulted in no guilty verdicts, the conviction rates had dropped and the office itself experienced a massive exodus, experiencing over 25% turnover in its prosecution ranks. Pacheco refuses to follow his own policies, turn in a budget to the county board of supervisors and says his office shouldn't make cuts even while he created an executive division which costs over $1 million annually. A division which Zellerbach would eliminate as well as adopting practices of having more senior prosecutors make filing decisions and only on cases they could win at trial.

Intimidation tactics against people including politicians who say they can't endorse Zellerbach publicly for fear of reprisal. Even among the ranks of law enforcement and his own office. Yes, he has the endorsement of the prosecutors union but really, who would risk their own careers by voting against their boss?

Very interesting audience of former judges, former prosecutors and probably a Pacheco plant here and there to report back to their absent boss who just missed his fourth debate on what transpired, just in time for his next massive political flier campaign. But then he had his reasons as he explained to the Press Enterprise last week.


Pacheco said in an interview last week that he believed groups opposed to his 2007 gang injunction were involved in organizing the forum.

"It's not really sponsored by The League of Women Voters. It's sponsored by groups that were opposed to the gang injunction, isn't it?" Pacheco said. "They are using The League of Women Voters as their vehicle, as I understand it."

Pacheco cited co-sponsors the Riverside branch of the NAACP and The Group. The injunction prohibits more than 100 East Side Riva gang members from congregating on street corners, wearing gang colors or carrying weapons.

Leaders of both organizations denied the claim.

"We were never opposed to the gang injunction ... All we asked Mr. Pacheco to do was to come and speak to the families who still don't quite understand it," said Woodie Rucker-Hughes, president of the NAACP branch. "We believe if you do the crime, you do the time. We are not trying to coddle gangsters."

Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely, president of The Group, said, "I'm still trying to find those groups he is talking about. Our organization has never done anything other than encourage people to go to community meetings."

Neither the NAACP nor The Group ever vocally opposed the actual injunction. In fact, many members of the NAACP supported it, because it targeted a Latino gang that was killing African-Americans. The Group never came up with an official position on the injunction as this organization focuses its attention on being a watchdog of government and on doing outreach for people to attend community and governmental meetings, just as its chair, Vaughn-Blakely said. Maybe if he actually did outreach to community organizations rather than require background checks (as he did members of the Eastside Think Tank including law enforcement employees) in order for them to be in the same room as him, he might be less likely to express such ignorance about them.

As for the League of Women's Voters (which withdrew when Pacheco did because it doesn't hold one candidate forums), this organization has sponsored candidate forums every year to involve more people, men and women, in the voting process including the forum for the sheriff's race later this week not to mention Riverside's mayoral race last year and the city council, school board and RCC Board of Trustee elections for years. If you look at its history, the League is one of the top sponsors of candidate forums (which it often does with The Group, NAACP and Latino Network) locally, along with the Greater Chamber of Commerce which also puts on forums.

It isn't anybody else's tool and for Pacheco to imply that it is, probably because it's a women's organization is just ignorant and silly on his part, not to mention sexist to boot. And they have better things to do than sponsor forums just to make him look silly as he's doing a perfectly fine job of that on his own.

It would be very useful for prospective voters to see a debate between the two candidates but despite Pacheco's ambiguous murmurs about possibly debating Zellerbach, it's not going to happen.

Firestorm at the Fox

[The newly renovated and tax payer supported Fox Theater in downtown Riverside, most recently the focus of more controversy involving the management style in the city of Riverside.]

Management problems arise involving the consultant, William Malone, hired by Riverside's City Hall to run the Fox Theater and one councilman, Paul Davis wants him to be replaced and wants the financial records involving the handling of the Fox Theater by this high priced consultant to be audited. An employee named Johnny Diamond was forced out of his job as general manager recently as allegations of mismanagement of the theater have grown.

It's hard to really know what to think about the Fox Theater, which is city-owned and features high-end entertainment which of course means that over 90% of those city residents' whose tax dollars funded the renovation and the city's foray into running a theater can't really afford to attend its shows during this most difficult of economic times including in Riverside. With all the tax dollars sunk into this project by city residents, each one should receive at least a significant discount from one performance in return. And the irony is that the people who would be the most likely to Shop Riverside (tm) and frequent the Fox Theater's performances are those who can't afford to buy the tickets.

Other than the affordability factor, it's kind of one of those train wrecks that most people have been watching during the past several months as all of this has unfolded and yet another employee hired through the city manager's office (with the conduit of choice, this time being Development Director Deanna Lorson) will be hopefully facing that financial audit though it's highly unfortunate that this seems to be necessary. And it's good that two city council members, Paul Davis and Mike Gardner, are speaking out on this contentious issue. But what the city had been saying as an entity since the opening of the Fox Theater is how it was an unqualified success, even though that was clearly not the case then and it's even more so now with all this intrigue surrounding its manager, William Malone.

And anyone who has anything critical to say about it, well they're just not in synch with the city's strategic vision or seizing the destiny or the Plan or the Riverside Renaissance or what's next.

But while the Fox Theater's very pretty, it's not even catering successfully to the out of town crowd that it was supposed to attract including those in Orange County who probably either attend theaters there for entertainment or those in L.A. County. Most people in Riverside, one of the most economically depressed cities in the second most economically depressed region in the country (according to official unemployment rates) don't have much money left for expensive performing arts tickets. And it's easy to laud the theater's accessibility to city residents for people who receive free tickets themselves, actually tickets subsidized by city residents' tax monies. There's tremendous potential in any performing arts institution as long as there's funding sources outside public monies as that's how it usually works but that potential's not being realized at all with this project and won't be as long as City Hall believes that the only people who have business being in the downtown area are those with tons of cash(or credit) to drop. Rather than the vast majority of its residents who are currently pinching pennies judging by sales revenue and property tax revenue being lower during the past several years.

And all this added on to what's already happened is going on while the city government seems content to hand off most of its financial accountability mechanisms to the city manager' s office, first by watching as City Manager Brad Hudson umbrellaed the previously separate Finance Department under his office, before the launch of the city's Riverside Renaissance program of which a public audit of all that it encompasses financially speaking has yet to be released to the public in at least a format that's less than totally confusing to the average city resident. When the city council essentially hands the only set of the keys to the kingdom off to its administration while decreasing the role of its own oversight (which is entrusted by the voters), should it really be all that surprised when issues like this one pop up continuously, like little fires all over the city's canvas? It's part and parcel of one bigger picture of how this city is administered and how the city is essentially becoming more of a city management-city council form of government rather than vice versa.

But as far as the issues involving the Fox Theater and its management including financial accountability issues, perhaps this is an issue that should be discussed by the Finance Committee but that's not likely given that Chair Nancy Hart has pretty much said at city council meetings and in the press that she waits instruction on Sundeen (who never met an audit within the city he didn't like)regarding when to meet and over what issues.

[A rare snapshot in time, at an actual meeting of the city's Finance Committee chaired by Nancy Hart (r) with Councilman Paul Davis who recently called for Malone's ouster and an auditing of the Fox Theater's books.]

There were some interesting comments online at on the Fox debacle.


There was never a chance that the Fox would be has been run by people who have absolutely no experience to fall back on. While it is convenient to pass blame on operators, the real blame falls directly into the lap of Brad Hudson...this is his doing. When he appointed the incredibly incompetent Belinda Graham, with help from the equally imcompetent Joyce Powers, to run the very complex and detailed renovation, its fate was sealed...government bureaucrats with zero practical experience. No plan in place, no operating budget and no ability to fall on years of experience....will lead to an annual cash drain on the taxpayers of Riverside....also, the $30,000,000 is not an accurate number...has anyone actually seen a third party audit of the total project cost? I didn't think so...Mr. Hudson would never allow that to become public....add to that the $20,000,000 the City will spend to build yet another parking structure (cost of acquisition+total cost to construction) and you have something that will cost over $50,000,000!! The Fox is bleeding money and will year after year after year....Mr. Hudson...he'll be long gone before anyone has to pay for this debacle...probably somewhere collecting on his $200,000+ pension enjoying cocktails with his buddy Russ Leach.....unfortunately, the citizens of Riverside are getting exactly what they deserve for allowing City Hall to run all over them with barely a wimper...

I would love to go... I just can't afford the ticket price, when it's something good. When it's something mediocre, I can afford it. But why would I bother when I can see the same act for free at a local fair.

I often wonder if the people running the place have any idea of supply and demand or that people want value for their money.

Mr. Gardner, you may not want to get rid of Malone, but perhaps that would be best for the Fox! Malone is not doing his job if you can't get him to return a call. Perhaps he is too busy or just "too self important" which is a HUGE problem for those in power in Riverside!! This has always been the problem with the Fox, you get people who do know how to market it, but due to a lack of funds on their part it is given over to the person who does have the money and they end up screwing the Fox and the Citybecause they have no idea how to market a theatre. The other problem is that the City once it does open it eyes up, it is far too late to fix the problem. My example is firing Diamond and keeping Malone. Malone is too full of himself to realize that the job is WAY to big for one person to handle, as for the calendaring problem, the solution to that is share the calender, then everybody knows what dates are available. There problem solved. As for the city, they are all a bunch of dumbasses!

if they wouldnt make it so innacessable to the regular everyday working person , i belive the fox would make more money if it wasnt so expensive to most everybody.....maybe bring more variety to the theater as well and perhaps even have a movie screen in there and use it as a movie theatre also

The Real Train Wreck:

Hudson, Lorson and the Handling of the Development Department

But this problem with the Fox Theater doesn't just involve Malone, it really speaks to larger issues with the city, its government and financial accountability to the city's residents. One of the key players in this latest mess is Lorson who is largely responsible for the handling of the Fox Theater and is now running interference for Malone despite allegations by Davis that he has proof of mismanagement. But then Lorson's been a focal point of controversy since Hudson first appointed her as the head of the development department. Since her arrival in that position, there's been an exodus of experienced employees including mostly men of color and women (particularly older than 40) from the department. Employees being belittled and browbeaten to the point where they are driven out. Women resigning at older ages where especially in a difficult economy, it's difficult for them to find new jobs. But then there's been questions about whether ageism particularly that involving female employees has been a major problem at City Hall. It's just that the mechanisms that normally would be set up to look into these issues are unable to look at much at all.

Human Resources Board Rebuffed; Redirected

[Woodie Rucker-Hughes and Chair Ellie Bennett of the Human Resources Board participate in one of their monthly meetings.]

Alarming statistics reviewed by the Human Board catalyzed the body to ask Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout and her assistant director, Jeremy Hammond if it could have a face to face meeting with Lorson to address these issues. Using Strout as his conduit of communication, Hudson first vetoed this meeting from afar claiming that the Board was operating outside of its purview. He later came in person to essentially give them the same message under the guise of trying to help them and suggested that the Board meet to redefine its mission and objectives which is a means to get them to stop using their powers (minus an investigative power stripped by a city council vote in 2005-06) to perform their function. Several meetings later, the Board is still trying to figure out this new mission, now believing that it came up with the idea to do so. Yet another board or commission in Riverside being pushed towards ineffectiveness by elements at City Hall. Will it experience the same fate as its sibling in civic service, the Community Police Review Commission?

It did accomplish what Hudson had clearly hoped which was to get the Board busy doing that and its attention off of Lorson and problems in the city's development department.

"Larry the Liquidator"

Not long after that, problems begun to erupt with a group of merchants in the downtown pedestrian mall who leased space in a building owned by the city that was handed off to a property management company that among its cast of characters included some guy who called himself "Larry the Liquidator". This created much upset among some long-time merchants including those who own and operate the BioKorium and felt like they were forced out of their location due to communication and other problems with the city's property management company of choice and then different individuals inside City Hall including Lorson. But then many business owners in the downtown pedestrian mall had struggled to survive and earn healthy revenues in the wake of a $12 million renovation project involving the mal (that inhibited people's ability to access some of these businesses)l which coincided with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression which hit the region especially hard due to the collapse of the housing market especially that in relation to new home construction. And then to be hit with poor handling by the city's property management company only made a difficult situation even more so for some small businesses whose revenues help fund the city's basic services.

It's difficult to look at the Fox Theater's latest woes as an isolated incident, when you really need to examine the overall management of the city by its administration, the handling of the Development Department and what it oversees as well as the farming off of financial accountability mechanisms by city government in the face of all these issues.

And you know it's not and that City Hall has some cognizance of what's going on during the eve of the next election cycle because it's decided to reinvent its image once again and history has shown that's never been a really good sign. But it seems as if there's a more dignified way to treat local businesses than having people with nicknames like Larry's running around representing its interests through its property management company.

Another pricey project in connection with the Fox Theater was approved by the city council. But while generating discussion, it came in second to yet another expenditure (during poor economic times) towards not addressing the city's reality but in enhancing its image as part economic jewel/cultural icon, part amusement park.

Riverside's Latest Search for a Brand Name

"Oh brother...'discover the possibilities.' We should focus on realizing them, not marketing them."


The city of Riverside will pay someone from outside the county to sell Riverside as a brand for the sweet price of $200,000 for just the first year. With layoffs, vacant positions and reduced hours at library facilities, the city's splurging for yet another public relations campaign. With fiscal priorities such as this latest one, thank goodness next year's an election year. That's pretty much all you can say about this, needing to spend major dollars (on top of major dollars) to sell an image of a city rather than building a reality. Rather than telling people why they should come to Riverside, creating reasons and allowing them to sell themselves. But then that might be a downer for a city that loves hiring consultants.

It was bound to happen because guess what, this move is always made just after Riverside's has become featured in national or international news in ways not that flattering to its image of a City of the Arts, Culture and Innovation. And the latest news coverage of the scandal involving the DUI accident and cover up involving former Police Chief Russ Leach put Riverside in a negative light in much of the news coverage, as this city temporarily drew attention from the jewel of corruption in the Inland Empire which is San Bernardino County. And so news that there's renewed focus on slogan creation and image revision is hardly even really news.

Most city residents probably wish that Riverside's halls of power would focus on addressing the issues that impact Riverside, in other words deal with what's reality rather than focusing on refining Riverside's image every six months and in ways that involve hiring consultants and spending more money. That the city should work on maintaining the basic services at the highest levels rather than throw money around on a logo. If the city can afford to reinvent itself every six months, then it can certainly afford to bring back the employees who have been laid off due to budget cuts.

And that every time there wasn’t some sort of scandal on the city’s fabric, that the city wouldn’t respond by spending hundreds of thousands of more dollars on reinventing its image once again to sell to the outside world. Each time hiring another consultant, which really should earn Riverside the City of Consultants, another title to add to its growing list and maybe it can spend another fortune adopting a logo or slogan for that identifier.

What it looks like when the city government does this each time a scandal burgeons or breaks out into the public arena is that it’s ill equipped to address the problems which result from these crises and that it’s trying to divert attention away from them. Turbulence with the Fox Theater, how about another slogan as one will likely be forthcoming. Meltdown in the city’s Development Department? New slogan will get people to forget about that. Police chief drinking and driving and his colleagues covering it up? There’s got to be a title for the city to adopt besides City of Scandal.

None of these problems took place in a vacuum but all speak to the choice of management adopted by City Hall, a form that causes fires to erupt and accounts to be audited (beginning with that of the construction of the Magnolia Police Station, a focal point of an embezzlement attempt by one of Hudson’s original development employees for landscaping). And when a fire erupts somewhere in the city because of its administration, usually there’s some concern expressed at least until one or more marquee signs putting the city government in the spotlight are erected somewhere in town spotlighting another Riverside Renaissance project. After all, the surest path to someone’s scrutiny of what you’re doing is through their ego.

But when you think of all the behavior behind the scenes that goes unnoticed or ignored for years, it’s pretty staggering. But then all you have to do is count how many times the city reinvented itself.

[The city's police department is currently without a chief and experiencing serious problems, four years after the expiration of the consent decree with the state and five years after the city management pretty much took over running it.]

The police department’s handling since 2005, being a perfect example. There’s a wealth of information about what happened with its operations when Hudson and DeSantis came to town and decided that of all their new toys at their disposal that the police department would be their favorite.

Five years later, the police department has been the target of several outside criminal probes as well as the city management employees began plundering its resources and alterations to the department’s promotional system as part of the program of micromanagement led to a very fragmented department that’s crumbling at its top and with an arrest and prosecution ratio for officers of about 1 in 65 officers, much higher than the national average.

The police chief has been convicted on criminal charges and retired. Those that helped him close to the top of the command are not only not on paid administrative leave as they would be in most law enforcement agencies but one of those who covered up the commission of a crime, thus attempting to block an investigation of it is at the helm. The city's priority was more intent to pushing out two former lieutenants who had made allegations of misconduct by city management and a former and current elected official than on addressing those directly involved with the cover up of Leach's criminal conduct, as they are the only employees on paid administrative leave rather than those who were directly involved. With priorities like that, many more people in this city should be very concerned about the department's handling. The deputy chief soon retired after the alleged initiation of internal investigations against him. The command staff became the product of what created it and the fox was encharged with investigating the hen house. And the handlers of the fox didn't watch it.

Exactly how extensive it got will be discussed much greater in the days and weeks ahead when addressing the house that City Hall built. And it's a very twisted tale of intrigue indeed. Four years after the dissolution of the stipulated agreement and nearly five years after Hudson and DeSantis came to town.

The growing pains of one of the county's newest cities continues as the city attorney walks after only a week.

Public Events

Thursday, May 14 between 7-8:30 p.m., the election candidate forum for the Riverside County sheriff election will be held at the Stratton Center on Martin Luther King and Kansas in the Eastside in Riverside. Invited were incumbent, Stan Sniff and challenger, Frank Robles. This might truly be a happening event given plans by Sniff's supporters to pack the event. Remains to be seen if that will take place or not. Tougher to call than if Pacecho will show up to debate Zellerbach.

Nifty Stats and Trivia Division

The total indebtedness of Riverside's Redevelopment Agency is:


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