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

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sparks Fly at Sheriff's Forum and Over Fox Theater

***DUI CHECKPOINT in Eastside at University and Park by Riverside Police Department. Eyewitness spots white women motorist get passed through checkpoint with expired registration tags on her vehicle. The smart thing is not to drink and drive but criticism has been launched by some organizations at some of these traffic checkpoints as targeting Latino motorists.

[A crowd of people showed at the Stratton Center for the sheriff candidate debate which quickly turned heated. ]

[The two sheriff candidates, challenger Frank Robles (l) and incumbent, Stan Sniff]

[Over 50 people attended the candidates forum including many current members of the Sheriff's Department chain of management.]

Dozens of individuals appeared at the Stratton Center in the Eastside to watch the debate between two candidates in the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department race, which pitted incumbent Stan Sniff against challenger, Frank Robles. Those in the audience included many current and former sheriff department employees including soon to retire undersheriff, Valerie Hill as well as members of the Riverside Sheriff's Association and the Riverside Police Officers' Association and Riverside Councilman Paul Davis.

Both of the candidates brought their platforms into the debate and the forum quickly turned contentious and quite heated. Much different than the one-sided debate involving Riverside County district attorney candidate Paul Zellerbach earlier in the week. Both came into the room with their gloves on and neither pulled their punches displaying some of the political turmoil that the department had faced in the past several years.

One area of contention between the candidates and one that had generated controversy when it had happened was the process that had put Sniff in the top law enforcement position. This all took place several years ago after the previous sheriff, Bob Doyle stepped down after being appointed to a position with the state parole board. He left amid major controversy and some say several burgeoning scandals including rewarding campaign donors with "honorary" badges. The board of supervisors was left to fill the position and after an interview process involving a group of candidates for the position voted 3-2 to appoint Sniff to the position until the election in 2010. There had been talk of a special election among the supervisors which was either nixed due to state regulations or due to budget cuts at the county level. Sniff had been marketing himself earlier in his campaign as the sheriff to "re-elect" when in actuality, he hadn't been elected by the voters but appointed through a vote of the legislative body which oversees the county's budget including the Sheriff's Department.

At the debate, Sniff stuck to the words of "appoint" and "elect" but the rather unusual process for selecting a sheriff which in the past two years has taken place in both Orange and San Bernardino Counties in addition to Riverside did attract some fireworks between the two candidates.

Sniff said that he had been selected through a close vote by the county board of supervisors after an interview process with other qualified candidates. He said that he had reduced the numbers of his executive staff cutting the number of assistant sheriffs in half. His department has undergone budget cuts in other areas and had diversified under his command. Promotions of Hill into the undersheriff position, Boris Robinson to the deputy chief position and Shelly Kennedy Smith to captain were among those made by him during his 2 ½ year tenure as sheriff.

Robles said he would focus his attention on addressing illegal immigration and medical marijuana within Riverside County, the latter which he saw as a gateway to drug dealing due to the “loose” way the sheriff was written. And also to promote fiscal accountability at budget time and trimming the "fat" where it was needed, mostly at the top of the chain of command.

Questions came in from the audience including those clearly from law enforcement employees about the position of sheriff and undersheriffs and other issues involving labor relations between the employees and the department's management including the selection of captains to man the top posts in the contract cities.

But first they had to deal with addressing the fanfare and furor around Sniff's appointment because initially, everything took a back seat to that.

Robles said that the democratic process was usurped by the appointment of the sheriff that had been appointed by three supervisors and that the voters would have a special election and then decided not to have one. That action would be rectified by voters in June, he said.

“Now what you just heard is just garbage,” Sniff responded to Robles accusing him of maligning three good supervisors.

The supervisors followed the law which didn’t allow them to have special elections, he said.

If elected, Robles would examine the promotional processes in the department and he was tired of getting compared to Bob Doyle but said that people are getting promoted not because of how they’re qualified but if they’re preferred by administration because of their race and gender. He heard rumors from upset sheriff deputies about the process rewarding people who donate to Sniff's campaign.

Sniff responded that people are promoted on merit but that it should reflect the community it serves. The department had made great progress and they are proud of that. It’s no secret that law enforcement is predominantly white and male.

“Merit based promotions are critical,” Sniff said.

Captains had studied earlier promotional processes and Doyle had given promotions based on favoritism and political connections in a study that they performed on the process, Sniff said.

Some questions were asked about the recent raids done on Latino communities and both candidates responded on that issue.

Robles said that he understands the concerns of the Latino community about the recent raids but viewed it more as actions taken by the DA’s office rather than the Sheriff's Department. He had serious reservations of the raids including of officers hitting the wrong houses which happened at least once during January's raids in Riverside and other cities including when officers from the Moreno Valley Police Department (one of the Sheriff's Department's 15 "contract" departments) raided a home holding a man at gunpoint in front of his young granddaughter. As it turned out, the man they were after had moved out several years earlier.

Gang problems require a different approach and he’s not sure the raids were the correct way to handle these problems.

Sniff said that the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t enforce the immigration law and given the financial and physical constraints, they do not have the ability to do that. Address gang problems by mixing federal agents into all cities including sanctuaries and help ICE agents look for illegal immigrants in jail. Other than those narrow areas of normal legal enforcement, they don’t enforce federal immigration law.

Sniff said that there were no early releases which Robles disagreed with saying that if it were raised, the there must be a problem.

Sniff received his largest donation from the RSA, and he was endorsed by the other labor unions. The previous sheriff came in with all the endorsements and then got into bitter disputes with all of the labor unions.

Leo McIntyre is his leading contributor, wealthy man who’s been slammed in the internet. He’s a defense contractor who hasn’t done any contracts in Riverside County.

“He’s just a rich guy who believes of what I’m doing and he’s been very supportive of law enforcement in general,” Robles said.

He challenged one of the contributors of Sniff's own campaign.

“I question RSA’s money, I really do,” Robles said, referring to an investigation conducted against the RSA’s handling of trust fund money which he said was shut down when Sniff was appointed.

Sniff said that McIntyre was a member of Doyle’s executive council and tied into the Doyle who was investigated. It’s critical that the sheriff has a good working relationship with the five labor unions even though he’s butted heads with them a few times. Sniff said that he didn’t shut down the RSA investigation because it ran out of steam. It was a fabricated investigation, he said.
When I’m elected sheriff, I’m going to take another look at that, Robles said, because I don’t believe it.

Robles said in the first 100 days he’s going to look at the budget first. Going over it by line by line position. He said he wanted to vacate all the assistant sheriff positions. Reevaluate the top positions because it can’t keep going on the way it’s been going on. Only so much money in the pot and at some point, we have to bite that bullet, he said.

Sniff reported that his opponent had never been an assistant sheriff and had never been a sheriff and he had a team of people to look over the budget. They’ve been going over the budget and done so without laying off deputies which would affect delivery of services. Sniff needs to have more oversight over sheriff’s department because of mistakes that have been repeated over and over.

Robles said he was a police chief of Desert Hot Springs for a period of time and had to oversee a budget and make decisions.

Other topics such as the relations between the Indian tribes and the Sheriff's Department as well as cuts in programs addressing "at risk" youth were also discussed by the candidates.

Sniff said he had created a tribal liaison, after a high profile incident in the past several years.
Robles sees less dollars for dealing with juvenile problems.

“It’s going to come down the bucks," Robles said.

Saying that maintaining patrol is a higher priority, Robles said that the basic services should remain the focus of the budget.

Sniff said he would continue to work in community organizations to address issues involving juveniles at risk.

One question addressing the forum had to do with how the department handled complaints or allegations of misconduct involving the department's employees.

Sniff said that the Sheriff’s department has highly regulated on dealing on complaints and take every complaint seriously. Mostly from the chain of command though some are deal with IA, Complaints are taken seriously, discipline is given out and in rare cases, prosecuted. Agency has had a great reputation for holding its employees accountable and investigating everything thoroughly.

Robles said we need to think about the box. Hates hearing the statement of doing things because it’s the way we always do things. LE is about public service. Citizen call a cop, they should get a cop. No reason for rude behavior.

“Secret shop” programs where the handling of complaints was audited might be a possibility if he were elected, Robles said.

“It’s all about public service,” Robles said.

Sniff said, nobody would tolerate rude behavior.

Robles wants to increase the number of volunteers including citizen volunteers and reserves which he sees as crucial of getting through this fiscal crisis.

Robles said about 15 contract cities and the most important thing for the captain position in a contract city. They need to have experience in the contract city because the cities are different from one another. Make the call himself regarding assignments of contract cities captains.
Sniff said that he is able to recommend contract captains and the communities have accepted it. Contract cities are like separate police departments and they like to keep staffing in them stable
Sniff said that during the appointment process, he unsealed his personnel records and right in front of the board unsealed them. They found nothing but a stellar record. Supervisors wanted to get the department back on track and get rid of the internal strife. His file remains unsealed.

Robles said he would unseal his personnel file from the Sheriff's Department if he could purge his file as he believed Sniff did with his and talking Doyle that if Sniff would sign a wavier then Doyle would release information that was not in the public file and why he was terminated.

Sniff told everyone that his own dismissal letter listed "no cause" for removing him as an "at will" employee of the county.

“What Sheriff Doyle says at this point is irreverent, he said.

The debate ended peacefully and in its end, proved to be another interesting if fiery chapter on the campaign trail for sheriff which will come to its conclusion in June.

Web sites related to Sheriff's race

Stan Sniff campaign site---official campaign site

Frank Robles for Sheriff site---official campaign site

Stan Sniff: The Man Who Stole Sheriff---Site critical of Sniff

Inside Riverside---Pro Sniff site

The Riverside Police Officers' Association endorsed Sniff and made financial contributions to his campaign chest. In a statement released by the rank and file police union, Det. Kevin Townsend who chairs the Political Action Committee and attended the debate stated the union's official position.


Stan Sniff's exemplary service for Riverside County has earned him the respect and admiration of the members of the Riverside Sheriff's Department. His commitment to public safety, high ethical standards, and his deep respect for the men and women of the Riverside Sheriff's Department has earned him the support and endorsement of the Riverside Sheriff's Association, the Riverside District Attorney, numerous police chiefs and police associations in Riverside County, and many others. The Riverside Police Officers' Association stands with the men and women of the Riverside Sheriff's Association in support of the re-election of Stan Sniff for Sheriff of Riverside County.

Press Enterprise
Columnist Dan Bernstein had his own version of a debate between the two District Attorney candidates if Rod Pacheco would ever show up.

And Riverside County District Attorney's office prosecutors battle it out for a judicial spot.

Getting Ready To Rumble Over the Fox Theater

The controversy continues over the management of the Fox Theater a mere 3 1/2 months after it opened to much fanfare in January with a party thrown that most people couldn't afford to attend. In the wake of the recent firing of general manager Johnny Diamond, more allegations against consultant William Malone regarding problems within his administration have surfaced as well as recommendations to audit the financial books at the theater. Councilman Paul Davis has led the charge to shine a spotlight on exactly what's been going on at the Fox Theater during the past few months even as Development director, Deanna Lorson who's attracted a lot of not so good attention during her relatively brief time spent at the helm has run interference for her man. It's interesting to see that someone on the dais remembers who's ultimately responsible for what transpires in Riverside out of City Hall since it seems like the majority of the public servants on the dais don't ask questions even when it involves questionable behavior stemming from their direct city employees.

The Fox Theater has been experiencing problems since its opening from labor relations to problems selling tickets to some of its marquee events which led to canceling several performances including of musical Annie and Jesus Christ Superstar, usually two major draws for theater fans.

There's been meetings held at City Hall in the past couple of days and even more to be held as Councilman Paul Davis presents his case of why these steps involving the beleaguered theater need to be taken at this point. But Davis did face some serious heat from the Riverside dais at a recent city council meeting as he sharply disagreed with others, most notably Councilman Steve Adams about what had been going on. Adams bristled at the challenging of any of the employees involved in the Fox Theater debacle and seems to be among the contingent of elected officials who seem happy to defer any questions of financial accountability to the city management even in the face of incidents such as this one and others which raise serious issues and questions needing answers.

After all, Councilwoman Nancy Hart defers the decision on whether or to hold meetings of the Finance Committee which she currently chairs to the city manager's office mainly Asst. City Manager Paul Sundeen. Which is why the committee has barely met since she took its helm and only when there's a spotlight on it exploring why a committee that used to meet twice monthly as recently as the first half of 2005 (just before City Manager Brad Hudson's arrival) barely meets now. The city council can't do the city manager's job for that office but then nobody's asking it to do that. What's being asked for is that the city council not farm away its financial accountability mechanisms, its check and balances particularly during situations like this one where there's concerns raised and questions asked that need answers. At least one city councilman, Davis, has stepped up to the plate on this pressing issue. To ask questions, present concerns and to not rubber stamp the responses of the city manager's office including its financial head. Especially in a situation where the role played by the city's finance department has long been compromised by a reconfiguration of the infrastructure of management in the city.

Because guess what, the city's financial department lost its independence when it was umbrellaed by Hudson under his office not long after he first arrived, and just before the unveiling of the grand experiment, Riverside's Renaissance. And now you have a city management that's handling the Fox Theater management through Development and then is essentially having one of Hudson's own subordinate employees determine on whether a questionable situation involving a branch of that office under another assistant city manager, Belinda Graham needs to be audited.

The answer from the city manager's office regarding the auditing of a questionable practice under that office, is of course, no and that everything's up and up. In this type of conflict of interest situation, what else can you really expect? And with this giving away of its financial responsibilities and oversight mechanisms, the city government should expect fires of this sort to be popping up elsewhere as had already happened with one of its former redevelopment officials, Greg Griffin who tried to rewrite the budget for the Magnolia Police Station's renovation to pay for his own home landscaping costs. Was there ever an audit done to insure that the monies allotted to that capital project were completely accounted for and not jeopardized by an attempted embezzlement and grand theft by one of Hudson's employees? One who left town awfully quickly, several steps ahead of felony charges until he turned up months later.

But it doesn't appear as if anyone on the dais back then or since asked for that audit to take place. Maybe if they had, Hudson and Sundeen would have told them it wasn't necessary and they would have just left it at that, with no further questions asked to the fox about what had happened to the eggs.

[Councilman Paul Davis (l) sits during one of those rare Finance Committee meetings and recently made allegations that the Fox Theater had been mishandled by a consultant hired to operate it and that its books needed to be audited. His comments shook the foundation of the dais which operates under the premise of, play along to get along and seems to view any dissent in its ranks as something akin to disloyalty or even insubordination from the natural order of business.]

[Councilman Steve Adams sitting in the mayor's pro tem seat at a recent city council meeting. Adams criticized other dais mates for making allegations about the mismanagement of the Fox Theater but the city government recently settled a lawsuit behind closed doors which made allegations of misconduct against Adams and others. Does Adams owe the city management for different things including keys to the police department's promotional process for management?]

Sundeen said he was satisfied with the financial state of Malone's books (which was pretty much a given since he's never met an audit he hasn't liked) and that an audit would be provided for the Finance the end of the year. Another example of a representative of a direct employee of the city council essentially patting it on the head and telling them how it will go down. After all, the city management pretty much knows who's in control and it's not the city council.

But it's interesting and reassuring to watch that different members of the dais cast have different opinions on the issue of financial accountability at least with Fox Theater. Some like Davis are pushing for an accounting of what happened and what went wrong and where the money went while others chide him essentially for not being a team player. But this group think which has remained a mainstay with city government has opted out of examining other issues of concern. Occasionally one or two dais individuals will speak out and ask questions at least for a while as the rest keep their heads buried in the sand between chastise those among them for raising such a fuss.

Because dissent or disagreement on an issue among local legislators apparently means conflict and division and thus a threat to an orderly body. That's a theme that's played out with the dynamics on the Community Police Review Commission and inside city departments where people who raise issues of dissent are reminded of their familial connections within that department and their responsibilities to those ties. Which is what happened to the police department not long after former police chief Russ Leach's DUI accident and traffic stop turned into a firestorm. When high ranking officers went to community meetings and roll call sessions asking for conciliation and familial loyalty when neither had seen much lately.

Not to mention that most often the people with the most to gain by a more "peaceful" environment without questions being asked are those who make the rounds trying to remind everyone else of how they are connected even when they couldn't be more fragmented.

The whole Griffin mess occurred at about the same time that the conduct of Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis was attracting attention from outside law enforcement agencies and if the city government knew anything about what had been going on with the two men and their handling of the police department, well they didn't seem to be all that concerned about it. It seems that the city government would just like to pretend at least with the public that it doesn't know what's transpired in the past five years. If it pleads ignorance with just what's happened to the now beleaguered police department then there's even more questions that need to be answered.

Adams in particular has the most reason of anyone on the dais to be defensive and defer to the city management. The city had just settled a lawsuit alleging that he had retaliated against officers in the Riverside Police Administrators' Association for not endorsing him and that at least on two occasions, he appeared to have the "final say" in the promotions at the highest level which the charter states is for the city manager. And of course, it's illegal and a violation of the city's charter for elected officials to be involved in the promotional process which Adams clearly knew at the time.

Yet one promotion was vetoed in the 11th hour and why involved him while another was apparently approved in the 11th hour and somehow that involved him too. And none of these actions were questioned by anyone on the dais at the time that this took place in late 2005 and in early 2008. And anywhere else it might have happened in between.

If he told people that they wouldn't get promoted if they didn't back him, would it happen? And would it happen that in another case, that save for a promotional freeze another lieutenant might have been rewarded with a promotion for voting against the RPAA's decision to endorse a candidate other than Adams in the 2007 election? And that recommendation was allegedly made by a higher ranking employee with social ties to Adams going back many years?

It makes one wonder if this was going on in this city, how it managed to reach the point that it did, the promotional powers pretty much removed from the police chief and in the hands of others, including Adams leading to a fragmented command staff that doesn't appear to be very confident in its leadership abilities including at its top.

So it seems that Adams has the greatest stake in defending the status quo by city management including its more recently acquired financial branch than anyone else and that he would be the most likely to take exception to any challenges of that including by Davis.

While Adams backs city management (which is what he and the others in line with him are doing), he might be finally facing someone on the dais who doesn't march in lockstep in Davis but what does that hold for the future?

Including in areas outside the Fox Theater? And how will these issues play out in the weeks and months ahead as the city moves closer to its next city council election cycle?

The Riverside Police Department unveils a new unit addressing metal thefts.

CPRC Schedules Mid-Day Meeting Despite Criticism

[Agenda for the scheduled CPRC meeting next week on Wednesday, May 19 which will be held mid-day when few city residents can attend (which was the point of changing it) and possibly some of the commissioners as well including newly appointed Dale Roberts (not the hotel owner) from Ward Three. ]

The Community Police Review Commission is set to meet this Wednesday, May 19 at 11:15 a.m.(case review) and at 12:00 p.m. for its general meeting. This is the first meeting under the most recent decision to change its meeting times earlier in the day so that few city residents could attend. This decision, the second made in recent months, was made in the aftermath of a year that saw more attendance by city residents than any other in recent memory. But as soon as more people started attending (though few returned for a repeat performance citing the commission's rudeness), there was a push for making the meetings earlier in the day by the City Hall aligned contingent which is Peter Hubbard (employee of American Medical Response which contracts with Hudson's office), Art Santore, Ken Rotker and newest member, Robert Slawsby.

Rumor has it that at least one of this contingent is acting out of motivation to run for elective office when a certain city council seat comes up for election in 2013. Which might behind this individual's motivation to carry out the bidding of some elements at City Hall.

Several elected officials expressed concern about the change in meeting times, believing that the commission is one that services the community and thus should be held at the time when it's the most accessible to city residents.

One thing that's truly disturbing about this situation is that there were individuals on the commission who acted against others on the board by voting for this earlier meeting time. There's enough evidence in the public record including documentation of earlier discussions on availability of commissioners at earlier meeting times (with several clearly saying they were unable to attend earlier in the day) to show that this is another power play by the City Hall contingent which is only a voting majority if the commission's not in full attendance against its own members. Enough so that it could be considered a violation of ethics in accordance to the recently created code.

At any rate, the meeting's set for Wednesday around noon and it will be interesting to see who shows up including on the commission and whether they'll even have a quorum. One of the topics up for discussion on the agenda will be the issue of whether or not policy recommendations will be made in published comments made by former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach about racism and sexism still existing in the police department.

Last mission for Atlantis?

Maybe...maybe not.

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