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

Friday, July 09, 2010

Brad Hudson: A Case of Nonfeasance?

UPDATE: The city council gets prepared to double the salary differentials for the police department's deputy and assistant chiefs to 5% and 10% respectively. Is this being done to entice people who might be hired from the outside?

This blog posting was contributed by a former managing editor of the Press Enterprise. Any opinions expressed are those of the writer's. It asks some very important questions about how the city handles cases where its employees who drive while intoxicated or are intoxicated in public places especially considering some of them like law enforcement officers might also be carrying firearms at the time. The latter became an issue raised by Riverside Police Department Officers Jeremy Miller and Grant Linhart when they stopped Leach even after knowing the man driving the car had been their boss, as clearly heard on the dash camera recordings hosted at the Press Enterprise Web site. What role does the city manager have if one of his direct employees engages in such conduct and what's his responsibility to act? As you can see in the op-ed piece, there are different answers including by some of City Manager Brad Hudson's bosses, the city council.

And has Hudson been completely honest about his assessment of Leach that was given to a media outlet?

(This blog as originally posted contained an error in the 25th paragraph misidentifying a hotel bar where Leach had been seen drinking. It is the bar at the Marriott not the Sheraton. The text below has been corrected.)

Brad Hudson: A Case of Nonfeasance?

By Mel Opotowsky

Numerous accounts show that Russ Leach, the ex-chief of the Riverside Police Department, has been a public drunk.

So if he has been doing that a long time, and it has been widely known, why didn’t his boss, City Manager Brad Hudson, do something about it to protect the city’s coffers, its citizens from the threat of a drunk driver, and its reputation?

To put it in legal language, Hudson, who under the city charter was responsible for Leach, knew or should have known about the chief’s reputation. Under that concept of legal responsibility, a supervisor is required to exercise “routine diligence” when he had “reason to believe” something harmful might be going on.

In this case, some critics have said, Hudson should have acted to protect the city even from something worse happening than occurred in February in the now well-known night when the chief quaffed about a dozen drinks, many of them doubles, and prescription drugs before driving around in his city car, lost and “disoriented” before his own cops stopped him.

For the record, Hudson reportedly told a meeting of Press-Enterprise editors and reporters that he did not know about Leach’s drinking; he did not return two phone calls for comment on this article. But others who talked to the CHP painted a picture of a well-known problem. At least five persons described his drinking in public. And besides the CHP account, there are many other similar stories.

They point to warning signs that first surfaced in 2004 when San Diego police investigated Leach on suspicion of spousal assault in a motel for which he was never prosecuted because of inadequate evidence. There is, however, less well-known (but far from secret) attempts at intervention in 2006 when the chief reportedly tried the Alcoholics Anonymous program. This came in the wake of several reports of his drinking regularly with others at a downtown restaurant, among other places, including one when a city official expressed concern about the chief’s safety.

Some say that after the interventions Hudson had a duty to follow up and keep himself apprised of what was going on, and indeed should have known because of the extent of the subsequent public drinking and its notoriety. They point not only to what that kind of behavior means to the city’s reputation but also to the liability danger in Leach driving a city car.

But others, like former council member Dom Betro, who runs the Family Service Association, said that as an employer he cannot take action against an employee’s behavior unless there is evidence that it has affected his work. At 6 feet and 185 pounds, Leach appeared to hold his liquor better than most, and there apparently are no such reports of Leach’s cutting out from work or coming in with a hangover.

City council member Paul Davis, who owns a business, made a similar observation. But both Betro and Davis also agreed that considering what a police chief’s reputation means to a city, a higher standard might apply to behavior during off-duty or private time. Leach’s boss, the city manager, might be expected to enforce that standard.

As city council member Mike Gardner put it, “Any representative of the city needs to comport himself appropriately all the time.”

As to whether Hudson did his due diligence in monitoring Leach’s behavior, Gardner said he had faith in the city manager but he’ll talk to the council about the issue.

Davis agreed. “This is something we should look at closely,” he said. “Did we have periodic follow-ups to make sure he was clean and sober. Those are valid questions.”

But council member Chris MacArthur said he had confidence in Hudson. “In this particular case, everything was handled correctly,” he said. MacArthur expected the city manager to make any corrections necessary.

Council member Steve Adams , who said he coincidentally ran into Leach, whose ex-wife Connie worked at city hall, at bars only a couple of times and had not heard of any drinking problem, declined to speculate on what the city manager knew or should have done. He said that even a police chief, as long as he is not breaking the law, should have the freedom to do what he wants on his own time, and that includes going to a stripper club. “This is the United States of America,” Adams said. “That’s their right. No employer should interfere.”

How much evidence has accumulated about Leach’s drinking? The CHP report on Leach’s activities the night and early morning after the Super Bowl said he was intoxicated after visiting the 215 Club, buying drinks for himself and a stripper friend. . The report included these statements:

--Assistant Police Chief John De La Rosa said,“I know he drinks a lot…He is a very heavy drinker…he has a circle of folks that he regularly is out, you know, drinking with.”

--Sgt. Marcus Smail, a Leach friend, said “…the both of us were probably moderate to heavy drinkers at that time (both going through a divorce). We definitely were drinking too much… I went into a program for about six months and I think he did and pretty much cleaned up, but I think on a a…in generally I…I would say he was, you know, a moderate drinker, social to moderate…I never seen him out of control…I mean I’ve seen him tipsy just when we’ve…been golfing and drank together and just kind of been normal. I wouldn’t call it abnormal at all.”

-- Sgt. Frank Orta said, “…if you want to use the word he’s a social drinker, then he’s very social. And to be kind of facetious, you know.”

--Danuta Tuscynska, an attorney, added “That is his reputation…For years you would hear about the chief drinking at Romano’s and getting in a city vehicle and driving home.”

--Richard Ekwall, an official from Colton where the Club 215 is located, said that a bartender at Riverside’s Fox Theatre opening with singer Sheryl Crow last year reported Leach appeared “drunk, obnoxious” and insisted that the event’s supervisor bring in more Jameson’s whiskey because it had run out of that brand.

The evidence of his drunkenness is not limited to citations in the CHP report.

On one occasion at the Sire Restaurant where he visited frequently he was spotted in the patio, obviously tipsy and acting “like a teenager” with a female friend, according to one person who knew him.

Bill Barnes, a former officer, tells the story of finding the chief in Duke’s bar in January on Martin Luther King’s holiday already “very intoxicated, but had six or seven more drinks.” From there the two moved to the 215 Club where the chief continued heavy drinking, and also spending several hundred dollars on “entertainment” with a dancer, before driving home.

Barnes also recalled an occasion in 2008 where a dispatcher retirement party at the Elks Club moved to the Mission Inn bar where the chief again was observed consuming a lot.

Someone who was not in law enforcement said Leach also showed up at the bar at the rival Marriott Hotel, where he was seen drinking heavily on several occasions. And as further evidence of how much public drinking went on, one cop rolled off a list of eight restaurants where the chief drank, citing four where he was observed intoxicated at times in the presence of city officials.

With all of that going on, Mary Figueroa of the Eastside Think Tank who has been critical of the management of the police department, said “most definitely the city manager Hudson should have intervened.” As for what he knew, she points to Hudson’s reputation (as well as that of his assistant Tom DeSantis) for micromanaging the department. She said the signs were apparent to people who knew Leach; after the 2006 intervention and he joined a church, he physically looked better for a while but then he retrogressed and “you could see it in his haggard face.”

Figueroa said she hopes the city council will review to see why Hudson didn’t carry out proper supervision considering the chief’s inappropriate behavior even while he was micromanaging the department.

But Alex Tortes, a retired Riverside police lieutenant, said he did not have much hope the council would take it up.

“They have chosen to ignore it up to now,” said Tortes. “But how could the city manager, while micro-managing things, claim he did not know what was going on.” He declaimed Hudson for practicing “plausible denial,” pointing to his assertion he did not know about Leach’s drinking and his not being reachable by cell phone after the Feb. 8 traffic stop because he was toiuring theatres with other officials.

Said Tortes, “I’m embarrassed for the city.”

Mel Opotowsky is former managing editor of The Press-Enterprise

A spy swap between the United States and Russia has everyone intrigued. Both countries essentially caught caught with their pants down in the world of espionage.


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