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, July 21, 2010

City Councilman Paul Davis to Ask Questions about City Management?

[Riverside Councilman Paul Davis is preparing to ask some serious questions about the conduct of City Manager Brad Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis in response to concerned ward residents. Will he have any support for doing that on the dais? ]

Press Enterprise columnist, Dan Bernstein wrote this column which included an excerpt about Riverside Councilman Paul Davis who's been receiving missives from his ward residents complaining about the involvement of city council's own personnel in the guns, badges and cold plates scandals. Bernstein included an emailed response from Davis to one email writer as seen below.


Riverside Councilman Paul Davis' e-mailed reply to "Disgusted Ward 4 Constituent" who wants to get rid of the Glockstars, Hudson and DeSantis:

I am embarrassed and angered at how those City leaders have handled themselves... I have taken steps to begin the process of bringing this to the full council... Mayor Loveridge and I will be meeting...

It's about time someone on the dais actually had anything to say about the embarrassing scandals which have shaken the public's trust in City Hall and the police department. News about the recent badges, guns and cold plates scandals have reached outside of Riverside and it's interesting to be asked by people outside the city, regarding what the hell is anyone in leadership doing to keep their direct employees in line or at least prevent them from engaging in disturbing and even illegal conduct. In Riverside, you have city management employees who had been equipping themselves like police officers in violation of state law and when it came to light earlier this year, the city council and mayor had nothing to say about the issue. In fact, they appeared to pretend that nothing unusual let alone unseemly had taken place at all. Perhaps they were thinking that the Riversiders who were very upset about what happened would cool down about it hopefully before the election cycle in 2011.

That's not taking place as candidates are already lining up to run against incumbents with more thinking about it and people are still expressing concerns and asking questions about what has been taking place and just as importantly, the incidents that happened and haven't come to public light yet. It's more than probable that if the status quo set by the city council and mayor continue, that Riverside's dais will see four new faces next year. Riverside's residents want leaders who are accountable and who will hold their employees accountable when they engage in unethical and even illegal conduct. But that's not been taking place at City Hall at least not in Riverside even as the frustration among city residents has been growing.

People talk about the scandal happening in Bell and how outrageous it is what money's being paid to all but one of its city council members and some of its employees including the city manager and police chief. And yes what's unfolding there thanks to the diligent work of the Los Angeles Times is absolutely outrageous. But guess what, residents of the poor city of Bell are amassing at city council meetings to express their outrage to the point where the fire marshal (and his salary wasn't included on the list) had to threaten to shut the public meeting down. Bravo to the people in Bell for standing up to this corruption and nonsense in their City Hall. That's as it should be.

And the city council members responded by asking for the resignations of their high-priced employees but the city council should follow suit and resign as well because after all, who approved these salaries in the first place? And who ensured that they would be paid out to these employees until they got caught? But it's more than likely that even after making this move, none of these elected officials who were making close to $100,000 annually through their part-time positions will be elected to future terms of office. Scandals like these when they come to light and are seen as being outrageous as they are have a way of galvanizing people to act through the political tools that are available to them including the vote.

But what's happened in Riverside as revealed by the media is different but no less outrageous. What's happening in Bell may or may not be illegal and who knows, it's definitely worth looking for any illegal conduct there given how money's being spent to benefit a few people in what amounts to a municipal fiefdom there. But it's arrogance and a sense of entitlement by elected officials and their direct employees in Bell that led to that outrageous conduct which no doubt these same individuals worked hard to keep secret and to prevent the public they purportedly served from finding out.

In Riverside, that same arrogance and entitlement has led to behavior that involved the violation of state laws including the distribution of flat badges, cold plates and the sale of guns to city management employees by an agency not legally licensed to do so. Why did individuals like Hudson and DeSantis clearly believe they were above the law? Not once but at least three times between 2005 not long after their arrival to July 2007 when they attracted outside investigations with their conduct? Why were city officials praising Hudson to the media as the best ever, even knowing about this highly questionable conduct at the latest, when they were briefed by their legal team on the city's position on the lawsuits filed by former police lieutenants Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt? Yes, the scandals started appearing in the Press Enterprise several days after its retrospective on Hudson's five year tenure as city manager but those who praised Hudson would have known or should have known about the guns, badges and cold plates scandals because of the lawsuits and their defense against them as outlined by Priamos. They just didn't think that the public was ever going to find out all about them.

So while Bell's city residents have to deal with the reality of what's finally unfolding there, Riverside's residents have to address what's happened in Riverside and has come to light involving this scandalous behavior. And what's been playing out in the public arena in the past few months has generated a lot of anger in Riverside's city residents.

The police department and its employees unfairly bore the brunt of the criticism for decisions made by City Hall and the department's upper management. And like the overpaid city employees of Bell, some of these people have left or are leaving with generous pensions that are either the same or greater than what they might have been otherwise. The only individual whose pension will be less is soon to be Sgt. Leon Phillips, the watch commander who drove Leach home after his DUI incident on Feb. 8. Which sends the same message that's being sent in Bell which is that the buck stops a lot lower than it should when there's trouble, which in the Riverside Police Department was at the supervisor rather than management level and in Bell, it stops far short of the primary people responsible there, the city council.

This is interesting precisely because many people would think that the responsibility of accountability in both City Hall and inside the police department would begin at their highest levels not fall short of that. At least that's what the people in charge of both have said with their mouths. But as we've learned here in Riverside and they'll also learn in Bell, the actions that are taken often have little to do with what's said. It's something that the voters in Riverside have certainly picked up on. It's the elected officials who are a bit slow on the uptake, much more so than their counterparts in Bell.

But the pique is now more focused on individuals at City Hall especially after the revelations of embarrassing conduct by denizens within it. Not to mention that the elected officials have been absolutely silent on the issue including Mayor Ron Loveridge as if they exist in some parallel universe. It would be much better to see the elected officials remember that the voters in Riverside were the ones who put them in office and can pink slip them. And it would be good to see at least one of them step forward and to the plate and start asking questions in public so that the city residents would know that the concerns which have been raised during the past six months are being addressed. It still remains to be seen if that will actually happen or whether the city government collectively will continue to stick its head in the sand over what's happening on their watch.

Because many people are looking at the city government and rolling their eyes at it because they understand that when its direct employees misbehave and get caught at it or even several years later (when the covers slip), it's contingent on those who employ these individuals to act on it. Yet that clearly hasn't taken place on Riverside's dais and one of the most common questions that I'm asked, is why is the city council doing and saying nothing about what's transpired that's put Riverside once again on the national map. One of the major concerns is along similar lines that the city council and mayor will continue to act utterly clueless as if they're living in an alternate dimension as even more misconduct comes to light. Because in Riverside like most places, when it rains, it pours and the current forecast shows more showers on the horizon.

But hopefully if one city councilman has indeed stepped forward on this issue then the others will follow.


Two "Missing" At Will Police Management Contracts Reappear!

[Page one of the employment agreement involving John DeLaRosa's appointment to assistant chief in March 2007. This contract resurfaced in City Manager Brad Hudson's hand at a July 13 City Council meeting after not being able to be found three years earlier.]

The city clerk's office provided copies of the "employment agreements" for both Assistant Chief John DeLaRosa and Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel that were drafted in March 2007. These aren't the signed copies as Esquivel testified that he did sign an "at will" contract with the city. But it's interesting how on Esquivel's contract, there's some highlighting on that he will serve solely at the pleasure and will of the police chief. Their positions weren't classified with job protections and they would receive incremental salary increases.

DeLaRosa's proposed annual salary: $173,559.69

Esquivel's proposed annual salary: $165,294.94

Leach had testified in a deposition taken in autumn 2009 that he had been in Washington, D.C. when he learned that the two men had been promoted. He testified that he had chosen them but he seemed surprised to learn of their advancements while thousands of miles away. Many had thought him to be furious at what had transpired in his absence and had believed that he was going to confront the city management on what had happened but that confrontation never took place. Leach appeared at the March 27 city council meeting alongside his boss, Hudson and the other assorted cast of characters who took the stage in front of an audience of police employees and city residents who had packed the council chambers on the issue. Leach later received a sizable pay increase and things became awfully quiet once again. At that moment, he essentially surrendered what little control he had left of the police department.

Leach had also testified in his deposition that he had believed that the assistant and deputy chiefs would be serving at the will of the city management. The concern that this would be the case galvanized activity within both law enforcement associations including a rally in the city council chambers. But by this point, the micromanagement of the police department by the city manager's office was so extensive that it didn't mean as much to state that the two management employees would be serving "at will" to Leach. After while this was going on, Leach and a representative from the State Attorney General's criminal division had been trading letters on the illicit gun sale involving Hudson, DeSantis and the police department as well as the creation and issuance of badges to Hudson, DeSantis and former Asst. City Manager Michael Beck.

It was also around the time that the city might have been doing its cold plating of cars involving to some of these individuals as well as Councilman Steve Adams. So it appears that since Hudson, DeSantis and Adams were able to do as they liked with the police department that they, not Leach, had control of its helm.

Several police unions had sought copies of these contracts beginning in March 2007 but received responses to their requests by Priamos that after a careful search no documents responsive to the requests could be found. No legal citation was provided stating that the documents weren't allowed to be released and this text is vague in that the recipient of the letter doesn't know whether the document really doesn't exist, it got lost or the city just doesn't want the public to access it especially during times it could be embarrassing exposure. With the documents' reappearance and relatively easy ability to access three years after the "at will controversy", it's pretty clear which of the three categories these particular documents fall into and that would probably be that the city just didn't want them to be released. Why?

Because the documents eventual production means that they do and probably did exist in 2007. Plus, it's difficult to believe that they were "lost" because Priamos claimed in his letter that he did a thorough search and these documents are stamped with the address and phone number of his own department which means that they originated in the City Attorney's office. So how was Priamos able to do a diligent search throughout the city and yet missed finding them in his own office?

So yes, using simple deductive reasoning, it's fairly clear that the city didn't want those unions or their attorneys to have access to them or anyone else for that matter even though they were clearly public documents. After all the letters from Priamos didn't include statements that they were not public, just that they couldn't be found. But since three years have passed and it's now 2010 and these contracts are "old news", it's probably deemed much less risky for the city to rather freely and quickly release them to the public now. The time it took to have access to these documents on a request?

Less than two business days. Really, what a difference three years makes and what a disgrace that public documents such as these ones can be drafted, "disappear" and then reappear defying the laws of physics as well as being in defiance of the CPRA as well.

[Letter written by City Attorney Gregory Priamos dated May 11, 2007 that he couldn't find any documents responsive to the CPRA request for the 2007 at will labor agreements for former police employees John DeLaRosa and Pete Esquivel.]

[Excerpt of same letter showing the text that states "no documents responsive" (to your request) could be found. The signature is Priamos'.]

It's a bit surreal to look at contract agreements that had been requested in the spring of 2007 to the city attorney's office but Gregory Priamos had replied back that after a careful search, no documents responding to the request could be found. But again, is that the documents clearly originated from the same office that wouldn't locate them. That's very interesting considering that the contracts that wound up being rediscovered after not being found in 2007 bear the stamp of the department that claimed to be unable to locate them.

[This text barely legible on the left side is the city attorney's office address and phone number. In 2007, this office wrote a letter in response to a CPRA request that it couldn't find this same document.]

But then this is Riverside after all. And in that light, the Mystery of the Reappearing At Will Contracts has apparently been solved.

Amid a sea of controversy over its management and tepid sales, the Riverside downtown Fox Theater announces its fall schedule.

Four Rialto Police Department officers are placed on leave in the wake of a emerging sex scandal.

If you've been following the recent disappearance of teenager, Norma Angelica Lopez, 17, who vanished while walking home from school, a body found in Moreno Valley is "related" to her investigation. Her father allegedly told media outlets that the body has been identified as his daughter.

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