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, July 22, 2010

River City: Your Government is What You Make of It

[Riverside's Finance Committee holds another meeting, this time to discuss the proposed increase of the hotel tax which will be up for vote in November 2010.]

Riverside's Finance Committee which rarely meets voted 3-0 to forward to the full city council a proposal to put a proposed increase in the hotel tax paid by visitors on the November 2011 ballot for the voters to decide. It was an interesting meeting, mostly because it took place. The hotel owners who had objected to the transit occupancy tax earlier were more happy now that it had been staggered out over several years beginning in 2012. One person, Jim Martin, spoke in opposition to it by saying that it didn't account for the economic law of supply and demand and would contribute to the creeping inflation rate.

It's amazing that the Finance Committee's even meeting because it went 12 months without holding a single meeting from December 2008 to nearly the end of 2009. Since then, it has met several times discussing budgetary issues and user fees. And it's met because of pressure from city residents who were concerned that the financial advisory committee had been housed in mothballs as yet another accountability mechanism handed off to the city manager's office by the legislature body that ultimately oversees the city's annual fiscal budget. So yes, people in this city who are actively involved in city government oversight as residents of the different neighborhoods definitely can make an impact even when they are treated as butting in where the city and their syncopates would rather they did not. The single most important lesson that City Hall after all needs to be reminded of is that they work for the city residents not the other way around.

And that's one of the questions I get asked by people who are very concerned about what's transpired in the past six months in Riverside and about the *pin drop* silence from City Hall about it. How do they get in touch with their elected representatives and whether or not they will even care about their concerns and opinions on these troubling issues during this turbulent era in Riverside's history. Because while there are individuals close to those who have come under the microscope telling people in Riverside to look away from all this bad behavior, many city residents are concerned about what's been going on and especially what's been going on that they haven't found out about yet. Is what's come to light the tip of the iceberg? That's another commonly asked question by city residents who have been following the developments including these scandals.

One elected official said yesterday that he has been inundated with contacts from his ward constituents complaining about what's been going on at City Hall in the wake of the Feb. 8 DUI incident involving former Police Chief Russ Leach not to mention the recent scandals coming out of City Hall involving among other things, the illegal acquisition of guns, badges and cold plates. And if that one elected official is receiving an onslaught of missives from his constituents then the others probably are receiving a good share of them as well. And if that's the case, then why are they receiving emails and phone calls complaining about what's transpired and still remaining silent to their constituents and other city residents about what's happened and what actions will be taken?

Because if one elected official is getting flooded with complaints on what's happened, then surely the others must be including Councilman Steve Adams who was implicated in the cold plates scandal and whose only comment about the situation in public was to condescend people including those in his ward by calling it "old news". If that's the case, it's only because he and other elected officials made decisions behind closed doors to ensure that it would not only never really be even "old news" but "no news". But as it turned out, they were unable to succeed at doing that but it's not for lack of trying. The revelations not surprisingly including to them (because why else try to hide them from public view) have triggered anger and consternation from many different corners.

This outrage isn't surprising because since earlier this year, I've talked or received comments from individuals in this city as well at how dismayed they are about what's been taking place and especially by the silence coming from the dais of leadership. You might think it would diminish over time but that hasn't really happened.

But these people are complaining to various venues because they care about this city and its future. They are upset by the apparent lack of accountability at City Hall. The lack of transparency which has come to light because of the apparent destruction of public documents by individuals at City Hall after the Press Enterprise had requested them.

On Tuesday, July 27, the city council will be meeting in closed session in the afternoon to perform an evaluation on Brad Hudson as city manager and one elected official said that there will be quite a discussion on this issue and questions will be asked. And if so, it's about time after everything that's transpired. Not to mention "old business" as Councilman Steve Adams called it that's come to light in recent months despite the city government's attempts to keep it under wraps.

If you're concerned about what's going on at City Hall, your City Hall, contact the following residents who are leasing the space that you own.

Mayor Ron Loveridge:

The City Council:

Phone: 826-5991

Mike Gardner:

Andrew Melendrez:

Rusty Bailey:

Paul Davis:

Chris MacArthur:

Nancy Hart:

Steve Adams:

It's important to contact elected officials even if they ignore you or belittle your concerns about what's been taking place at City Hall on their watch involving their own direct employees including one who will be evaluated by the mayor and city council during the closed session at the July 27 City Council meeting. It will be the first evaluation of city manager, Brad Hudson since the Feb. 8 Leach DUI incident not to mention all the scandals that came to light since then.

[Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson will be undergoing his first performance evaluation in that position since the revelations involving the guns, badges and cold plates scandals not to mention the alleged destruction of public records by one of his staff members.]

[Riverside Councilman Paul Davis said that he has some questions to ask about the concerns to him expressed by Ward Four constituents about issues involving Hudson including the guns, badges and cold plates scandals. Will other elected officials also ask questions or will they circle the wagons against him?]

But the city council needs to remember that they were elected to represent the city's residents and that they hold leases not ownership of City Hall and that those leases come up for renewal every four years by their ward residents. Including four seats in the election cycle next year where candidates are already beginning to line up for a chance to run.

The First Month of a New Police Chief Passes

Meanwhile at the police department, the tenure of new chief, Sergio Diaz continues and people are hopeful yet watchful of what's going to transpire with the future of the police department. Promotions are expected to be announced in the next several weeks, hopefully to fill some of the vacancies in the sergeant and lieutenants' ranks. With Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa retiring on July 23, it's expected that at least one or two more positions will be filled by Diaz at the upper management level and it's most likely that given the most recent changes in the classifications for assistant and deputy chiefs hired from outside the agency, that these positions will be filled by individuals outside the Riverside Police Department.

That would be the smart decision given the dearth of leadership at the highest levels of the police department given how quickly they fell as dominoes in the wake of a series of internal investigations including those involving the Leach DUI investigation and power plays within the department. The rest of the dominoes near the top appear to still be standing erect for now but it still remains to be seen what will happen in the next weeks and months. Especially when it becomes more apparent what the role of City Hall including that of Hudson will be involving the police department and whether Diaz will face similar micromanagement as Leach faced once the "honeymoon" period ends. It should be more than abundantly clear to Loveridge and the city council how damaging the micromanagement of the department by Hudson and his underling, DeSantis has been since 2005. What with different investigations or "inquiries" as the city management calls them by representatives from the criminal division of the State Attorney General's office.

All of this taking priority while the mishandling of the police department caused it to slide into an abyss which came to light in the wake of the DUI incident when the department was operating with both civilian and sworn positions critically low and after cutting its training budget by around 25%. Signs which had appeared not long before the last time the department had experienced serious problems. Yet the city manager's office was more concerned with equipping itself, laws be damned, with police paraphernalia than in the well being of the police agency itself. Involving it as an agent in an illegal guns transaction became paramount to ensuring that it was appropriately staffed and supervised. Some have praised Hudson and DeSantis for exhibiting excellent administrative skills with the police department's reorganization forgetting that if it weren't for in large part these two individuals, the police department would never have been pushed into this position of having to be essentially reorganized for the second time since 2001.

Hopefully in the round of promotions purportedly coming up in the new several weeks that some of these critical vacancies will be filled. Hopefully it's the new police chief who will promote them. That seems academic to say that but past practices...well they were what they were with even elected officials like Adams apparently getting involved in the process.

[Deputy Chief Mike Blakely (l.) who was recently appointed again to that position by Chief Sergio Diaz has elicited some degree of controversy through his selection but more than a couple individual said that he knows where all the bodies are buried in the department and how to find them. Others have said that Diaz will need to watch his back with him. It remains to be seen exactly what will happen to Blakely who after all, had more experience than anyone else at the captain's level to fill the position. Only time will tell.]

The decision by Diaz to elevate Mike Blakely to fill the deputy chief in charge of administration position was greeted with interest by people after they heard about it. The best person to find the bodies buried in the RPD, some have said so if Diaz wanted to clean house, then Blakely is his best bloodhound. Yet others said that if Diaz doesn't bring in at least an assistant chief from the outside that he could run into trouble with Blakely who is viewed as being intelligent, very hard working (on the full 10 hour work schedule) and loyal to no one. It should be interesting to see which direction that the department takes under the developing dynamic including that involving its newest deputy chief.

Blakely after all came aboard along with former chief Ken Fortier (who hailed from San Diego's police department) in the early 1990s as an outside deputy chief. He remained in the department albeit as a captain even after Fortier retired in 1997 and worked in a variety of assignments including overseeing both Investigations and Personnel which includes the department's Internal Affairs Division. Giving him plenty of time to store up a lot of knowledge about the department and its operations, not to mention its cast. And any competition he would have had for this position has retired in both cases rather abruptly.

But allegedly the State Attorney General's office including its civil division is one agency playing close attention to how all this plays out involving the police department and City Hall in the next few months. Because even though the stipulated judgment was dissolved between it and the city involving the police department in March 2006, didn't mean that office stopped paying attention. In fact, actions by City Hall that were counter to the city council's vote to ensure further intention of the original Strategic Plan attracted the attention of that office in the summer of 2006.

In many ways, the next few months could prove to be the most critical of all.

Riverside's Fox Theater is underperforming in the fund raising area. Many prospective donors want to see how the rest of the first season of the theater as a performance venue goes and they're a bit nervous about the ongoing recession. Not to mention the ongoing issues with the theater's consultant William Malone.

How to water the greenbelt is being examined in Riverside.

Jurupa may become Riverside County's next city. Voters will decide in March 2011.

How to know when someone's drowning. It's not as easy as you think.

Public Meetings

Tuesday, July 27 at 3 pm and 6:30 pm
, the Riverside City Council meets to discuss this agenda.And included under the closed session issue is the first performance evaluation for Hudson that takes place after the revelations of the guns, badges and cold plates scandals involving him and DeSantis. At least one city councilman said that he's going into that meeting to have a discussion and ask questions about concerns raised by constituents.

Also on the discussion calendar are proposals for the development of Tequesquite Park and the Metropolitan Museum. Two projects that have a lot of city residents paying very close attention to them. Including individuals concerned about recent directions both projects have been taking.

The agenda originally was posted without a date of the meeting but after calling the city clerk's office, it was corrected in less than 15 minutes. That's quick, and thanks to the city clerk's office.

Wednesday, July 28 at 3pm, the Community Police Review Commission is having its monthly general meeting this time in the Public Utilities Boardroom on Orange Street near City Hall. This agenda will be discussed and the CPRC's constantly meeting at different times because it hasn't yet scheduled its "special" meeting in order for the commissioners to be able to come up with one particular meeting time. An active minority wants to keep the meetings during the day when community members and some of their own commissioners can't attend. A clear majority (or it would be if the members could attend) want to move the meetings back to their regularly scheduled time at 5:30 p.m.

[Former Community Police Review Commission chair listens to discussion held from other members in terms of when the panel will conduct its general meetings for the public. The commission has not set on a specific time as of yet.]

This mess was brought to you in part by how City Hall chose to enforce Measure GG involving ward representation on the boards and commissions. Instead of making it truly representative, several city council members took advantage of it to thoroughly politicize the process that now most of the people who serve on the CPRC have been political appointments closely aligned to City Hall. Even one of political consultant Brian Floyd's buddies was able to become a member.

Under outreach, here's the draft document instructing people on what to do if stopped by police which will be up for discussion again by the panel.

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