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, July 26, 2010

Riverside's City Goverment Evaluates Its City Manager

"I have received many, many e-mails and phone calls from my constituency"

---Riverside City Councilman Paul Davis on the response of his ward's residents to various City Hall scandals

[Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson's not quite making as much as his counterpart in Bell (yet) but he's facing some scrutiny perhaps for the first time during his performance evaluation behind closed doors today by the city council and mayor.]

The city council and Mayor Ron Loveridge were set to evaluate City Manager Brad Hudson on his job performance, his first such evaluation since the breaking of the guns, badges and cold plates scandals, which was then promptly followed by the alleged destruction of public documents that had been requested through the California Public Records Act by the Press Enterprise not too long ago. This evaluation comes along annually but rumor is that it was expedited this year by concerns raised by several elected officials. And if that's true, then it's about time the city council and Loveridge have listened to city residents in this city who have raised concerns about what's been going on in Riverside during the tenures of City Manager Brad Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis. It had seemed that even as anger and outrage was felt across the city since the DUI incident involve former police chief, Russ Leach in Feb. 9, that the city council and Loveridge occupied space in an alternate universe. That they either condoned what had been taking place and what had been unfolding in recent weeks and months or they didn't care. Loveridge of course has been focusing most of his energy and time on business conducted as president of the League of Cities which of course is much more important than just one city, Riverside. Even as the exploits in Riverside hit the national airwaves.

One city council member, Paul Davis from the fourth ward said that he had been getting bombarded with communications from irate residents about what's been taking place at City Hall and apparently he's been paying attention to what's been going on and has pushed for the closed session evaluation of Hudson. But he would need support from Loveridge or the Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Hart to even get it on the agenda. And it's not likely that support came from Hart who has had very little to say since this all started except that she has a problem with people getting public documents from the city if they are trying to catch "it" doing something.

I'm not surprised that Davis has received so many emails and phone calls because I've talked to many residents in the forth ward but really, he's not receiving any more complaints than are likely being received by other elected officials in this city. He's just admitting it. Having heard complaints and concerns from residents of all words (yes, even Adams' ward), it's a focus of great concern in this city particularly the city government's lack of response or even words on everything that's transpired so far this year. And unfortunately, there's more to come down the pike. Because when it rains, it pours even in Riverside.

But if Davis asks any questions of his employee Hudson, will he receive any dais support? That's not very likely. Because several elected officials have already put themselves in a corner by praising Hudson in the media and for some reason, the majority of the elected officials who have spoken on theses troubling issues including the guns, badges and cold plates don't seem to think it's much of a problem and their silence has spoken volumes mostly to their constituents.

Unfortunately there's this strange kind of what's called group think going on with the leadership at City Hall that dictates what takes place in the decision making process. This is also known as the "go along to get along" philosophy. It's the perfect environment for scandals to take root in and grow due to the dearth of leadership because everyone's more worried about rocking the boat and there's a reluctance to second guess direct employees. As long as the city government operates under Group Think, more of this type of behavior will continue to take place. Just as more scandals have probably taken place than the public knows, being only able to take a peek at the tip of the iceberg while the vast majority of its shape remains hidden from view.

[Riverside Councilman Paul Davis has quite a few questions to ask his direct employee, City Manager Brad Hudson about how he's managing the city government, not to mention a scandal here and there.]

But Davis is right to be concerned about what's been taking place with high ranking city employees including one hired by the city government and he mentions the very disturbing discrepancies provided in sworn testimony provided by both Leach and DeSantis in depositions taken as part of the lawsuits filed by former Lts. Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt. One area of contradictory testimony took place when the issue arose about the issuance of cold plates to city management employees and several elected officials. In his deposition, DeSantis said that Leach had suggested that he be issued cold plates for his city-issued vehicle. However, Leach said that it had been done by the city management without his knowledge until after the fact when it came to his attention. Other accounts contained in written documentation in the lawsuits stated that Leach had come to several police employees concerned that his bosses, Hudson and DeSantis were overriding him and having him do things that he believed could be illegal. This concern was allegedly raised involving the issuance of the cold plates by the city and police department fleet yards.

Leach had allegedly provided a list of vehicles that were cold plated to police employees who then forwarded their concerns to the State Attorney General's office's criminal division once they were able to ascertain through examination of the state's vehicle code that issuing cold plates to civilians was in fact illegal. The cold plate list includes a listing that was added as "pending" to the list per DeSantis so if DeSantis had his car cold plated because Leach suggested it, then why was DeSantis apparently authorizing it to be done to other city vehicles?

And Leach's account was backed up by another former police management employee.

Former Deputy Chief Dave Dominguez, now the chief in Palm Springs, backed Leach's account that the city management had been responsible for the issuance of cold plates, not Leach. DeSantis responded by calling Dominguez a "disgruntled employee" who had lost out on a promotion to assistant chief. Well this opened up quite a can of worms because it seems illogical on its face. If Dominguez had been "disgruntled" about the promotion and was coming forward under that motivation, one would guess that he would agree with DeSantis and say that yes, the chief had been responsible for the illegal use of cold plates. Because after all, if he had been upset and "disgruntled" about not being promoted then Leach as the police chief who makes promotions would be the focus of that ire. Unless of course, Leach had nothing to do with those promotions as many people believed and Hudson and DeSantis had actually been the ones doing the promoting. But DeSantis didn't explain why a "disgruntled" employee like Dominguez would actually back and defend the assertion made by the individual that he would have been "disgruntled" at.

Another former employee, Richard Dana, now Hemet's police chief, said to the Press Enterprise that he acted to remove cold plates from vehicles driven by people from Hemet's City Hall after discovering it was an illegal practice. He said that city officials in Riverside had been issued cold plates while he had been employed there.

So given the discrepancies in the testimony of individuals who took an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, it appears that at least one party didn't take that oath very seriously. And for most mere mortals, meaning those who aren't in high ranking positions of leadership and power, perjury is a crime punishable by law. And yes, you can be charged and prosecuted for perjury involving civil depositions, as a former Riverside Police Department officer had been in 2006 in relation to a workman's compensation case. So this former city employee gets prosecuted and later convicted, but the contradictory statements in the depositions involving Leach and DeSantis and others as well don't even warrant an investigation? Is that the privilege of power?

But if Davis is concerned about what's taken place, it appears so far that he's the only one. After all, dais mate Councilman Andrew Melendrez told the daily newspaper that he had some questions about the whole badges, guns and cold plates to put that situation to rest but that it's not enough to impact Hudson's city management. What these comments do unfortunately is to explain how this type of behavior by city management personnel was allowed to take place in the first place. Why city officials were able to try to equip themselves with illegal badges and cold plates (which are mostly untraceable) and it's why the use of the police department as an unlicensed gun vendor to sell guns to city management employees was able to go undetected by the city government for at least a year or longer. Ironically, it's possible that Melendrez might have been the first elected official notified about Leach's DUI incident because according to former Sgt. Frank Orta's interview with California Highway Patrol investigators, he had called Melendrez' wife within several hours and then later spoke with Melendrez about the incident. As it turns out, Orta is the brother in law of Melendrez and he provided one of the most interesting accounts of the incident of those interviewed by the CHP's Riverside division.

Yet what did Melendrez do with this information of possible illegal conduct involving a city department head, let alone one in charge of the police department? This may have been around or before the time that Loveridge received the information on the incident from an anonymous female caller and it's not clear what if any steps Melendrez took to investigate further what happened as Loveridge allegedly had done. Did he look into it or did he do nothing?

And there are probably more people like Melendrez on the dais than Davis because if there had been city governmental leaders who had been paying more attention to what their direct employees had been doing since they first arrived, incidents like those involving Leach would have been less likely to happen. And scandals such as the guns, badges, cold plates and such probably would have never taken place and if they had, they would have been dealt with much sooner by the city council (who after all, employs Hudson) than several years later.

Some City Council members and Loveridge have praised Hudson in recent retrospective articles about his tenure with the city that were published in the Press Enterprise not long before the guns, badges and cold plates scandals unfolded in a public arena. These scandals weren't really news to these elected officials at this point, because remember that one of the councilmen, Steve Adams dismissed the disturbing scandals as "old news". But the scandals were believed to have been safely kept under wraps by the city before they became exposed. That's why they're "old news" to people like Adams who were either privy to them or actually implicated in them and new to most of us. It could have been worse, because it appears that City Hall hoped that they would become "buried news". The best laid plans of mice and men...well anyway, the public did find out about these transgressions anyway.

[Councilman Steve Adams implicated in the cold plates scandal has claimed that none of his Ward Seven constituents have registered any complaints with him by what's been going on in Riverside.]

Adams, what can you say about him except that he claimed that none of his constituents in Ward Seven complained to him about all these scandals taking place including the cold plates one that implicated him. After all, when he had his incident in Newport Beach when his car got impounded or towed and allegedly charged on DeSantis card, the plates on the cars were allegedly cold plated. Leach had testified that Adams had identified himself as an undercover officer which Adams didn't mention in his own sworn testimony. However, the watch commander in the Riverside Police Department was notified by someone associated with Newport Police Department and asked about Adams. Leach was asked in his deposition why Adams wasn't investigated for impersonating an officer and Leach simply said it hadn't been in his jurisdiction and had to be decided by the Newport Beach Police Department.

But Adams has also benefited from the fact that only a few of the scandals have come to light. The larger ones involving his alleged involvement in Riverside's police department including whether or not he approved or vetoed between two to three captains' promotions have so far stayed out of the mainstream press though they have been blogged about here. Though judging from the response I received about people concerned about possible micromanagement of the department by Adams, this is an issue of great concern.

Given the furor that's struck the rest of Riverside, the fact that Adams is saying he hadn't received any complaints about it just makes one wonder how much in touch he is with his constituents. Because there have been people complaining in many different wards so why wouldn't they be complaining in the seventh ward given that their own councilman was implicated with having cold plates. The former police officer who one would think might have the most access to information regarding the legality of the issuance of these plates than would other elected officials.

But most of the time when elected officials claim they hadn't received any negative response, it's just bull. It would be extremely odd if he hadn't received at least one complaint when someone like Davis is getting showered with them. But then there were several former elected officials who would often claim while discussing controversial issues that they hadn't received a single negative email or phone call involving an issue that the councilmen supported. Nor did they receive any emails or phone calls complaining about their actions or a stance they had taken on an issue which just about never happens in civics or politics. But interestingly enough, some of these Riverside city councilmen were then pink slipped by voters during the very next election cycle they faced. And those that were pink slipped were essentially buried or done in by the very same issues that they claimed they had never received complaints about, whether it was the use or threat of use of Eminent Domain, actions to minimize the Community Police Review Commission or the uses of March Air Reserve Base as an airport for DHL. So were constituents making their opinions known all along or just reserving them to take to the polls, that would be an interesting question to answer.

But one of the most interesting personalities in this dynamic called City Hall is Loveridge who's been in politics longer than some people have been alive. And he's been mayor since 1994. Some people really believe that this is last term of office but you can never be too sure. Already half of Riverside's political crowd is either running for mayor or thinking about it. But Loveridge, you just can never really tell with him.

[Is Mayor Ron Loveridge beginning to get a little concern about the tarnishing of his legacy in this position since 1993?]

Lately, Loveridge has had his mind on other things, largely League of Cities issues while some say he's been playing the role of Nero and Riverside's standing in for Rome. It's not clear if that's quite the case but it's interesting to ponder Loveridge as being an academic turned politician in the twilight of his long career and then having to serve as the city's ribbon cutter under a city council/manager system. But Loveridge has done very well for himself in terms of turning himself into a true player in the leadership of the city mostly by working behind the scenes in between public appearances. Still, if this is one of the last years he'll be spending in office before a political retirement, it's not the type of year that anyone would want to serve as the final act in their legacy.

But it didn't have to be this way. Loveridge could have taken a leadership role over the rudderless city council and perhaps created a mechanism for inviting citizen participation into examining what has taken place in the past several years and then come up with recommendations on how to address these problems. Much as he did when he created the Mayor's Use of Force Panel to examine the police department in the wake of a fatal officer-involved shooting in 1998. He could have pushed for providing the currently diluted and ineffective ethics code and complaint process with some real teeth. That could have afforded him a great legacy.

But he hasn't done any of these things and instead acts as if he lives in an alternate universe to most of the rest of the city that is frankly disgusted and embarrassed by what has taken place. And if the city government which seems to be somewhat slow on the uptake in this crisis won't figure that out, then they probably will the day after the ballots are counted during the various city elections next year.

The upcoming election year is expected to be vigorously contested as it should be because there's serious questions asked and concerns raised that have yet to be addressed by civic leadership let alone even commented on. Davis has taken a step in the right direction but it's likely that at least for now, it's a step taken alone.

The downtown metropolitan museum will be repaired but not renovated. The city's too broke to make the major changes that were promoted by city residents. Check back in a few years.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein compares and contrasts the spending by Riverside's city government on its own headquarters versus that of the library. It really would be interesting to see what would happen if the denizens at City Hall and the downtown library traded places for several weeks. Though as an update, the leak on the second floor study area of the library no longer drips water down and the men's bathroom is actually not out of order today.

But it's interesting how the city attorney's office can get $50,000 to spiff up its law library when the downtown library is as Bernstein described it and how parks like Orange Terrace and Andulka have more city employees working there that have been transferred out of parks in the Eastside. Some of the Eastside's parks haven't been renovated in ages.

Newly elected Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach begins the first transitional period in over 100 years. Outgoing DA Rod Pacheco hasn't had much time to offer any help to Zellerbach in his transition because he's already signing up to work on the campaign of a Republican Party candidate for state attorney general.

San Bernardino County doesn't want its residents to know how much is being spent on litigating corruption cases. Maybe they don't know this but records pertaining to legal expenses in connection with such litigation don't fall under attorney/client privilege.

Speaking of corruption, an ex-Grand Terrace councilman gets probation.

How much money are your city officials being paid?

Moreno Valley, two women disappeared in two different Julys five years apart

Kristine Nichole Hamilton July 5, 2005, still missing

Norma Lopez July 15, 2010, discovered dead on July 20.

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