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 01, 2010

That Sound You Hear at City Hall is the Shredding of Documents

UPDATE: The Reverend Jerry Louder passed away from colon cancer at the age 0f 63.

"Riverside is just like San Bernardino but with more layers..."

---Riverside attorney

"This is a campaign to pack City Hall Council Meeitng on July 13 at 6pm to say "enough is enough" and demand the resignation of Hudson, Adams, DeSantis -- their alleged criminal activities and unethical behavior and arrogance cannot and should not be condoned by the City Council or Mayor Loveridge who is also President of the National Leaque of Cities.


---Commenter at

[City Hall, where silence speaks louder than the words which are shredded within its walls. Revelations came to light that Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis allegedly destroyed public records that were the focus of a acquisition request by the Press Enterprise.]

[Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis allegedly destroyed public documents that were requested by a local publication.]

In today's edition of the Press Enterprise, it came out that Riverside's assistant city manager, Tom DeSantis allegedly destroyed public documents after they had been requested by the publication. After all the sordid incidents which have unfolded in recent weeks about what's been taking place on the Seventh Floor at City Hall, is there anyone left who's really all that surprised that there's more to come?

DeSantis tries to explain in his own words by phone and by email exactly what took place in terms of how some records that are protected by state laws somehow ended up...destroyed on his watch.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

The official, Assistant City Manager Tom DeSantis, told a reporter by phone Monday that the city kept track of vehicles the council members used with handwritten notes. In response to the newspaper's request, he said, he transferred information from the notes to a spreadsheet, which was released to the newspaper. The notes, which contained his handwritten "scribbles," were destroyed, leaving the spreadsheet as the only available record of council members' use of city vehicles, DeSantis said.

Attorneys for the newspaper and a state group that advocates transparency in government say the documents used to compile the spreadsheet fell under the newspaper's public records request and should have been made public.

DeSantis did not return repeated phone calls Thursday. City Attorney Gregory Priamos also did not return a call, nor did he respond to an e-mail.

In an e-mail Thursday, DeSantis said the newspaper "may still be under the misconception that I or someone else at the City 'destroyed' ... public documents. ... This is not the case."

The man doth protest too much. But what's hilarious is that he's trying to make it look like the destruction of public records potentially incriminating to his office or the city came about while he was trying to be helpful and well, oops! But don't believe a word of it, because before being pulled out of virtual exile by his boss, City Manager Brad Hudson to come to work in this job in Riverside, DeSantis did a lengthy stint as the public information officer for Riverside County (where his job included spinning the tragic incident involving Gloria Ramirez and the emergency staff at Riverside General Hospital into a bizarre tale that the show, X-Files used in one of its episodes).

But being a public information officer, DeSantis would be required to have been well versed in the appropriate procedure to be in compliance with all relevant disclosure laws including the California Public Records Act. So he would know that the Act doesn't just apply to documents but to "post it" and "handwritten notes" as long as they dealt with work-related issues. In this case, they clearly do if associated with the allocation and recording of city-owned property. For him to say that handwritten notes aren't covered by the act is not true and he knows that it is not. What he's hoping is that the average city resident won't know.

DeSantis' latest explanation for allegedly doing something unlawful (and the destruction of public documents so they're not accessible is unlawful) is interesting in the wake of his other excuses when he or other employees from the city manager's office including his boss Hudson have been tied to other highly questionable conduct. He had a special badge made for him and oops, the community development department made him do it, at least until another assistant city manager, Michael Beck who's now the city manager of Pasadena said that he had suggested it. DeSantis and Hudson needed badges because they had to occasionally get out of their city-issued vehicles and take down illegally posted signs within the city limits.

Then the police department was blamed for the illicit gun sale which involved the police department and one of its employees acting as an unlicensed vendor for selling guns from its own inventory to Hudson and DeSantis. The city had to confiscate the illicitly gained firearms and then essentially "launder" them through a resale, this time using a local gun dealer. I guess as a population, city residents should just ignore all this illegal activity and be thankful that the city employees "shopped Riverside" (well except that the guns and other equipment including holsters originated in San Jose).

Then of course, there are those darn cold plates, you know the ones that city officials had placed on their city-issued vehicles that can't be easily traced. This took place sometime in 2007 and first was uncovered in early 2008. But how that came was told differently by different people. DeSantis testified in a deposition that former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach suggested that he cold plate his city-issued cold plates. But in interviews to the Press Enterprise in 2010, both Hudson and DeSantis said that the police department had cold plated the cars to facilitate the movement of them from the city's civilian car fleet to its police car fleet. However, in the same article, Councilman Steve Adams whose city-issued car had been cold plated said that the vehicles used by the elected officials had too many miles on them to be effective for police work.

Okay so much for that excuse then, but then Hudson and DeSantis insisted it was the police department's doing whereas Leach had testified that he had discovered the vehicles had been cold plated after the fact and that he had been left out of the loop. He had allegedly taken his concerns about the illegal practice to two police lieutenants in the department and said that DeSantis had been circumventing him by trying to get cold plates, emergency lights and other police-assigned equipment added to his vehicles and those of other city employees and elected officials.

Hudson naturally said that he had no idea it was going on and that he didn't know if his car was cold plated or not.

But then former deputy chief, Dave Dominguez said that the city management team wanted cold plated cars. He was called a "disgruntled employee" by DeSantis. But then Hemet Police Chief Richard Dana had to remove cold plates from the cars of city officials there after discovering it was illegal. He said that when he had been a commander in Riverside's police department that he had been aware that people outside the police department including city officials and city management personnel were using cold plated vehicles. Okay so now you have two former employees talking about how cars were cold plated in Riverside's City Hall?

This is what Dominguez said in the news article.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Dominguez said he was concerned when he first learned about such requests and discussed the matters with former Police Chief Russ Leach on more than one occasion.

"I recommended that would it be totally inappropriate. It would put the Police Department on the path toward penal and vehicle code violations ... " he said.

"It jeopardized the city. It jeopardized the Police Department, and it ultimately jeopardized the City Council."

Dominguez said the chief acknowledged that Hudson and DeSantis wanted cold plates, which under state law are reserved for police work. The chief was under a lot of pressure, he said.

Leach had allegedly told others that the city management was trying to get him to do different things that he felt "powerless" about. He forwarded information about the cold plated vehicles after they'd been done and asked for assistance in dealing with the situation.

So you most definitively have a "he said, he said" situation and you have conflicting testimony which was given under oath during the deposition process so much so that it's clear that at least one party appears to be lying, which means that they're committing perjury or would be if they were mere mortals. But was any investigation ever done by law enforcement authorities including those with the State Attorney General's criminal division to determine who was telling the truth and who was not while under oath? And the balance of evidence seems to be in favor of Leach. After all, there's at least one past employee who said that Hudson and DeSantis had wanted the cold plates. Adams contradicted their reasoning for getting the plates to facilitate the interdepartmental transfer of vehicles with his own comments. And then there's the list of vehicles which were cold plated by the city which the State Attorney General's office ended up finding out about to do its inquiry.

Below are two different photos taken of a list of city-owned cars which were or were to be cold plated through the city fleet yard and the police department yard. The document were not shredded by DeSantis or anyone else at City Hall. This document casts some serious doubt on the statements made by Hudson and DeSantis.

If you look at this list, you'll see the types of cars that have been submitted to be cold plated by the city including these vehicles:

2006 Toyota Highlander

2006 Chrysler 300

2003 Mercury Grand Marquis

2003 Ford Crown Victoria

Then guess what, you find out that Hudson was assigned a Toyota Highlander, DeSantis a used Mercury Grand Marquis and Asst. City Manager Michael Beck, a Crown Victoria. Adams was given a Dodge Charger that had been cold plated, and guess what there's one of those on the list as well. Amazing coincidence, naturally. The city should provide information on which individual either representing or working for the city was tied to which vehicle on this list in cases where the cold plating violated the state's vehicle codes for assigning such plates. That is, if the city hasn't shredded all those public records already.

But it would be interesting to see if the Toyota Highlander on the list was the one assigned to Hudson especially since he has issued a denial of even knowing his car had been cold plated. What would you think?

Of course, if you remember DeSantis had denied taking any initiative to cold plate the city-issued vehicles in question and had said that Leach had suggested it to him. But if you look at the two photographs, you'll see where it describes the make of a vehicle assigned to a former city council member with a status of "pending" and right after his name is that of DeSantis. From the document's format it looks like the handwritten name of that former councilman, Frank Schiavone, was added "per" DeSantis which if true, would indicate that he had authorized the cold plating. Schiavone has denied that he had a a cold plated vehicle.

So what was DeSantis saying again? And now that the issue of the destruction of public documents has come out, both he and City Attorney Gregory Priamos have not returned calls to the Press Enterprise nor have any of their denizens. Perhaps they are working on a script of what to say next. It's ironic that DeSantis was allegedly hired to run interference for Hudson when in reality, DeSantis has needed an employee of his own to do the same for him including around the time of the disturbing altercation he had with a woman in a parking lot in Hemet, where she alleged he yelled at her, threatened her and then went to his car to retrieve a firearm in a holster and some handcuffs. Some might have thought that sounded silly but not really, when you look at the emerging trail of how he and Hudson were running around trying to equip themselves like police officers. I guess when you're micromanaging a police department, it's easy to slip into the delusion that you are entitled to police equipment and the powers that come with it.

With this latest incident coming out of City Hall which has seen too many similar incidents originating from inside its walls, there's been even more concerns raised and questions asked by city residents about the accountability and transparency within its walls and whether the city government is more interested in writing off this corruption as mere inconveniences or in sweeping it under the rug.

But with the next round of elections coming up next year, how long will the city be able to engage in that behavior?

What will the voters say in response and how will they vote?

Who's Watching the Shop Called City Hall?

[Here are some city officials who may or may not have had their city-issued vehicles cold plated including Councilman Steve Adams who did. Ironically, this picture captures a moment from a recent meeting of the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee where it reviewed and decided upon an ethics complaint filed by a watchdog organization alleging conflict of interest.]

It's amazing how quiet it's become at City Hall in the wake of revelation after revelation of all the emerging scandals which have finally erupted in recent weeks and months with more to come because what's been seen so far no doubt is but a tip of a very huge iceberg. It's been dismissed as "old news" by the city management personnel and by Adams but that's only because they tried so hard and so long to hide it. And they were mostly successful but in the end, not so much as it's been spilling out in the public forums from inside the halls where it was carefully locked away.

Both Hudson and Priamos are direct employees of the city council and mayor and DeSantis is a direct employee of Hudson and yet the city council and mayor have had little to say as a city government about everything that's been going on even as city residents have voiced anger and concern and have asked questions in different forums and venues. The one thing that can be known for sure is that City Hall isn't being quiet on these scandals because city residents don't care and haven't been complaining about them. Because both the police department and City Hall have had their phones light up since the Feb. 8 DUI incident involving Leach and the calls and missives have been intensifying whenever there's been new revelations released on what has been going on at City Hall in the past several years, especially since Hudson and DeSantis came to town. If City Hall is indeed being quiet and indeed you can hear a pin drop there, it's being quiet to protect itself, even if that's at the expense of the city's residents including the constituents of those who voted the officials into their positions.

Some say the city council is reluctant to rein in its city management because they're concerned that if they say anything then their projects in their respective wards won't get as much attention by Hudson's office as they would otherwise. And Hudson knows how to play his bosses by stroking their egos through the placement of marquee signs all over Riverside featuring them as star players in assorted Renaissance projects and that's like free political advertising during election cycles. Some say that Hudson has made references that certain city officials won't be in office another term if they oppose him.

Others say that Hudson is like a ship that is steered in the direction that it's intended for him to go by one or more of his bosses. If that's true, then which elected official or officials steered him in the direction towards cold plates, badges and police paraphernalia? After all, allegations had been raised in lawsuits filed by former police lieutenants, Darryl Hurt and Tim Bacon that at least one elected official had said that he had the power to get rid of people that opposed them and provided former city manager, George Carvalho as an example. But in a town where most of the power brokers both inside and outside of City Hall function under the adage of "going along to get along" which is the dominant working philosophy that is practiced by them in this city, there's also going to be a big push to not address these disturbing issues. City Hall has its apologists after all but it seems that the more cover up and suppression of what's going on that takes place, the more information slips out anyway.

That's why the status quo that some might think is new but has actually been going on forever in River City continues unchecked. But it's because of all these dynamics that the city government won't really comment or take any action involving its direct employees unless the actions of those they employ threaten to put a serious dent in their reelection bids beginning next year. Until they're reminded of the albatross around their necks.

One city council member, Mike Gardner commented in the news article.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Riverside Councilman Mike Gardner said: "I would be concerned if records that should have been retained were destroyed. Obviously, the city has to comply with the law and if the city didn't, that's a problem."

Actually, it's not a "problem", it's a violation if state law particularly if it places the city in a position where it can't accommodate the enforcement of a state law. And it's always very interesting that whenever the city gets into a position where it's violating a law or pushing the boundaries of one, Priamos never seems to be able to return his phone calls even though he's the city's legal eagle including on these issues. Maybe it will take the crew the entire holiday weekend to know how to respond on this latest crisis of public trust.

At any rate, as always, it will be very interesting to see what unfolds next even as City Hall continues to circle its wagons, city officials continue to deflect and Mayor Ron Loveridge takes trips out of town to keep rewriting his legacy.

The Riverside County Grand Jury has issued a report on the use of tasers by the Riverside County Shreriff's Department this week.

The grand jury report is here and it includes issues with the department other than tasers including the filing of harassment complaints by employees. Riverside County and the Sheriff's Department will have opportunities to respond to the report in writing.

Votes cast in Riverside County's elections will not be certified until there's a ruling on the fate of over 10,000 botched mailin ballots.

The death of Riverside County District Attorney's office prosecutor John Ruiz is being investigated though some sources told NBC that it appeared to be a suicide.

Closing arguments are given in the murder trial of a BART officer charged of shooting an unarmed man on New Years Day last year. The trial was moved out of the Bay Area to Los Angeles after a change of venue motion was granted. Prosecutors

If you go swimming in the ocean, be careful this time of year because the great white sharks are out there.

Have a happy and safe holiday weekend!

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