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, August 26, 2010

City Hall Finds More Cash While City Residents Paid the Gas Bills

[The building that's owned by Riverside's residents with space afforded out based on four-year leases granted by the city's voters for those who shall dwell and work there.]

Extra Moolah Found at City Hall

[Phew, City Manager Brad Hudson must be thinking after some...sofa cleaning at City Hall unearthed $3.55 million in the city's coffers which will be spent in some areas that received cuts.]

Riverside City Hall apparently found about $3.55 million behind the sofa. It will be used to open up about a dozen police officer positions, purchase materials in the library and museum and to build parking for several parks including the under-stocked Andulka Park. This is definitely good news for these departments including the police department which has lost many officers due to attrition and hiring freezes. The city had applied to the COPS office in Washington, D.C. for grant money to fill up to 15 positions but the name of departments which will release this second round of grant money hasn't been released yet. Riverside applied last year but didn't receive any money as roughly $9 was requested for every dollar allotted. Whether its luck will change this year remains to be seen.

People ask how this money just popped up now and the city's saying that the drops in both property and sales tax monies wasn't as steep as anticipated and it had saved about $1.5 million in budgeted money already. Not that people necessarily want to look a gift horse in the mouth but they're a bit puzzled at why it's showing up now. The trust between city residents, more than a handful or a dozen, and City Hall just isn't that flush right now.

The news comes not long after the latest revelation emerged from City Hall about the free gas that city officials were able to access along with their city-issued vehicles. It's still not clear why the previously used car allowance was tossed in favor of this newer system and what parties at City Hall were responsible. To quell the upset among those in the city who have trouble paying for their own gasoline right now, the city tried to justify this practice by telling the masses that it was actually saving them money by giving these people an apparently bottomless gas card.

And then City Hall wonders why people are getting so upset. Hopefully, they'll figure it out before the election cycle starts up next year or some of them could be looking for other pastimes.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board challenged the city on that issue:


Council members can either collect a $350 a month car allowance, or use a city vehicle, with city-provided insurance, maintenance, repairs and gasoline. The cost of furnishing a council member with a car and free gas runs $417 to $583 a month, well above the car allowance amount. Since 2007, the city has spent a total of $34,186 on gasoline for council cars.

This must be the equivalent in terms of "fuzzy" or just funny math telling city residents that 2+2=5. Under the previous system, city council members used their own vehicles, paid their own registration, insurance and maintenance for them. But under this "cheaper" system, the city pays for all those other expenses which are in addition to the gasoline allowance and thus this makes this vehicle system anything but cost effective particular to the city residents who were duped by not being made aware that the old system of vehicle allowances had changed but then duped again by having City Hall then tell them that this was saving them and the city money.

One of the reasons why people were not aware of the change in vehicle policy is because the voters in 2004 through Measure EE essentially did away with the mayor and city council's salaries commission where a group of appointed city residents discussed whether or not to raise the salaries of elected officials and served in an advisory capacity to those officials on these matters. The city council could then decide whether to accept or reject the commission's recommendations and take action or not on salary adjustments. Towards the end of the existence of his commission, it made a recommendation that the city council then rejected before raising its own salaries and that caused no shortage of controversy. The voters eliminated the commission but in a sense lost a level of transparency regarding the discussion of city council and mayor salary and compensation packages whereas the commission provided an opportunity for the public to be educated and allowed to provide feedback. About that time is when people lost track of the whole car allowance deal which would ultimately be changed behind closed doors somewhere inside City Hall. But no one can explain exactly how this came to pass.

During discussions of whether or not to increase the salaries of officials, the entire packages that they received including the past use of car allowances came up for discussion as well at meetings. When the commission was eliminated, city residents lost this ability to oversee these issues including when they were amended. The decision around 2007 or possibly earlier to change the package involving transportation and vehicle use apparently took place without any public discussion or even notice given that it was taking place. Which is one reason why so many city residents including those who are heavily involved in paying attention to what's going on at City Hall were left in the dark here because the transparency over the salary and compensation packages had been lacking in the past several years. Not that the public can't find out if it doesn't want to do so through the dubious process of submitting the CPRA request for the documentation from City Hall. However, what City Hall has done by removing an issue and expenditure like that from public discussion is to reduce transparency and thus accountability (which the Press Enterprise and others have said or stated was sorely lacking) of the process and to further erode an already damaged public trust.

River City Mysteries:

A City Councilman, A Car and A Fence Post?

[Riverside City Councilman Steve Adams is the subject of rumors about an alleged incident involving a car, a field and a fence post. What really happened, and if there was an accident, would the city have records?]

And speaking about the city vehicle issue, one of the most fascinating tales going around right now is the one about how Councilman Steve Adams purportedly did some off-road driving onto a field and somehow wound up with the undercarriage being torn out from under his car. One anonymous commenter asked the following question:


I want someone to ask Councilman Adams how his car ended up in the middle of an empty field with a fence post through the engine? Come on let's check the records for service and repairs to these vehicles.

His allegedly wasn't the only vehicle that day to wind up turned into the city one day with a badly damaged undercarriage. So did a vehicle allegedly driven by an individual in the city manager's office which was allegedly turned in the very same day to be fixed as Adams'.

Did this really happen and if so, why hasn't the city disclosed the money spent to repair this and possibly another city-issued vehicle? Adams if you recall had been the subject of other rumors about an incident involving himself and a city-issued vehicle in Newport Beach and that the car had been towed back to Riverside by DeSantis. And there's sworn testimony about that incident by Adams and various city employee that was given as depositions for the lawsuits filed and recently settled involving former lieutenants Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt.

The testimony provided by a cast of characters is contradictory and different versions of the incident clash. Adams' car which was city issued had been cold plated at the time and former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach had testified that Adams had identified himself to police in Newport Beach as an undercover police officer. The police department in Newport Beach wound up calling the watch commander at the Riverside Police Department(rather than Riverside City Hall checking on his identity as an elected official) purportedly to have them provide information of some sort on Adams.

Adams did possess a badge that's given to retired police officers.

A security guard at the condo complex in Newport Beach provided his version of why the car had been towed, because it was blocking a garage but Adams said it was his friend's garage and thus not illegal. That incident in Newport Beach did have some documentation in sworn testimony, however contradictory, and in the account provided by a security guard as to shedding some light on what might have taken place. This latest tale started out the same way through rumors but as of yet there's been not much else. Still, it's really getting hard to be surprised by the possibility of anything happening anymore given the past six months or so.

If this incident involving his car ending up in an open field did take place as heavily rumored, then there probably wouldn't be any public records of it...because remember, they were putting those notations on post-it notes.

But if this story's true, then it's still pouring at City Hall.

Riverside City Council Denies Police Detective's Claim

[Riverside Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis allegedly brokered a tentative settlement with a former police officer but behind closed doors, the city council vetoed it.]

[Was former Asst. and Acting Chief John DeLaRosa the right arbiter to hear and decide on the Skelly Hearing of a police detective he initiated an investigation against within hours of being confronted by him in a roll call bull session? The city council by denying former Det. Chris Lanzillo's claim this week in closed session is clearly hedging on the answer being, well yeah. ]

Riverside's City Council apparently decided in a closed session conducted on Tuesday, Aug. 24 to deny a personnel claim filed by former Riverside Police Officers' Association president and Det. Chris Lanzillo who was fired in June 2010. The claim was the second filed against the city by Lanzillo and stemmed from the termination that was conducted through the Skelly hearing process after he received the written intent to terminate notice.

The claim alleged that Lanzillo had an internal investigation opened against him for making inappropriate comments at a Feb. 9, 2010 racial sensitivity training session which had gone unreported for eight days despite there being supervisors present at the training. Yet within several hours of confronting then Acting Chief John DeLaRosa about the handling of the DUI incident involving Leach, Lanzillo had the internal investigation opened against him after Special Investigations Bureau Supervisor Ed Blevins had allegedly reported it.

DeLaRosa had been taking the management staff willingly or not and had been making the rounds of the roll call sessions telling the officers attending them that they had to come together as one big happy family and stop talking to bloggers, reporters and posting comments at Then he had asked for questions from his audience and Lanzillo had asked him why it took him over 30 hours to get the California Highway Patrol to investigate the DUI incident involving Leach.

After Lanzillo's comments in his claim about DeLaRosa hit the Press Enterprise, a directive was allegedly issued from inside the Orange Street Station to put Lanzillo's investigation at the top of the list in terms of priorities. At some point, Lanzillo was sent to the "penalty box" at the Orange Street Station which is kind of like the place for broken officers along with Leon Phillips who received his notice of intent to terminate the same day as Lanzillo did.

Hudson turned down a request by Lanzillo to not have the Skelly done by the officer he had confronted and embarrassed in the roll call session and was actively suing. So DeLaRosa did the Skelly and officially fired Lanzillo within 15 minutes of the end of the hearing.

Lanzillo had allegedly met with DeSantis in recent weeks and a tentative agreement had been reached which had to go to the city council for approval. At its most recent meeting, the city council denied it, which generated no small amount of surprise.

But then DeSantis purportedly has been busy lately apparently addressing decisions which came out of the interim regime at the police department between February and June 2010. While publicly supporting it as the most qualified leadership and management, behind the scenes apparently business indicated that the sentiment was quite different.

But the rejection of the claim by City Hall just insures that the city will be paying out further on down the road because Hudson's decision to have DeLaRosa conduct the Skelly hearing was what is called a fatal error because in many law enforcement agencies when there's a conflict of interest similar to that between Lanzillo and DeLaRosa, the Skelly hearing is usually assigned to be conducted by a more impartial party which could have easily been done in this case. Why would Hudson or DeSantis even assign a Skelly hearing to an acting chief who had been implicated in the mishandling and attempted cover up of the Leach incident. Not to mention that he allegedly also received a notice of intent to terminate the same day as Phillips did and that's around the time he abruptly announced his retirement.

It's likely that the civil litigation in this case will continue perhaps in the U.S. District Court and that the case will move onto the deposition stages where prospective witnesses and defendants win the action will have to testify under oath in a lawyer's office somewhere. It's not clear what the city's actions will be once that process has gotten started but as we've seen in the city's past history involving inhouse civil litigation, that's when the financial costs really start climbing.

But the city council and mayor by denying the claim are engaging in what's called the poker faced bluff. If Lanzillo's termination is as suspect and illegal as he claims, then the city council has considerably anted into the betting pool, with the stakes rising while holding very low cards. The city has been in this position before and it hasn't been very pretty.

Still if the city council holds fast and actually takes the ball all the way, it will be fascinating to watch all this unfold in a public arena rather than behind closed doors. To witness the parties all line up to testify under penalty of perjury on the witness stand in front of judge, jury and media. The city won't be able to put a lid on what might be cooking in the pot inside a courtroom, if past court trials are any indication and it will be very interesting to see how this plays out at a very public trial.

Not necessarily good news for the city because everyone's seen how well it does and most particularly, the police department does when both are put on trial by their own.

CPRC Meets in Evenings; Complies with Bylaws, Restores Independent Investigations

[Former CPRC Commissioner Bill Howe pores through the agenda at the first CPRC meeting held in compliance with the bylaws in the past several months. ]

The Community Police Review Commission held its first meeting conducted in accordance with the bylaws in five months when it met on Wednesday, Aug. 25 at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. It had spent the last few months regularly changing or scheduling its general meetings at earlier times in the day when few city residents could attend them. It did this with the full blessings of both CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan and City Attorney Gregory Priamos who never cited any language about the actions taken to change meeting times and locations that were done in violation of those bylaws. Rogan at the meeting said that the lapses in not noticing that the CPRC was violating its own bylaws were essentially his fault and he felt very sorry about the commissioners and community members struggling with how the issue played out.

But the decision that shook the meeting was the commission's unexpected decision and ultimate vote to initiate independent investigations on the three remaining outstanding officer-involved death cases beginning with the Sept. 11, 2008 fatal shooting of Fernando Luis Sanchez. The commission will initiate independent investigations on the Oct. 31, 2008 shooting death of Marlon Acevedo and the Jan. 17, 2009 fatal shooting of Russell Hyatt. The motion to follow this procedure was made by Commissioner Chani Beeman and argued against by Commissioner Ken Rotker. It passed the vote helped no doubt by the absences of Commissioner (and American Medical Response employee, Peter Hubbard) and Robert Slawsby.

Moreno Valley Police Department will be receiving more gang officers.

Public Meeting

[Riverside City Attorney (r.) Gregory Priamos and members of the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee conduct a hearing on an ethics complaint filed against a city council member. The Ethics Code and Complaint Process, the result of a ballot initiative passed in 2004, will be undergoing its annual review by the Governmental Affairs Committee on Sept. 1 at 4 p.m.]

Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 4 p.m. The Governmental Affairs Committee will meet to conduct its annual review of the city's ethics code and complaint process. This isn't a joke, the city really does include in its charter an Ethics Code that was passed through the charter initiative process by voters in November 2004.

If you have time, this meeting's worth attending as the Committee of Chair Andrew Melendrez and members, Councilmen Rusty Bailey and Steve Adams will be discussing and reviewing the code after receiving public input. Their recommendations will then go to the full city council at its evening meeting on Sept. 21. Many city residents are paying closer attention to this process in light of the...lapses of ethics taking place or coming to light in City Hall this year. The Group and League of Women's Voters often monitor this process and present a list of recommendations to the Governmental Affairs Committee including better outreach to the city's residents on the Code and Complaint Process as well as the push to have the review and resolution process taken out of the hands of the city council and mayor and into the hands of an independent panel of perhaps retired judges (though retired judge is an oxymoron in Riverside as it seems there's no such thing due to the overloaded court system).

If you need to read up on the Code, here's the resolution and here's some frequently asked questions.

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