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 19, 2010

Mayor Loveridge Raises Money on his Birthday Amid a Downtown Bait and Switch?

"If you are with city government: MISTAKES WERE MADE, If this was a citizen: A VIOLATION OF THE LAW WAS MADE. "


[Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge to throw a campaign fundraiser for his birthday, but said not to be running again for office.]

Mayor Ron Loveridge is holding a fund raising birthday party at the Art Museum. He swears it means that he's not running for office yet again and that this is indeed his final term, but you just never know. He's sworn not to run before mainly to his wife pre-election cycle but then had put his name in the coffer anyway for the mayoral spot insisting that the city needs him and he still has so much work left to do. It's not clear what will happen this time around until the filing deadline's passed sometime in 2012 as to exactly whether or not he'll stick to his plans to call it a day as the city's mayor. Eagerly waiting the final decision no doubt will be the cast of characters including current councilman Andrew Melendrez and former councilman Ed Adkison who are planning to run for the mayoral seat. Not to mention all those other folks out there still flirting with whether to toss their hats in the ring or not in what at one point looked like a free for all but one that might have been winnowed down a bit. Still 2012 is a ways off.

But after being mayor since 1994, Loveridge's legacy is still being written including what's been going on since this year began.

His legacy that he probably planned to leave after over 30 years in political office including a stint on the city council has been somewhat challenged by the happenings in the past six months. What with the DUI incident involving former Chief Russ Leach and the mishandling of it by his chain of command which began falling like a line of dominoes not long afterward as individuals either got themselves implicated in the cover up of the Leach incident or were ousted off Riverside's chessboard by power plays exerted by other key players. And then there's the resurgence of the guns, cold plates and badges scandals which led to an impromptu evaluation of City Manager Brad Hudson in July but not much action by the city government that employs him.

But still if some would have you believe it, the handling of the whole Leach affair was a masterpiece of excellent city administration by Hudson and company. It's a given that there are some people that might agree with that but not many people it seems outside of the political structure of City Hall appear to be in that group. In fact, it looks to be the opposite and it remains to be seen how that will impact the next city council election cycle set for next year, especially given that the city's voters have in some sense been showing an anti-incumbent bent since at least 2007 sending three city councilmen and nearly a fourth to the sidelines. Two of those elected officials, Art Gage and Dom Betro, had been featured in the Inland Empire Magazine talking about running for mayor in 2009, probably never imagining that they would be ousted by voters in their wards and replaced by Rusty Bailey and Mike Gardner respectively.

None of these cheerleaders who believe that not handling corruption scandals until they're exposed is excellent administrative style have addressed several issues. A major one being the fact that if the city had such excellent administration before Feb. 8 then most of what's transpired since then including on that date might not have happened. It doesn't take a so-called "enemy of the establishment" to see that, it just takes a little common sense along with a decent memory of the city's more recent history.

In fact, most of the behavior that came to light since Feb. 8 had actually taken place going back to 2005 when Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis first arrived onscene. That's when the whole episode regarding the guns, badges and cold plates actually took place up until about 2008 for the plates scandal. That's why those scandals are "old news" to people like Councilman Steve Adams and something that's been handled to individuals like Councilwoman Nancy Hart but a shock to most everyone else.

Some might see it that way but a large part of this blog's readership that's provided opinions on that whole situation disagrees with that assertion. If the city administration had been doing such an excellent job, then the Leach incident likely wouldn't have ever happened because as shown by a blog posting contributed by former Press Enterprise managing editor, Mel Opotowsky, enough people at City Hall including likely Hudson knew that Leach had prior drinking incidents including being intoxicated in public. A lot of people in positions of power knew what took place but no one did anything involving one of the city's public safety department heads who likely carried his gun when he drank. In fact, if you listen to the video recording of Leach's traffic stop by two patrol officers, they express concern several times on that recording about Leach carrying a gun.

What happened with Leach and the collapsing of dominoes among the management level of the police department didn't arise from any one single incident let alone what took place on Feb. 8, it was years in the making courtesy in large part from management by City Hall's seventh floor including Hudson's office. Maybe if Hudson and DeSantis hadn't been more preoccupied with decking themselves out like police officers with badges, cold plates, illegally purchased guns, police equipment on cars and so forth, then they wouldn't have to exhibit rather busy administrative skills that some people confuse with excellence regarding the handling or rather mishandling of the police department. Maybe if several elected officials hadn't been preoccupied with involving themselves in the department to the point where Leach testified in a deposition that they were constantly involved in it and even involving themselves in the promotional process at the top, then this so-called masterful administration display never would have had to take place. Hopefully, those days and those practices are in the past because frankly, the city can't afford them and politicizing the police department has had a history of causing serious problems in its administration.

But then you have problems with conflicting testimony by city employees when all of them took an oath to tell the truth upon penalty of perjury and with Hudson throwing even his own subordinate DeSantis underneath the bus on the cold plates scandal. And with some elected officials most notably Hart, based on her recent public comments, who seem to think that transparency in government is a four lettered word.

Riverside Renaissance looks impressive on its face and many of the projects mostly those with infrastructure were needed for a long time but beneath this ambitious project list lies many questions about when the costs will truly come due for city residents. What it means to have built or planned to construct city facilities that the city might not be able to afford to adequately staff and equip when Renaissance promissory notes come due as even Loveridge mused about publicly on one occasion. Past city governments didn't refuse to engage in a plan like this because they lacked vision, ambition, smarts or were particularly stupid. No, most of them had factored in the unadvertised costs and long-term consequences of short-term spending sources and also anticipated a downturn in the economic picture particularly in the Inland Empire even if like most people, they initially underestimated it. A total financial accounting for the Riverside Renaissance still hasn't been provided to those who will ultimately be paying for it, the city's residents even as City Hall flirts with a second installment while the first round remains incomplete.

Years where prior incidents including many that didn't hit the press particularly when they happened built the shaky house of cards involving the police department and the dynamic it shared with City Hall. Because after all, if the leadership of the police department had been as strong and sturdy as it should have been, then you wouldn't have seen the string of retirements at the highest levels that were seen in the weeks and months following Leach's own medical retirement and conviction on the DUI charge. Joining the retirements have been a list of claims for damages (which precede more formal civil litigation) and lawsuits being filed by current and former Riverside Police Department officers:

Lt. Tim Bacon: filed in U.S. District Court alleging retaliation for labor union activities and for reporting criminal behavior by City Hall to the State Attorney General's office. Settled April 2010

Lt. Darryl Hurt: filed in U.S. District Court alleging retaliation for labor union activities and for reporting criminal behavior by City Hall to the State Attorney General's office. Settled April 2010

Det. Chris Lanzillo: filed two claims and one lawsuit alleging retaliation for labor union activities as RPOA president and for an altercation with former Acting Chief John DeLaRosa during an attempt at a roll call bull session by DeLaRosa and his management staff.

Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel: Filed a claim for damages alleging retaliation for trying to push for investigation in Leach incident and for expressing interest in filing for the police chief position.

Officer Neely Nakamura: Filed a claim for damages alleging retaliation for relationship with former deputy chief and for the interrogation practices of investigators in an internal investigation and violation of Peace Officer Bill of Rights.

All of them are at various stages of the legal and judicial process and thus there's plenty of time for further developments as they move through each stage including the taking of depositions and motions for summary judgment as well as other procedures.

Who Will Be the Next Deputy Chief?

The third member of the cabinet of Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz hasn't been named yet, to join Deputy Chief Mike Blakely and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino most lately from Pasadena's police department who was recently hired. Names being batted about include two Los Angeles Police Department veterans including high ranking employees Mike Williams and Jeff Greer.

Williams interestingly enough had been encharged with handling what became a controversial collision between a hummer and a bicycle where varying versions of that incident were produced by different parties.

Vicino's departing Pasadena where he had been interim chief twice and had been hired for one of those stints by current city manager Michael Beck who worked under Hudson as an assistant chief in Riverside. Vicino's career as an officer in the late 1980s started out a bit rocky when he and another officer were involved in a controversial incident where a man lost sight in one eye leading to an investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office which declined to prosecute several years later. He later rose through the ranks to deputy chief but served as interim chief on occasion though other individuals were hired as the (not so) permanent chiefs of the troubled department. Riverside's department posted this release on Vicino and it states that he wrote some position papers in response to studies done including by the Vera Institute.

Diaz had told the Press Enterprise that his management staff wouldn't be organized by a strict hierarchy of command but would be more collaborative in nature. It will be very interesting to see how that works, with some of the personalities involved including at least one who's grown accustomed to running the show in the past several months. How will it work and what will the future hold?

And what of the captains? What will their fate be?

That Missing Puzzle Piece...

"Ok, let me get this straight: I don't want to pay my rent but I'm going to squat here for a couple of years until my landlord spends a bunch of money on legal fees to get me evicted. In the meantime, I'm going to rack up more than a million dollars in secured and unsecured debt. Then I'm going to let the generous city o' riverside relocate me into some new digs downtown...on the gullible taxpayer's dime - sounds like a pretty good plan, huh? Where do I sign up?"


The Citrus City Grill has filed for bankruptcy and apparently owes the management company for the Riverside Plaza several hundred thousand dollars but it's planning on a downtown move. This restaurant is a popular spot for fund raising events held by several major Riverside city government politicians, which might help its survival because it just happens to be planning to move its debt-ridden self into city owned space.

But what's most fascinating about this latest development involving this restaurant searching for a new home and brighter financial pastures is in this paragraph of the Press Enterprise article. Because guess where it looks like the new Citrus City Grill might be moving.


The restaurant closed its doors in Riverside Plaza on Monday and is looking to open a new Riverside location on the downtown mall. The restaurant's owners have looked at several downtown properties and said they hope to move into the 7,600-square-foot space at Main and Sixth streets formerly occupied by the BioKorium salon and spa, according to Tina English, the city's assistant development director.

English said Citrus City Grille's plans for the site will be presented to the Riverside City Council on Tuesday during a closed session. She declined to reveal the proposed terms of the lease but said negotiations with the city would likely continue after the council receives details.

English said significant work would be required to turn the space into a restaurant. Incentives are available through the city's leasing program for tenant improvements but the city has not yet determined what might be offered to CCG, she said.

If you've been paying attention to what's been going on with the BioKorium Spa and Salon, you will know that its owners had been in business in that spot for many years and in recently months were embattled by a property management company hired by the city (which owns that historic building) to the point of having to leave that spot. But what's interesting is now the restaurant which is over $200,000 in arrears to its prior landlord is likely having its pathway into a downtown city spot lightly greased by the city which tried to evict another business from that spot which owned much less. That makes an incredible amount of sense given that the Citrus City Grill ran into tremendous financial problems in a mall where it was but several yards away from the Riverside Plaza's anchor business, the Riverside Regency Movie Theater. If downtown is to be *the* performing arts capital of the city or Inland Empire or whatever, then why bring in a business that lost over $200,000 already in that kind of environment and has filed for bankruptcy?

But people had been speculating for a while now regarding whether the city government just wasn't good at property management or whether there were prospective plans for the city-owned building waiting in the wings. Because after all, the Citrus City Grill's financial crisis didn't happen overnight. It takes a while to get to the point where it's bankrupt and over $200,000 behind in payments.

One big question and focus of speculation regarding this episode involving City Hall's handling of downtown businesses that occupy city-owned space is what business would be next in line for this retail yardage and it seems that now in no time at all that question might have just been answered. But then this is a pretty old playbook the city's using which goes back to how other businesses owned by ethnic or racial minorities have been handled including Gram's Barbecue (which was relocated after massive protest after its ouster across from the Mission Inn Hotel)and the Tamale Factory restaurant (which was relocated after protesting of the loss of its lease in a building closer to City Hall). It doesn't appear that the change in leadership has caused the city to outgrow this behavior even as businesses in the pedestrian mall suffered under the double whammy of the recession (the first "dip" of the double) and the extensive construction that recently took place involving three blocks of the business mall to the tune of over $10 million.

So what you're apparently witnessing is how the city of Riverside is friendly to small businesses, including those who have been longtime tenants of the downtown pedestrian mall. Speculation has long been too that the city wants to replace many of the downtown small businesses with those representing national chains. After all, City Manager Brad Hudson has his own designs on the downtown area as an entertainment strip not a retail one. But really, the city as landlords should be spending its money ridding that historic building of its interior problems which have more to do with mold growth than the tenants who reside there. But it should raise an eyebrow or two that the "significant expenses" will most likely be paid by the city to make the place more hospital for the Grill because if it's owing the Plaza landlord so much dough and it's filing for bankruptcy even before it gets downtown, then where will this improvement money come otherwise?

That said, one wonders which business will the cast of characters including one allegedly called Larry the Liquidator will be calling on next? At least two other businesses in the same building are getting heat from the city including changes to their rental agreements similar to what the BioKorium and it might be worthwhile because these types of processes are somewhat extensive to go shopping around to look to see what businesses might be lined up already to replace these outlets if they are ousted. But if your lease is month to month especially if it's gotten shorter than in the past and the city's management team decides to raise rents or do other lease "changes" more frequently and especially if they send some "Larry" guy around, then as a downtown business owner occupying city-owned space, it might be time to get concerned.

It's all going to the city council on Tuesday during its afternoon closed sessions so the public won't be privy to how this episode plays out but it will take more than secrecy behind closed doors to keep the stench from slipping out if this whole affair was a bait and switch deal, hardly the first in the downtown mall, all along. Time will tell as it often does.

Stay tuned...

Two Commissioners Recused from Planning Commission Vote?

Riverside's Planning Commission held a meeting on the environmental impact report involving Tequesiquite Park which was ultimately approved by the commission before it will go to the city council for a vote. In the process, allegedly the commission's chair Tim Maloney and two other meetings including member Patricia Locke Dawson were forced to recuse themselves from the agenda item and its related environmental reports because they had done work for the city but questions arose as to why they were only recused from that one item and not from the commission itself. It's pretty interesting that one-third of the commissioners on the Planning Commission had "recent" business with the city as its members are given economic disclosure statements to sign that address any actual or potential conflicts of interest involving money. But questions were raised as to why at least two of these members were forced to recuse themselves during this one particular item.

Talk was that members of the commission were poised to ask questions addressing serious concerns they had about the report itself and the work done by the city's Planning Department. Some of the issues had arisen from the city's plan for a parking section that was actually intended to be used by visitors to neighboring Mt. Rubidoux which although a city park, has next to no public parking, no public bathrooms and really no oversight by park rangers.

Public Meetings

Tuesday, Aug. 24 at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, the Riverside City Council meets to discuss this agenda. The closed session is dominated by lawsuits including the grievance filed by former Det. Chris Lanzillo fired in June by former Acting Chief John DeLaRosa.

Oh and the item on the development of the new intergovernmental and public relations officer which is detailed here as no link was posted for access to any written work product or report in connection with this consent calendar item.

49. A Resolution of the City Council of the City of Riverside, California, amending Resolution No. 21052 to amend Parts II and III describing the Salary Plan and Addendum (Job Code Table) to add classification of Intergovernmental and Communications Officer - Waive further reading - Supplemental appropriations (All Wards)

Wednesday, Aug. 25 at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, the Community Police Review Commission will meet to discuss this agenda. The commission will be meeting for the first time in the evening in compliance with its own bylaws. It had been bouncing around to different time periods during the day to avoid those pesky city residents who might otherwise show up and mar perfectly good meetings but with several commissioners either not being able to attend or only through use of sick and vacation days, it probably came as a relief to many people that the commission finally figured out last month that all this time it had been meeting before 5:30 p.m. for its general meeting it had been violating its own bylaws. Doing so under the blessing of current manager Kevin Rogan, the city manager's office and even City Attorney Gregory Priamos, its assigned legal adviser to do things like...make sure no bylaws are violated.

[Riverside City Attorney Gregory Priamos (r.) will hopefully review a copy of the CPRC bylaws before attending its next meeting this week. He had supported the legal right of the CPRC to change its meetings to taking place earlier in the day without mentioning that doing so violated its bylaws.]

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