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

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Another Domino Falls: Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis on his way out


On the heels of the announcement of DeSantis' departure, CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan to leave his position for a job in L.A.


Riverside Police Department Sergeant Val Graham files FEHA claim with the city of Riverside for racial discrimination and retaliation including in relation to the department's promotional process.

[Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis is being phased out of his employment with the city, in what's likely a severance deal.]

[Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson (center) tendered the drawn-out departure of his right hand man, Tom DeSantis. If the guns, badges and cold plates scandals had nothing to do with it what did? And when there's no one left to throw under the bus, what do you do the next time scandal breaks?]

Some shock waves abounded when City Manager Brad Hudson announced that his right hand man, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis was apparently resigning at some point after a stint in a "special assignment" (which has a variety of different meanings in Riverside) and a "well-deserved" vacation. His pending departure, the latest in a series of them, comes after six months of scandals which started breaking one by one after the infamous DUI incident involving former Riverside Chief Russ Leach on Feb. 8. DeSantis oversaw the beleaguered police department that only recently had a new chief, Sergio Diaz, at its helm who announced several days earlier that former LAPD commander Jeffrey Greer would fill out his management cabinet, joining former Pasadena Police Department Deputy Chief Chris Vicino and Deputy Chief Mike Blakely.

The news spread like wildfire after the announcement and there were a variety of theories about what really ended the five year tenure of DeSantis as the city's assistant city manager of administration and personnel. Revelations about unethical and illegal conduct had broken about the guns, cold plates and badges scandals as well as problematic contradictions on sworn testimony provided by DeSantis and Leach involving the issuance of illegally used cold plates. Then there was all the intrigue about the destruction of public records under request and post-it notes by a former Riverside County public information office well versed in the CPRA. There were unanswered questions about his involvement in an incident involving a councilman, a city issued car with cold plates and Newport Beach.

Then there was the reports of discussions or meetings with police employees who had either filed litigation or threatened to do so, including two deals apparently made with employees including the one that apparently imploded inside a closed session of city council last week as reported here earlier.

That incident centered around the claim for damages filed by former Riverside Police Officers' Association President Det. Chris Lanzillo who had been fired by then Acting Chief John DeLaRosa eight weeks after confronting him in a roll call bull session that DeLaRosa and the management staff had engineered to help circle the wagons at the police department against the world. Even though Lanzillo appealed to Hudson for an outside party besides DeLaRosa to hear his Skelly hearing, Hudson denied that appeal and DeLaRosa heard it and then terminated Lanzillo within 15 minutes of the end of the hearing.

Lanzillo filed two claims for damages against the city, the first was denied within five days, the second took a little bit longer. But DeSantis had allegedly promised Lanzillo a medical retirement and about $150,000. The deal was then brought to the city council by DeSantis to essentially be stamped over and done with by the governmental body. That didn't happen but the city council allegedly then told DeSantis it didn't want to hear about the settlement because they didn't want him managing the police department. It wanted Chief Sergio Diaz to handle it.

At some point, the RPOA asked Diaz what he wanted to do with Lanzillo's case and Diaz purportedly said it was out of his hands and he wasn't going to deal with it.

[The Riverside City Council allegedly nixed a deal brokered by DeSantis with Lanzillo and then wanted Chief Sergio Diaz to handle it but apparently Diaz wisely vetoed that suggestion.]

It's interesting the alleged interplay that took place between the city council, DeSantis and Diaz with Lanzillo's litigation. The city council correcting DeSantis on his involvement in the police department after through its handling of Hudson either giving DeSantis carte blanche the past five years to do that or with individual elected officials using him for the purpose of micromanaging the police department. Whether it's through the influencing of the upper level promotional process or the ordering of what are called "election deployments" where officers are moved to wards of council members running for office from other higher priority crime areas to make it look like the elected official is "tough on crime". Even allegations as to whether some employees were pushed through the employment process without appropriate background screening which are called "political emergency" hirings or even given hiring bonuses from funds that had been frozen due to budget cuts after being hired. The latter being conducted in a public safety profession could be hazardous to both other employees and the public so one hopes that wasn't the case.

It's good to see that the city government finally realizes the value in a paid department head actually running his department and not being micromanaged by City Hall. Better late than never but in this particular situation, the order that Diaz deal with the aftermath of one of the actions taken out during the interim reign of DeLaRosa just seems problematic. After all, why isn't it Hudson who's the one issuing the order to DeSantis not to involve himself in police personnel management issues rather than his bosses on the city council? Where was Hudson when all this was transpiring behind closed doors at a city council meeting?

Did Hudson know that DeSantis was brokering or trying to broker deals or did he order DeSantis to do so?

But to drop this on Diaz' lap is in its own way micromanagement. Because Diaz isn't responsible for the actions corrupt or otherwise that took place before his arrival. What the city council should be doing is taking its direct employees and itself to task for the mishandling of the police department that goes back to at least 2005. Hudson appointed DeLaRosa to be acting chief of the department despite knowing that DeLaRosa played a significant role in the mishandling of Leach's DUI incident and he had the city government's blessing (through its collective silence in the face of scandal after scandal). DeLaRosa engaged in a series of decisions which apparently led to increased civil litigation from that agency at various levels including near the top.

The claims that were filed were denied, the concerns raised were ignored and now the city's at the stage where the claims will become lawsuits which will be of course refuted in the beginning as "frivolous". But then the civil lawsuits, be they federal or state, begin the process of taking depositions and that's where things really get interesting. Depositions are taken as prior testimony of fact and recollection which are then used in trial to impeach witnesses on the stand or more commonly as leverage for the settling of litigation. This happened in the lawsuits filed by former police lieutenants, Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt where extensive depositions were taken from city officials and police employees, detailing among other things micromanagement of the police chief by denizens at City Hall and the guns, plates and badges scandals.

Moving on towards that route is Lanzillo's lawsuit for example. Because Lanzillo was involved in the addressing of the cold plate issuance (and that of other police equipment) by city officials back when it took place as evidenced in CPRA emails submitted by him to DeSantis while he was RPOA president, that area is included in his retaliation and wrongful firing lawsuits. And if you'll remember from following that particular scandal, DeSantis and Leach pointed fingers at each other regarding who forced or suggested the other to obtain plates. There's a document where DeSantis' name appears as apparently authorizing cold plating but none so far with Leach's authorization. In fact, there's ample evidence that Leach actually was the source of the cold plating list that wound up at the State Attorney General's office after being submitted by other parties. Or was it Hudson who ordered DeSantis or anyone else to get the cold plates?

And if there were a participant or witness to that, what would happen if this person were deposed in say, an act of civil litigation? What would happen then?

Why does this matter? It actually matters because of the earlier lawsuits that were filed and the depositions which were taken including ones by DeSantis and Leach which provided contradictory testimony about who authorized the issuance of the illegal cold plates. DeSantis said it was Leach who said it was city management. This contradictory testimony came up under that taken under penalty of perjury which is a criminal offense. So if both sides are telling vastly different stories, then one of them is telling the truth and the other is lying. Or both of them are lying and the truth is something else.

The one scenario which can't be the case is that both are telling the truth under oath under penalty of perjury. So why then isn't anyone conducting a perjury investigation? Before anyone says that it's because it's just lying under oath in a civil case and doesn't count, it's true that it's testimony in a civil proceeding but the testimony is about the commission of an action that is in violation of the state's vehicle code and thus a crime.

Also people can and have been prosecuted for perjury on a deposition for a civil proceeding including a former Riverside Police Department officer named Laura Digiorgio. She was convicted in her trial on multiple counts while being prosecuted in San Bernardino County. Yet there's not even any inquiries or investigations done to look into why contradictory testimony has been given in the Hurt and Bacon deposition processes in responses to questions on criminal violations.

Diaz was hired when the house of cards in the department and City Hall began to fall apart faster than they could be propped up. He was hired because of a mess of City Hall's making blew up after simmering for some years with illegal conduct and other intrigue taking place out of public view. Now he's the one who's supposed to address and correct its fallout and clean it up, rather than the ones responsible for creating the mess? That's just ridiculous. The folks who insisted on micromanaging the department and exploiting its resources for their own personal use including the violation of state laws made their corrupt, dirty nest now they and those who pretended not to see what was going on and act on it need to either clean it up or lie in it until the city's populace replaces them at the polls.

Diaz was hired to run the department as it was July 1, 2010, albeit beleaguered with some scandals and mired in piles of civil litigation. His role is to try to rebuild it from where it was and to get it in the direction it's supposed to be going and that's what he should be graded in is his performance at fulfilling that task. Not for serving as clean up person for the city's own embarrassing scandals caused by either its own actions or through its failure to keep its own direct employees in line and obeying the laws.

One of the most interesting developments involving DeSantis and a police employee has to be the situation surrounding Lt. Leon Phillips who was if you'll recall the city's fall guy in the mishandling of the Leach DUI incident. Not that he didn't bear responsibility for his actions but it was interesting but troubling to see him faced with a hefty suspension AND demotion to a lower rank while his superiors received retirements that preserved their salaries. Under that discipline, it was probable that when he retired, Philips would have been the one involved party to take it factoring on a lower salary than he earned pre-Feb. 8. The city showing that the buck stops at mid-line supervision.

But apparently, Phillips and his lawyer had other plans....

[Lt. Leon Phillips and his attorney allegedly had their own behind closed doors meeting with DeSantis and brokered a deal. Was one of the provisions, a promise in writing that Phillips never have to work under Deputy Chief Mike Blakely, and if that were the case, why? And if that promise were made would it interfere with Diaz' power of making personnel assignments?]

Phillips allegedly met with DeSantis and through their arguments, he and counsel were able to turn the tables on several former and current key management personnel within the police department and allegedly block his disciplinary action or reduce it. He also allegedly brokered out a deal with DeSantis not to work with one of those management personnel ever again. Phillips had been painted as the kingpin in the Leach scandal who was giving inconsistent accounts while Hudson praised his supervisor that early morning, DeLaRosa as the one who kept his accounts straight.

But apparently Phillips had a successful counter argument to that and made his point, adding another interesting chapter to this ongoing saga which is part and parcel of residing in River City.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein addresses DeSantis' departure.

On a somewhat related subject...

It was sounding a lot like election year as Riverside's Governmental Affairs Committee conducted its annual review of the city's ethics code and complaint process. It was pretty much an opportunity to see three city council members, Chair Andrew Melendrez, Rusty Bailey and Steve Adams show how little they've learned in the past six months and basically stall the process of responsibly implementing the code and complaint process ----until safely after the first round of elections next year.

The ordinance states that this committee is supposed to conduct the annual review to see how well it's working and whether or not anything needs to be changed, improved or "tweaked".

[The Governmental Affairs Committee discusses the reviewing of the city's ethics code and complaint procedure.]

[City Attorney Gregory Priamos (1.), and Council Members Steve Adams, Andrew Melendrez and Rusty Bailey listen to public input from over 30 city residents about what should be done to improve and strengthen the process.]

[City Residents filled the chairs and stood behind the room to participate and witness the annual ethics code and complaint process.]

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"I'm very disappointed that today you're putting everything on the council," said Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely, who leads a community issues forum called The Group and headed the committee that wrote the ethics code.

"What it now has been made to look like is we're a bunch of disgruntled gadflies who are showing up to complain."

The thing that needs to be remembered is that people who criticize the local government are always painted as a handful of people, a minority, a disgruntled group of gadflies and so on which is done by city officials and their syncopates when things are being done that are wrong. But what often happens is that this either shows how out of touch elected officials are or that they are calling a bluff to hope that the city residents don't believe that it's really a majority or very large group of people are concerned or upset.

But history has shown, this bluffing or denial or whatever it can be called is usually determined to be much different around the time of municipal elections. Several elected officials in Riverside pooh-poohed concern about issues whether they be about parks like Tesquesquite Park or quality of life issues including those associated with the presence of DHL at March Air Reserve Base. Then when election time comes around and they realize that these issues are much larger than they think or were willing to admit publicly, they suddenly become more interested in them. But the voters in this city are much smarter than they're given credit for and they've acted accordingly at the polls in the 2007 and 2009 elections.

Chief Sergio Diaz Picks His Deputy Chief

Future Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer

Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz has completed the appointment process involving his top management team by picking Jeffrey Greer, a high ranking employee at the Los Angeles Police Department, as deputy chief. Greer who's set to start work on Sept. 17 will join former Pasadena Police Department Deputy Chief Chris Vicino and the inhouse selection, Deputy Chief Mike Blakely.

Another Federal Lawsuit Filed in Robert Forman Case

A third civil action has been filed against the City of Riverside and former Officer Robert Forman in relation to the former officer's criminal case which involved three women he was charged with sexually assaulting under the color of authority.

Tessa Garcia filed a federal lawsuit against the city in U.S. District Court joining Kathryn Boesen and Nadia Ishak. Forman's case went to trial where he was convicted of oral copulation against the color of authority involving Boesen and acquitted of a similar charge involving Ishak. He received a hung verdict in the sexual battery charge involving Garcia and a related conviction on misdemeanor petty theft.

Without considering Garcia's lawsuit, about $11.9 million in claims were filed against the city in connection with the Forman case. The claims were denied.

City Takes Over Wi Fi System Amidst Interruptions and Outages and Upgrades

[This Wi Fi access point now is maintained by the city of Riverside after the impending departure of AT&T but the service has been hit with outages and time outs on network logins since about an hour after being transferred over. Some issues were repaired and the process moves into its next stage. ]

The city now maintains and manages the Wi Fi network amid the departure of AT&T and brought it up line yesterday amid the system timing out on user cookie sessions and outages in at least one neighborhood that's been in the dark since an hour after the service was changed over at 8am yesterday. That outage has been identified and will be repaired. Service might be slower on other parts of the city until the network has been capped in future weeks to limit heavy duty downloading of files which hinders the network's performance. More upgrades will be taking place in the next few months.

But there's been reports that while the Wi Fi works during the portions of the day, it's virtually unusable at night. Tests show that page loading at night takes about 15+ minutes as opposed to about 30 seconds in the morning with about 15% pages loading successfully in the evening versus about 95% in the morning.

Some former San Bernardino County officials tied up in a corruption scandal trying to get the charges dismissed.

Will San Bernardino Police Department be laying people off?

Public Meetings

Tuesday, Sept 7 at 3pm and 6:30 pm, the Riverside City Council will conduct another meeting at City Hall and discuss this agenda.

Former Det. Chris Lanzillo's lawsuit filed in United States District Court comes up for discussion behind closed doors and the Governmental Affairs Committee has apparently recommended enhancing commenting on its internet site.

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