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 22, 2010

City Hall Reads Writing on Wall; Revokes 24/7 Language from Ethics Code

UPDATE: Will City Manager Brad Hudson and City Attorney Gregory Priamos arbitrarily dismiss all the complaints against Councilman Steve Adams based on technicalities? What happened to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee for complaints on elected officials and why is once again the decision coming out of offices outside that process?

[The location of the most recent discussion and decision making on the Riverside's Ethics Code and Complaint Process]

The same day that city officials were arrested en masse in Bell including those in city management as well as on the dais, the Riverside City Council voted on several motions involving the review of its own Code of Ethics and complaint process. In a sharp contrast to a year ago, they voted to eradicate the so-called "24-7" language passed in late 2007 by the city council and reaffirmed in a narrow 4-3 vote last year.

That vote was changed to 7-0 in favor of striking the "24/7" language, which was introduced initially in a Governmental Affairs meeting in the summer of 2007 including by a council member who had been the subject of an ethics complaint that had been squashed by the City Attorney's office.

It was clear that the events of the past eight months played a significant role in the change of hearts of Council members, Rusty Bailey, Chris MacArthur, Nancy Hart and Steve Adams. All the city council members appeared at the city council meeting and all of them, even Adams remained planted in their chairs during the entire portion of public comment. Not at the meeting was City Manager Brad Hudson whose behavior including that involved in the guns, badges and cold plates scandals had led the charge for the inclusion of city administration in the ethics code.

After all, former Chief Russ Leach was "off-duty" during his DUI incident on Feb. 8 but did that really make a whole lot of difference in the damage that followed to the department and the city?

But whereas there was a huge debate on the issue last year, this year one by one the city council members including a visibly discomfited Adams said that they would vote to revoke it. The most adamant opponents to it last year had been Adams and MacArthur (who feared he might have complaints filed against him for his conduct on the campaign trail) with Hart and Bailey more or less trailing along on that vote.

Even at the Sept. 1 Governmental Affairs Committee the motion raised to strike that language elicited no enthusiasm from Adams or Bailey and didn't get through. Mayor Ron Loveridge kept that one alive by raising it in a letter to the committee supporting the removal of that language and in his initial comments on the agenda item at the city council meeting which set the tone for what would follow in a way that minimized conflict on the dais.

[Mayor Ron Loveridge opened up the discussion by outlining the agenda of the city government in the first couple of minutes and sets the stage for the removal of the "24/7" language.]

[Councilman Paul Davis proposed adding Group Chair Jennifer Vaughn-Blakeley to the ethics review committee, a move that stunned a couple of council members. ]

[Pulling a no-show at the meeting was City Manager Brad Hudson whose antics which came to light the past year have led to many of the calls for inclusion of city administration in the city's ethics code and complaint process. ]

The most interesting part of the evening had to be the part where there was discussion of the creation of this so-called review committee that would be established to review the code including conducting a review for "best practices" (which mirrors the work done by the original research committee) in the state. Adams complained initially that his ward might not be represented among the board and commission chairs and that Measure GG which states that all there shall be Representatives from every ward on every board and commission should be implemented. But what was interesting is that apparently he has so little knowledge of his own ward that he didn't know that apparently three of the chairs are from his ward and none were from Ward Four, which is Davis' ward. So the Measure GG rhetoric from Adams faded quite quickly with that knowledge.

Then Davis made the move of proposing that Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely be put on the committee and the reaction on the dais was fascinating. Adams naturally balked saying that her presence would "taint the pool" and open it up to other council members wanting to choose appointments. Melendrez first supported her inclusion then had second thoughts but ultimately, the city council voted 7-0 on the committee including the addition of Vaughn-Blakely who actually is probably the most qualified person in Riverside to serve on it.

Davis expressed strong confidence that Vaughn-Blakely would keep the process an accountable one. People had expressed concern about the appointment of the chairs of the city's boards and commissions to the committee given that they were appointed by the city council and mayor to their respective boards and commissions. However, city officials said that given that the chairs were picked by their peers, this would provide a layer of separation to the process. Others expressed concerns that there was so little turnout and even less input by the boards and commissions that they hadn't expressed enough interest in the process to preside over it. But that lack of responsiveness can work for or against the process. Lack of interest would certainly be a problem but then it could make them more objective as well, less vested in one direction or the other. It remains to be seen what will happen but it will be an interesting process to follow.

All meetings will be advertised and open to the public as well as receiving public input in the form of a hearing, Loveridge said.

The dates for the committee meetings haven't been set and a timeline was set of 60 days to meet and come up with a proposal to take to the Governmental Affairs Committee with a 45 turnaround between the committee and the city council. However, Loveridge said that either process could expand its timeline if it couldn't meet it leaving the process somewhat open to manipulation by the city government to trail it out further as the city appears for its next election cycle.

But if council members engage in such gamesmanship, it will be pretty clear to most of those paying attention and they might not be rewarded for that at election time. So with that in mind, they should proceed cautiously with this process and make sure that their political ambitions come a distant second to addressing some serious problems in City Hall.

There's been some complaints about the focusing on Riverside's transgressions in the past eight months stemming from the Feb. 8 DUI incident involving Leach. After all, this is Riverside, not Bell. But the thing about Bell, is that it didn't all happen the day before it came to light, Bell was some years in the making and it began with decisions which most likely violated civic ethics before any illegal acts were alleged to have been committed. It also resulted from a lack of engagement by Bell's residents which happened for a variety of reasons but even if they had been engaged and had enough transparency in their government to ask questions, they would have been dismissed as complainers, haters and gadflies. Some of them might have been ordered evicted from meetings or even arrested as happened to several "gadflies" in the oh-so-ethically-inclined San Bernardino County. Governments that are not doing what they're supposed to be doing, that are doing things they shouldn't be doing and are trying to hide either or both often display open hostility or disdain against the same residents they purport to represent and serve. After all, they've already done that in Bell apparently by voting themselves enormous salaries during one of the most difficult economic recessions in history and then defending them.

They may do the same to the men and women they employ in different city departments as well. Ironically, the beleaguered scandal-plagued neighboring city of Maywood had laid off all of its employees including its police department (on the eve of a consent decree with the state) and contracted the services to Bell. That contract was rescinded when the situation of corruption in Bell came to light. And for all the complaining about the media focusing on the negative aspects of cities and not the more positive ones, that's a point well taken but the situation in Bell only came to public attention after the Los Angeles Times (facing its own economic crisis through its parent company, Tribune Company) did a study of governmental salaries in Bell. One which rightfully shocked many people including those at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office and Attorney General Jerry Brown. Investigations were launched by both offices and also the feds and the arrests were the outcome of the county's probe.

If it weren't for the Times, it's very likely that these officials would still be commanding these outrageous salaries, apparently ripping off the monies in the city's coffers and possibly even engaging in election and voter's fraud.

Riverside's too engaged at this point to be Bell because many people in this city are upset about what has happened in every ward and they have been vocal in complaining at City Hall and the police department (during the Leach incident and its aftermath) about what's happened. The happenings at City Hall during the ethics review by the city council and the striking of the 24/7 language are hopefully signs that there are people listening there. Because next year as many have stated, the ultimate ethics process comes into play called an election cycle which involves four councilmen who will be fighting to keep their seats amid a city where the political climate is somewhat different than one year ago. The police department is essentially being rebuilt from the fallout of Leach and its handling by City Hall since at least 2005.

It probably didn't ask for all the turmoil that it faced although there definitely signs of problems before Feb. 8 including the arrests and prosecutions of five police officers for on and off-duty conduct in a 14 month period that embarrassed many officers in the department not engaging in that conduct. The costs of what's happened in this city might not be comparable to Bell but only because a timeline of what was likely progressive misconduct was brought to light (some several years after the fact) before it could reach the point of Bell. Although it's really hard to say because it's not likely that the full extent of what happened at Riverside's City Hall has come to light. Also, the district attorney's office in Los Angeles County is more proactive than in Riverside County. After all, it's fairly clear that in the depositions which were taken of city officials and police employees in the lawsuits filed by former lieutenants, Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt that perjury was committed by one or more parties, simply because not all versions of what happened could coexist or take place simultaneously.

There are accounts of the cold plates issue given by Hudson, departing Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis (whose office was stripped clean after his announced departure) and Leach that contradict each other so clearly someone or some individuals lied under oath when relating these events. Also there is testimony given by Adams that contradicts three other individuals who testified about the same thing including two captains promotions in the police department that he allegedly influenced and the incident involving him in Newport Beach.

So where's the investigation by the District Attorney's office into why the testimony contradicts. After all, a former Riverside Police Department officer, Laura Digiorgio was arrested, prosecuted (albeit in San Bernardino County) for perjury on a deposition and a jury convicted her. So why was she investigated for perjury on a deposition and not the individuals who testified in the Bacon and Hurt lawsuits? Shouldn't they be afforded the same circumstances of treatment as she had been or do they deserve protection from a probe because of their higher status?

Legal violations were uncovered by the State Attorney General's office involving the gun sale brokered by the police department, the acquisition of the conceal and carry weapon permits by the two management employees and the creation of flat badges for city management employees. This is stated clearly in letters written by a representative from that office's criminal division to Leach. But that office clearly gave the city the benefit of the doubt by treating them as "fix it" violations. Meaning that if these things were "fixed" including a gun sale that was clearly "laundered" through a private dealer (again upon reading available documentation including the sales form from the police department), then the state would take no further action for these violations. Whether people outside of city government would be afforded the same treatment, well many people don't seem to think so and the perception in this city is fairly high at least that this wouldn't be the case.

The Press Enterprise has written many articles about positive things about Riverside, but if even those complaining that they are not are remaining focused on what's written that's not so positive then they are part of what they're complaining about. And if the press is writing about what's been transpiring in this city or what's come to light about the recent scandals in its midst, then it's actually doing its job. No body's really out to get City Hall or make it look bad because as some have stated, it's doing a grand job of having its own transgressions help define it, whether those who reside inside it like that or not. And it doesn't help matters when council members caught up in those transgressions dismiss them as "old news" when the reason why it's old to the governmental officials and not to the public is because that "news" has been covered up by City Hall.

That's what was supposed to happen with the Leach incident after all. No one was supposed to know that Leach drove intoxicated and got stopped by officers in his own department, that he even damaged his car, perhaps that he even had a car at all. Even Priamos allegedly told people early on that no alcohol was involved even though officers told the CHP that they suspected he had been intoxicated and at least three officers at the scene told former Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa that they believed this to be true. Hudson had somehow gotten wind of it even though his city-issued phone which had allegedly been turned off received or made no phone calls until later in the evening of Feb. 8.

The written report on the "traffic collision" to be "filed away" probably was written a bit later and it was signed by former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel (but not the copy provided by City Hall). No outside investigation was initiated by the police department or City Hall, until nearly two days later when the phones began to burn off the hook at City Hall and the police department. One former detective who raised that issue in a roll call just happened to see his 18 year career go up in flames in just a couple of months. Lt. Leon Phillips was to be the officer blamed for it by receiving the most discipline but then apparently he turned the tables in a meeting with his lawyer and DeSantis. And DeSantis of course apparently had been tossed under the bus a final time by Hudson with his departure.

When an anonymous tipster contacted Loveridge about the incident, he didn't issue a press release telling city residents about what happened. No, there was fact finding done by him so that he could learn enough to try to figure out the best way not to tell people. That's how City Hall handles its scandals as the belated revelations of guns, plates and badges revealed. It doesn't issue statements or press releases admitting to any of this conduct, it comes out in other ways outside City Hall's control and then it tries to damage control.

Which as history has shown in Riverside just as it has shown in Bell never quite works the way it's hoped. In Riverside at least there are two ethics processes. One is tied in with the ethics code and complaint process which has been the target of considerable discussion and even greater manipulation and then there's the ballot box.

City residents here in Riverside need to let Bell residents address the serious issues in Bell including the complete lack of both city management and a city government (save maybe a councilman) and people here need to address what's going on in Riverside so it doesn't become a Bell in the future. One important way to do that is to register to vote and to educate and participate in the election process, whether it's running for office, working on campaigns or encouraging the holding of campaign debates or voter registration and participation. Another way is to keep in communication with your elected officials including council representatives and to attend and participate in governmental meetings including city council and its subcommittees. Join and start neighborhood organizations whether they're officially recognized by City Hall or not.

If you have city residents truly engaged in city government and holding its feet to the fire on accountability and transparency, there will be much less chance for a Bell here. Otherwise, there's a chance for a Bell or worse to happen just about anywhere.

Steve Adams Subject of Second Ethics Complaint

[Riverside Councilman Steve Adams received a second ethics complaint filed against him, this time by the La Sierra Neighborhood/Arlanza Alliance.]

Our LaSierra detailed this incident involving Councilman Steve Adams's conduct when he along with City Attorney Gregory Priamos appeared at a meeting of the La Sierra/Arlanza Neighborhood Alliance. Now a complaint has been filed against him through the Ethics Code and Complaint process from members of that organization have formally filed a complaint through the city clerk's office alleging Adams with violating Sec. 407 of the city's charter which prohibits administrative interference from city council members. It's the second such complaint alleging such interference filed against Adams in the last few weeks.

The text of the complaint is as follows:

On the evening of September 2, 2010, LANA met at the Senior Center at La Sierra Park. Our guest speakers for the evening were Cindie Perrie, Public Works Manager and Tom Boyd Director of Public Works; they arrived prior to the meeting in business attire, briefcase in hand and ready to present. Councilman Steve Adams arrived early and brought with him Greg Priamos, City Attorney for Riverside Councilman Adams told Co-Chair of LANA, Taffi Brandriff[John Brandriff's wife] that he (Councilman Adams) WOULD be speaking at the beginning of our meeting. He cited undocumented "complaints", allegedly received, regarding the manner in which LANA meetings were conducted. He was advised by Mrs. Brandriff that the agenda had been set, and that time did not allow a speaker added at the last minute. He was advised that time would be given at the end of the meeting for any, and all, interested persons to have the floor for a set time period. He was invited to participate in a future meeting by making a timely request. Mr. Priamos discussed with Mrs. Brandriff the nature of LANA, its affiliation with the city and queried Mrs. Brandriff on the possibility that LANA was organizing as a Governance Group. Mrs. Brandriff reiterated that LANA was a community group through the RNP (Riverside Neighborhood Partnership) and in no matter had ever indicated or acted in any way to suggest that LANA was organizing as a Governance group. Both Councilman Adams and City Attorney Priamos left the meeting room.

Councilman Adams Legislative Field Representative was seen informing Public Works Manager Cindie Perry that Councilman Adams would like to speak with her outside. They were viewed speaking at length in the parking lot. After their conversation, neither Ms. Perry nor Mr. Boyd returned to the building nor answered our call. Since Ms Perry and Mr. Boyd were seen by many in readiness to present at our meeting and then left the rpemises after a conversatino with Councilman Adams, the concern is that Sec. 407 of the City Charter was violated. We are asking that this be investigated and a report be given to us regarding the findings of that investigation. This Community should not be penalized because of politics and this is another reason why this matter must be investigated by you. Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation.

This complaint will go to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee after being "reviewed" for legal reasons by Priamos who's mentioned in this complaint and could be a witness in it although he would have to give a statement involving one of his bosses. Adams himself serves on that committee but like former Councilman Dom Betro before him, would have to recuse himself from the actual complaint. Not that doing so really makes that much difference because Adams will have his complaint heard by city council members who have apparently already political endorsed him in his reelection campaign. The fact that Taffy Brandriff is married to Adams' political rival John Brandriff will be discussed by the committee just as it did when former political candidate Letitia Pepper filed a complaint against former Councilman Dom Betro. How that complaint was handled by the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee was actually the biggest argument against allowing city council members and the mayor to be involved in reviewing complaints against their colleagues. Not just in the decision making but in the comments that city council members made in that meeting which clearly showed biased in favor of the candidate most if not all of them had already endorsed for the 2007 election.

But there are other witness statements as well that paint a disturbing portrait of what happened at the LANA meeting because if he directly prohibited the two city employees from giving a scheduled presentation, then yes, he did violate the city's charter provision against administrative interference. He's not their bosses and if they didn't give the presentation as scheduled after talking to him, then clearly something happened and some order was given to them by Adams to leave the premises. And if Priamos participated in this conduct if administrative interference was involved, then his bosses, the city council and mayor need to investigate his role as well and whether he was given an order by Adams that coerced him to engage in behavior violating the city's charter.

A date for hearing either one of Adams' ethics complaints hasn't been set yet by City Hall.

[In the foreground, are three of the members of the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee who will hear the complaints against Adams. As you can see, Adams is on this committee but will be excluded from the process. To his left, is City Attorney Gregory Priamos who is an unnamed party in this complaint and a witness as well as the committee's legal advisor. What is wrong with that picture?]

In other news, Administrative Analyist Mario Lara is once again acting manager of the Community Police Review Commission while it fills its second management vacancy in just three years. The last time he managed the CPRC, it fell quite a bit behind in complaint handling which has already experienced delays on the police department's end. Hopefully that will be avoided this time. Several commissioners hope to alleviate that problem by taking their responsibilities back and going to the office and doing more work.

Outgoing Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco is under scrutiny again, this time for cashing out over $1 million in vacation time leading to budgetary questions for the incoming district attorney, Paul Zellerbach.

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department officially rejected the county grand jury's criticism on taser use.

response on tasers

response on less lethal options

Public’s assistance needed in identifying attempt bank robbery suspects

Riverside , CA -- On Tuesday, September 21, 2010, at approximately 1530 hours, the Riverside Police Department’s Communication Center received a call that three males with guns were outside the Premier Services Bank located at 3736 Arlington Ave. The caller further advised she feared the bank was going to be robbed.

When officers arrived they learned the three suspects approached the bank on foot. As the suspects were walking towards the entrance of the bank, one suspect, armed with a rifle, turned his attention to a female sitting in her vehicle in the parking lot. As the female started backing her vehicle out of the parking stall to flee, the suspect possibly fired one round at the vehicle. The suspect dropped the rifle and fled through the parking lot. The female victim continued backing her vehicle and struck the fleeing suspect. Two of the suspects fled through the parking lot to an older burgundy colored mid size vehicle in poor condition. That vehicle was last seen south on Glacier towards Arlington . The third suspect was last seen running east on Arlington from the bank. The suspects never entered the bank.

Detectives from the Robbery / Homicide Unit and an Evidence Technician responded to the bank and took over the investigation. The rifle and other evidence were collected at the scene.

### P10-136589 ###

Anyone with information that may help identify these suspects should contact Detective Dave Smith (951) 353-7103 or Detective Mike Medici (951) 353-7104.

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