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

Monday, September 06, 2010

River City: The City Council Reacts to Falling Dominoes

[A Bee Hive of Activity Lately ]

Last week, the announcement came at the top floor of Riverside's City Hall that Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis who had been employed by the city since 2005 will be resigning over a series of steps through the next few months. He's been relieved of his post and placed in "special assignments" a euphemism for placing an employee in some assignment at tax payer expense without the tax payers having any idea what he'll actually be doing. From a City Hall that avowed to be newly committed to its newest buzz word, "transparency", it has placed another veil of secrecy around the status of DeSantis.

After that, he'll take what his boss, City Manager Brad Hudson called a "well-deserved vacation" and then it's off the canvas and onto something else for a man who was after all, hired by City Hall after Hudson found himself a Human Resources director who would be amiable to changing the job description for the assistant city manager position to one not requiring a Master's degree in management. Sometime around his hiring, the human resources director at the time, Art Alcaraz was relieved of his duties, hired as a "consultant" for about six months and then departed the city with a severance package which included him signing a nondisclosure statement. He was then replaced by current director, Rhonda Strout before a flood of Riverside County employees came to City Hall.

The announcement of DeSantis' eventual departure apparently came to some degree of shock to members of the city government some of whom were quoted by the Press Enterprise. Even though there had allegedly been some sort of dialogue between DeSantis and members of the city's legislative body behind closed doors on Aug. 24 over a tentative settlement that DeSantis had brokered involving the personnel claim filed by former Riverside Police Officers' Association President Det. Chris Lanzillo. It amounted to about $125,000 and a medical retirement but when DeSantis hit the closed session, the city council didn't want to hear about it. They allegedly wanted DeSantis not to manage the department and it to go off to Chief Sergio Diaz who had allegedly told the police union leadership that the Lanzillo issue was out of his hands. But still some at City Hall apparently wanted him to be clean up crew for the messes that arose before he even arrived here.

The one of a few deals that DeSantis had allegedly made or tried to make with former or current police employees and the only one that apparently imploded in City Hall.

But about an individual who had a laundry list of troubling incidents stemming back not long after he arrived, the city council at least some of them appeared to sing his praises. Which tells you something about some on the city council.

[Riverside Councilman Steve Adams called the departing DeSantis "multi-talented" and a "tremendous asset to this city" and Adams should know, having had his city owned car towed through his efforts at least once.]

Councilman Steve Adams had very good reason to call DeSantis "multi-talented" because DeSantis had apparently helped him out when his city-issued and cold-plated vehicle had gotten impounded in Newport Beach on an unspecified date. Allegedly DeSantis had responded to that situation and arranged to have the car towed back to Riverside. It's not clear why if the car had been only impounded and not damaged as to why it couldn't be released from impound and then driven back to the city. During this incident which allegedly involved him parking illegally (or not, the accounts differ) in front of a garage within the confines of a home owner association, Adams had allegedly identified himself as an undercover police officer according to testimony given by former Chief Russ Leach in a deposition in connection with the lawsuits filed by two former police lieutenants. A call to the watch commander at the Riverside Police Department on that issue apparently cleared it up.

Also, Adams has been plagued by incessant rumors that another vehicle driven by him had been involved in an off-road driving incident and heavily damaged to its undercarriage.

Not to mention that Adams apparently had the neat benefit of being able to offer up his input in the promotional process involving several police captains between December 2005 and January 2008.

So yes, he's going to be more inclined to praise DeSantis as a tremendous asset to the city.

[Riverside Councilman Andrew Melendrez who's running for mayor in 2012 called outgoing DeSantis "multi-talented".]

Councilman Andrew Melendrez walked a tightrope while chairing the recent Governmental Affairs Committee when it conducted its annual review of the Ethics Code and Complaint process on Sept. 1 at City Hall. He pushed for the removal of the text of the code that had been added to state that complaints could only be filed against elected officials if they were officially acting as elected officials. Melendrez put up a brave motion to have that portion of the code stricken and couldn't even get a second by either Adams or Councilman Rusty Bailey until the collective groans among city residents at the meeting prompted Bailey to say he'd second the motion albeit for discussion only at the Sept. 21 city council meeting. Bailey repeated several times that he only wanted it on the agenda for "discussion" in case people didn't hear him the first two times.

But Melendrez has one foot in his council position and the other in a planned run for the mayoral seat against former Councilman Ed Adkinson whose got a facebook page and anyone else who decides to run. So he's being cautious, to the point where it might be doing him more political harm than good because in the year of scandals that have rocked this city, there needs to be city officials stepping on the plate to address what's been going on in a public setting. As chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee, he has some advantages to help him play this role but unfortunately he's already labeling himself as the elected official who responds with inaction.

But Melendrez who had a lot of grass-roots support at one time seems to have settled into the "go along to get along" group think way of conducting business that's interwoven so tightly with this city government. Which is unfortunate because occasionally he acts in ways that help promote accountability but then falls back again. It will be interesting to watch him and his actions as councilman including as chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee to see how he acts leading up to the 2012 mayoral election cycle.

As for the ethics code and complaint process, the Governmental Affairs Committee passed a proposal pushed by Bailey to create some ad hoc committee to perform the review that was supposed to be conducted by the city council which because it will be a lengthy process was clearly done to tie up the ethics code and complaint process and avoid implementing the three suggestions by community organizations until after the completion of at least the preliminary (and possibly final rounds) of Election 2011. The three provisions were:

1) An independent panel to hear and advise on complaints involving elected officials

2) Expand code to include city administration

3) Strike the language restricting the complaints against elected officials

It all comes up for discussion on Sept. 21 for a discussion and more binding decision by the full city council. Do not miss this grand event, to see the city council and mayor grapple with the ethics code and complaint procedure when most of them have been silenced or have stumbled over the laundry list of ethical gaffes involving local government that have taken place so far this year. However, several council members have their own ideas about what will be taking place at the meeting so hopefully it will be quite interesting.

When it comes to DeSantis' departure, others like Councilman Mike Gardner appear to be more cautious in their comments and his comment was the following:

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"It's his prerogative and his responsibility to manage his staff as he thinks is appropriate," Councilman Mike Gardner said.

Gardner had said he had noticed and been concerned about a form of entitlement by some at City Hall and that the city government had been working on addressing that issue but the city's residents have noticed that as well and that's partly why many of them have been very upset about the events of the past six months.

[Councilman Mike Gardner (l. with Councilman Paul Davis at the 2009 Regatta) said it was up to Hudson to make decisions about his own staffing.]

But it's not lost on people how quickly the dominoes have started falling, beginning in the police department and then moving on to City Hall which is a natural outcome and testimony to the unhealthy dynamic connecting the two. If one sinks, the other one will as well and to deal with the problems with one, you have to address both.

Waxing the greatest praise for the right hand man of his who he essentially told to take a trip is of course Hudson who's now got one less employee to throw under the bus if the occasion should arise.

[Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson praised the assistant manager he had just pushed into resigning from the Seventh Floor of City Hall not long after he pushed him under the bus on the cold plates scandal.]

Hudson said to the press that the decision for his right hand man to leave the city was a mutual one between him and DeSantis but it's clear that some form of writing had been on the wall since Hudson blamed DeSantis along with Leach for the cold plates scandal. The troubling contradictions from the testimonies offered by both Leach and DeSantis in their depositions lingered and despite the fact that both versions can't be true, apparently no investigation into perjury was ever conducted by any agency including Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco.

But it's been said that depositions which are set to be taken in one of the outstanding legal actions against the city will shed some light on who really ordered the issuance of cold plates on city vehicles. Was it Leach, or Hudson? My money's on that it was Hudson through DeSantis that ordered them. Leach worked under five interim or permanent city managers and only one of them apparently cold plated his car along with that of his assistant city managers.

CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan To Depart For Another Gig

[CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan to leave his post after three years to take a job with the police commission in Los Angeles.]

The manager of the Community Police Review Commission, Kevin Rogan, is departing after only three years on the job and taking a job with the commission in Los Angeles. The announcement caused some ripples in the city's fabric. It comes not long after the controversy that arose from the commission's violation of its own bylaws for changing the time and location of its meetings from evenings to various times earlier in the day. It was only after the debate when a commissioner saw the language in the bylaws governing the meetings that this transgression that had been overlooked by both Rogan and City Attorney Gregory Priamos came to light. At a later meeting, Rogan publicly took responsibility for the situation calling it his fault. But apparently some time ago, Rogan had been seeking out other pastures and the announced departure of his immediate boss, DeSantis who pretty much had the CPRC in a choke hold since late 2005 just preceded his own announcement by barely a week.

There had been some rumors that something major was coming down the pike this week from the CPRC and apparently this was it. It's probably not surprising that he's leaving in light of all the upheaval shaking the city since Leach's DUI incident on Feb. 8. But while the city adds another management position to the list that it will have to fill, many concerns will no doubt be raised about what will happen to the CPRC in the meantime. After all, besides the police department, the CPRC was the second favorite toy of micromanagement by Hudson and DeSantis and like the police department, the CPRC hasn't been the better for it. It's amazing if a bit puzzling that two agencies, the police department and the civilian oversight of it, have both been badly damaged by micromanagement and politics from the Seventh Floor at City Hall with some help from two floors lower.

Did Rogan see the writing on the wall and go job hunting? How many others are reading the wall right now?

Riverside Police Department Sergeant Files Claim Against City

Riverside Police Sgt. Val Graham filed an FEHA claim with the city alleging racial discrimination and retaliation involving upper management inside the police department including Chief Sergio Diaz and also management at City Hall. Graham alleges that since 2001, he has been routinely passed over for promotion to lieutenant despite ranking high on the lists including #4 on the most recent list and having a history of excellent or outstanding evaluations.

What's interesting is that the city has forgone its standard practice of having City Attorney Gregory Priamos comment on claims or litigation which has been initiated involving the department and has instead handed that job off to Chief Sergio Diaz. That happened earlier when the city had two personnel claims filed against it by former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel and Officer Neely Nakamura. It'd be interesting to find out whether Priamos is relieved or piqued he doesn't get to tell the media anymore that lawsuits and claims involving the department are "frivolous" or will be aggressively litigated by the city.

So it was Diaz who responded to the news of another claim being filed by a police employee.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"I know what factors guide me, and certainly it was not racial bias," Diaz said Tuesday of his promotions.

Diaz had said that he had based his promotions on reviewing factors such as employee histories (which likely would include the annual personnel evaluations), types of assignments and after discussing candidates with his management team. In the case of the captains' promotions, he also interviewed candidates. There had also been a lieutenant's list from written testing and oral interviews and during the past eight months, the five lieutenants had come from different rankings on that list. These were #2, 5, 6, 9 and 12. Several lieutenant candidates had been promoted who had failed the tests in prior years and who had problems completing prior assignments.

Two candidates off the latest round of promotions from captain to detective had onduty sexual misconduct incidents while they had been sergeants. One was demoted and then re-promoted within two years, while the other received a written reprimand. One officer promoted in a former round had a prior firing that was overturned at arbitration so clearly the candidates who were promoted came from an assortment of backgrounds. Assignment-wise, most of those promoted had either worked personnel and training or SWAT and quite a few, in both. Some officers had worked back to back "special assignments" with little or no assignment time in patrol in between. Considering that the patrol division has been promoted as the department's backbone by many a leader at City Hall and from within the department's own ranks, patrol officers and supervisors who spent considerable time there didn't appear to advance to the next rank as much as those in "special assignments" in this year's promotions.

Most newly promoted sergeants or lieutenants go into field positions including watch commands if they are lieutenants often on the night/early morning shifts. This time around, one of them, Daniel Hoxmeier was transferred to serve as an area commander of the Central Neighborhood Policing Center while Lt. Bruce Loftus was transferred to the Personnel Division.

The severely outdated organizational chart shows what the department looked like in late February this year.

This claim along with the others filed so far will be followed to see how it progresses and will be included under this blog's new subcategory, "RPD Claim Watch".

Asst. Chief Chris Vicino Visits RPOA, to Lunch with DeLaRosa?

[Riverside's new assistant chief, Chris Vicino just arrived.]

Newly hired assistant chief, Chris Vicino who hailed from Pasadena's police department had a meet and greet with members of the Riverside Police Officers' Association recently to share his thoughts on his new job and what he hoped to accomplish. He wanted to be housed near the front line officers at one of their stations, possibly Lincoln but whether he winds up there or closer to his boss, Diaz at Orange Street Station remains to be seen. Also in the plans apparently was a lunch meeting with former Acting Chief and now retired Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa who's been lunching with quite a few higher ranking police personnel lately.

Community gardens coming to the Wood Streets.

Public Event

Meet and Greet Police Chief Sergio Diaz

by Latino Network


Zacatecas Restaurant from 6-8 p.m.

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