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, September 16, 2010

River City: City Hall to Discuss Ethics at Meeting during the Year of Scandal


Another Ethics Complaint filed against Councilman Steve Adams



Current and former city officials arrested in corruption case.

[The Governmental Affairs Committee and City Attorney Gregory Priamos (l.) listen to the public provide input at its Sept. 1 meeting when it conducted the initial stage of City Hall's annual review of the ethics code and complaint process.]

This Tuesday, Sept. 21 at the Riverside City Council meeting, the government will convene a public hearing on the annual ethics code and complaint process, the second stage of what had already begun at an earlier Governmental Affairs Committee meeting on Sept. 1.

It's expected to be even a more contentious gathering to grapple with such thorny issues than it had been last year, before the Year of Scandal unfolded. But what remains to be done is what the city council and mayor will do in the wake of an eventful winter, spring and summer which has generated increased distrust in city government among city residents. Also what is hanging over the discussion will be if any of the elected officials takes a leadership position on the issue in a way that could lead to any meaningful change in how government does its business because the city residents have seen it themselves and it's not pretty.

There should be a vigorous discussion on the issues that have arisen involving ethics in this city which seem to be in short supply, ironic now that the city does have an ethics code and complaint process of sorts in place. The city government owes its constituents and its bosses, the residents of the city that much.

This report which includes the text of the code and complaint process was submitted to the city council and Mayor Ron Loveridge by that committee. What's interesting is that towards the end of the report, there are emails and responses to a survey submitted by one elected official who asked them questions in relation to the current ethics code and complaint process. Former Councilwoman Maureen Kane submitted her opinions on the issue.

Dan Berstein of the Press Enterprise offered his take on the situation which is very interesting indeed. Challenging a city council member on their stance on the ethics code has become "sharp words". But then Bailey has said at least once that the city council was a full-time job that required a lot of his time and if anyone wanted it, they could have it. Whether or not anyone in his ward takes Bailey up on his offer or challenge, will be clear by early next year.

The evening of the city council is sure to be chock filled with entertainment and some golden moments and sound bytes (particularly by Councilman Steve Adams) to be sure but whether anything productive or meaningful comes out of it, remains to be seen. The recommendation of the Governmental Affairs Committee was to create an ad hoc committee to review the code and complaint process and make recommendations which would then go eventually back to the city council for decision on whether or not to implement them and if so, which ones. But Bernstein at the very end of his column explains the immediate problem with this strategy. Especially since some have seen the creation of this committee is a way to stall the actual implementation of the code or any much-needed improvements like striking the 2007 language and creating an independent panel to handle complaints by elected officials until after all or most of the 2011 city council elections.

Because after all that's transpired in the past eight months and all that's been revealed to precede that time period, if the city council is either still clueless or playing coy, then individuals displaying either don't belong in the chairs that they're sitting on.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

When a complaint is filed, city electeds judge its merit! But if they pass the buck to a citizens group (assuming it's not stacked and rigged), electeds might end up rejecting even tougher rules (i.e. an independent ethics panel) proposed by a monster of their own creation. That'd make them look awful. Serve 'em right, too.

But at any rate, here are the cast of individuals who will be making decisions about how to hold themselves and each other ethically accountable which no doubt will show the city once again that people in positions of power can't police themselves. The voters have to do that as they have clearly shown that they have done in the past and likely will continue to do so in the future beginning next year.

[Mayor Ron Loveridge, perhaps ever mindful of his legacy in public service, penned a letter to the Governmental Affairs Committee expressing his view that the ethics code should apply to elected officials at all times.]

[City Councilman Paul Davis said his questionnaire on the ethics code and complaint process among his constituents has elicited a lot of responses and that there's been great concerns on these and related issues since the Feb. 8 incident involving former Chief Russ Leach.]

[Councilman Steve Adams led the charge last year against striking the controversial 2007 language restricting the code's application to when a city official is acting in that capacity. A year's passed and the only thing that's changed is that now the public has a better understanding of why he held his stance.]

[City Councilman and future mayoral candidate Andrew Melendrez tried to push for a recommendation to strike the controversial 2007 ethics code language but the motion failed.]

[Councilman Chris MacArthur expressed concern during last year's review that he didn't want to worry about complaints filed against him for how he conducted his political campaigns and after the contentious 2007 race, he might have a good point given that he hired political consultant Brian Floyd who's been hired to do what some have called, mudsling during election cycles.]

[Councilman Rusty Bailey balked on supporting the motion to strike the controversial 2007 language and the motion stalled in Governmental Affairs Committee. He said he expects it to be nullified in an interview with the Press Enterprise but where will the votes come from?]

[Councilwoman Nancy Hart has said that no one in her ward has complained about either the ethics code or the ethics of governmental officials. Her response to the discussion and decision making on the dais at the meeting will mostly likely be, whatever the last person who spoke said.]

[Councilman Mike Gardner voted for the motion in the city council meeting last year to remove the 2007 language but the majority of the council voted against that. Will he take a leadership role here going into what's expected to be a competitive election cycle?]

[Riverside's city council members have pretty much nixed having their own direct employees including this one covered by the Ethics Code and Complaint process after spending the past eight months showing exactly how effective they were at addressing...problems by at least one of them.]

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board said no to a full-time Riverside City Council.


Discerning any public benefit in that change is tough, though. The council sets policy, but does not administer city business. Riverside has professional staff to handle the day-to-day operations of the city. The city's government has also survived until now without a full-time council -- which hardly suggests a pressing need for change.

And shifting to a full-time panel would almost certainly result in higher council salaries, even though some council members downplayed that possibility. Council members say the office requires so much time that holding an outside job is difficult, yet the pay -- $39,408 annually, plus benefits -- is not sufficient for people to give up other employment. Those factors limit the pool of potential council candidates.

Giving the council full-time status would only alleviate those concerns if pay also were to increase. Sure enough, in 2002, the Riverside City Council voted itself a 60 percent hike in pay -- justified by the argument that council service was really a full-time occupation, and so deserved higher compensation.

Former Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa Creates Waves at Retirement Event

[Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa, now retired, stirred the pot while emceeing at the retirement luncheon for Det. Steve Shumway]

The end of this week saw the retirement of long-time Homicide Det. Steve Shumway who has one of the longest and most distinguished careers in the police department including in that assignment. He closed and solved many investigations and he also was heavily involved in the Homicide Division's "cold cases" section. So when he retired and had a going away luncheon, over 300 people from inside the police department and from other law enforcement agencies attended including Chief Sergio Diaz and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino to wish him luck during his retirement. With a career like his, it should have been a day free from the controversies which the department and city have already seen this year.

Emceeing the event was former Acting Chief and Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa who retired in late July but had been attending events like Diaz' first promotional ceremony at the Riverside Convention Center as well as lunching with the department's management and some of the lieutenants who were more recently promoted as well as others.

He came up to the podium and allegedly said that now that he was retired, he didn't have to be politically correct in the three things he wanted to say. First, he said that if Tim Bacon came up, he couldn't speak more than three minutes. That elicited some laughter and an acknowledgment from Bacon who was in attendance. He then said that if Deputy Chief Michael Blakely came up, he would only be able to speak no more than a minute. That brought upon some laughter as well.

Then DeLaRosa said that if Capt. John Carpenter came in the room, he would kick his ass.

The response to that apparently was somewhat more subdued and in some ways shocked.

In some ways, it's difficult to know how to read that comment that he made about Carpenter. The first comment had been about Bacon, one of the former lieutenants who along with Darryl Hurt had filed lawsuits against the city that were settled earlier this year but which left in their wake revelations about quite a few scandals inside City Hall. The second, Blakely who played a critical role in DeLaRosa's own development had his name come up in several discussions that took place involving a former assistant city manager and several police officers.

But Carpenter found himself the subject of an ass kicking?

Physically speaking, it appears to be no contest who would win a fight as Carpenter played football in his younger days and he's somewhat taller and larger than DeLaRosa but still you never know how a physical fight would turn out between the two men. Still, maybe the fact that DeLaRosa is saying such a comment about a man who might be able to physically kick his butt instead might be humorous as a joke. But what also might be read in his words is that this is yet another example about the dysfunctional culture which dominated the now depleted management staff and also the somewhat dubious direction of the crew of captains who are left. All of whom elevated themselves through various versions of doing whatever was necessary and beyond that to reach those positions while former Chief Russ Leach was in power.

The management level culture was more than laced with hard drinking, going to strip joints, womanizing and such, it also led to the creation of a promotional system which apparently valued those elements more than it did the actual skills of leadership and management. Competition was intense and far outweighed collaboration and it led to a dysfunctional, disconnected management staff that struggled with skills that hadn't been honed through their development let alone nurtured and having to work alongside individuals they might have stuck with stilettos sometime earlier in their journey to upward advancement. Was what DeLaRosa said really an attempt at humor or one last strike of the stiletto blade?

And given that this culture also permeated into various elements of City Hall including those with charter-designated or not promotional powers in city management and city government, it's not surprising that pure mayhem reigned after Leach's departure and that the management staff began falling like dominoes because this was an agency where at least at the top it seemed that words like teamwork and mentorship were from some foreign language. For the department to really get heading in the direction that it needs to go, this dysfunctional system of management needs to be demolished and rebuilt with a healthier foundation with a careful and willing eye to building the next generation of leaders rather than knocking down the ladder after you've climbed it.

The expectations that this promotional system would remain in place didn't disappear with Leach but likely is still in place which Diaz has probably already discovered in his short time here. It would after all be far less than surprising if he had been complete devoid of receiving promotional "suggestions" from city government officials for example, of course what he does with that is going to have to ultimately be a decision that he has to make and it has to be one that's backed by his own remaining boss. If he hasn't seen this yet, he will certainly see it at least once by the time the "honeymoon" period ends and particular characters on the political canvas are no longer on their best behavior. If he hasn't been already, Diaz will be hit up by the same characters at City Hall who tried to get their buddies promoted and knock those out of contention they didn't like and being in the right drinking, partying and vacationing crowd will try to reassert itself.

The city will continue to operate the way it operates, and try to get away with what it wants or has in the past until someone says, no and it actually means something. And at the end of the day that might require members of the city government to rein in some of their colleagues who try to violate the charter by involving themselves in promotions and to instruct City Manager Brad Hudson that he shouldn't micromanage his department heads' promotions either. With former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis off the canvas, whether that will be easier or harder remains to be seen.

DeLaRosa and Carpenter apparently aren't much of friends and Carpenter was allegedly very unhappy when he found out later what had happened. So since the two weren't friendly was there malice behind DeLaRosa's humor in front of all those people who after all, were there to honor and recognize a colleague and friend? Maybe, maybe not but it seems like retirement events is often where interrelations between employees whether at the same level or at different ranks comes to play.

[Deputy Chief Mike Blakely was mentioned in DeLaRosa's "non-politically correct" comments during the retirement luncheon. Blakely mentored DeLaRosa during his meteroic rise to the top that ended with the revelation of the cell phone records in connection with the fatefal Feb. 8 DUI traffic stop involving Leach.]

[Capt. John Carpenter who was mentioned in DeLaRosa's speech was reportedly "devastated" by the comments he made at the luncheon.]

[Chief Sergio Diaz attended the retirement luncheon along with 300 other well-wishers from the police department and other agencies.]

[Asst. Chief Chris Vicino who's been invited to the chief's table at the Women of Distinction luncheon also attended the retirement luncheon with Diaz.]

[Brand new Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer who was to start work in his new job that same day didn't attend the luncheon.]

Mennifee owes some money.

A San Bernardino County judge tossed out half of the criminal charges filed against former County Assistant Assessor Jim Irwin but they could be brought back in an amended complaint.

In Hemet, police officers there belonging to two labor unions face 5% cuts in their salaries. There's a lively discussion on that thread.

Public Meetings

Monday, Sept. 20 at 10a.m., The Public Safety Committee will be holding its meeting in the Mayor's Ceremonial Room at City Hall to discuss the Corona helicopter deal and an item in closed session.

Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. and 6:30p.m. the Riverside City Council will be conducting a meeting to discuss this agenda.

Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 5:30 p.m. The Community Police Review Commission will be conducting its meeting in the city council chambers to discuss this agenda.

The CPRC has two officer-involved death casebooks on line while it reviews them.

Fernando Luis Sanchez

Marlon Acevedo

And the latest version of the often amended policy #4.8 which governs the investigation of officer involved deaths and shootings.

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