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 13, 2010

Riverside Looks at Its Charter Review Process

UPDATE: Retired Judge Victor Miceli died.

[Mayor Ron Loveridge along with several city firefighters watch the 9-11 anniversary commemoration program in downtown Riverside. ]

The ninth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks were commemorated in different ways in different cities in the Inland Empire and the nation. In downtown Riverside at City Hall, about 100 people turned out for the event where booths were featured including those which provided emergency services. The fire department had a booth as did the police department staffed by Community Services Division Officer Neely Nakamura and a K9 demonstration was done by Officer Brad Smith and Rocco along with the division's newest officer, Kevin Feimer who beat out five other candidates for the position vacated by the retirement of Alan Jaekel. The city council will be voting on the purchase of a new dog and declaring another one surplus property at this week's meeting.

The city council will be voting on whether or not to revive the old deputy city manager position which naturally means that the city will probably have a deputy city manager pretty soon. In fact at the Human Resources Board meeting this week, Human Resources Director Rhonda Strout said that the plan is to have one assistant city manager and two deputy city managers.

City Charter Review Approaches

Sometimes it seems that the city's last charter review period happened just yesterday but although it traditionally takes place around every 10 years, this time it will begin sooner because its timing is set upon when the mayoral election takes place and that election date has been changed by the city's voters to November 2012. So this November, the mayor and city council will be appointing its charter review committee. This committee will meet regularly in public sessions to address proposed charter initiatives then it will vote as a committee to decide which ones to forward for review and ultimate decision making by the city council.

So the city's charter has popped up in conversation a lot lately including during the discussion which took place at the recent Governmental Affairs Committee when it conducted its annual review of the city's Ethics Code and Complaint Process.

Riverside Councilman Paul Davis is pushing for a charter ballot initiative to make serving on the city council a full time job.

[Riverside Councilman Paul Davis makes some proposals for initiatives to change the city's charter.]

Some have seen it as a way for the city council to push for a higher salary compensation package that would be tied in to the job being identified as being full-time rather than part-time. But Councilman Rusty Bailey apparently has given this issue some thought and has said it would be "political suicide" for the city council to vote itself a pay raise right now and he's absolutely correct. If they voted to do so while the city laid off employees and froze vacancies, then those who cast the vote for a higher salary most likely would be given a pink slip in their wards instead. And most or all of them probably are aware of this reality.

[Riverside Councilman Rusty Bailey believes that asking for a salary increase for the city council would be "political suicide"]

But what's kind of interesting is this statement made by Davis to the Press Enterprise reporter.
And you'll find it so if you remember some of the discussion that's taken place by elected officials serving in committee or on the dais about the ethics code and complaint review in general and one provision in particular.

"For somebody to say that this is a part-time job, that is absolutely not the truth," said Councilman Paul Davis, who also runs a furniture and appliance sales and leasing business. "To be an appropriate representative, you have to be available 24/7."

The one phrase which should stand out here is "you have to be available 24/7" to your constituents. If you'll recall, this phrase was used in relation to a controversial clause in the ethics code and complaint process that stated that an elected official could only be bound to the code if he or she was carrying out his official capacity and duties as an elected official at the time. This clause wasn't part of the original resolution which outlined the provisions of the ethics code and complaint process but was recommended to be added by the Governmental Affairs Committee through the actions of it then Chair Frank Schiavone and member, Dom Betro. Betro had been the subject of a complaint of a code violation by Save-Riverside's Kevin Dawson that had been nullified by City Attorney Gregory Priamos as not being held to the complaint process even before the language had been added to the code.

[Riverside Councilman Steve Adams is the most adamant opponent to striking the controversial clause from the ordinance which outlines the ethics code and complaint process.]

Last year, the recommendation to strip that amended language out of the code's resolution led to a boisterous discussion on the dais with Davis, Andrew Melendrez and Mike Gardner believing that a councilman was on duty 24/7 and the majority including Councilman Steve Adams adamantly opposing that proposed striking of that language.

Nearly a year later, it's pretty clear by all the revelations which have unfolded why Adams objected to being a councilman 24/7. Councilman Chris MacArthur also opposed the striking of the language because he feared that he might be out on the reelection campaign trail and not be able to campaign as he would like without fear that someone would file an ethics complaint as a councilman. Given that he hired political consultant Brian Floyd whose reputation for his strategic tactics during elections is well known as being mudslinging, maybe that's his real concern. Councilwoman Nancy Hart and Councilman Rusty Bailey had joined in on that group-think and the motion to strike the language failed.

But it returned during the first round of the ethics code and complaint review process which began at the Governmental Affairs Committee where they tried to divert the review process by sending a motion to instead assign the annual review process to a committee of city residents, a lengthy process which many saw as a means to delay enforcement and genuine improvement of the ethics code and complaint process until after at least the first (and possibly only round) of next year's city council elections.

In the meantime, the discussion also centered on the 24/7 issue which returned and Melendrez, the committee chair, proposed a motion to recommend the striking of the language again to the full city council. Mayor Ron Loveridge had submitted a letter in support of the language being struck from the resolution. However, Melendrez motion died for failure of a second.

Will it be brought back forth on the dais at the Sept. 21 city council meeting, and if so by who? If so, expect a boisterous round of discussion again, this time in an environment where the city's been hit hard by loss of confidence and trust as a result of a series of scandals which have been uncovered and in the autumn before an upcoming election cycle. Conventional wisdom states that any effort to pass this recommendation will fail because the learning curve for much of the city council hasn't been as high as hoped. But in the end that might matter because the learning curve during next year's election cycle might then be much steeper.

But that aside, what's really interesting is one of the other recommended provisions which is to mandate that the financial manager report directly to the city council and mayor and not just the city manager's office. Actually, this is similar to how the organizational structure inside City Hall had worked before City Manager Brad Hudson and former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis came to town.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

For the 2011 review, Davis said he'll also propose that the city's head finance official report directly to the council, like the city manager, city clerk and city attorney do now.

Currently, Chief Finance Officer Paul Sundeen is under the city manager's supervision.

The city manager would still set the budget, but the controller/auditor, as Davis would call the head finance position, would report on it independently.

"It sends a clear message to the public, in my opinion ... that it is very transparent and without undue pressure or influence from anyone else," Davis said.

Gardner said it's time to review the charter language on the relationship between council and staff. The current structure "places staff in a leadership and decision-making role, I think, more than the public wants them to be" and can make it harder for council members to solve constituents' problems, he said.

Bailey said he worries that electing the mayor on the same ballot as the president could make city elections more partisan. The 2012 elections will be the first voting cycle to test the switch.

Because there once had been a chief financial officer who was really in that position and not also an assistant city manager. It was only when Hudson became city manager that the formerly independent finance department was put under the control of the city manager's office. That decreased the transparency over the city's spending and was the first of several different ways that the city council surrendered often willingly some of its mechanisms to help promote financial accountability and a checks and balance system with the city management. Not coincidentally, this all began to take place before the launching of what turned out to be the $2.1 billion and growing Riverside Renaissance. The city council also voted to change its oversight of the use of interfund transfers between money budgeted for different purposes (i.e. the oft-depleted sewer fund) and the $50,000 spending by the city manager. And for a while there, the Finance Committee now chaired by Councilwoman Nancy Hart had been packed up in mothballs.

But is the city council ready to even consider taking back the reins of financial accountability? Even in the wake of what's transpired so far in 2010, the year that shook River City, it's not likely there's yet a majority on the city council that would support such a bold move.

Not yet, but 2011, now that's a different year.

I caught this conversation at about hiring in the Riverside Police Department where my blog and my name came up. The most interesting contributions being by TheInlandEmpire (who has a cool avatar) whose writing style is quite familiar having seen it before here. So being called "idiot activist" isn't that surprising and it's a variation somewhat from "whore" and a few other names. Still, the proper term is "idiotic activist" not "idiot activist" or perhaps "idiot" and "activist" separately as two nouns together just don't work as well.

But it's kind of funny because TIE (who might ironically be viewed by some as "disgruntled himself) and I do agree on some fundamental issues which are that the RPD's most serious problems were found in the top levels of its administration in management more so than its lower ranks. But when you've got problems up top, it's very difficult to keep them entirely out of the lower ranks because of the dynamics that exist between the different levels in the chain of command. After all, even this guy knows what happened to one of his former division cohorts when he challenged that old administration. TIE was once quoted as saying the rain would come down on City Hall from the protest over the firing of a probational officer in 2007 including on the police administration which is a pretty radical statement to make. But he turned out in the end to be correct about that, albeit regarding a different situation.

As far as all the officers that were arrested and prosecuted, six including former Chief Russ Leach were during a 14 month period that ended in December 2009. But there have been clusters of arrests in the past including at least five arrested and prosecuted between 2003-2006 for DUI crashes, road rage incidents and two for child molestation. So the cluster of arrests and prosecutions of officers that took place most recently wasn't as much an anomaly as people think. People can argue and debate and discuss why these clusters happened, the only thing that's factual is that they did happen, based on court records that are public documents for anyone to review. But then there's the issue of discretionary powers in arrest and prosecution which were clearly seen in how the DUI incident of the department's highest ranking officer was handled and whether that's more favorable to officers higher up in the hierarchy rather than those who are below them is a factor that needs to be considered as well. And whether or not supervisory or management issues play a role in arrest clusters should be considered as well.

The thread is very interesting and brings up some issues which will be discussed here about the recent testing that took place last month, the applicants it attracted and what kind of police department the newly hired will be facing. Because that's a very critical issue both for the present and future of the department as well as the city residents it serves. What will it look like and which direction will it be heading? A lot of people play a role in that process.

And what's interesting about the Jose Nazario angle of that discussion is that there's one important element of the Nazario's rehiring strategy that was omitted by one of the posters there and that is that Nazario apparently failed his background check when he reapplied for an officer position.

Because of something that apparently appeared in the court records back in New York state. Something that both disqualified him and provided the department with an easy out of a contentious situation partly of Nazario's own making when he talked over the phone about his view of working at the police department. He had told the sergeant that it was like the television show, Cops that they beat the shit out of criminals and then found a reason to take them to jail. Yes, a statement like that is going to concern the employers as well as the city government that holds indemnity over the police department in terms of civil liability. It's a little difficult to navigate around that especially when it winds up in a national publication.

The sergeant he was talking to had been involved in a sting conducted by the NCIS and the transcript of the phone call somehow wound up in the hands of a reporter from the Wall St. Journal. But the point apparently became moot when Nazario was allegedly disqualified from consideration in relation to his one-year background screening that the department required him to undergo to be rehired.

And to FutureRPD, good luck to him or her on the process ahead. The police department opened up the hiring process for between 12-15 positions and hopefully more of them in the future as the department needs to address vacancy rates at the entry levels in the sworn division and also those that have driven the civilian side of the department to a vacancy rate of around 19%.

Hemet's looking at management salary cuts. And standing room only is expected for the city's next council meeting to discuss what's happening with the library.

[Since Thursday, Sept. 9, the city's wi fi network had been experiencing some technical difficulties related to repeated logins and limited connectivity cycles. Us Internet investigated it and apparently fixed it sometime yesterday. The city's response was fairly quick on this issue. ]

[The city's wi fi log in page which is now back to being seen once daily but this is what you should see when you activate your browser after connecting to the Smart Riverside network. The login portion is at the very top of the site page.]

[Here's a wireless list on a computer linked to an AP near Chicago and MLK that shows three SSIDs for the wireless networks that appeared in that particular location. The one at the top is the official name of the free wi fi service and that's the one to click. The other two are identifiers for the old networks that apparently haven't been removed or replaced on one or more access points but when they are present, they may interfere with a computer's ability to auto-connect with the real network. If you're using the public wi fi, the network you want to click onto is the top one and it will tell you if the connection is successful or not and its status. If you see the other two names on your wireless list, then report it and the location to the 311 call center.]

RPD Press Release

Riverside , CA -- On Tuesday, September 14, 2010, at approximately 2020 hours, the Riverside Police Department’s Communication Center received a call of a kidnapping and rape that just occurred in the area of the University corridor in the East Side Neighborhood of Riverside. Officers responded and contacted the female victim.

Detectives from the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit responded to the scene.

# # #

Based on the preliminary investigation, it appears that the victim was kidnapped at gun point outside of a fast food establishment and driven to a separate location off of Chicago Avenue , where she was sexually assaulted and then let go. The suspect then fled the scene in an unknown direction in an older model tan minivan with tinted windows.

The suspect is described as a male Hispanic in his early to mid thirties. The suspect is approximately 506, 160, with a mustache and dark hair combed back.. He was last seen wearing a white t-shirt with blue jeans.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Detective Laura Riso at (951) 353-7126.

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