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, December 08, 2010

Ethics Complaints 101: The Dog and Pony Show

UPDATE: Conduct unbecoming from a management team member at a fundraising event for a fallen officer?

UPDATE: Lieutenant's list

11 tested on the same day, one on the following day, test
combination of written and oral interviews by a four personal panel of two
"community" and two outside management level police officers

No numerical ranking provided so the names are alphabetically listed

"A" Band

Jaybee Brennan

Christian Dinco

"B" Band

(in alphabetical order)

Frank Assuma

Steve Bradshaw

Val Graham

Duane May

Mark Rossi

Skip Showwater

Russell Shubert

Lisa Williams

"C" Band

Bryan Dailey

Gary Touissaint

To be Continued...

UPDATE: Will former Maywood Police Chief Frank Hauptmann be the next Community Police Review Commission manager?

[Members of the Riverside Police Department's Metro Team including Officers Brett Stennett and Dawson Smith received awards from the state's firefighters association at the city council meeting.]

The Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee heard the ethics complaint filed against Councilman Steve Adams by the La Sierra/Arlanza Neighborhood Alliance alleging that he violated the code by disrupting its Sept. 2 meeting after the group wouldn't let him speak after he attended the meeting in tow with City Attorney Gregory Priamos. Two city employees Tom Boyd and Cindie Perry had abruptly left at a meeting they were expected to present at after a long conversation with Adams in the parking lot. Even after Priamos had allegedly assured LANA board members that they hadn't committed any violations at their meetings, the two employees were allegedly ordered by Hudson to pack up and leave without any further explanation why. Which is perplexing because one would think that if the concerns raised by Hudson involving LANA had been such old news that the city employees would have never shown up at the meeting in the first place. But they showed up and left without a word to those who had invited them. Nor did Adams or anyone else including Hudson explain to them in person or through a phone call that evening why the city employees had left abruptly which makes it more than a little suspicious that this form of protocol wasn't followed.

But anyway, the complaint was filed, rejected by Hudson (who doesn't have that authority under the ordinace governing the Ethics Code) and then refiled in an amended form to head this time to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee which normally includes Adams as a member but this time, Councilwoman Nancy Hart stepped in to replace him for the hearing.

Witnessing the Committee fumble with what allegedly will be its final direct hearing of an ethics complaints after city resident pushed changes were approved by the city council including the creation of a new independent panel to hear complaints (though it will still serve in an appellate category to this panel) was once again an exercise on why the city council membered committee is unable to objectively handle ethics complaints filed its members. All three members serving on the Governmental Affairs Committee had voted against those changes (most of them saying because of the "discovery" issue) that they themselves had voted to send to the city council. Councilwoman Nancy Hart had voted for the changes not because she herself supported them but because of her constituents. In fact, at least she, Councilman Andrew Melendrez and Councilman Paul Davis had received dozens if not over a 100 responses from constituents in their respective wards pushing for the changes.

The hearing on this complaint was one reminder of why this is important.

[Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee and witness, City Manager Brad Hudson hear the ethics complaint filed against Councilman Steve Adams.]

[Councilman Rusty Bailey (l.) had to rush to make the mid-morning start time which had been unsuccessfully protested by the complainants as only two of them could attend the meeting.]

[City Manager Brad Hudson shows up to defend one of his bosses, Adams at the hearing.]

The original complaint had been amended after becoming the third complaint filed against Adams to have been tossed before even reaching the appropriate hearing body pursuant to the resolution, and the issue was disruptive behavior at a meeting as well as a potential violation of City Charter Amendment 407 forbidding administrative interference by elected officials of city employees even their own. What was so striking about that is that there's been allegations by Adams and other that it's just a political attack against him because Taffi Brandriff, one of six members who filed the complaint is married to John Brandriff who's running against Adams in the Ward Seven race.

Of course, that could always be true, especially in a world where wives of husbands are automatically assumed to do their husbands' bidding for them because of course, women including those married to men have no minds of their own, living solely to clean house, cook food and whatever else they are ordered to do. While the same assumptions are hardly made about men who marry women who run for office. They are usually assumed to be acting and thinking independently and separately. Is it possible that the complaint was politically motivated, perhaps but it's not an automatic assumption especially when you take into light Adams' past history with allegations of violating the city charter provision against administrative interference or disrupting or manipulating a process he didn't have authority over. He had been accused to have done that before in 2005 and 2008 through lawsuits filed by two police lieutenants Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt that stated he had allegedly interfered with two promotions made by former Chief Russ Leach of captains.

The actions that were alleged to have been taken by different denizens at City Hall and the police department were testified to great length in depositions taken of the involved parties including Adams.

[Capt. Meredyth Meredith allegedly had her promotion canceled when Adams called the city management protesting against it. ]

[Capt. John Carpenter's promotion apparently got put on ice until he allegedly met with Adams and former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel on Leach's advisement to smooth the waters between the councilman and the cop.]

The lawsuit which would have hashed out these and other allegations of corruption and misconduct involving City Hall and its handling of Leach and the police department were to have gone to trial last April and one would think that the city council and mayor including members of the hearing committee would have pushed for a day in court for Hudson, former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis and Adams to be able to testify on their own behalves. But what did the city government do behind closed doors instead, they settled the case quite generously with the plaintiffs in lieu of a trial in a public forum called a courtroom. They had litigated the case to that point in U.S. District Court but then for some reason, opted out just before the trial at least in part because the city already had been mired in scandal from the Leach DUI incident and there were allegations documented by work product that would have been discussed through testimony in court, the last thing the beleaguered city wanted at this time.

Losing a lawsuit at trial and paying out a lot of money, like the city did in the trial involving Officer Roger Sutton's lawsuit, is one consequence of taking a lawsuit inside a courtroom to trial rather than keeping it behind closed doors. The other is win or lose, the public airing of what's being determined at trial can be potentially very embarrassing especially if news of it spreads outside the courtroom.

So the second allegation involving Adams engaging in administrative interference just sounded familiar. Heard by a body of individuals that had decided behind closed doors to offer a hefty settlement in a lawsuit rather than take it to trial perhaps in hopes of limiting the embarrassment to the city government but also to Adams. In essence using city residents' money to settle yet another lawsuit to protect its own members and direct employees given that the city no longer has an insurance carrier tied to litigation. So it's just not really news to hear that allegations of administrative interference involving Adams have popped up again and it's beyond inappropriate for those who opted to settle a lawsuit which included allegations of administrative interference behind closed doors rather than take it to trial to sit and decide on an ethics complaint. Not to mention if these individuals have or choose to endorse him in his reelection bid, in the usual political circling of the wagons by city council against outsiders running for incumbent seats.

The committee not surprisingly voted 4-0 more or less to dismiss the allegations of the complainant pretty much what they always have done. During the process, several of them showed confusion on what an ethic violation really entails. Two council members, Hart and Melendrez expressed concern about Adams' conduct at the LANA meeting calling it unfortunate and at least one of them planned to talk to him. And they raised the issues of the importance of communication as if it were a new concept as to LANA's responsibility to clear the air with Adams and that would be the case with any dispute between city residents and an elected official. This might work with some of the members of the dais much better than others who are more receptive to addressing issues in that manner but Adams is not the easiest individual to address those disagreements with, as he doesn't seem interested in what the public says.

He's often left city council meetings during public comment to go sit in the conference room until the comment period is over apparently so he doesn't have to listen to it, according to another official. Is that acceptable behavior from an elected official during a public meeting, simply because he doesn't like hearing public comments that might be critical? Well, Adams like elected officials is being paid and whether it's a full-time or part-time job or salary (which after a full term served includes a generous departure package) is debatable but if he's being paid, then he really should plant himself in his chair because elected officials can't pick and choose to participate in the parts of the job that they like and avoid the ones they dislike.

[City Manager Brad Hudson puts on his show, dropping shocking allegations and innuendo without elaboration.]

But the really interesting if unsettling part of the meeting is the Committee's tendency to put the complainant on trial which wasn't as pronounced as it had been in the earliest days of the complaint process but was there nevertheless. This time, courtesy of Hudson who pulled a stunt he did one time before which was to make allegations of serious misconduct against an entity in this case an organization without elaborating. In this case, he alleged that LANA's board members had engaged in misconduct that was "borderline criminal.". Interestingly enough but also disturbing was that none of the elected officials on the committee asked him to explain himself, to show that he had factual basis for such a statement. Instead he left it hanging for people to draw their own conclusions which had been the purpose of making that statement in the first place.

Hudson later said away from elected officials that two people had said they had contributed money and it was used for reasons than they thought so they had contacted the city and Hudson had referred the case to the police department which he said didn't file charges. However, it didn't appear as if any of the board members even knew that Hudson had contacted the police department to investigate them or their organization until after the fact and people out it disturbing that Hudson had said they were "borderline criminal" after the police department had declined to recommend filing charges. But then again, allegedly this had happened before where Hudson made comments about "almost criminal" or "borderline criminal behavior" to other people when there was no basis for those remarks. And who's the boss of the police chief who runs the department, Hudson of course. It's interesting to see what would have been a civil matter between different parties which perhaps might have been litigated in small claims court be escalated so quickly to some sort of fraud investigation against a community organization apparently without its knowledge. How is that for a breakdown in communication, to rush to prosecute individuals over allegations raised by members of an organization without doing what the city council members and mayor kept on advising, which was to sit down and communicate better.

But the elected officials who employ him don't even question him when he drops statements like that during an ethics complaint hearing and that's disturbing to witness and it left people in attendance feeling like the city council and mayor should have said something in response but once again, tail wagging the dog. And the thing is that elected officials are and should be held to a higher standard of conduct because after they get elected, they stand up before the city's residents who attend the meetings or watch them online or on television and take an oath to essentially carry out their duties including behaving ethically. They also receive training from Priamos on ethics and avoiding pitfalls which might lead to ethics violations. And they hold the public trust through their public service, which issues them privileges but also pushes for accountability.

Still, the ethics complaint process might be entirely meaningless and without teeth and both at this point are pretty much true, and it's not clear whether the changes made to it will really result in a process that can be trusted by the city's residents, many of whom didn't like the current practice of having the fox guarding the hen house as it's been put through the use of the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee. But the amazing thing about Riverside's city residents is that when they vote for their elected representatives, one of the qualities that's clearly looked at by many of them is how their elected officials conduct themselves including on the dais at meetings. For the most part, those elected officials who acted out on the dais, called people names or told the police officers working there to eject them have been sent packing, not through an ethics complaint process that many an elected official has tried to contain or control but through the even bigger ethics process called the ballot box. Some of them have discounted how much difference it makes and then found themselves suddenly unemployed and cleaning out their offices at City Hall. That's usually how it's worked out.

And the four city councilmen up for reelection next year have most of what happened that splashed the media as a check mark against them given the dearth of leadership from the dais that came once again during one of the city's greatest crises. When instead of strong, assured leadership, silence prevailed even as scandal after scandal emerged, still the city government had little to say about it except Adams, who dismissed it all as "old news", simply a testament of the city's ability to keep it all under wraps for several years.

Next year, the new changes in the ethics code and complaint process just voted on go into effect...well maybe unless one or more city council members use the meeting in January to hammer out the amended language to instead reverse their vote. But during an election year that could be contentious, is that worth the risk? Election 2011 is sure to be an exciting year with much action to play out and perhaps some changes on the dais, well that remains to be seen.

New CPRC Manager to be Announced?

The Community Police Review Commission is set to announce soon the hiring of the new manager to fill in the vacancy left behind by the departure of former manager, Kevin Rogan who now works for the Los Angeles Police Commission. Leading candidates include a former chief of the now defunct Maywood Police Department (hopefully the only one that can pass the background check), a retired chief from California State University's police department and a high ranking management member of Pomona's police department.

Public Events

Saturday, Dec. 11 from 10 am-2pm, Cops East Winter Fest will be held at the Town Square rear parking lot on Chicago and University. Law enforcement and military representatives will be present at this event which reaches out to the communities including the Eastside.

Saturday, Dec. 18 is the deadline for the toy drive being done by Councilman Paul Davis with dropoff locations :

Orange Terrace Community Center

Martin Luther King, Jr. High School Band room

Nation's Rent to Own in Riverside

Riverside City Hall, Seventh Floor c/o Davis

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