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

Sunday, May 30, 2010

When Disciplinary Action Becomes a "Special Assignment"

"By nature, the chief is a somewhat controversial position and no matter who is chosen, someone will think it's the wrong person."

---Councilman Mike Gardner to Press Enterprise while rumors continue to spread that the police chief candidate has already been chosen by City Hall, mirroring the hiring process of City Manager Brad Hudson in 2005.

UPDATE: CHP Reports Released, implicate Acting Chief John DeLaRosa and Lt. Leon Phillips in mishandling of Leach incident amid a sea of contradictory statements, rookie officers noting signs of DUI in Leach that seasoned management personnel miss and DeLaRosa telling Phillips to use his judgment (totally unnecessary if no criminal conduct had occurred) while denying anyone informed him that "intoxication" was involved. More to come...

[The Riverside Police Department's administrative headquarters on Orange Street in downtown Riverside have become the center of some interesting activity as of late including the transfer of officers to await disciplinary action including a detective who filed a claim against the city. Phillips works there as well...but wasn't sent there to be disciplined but given a "special assignment" according to DeLaRosa. So, it's the place where a male lieutenant facing discipline for sustained misconduct can be handed a "special assignment" by DeLaRosa (though both have sustained allegations of misconduct stemming from the same incident in relation to the orders one gave the other to carry out) and two female sergeants who rank in the top three of the current lieutenants' list are transferred out to make room for them? This situation just gets more interesting...the more that DeLaRosa tries to "clarify" it. ]

[Acting Chief John DeLaRosa awaits his fate at Orange Street Station...while deciding on the fates of others including the recent transfers of Lt. Leon Phillips who also faces disciplinary action for the Leach incident and Det. Chris Lanzillo who DeLaRosa is allegedly trying to terminate not long after Lanzillo accused him of knowing about the Leach incident when it was happening. ]

A previous blog posting addressed the ongoing situation that's unfolding at the Riverside Police Department's administrative headquarters on Orange Street in downtown Riverside where apparently a decision came out of Acting Police Chief John DeLaRosa's office to transfer Watch Commander and Lt. Leon Phillips from his field assignment to spend his time inside the Orange Street station alongside at least five other police officers assigned to the facility to await disciplinary actions.

It was very interesting that Phillips who had been assigned to work a graveyard shift as watch commander was moved to work in the administrative headquarters to await disciplinary action by the individual who most likely issued the order that helped Phillips place himself in that situation in the first place. It's also very interesting that Phillips has been placed in a more restrictive environment under the eye of the chief and his administration while his supervisor during the Feb. 8 DUI incident involving former Chief Russ Leach, DeLaRosa was actually elevated by City Manager Brad Hudson to serve as that acting chief. It's not clear what Phillips "special assignment" involves but DeLaRosa still has the power to hire, promote, fire and...transfer. After all, in the rather interesting world of City Manager Brad Hudson, it's perfectly fitting to replace a chief who broke the law with a subordinate implicated in the mishandling of that chief.

These actions were clearly inappropriate as Phillips' fate or future shouldn't be left at all in the hands of the individual who supervised and directed his actions during the Leach incident. Even transferring him at this point whether for disciplinary reasons or to reward him with a "special assignment" should never have been left in DeLaRosa's hands by the city management because although Phillips chose his own actions to obey a superior's order, he most likely was directed to do so via phone calls by DeLaRosa. But then even as city officials effusively praise Hudson for being the best city manager ever, questions arise in the city's populace regarding his handling of the Leach incident. After all, this is the same governmental body which allowed its direct employer to direct an investigation at the police department's management while deftly avoiding any similar probe among the power brokers at City Hall. After all, most people that it's difficult for any investigator to well, investigate himself.

And it remains interesting that although in many cities, a management employee like DeLaRosa would have been placed on paid administrative leave once it became clear he was suspected of committing misconduct, in Riverside, he continues to serve as its acting police chief making decisions to discipline and transfer employees while he awaits his own discipline for his involvement in the Leach incident. But then perhaps more cities have management employees more experienced in serious labor issues and this city's management employee kept his investigation of the Feb. 8 Leach incident only aimed at the high-ranking personnel of the department and not at City Hall. To this date, no one at City Hall has been independently investigated for any involvement in the Feb. 8 incident and its attempted cover up.

So how was DeLaRosa able to find himself in this position in the first place, and does it stem from having a city manager who spent most of his career before Riverside specializing in economic development rather than labor issues? That alone should have prompted an investigation or at least an inquiry from the legislative body and mayor to Hudson and DeSantis but as usual...this was the response.

**pin dropping**

Okay, so maybe it's because DeLaRosa was made acting chief before Hudson went to the press and blamed "management" for the mishandling and attempted cover up of Leach's traffic stop and maybe, there's not anyone in the command staff to fill the position even temporarily especially after the untimely retirement of Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel who apparently at one time thought about applying for the top spot himself until someone else played their hand and helped the 30+ year veteran officer send himself into retirement in a New York minute. After Esquivel, there's a dearth of management personnel in the next level who could handle the job or at least Hudson seems to think so. Else why leave an employee awaiting discipline including potentially demotion for obstructing or misdirecting the handling of a criminal incident at the helm of the police department? So some say, that DeLaRosa remains at the helm essentially by default. If anyone can come up with a bigger indictment against the police department's management staff than that delivered by Hudson and his decision to keep a member of it awaiting discipline in charge of the agency, that might be a somewhat difficult task indeed.

But who built this management staff in the first place? Some answers and some analysis of that will be forthcoming. But Hudson played a large role in the creation of what became the very shaky foundation of the department's leadership and management structure.

Only one person from inside the department even applied to be chief and that was Capt. John Wallace whose currently manning both the Investigations and Special Operations Divisions. The rest of the management staff sat this hiring process out...maybe after seeing what happened to Esquivel.

So why did DeLaRosa really transfer Phillips to the Orange Street Station and why was he given the authority to do so given how closely these two employees are intertwined in the Leach incident? There's just no way for DeLaRosa to exert the normal authority of a chief on this subordinate considering the circumstances and it's really troubling that this apparently isn't seen as being the case by Hudson and the rest of City Hall. By placing these individuals in this position, it makes it seem more questionable than it might already be otherwise because the filter provided by the Feb. 8 incident is what will influence how people look at the decisions made by DeLaRosa as is only natural. And it's troubling if Phillips' union representative, Lt. Ed Blevins doesn't advocate on his behalf in an attempt to perhaps push any decision making involving Phillips including that of a transfer away from DeLaRosa.

But Phillips' situation in particular had been a bit troubling given that his transfer appeared clearly disciplinary in nature and even punitive considering the circumstances not only involving his placement at the Orange Street Station and its timing but also considering just how costly it is to the department to remove Phillips from his watch commander assignment at this moment in time. And it's beyond disturbing that this decision to transfer him was made by the higher ranking officer who had been chatting with him on his city-issued cell phone at least twice during Leach's traffic stop. It's very likely that while Phillips participated in what happened during Leach's stop, that he was doing what DeLaRosa told him to do and okay, maybe in a place like Wonderland or Oz, the person who gives a subordinate the green light to engage in covering up a DUI incident is then allowed to make decisions about his fate. Oh, and Riverside too of course. Remember that at this time, the investigation has pretty much been finished, it's been a month since Hudson himself branded management personnel as being to blame for what happened and what awaits is disposition on those allegations of misconduct which have been sustained for the remaining responsible parties. So you have an acting chief awaiting discipline making decisions concerning discipline and "non-disciplinary" transfers involving personnel including Phillips. How ironic is that?

As you read here, within 24 hours of the blog posting on the situation with Phillips and other officers at Orange Street Station, DeLaRosa took leave of his station at that facility and traveled across town on a Saturday during a holiday weekend to speak with officers at a roll call station being conducted at Magnolia Policing Center near Tyler Galleria. During most of the roll call session, he stood in the back of the room but towards its end, he came up front to make a speech to those in attendance. He told them that he had to provide "clarification" on a situation in that Phillips had not been assigned to Orange Street Station as discipline but because he had been transferred into a "special assignment" there. DeLaRosa apparently didn't provide specific details about the nature of this "special assignment" nor did he say what he what he was providing clarification to, or why he had chosen to do so, again on a holiday weekend when administrators are usually scarce.

He also mentioned that the investigation involving him was completed and was on a desk awaiting disposition. And then asked people if they had any questions but apparently no one did. That blog posting received responses from city residents expressing concern about what has been transpiring since this whole mess started but also specifically about the recent events at Orange Street Station.

But while it was very nice and helpful for DeLaRosa to clarify the situation involving the assignment of Phillips to the Orange Street Station, it did raise some additional concerns and relevant issues of why Phillips is being pulled out of an assignment with a high vacancy rate into a "special assignment" in the first place.

Lieutenant Staffing Situations in Watch Commands, at Critical Levels

This current staffing chart showed the number of vacancies at lieutenant and above as of Feb. 22, 2010. Of course, you have to subtract two more lieutenant positions, those assigned to Darryl Hurt and Tim Bacon on that chart. These two lieutenants are both on paid administrative leave until they reach retirement age. The other change is that Audit and Compliance with Brennan's departure has been completely dissolved. Incidentally, that bureau had been the one assigned to create the department's Strategic Plan 2010-2015, the fate of which will be the subject of a future blog posting. Before the recent promotion of Melissa Bartholomew, the lieutenant vacancy rate was roughly around 33% with these losses being felt keenly in the area of watch commands.

If you subtract Bacon and Hurt from the chart and add up the vacancies for permanent and relief watch command positions, you will see that there are some definite shortages there. In fact, last year when the vacancies numbered roughly five by December 2009, the department had already in at least two separate stints dating back to 2008, experienced severe shortages in the assignment of watch commands and there were discussions and apparently cases where management personnel above the rank of lieutenants had to serve partial or complete shifts as watch commanders. Not to mention that many lieutenants had to work back to back shifts meaning their own and then at least partial watch command shifts.

Now it's time to subtract Phillips from that department's staffing chart.

Now the number of watch commanders has been decreased in total, 50% or neatly cut in half. That is countered by the promotion of Bartholomew for that one position. But it was when the department was at its December 2010 levels when there were enough deficits in staffing to necessitate farming outside the lieutenant rank for replacements. And when this is done, the department has to look upward because of the prohibitive costs behind using sergeants as watch commanders. Sergeants working partial or complete shifts as watch commanders have to be paid the same rate as a top level lieutenant pursuant to a MOU involving the sergeants unit and the city from the 1990s. This MOU was passed to prevent the over reliance on sergeant watch commanders though this issue had also been raised during the lawsuit set to be filed against Riverside by the State Attorney General's office in 2001 and was part of the stipulated judgment which pushed for the use of lieutenant watch commanders on all shifts as often as possible.

Due to the severe shortages in the police department's watch command assignment, it's very interesting to justify the removal of one lieutenant for the purpose of placing this individual in a "special assignment" at the Orange Street Station. At one time, there were apparently discussions about possibly phasing out the NPC lieutenants due to budget cuts and the high percentage of lieutenant vacancies. At one point, only one out of three lieutenant positions in the Special Operations division (which has to share its captain with Investigations) were filled until Lt. Guy Toussaint was assigned to oversee the Traffic Division vacated by the retirement of Lt. Rick Tedesco late last year. A lieutenant, Gary Leach, was pulled out of his assignment in the Personnel and Training Division to fill a watch command assignment during the day shifts. Still, the watch commands are filled on some shifts through weekly rotations with other lieutenants which may be necessary and more practical as a short-term solution but the longer this system is used, the higher risk there is for employee burnout at this rank. Which the city including the city council was duly warned about several years ago.

But suffice it to say that if lieutenants including Leach are put in a situation where they're actually being pulled out of "special assignments" to be placed in watch commands and other lieutenants are being rotated onto watch commands in addition to their regular assignments, it seems a bit odd that DeLaRosa has actually pulled a reversal to rotate a lieutenant out of the watch command assignment and it happens to be the lieutenant who was like him, investigated in the Leach incident. Yes, it's true that it's probable that Phillips faces discipline including possibly a demotion out of his rank but it's not clear when that will take place and in the meantime, it makes little sense to pull a lieutenant out of the understaffed watch command assignment just to have them languish in a "special assignment" until they get demoted and reassigned elsewhere possibly by or during the next shift change in July? The sensible thing to do is to keep him in his assignment as a watch commander until it's time to discipline. Unless DeLaRosa plans to keep him in a "special assignment" given that one has just been vacated of its female sergeant inside the Chief's office at the Orange Street Station and that involves the creation of the police department's Strategic Plan which currently has no author.

After all, isn't that what the city has been doing to DeLaRosa? Even though he's facing discipline too and would be subject to greater culpability than Phillips as a higher ranking officer, he's not being pulled out of the chief's office to be reassigned elsewhere until he's disciplined. No, he's currently still acting as police chief with disciplinary action hanging over his head issuing disciplinary action or transfers to Orange Street Station to await disciplinary actions to other officers including Phillips. And keeping an acting chief who's awaiting discipline seems to be more serious than keeping in place a watch commander in a similar situation.

But it's interesting in the face of the lieutenant shortage that Phillips is being transferred out of the watch command to Orange Street Station.

Contrast that with the situation involving the sergeants, who currently face a slightly better vacancy rate just below 10% though some retirements are anticipated by December 2010. For two years, they operated at even higher vacancy rates before the promotional freeze was lifted in February and since then, there have been five sergeant positions. The department announced that every field assignment had been filled and that the vacant positions in the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse division had been filled. The sergeant position in the Family Violence was vacated by the departure of Paul De Jong (his rank vacancy filled by the promotion of Det. Linda Byerly) and filled with the assignment of Jay Greenstein.

The vacancy created by the recent medical retirement of Sgt. Frank Orta was filled by the promotion of Det. Brian Dodson. Yet, around the time of Dodson's promotion, Sgt. Jaybee Brennan who filled three assignments inside the chief's office was transferred to the patrol division. Before she was transferred, she had been assigned as the primary officer to work on the creation and development of Strategic Plan 2010 and in fact, had recently given a presentation with Capt. Mike Blakely to the Public Safety Committee on the progress of that Plan. Even while it was absolutely critical to dip into the lieutenant's watch command shortage to free up Phillips for the "special assignment", it was just as critical to ship Brennan back to field operations even though the shortage there isn't as critical as that involving lieutenants in part because of recent promotions and a growing number of vacancies at the patrol officer level.

The deficits at the sergeant's level are serious and need to be filled by unfreezing the remaining positions, but there's more deficiencies both numerically and percentage wise at the lieutenant's level which over time, could lead to burnout rates increasing at this rank if individuals are required to do double assignments for a long period of time. Police Practices consultant Joe Brann at a June 2008 audit warned the city council, mayor and Hudson that this could happen over time if the staffing shortages weren't addressed. Yet they are ushering sergeants out of "special assignments" and into the field as urgent staffing changes while removing lieutenants from the watch command division to fill "special assignments" even in the light of the fact that there's enough of a shortage of lieutenants there to have mandated several "pushes" of lieutenants to work extra shifts and to even have upper management personnel come in as relief commanders. The situation is indeed very interesting but it attracts a myriad of questions.

So why is one of the remaining permanently assigned watch commanders being moved to Orange Street Station to fill a "special assignment"? On its face, that explanation seems more than a little suspect. Especially since Phillips shares space with other officers who were assigned to Orange Street Station while DeLaRosa has been acting chief specifically to await disciplinary action including Det. Chris Lanzillo who filed a claim against the city which included allegations of misconduct by DeLaRosa in relation to the Leach incident. Allegations which apparently turned out to be true. So if Phillips is being taken out of a division facing a shortage because it's absolutely imperative for him to fill this "special assignment" at Orange Street, then that itself bears questions as to why that involves him sharing space as an officer awaiting disciplinary actions with a small group of other officers including Lanzillo sharing the same fate.

From Discipline to "Special Assignment", a Reversal?

What struck me as interesting about DeLaRosa's comments to the officers at the roll call session was his assertion that his decision to transfer Phillips to the Orange Street Station wasn't made to discipline him but because he was needed for a "special assignment". The reason being is that usually it appears that there's a big span of ground between disciplinary action and the placement of an officer in a "special assignment" which is usually one outside of the field operations division. In many cases, there might be competition among officers for a "special assignment" and it's usually afforded on some basis whether merit or politics and viewed as a privilege in at least some cases. Officers might want the assignment or they might accept it een if they aren't as favorable to it because it might offer, for example, a means to help them advance in the ranks. Phillips himself once was offered a choice between going to the Audit and Compliance Panel as a sergeant and he accepted, saying that it was between that and working a graveyard shift as a supervising sergeant so for him the choice to be made was obvious and he had made it. He went to audit and compliance where he served a stint.

Special assignments hardly ever appear to be associated with an individual who is facing disciplinary action such as that by someone like Phillips. Why did DeLaRosa appear in the reasoning behind his rationale to assign Phillips to the Orange Street Station associate his actions with placing him in some unspecified "special assignment"? It sounds like what he's saying is that I'm not punishing him, I'm rewarding him. Because often "special assignments" are associated with rewards whether for good performance, great service or for being on the right "team" as there might be variation in the intent behind those assignments. And with DeLaRosa being placed in the completely inappropriate position of acting chief which gives him the authority to determine Phillips' least until DeLaRosa steps down, if Phillips is being given a "special assignment" then unfairly or not, that looks unseemly. DeLaRosa apparently ordered or persuaded Phillips his subordinate to participate in a conspiracy to conceal Leach's criminal conduct so any interactions between the two rightly or wrongly are going to be viewed through that filter or perspective.

But it's beyond odd that two officers receiving sustained allegations of misconduct stemming from the same incident could be in the situation where one of them could give the other a "special assignment". It's completely inappropriate given the clear involvement of both parties in the Feb. 8 conspiracy to cover up criminal conduct by Leach to have DeLaRosa making any type of decisions, "special assignment" or otherwise, involving Phillips.

And if DeLaRosa had a boss outside the department at City Hall who was as experienced in these types of labor issues as he was enthusiastic about micromanaging the police department, then this situation probably wouldn't have been allowed to arise.

One Step Forward, Two Back?

Last week, DeLaRosa promoted Sgt. Melissa Bartholomew from the #5 position on the promotional list, breaking a drought in the lieutenant's rank for female officers that goes back to late 2004. Before or around that time, DeLaRosa also promoted the two higher ranking females on the list, Sgts Jaybee Brennan (who ranks #1) and Lisa Williams (who ranks #3) out of assignments in the Orange Street Station before the arrival of the new (or "new") police chief. They were transferred to field supervision with even money being placed that it's most likely graveyard shifts on the other side of the city or at least working outside the police chief's working hours, far away from this individual. Only because Siberia is a bit outside the range of the police department's operations. If this were the private sector, this is often how those in management positions try to reconfigure the process of deciding who will come up to join them. But this is a public agency after all, surely it must be using a different playbook!

An interesting development in the very interesting topic of goings on at the Orange Street Station which as stated earlier, has an acting chief awaiting disciplinary action at its helm. This is going on to fill staffing vacancies even as DeLaRosa's pulled Phillips out of the severely impacted field command division to bring the lieutenant who's also awaiting disciplinary action in connection for the Feb. 8 incident into his fold for a undefined "special assignment".

Talk about borrowing a commonly used strategy from a more corporate climate of which the police department seems to be borrowing from and it's interesting to have watched DeLaRosa's all too brief tenure in the top seat before his descent downward unfold with the decision making taking place at Orange Street Station these days and weeks.

It's also interesting at the same time a female sergeant who had been encharged with working on the department's upcoming strategic plan is being moved out of a "special assignment" at Orange Street Station because of staffing shortages in that rank, a male lieutenant facing disciplinary action is being moved out of an even more critically depleted rank to fill a "special assignment" and possibly even the same assignment that had been held by the female sergeant. That's happened in other police agencies too and it's been costly in the long run for the city's which offer these agencies indemnity. There might be more to this picture in many different ways but from the surface, it looks like executive boardroom politics.

It's more than likely that even if Phillips gets demoted that he will remain in that assignment, because after all, if that weren't the case why go through the trouble of placing him in a "special assignment" at the Orange Street Station to begin with? And then there's the natural law of inertia meaning that any chief coming in even an autonomous one (as part of an alternate universe of course) might be reluctant to make major changes first while he or she tries to figure out the canvas beginning inside the department.

If Phillips were going to stay in field operations, he would probably be still working in that capacity especially considering the staffing issues in watch command. After all as stated earlier, DeLaRosa is still acting police chief in the face of likely disciplinary action including potentially, demotion. He's not removed from that assignment, transferred to some holding pattern until he learns his fate, as happened with Phillips.

But a female sergeant on the top of a promotional list getting transferred out of a "special assignment" while a male lieutenant facing disciplinary action gets moved in for a "special assignment" even though he's leaving a rank and assignment facing a more critical shortage of personnel. All very interesting, meaning never a dull moment at Orange Street Station

If this is the case, what kind of message does it send in a department which has just promoted its first female lieutenant since 2004 and its second female supervisor since November 2005. Especially since Brennan is the second female sergeant to be transferred out of the Orange Street Station in the past several months. The promotions were very interesting developments during a tumultuous period of the department's history and so are these recent personnel transfers.

Although tempering those developments is this reality and that is the last two female supervisors promoted in 2004 and 2005 to the ranks of lieutenant and sergeant respectively failed to pass probation. There hasn't been a female supervisor since Sgt. Michelle Jackson's promotion to sergeant in November 2004 to have passed the probationary period. Whether the probationary failures were justified or not is something the police department has the answer to, but factually speaking, this was the case.

But it's interesting seeing sergeants being rotated out of Orange Street Station and the watch command's ranks becoming stripped even more with a lieutenant being transferred to Orange Street Station. And this issue of the reassignments of the two female sergeants at the top of the promotional list just before the arrival of the new police chief will be blogged about in the Out of Sight out of Mind? installment of the ongoing series on gender and policing, Hiding in Plain Sight: Women in the RPD.

Press Enterprise
Columnist Dan Bernstein comments on the ongoing tale of the former chief, the ex-councilman and the stripper and how it would play out if it were pitched as a story idea for a movie. No way would it ever sell because it's just too unbelievable. That's what they always say until it happens.

Two Riverside Parks will be improved.

Some local defense attorneys believe that Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco must go.

And his elections rival, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Paul Zellerbach has been doing some fundraising and more public employee unions dump money into local campaigns.

Will Jurupa become Riverside County's next city? Hopefully if so, its experience will be a bit smoother than that experienced by Menifee.

Coming Soon:

A Retrospective On City Manager Brad Hudson

Starring in

The House That City Hall Built

Just Like a Cop?

[A design of the name tag or what's called a "flat badge" that Hudson wanted for himself and other assistant city manager employees including Tom DeSantis and Michael Beck when he first arrived in Riverside. Later ordered destroyed by the State Attorney General's Office after an investigation was launched by that office's criminal division, one of several on Hudson's watch. ]

Public Meetings

Tuesday, June 1 at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. the Riverside City Council will be conducting its meetings to discuss this agenda.

Thursday, June 3 NTA City Manager Brad Hudson and his panel will be interviewing the finalists for the police chief's position in absolute secrecy with the panelists even signing confidentiality agreements.

In Memorial

Capt. John Wister Haines, U.S. Army Medical Corps.

Born: 1912

Died: Oct. 24, 1944

During the sinking of the Arisan Maru with 1832 aboard, nine survivors.

A family of one of the deceased recorded their experience who at least at one time had familial connections in Riverside.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's a Mad, Mad World at the RPD Orange Street Station

UPDATE: Today on May 29, Acting Chief John DeLaRosa left his office at the Orange Street Station to head on down to the Magnolia Policing Center to assure officers at a roll call session that Lt. Leon Phillips was not sent to Orange Street Station for disciplinary or punitive purposes but because he was needed to fill a "special assignment" at that administrative building. It's not clear why DeLaRosa showed up on a holiday weekend to update the officers at this roll call session on this critical information which was referred to as a "clarification". A clarification to what, he didn't specify in his speech.

Absolutely remarkable acumen and foresight on his part to remove a lieutenant out of a watch command assignment especially given the critical shortage of watch commanders due to a slew of retirements in the past several months which have left lieutenants signing up for extra duty as relief watch commanders for different days and shifts. The 25% vacancy rate not withstanding, it can't be all that bad if lieutenants are being reassigned to "special assignments" on a desk, with of course their proximity to officers and one detective awaiting disciplinary actions is a coincidence. Clearly there are plenty of lieutenants to spare, or at least that's what DeLaRosa clearly expressed with his reassignment of a man about to be disciplined for sustained misconduct into a "special assignment" which is usually afforded as privilege or merit.

In the meantime, the sergeant vacancy which is about 10% (and thankfully at its lowest vacancy rate in nearly two years) is seen as so critical that DeLaRosa reassigned Sgt. Jaybee Brennan from her special assignment of working on the Strategic Plan to field operations even after filling another vacancy with the recent promotion of Det. Brian Dodson. A position that some believe will be filled by Phillips who's awaiting disciplinary action.

Speaking of awaiting discipline, DeLaRosa also told officers that the case against him has been completed and is on a desk awaiting disposition.

A more detailed rebuttal to DeLaRosa's rebuttal to reporting here about Phillips is forthcoming which will break down this response piece by piece for further analysis and disposition. But this blogger thanks DeLaRosa for clearing the air on this disturbing issue in his own words, in a matter of speaking.

[This is the front door for the Riverside Police Department's administrative headquarters and rented digs on Orange Street in downtown Riverside, the epicenter for some very activities including a newly created Island of Broken Officers where officers are sent to wait in administrative limbo for disciplinary action including Lt. Leon Phillips.]

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

---William Shakespeare

"We're looking through the looking glass folks...where white is black and black is white..."

---JFK (1992)

"If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there."

---Lewis Carroll

A case of he said, she said has arisen in connection with an alleged probe by the Riverside County District Attorney's office into allegations made by a Club 215 employee that former Councilman Frank Schiavone influenced her statements to California Highway Patrol investigators looking into the incident involving former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach. District Attorney Rod Pacheco who's been on the campaign trail and received a campaign contribution during his reelection campaign from Schiavone hasn't commented publicly on the probe, according to the latest article.

Initially Schiavone had apparently denied knowing anything at all about reports that he was being investigated for influencing a witness interviewed in the Leach DUI investigation. Then he said they were rumors and then he explained his version of events.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

There was no reference to any investigation," Schiavone said in an interview. "My only reference to her, when she called me, was that anything personal is personal and she need not discuss that with the press. It's nobody's business and that's not a crime."

Schiavone, who has not been charged, said he believes Wilson made claims to the California Highway Patrol because he denied her repeated requests to loan her money. The CHP handled the probe of Leach's disoriented drive in his damaged city car.

Wilson, in her first public comments, said she had several conversations with Schiavone following the chief's traffic stop, and that in more than one, he attempted to direct her statements. Schiavone would not say whether he made any of those calls.

But Wilson said he initiated all the calls before the one that was recorded. And while she acknowledges asking Schiavone for money, she said it was well after her dealings with authorities and had no effect on the information she had already provided.

"He said, 'Don't say anything. There was no crime committed. You don't have to talk to anyone,' " Wilson recalled. "He said we needed to have (Leach's) back."

Even though Leach was convicted of a DUI, he received a medical retirement from the city as "discipline" by City Manager Brad Hudson for what happened on Feb. 8. Assistant Chief John DeLaRosa is still currently serving as acting chief despite an internal investigation done by Hudson's office which according to Hudson, blamed "management" for the handling of Leach's traffic stop which led to Leach getting a ride home and no DUI investigation or arrest despite having an estimated extrapolated blood alcohol level of about 0.22. Phone log records tied DeLaRosa's city-issued cell phone with that of the watch commander at the scene of the traffic stop, Lt. Leon Phillips.

And what of Phillips, well read further because the department's management has found a special place for him.

Riverside's Very Own Purgatory?

DeLaRosa currently works as acting chief at the Riverside Police Department's administrative offices which occupies a county-owned building leased by the city located on Orange Street in downtown Riverside. Even though in many cases, an employee tied to the obstruction of a criminal investigation of a DUI via his cell phone would be placed on paid administrative leave, he's still working sharing the building with other police employees, both civilian and sworn, along with several other key players in the Leach incident and its aftermath. Only in Riverside could a management person receive a promotion albeit temporarily and keep it even while the city manager publicly states that "management" committed misconduct in relation to the Feb. 8 Leach DUI incident.

Phillips who formerly was a watch commander assigned to graveyard shift was removed from that assignment recently and reassigned to the Orange Street Station awaiting disciplinary action against him for his role in the mishandling of the Leach incident. It's not clear what work he's actually doing there inside that building but he's under pretty restrictive circumstances in comparison to his superior officer who directed his handling of the traffic stop, DeLaRosa. He's apparently expecting to be demoted to the sergeant rank, which he held until his promotion to lieutenant in July 2008 where he had been chosen while ranked #11 on the lieutenant's list. Phillips is well aware that his assignment to what one person called the Orange Street "penalty box", is simply to place him in some form of administrative limbo until he's disciplined. But it's interesting how the handling of the officers who were connected to the Leach incident has played itself out since Hudson's probe was pretty much ended. Even though the city had asked District Attorney Rod Pacheco who agreed to withhold the California Highway Patrol's investigative report from the media and public. And even while former elected officials under investigation and topless dancers from Club 215 differ in what went down on Feb. 8, the beat goes on at the police department's headquarters.

Many people would reasonably believe that the level of accountability and responsibility for what happened during and in the aftermath of the Leach incident and attempted coverup would be greatest for those at the top of the chain of command. Meaning that management personnel involved in the incident would face greater culpability and thus discipline than those in supervision who would be facing more of both than those they supervise and so forth. But has that really been the case thus far? Let's take a look at the key players and how they are faring from the bottom of the pecking order, upward.

Patrol officers Jeremy Miller and Grant Linhart: No discipline which makes sense because they didn't do anything wrong. They did get vilified among the public while those who could have fessed up their own culpability in the Leach incident including those in management remained silent. And will their silence be rewarded with lighter disciplinary action?

Sgt. Frank Orta: As the supervisor of the two officers, he faces greater culpability than they do and that report...well it's damaging. But he played a lessor role than his supervisors on upward and he received a medical retirement. Given that he planned to retire in July, it seemed like the city wanted him to go away rather than discipline him.

Lt. Leon Phillips: Watch commander directed by management probably via cell phone how to proceed with traffic stop. Phillips was removed from his post and reassigned to Orange Street Station to await disciplinary action including most likely, a demotion to sergeant. A demotion is a sensible form of discipline for failure to properly supervise but why he's apparently looking at the most severe discipline of anyone involved is not clear at this time.

Acting Chief John DeLaRosa: He is still in his current assignment to run the department and carry out the duties of a chief. Conventional wisdom is that he believes he's possibly going to be demoted but to the captain's rank. However, given that he was ranked at a classified level of captain, remaining a captain wouldn't constitute a demotion or loss of rank, given that the assistant chief position is not a classified rank and is an at-will appointment. So if Phillips gets demoted to sergeant and DeLaRosa to captain, then DeLaRosa would have received the equivalent of no discipline even though the officer he directed will have received the most severe disciplinary action. A demotion to lieutenant would actually constitute discipline for failure to properly supervise if DeLaRosa instructed Phillips on the handling of the traffic stop and would be more equitable to Phillips' discipline if he were demoted to sergeant.

Chief Russ Leach: Medical retirement, no real disciplinary action against him. He was charged and convicted for DUI and may have played a role in instructing police management to not investigate him on DUI given that according to Hudson, he had called DeLaRosa's home phone from his city-issued cell phone after the stop and before DeLaRosa had the inkling to dial up and chat with Phillips.

It really does pay to be at the top of the ladder as opposed to near the bottom, doesn't it and it appears that the middle spot where Phillips sits is the worst place to be.

It's not clear why Phillips apparently views his disciplinary situation in much starker terms than DeLaRosa who face it, if he's only demoted to captain for engaging in the obstruction of an investigation into a criminal incident involving his boss won't have faced any real discipline at all for his involvement in the Leach affair. This is in stark contrast to Hudson's declaration that management was responsible for the mishandling of Leach's traffic stop. No, because if that were true, then the management level employees would have received disciplinary action that was greater than the individuals that they ordered to engage in that obstruction. But is that the case, well that of course remains to be seen but you have a lieutenant who fears the worse and an acting chief who remains extremely confident that he'll keep his classified rank. Is it just personal sentiment or do these individuals both know something that others don't?

And this confidence comes in the wake of a brewing situation involving a detective who made allegations against one of them who could be facing much more severe disciplinary action than those involved in the Leach incident and in fact, is essentially being disciplined in a non-discipinary way by the individual he accused of misconduct.

Detective Who Filed Claim Against City to be Terminated?

It's unusual for police officers who are awaiting disciplinary actions after sustained findings against them in internal investigations to be placed in these forms of assignments at the Orange Street Station because most of the time unless it's very serious, they remain in their assignments through the investigation until they receive sustained allegations of misconduct or policy violations and then receive notifications of intent to discipline from the police chief's office. But for at least five police officers including Phillips, this procedure has been scrapped in favor of a new one which is to reassign them into some sort of limbo at the administrative headquarters for days or weeks until it's time to discipline them which in these cases is usually severe discipline. What's really bizarre is that these decisions of reassignment are coming out of the office of someone who could be facing discipline himself in the near future.

But that's a more recent practice that's begun after DeLaRosa was placed in the acting chief position. There's at least five officers who have been transferred to the administrative headquarters solely to await disciplinary action not including Phillips but including another familiar name which is Det. Chris Lanzillo, the former Riverside Police Officers' Association president. Allegedly awaiting disciplinary action for an internal investigation which was initiated after he filed his claim for damages against the city stating that he had been retaliated by the department for his activities as union president. He had also made allegations that DeLaRosa knew about Leach's traffic stop while it was still going on and that he had criticized DeLaRosa for his delay at turning the Leach incident over for investigation by the CHP. While president, Lanzillo also sued the police department including Leach and Capt. Mike Blakely over a urine test being ordered to be performed on former Officer Dave Reeves Jr. and filed another lawsuit alleging that the department was violating regulations for interrogating police officers which is still pending.

Lanzillo lost a close election last November and was replaced by Det. Cliff Mason, and soon after found himself transferred out of the Vice/Intelligence Unit into the Auto Theft division. But that was only the beginning of his problems as he was first isolated among the detectives at the Magnolia Policing Center and had to leave from a separate exit. At some point, he was ultimately transferred to the Orange Station to as one person put it, "await his fate" stemming from an internal investigation based on an incident that allegedly been reported before the filing of his claim but no investigation was initiated until after he filed his claim which was rejected by the city council. It's always interesting how misconduct allegations can go ignored like someone spitting in the wind one minute and then the next, they're serious enough to be investigated...and in between? A claim or lawsuit was filed by that individual against the city.

Oh, isn't that a well-worn sequence of events indeed! Just ask Keers, Sutton, Hurt, Bacon, Rodriguez and...oh never mind, there's only a finite amount of space on this blog.

Employees who oversee the Internal Affairs Division including the one that Lanzillo made serious allegations against went looking for more complaints to reopen against him in what some called an attempt to justify terminating his employment. Though seriously, if there's an officer who's got the background to handle a situation like this one, it's probably him given both his rather colorful history and his extensive background in handling grievances. So even if the department does fire him, it probably won't be for very long. Probably up until the minute that some arbitrator realizes that the person who initiated the investigation against him as acting chief was the same person who was the target of serious allegations made by Lanzillo beforehand, allegations which were published in the Press Enterprise and this blog as well.

What struck people as interesting about Lanzillo's case is that the misconduct which he admitted to doing which was allegedly making insensitive comments in a training course, is one that only receives a 40-80 suspension without pay. In fact, the city currently employs a retired lieutenant (see below) who as lieutenant committed a similar offense and received no discipline. The logical step would have been to give him the suspension for admitted misconduct as happened in prior cases (while not happening in others). And to hand the disciplinary decision as well as any investigation of misconduct to a party outside of those mentioned or listed in his claims for damages. But then it's not clear why DeLaRosa was able to essentially make a disciplinary transfer of Phillips to the Orange Street Station when he's being investigated for the same incident as Phillips and in fact, most likely supervised by phone Phillips during that incident. And yes, when you're being reassigned from the field to administrative headquarters to spend your days with others in the same boat, it's essentially discipline while awaiting discipline.

Other alleged cases of lighter treatment than termination for similar and other misconduct:

----A detective had two sustained complaints or investigations for using racist language and was not threatened with termination. It's not clear whether he was even disciplined.

----The city also employs in its City Attorney's office as an investigator a retired lieutenant who while working at the police department had used a racial slur in front of witnesses including an assistant city attorney who's long been assigned to handle police related legal issues. The lieutenant only received a letter that the allegation was sustained and no discipline.

---Another officer was investigated and had sustained allegations for criminal conduct that originally was viewed by the department as two separate felony violations but upon advice from the current lieutenant of the Internal Affairs Division at the time who's acting chief now, the crimes were prosecuted as misdemeanors.

---An officer was investigated for misconduct involving a firearm and not disciplined for brandishing a gun on duty but in fact received a transfer to a special assignment.

---A sergeant had sex on duty with a consenting female and wasn't terminated when Leach overrode recommendations for firing him made by other management personnel by retaining his employment.

---Former Officer Robert Forman used racial slurs and had received a sustained allegation for conduct becoming an officer for having sex onduty with a homeless woman at Fairmount Park which was duly captured on his belt recorder and wasn't terminated. It's not clear whether he was ever disciplined for racist language.

--An officer was involved in an fist fight with another officer at a police facility and wasn't terminated though he has been since.

---In past years, management personnel made racial or insensitive comments which were reported and weren't fired.

---A member of management who may have sustained misconduct against him is currently acting chief.

---Two officers convicted on DUIs including one who's been promoted since. Neither were terminated though one of them is currently among those assigned to Orange Street Station on a unrelated matter. A police chief convicted of DUI received a medical retirement and no discipline.

---A sergeant allegedly was involved in a hit and run accident and was never investigated but received a special assignment.

---An employee was investigated and forced to retire after supervising an incident involving excessive force and then received glowing recommendations from the police department while applying for a chief's position out of state which he received after the background investigator praised his "ethics".

Whether or not the discipline was appropriate in these situations may be individualized and maybe subject to debate or not, but the fact remains, none of them were terminated for that misconduct even though some of the above misconduct is very serious in nature. At least one wasn't even investigated at all and two of them were eventually terminated for other sustained misconduct.

The situation involving Lanzillo is a bit disturbing and this is coming from someone who's even filed complaints against him, only because of the severity of what he might face as well as the fact that investigating him only became imperative to the police department after he filed a claim.

Interesting, considering this past practice has cost the tax payer's millions spent on litigation costs by the city for fighting grievances and lawsuits filed by city employees in and outside of the police department for disciplinary actions and misconduct investigations filed after the complaint or grievance process has been initiated against management and the city. You would think that the city would figure out after paying out huge settlements and verdicts involved in retaliatory lawsuits filed by former Sgt. Christine Keers and current officer, Roger Sutton that it costs the tax payers a hell of a lot of money to leave the fates of complainant officers in the hands of those they made complaints against and to send the Internal Affairs Division doing searches on complainants injecting life in previously closed or non-investigated allegations of misconduct. Even the two lieutenants who settled their lawsuit with the city recently had alleged that the department's management had intended to find something on them for investigation or even arrest after they started making allegations of misconduct.

But now, apparently the department's management and perhaps City Hall is slow on the uptake on this issue.

But Lanzillo's not the only officer who's at Orange Street as there are others including two patrol officers who had allegations of false arrests against them sustained for arresting a man for public intoxication who management personnel didn't believe was actually intoxicated. This decision was made after they viewed dash cam video from an officer's squad car and determined that he didn't appear drunk. What's so interesting about this situation is that the same management personnel making this decision knew that Leach's conduct at the traffic stop was also captured on dash cam video and even though he was lurching all over the place, no one in the department including Phillips and any management personnel who no doubt must have viewed that same video apparently believed that Leach appeared intoxicated enough to even test for DUI. So the police chief is clearly drunk on sight and on dash cam video but isn't evaluated for being drunk by officers including management. So video is damning evidence of misconduct in one case involving alleged public intoxication and its handling but not worth a bucket of warm bull's piss in another involving the boss?

The other interesting common denominator that these two particular officers share is that they testified at the recent criminal trial involving Forman including one for the defense. So out of 350 active officers, you have a handful sitting at Orange Street Station and two of those happened to testify in the same trial as "friends" of a former police officer. Coincidence, could very well be but it would be interesting to know what basis the false arrest allegation was decided upon besides dash cam video which is much more valuable for capturing the unlawful use of force for example than whether a person is legally intoxicated or not especially considering how unhelpful similar video proved to be in initial evalutions of Leach's intoxication or sobriety level. It would be of great assistance to the taxpayers of the city if the city can provide more of a basis if they discipline these officers than just the reading of a dash cam video when it defends the disciplinary action at arbitration.

Yes, explain to the arbitrator why you didn't recognize obvious drunken behavior from your boss including off of a dash cam video enough to investigate it yourselves and aren't being disciplined for that let alone being placed in a holding pattern at Orange Street Station.

So as you can see, there's an interesting plethora of activity taking place at the police administrative headquarters where the name of the prior chief has already been erased from its entrance and a new holding area has been created to serve as purgatory or as the Island of Broken Officers. At least until a new chief is hired and inherits the department.

And once again, that if you're going to get in trouble, it really pays to be in the upper ranks where you can break the law, get convicted, participate in a cover up that might still yet extend to current or past characters at City Hall and your "discipline" is a medical retirement.

If you're one step lower, you might get demoted to a rank that you would likely be anyway when the new chief arrives and in the meantime, you get to take punitive action against those you supervised in the commission of misconduct.

If you're Phillips, you're just out of luck because your supervisor who supervised your handling of a traffic stop gets to as acting chief relegate you to sitting in limbo while awaiting your disciplinary action from Hudson. So Phillips takes orders from his supervisor who gets promoted albeit temporarily who then gets to turn around and under his authority as chief gets to send him to Orange Street Station with the clear intent to embarrass him in front of people there given that he was a watch commander five minutes earlier. How perfect is that?

And the only employee who's facing potential termination is the one who first went public with allegations against this acting chief accusing him of being involved in a coverup who is left to languish with Phillips after a whirl of activity flourishes involving earlier allegations of misconduct which suddenly become all important only after a complain is filed.

Whether or not the officers in this situation deserve discipline and what form's not the real issue here. The issue is why was the decision made to send them to the department's administrative headquarters to be essentially branded as trouble makers (rather than discipline them) made by the person who really is holding the least credible position to really judge them on misconduct? After all, it might be blasphemy in River City to say this but the current acting chief should be assigned a scarlet letter and be sitting in limbo alongside these officers that he's essentially given letters to wear. The crazy double standard that truly was exposed on Feb. 8 continues with the handling of the Orange Street Station newly created penalty box.

In other worlds, welcome to the Mad, Mad World of Orange Street Station where some officers are sent there to await discipline and others with sustained allegations of misconduct are sent there to await discipline and some...well the one who sent them there serve as the police chief who while facing perhaps discipline gets to discipline others.

Chief's Candidates Narrowed Down for Interviews

The city management in Riverside has narrowed their alleged 60 applicants to the handful of finalists who will be interviewed next week through a two-round process which will begin with interviewing these candidates and then the panel will narrow down their list to three finalists who will then be interviewed to see which one the panel will choose as its final recommendation for the position which will go to Hudson's office. The panelists were all required to sign confidentiality agreements which means that mums the word for being able to talk about their service to the city. This also means that if their recommendation doesn't get picked by Hudson as the new chief that they can't say anything about that, meaning that if the panelists discover that they're on a puppet panel, the lips remain zipped.

Some of the favorites for the finalist positions are former Asst. Chief (who is the head of investigations at the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office) Mike Smith, already the favorite of two panelists from the police department who heavily recruited him finally getting him to toss in his application around the April 30 deadline. Others include a high-ranking Latino officer from the Los Angeles Police Department, Capt. Jeffrey Talbott from the California Highway Patrol, Riverside Division (who allegedly had been told by a legislative aide at City Hall at a party that he hadn't made the cut) and from inside the police department, Capt. John Wallace.

Interviews will be taking place on June 3 behind closed doors and the decision will be made by Hudson in total secrecy given that if the interview panel's role is completely subverted to a puppet board, the panelists won't be able to talk about it.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein provides his take on the recent non-debate between the two Riverside County district attorney candidates.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Former Councilman Frank Schiavone being Investigated for Influencing a Witness in Leach Case

[The investigation into the DUI incident involving Riverside's former police chief reaches inside City Hall as a former elected official is allegedly investigated for tampering with a witness.]

"The pen is mightier than the sword."

---former President and anti-government gadfly, John Adams

"A frequent recurrence to fundamental absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty and keep a government"

---Congressman, inventor and treasonist, Benjamin Franklin

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."

---U.S. President, university founder and anti-government activist, Thomas Jefferson

"They don't know how big my cock is and I'm going to put this big cock up them."

---allegedly said by former Riverside City Councilman Frank Schiavone, champion of democracy and decorum at City Hall, to two officers who were to testify about it, according to court records.

I read this blog posting with interest after reading about how the latest revelations involving the alleged criminal conduct by a former councilman, Frank Schiavone have finally hit the press. I wrote this posting in response to the litany of events and incidents that have been placing Riverside in the national spotlight or have been painting a portrait of how San Bernardino County isn't the only place in the Inland Empire that needs to clean up its act. Did it provoke some thought or some reaction? Perhaps and that's fair enough but I fully stand by what I wrote and the stories that the Press Enterprise has covered in recent months make it clear that there's reason to think about seriously examining what's going in Riverside's sphere of powers. That includes inside its halls and perhaps even restaurants where decisions that impact the pockets of developers as well as each and every city resident and city employee have been made. And the daily newspaper provided one more compelling reason why this is necessary just today!

You would think anyone could figure that out when police chiefs drive drunk, crash and then there's efforts to cover that up and more important and offensive than that, this entitlement and expectation floating around that it will be covered up. You would think that when elected officials have the city's residents pay their legal fees generated by their work as private developers and City Attorney Gregory Priamos defended that action including in public, interesting now that Schiavone's involvement in the Bradley Estates debacle is also being investigated by Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco's office.

Consequently, it's very unlikely that Priamos is any viable force for the restoral of accountability, democracy and certainly not transparency at City Hall by doing what one media outlet apparently advocated, which was suing anyone who disagrees with how the city government does business and voices that in a public forum. And isn't doing that and advocacy of going after alternate media outlets who some might believe are "anti-establishment" or "anti-government" simply because they are critical, popular actions themselves of just about every Communist regime? The methods and tools may be different but the intent and often the results are the same, and that's to silence dissent.

Beware of fighting the enemy, including Communism, that you don't become it.

Advocating the government to use whatever tools it chooses or you recommend to silence its critics at meetings or through the press is not democratic and is in itself anti-government. Which includes the filing of what are essentially SLAPP suits which are lawsuits filed to discourage public participation by threatening to charge their targets with the city's legal fees. Their only purpose for a government is to inhibit the public expression or use of democratic mechanisms by city residents. And this blog regularly posts strategies that can be followed by city residents or anyone else who finds themselves the target of such lawsuits, because there are laws in place to protect you from being SLAPPed.

In fact, Priamos, this blogger's champion of choice, allegedly had tried to deny in the wake of Leach's accident that alcohol was involved in that incident and as we all know, that's utter hogwash. In the past, he has sent out letters cced to the former police chief to individuals threatening them with arrest for being too boisterous (yet those who are loud, or "obnoxious" and less critical of the government don't receive them). Priamos upon direction of his bosses has also filed civil litigation against community grass-roots organizations for doing the very "anti-government" practice of gathering signatures for ballot measures. Yet at the same time, the city council members are allowed to insult the public by making personal attacks as happened to several people who have spoken in front of the city council. The only time these elected officials soften their rhetoric is when running for office.

Not that the city residents haven't responded loudly including at the polls sending council members Dom Betro and Frank Schiavone (both who engaged in obnoxious behavior on and in a couple well known cases off the dais) back into the private sector and nearly sent another, Steve Adams (who does like) packing. Some other city council members felt bullied or even intimidated by some of these former council members and they certainly looked and acted like it. Some members engage themselves in ways that challenge what needs to be challenged but the vocal majority that the city council needs is lacking in terms of taking more of a role in ensuring accountability and transparency in city government.

Democracy in action by the majority of the voters in those respective wards to vote in or out their own elected representatives as they saw fit. Riversiders have made it clear time and time again, that they want a government that's accountable, accessible, civil to it and transparent. And you know what, there are no more pro-democracy sentiments that could be raised concerning government than those four qualities that I hear expressed by city residents including those who read this blog time and time again. People really dislike what has been going on in Riverside during the past several years in how elected officials act in their capacities as public servants in the areas of accountability and transparency and the Leach incident brought that to the forefront.

And now surprise, surprise a former city councilman already sued for threatening two police lieutenants who didn't back him politically is the subject of two separate investigations by the Riverside County District Attorney's office, with one of those investigations, the witness tampering one, hitting the press. And guess what, the residents of this city have no role in making any of the above individuals commit these actions, alleged or otherwise. These individuals all made the decision to do what they did, just as at least two members of upper police management made the decision to hide behind their own code of silence while hanging lower ranking officers including two new patrol officers to dry just for having the misfortune to have to perform a traffic stop on their boss who was drinking and driving at the time. These individuals in the face of what's been exposed still have remained silent on their roles in the Leach incident including any involved parties at City Hall.

What can be more anti-police than threatening officers who don't buckle down to endorsing you for office? Saying that you intend to sodomize them (which Schiavone did according to an officer and the approximate language used is above) is acceptable conduct by an elected official in Riverside? Where is the outrage about that from anyone who would advocate the lawsuits against city residents for much less?

When did that become acceptable behavior, at the same time it became acceptable for the police chief to receive a ride home after a DUI stop when most city residents would have been carted off to jail? And unfortunately when it comes to questionable actions taken by city management and current and former elected officials involving the operations of the police department, there's plenty more where that came from and you'll be reading about some of it here in the days and weeks ahead. After reading some of what has been happening outside any semblance of a democratic process in Riverside during the next few weeks here, perhaps the other blogger will have a better understanding of why this blog's posts are not designed to flatter or promote City Hall if they don't have that understanding already.

Not that this blog won't and hasn't praised City Hall and the police department when they do their jobs but it's really hard to read and to listen to the stories I've heard about what's not praise-worthy, to take out a pair of pom poms and serve as the city's cheer leading section when it engages in questionable conduct. Besides, not all of us look good with pom poms!

Is there a Communist Conspiracy Against River City?

It's very unlikely that there's a conspiracy, Communist or otherwise, to destroy our government in Riverside. And no, this blogger's not a Communist, or participating in any Communist conspiracy but if Senator McCarthy's still around and wants to bring me before a committee on Un-Riverside activities, then he can use the email address listed above and I'll get back to him so we can coordinate our schedules. But no, if Riverside's going down the drain, it's some individuals who served or do serve in city government who need to take long looks in the mirror. The public is doing its job at the polls and keeping its city government accountable and some elected officials were sent packing in both 2007 and 2009. To blame the city's residents or "rioters" for what's happening with the Fox Theater, the police chief's decision to drink and drive and the attempted engineering of a cover up of illegal conduct by an employee is just ridiculous. And to blame the public for speaking out against the handling of these issues is just as much.

Beware those Grey-Haired "Rioters"

Democracy is actually alive and well in Riverside despite attempts not by the city residents but by City Hall to limit public participation by reducing opportunities to speak, by using police officers on one occasion to oust four people from a city council meeting including a 90 year old woman who put over 50 years of public service into making Riverside and its parks much better, even cleaning out Lake Evans during the years long before it was a Riverside Renaissance project. A "rioter" who was an elderly women over 80 years old petitioned the city council for help when a broken city pipe flooded her pipe and was escorted away from the podium for exceeding the speaking limit several years ago upon direction by a city council member.

Interesting, that since the dissolution of the GASS/BASS quartets, there's been fewer elderly women expelled from meetings or escorted from the podium by police, who are just doing what elected officials order them.

City Hall Blocks Release of CHP Report of Leach Investigation

What's so democratic about the city pushing for the continued suppression of a criminal investigative report done on Leach by the CHP from both the media and the public as the city has done for months continuing after the actual criminal case has been fully adjudicated? The city's asked this of Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco, the same top prosecutor who probably was hoping that any probes into Schiavone wouldn't come to light during an election year, given that Schiavone donated to his political reelection campaign. And Pacheco has agreed to suppress the report, keeping it out of the hands of media outlets and the public. So instead of keeping only one probe of the Leach incident top-secret, City Hall has managed to do that for both of them, including an outside criminal investigation. How's that for democracy folks?

Are city residents responsible for the city's actions to persuade Pacheco not to release this report until an undetermined date? No, that action came straight out of City Hall and it's a violation to the public's right to have access to a public report especially after a criminal case has been completed. And the question bears asking as to whether City Hall put that gag order on the CHP report because it might contain information about the alleged involvement of a former councilman?

Is Advocating SLAPP Lawsuits Pro-government?

The city also filed a harassment suit known as a SLAPP against Ken Stansbury and Riversiders for Property Rights to prohibit them from performing the democratic function of soliciting signatures to put an initiative on Eminent Domain on the local ballot, even threatening to hit them with six-figure legal fees in what was clearly an attempt to intimidate them. Is that democracy in action?

Is that type of litigation paid for by city residents the type of behavior that fosters democracy in this city? Is there anything less supportive of the democratic process than using tax payer money to block a democratic process being legally exercised by city residents simply because of the fear that voters could very well ban Eminent Domain used to benefit private developers, which is the foundation of what this city's building itself on? The city government used tax payer money to shut down a group of citizens' legal right to use the ballot process and then told that organization while threatening to charge them the city's legal fees (when it initiated the lawsuit in the first place) that it was doing this to "help" them.

The government's own actions are what's creating tension in the city's populace but in ways which might actually increase civic involvement and participation at the polls. And there's definitely nothing "anti-government" with that, in fact that's what true democracy is all about, to cast a vote and to speak your mind at meetings held by government. It's about the ability of the people through those mechanisms including voting and speaking out in public forums to make it clear to City Hall, or to Sacramento or the White House that it's the people's government and elected officials are tenants on four year leases (and being subject to recall) to occupy that space and perform a function. Because you have to remember, government works for the people, not the other way around. The people both hire and fire their representatives based on job performance.

As for being anti-government, that makes no sense at all because anarchy is chaos but the best way to be pro-government is to advocate that responsible government is accountable, accessible, civil and transparent. Riverside is somewhat lacking in some of these areas at the moment, falling somewhat short and who knows what other scandals are lurking? And if Schiavone for example did this kind of conduct while not in office, how did he behave while holding it?

Senator McCarthy, You Know How to Reach Me

I'm not Anti-American, I'm not even Anti-Riverside. But I was raised to speak out and to speak up, a useful skill in a family of 10.

I also had three direct ancestors, William Ellery, Robert Morris and Benjamin Rush who signed a document once declaring the independence of the colonies from England, what was considered a subversive, anti-government action in those days, especially given that less than 50% of residents in the Thirteen Colonies even supported the War for Independence. I'm only alive today because the war was won by the colonies. Had it not been, then quite a few of my ancestors would have been hung for committing treason and as traitors by the British Empire.

Most residents either didn't care or opposed that action as it turned out. I had two ancestors that signed the U.S. Constitution and one who refused to sign it on behalf of Rhode Island. I'm directly related to the founders of both the Unitarian and Universalist Churches, which combined to form one church.

And I was raised to know my ancestors, what they were thinking and believed and why they played the roles that they did, even if it didn't make them popular.

So you can blame this blogging at least partly on bad genes? And what's this about rioters coming to City Hall? Did we all miss this riot? If even someone who is loud at a city council meeting is equated to an explosion of violence inside a neighborhood or a city or a country, then that person has very little understandings of riots and how much longer it takes to recover from than to take place.

But the blog posting was an interesting read even though as you can see, I strongly disagree with most of it. And again, I'm not a Communist, Mr. McCarthy.

Weather Forecast for Riverside: Cloudy near but Clearing Ahead toward fair weather.

(DISCLAIMER: This weather forecast was in no way cast by someone with a meteorology background (except for publishing a daily weather bulletin in the fourth grade) and this blog's not responsible for decisions made based on this forecast as weather remains a fickle force of nature, not always easily predicted or anticipated. )

Rumors had been fast and furious the past couple weeks that former Riverside Councilman Frank Schiavone was being investigated for witness tampering in connection with the DUI investigation that the California Highway Patrol had conducted on former Chief Russ Leach earlier this year. People heard the story about how a girlfriend or an employee at Club 215 received coaching from Schiavone while she was being interviewed. Most people weren't surprised but some people thought how could anyone be so stupid to try to coach a witness while they were actually being interviewed? It appears that this faux de pas is being attributed to what one inside source from some agency told the Press Enterprise, bad timing.

Now the ball's apparently in the hands of Riverside District Attorney Rod Pacheco who in the past received money from Schiavone in his "reelection campaign" (of which so far there's only been one which means it's a recent donation) to decide whether or not charges will be filed against someone connected with a city government that did help Pacheco financially rather than the swath of corrupt politicians charged by his office who didn't do that. The reason why there's renewed interest in this situation are two-fold. One is that Pacheco is up for reelection on a "tough on crime" campaign, and the second is because news of this investigation began to leak out and it's when criminal conduct by the power players of this city, whether police chiefs or politicians, leaks out or threatens to be exposed that well, criminal investigations suddenly are initiated or are dusted off and put back together.

The ironic part of this is that this is only one of several investigations being done on the former councilman and alleged member of the Sire's restaurant crowd or what some people called, the Sire's shadow government given the decisions which were allegedly made within those four walls over steaks and plenty of liquor among some of the former and current power players in Riverside.

Morales Breaks His Silence...Alas...

Councilman Paul Davis received an ethics complaint from former FOX journalist, Michael Morales who has closed ties with Schiavone (having allegedly worked on his campaign for city council in 2009 in some capacity) just one day before the Schiavone investigation story finally broke into the public arena. He also came out at nearly the same time as Schiavone did after the Leach incident and argued at city council meetings and online that Leach hadn't been drinking that he had been on prescription medication. Even though video tapes of the Club 215 showed CHP investigators that Leach had downed seven "doubles" in about four hours. Morales became quiet about Leach after that, even though the anonymous posts lambasting another elected official are generally believed to have been posted by him.

He came out swinging this week with another council member receiving his attention besides his prior favorite target, Councilman Mike Gardner.

It's Morales' right as a city resident to file an ethics complaint through the process available if he feels there's been a violation of that code involving someone within its scope. But the code doesn't apply to spouses and his ethics complaint dissolved into personal attacks against Davis' wife. And after having witnessed his recent campaign against another councilman where he equated that individual to a serial killer because they shared surnames, it's tough to take him very seriously.

It's not clear what in this case any business owned by Davis' wife had to do with Davis being a councilman. The ethics code's scope doesn't include the family members of elected officials. But then women have been largely the recipients of Morales' vitrol, not surprising considering the company he keeps in political circles. But the complaint's been initiated and will go through the process of determination whether it falls within the scope as part of a process put in place by the voters. And if so, will go through the complaint process which would be the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee. And if so, the involved parties will present their cases. But it's hard to see Morales presenting a good one especially given the misleading information posted on Craiglist in connection with Gardner. Including trying to pass off boarded up businesses near University and Chicago as being in Gardner's ward.

Morales made personal attacks against Davis' wife which is totally unnecessary if your purported intent is to file an ethics complaint against Davis. But then Morales' attitude towards women has always been invasive and rude not to mention sexist.

Morales launched a campaign anonymously on Craigslist posting pictures back when he had a disagreement on an issue with Gardner and began posting that Gardner was everything from a cop hater (and then claiming he forced the police to commit violence against the public because of his prior affiliation with the CPRC) to being a child molester because he had the same last name as a serial killer arrested in San Diego County. Morales posted anonymously (and it's clear it was him because his Craigslist content mirrored that he said at several city council meetings) that Gardner was responsible for the failure of Ward Two which isn't even his ward. He's launched campaigns against city employees including a code enforcement officer who's actually very much liked by the city residents in the area he works which isn't always the case with code compliance workers who have a difficult job.

After Morales' appearance at city council filing a complaint, similar comments began appearing anonymously on Craigslist tied with Davis' support of Riverside County sheriff candidate, Frank Robles. But Morales has been allegedly tied to Schiavone and Betro and not coincidentally which kind of takes an element of randomness out of his choice of targets.

A complaint has been filed, it will be evaluated and whether or not it's heard will be revealed as it should be. But whether it qualifies for further examination under the code or not, Morales' personal attacks against a non-political figure were just tacky and sexist. It's one thing to try to utilize a mechanism offered to city residents, it's another thing to make personal attacks. But that's all part of the process though just following Morales' line of thinking is difficult enough.

Brad Hudson Picks His Chief's Panel

The city manager's office has announced that it's selected its new interview panel for the police chief hiring process. I apologize for its lateness but not all of us are on City Manager Brad Hudson's contact list because he's not really a fan of this blog. Not that it matters because frankly, it's really hard to be enthusiastic about the interview panel. Not because of the individuals chosen for it, but because of the process involved especially if it mirrors those in the past where boards believe they have hired the best candidates or the best one they all agree on (as in the case of the manager of the Community Police Review Commission). A panel can agree to hire a candidate it believes is the best, and then sit back and watch with the rest of the city residents who don't serve on interview panels and watch the city management turn that employee into a puppet. But then Hudson and DeSantis still haven't shared with the public why the city is paying and giving full-time employee status to one of these more recent hires who puts in part-time hours.

I'm familiar with all the panelists in one way or another and it's pretty easy to shape the dynamic of the interviews based on how it's likely that these individuals chosen will act in a group situation and it should be very interesting indeed. And the process in the group setting will probably be a good and productive one.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

City Manager Brad Hudson announced the panelists Tuesday. They are police consultant Joe Brann, retired Alvord schools Superintendent Damon Castillo, , retired UC Riverside Police Chief Bill Howe, Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce President Cindy Roth, Riverside NAACP chapter President Woodie Rucker-Hughes, Greater Riverside Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lorraine Hernandez Saint, and Detective Cliff Mason, president of the Riverside Police Officers' Association, and Lt. Ed Blevins, president of the Riverside Police Administrators' Association.

The city got about 60 applications from people wanting to fill its top police post. Officials have not disclosed the applicant names.

The panel will interview five to seven of the top candidates and make a recommendation to Hudson, who makes the final choice, a news release from Hudson's office said.

The panel's got some really smart choices on it, and it's good to include representatives from the segments of the population, both community and law enforcement. and the only thing that's really lacking is representation of Riverside's youth. But then the city routinely ignores the fact that a huge segment of Riverside's population is under the age of 40 when it makes many of its "community" appointments.

Still, it's really hard to be excited by the inclusion of this panel in the process because so rarely have community panels been used to really In past cases when community panelists had served on past interview panels including the 2007 hiring of Community Police Review Commission Manager Kevin Rogan, they weren't even able to pick the questions to ask, you know questions which may reflect the unique perspectives that purportedly had led to their selection on the panel but were instructed what questions to ask the panelists. It's hard to believe that a labor representative or a hired police consultant would be told or given what questions to ask so why should community representatives be treated any differently? There should be a process that allows questions to be submitted by panelists beforehand so that they can be standardized to all applicants but there should also be questions that are given to applicants for the chief's position ahead of time and others that are more impromptu.

But the use of a panel is road scenery to prevent the examination of the larger picture which is the actual hiring of the employeee based on the "recommendations" of such panels. If the recommendation is done by consensus, it often leads to panelists recommending applicants who weren't really their choices. More than one has said in the past, well this person wasn't really my choice (usually when that employee begins to go south) but I wanted to help pick the new employee. Others say, well it's not my first (or second) choice but again, to be involved in the process of picking the new employee. But isn't the point of being on a panel to bring your unique perspective, be it community, labor, business or expertise in policing practices and use your experience and knowledge to help provide a well-rounded interview and then to make a recommendation that others might disagree with?

Consensus building is wonderful but often times, it allows the dominant personalities to become even more...dominant. And there's already concern in this process that more than one of these panelists already has the next chief picked out in their mind going in, given that some panelists were involved in the recruitment process already. So it will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the interview process. Oh no wait, the public doesn't get to see it. Unlike Riverside County's most recent appointment process of its sheriff, this process takes place behind carefully sealed doors at some undisclosed location. Hopefully not the banquet room at Sire's.

Several panelists commented on their selection.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Mason, the police officers' union head, said the panel is reflective of Riverside's diverse community. He called it "a good faith gesture" that Hudson included police representatives on the panel.

"It's very important to us that we have a strong leader that understands the needs of the community but also appreciates the needs of the patrol officers," Mason said. "There's a balance there."

Rucker-Hughes said she will be looking for "proven experience with community relations and community policing" as well as integrity and a strong knowledge of police work.

Inviting people from the community to serve on the panel was crucial, she said.

"It preserves the integrity of the search," Rucker-Hughes said. "The police chief is responsible to all of the citizens, not just the City Council or city manager."

Mason's comments make sense though the reality of the balancing act of the police chief between the community and employees is often a very difficult one in reality and in the end under the current system, it doesn't matter because this is a four-way scale, with the community ends being the smallest weight. The department employees being the second smallest. Council members being the small third smallest (well except for Councilman Steve Adams who remember, carries more weight) and the huge weight on the other side of that being that held by City Manager Brad Hudson and Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis.

And even the most qualified chief probably won't be an independent thinker because it's likely that most of those inclined to be just that have already been weeded out during the selection process, the one that takes place which is so secretative that even a racial and gender breakdown of the applicants won't be released by the city.

Which goes into the second comment made by Hughes, is that the selection of a community "preserves the integrity of a search" which isn't really the case. Before the community panel was selected this "search" and reception of these alleged 60 applications was already completed and the results of both are being withheld from the city's residents. And it's up to the panelists selected to ensure the integrity of that part of the process, but simply by having a community panel by itself, that doesn't ensure that there will be any integrity in the actual selection which is out of the hands of the panel and it doesn't just as importantly, ensure that the chief will be able to function as an autonomous department head any more than his or her predecessor.

It's also hard not to think about the panel and wonder how many votes a certain alleged applicant from the public sector in the neighboring county will get. But this process will be very interesting to follow to its completion.

The two Riverside County District Attorney candidates meet in the same place, but don't debate.

More budget cuts and woes expected for Riverside County's public transit system.

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