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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Riverside Councilman Steve Adams Focus of Ethics Complaint by "Amoral" People

Update: Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis is on his way out of city employment. The city transitioning him out in a series of steps but he's leaving amid a sea of controversy stemming back a while. More to come about the employee who became the latest domino to fall in River City. Barely one week after a controversial closed session by city council addressing a personnel lawsuit filed by a former police employee.

No real reason given yet by his boss, Brad Hudson but was this the ultimate push under the bus?

UPDATE: Major 7.4 quake in Christchurch, New Zealand with lots of major damage reported. But family's okay, just shaken up and there's no water and lots of broken things.

UPDATE: It's official...Jeffrey Greer formerly of the LAPD is now deputy chief in Riverside and will work in the field operation's side of the department. Asst. Chief Chris Vicino will be starting his job on Sept. 3 while Greer is set to start working on Sept. 17.

The new deputy chief

UPDATE: City transfers handling of WI FI service but experienced service problems within one hour of the transition. Repair crews were dispatched to handle the interruptions in service with an ETA unknown at this time. At least one neighborhood out of service for second day. But that outage is currently being repaired.


"It's illegal for us to interfere in personnel matters."

---Riverside Councilman Steve Adams under oath in January 2010

[Riverside Councilman Steve Adams called the filing of ethics complaints against him by "amoral" people, a plot to discredit him and help his political rival, John Brandriff who's running against him in next year's election. ]

Riverside Councilman Steve Adams has apparently been born with a golden tongue. Or perhaps he gained one and honed it while serving on the city council because you can always count on him for interesting comments and very memorable sound bytes. Because most politicians when quoted in response to ethics complaints being filed against them would just say that the process is there to be utilized by city residents and that he remained confident that he would be able to clear himself of the allegations.

But not Adams. That would be much too boring.

He waxed plenty in the Press Enterprise article about two ethics complaints that were filed against him by local community groups. Calling those who filed complaints against him "amoral" and making accusations that essentially a small cabal of city residents are manipulating the ethics complaint process to undermine his election efforts and to run the city. Only a politician who's been implicated in as many messes as Adams apparently has been would look at an ethics complaint filed against him as some conspiracy to run the city and interfere with his election process. This amid, concerns raised by many city residents in different venues about how city officials are running the city amid their acquisition of perks that many city residents were never informed about being part of the job. But it has nothing to do with that of course, it's all about thwarting his political ambitions. It's not about the distrust that city residents feel about their government because of the surfacing of what Adams dismissively called "old news", it's all about him.

To read what Adams has to say about anything is to get to know him a little bit.

Here's a little warning, do not read the article while drinking your morning coffee because it's been known to induce some laughter because the problems not with city residents, it's with what's been happening and with what's come to light in city government. Adams for whatever reason remains oblivious to that despite the fact that his name's come up several times. by saying that he hasn't received a single phone call or email from any of his constituents about what's been going on in the city. If that's the case, perhaps that's because his constituents are too busy contacting other people about these concerns than their elected representative that until he ran for election, allegedly didn't seem to spend as much residential time in his own designated ward. Maybe that's why he has up to 100 miles a day mileage on his city-issued vehicle, the most of any city official.

He equates concerns with the ethical gaffes of denizens at City Hall including himself with being out to get him and trying to run the city and what's interesting is this pervasive attitude among some at City Hall that ties in concerns with the somewhat amoral actions at City Hall as marking those concerned about them as being amoral themselves. That's a fairly deft reversal on Adams' part but there's too many residents in Riverside who've had questions about what's been happening at City Hall to really buy into it.

The complaints of course have nothing to do with the fact that he drove cold plated cars, allegedly identified himself as a police officer in Newport Beach which necessitated a phone call back to a watch commander in Riverside and generated a huge gas bill which was of course essentially picked up by city residents. Nothing at all to do that his name and photo's been splashed in the newspaper as of late as being tied to various embarrassing incidents.

Now it turns out he had been not just "all over the department" as Leach testified in his deposition but allegedly influencing the promotional process as well because maybe at one point, he thought he was one of the committee of chiefs they had overseeing the place, most of them inside City Hall. These allegations had already been stated and addressed several times but this is the first time the daily publication has written about them though given that it interviewed City Manager Brad Hudson about the promotion of Carpenter in July, it had this story in the coffer for a while.

Adams had a couple of responses to the latest ethics complaint he's received (as there has been others but they were successfully squelched by the city attorney's office on "technicalities" in apparent violation of the ordinance.)


"This is a political ploy by an amoral group of people that are using this for political reasons," Adams said. "I have not had any influence or any attempted influence on any promotion, period.

Adams of course led the fight on the dais to not strip the ordinance of some newly acquired language barring complaints from being filed against elected officials unless they were officially onduty. This past six months has shed some light on perhaps some of his reluctance. That issue will come up again this time around especially since it's been recommended by the Press Enterprise's Editorial Board as well but it's not likely to be changed because unfortunately, it's not clear that the majority of the city council or mayor have learned much from the past six months. The ones that don't who are up for election will probably be looking for other jobs maybe a year from now. And that might include Adams himself if he doesn't take these issues of ethics and legal violations by City Hall since 2005 (and perhaps even earlier) more seriously.

But the ethics complaint centers on some actions of Adams, as stated, that the press coverage hasn't reached yet. The Press Enterprise had access to the information where the allegations were raised but hadn't yet addressed it or written about it.

Actually the ethics complaint touches on the allegations raised that up to three captain's promotions (whether done or vetoed) were influenced by Adams while Russ Leach had been the police chief. He allegedly had been involved in the 11th hour veto of Leach's promotion of Meredyth Meredith in December 2005 several hours after she had been notified to come to the chief's office to get promoted. Adams had allegedly said there would be no way that "fat bitch" would be promoted. And Meredith hadn't been promoted but Mark Boyer had gotten the spot instead. Six months later, Meredith did get promoted as the first and last captain over the department's Communications Bureau after allegedly telling Leach she had consulted an attorney and believed she had a discrimination lawsuit. And if what was exposed in the sworn testimony of those who were involved or witnessed what happened with her, she most certainly did have a lawsuit that could have joined the over $25 million and growing in personnel claims and claims for damages filed against the city involving the police department in the past year.

But in terms of Carpenter who was given a venue to redress the "concerns" or "beefs" that Adams had with him on the eve of his eventual promotional date, there were concerns about the whether or not Adams had influenced the promotional process He, Adams and then Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel, a good friend of Adams, (serving as a mediator of sorts) were told by Leach to meet and patch things up and they chose to not shop Riverside but to meet in a Corona restaurant because as all the parties testified they didn't want anyone they knew to see them sitting together so close to the promotions.

That tells you that no one who attended that dinner meeting seemed to believe that it was appropriate behavior because it it were, why not have it at the Sire's restaurant, Sevillas or El Toritos closer to home? Or that Irish pub near the Riverside Plaza that's been the scene of drunken brawls lately but somehow avoids getting shut down by Priamos, the police department and the city council's office because of the pub's clientele.

It's ironic to read about an elected official like Adams who's been implicated in several scandals that have shaken the city and now has popped up in yet another one accuses anyone of manipulating the complaint process when City Hall through City Attorney Gregory Priamos had done that already with several complaints in direct violation of the procedure for complaints outlined in this city ordinance. But Mayor Ron Loveridge has already said that the complaint would be handled and heard by the committee he chairs, the Nomination and Screening Committee and that even though Adams is a member, he would either be replaced by another elected official substituting in or that the remainder of the committee would hear and decide on the complaint. What will happen in reality is that the Committee through its actions will just show that there truly does need to be a body independent of the city government to hear and decide on ethics complaints involving elected officials. What will happen is that those in attendance might get a good show and a very revealing display of the city government circling its wagons again around itself including those who have cast it in a less than positive light.

"The bottom line is right now I have a good working relationship with our city leadership. I don't see any use in rehashing things from 2-½-years ago. That was then, this is now."

---Carpenter who once kept diligent notes on his experiences on a thumb drive that he allegedly misplaced while transferring out of special investigations.

[Capt. John Carpenter who once planned to sue the city over the captain's promotions had to go to Corona to "clear the air" the day before he was promoted by former Chief Russ Leach, according to testimony uncovered in depositions given by key individuals including Carpenter as a result of two lawsuits filed by former lieutenants.]

Originally Carpenter didn't have such a good working relationship with the city. In fact, he had allegedly wanted to sue the city just as he did with a group of white male sergeants in 1999 over the promotional process involving lieutenants. The city government settled relatively quickly with the lieutenants and in fact, in closed session even allegedly involved itself in the promotional process by not only trying to create new lieutenant positions but deciding who would fill them, meaning two of the plaintiffs with two others including Carpenter allegedly set to receive financial settlements. Which means that the city council and Mayor Ron Loveridge had been involving themselves in the promotional process apparently in violation of the city's charter way before Hudson even arrived onscene.

But anyway, several years later Carpenter closely associated with two other lieutenants who held prominent positions in the Riverside Police Administrators' Association and were viewed as troublemakers by denizens at City Hall and those inside the department who were loyal to City Hall. Carpenter's union didn't back Adams' 2007 election campaign which made Adams a very unhappy camper. He had already blasted the Riverside Police Officers' Association in a letter for not doing endorsing him either. And Carpenter at one point felt that Adams as a member of the Public Safety Committee had refused to allow him to do a presentation on gang enforcement and intervention. He apparently began taking notes in 2007 on problems he experienced making hard copies which were later "shredded" after he got promoted and also stored some on a thumb drive that got "lost" while he moved from one assignment to another.

Carpenter is busy these days having been assigned to oversee Special Operations and its two lieutenants. Deputy Chief Mike Blakely, a taskmaster, had made sure that Carpenter's plate of work to do is so full, he's seldom seen outside his office anymore. And the work keeps coming because Carpenter was recently encharged with handling the department's four Neighborhood Policing Centers which previously had been under the jurisdiction of Field Operations. Is this work being piled on in an attempt to push Carpenter towards retirement?

The upper management level of the police department including its captain's level has never the healthiest one in terms of dynamics. Hopefully with a new chief's arrival and up to two hires coming from outside to take the helms of upper management positions that the stilettos have been put back in the toy box.

It still remains to be seen if that's the case.

"I'd already approved it, so it didn't matter."


[Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson responded to this latest controversy involving the alleged councilman's manipulation of the promotional process at the police department by throwing ex-employee Leach under the bus this time. Maybe his asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis is too busy cleaning off the tire marks from being blamed for the cold plates scandal.]

It's interesting once again how Hudson acts like the promotion of Hudson was a done deal when his office already had the prior history of vetoing the promotion of another captain's candidate picked by Leach in December 2005. Again, in that earlier case, Adams had expressed his concern, well actually he allegedly used derogatory remarks to express his point that this individual was not to be promoted. And guess what, this candidate, Meredyth Meredith who had been called a "fat bitch" wasn't promoted. Unlike Carpenter, she wasn't referred to by name and she wasn't given a chance to "clear the air" at an out of town and out of sight restaurant.

If there's sexism in the ranks of the dais including the use of comments like this, then the city government certainly needs to address that in its ranks. Especially after that speech that Loveridge gave back in 1999 at the dedication of the Martin Luther King, jr. monument about how that type of speech wouldn't be tolerated. But did that include that kind of talk, which may not unfortunately be all that rare in City Hall.

"There's no way that fat bitch is going to get promoted..."

[Capt. Meredyth Meredith wasn't a focus of any ethics complaints against Adams but her promotion by Leach was allegedly nullified in the 11th hour by a phone call from City Hall to Leach asking him to pick someone else. Testimony in depositions later revealed that Adams and his opinions about who should or shouldn't be promoted had tendrils in this vetoed promotion as well which could have led to a lawsuit.]

So it's definitely clear that Hudson did veto one of Leach's promotions in the 11th hour, after Meredith herself had been notified of her change in rank. And while many people had always believed that the decision to do so came out of City Hall, it became clearer much more recently in sworn testimony from various parties that Adams played some role in this process. So Hudson has already shown a history of allegedly deferring to Adams over choosing his own department head's selections. And while Leach serves at the pleasure of Hudson, Hudson serves at the pleasure of the city council including Adams and if the majority of the city council is apparently apathetic and pretty much defers its own responsibilities to the city administration, it's easy enough for one or two dominant personalities to take the initiative to involve themselves in ways not too appropriate.

Hudson currently welds more power over the city council these days. If he likes an elected official who goes with his program, then their ward projects get the green light. If he doesn't, then elected officials sometimes discover obstacles in their path or that he doesn't return their phone calls quickly...or at all. But in the Meredith case, he had apparently bended to Adams' will, so why wouldn't it be possible that he did so in the case of Carpenter, especially considering the other facts in play?

So why is it really so impossible to believe that lightning as they might call it could strike twice?

"I tried to be scrupulous in keeping political interference out of the decisions but more importantly, my bosses at City Hall -- and the elected officials in the city, I think -- have been scrupulous in not interfering."

----Diaz about the promotions last month

[Riverside's new police chief, Sergio Diaz, said that no one from City Hall has contacted him about any of the 13 promotions that he made last month but was mindful of the city's history.]

Diaz' comments were that he had been careful to avoid political influences and that no one from City Hall hasn't called him about promotions even as he expressed concerns about community leaders trying to exert their influence at a recent town hall meeting held at the Orange Terrace Community Center.

But many community leaders have been more wary about City Hall's influence over that process given how extensively the last chief has been micromanaged since at least 2005. Hopefully the hands off process from City Hall is from harsh lessons learned that have finally sunk in and not just engaging in the usual "honeymoon" period. It's still early in his tenure and ultimately his ability to be an independent chief apart from City Hall influence will ride on how effectively those same community leaders and residents apply pressure on elected officials to rein in Hudson and his assistant city manager, Tom DeSantis when it comes to running the police department. Hopefully, there's been enough pressure applied to stop them from using it even apparently illegally to acquire police equipment to play with.

But while it's important to put the past in the past, it's important to learn from it first and Adams might be the focus of an ethics complaint for alleged interference in one promotion inside the police department but sworn testimony from depositions taken from lawsuits filed by former lieutenants Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt who settled them earlier this year with the city.

But while the complaint asks for censure by the rest of the city council against Adams (who can only be removed by the vote of his ward's residents), the only blanket response by the members of the city council is to circle the wagons around themselves and endorse him for the 2011 election. That's what it's like in a rather closed circle where most incumbents regularly endorse incumbents in upcoming elections which kind of makes you see how they feel about outsiders. That's precisely why the city government is incapable of holding itself or its members accountable because the dynamic of "group think" or "go along to get along" is too entrenched and too pervasive for this to ever take place. And guess what, many people who watch city government have picked that up already, hence the call for an independent panel to oversee the complaint process. The only way the city residents will ever see that take place is if they vote en masse to change the city's charter regarding the ethics code and complaint process after going through one of several avenues to get it on the ballot. Until then, the public will and has already done a very effective job at issuing pink slips to elected officials at the ballot box who aren't up to snuff.

But Adams despite his gaffes including apparently with the police department has picked up some early support.

Adams has also already been endorsed by the Riverside Police Officers' Association for his 2011 election and recently received a campaign donation from...Carpenter.

The Press Enterprise's Editorial Board analyzes about Riverside City Hall's very selective ethics suggesting that the city adopt suggestions including ones to open up complaints to city administrative officials and it be expanded to behavior outside official duties.

Great suggestions, but the odds of the city council changing its position on any stances, will is probably worse than the odds that a blizzard will hit Riverside this week. What the city council will probably show in its deliberation over the Ethics Code and Complaint process through committee on Sept. 1 and overall in Sept. 21. These meetings offer the public chances to provide feedback.

Not Watergate

Political fundraiser Michael Williams apparently got burgled at his business location. That probably made a few prominant local politicians antsy for a few minutes but only one computer allegedly used for playing computer games was apparently seized by the burgular.

Moreno Valley stopped looking for a city manager after the interim decides to stay for less pay. Some looked at it as a godsend; others including those on a community selection panel questioned the action.

The trouble plagued election in new city Menifee has finally been settled--in court.

Will the sheriff
be coming to newly anointed city Eastvale?

Apparently outgoing Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco isn't being a good loser.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Is The City Manager's Office Rewriting DeLaRosa's Tenure?

UPDATE: Ethics Code complaints filed against Riverside City Councilman Steve Adams for allegedly influencing the promotional process of Capt. John Carpenter and impersonating a police officer during an incident involving the impounding of his vehicle in Newport Beach.

[Was the promotion of Capt. John Carpenter influenced by how effectively he "cleared the air" with Councilman Steve Adams?]

Adams' response: He called it "an attempted abuse of the system by a small special interest group of people to try to influence elections and run the city."

[The Governmental Affairs Committee which includes its chair, Councilman Andrew Melendrez (l.) and Councilman Rusty Bailey took public comments at the ethics review it conducted last year.]

What: Annual review of Ethics Code and Complaint Process (passed by city voters in November 2004 to add to city charter) by Governmental Affairs Committee (which is membered by Andrew Melendrez, Steve Adams (yes really!) and Rusty Bailey)

When: Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 4 p.m.

Where: Mayor's Ceremonial Room, seventh floor at City Hall

City Hall through its Governmental Affairs Committee is getting ready to conduct the annual review of its Ethics Code and Complaint procedure, and some civic leaders have asked for its strengthening and have repeated the outcry for an independent body or panel to review ethics complaints.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Vaughn-Blakely and Tortes also want an independent board named to hear ethics complaints. Currently, a committee that includes the mayor and two council members addresses complaints, including any about their council colleagues.

"I think that would give it more credibility than having the city leadership oversee itself," Tortes said. "Why would you have the person that you're complaining about review the complaint?"

So far both the Governmental Affairs Committee and the entire council has nixed any possibility of outside people processing complaints involving elected officials. Melendrez, who chairs the Governmental Affairs Committee went further in his comments for the article as saying he hadn't received any complaints or concerns raised about governmental ethics from the community. Which means that he's not listening because those concerns have been raised by residents city-wide including many in the second ward which he has been elected to represent. That was similar to Councilman Steve Adams' statement that he hadn't received any calls or emails from residents in his ward about ethical concerns either.

[City Councilman and Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Andrew Melendrez has said he hadn't heard any concerns about ethics from the "community". In actuality, many people have expressed their concerns to him including from his own ward. Incidentally, Melendrez likely was the first elected official to learn about Leach's DUI incident within several hours when it took place according to information provided by one witness interviewed by the California Highway Patrol in its investigation. But what did he do with that information?]

The Group has been very active at following the progression of the ethical code and complaint process since even before its passage by voters in November 2004. They have asked for more public outreach on the code and complaint process, for it to be extended to include coverage of high-ranking city employees including the city manager and assistant city managers and for the independent panel possibly of retired judges to hear complaints involving elected officials.

The city council and Mayor Ron Loveridge who along with the chairs of all the city's boards and commissions has been invited to attend the Sept. 1 meeting hasn't been too enthusiastic about anything regarding the process except for improving public outreach. They nixed the idea of having the complaint process go to an independent committee. They most likely will nix the idea of city employees including the city council's own being covered by the code most likely insisting that it can handle its own employees when they misbehave.

Yeah right. The city's residents have been watching and seeing how effective the city government's been doing that and taking notes.

The other controversial proposal likely to be rejected again by the majority of the city council is that involving language surreptitiously added several years ago by then Governmental Affairs Committee members Frank Schiavone and Dom Betro that would have the ethics code only apply to elected officials carrying out their duties in that role. This arose not long after Betro had an ethics complaint filed against him for threatening an individual across the street from where he had headed to give a speech as an acting councilman. City Attorney Gregory Priamos rejected the complaint before it had even reached the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee for review and the language was changed that summer. An action taken by the elected official, Betro, who had been the subject of such a complaint which adds fuel to the argument that elected officials are incapable of holding each other or themselves accountable.

Attempts to change the language back to what it had been were met with resistance from several city council members most notably Chris MacArthur and Steve Adams. People might have been puzzled at the time with the rationale given by the city council members in opposition in the late summer and autumn of last year but they are considerably less so now nearly a year later with all the scandals that have broken out at City Hall.

Adams for example had been concerned about not even being able to go to a sporting event without the code applying to his behavior. But with court testimony revealing some of what Adams had been doing, including driving with illegally cold plated vehicles, allegedly identifying himself as an undercover police officer when his car was impounded in Newport Beach (according to Leach) and involving himself several times in the police department's promotional process, some more clarity has been provided to perhaps explain his reluctance or at least put in some context.

Oh and who could forget the free gasoline that elected officials were getting with not much oversight or transparency of that process to "save" city residents the huge expenditure of paying for the previous car allowance.

[Councilman Steve Adams who sits on the Governmental Affairs Committee vetoed the striking of controversial language in the Ethics Code stating that it applied to elected officials even outside their official duties. Of course, Adams had some possible reasons for his staunch opposition which have already hit the press.]

[Riverside City Councilman Chris MacArthur didn't want the ethics code to apply to him when he was out on the campaign trail. Judging by the somewhat questionable campaign tactics he showed in 2007 in what turned out to be one of the more controversial campaigns launched, one wonders what's on tap for his reelection campaign next year.]

Whatever recommendations come out of or survive the process of review involving the Governmental Affairs Committee will be heard by the full city council on Tuesday, Sept. 21 at around 7 p.m. when the item appears on the meeting's discussion calendar. That should prove to be an enlightening and perhaps even entertaining process in light of the past six months.

What remains to be seen is whether it will be a useful process and not the usual circling of the wagons, code of silence behavior that City Hall's becoming known for engaging in.

Because the ultimate ethics complaint committee from four of the city's wards will be convening for an election process coming next year to a venue near you.

Has Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis Been Busy Trying to Cut Deals?

[City Manager Brad Hudson made the decisions who to place at the helm of the beleaguered police department after the retirement of Chief Russ Leach. Now is city management trying to undo some of the more costly actions stemming from those earlier decisions?]

[Acting Chief John DeLaRosa who launched internal investigations against several people, firing at least one officer who had earlier challenged him in a roll call session and initiating internal investigations against a management employee considering the chief's position.]

[Hudson's subordinate, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis has been meeting with various past and present police employees who filed claims or threatened to against the city. Has his goal to make side deals behind closed doors to avoid heavier settlements or even worse embarrassing trials down the road? Whatever the case, so far his bosses, the city council, aren't biting.]

Something interesting took place during a week or two not too long ago and that was that heavy rumors arose that Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis had either met or spoken with several current or former employees of the police department who had either filed personnel claims or threatened to against the department and city in relation to actions taken while Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa was at the helm of the department.

During its closed session on Aug. 24, the city council allegedly rejected a tentative settlement in relation to a personnel claim filed by former Riverside Police Officers' Association president and Det. Chris Lanzillo fired last June by DeLaRosa within 15 minutes of a Skelly Hearing held after he received a notice of intent to terminate earlier that month. He had filed an appeal to Hudson to have his Skelly hearing held by either the incoming police chief or a designated official of the city manager's office rather than the man he had sued for damages and confronted at a roll call session challenging him on his handling of the Leach incident.

Lanzillo had allegedly met with DeSantis and the two had apparently come to an agreement on a settlement but it needed approval from the city council behind closed doors. It's beyond interesting that DeSantis would be involved in such negotiations given that he and his own boss, Hudson had stalwartly backed DeLaRosa and defended many actions that he had taken in public. But then if you follow the activities of City Hall, you quickly learn that what's said in public and done in private are often two very different things. Actually if DeSantis had tried to broker a settlement with Lanzillo on his personnel actions, it would have been a prudent move but much less so (and it probably wouldn't have been necessary) than it would have been done to agree to Lanzillo's request for an independent and unbiased individual to arbiter his Skelly process. Because most law enforcement agencies have alternatives in place to allow this process to be heard by other individuals than the acting chief if there's a conflict of interest present in having the chief handle it. That clearly had been the case here and perhaps if Hudson and DeSantis had brought more experience in labor issues with them to Riverside, they would have realized this and acted more wisely.

Instead their actions to have DeLaRosa handle the Skelly hearing where allegedly Lanzillo's lawsuit had been raised at some point in the interaction between DeLaRosa and Lanzillo's side have put the city at increased risk of civic liability. If DeSantis had been trying to extricate the city from this snowballing mess through trying to end it, it would have made sense to try and do that before the official lawsuits were in filed with federal and state court in relation to that particular personnel claim (which had been the second filed by Lanzillo) and more importantly, before the deposition taking process had gotten started. That's when the dollar amount ultimately paid on litigation filed within the city's own house really began to add up as this process of interviewing key players in the tort often results in revelations that the city would rather keep quiet. But with the relatively inexpensive personnel claim process behind it at least in the Lanzillo case, the truly expensive litigation and ultimate payout lies ahead.

Because when it comes to civil litigation including that involving labor actions filed by police department employees, the city hasn't fared well financially speaking when the lawsuits move through and past the deposition taking process. Not surprising considering the content of those depositions which have included high ranking management employees in the department and in a couple of cases City Hall has well.

Key city employees including those in the police department had been deposed for the racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by Officer Roger Sutton. The depositions were taken before the case was sent to arbitration where it was heard and Sutton awarded $200,000 which the city refused to pay opting instead to take the case to jury trial.

In retrospect a wise decision? No, because the civil trial turned out to be an even bigger embarrassment for the city than the depositions had indicated and the jury awarded Sutton the bigger prize of $1.64 million. What aided Sutton were over a decade of positive written evaluations given to him by supervisors which offset testimony by city employees including the city's attorney (during opening arguments) painting Sutton as the rogue cop from hell. The city was then left with the very unenviable task of trying to explain why if Sutton was such a bad apple, was he then the recipient of positive evaluations for years? The city was in a corner that it couldn't work its way out of in any way to save itself from tremendous civic liability which ultimately came to fruition in the Sutton trial.

But when it comes to the role of personnel evaluations in fighting litigation, the city and department have learned from the Sutton debacle in ways that have been very interesting.

In lawsuits filed by former lieutenants, Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt, they had also reached and passed the deposition taking stage not long before the city opted to settle their cases with them most likely hoping to keep some embarrassing revelations from coming to light including the guns, cold plates and badges scandals.

If the Lanzillo case does make it to trial (though conventional wisdom says that definitely won't happen), it will be interesting to see how that plays out and the information that will be introduced in the public arena about the story of what played out in the months after Leach's departure behind closed doors.

And for the city residents who ultimately pay the city's legal bills, this one would probably be expensive.

[The downtown bus terminal turned police facility which currently houses the department's Internal Affairs Division until it's relocated to an as of yet undisclosed location.]

Then DeSantis at about the same time he had allegedly met with Lanzillo, had also met with Lt. Leon Phillips and his attorney in relation to the recent disciplinary action assigned to him which had been a demotion to sergeant and a suspension. What happened in that meeting has been the topic of some speculation in terms of whether Phillips walked out with the same disciplinary action taken against him or with it overturned and replaced with a written reprimand in his personnel file. Not to mention whether or not he received an agreement in writing to not have to work with a certain management employee during the rest of his career. Because of some points that Phillips had allegedly made that hit home about the "sweeping" investigation of the Leach incident done by the city manager's office. If Phillips was able to bring his perspective of what it meant to be the one thrown under the bus in large part because of the city's unwillingness to hold its management personnel responsible, then more power to him and his attorney.

Phillips' had allegedly wanted to seek a retirement earlier on but the city had nixed that even as it has retired three higher ranking police employees including its chief. He then had been resistant to being demoted to sergeant and allegedly had wanted to fight that. Soon after, he received his notice of intent to terminate (on the same day as Lanzillo's). It was viewed as a commonly used strategy to get an employee to accept discipline by threatening to impose a more severe disciplinary action. Similar to when criminal prosecutors charge high to get someone to plead out to a lessor crime. But it was still very telling that Phillips allegedly had both a demotion and suspension imposed on him given that City Hall was waxing rhetoric more along the line that "management" messed up and would be held responsible (without of course specifying who and how). The only problem is that if "management" had messed up, it never was truly held accountable for that.

So it was interesting to see that Phillips, who's only technically in management as a lieutenant (though primarily in supervision) would be the only party disciplined while his superior on Feb. 8 would retire at the same salary that he would have otherwise (not to mention temporarily drawing a higher salary as acting chief). The police chief would receive a medical retirement (to add to his previous ones) after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor offense. And in the ultimate irony, city management employees would be able to hold their jobs and salaries while engaging in actions associated with the badges, guns and cold badges not to mention the destruction or withholding documents that may have been criminal in nature.

So essentially City Hall including its management said that police management would be held responsible for its actions, meaning the buck stopped there. But through actions, that management proved that its talk was cheap because the buck actually stopped at mid line supervision with Phillips. Management walked away with its retirements intact as if Feb. 8 had never happened and a supervisor who was most likely taking orders from management received the lion share of the discipline. But the situation involving Phillips and his treatment has generated a lot of skepticism given that he was transferred from watch command to the "penalty box" at Orange Street Station. The reason purportedly was to await disciplinary action for his role in the Leach incident but when that was written about here, DeLaRosa within hours attended a roll call session assuring those in attendance that was not the case. That Phillips had been transferred to Orange Street to receive "training" for a "special assignment". This of course was said by DeLaRosa within a week or two of the time that Phillips received his notice of intent to terminate from the city management. So unless the "special assignment" was a softer way of telling someone they were going to be fired, then it seems that the outcome of the transfer was somewhat different than that related by DeLaRosa.

But should Phillips really have received the disciplinary action afforded a scapegoat for a scandalous incident while those who played greater roles in it including its management not even be slapped on the wrist administrative wise. Because if Phillips was demoted, then so should have been DeLaRosa back to lieutenant before being given the "out" of retirement.

Then DeSantis apparently had words with one of the individuals involved in the recent personnel claims filed by former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel and Officer Neely Nakamura who filed alleging that they were both retaliated against the police department for an offduty relationship. Esquivel had alleged also that he faced retaliation through internal investigations for both insisting that Leach's DUI incident be investigated by an outside law enforcement agency and when he contemplated putting in an application for the job of replacing Leach. Nakamura had also alleged that the interrogation and investigation by Internal Affairs and then Capt. Mike Blakely violated the Peace Officer Bill of Rights and other state laws. The claims wound up in DeSantis' office and Nakamura had allegedly asked by DeSantis what she wanted. Her answer, was apparently justice and how she was treated during the investigative process is deserving of an outside investigation into whether her rights under the Bill of Rights and other laws were violated.

Her case is similar to that of Lanzillo's in terms of being subject to an internal investigation after Feb. 8 in that both were investigated after DeLaRosa's authority had been challenged in some way. Lanzillo had challenged him in roll call in front of other officers including the very discomfited management team that had been ordered to support DeLarosa during the roll call sessions while he told the officers they had to support him (while apparently not telling them he had any involvement in the DUI incident's handling). Nakamura faced an internal investigation after Esquivel had made noise about applying for the chief's position at a time that DeLaRosa had been groomed by his supporters including those at City Hall for the full-time position. She had become to those in positions of management a means to an end to get at someone else and was treated accordingly in a way that on its face, appears pretty appalling. She got to be detained at her car, compelled to an internal investigation where she was told she was a "witness", treated like a criminal suspect and then the content of her interrogation ended up being circulated outside of a confidential division within several days.

If that's the case, it doesn't sound like an investigation at all but an act of retaliation against her and also using her as a means to retaliate against someone else. Because seriously, how can an officer be a "witness" for an administrative investigation against another when they are detained, compelled for an interview and unable to go to the bathroom without having to have their personal phone confiscated and having an Internal Affairs sergeant escort them?

Seriously, that sounds more like the way a suspect might be treated in a criminal investigation than a witness in an inhouse administrative investigation and it's going to be difficult for an arbiter, a judge and certainly a trial jury to view it in any other way. The city's legal team can try to play this one out to see what happens but what lies ahead at the very end would be another publicly embarrassing trial with probably an outcome not favorable to the defendants. But it's very unlikely that the city will ultimately allow this case just like that involving Lanzillo to go to trial.

Chief Sergio Diaz who appears to be stepping in for an absent Priamos who usually provides the official comments on civil litigation called the Esquivel claim "groundless." That caused some interest as people wondered why he commented on an incident that occurred before his hiring but it also caused upset among one certain class of officers. Some people wondered if it was the city manager's way of proving his autonomy as a department head or whether the city management just didn't want to comment on the recent embarrassing revelations about the police department and how dissidents to DeLaRosa were treated during his time as interim chief.

His assertion on whether or not Esquivel was truly punished for "whistle blowing" on the Leach incident could be accurate in terms of being questionable especially given that Esquivel had signed the not-released-publicly copy of Sgt. Frank Orta's inadequate incident report as its reviewer. The case seems to be much stronger that Esquivel found himself the target of multiple internal investigations after he contemplated putting in an application for the chief's position. He had been the focus of some informal campaigning done among community leaders for that position and seemed perfectly poised for a run at it after the city released cell phone records for DeLaRosa which essentially knocked the heir apparent out of the running. So what might have happened to Esquivel 36 years after his career began as a graduate of the police academy was that he became the focus of a behind the scenes power play by the opposing team inside a department that for years has been divided into different teams.

But in this case, the opposing team had some powerful tools at its disposal, most significantly the department's Internal Affairs Division which with one exception had been staffed by Leach and included at least a couple of his drinking friends. They were not the ones assigned to the investigations that DeLaRosa and Blakely launched against several key personnel inside the agency.

Since their dual promotions in 2007 to the top management positions, the two high-ranking employees, DeLaRosa and Esquivel had been highly competitive. Both of them had stepped willingly into then "at will" management positions which were highly contested by the leadership of both police unions and both apparently were promoted to those positions while Leach had been out of town over 3,000 miles away. Questions arose about who had promoted them and members of both unions waited to see how an allegedly infuriated Leach would handle it when he returned to Riverside. But what happened is that Leach and City Hall appeared at a March 2007 meeting packed with community and police union leaders to show a united front to essentially tell everyone that the controversy that arose from the appointments and the status of the positions arose from a failure to communicate. Not long after that Hudson gave Leach a sizable salary raise and Leach pretty much got quieter, began becoming less visible and the keys were essentially given to Hudson and DeSantis to run the police department.

So DeLaRosa and Esquivel had been successful at getting promoted amid the controversy. Both initially signed "at will" contracts which then mysteriously disappeared inside City Hall and couldn't be located by City Attorney Gregory Priamos for three years and both contracts were annulled when it was uncovered that the city government hadn't undergone the required process to create the "at will" positions. When the dust cleared, the two very ambitions but personality wise, very different high ranking management personnel both had elevated up higher but one outcome was that it apparently made them somewhat more wary of each other.

Later on with Leach ousted by a scandal and DeLaRosa soon enough becoming wrapped up in it, courtesy of modern technology, that put Esquivel in a very strong position to make a very viable run for the chief's position. And he had expressed interest, had some support internally and also outside the department where he had long enjoyed popularity, so it appeared as if he were going to go for it. Not long after that, the city became stunned in April when he announced his impending retirement a month later.

Part of that cutthroat infighting and power playing that needs to be addressed with to foster a more healthy internal environment near the highest levels of the department. It remains to be seen yet as it's early in Diaz' tenure whether that will happen but through his comments, he has made it clear that he's certainly aware of it.

Yet what really produced a stir were comments made by Diaz to Bernstein that he believed that Blakely and company's interrogation of Nakamura had been sensitive considering the difficult circumstances that Internal Affairs had been under conducting the investigation. Still, many people appeared to be just as upset by that handling as he had been impressed by it. What people didn't seem to be was surprised because Nakamura's hardly the only female employee in that situation who's been treated in that fashion in the department's history. It appears that the women (who are usually subordinate in rank) face more severe treatment than the men who often outrank them but then again, this is a department where the statistics show that the attrition rate of female officers is quite a bit higher than those who are male. But it's not clear whether sexism played the role or whether that might be also due to the department (and city's) pattern and practice of holding its management less accountable for inappropriate conduct or misconduct than its subordinates as amply shown in the ultimate handling of the Leach incident where the buck apparently stopped at mid-line supervision.

Hardly surprising when city residents have seen how City Hall handles the misdeeds of its own management employees and how city management handles the misdeeds of upper level employees in the police department. It's become clear that management personnel whether at City Hall or in the police department before Diaz arrived didn't seem to be held accountable for its behavior. After all, even though a sergeant was demoted for on duty sexual misconduct (and then later promoted again), a higher ranking officer (who was also later promoted) received only a written scolding for his sexual misconduct incident after a former upper management employee allegedly ran interference for him.

So Esquivel was essentially ousted off the chessboard with a checkers move and filed a personnel claims with a female officer being used as a pawn and as a means to an end. After all, she's just a female in a male dominated profession where the management personnel have frequented strip bars, driven drunk and had relationships with female subordinates including officers. Some say it's a badge of honor to engage in that behavior and can actually help male personnel rise up throught the ranks in a department where there's a strong perception that promotions are given out based on who you know, who you drank with, who you vacationed with, so much so that some officers who ranked well on the promotional lists removed themselvees from consideration for being on the wrong "team".

However, what put a wrinkle in the power play that apparently was enacted against Esquivel by DeLaRosa and his mentor, now Deputy Chief Mike Blakely is that their pawn, Nakamura had found her voice and filed a personnel claim against the city as well. After the idea is that men file claims and women are to been seen and not heard because if to advance means to be a good old boy whose idea of a woman's role is to dance topless, then that doesn't leave much room for either women or male officers who don't play those parts.

But Nakamura had definite objections to the way that she had been treated by a "sensitive" interrogation and investigation process and most likely she wouldn't be the only one. Because being the female and the subordinate, she was merely seen as a means to an end involving the apparent downfall of another high ranking police management employee. But questions arose immediately about her treatment as a female subordinate employee and that of the higher ranking male. Why was she being asked graphic questions about sexual acts after having admitted to a consenual sexual relationship with Esquivel? Why was she escorted to the bathroom by a sergeant without her personal phone?

Was she really the "witness" she had been assured she was or the criminal suspect as treated? Finding out which one could wind up being very expensive to the city.

The answers to those questions are what truly pose a risk to the city and department making her claim the more formidable of the two faced by both. Because from her allegations, it appears that there's a definite possibility that her interrogation was done in violation of the Police Officer Bill of Rights and perhaps other related state laws. And even worse for the city, her treatment has raised questions especially in light of the handling of the Leach incident about whether subordinate employees are held to a higher standard than those who manage them. Not to mention whether a pattern and practice exists of treating subordinate female officers in these situations more harshly than the higher ranking male officers.

For example, was Esquivel asked the same questions about sexual practices that were asked of Nakamura because the one excerpt of the interrogations provided in the claims came from her interview with investigators. Was Esquivel detained in a similar manner and required to have his personal phone confiscated and to be escorted to the bathroom by Sgt. Frank Assuma or anyone else? These allegations kind of bring back to mind how the only player in the Leach incident who was actually penalized through loss of potential future income was its watch commander, Lt. Leon Phillips. Management employees who outranked him including one who violated state laws were allowed to quietly retire while Phillips will likely also retire eventually as well but unless his situation has truly changed, it will be at the lower salary of a sergeant instead of that he made as a lieutenant.

Interestingly enough Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein only appeared to have asked Diaz about Esquivel's allegations which Diaz addressed but Nakamura's name didn't appear in the column at all. She's not the star player in this latest scandal but is almost being referred to as its prop. That's not particularly unusual either.

But what the city will ultimately have to either decide to face in a public arena or pay out in private, will be the disturbing elements of this particular internal investigation and the treatment of one of its "witnesses". It wouldn't be surprising if the city management including DeSantis were adding this case to the others which need to be cleaned up behind closed doors given its troubling nature and what exposure through deposition and testimony could reveal about the practices being utilized by the short-term regime of DeLaRosa during one of the most turbulent times in the department's recent history.

The issues which will have to be addressed by the city at some point including the following.

After all as stated, the "graphic" questions that Internal Affairs Division head Lt. Mike Cook asked Nakamura about her sexual history with Esquivel had been asked even after she admitted to a sexual relationship with the former deputy chief. That was clear in the excerpt of the interview cited in the personnel claims. So why then with that establish and any related policy violations on fraternization that may or may not have existed sustained, did Cook (who was likely receiving direction from his superiors) go further by asking her "graphic" questions about whether or not she and Esquivel engaged in particular sexual acts such as oral copulation and masturbation?

Were those questions appropriate or were they outside the scope? Were they done to gain information or simply to embarrass, intimidate or shock? It's hard not to believe the latter was the case when the "sensitively" handled interrogation was grist for the rumor mill only a couple days after it had been conducted as an allegedly confidential process. So what appeared to have been taking place was 1) to ask graphic questions on sexual practices to invoke a reaction of humiliation and intimidation on the part of the person being questioned and 2) to then make sure that everyone knew about it.

Cook is helpful in pointing this out particularly when he apologizes for the "graphic" nature of the questions beforehand. Is it sincere, maybe but it also just seems that Cook is filling his role as "good cop" in that dichotomy that police officers use when assigning themselves in pairs and questioning individuals.

But when the claim was written about in the Press Enterprise, it also circulated and many people were able to read about its contents including the disturbing allegations which were made by both Esquivel and Nakamura. And that provided a counterbalance to what had been floating around courtesy in part of one of the most (and apparently least) secretive investigative divisions in the police department. People who read about it had different views of the interrogation of Nakamura than its handling being "sensitive".

But it's been interesting and very disturbing at the same time to see what's apparently been playing out at City Hall in the wake of personnel claims and threats of claims being filed by police personnel in the wake of the Leach incident and its aftermath. Not to mention the city government's countermove against its own management, which in this case might actually be as costly down the road as its previous inaction towards the same management.

One former councilman who's been arrested and convicted of a crime discussed his situation.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

City Hall Finds More Cash While City Residents Paid the Gas Bills

[The building that's owned by Riverside's residents with space afforded out based on four-year leases granted by the city's voters for those who shall dwell and work there.]

Extra Moolah Found at City Hall

[Phew, City Manager Brad Hudson must be thinking after some...sofa cleaning at City Hall unearthed $3.55 million in the city's coffers which will be spent in some areas that received cuts.]

Riverside City Hall apparently found about $3.55 million behind the sofa. It will be used to open up about a dozen police officer positions, purchase materials in the library and museum and to build parking for several parks including the under-stocked Andulka Park. This is definitely good news for these departments including the police department which has lost many officers due to attrition and hiring freezes. The city had applied to the COPS office in Washington, D.C. for grant money to fill up to 15 positions but the name of departments which will release this second round of grant money hasn't been released yet. Riverside applied last year but didn't receive any money as roughly $9 was requested for every dollar allotted. Whether its luck will change this year remains to be seen.

People ask how this money just popped up now and the city's saying that the drops in both property and sales tax monies wasn't as steep as anticipated and it had saved about $1.5 million in budgeted money already. Not that people necessarily want to look a gift horse in the mouth but they're a bit puzzled at why it's showing up now. The trust between city residents, more than a handful or a dozen, and City Hall just isn't that flush right now.

The news comes not long after the latest revelation emerged from City Hall about the free gas that city officials were able to access along with their city-issued vehicles. It's still not clear why the previously used car allowance was tossed in favor of this newer system and what parties at City Hall were responsible. To quell the upset among those in the city who have trouble paying for their own gasoline right now, the city tried to justify this practice by telling the masses that it was actually saving them money by giving these people an apparently bottomless gas card.

And then City Hall wonders why people are getting so upset. Hopefully, they'll figure it out before the election cycle starts up next year or some of them could be looking for other pastimes.

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board challenged the city on that issue:


Council members can either collect a $350 a month car allowance, or use a city vehicle, with city-provided insurance, maintenance, repairs and gasoline. The cost of furnishing a council member with a car and free gas runs $417 to $583 a month, well above the car allowance amount. Since 2007, the city has spent a total of $34,186 on gasoline for council cars.

This must be the equivalent in terms of "fuzzy" or just funny math telling city residents that 2+2=5. Under the previous system, city council members used their own vehicles, paid their own registration, insurance and maintenance for them. But under this "cheaper" system, the city pays for all those other expenses which are in addition to the gasoline allowance and thus this makes this vehicle system anything but cost effective particular to the city residents who were duped by not being made aware that the old system of vehicle allowances had changed but then duped again by having City Hall then tell them that this was saving them and the city money.

One of the reasons why people were not aware of the change in vehicle policy is because the voters in 2004 through Measure EE essentially did away with the mayor and city council's salaries commission where a group of appointed city residents discussed whether or not to raise the salaries of elected officials and served in an advisory capacity to those officials on these matters. The city council could then decide whether to accept or reject the commission's recommendations and take action or not on salary adjustments. Towards the end of the existence of his commission, it made a recommendation that the city council then rejected before raising its own salaries and that caused no shortage of controversy. The voters eliminated the commission but in a sense lost a level of transparency regarding the discussion of city council and mayor salary and compensation packages whereas the commission provided an opportunity for the public to be educated and allowed to provide feedback. About that time is when people lost track of the whole car allowance deal which would ultimately be changed behind closed doors somewhere inside City Hall. But no one can explain exactly how this came to pass.

During discussions of whether or not to increase the salaries of officials, the entire packages that they received including the past use of car allowances came up for discussion as well at meetings. When the commission was eliminated, city residents lost this ability to oversee these issues including when they were amended. The decision around 2007 or possibly earlier to change the package involving transportation and vehicle use apparently took place without any public discussion or even notice given that it was taking place. Which is one reason why so many city residents including those who are heavily involved in paying attention to what's going on at City Hall were left in the dark here because the transparency over the salary and compensation packages had been lacking in the past several years. Not that the public can't find out if it doesn't want to do so through the dubious process of submitting the CPRA request for the documentation from City Hall. However, what City Hall has done by removing an issue and expenditure like that from public discussion is to reduce transparency and thus accountability (which the Press Enterprise and others have said or stated was sorely lacking) of the process and to further erode an already damaged public trust.

River City Mysteries:

A City Councilman, A Car and A Fence Post?

[Riverside City Councilman Steve Adams is the subject of rumors about an alleged incident involving a car, a field and a fence post. What really happened, and if there was an accident, would the city have records?]

And speaking about the city vehicle issue, one of the most fascinating tales going around right now is the one about how Councilman Steve Adams purportedly did some off-road driving onto a field and somehow wound up with the undercarriage being torn out from under his car. One anonymous commenter asked the following question:


I want someone to ask Councilman Adams how his car ended up in the middle of an empty field with a fence post through the engine? Come on let's check the records for service and repairs to these vehicles.

His allegedly wasn't the only vehicle that day to wind up turned into the city one day with a badly damaged undercarriage. So did a vehicle allegedly driven by an individual in the city manager's office which was allegedly turned in the very same day to be fixed as Adams'.

Did this really happen and if so, why hasn't the city disclosed the money spent to repair this and possibly another city-issued vehicle? Adams if you recall had been the subject of other rumors about an incident involving himself and a city-issued vehicle in Newport Beach and that the car had been towed back to Riverside by DeSantis. And there's sworn testimony about that incident by Adams and various city employee that was given as depositions for the lawsuits filed and recently settled involving former lieutenants Tim Bacon and Darryl Hurt.

The testimony provided by a cast of characters is contradictory and different versions of the incident clash. Adams' car which was city issued had been cold plated at the time and former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach had testified that Adams had identified himself to police in Newport Beach as an undercover police officer. The police department in Newport Beach wound up calling the watch commander at the Riverside Police Department(rather than Riverside City Hall checking on his identity as an elected official) purportedly to have them provide information of some sort on Adams.

Adams did possess a badge that's given to retired police officers.

A security guard at the condo complex in Newport Beach provided his version of why the car had been towed, because it was blocking a garage but Adams said it was his friend's garage and thus not illegal. That incident in Newport Beach did have some documentation in sworn testimony, however contradictory, and in the account provided by a security guard as to shedding some light on what might have taken place. This latest tale started out the same way through rumors but as of yet there's been not much else. Still, it's really getting hard to be surprised by the possibility of anything happening anymore given the past six months or so.

If this incident involving his car ending up in an open field did take place as heavily rumored, then there probably wouldn't be any public records of it...because remember, they were putting those notations on post-it notes.

But if this story's true, then it's still pouring at City Hall.

Riverside City Council Denies Police Detective's Claim

[Riverside Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis allegedly brokered a tentative settlement with a former police officer but behind closed doors, the city council vetoed it.]

[Was former Asst. and Acting Chief John DeLaRosa the right arbiter to hear and decide on the Skelly Hearing of a police detective he initiated an investigation against within hours of being confronted by him in a roll call bull session? The city council by denying former Det. Chris Lanzillo's claim this week in closed session is clearly hedging on the answer being, well yeah. ]

Riverside's City Council apparently decided in a closed session conducted on Tuesday, Aug. 24 to deny a personnel claim filed by former Riverside Police Officers' Association president and Det. Chris Lanzillo who was fired in June 2010. The claim was the second filed against the city by Lanzillo and stemmed from the termination that was conducted through the Skelly hearing process after he received the written intent to terminate notice.

The claim alleged that Lanzillo had an internal investigation opened against him for making inappropriate comments at a Feb. 9, 2010 racial sensitivity training session which had gone unreported for eight days despite there being supervisors present at the training. Yet within several hours of confronting then Acting Chief John DeLaRosa about the handling of the DUI incident involving Leach, Lanzillo had the internal investigation opened against him after Special Investigations Bureau Supervisor Ed Blevins had allegedly reported it.

DeLaRosa had been taking the management staff willingly or not and had been making the rounds of the roll call sessions telling the officers attending them that they had to come together as one big happy family and stop talking to bloggers, reporters and posting comments at Then he had asked for questions from his audience and Lanzillo had asked him why it took him over 30 hours to get the California Highway Patrol to investigate the DUI incident involving Leach.

After Lanzillo's comments in his claim about DeLaRosa hit the Press Enterprise, a directive was allegedly issued from inside the Orange Street Station to put Lanzillo's investigation at the top of the list in terms of priorities. At some point, Lanzillo was sent to the "penalty box" at the Orange Street Station which is kind of like the place for broken officers along with Leon Phillips who received his notice of intent to terminate the same day as Lanzillo did.

Hudson turned down a request by Lanzillo to not have the Skelly done by the officer he had confronted and embarrassed in the roll call session and was actively suing. So DeLaRosa did the Skelly and officially fired Lanzillo within 15 minutes of the end of the hearing.

Lanzillo had allegedly met with DeSantis in recent weeks and a tentative agreement had been reached which had to go to the city council for approval. At its most recent meeting, the city council denied it, which generated no small amount of surprise.

But then DeSantis purportedly has been busy lately apparently addressing decisions which came out of the interim regime at the police department between February and June 2010. While publicly supporting it as the most qualified leadership and management, behind the scenes apparently business indicated that the sentiment was quite different.

But the rejection of the claim by City Hall just insures that the city will be paying out further on down the road because Hudson's decision to have DeLaRosa conduct the Skelly hearing was what is called a fatal error because in many law enforcement agencies when there's a conflict of interest similar to that between Lanzillo and DeLaRosa, the Skelly hearing is usually assigned to be conducted by a more impartial party which could have easily been done in this case. Why would Hudson or DeSantis even assign a Skelly hearing to an acting chief who had been implicated in the mishandling and attempted cover up of the Leach incident. Not to mention that he allegedly also received a notice of intent to terminate the same day as Phillips did and that's around the time he abruptly announced his retirement.

It's likely that the civil litigation in this case will continue perhaps in the U.S. District Court and that the case will move onto the deposition stages where prospective witnesses and defendants win the action will have to testify under oath in a lawyer's office somewhere. It's not clear what the city's actions will be once that process has gotten started but as we've seen in the city's past history involving inhouse civil litigation, that's when the financial costs really start climbing.

But the city council and mayor by denying the claim are engaging in what's called the poker faced bluff. If Lanzillo's termination is as suspect and illegal as he claims, then the city council has considerably anted into the betting pool, with the stakes rising while holding very low cards. The city has been in this position before and it hasn't been very pretty.

Still if the city council holds fast and actually takes the ball all the way, it will be fascinating to watch all this unfold in a public arena rather than behind closed doors. To witness the parties all line up to testify under penalty of perjury on the witness stand in front of judge, jury and media. The city won't be able to put a lid on what might be cooking in the pot inside a courtroom, if past court trials are any indication and it will be very interesting to see how this plays out at a very public trial.

Not necessarily good news for the city because everyone's seen how well it does and most particularly, the police department does when both are put on trial by their own.

CPRC Meets in Evenings; Complies with Bylaws, Restores Independent Investigations

[Former CPRC Commissioner Bill Howe pores through the agenda at the first CPRC meeting held in compliance with the bylaws in the past several months. ]

The Community Police Review Commission held its first meeting conducted in accordance with the bylaws in five months when it met on Wednesday, Aug. 25 at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. It had spent the last few months regularly changing or scheduling its general meetings at earlier times in the day when few city residents could attend them. It did this with the full blessings of both CPRC Manager Kevin Rogan and City Attorney Gregory Priamos who never cited any language about the actions taken to change meeting times and locations that were done in violation of those bylaws. Rogan at the meeting said that the lapses in not noticing that the CPRC was violating its own bylaws were essentially his fault and he felt very sorry about the commissioners and community members struggling with how the issue played out.

But the decision that shook the meeting was the commission's unexpected decision and ultimate vote to initiate independent investigations on the three remaining outstanding officer-involved death cases beginning with the Sept. 11, 2008 fatal shooting of Fernando Luis Sanchez. The commission will initiate independent investigations on the Oct. 31, 2008 shooting death of Marlon Acevedo and the Jan. 17, 2009 fatal shooting of Russell Hyatt. The motion to follow this procedure was made by Commissioner Chani Beeman and argued against by Commissioner Ken Rotker. It passed the vote helped no doubt by the absences of Commissioner (and American Medical Response employee, Peter Hubbard) and Robert Slawsby.

Moreno Valley Police Department will be receiving more gang officers.

Public Meeting

[Riverside City Attorney (r.) Gregory Priamos and members of the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee conduct a hearing on an ethics complaint filed against a city council member. The Ethics Code and Complaint Process, the result of a ballot initiative passed in 2004, will be undergoing its annual review by the Governmental Affairs Committee on Sept. 1 at 4 p.m.]

Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 4 p.m. The Governmental Affairs Committee will meet to conduct its annual review of the city's ethics code and complaint process. This isn't a joke, the city really does include in its charter an Ethics Code that was passed through the charter initiative process by voters in November 2004.

If you have time, this meeting's worth attending as the Committee of Chair Andrew Melendrez and members, Councilmen Rusty Bailey and Steve Adams will be discussing and reviewing the code after receiving public input. Their recommendations will then go to the full city council at its evening meeting on Sept. 21. Many city residents are paying closer attention to this process in light of the...lapses of ethics taking place or coming to light in City Hall this year. The Group and League of Women's Voters often monitor this process and present a list of recommendations to the Governmental Affairs Committee including better outreach to the city's residents on the Code and Complaint Process as well as the push to have the review and resolution process taken out of the hands of the city council and mayor and into the hands of an independent panel of perhaps retired judges (though retired judge is an oxymoron in Riverside as it seems there's no such thing due to the overloaded court system).

If you need to read up on the Code, here's the resolution and here's some frequently asked questions.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Building Cabinets and Selling Spock in a Recession

UPDATE: Riverside City Council rejects claim for damages filed by former RPOA President and detective Chris Lanzillo in a decision which may have reverberated through the city manager's office up to Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis.

More shuffling as Lt. Bruce Loftus goes to the Personnel and Training office and newly promoted lieutenant, Daniel Hoxmeier to head an NPC?

The Press Enterprise Editorial Board weighs in on the city council and its vehicle perks which have been enjoyed by members of the city council, both past and present. This is in reaction to an article by the publication about the city officials' use of city-owned cars, cold plated or not, and the access to unlimited gasoline paid for by city residents. The editorial board says that program has got to go. Will it be in place or gone by the upcoming election cycle?

If the entitlement remains strong at the 'Hall, then this controversial welfare program for governmental officials will remain in place even though no one can seem to explain how it all got started. But if elected officials remember that voters will be seeking representatives who work for them and not the other way around, then it will go the way of most of the city's orange groves and annual festivals. And it might be done in a grandiose fashion when the timing's right, but regardless it should be done.

People are too busy struggling to pay for their own gasoline to subsidize that of politicians who frankly can pay their own gas or get an allowance that really is less than what they're getting now no matter how some in City Hall have insisted that giving elected officials carte blanche to spend money on gasoline and get cars (which after all have to be maintained and in some cases, repaired) actually saves the tax payers money.

Which as the coverage in the newspaper has shown, just isn't true. And what might help city residents not get upset about these embarrassing scandals and keep focusing (but not too closely) on developments like Riverside Renaissance is if City Hall stops marketing these scandals including their subsidized gasoline during a recession as good for the city residents rather than as the truth which is enhancing political and social status by acquiring perks and in some cases, toys to foster that at the expense of city residents including many struggling now.

And what might also help is if people like Councilwoman Nancy Hart stop channeling historical figures like Marie Antoinette in being dismissive of the concerns of city residents regarding the scandals slipping out from underneath the rugs where they were buried at City Hall.

If that doesn't happen, then don't be surprised if those rugs and the rest of City Hall gets a thorough cleaning out beginning next year.

But per usual, the editorial board had some very strong words to the city and it's correct in that this practice should be stopped especially because there's next to no accountability and transparency attached and the car allowance system should be what's in practice.


So what are residents to make of the fact that Councilman William "Rusty" Bailey has spent an average of $77.10 a month on gas, while Councilman Steve Adams spent an average of $284.44? Adams says only 20 percent of his driving is for personal reasons, yet he accounts for a third of the total council spending on gasoline in the past three years. Is Adams that much more involved in city business than the rest of the council?

Riverside taxpayers have no way of knowing, as the city does not keep detailed records of council vehicles. The city does not track personal use, but relies on the honor system.

That approach is less than reassuring for a City Hall that has used illegal license plates and does not know how the council car perk started in 2007. City Manager Brad Hudson says one council member asked about car benefits at some point, but he does not recall who that was. Former council members say the council never discussed the matter.

Apparently 2007 was a time before modern memory, and innovation in Riverside does not extend to taking notes. Does City Hall really think such a nonsensical account does anything but make city government look ridiculous?

The appearance of unaccountable privilege is dangerous for any city government, and especially for one that has struggled with civic transparency. Junking the council's car policy would signal a commitment to changing that perception -- and represent a more responsible use of public property.

[Riverside Councilman Steve Adams spent the most money on gasoline and said that only 20% of his vehicle use is to conduct personal business. He had a city-issued and cold plated vehicle towed from where it had been impounded in Newport Beach and allegedly put on Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis' card.]

[Riverside Councilman Rusty Bailey was on the lower end in terms of enjoying free gasoline, does this mean he doesn't get out much or he's more fiscally mindful? It's tough to know the answer based on the limited information provided by City Hall on the allocation of city owned vehicles and gas cards to city officials. At some point, he inherited a cold plated Toyota Highlander driven by at least two other denizens at City Hall before the plates were removed.]

Building a Kitchen Cabinet

[Riverside Chief Sergio Diaz spent a busy first 30 days building his management "cabinet" and promoting 13 officers to fill vacancies in the department resulting from attrition, sudden retirements and a long-time promotional freeze.]

This is the latest unfortunate news coming out of the beleaguered City Hall in Riverside that has people upset and talking about it and the upcoming election. People ask what's coming up next on the horizon involving either City Hall or the police department which lost its chief and several key management personnel earlier this year to rather abrupt retirements in the wake of the Feb. 8 DUI incident involving former chief, Russ Leach. The city hired a new chief, Sergio Diaz who had recently retired from the Los Angeles Police Department as a deputy chief. He took the helm on July 1 and his first 30 days saw the appointment of Capt. Mike Blakely as deputy chief, picking from a roster of captains who outside of Blakely had risen up to that position through very questionable promotional practices including one who was promoted after he "cleared the air" with a councilman at a restaurant all the way in Corona and another who was promoted not long after he allegedly drove to Victorville to pick up an inebriated Leach and take him home. That didn't exactly create a management staff that created much faith in it among those it managed. If you can't trust the process including if what's done isn't actually adhering to the process, then how can you trust its outcome?

That's what appears to have happened in the police department involving its management staff and everyone else. And the impact of City Hall engaging in the promotional process from at least 2005 not to mention promotions allegedly given out for other reasons like who drank with who or who vacationed with which influential person did their damage and likely contributed greatly to a climate that facilitated some of the scandals that took place involving the dynamic between the department and elements from the top floor of City Hall.

Leach had been picked up, this time by a lieutenant watch commander at the site where two of his own patrol officers had stopped him suspecting him of DUI after he had driven his city-issued Chrysler 300 on rims for several miles after an unspecified collision with a stationary object shredded his tires, seriously damaging his vehicle. That lieutenant, Leon Phillips, had several phone chats with then Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa about what to do with the chief who he, then Sgt. Frank Orta and at least one of the two patrol officers had insisted that they told DeLaRosa had been intoxicated or a DUI. DeLaRosa denied ever being told anything about Leach being intoxicated and his contention of events was backed by City Manager Brad Hudson even in the face of three other officers who said differently.

Orta phoned up his sister about the traffic stop and his sister told her husband, who just happened to be Councilman Andrew Melendrez who appeared to have not responded in any official capacity involving the growing scandal. Mayor Ron Loveridge allegedly had his office tipped off (as he was out of town at the time) by a mysterious woman and at some point, the city management was told about it which must have been an amazing feat for Hudson because his city-issued phone that he took with him to Pasadena on business had been shut off most of the day and hadn't made or received any phone calls until in the evening allegedly one hour after he had already somehow reported the incident to his underlings.

City Attorney Gregory Priamos preferred to keep a veil of secrecy around the actions involving his own city-issued phone citing a broad sweeping attorney/client privilege. But of course he had been too busy advising the community police review commission to not violate its bylaws by changing the times of its meetings, diligently locating public documents in his own office and turning them over and keeping the city government advised about how to avoid problems with civil liability by having a chief who had been publicly intoxicated on various occasions and also telling city council members not to violate the city's charter by involving themselves in personnel decisions including the promotional process involving the police department. Of course, he wasn't doing any of the above and the city government which employs him of course never examined the issues. Even his statements early on in the Leach incident to his bosses that alcohol played no role in that incident, no absolutely not.

Concerns have arisen among city residents about what had happened with Leach even before the badges, cold plates and illegally purchased glocks scandals arose even as City Hall said that "mistakes were made" and it had adequately addressed them and others close to City Hall ridiculed city residents for being concerned about corruption in the midst of a building that is owned by city residents and rented out to elected officials on four-year leases. Can't we all just sit around, release some doves and sing Kumbaya? Even as many city residents wondered what Koolaid they had been drinking. Next year, it will be pretty clear what everyone's been drinking when four incumbents contest for extensions on their leases against a growing roster of candidates including some who have announced their intentions already. The city had been riding an anti-incumbent sentiment for at least two election cycles which saw former councilmen Dom Betro, Art Gage and Frank Schiavone all issued eviction notices after elections where at least two of the candidates had been favored to repeat as winners but were unseated by newcomers engaging in very aggressive grass-roots campaigns.

Public safety is always a stalwart issue for candidates, old and new, to run on and promise as a priority when running for election. Yet, the police department which began this year now six months later is in very different straits. Its three highest ranking members including Leach have retired. Three officers filed grievance claims for damages with the city, alleging retaliation by the department and in some cases, city joining two lawsuits which were filed several years ago and settled in April involving two former police lieutenants who had reported the guns, badges and cold plates scandals to an investigator in the State Attorney General's office.

Other officers had sued the department and city in the past for retaliatory practices (mostly after filing grievances on other issues) and in several cases, judges and/or civil juries have said that the allegations of retaliations have been the strongest in the lawsuit or the trial which certainly was the case of the trial proceedings involving Officer Roger Sutton which resulted in a $1.64 million verdict. Yet the department and city often continue to openly engage in questionable practices involving its employees who file grievances or lawsuits as is being shown in various city departments right now. The exact price of this litigation is difficult to even calculate but probably runs in the tens of millions of dollars which is no joke during the most difficult economic period in the city's recent history.

The lack of experienced upper management in the police department due to the agency's highly destructive promotional practices involving upper management personnel in the past several years led Diaz to shop outside for both the assistant chief position and that of one of the deputy chiefs. He opted for a two-time interim chief in Pasadena's police department in Chris Vicino, an officer who was investigated by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office within his first couple of years as a patrol officer for a highly controversial incident where a man lost his sight in one eye after being struck by a flashlight. The DA closed the case in 1989 and he rose up through the ranks of a troubled agency having to temporarily lead it twice in more recent years.

The second time he became an interim, he had been hired by current city manager Michael Beck who as it turns out had last worked as an assistant city manager in Riverside under Hudson. Beck as you've read also was implicated in the badge scandal along with Hudson and DeSantis. The Crown Victoria assigned to him also allegedly had been cold plated at some point. But Beck was also seen as an employee who chafed a bit under the tight control of Hudson, not always wanting to play along. Still people shook their head at the wonder of hiring an "outside" assistant chief with two degrees separation away from Hudson's office. The world can be a truly small place at times.

While Blakely is earning 5% more salary while sitting at his familiar haunt, the administrative and personnel side of the department, Diaz has been shopping around for another deputy chief so that he or Blakely can be assigned to oversee the investigations and field operations divisions. Two candidates allegedly emerged from Diaz' old home, the LAPD and both of them are African-American so if either were hired, they would become the highest level of that racial demographic in the department's history. Last week, Blakely allegedly accompanied LAPD Commander Jeffrey Greer on a tour of police facilities which raised a few eyebrows because why show off the police stations to someone from out of town unless they're a serious candidate for a position? The other candidate that had emerged was Mike Williams who also hailed from the LAPD.

[Commander Jeffrey Greer who hails from Diaz' old haunt, the LAPD was recently seen getting a tour of Magnolia Police Station by Blakely.]

Some people thought it made sense for at least one upper management employee to come from the same agency that Diaz did, much as former Chief Ken Fortier had brought Blakely with him over from San Diego's police department when he was hired in the early 1990s. This time, unlike with Blakely, they will be serving at will, purportedly to Diaz and wouldn't be relegated to the captain rank when their stints ended in Riverside.

It remains of course to be seen who will win the spot of deputy chief but an announcement should be coming soon if candidates are touring the facilities where one of them might be reporting to work soon. And whoever it will be, it will be interesting to see how the dynamic forms between the three members of upper management and their relationship with their boss, Diaz.

Not to mention the captains below them.

[Asst. Commander Mike Williams also from the LAPD is also allegedly being considered for the remaining deputy chief position.]

The shift change began last week and much of the department had already been reorganized with the department's patrol officers at Magnolia Police Center picking up their stakes and moving to Lincoln Field Operations Station where they will all be working, due to concerns raised about a lack of uniformity in terms of information and even training received by officers working at two different facilities. The Eastern Neighborhood Policing Center led by its commander, Lt. Vic Williams will be heading to downtown Riverside to be housed in space next to that held for over a year by its northern counterpart which had moved down there when Williams had been assigned to it. But before Williams and the NPC can set up shop there, the current tenant of that space, which is the Internal Affairs Division has to move elsewhere.

The decision which appeared to have been rashly made and implemented to move the administrative investigative division to the bus terminal had been controversial and made the first few months it spent in those digs (which were much different than the rental space it enjoyed near the Riverside Plaza) very rocky indeed with people banging on its doors confusing it with the Greyhound Bus Station and with equipment problems including with its computers for several months. Concerns were raised by its close proximity to a field division which were countered by the belief that the field officers were essentially serving as "bodyguards" for the Internal Affairs Division. The General Services Division had been given the unenviable task of handling the relocation of the Internal Affairs Division with about a two week turnaround before its office lease expired. It's not clear yet where this division will be housed but it could be at its old location in Orange Street Station, the Magnolia Police Station or elsewhere.

Special Operations had been staffed by Capt. John Wallace who had been promoted to that position while still in his thirties and had been assigned by Leach to oversee both that division and Investigations in the wake of Capt. Mark Boyer's abrupt retirement after there had been tension between him and Leach who allegedly never got over the veto by City Hall of his promotion of Meredyth Meredith in late 2005 which was given to Boyer instead. Wallace focused the vast majority of his time and writing skills on Special Operations which watched two of its three assigned lieutenants retire in late 2009 leaving Lt. Larry Gonzalez as the only one a mere six months after he had been assigned there after working as the NPC East commander for several years.

That left Lt. Mike Perea, who worked in Investigations the task of essentially running it. Perea had just come out of a stint in Personnel and Training where he had worked under DeLaRosa and Blakely. Personnel and Training would turn out to be lucrative for those who worked in the past few years when it came to being promoted to the ranks of sergeant and lieutenant whether those candidates succeeded in that assignment or not.

With the reorganization, Carpenter who had worked as a field operations captain with Meredith was reassigned to Special Operations while Wallace was assigned to oversee the entire field operations division ...except one. Soon enough after Carpenter began reporting to Blakely, he received an increasing workload and quite a bit of pencil whipping assignments, including not only all the divisions in Special Operations which ranges from SWAT/Aviation to Traffic but he received all four of the city's NPCs as well.

Which meant that Carpenter was going to be rather tired at the end of the day.

[Capt. John Carpenter who heads Special Operations is getting even more assignments piled on his increasingly busy plate by taskmaster Blakely. ]

And Carpenter's promotion to captain had encountered a degree of controversy when it came to light in sworn testimony including his own that some interesting events had taken place during that process. His name had been put out by Leach as the one he wanted promoted to captain and that had run afoul with a member of the city council, former officer Steve Adams who had allegedly asked Hudson to remove Carpenter from consideration for presenting an anti-gang initiative to the city's Public Safety Committee which instead was done by a higher ranking officer in the department. Adams' beef with Carpenter had allegedly been that he had hung out with former Riverside Police Administrators' Association President Darryl Hurt and PAC member Tim Bacon when that union's political arm decided to back another candidate besides Adams for city council in 2007.

Carpenter's name had been caught up in that hailstorm and that had put him on Adams' not-so-favorite-police-officer list. Carpenter's promotion spent some time in a holding pattern until not long after Leach had former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel who's close friends with Adams, broker a dinner at a Corona restaurant to "clear the air" between both parties. And that apparently is what happened between the two former friends. Not long after that, less than 24 hours allegedly, Carpenter was promoted to captain.

The captains besides Blakely had put in haphazard work time until the news came that a new chief would be on the horizon so heads went to the grindstone and the others began to try to catch up with Blakely who clocked in and worked diligently from the time he arrived to when he clocked out. While the captains had been fretting and sweating during the months following the Leach incident, Blakely came to life and flourished in his role of essentially running the agency after DeLaRosa got knocked out except in rank only by his cell phone records and often deferred decision making to his mentor.

DeLaRosa and Blakely kept the Internal Affairs Division very busy with investigations opening up and being prioritized seemingly based on which police employee had run afoul of the new interim management whether it was former Det. Chris Lanzillo who talked back to DeLaRosa during one of his roll call bull sessions or Esquivel who flirted with putting his name in for the permanent chief's position during a time that Hudson had been touting DeLaRosa. Officers with long histories of no internal investigations and/or no discipline found multiple cases opened on them and some like Officer Neely Nakamura had to sit and be probed by "graphic" questions about sexual relationships with other employees. Even after she had admitted to a relationship with the higher ranking Esquivel, she sat there and had been compelled by that division to answer questions essentially meant to embarrass her by division head, Lt. Mike Cook who incidentally served on Hemet's Unified School District board with DeSantis. It apparently didn't take long for the contents of the interview to make the rounds of the rest of the police department which might have been the point behind it.

But apparently when it comes to relationships like these within the ranks, it's the female and often subordinate officers who get these types of interviews so Nakamura's experience isn't exactly without precedent. But then to be a female officer in any agency including the Riverside Police Department often means being better than the men and unable to make mistakes. Take Kim Crutchfield and Cliff Mason for example, both former sergeants who were demoted, she for failing probation and he for an on-duty incident where he failed to properly supervise. Mason was promoted back to sergeant 18 months after his demotion while Crutchfield was promoted too, as a detective with some wondering if the former was done a bit too soon after the demotion.

Only time will tell and hopefully that hasn't been the case but given the department's checkered history with addressing the issue of sexual misconduct on duty, it's quite interesting. Last week, I received a complaint from an individual livid about having heard from a friend about an alleged sex on duty incident he witnessed that had been done recently in the western area of the city at the same time that he had learned about Mason's own history the last time he had been in patrol supervision. Not exactly something the public wants to see from an officer but it did bring up some questions in the wake of what standards are held for particular types of misconduct and how they're applied.

It's very difficult to know what to say about the former alleged incident in the reality of the latter being dealt with only by an 18 month demotion because what the standards are set for supervision and management ultimately define the department's stance on the behavior it expects from everyone. Not just in terms of addressing whether it's right or wrong to make the decision to promote an individual who engaged in that conduct rather quickly but just to know what to say to individuals in the city population when it comes up as an issue or a question, period.

Does the department take this type of misconduct seriously or not and does it apply a standard of conduct that's consistent up the ranks of its officers? How it treats its officers but especially those who are encharged to lead, manage and supervise (especially in terms of imposing double standards) speaks greater than any words or pledges made to promote accountability and professionalism through the ranks.

Why file a complaint about that type of misconduct if the department treats it like that? Even as a woman closer to City Hall had allegedly been stopped by an officer allegedly to only obtain personal information about her. That's been treated as serious misconduct in other cities including Wallkill, New York which wound up being just behind Riverside in terms of obtaining a state consent decree against it after an investigation was launched into allegations of "driving while female" were made. It was interesting if disturbing to hear accounts of both alleged incidents involving officers and members of the public fairly recently in the wake of a promotional process where at least two of those promoted had been disciplined to varying degrees in relation to sexual misconduct.

But what the public's been picking up because it's not particularly stupid is that when it comes to misconduct in the police department, the expectations of responsibility and accountability seem to actually lessen the higher up in rank held by that employee and that definitely extends outside the department itself into City Hall. That's one of the most disturbing revelations coming out of the Leach incident where the watch commander received discipline that possibly rolled his retirement salary downward while the higher ranking employees in the incident retired with their salaries intact as if it had never happened at all. That lesson that management accountability is apparently lesser than at least supervisory was one that many people picked up on and that's one of the main patterns of behavior that has to be changed if the police department is to regain the public trust lost through the Leach incident and its aftermath.

When accounts of incidents like these come in, it's difficult to know whether it's worth addressing them as the misconduct that they are if they are true allegations when a wink and a nod is given to those in the higher ranks. And that's unfortunate because even though a very tiny number of officers in an agency might be engaging in this form of misconduct, its impact and often the fallout affects everyone working around them. That proved to certainly be the case in the handling of the infamous Leach incident where the actions of very few impacted how city residents looked at the department as a whole and those who work there. One of the reasons why it's critical to address any misconduct issues in an accountable fashion before they became major incidents.

Also compare and contrast the experience of Carpenter and Meredith when it came to having their promotions objected to by Adams according to sworn testimony and which one of the two was able to meet with Adams to "clear the air" and which one had that door slammed in her face and was referred to as a "fat bitch" allegedly by a sitting city council member? But ironically Carpenter had been part of a quickly settled reverse discrimination lawsuit in 2000 and one of the promotions being objected to by the litigants? The July 1999 promotion of Meredith to lieutenant. So their paths had crossed before.

But if Adams' issues with both candidates for promotion did sway Leach and Hudson in their decision making then Adams' actions were in violation of the city's charter against administrative interference. At any rate, it would have put both candidates in positions they never should have been in.

[The police department's highest ranking female is Capt. Meredyth Meredith whose proposed promotion by Leach in late 2005 led one councilman to allegedly say there was no way that "fat bitch" would get promoted. But Meredyth was elevated to captain six months later after telling Leach she had grounds for a "discrimination" lawsuit.]

While women dominated the latest lieutenant's list, they haven't fared well in the promotional process with only one of them, Melissa Bartholomew, ranked at fifth, being promoted before Diaz arrived. And even though the histories of other candidates on the promotional lists were a major criterion for eligibility for promotion, several officers on different lists hadn't even received performance evaluations 18 months or longer by Blakely or anyone else encharged with that responsibility before this latest round of promotions. So if an officer up for promotion is being evaluated on their histories, wouldn't you think that a recent evaluation might be a little bit helpful in that process? And the problem is that if recent histories aren't there to be reviewed because the performance evaluations that are supposed to be done are left undone, then that leaves their "histories" to be reported by those who failed to perform timely evaluations of these employees without providing any written record documenting these recent histories.

Then again, the thrust of Sutton's major payday at his trial had believe it or not, been more than 10 years of written evaluations placed one by one for over an hour on an Elmo for the jury to read for itself that yes, he had exceeded or met standards on almost every single one. That made the city's attorney's promises to expose Sutton as the worst rogue officer in the department's history fall somewhat short because written records are that powerful in people's minds when compared to recollections provided by witnesses on the stand of someone's performance. In the face of the written history of positive evaluations, what's the city to do to counter that? Because if an officer's so bad in the field, why would his supervisors be giving him positive or passing evaluations? There's no answer to that question that just doesn't make that process and essentially those encharged with performing evaluations look just awful.

But the city put itself in that unenviable position by its own actions.

If performance evaluations were taking 18 months or longer to be done, that would truly be disappointing to former State Attorney General Bill Lockyer who cited the failure of regular evaluations being conducted on officers as an allegation of misconduct in his lawsuit against the city of Riverside which resulted in the stipulated judgment in place between 2001-06. Under the judgment, evaluations on officers were to be performed on an annual basis. Apparently not the case with some of the officers up for promotional spots.

And there needs to be an accounting for that if that's what is taking place from the departmental management if that's a process that needs to get back on track.

Beam Me Out Scotty?

Riverside's Star Trek exhibit isn't attracting the numbers that were hoped. But at $15 a head in the middle of a recession, is that really that surprising? After all, the Fox Theater's numbers are down for similar reasons. People just aren't spending major bucks for entertainment right now. After all, it's not like the public's getting free tickets, they're just paying for them. Maybe if they used that instead to lower ticket prices for some events and exhibits at least on special days, hey might see larger crowds. That's the only way the exhibit will make money is if it dropped its admission price to something a bit more affordable for prospective visitors. After all, all the arts, culture and innovation in the world isn't worth much if people can't afford to enjoy it. And it doesn't look like the anticipated crowds from Los Angeles or Orange Counties are flocking the exhibit either.

But if people are barely holding onto their homes and losing jobs in a region with a 15% official unemployment rate, that usually results in less money spent for entertainment including overpriced museum exhibits. Besides hundreds of prospective arts and innovation fans were applying to compete for 30 positions at a seasonal store so they couldn't make it to the Star Trek exhibit.

But here's a suggestion, maybe have a job fair and promise everyone an interview who pays $5 to attend the exhibit and the city just might see the crowd that it covets.

Residents of Perris struggle with sewer fees.

More furloughing in San Bernardino?

Transfer of Power

[In about 18 days, the city will assume control of its Wi Fi network from AT&T, hopefully without too many problems. A semi-transfer of the network that took place in July 2009 led to two weeks of outages. The city has applied for a grant which if won, will allow it to expand its network.]

Hemet's the best place in the state to cool off if the power fails.

Candidates lining up for San Jacinto's recall election.

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