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

Friday, May 06, 2011

The City Spent $4.9 million and All I got was a lousy map

Quote of the Day: Brad Hudson on explaining why the city settled the twin lawsuits filed by two former Riverside Police Department lieutenants on the eve of trial in 2010:

He said the city settled because it had to get them out of the police department in the interest of "reforming" it.

That's kind of funny, is the way to "reform" the police department (coming from the city management) to have it engage in illegal gun sales, acquisition of flat badges and cold plating? Okay, let's engage in those questionable and in some cases illegal actions and get rid of those who report about them and call that "reform". Only in River City...

[Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson, provided the quote of the day while "testifying" at the ethics complaint hearing of Councilman Steve Adams]

MEMO Announces 800 RSD Layoffs


To: All Sheriff Personnel Date: May 13, 2011

From: Stanley Sniff, Sheriff Department Memorandum #11-041

Re: Riverside Sheriff’s Department Budget Reductions

As you are aware, over the past few years, the County of Riverside has been struggling with a declining economy. As a result, our Department finds itself in a very difficult situation. The County Executive Office has recommended extreme budget cuts to the Board of Supervisors for the Sheriff’s Department’s FY 11/12 budget. Unfortunately, these cuts will necessitate staffing reductions. In order to meet the Executive Office’s recommended budget, the Department will be forced to issue up to 800 layoff notices over the next several months. The County’s final budget is expected to be approved in the later part of June.

We recognize the extremely difficult situation in which employees receiving layoff notices will find themselves. As we make this transition, we will do everything possible to help the affected employees deal with this situation. Those affected employees will be notified of a series of meetings to be held with the Department and Human Resources to explain the process and benefit options. We will make every effort to ensure everyone’s questions about this process and its impact are answered as we progress through these difficult times.

We are very hopeful that the economy turns around soon or the county budget priorities change, so we can begin to reinstate employees and reverse this unfortunate direction.

During these most difficult times in the Department’s history, we must all remain professional as we serve the public with dignity and honor. As the first line of public safety for the citizens of Riverside County, we will continue to endeavor to accomplish our mission.

Announcement: During a scheduled maintenance on Wednesday, Blogger crashed its database which is why this post is missing some of the candidate forum photos. They might return, they might not and currently Blogger's back up and accessible after a two day outage. Hopefully it will stay up because I'm working on a post.

Including on the candidates forums, the election trail hubris and why people at public appearances made by police management at different public events are being warned about this blog.

[A rocking political debate took place involving the four candidates running for the Ward Four election seat]

[Members of the Riverside Police Department METRO Team and an academy class from the Ben Clark Training Center prepare for the annual police memorial ceremony near the Orange Street Station]

Still no answer from City Hall of the funding source for the $4.9 million put into the Jurupa Avenue Continuation, even after Councilwoman Nancy Hart asked it to be explained for the "viewing audience". Just a lot of pen clicking by City Manager Brad Hudson. A Public Works employee leaving was asked this question and was unable to provide an answer saying it was not "his department". No answer to the question as to why the Sewer Fund was being used to build new sewer lines, because it's only supposed to be used to repair or maintain current infrastructure.

UPDATE: The report for the agenda item on the Jurupa Avenue continuation has ahem, been amended and is now four pages long. A bulk of it is Sewer Fund money and there's some explanation that this whole project is part of some earlier deal extending from that horrendous land swap involving Ag Park that was playing out a while back which was akin to the city swapping a corvette for a Model T as someone called it. Some of the players were Friends of the Airport and Chuck Cox. Jim Martin, a former city council candidate in Ward 7 fully researched this issue and brought its problems to the attention of a rather apathetic city council and mayor.

For more information on related projects with extending Jurupa Avenue and its connection with a former elected official's company, go here.

[Tom DeSantis, former assistant city manager, now municipal management consultant advising municipal governments on how to do what, and how soon before he reappears on the Riverside canvas?]

UPDATE: Former Public Works/Capital Projects employee sues city over mishandling of construction contracts. Asst. City Attorney Jeb Brown trots out the tired mantra that the case has no merit, and they look forward to defending the city. Of course if you remember, every case the city ever settled behind closed doors or lost at trial was responded to although usually by Brown's boss, Gregory Priamos in the same fashion.

They're all "frivolous", all without merit, in all cases the city looks forward to defending itself vigorously. Of course the city does, it's not spending its own money but that of the city residents. Insurance carriers that once represented the city allegedly told them to stop settling cases and start taking them to trial but the city can't do that. Now the city's self-insured which just means that the city residents through the tax revenue generated pay out on the "claims".

It just sounds like the city doth protest too much after the first dozen or so times and it'd be nice if they came up with a new script. It's just not believable anymore.

It's a bit reminiscent of this scene from the film JFK:

Jim Garrison: David, I find your story simply not believable.

David Ferrie: Really? What part?

But Priamos and his various chain of new spokespeople and I are on the same page for a change here. I too very much look forward to seeing the city defend itself in these rashes of lawsuits.

Speaking of inhouse lawsuits, the Los Angeles Police Department has had so many employees file and settle lawsuits alleging different labor violations.

Update: Here's a story about a family who lost their home to fire, got defrauded by a restoration company whose owners have been arrested and is now facing more financial costs from Riverside County through fines because their home hasn't been repaired or replaced because their insurance payment to the company is frozen. Perhaps the county instead could join in the effort to bring some justice to those county residents who were apparently defrauded by this company rather than hitting their pockets.

Scientists: Twice daily flooding in coastal towns of Japan is permanent.

[Restaurant Row on Merrill, only few restaurants]

At last Tuesday's city council meeting, it was difficult not to have this surreal feeling watching the usual agenda of items where there's most often receive and file reports on the discussion calendar and high ticket items on the consent calendar. The agendas have been fairly light lately even in the consent calendars which used to be chock loaded with dozens of items, not to mention the proposed expenditures of hundreds of thousands of dollars and often millions, much of it wrapped up in something called the Riverside Renaissance. Well, because of the economy and because of the apparent lessening of the cash flow at City Hall, you haven't seen much of that project lately but on the April 10 city council agenda, you will see its return in several items.

Including the proposed $4.9 million plus addition to the Jurupa Avenue Extension Project, but when you look at the backup report online, the only thing you'll see is a one-page map of the impacted area. Well that's nice and the map's a bit crude though color coded red to show where the extension that someone's paying for from somewhere will be. That's helpful and all, but something's missing here and that's like what the project is and where the money that is funding it will be coming from. If it's a loan, where is that loan coming from, who's financing it and what's being used as collateral. If it's an interfund loan or transfer, then what's the fund that's paying for Jurupa and what is the relationship between it and the project?

You can't get all of that from a map, no matter how artistic.

Since Riverside Renaissance began, these questions haven't always been easily answered on projects. Several years ago, some people who were assigned projects received their orders but missing was the project's funding source or sources. It's hard to know why this is but it sure seemed strange at the time. There was some suggestions that perhaps they arose from a land sale out of county in some cases because the city owns property in different places. But what kind of broker of high finances whether it's a corporation or a public entity like a city or county does business where they don't even list where the money's coming from to pay for a project?

Albert A. Webb gets another contract for the downtown library which is going to be rebuilt some day but not for a long while because the city's got no money and other projects like the Riverside Convention Center kind of knocked it out of the track. There's some discussion of a taxable bond account funding source to be transferred to some account the city apparently hasn't figured out yet but it also looks like funds are being transferred out of one Redevelopment Agency Zone to another.

This item involves another project which has a change order being proposed to its initial budget which exceeds the limits for change orders so it's going to back to the city council for approval.

The City Council agenda is light and has some items of interest and the city deserves some bonus for putting such a high ticket item on the discussion calendar even if there's an insufficient backup report with it including where that money will be taken from. So it will earn a grade of a C this time around.

What's interesting and here's an exercise to do at home is that if you go through the agendas, check to see which wards the projects or items involve and make a little chart of them and see which ones have the most and which have the least for all the city's departments. What do you see? Another project is to track a few things over time, the number of consent calendar items, versus the number of discussion items (real ones, not these receive and file, pat ourselves on the backs kind of deals) as well as items on the closed sessions (which if you notice have been quite hefty lately). What's the current pattern, what was it one year ago, five years ago? A hint, the consent calendar started getting much heftier after Riverside Renaissance was launched and after the city council led by former Councilman Dom Betro voted rule changes into meetings including denying city residents the right to pull items from the consent calendar. Every councilman on the dais who's new, promised to look into that situation during their respective campaigns.

None of them have actually done much.

Also look to see who's signing off on the agenda items, and how many folks are doing so. Look to see how many items have been referred to and from committees and if so, which ones. Then go look at the minute records (under city clerk, every meeting but also on the archives in her page), and see who's even attending. How many meetings lately has the mayor missed, how many afternoon sessions compared to the evenings?

Elections 2011 have been in full swing, but a disturbing trend hit the public forums with the few held either costing money to attend or having limited seating. The Riverside Downtown Partnership pretty much took over the League of Women's Voters Forums and the only ones remaining are the ICUC forums being held this week for Wards One and Three candidates. The one for the first ward is being held on Wednesday, May 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the First Congregational Church at Mission Inn Avenue and Lemon (across from the main library).

Ward One has four candidates running in it including incumbent Councilman Mike Gardner who's running against Women Democrats Club member, Marisa Valdez Yeager, former Councilman Dom Betro and former city employee, Dvonne Pitruzzello.

Betro's been the most fascinating to watch with this conversion thing he's got going where he's become like, this new shiny person who's like risen from the ashes of defeat. He's against the same paid parking he's brought downtown which has pretty much destroyed it and lost money itself at the same time. He's for governmental accountability when he led the charge to ban city residents from pulling items from the consent calendar (though he hotly denied that at one debate). His most confusing plug for being elected is that he told one organization that he along with former Councilman Frank Schiavone "brought" Hudson to Riverside (which was interesting because we were told he just applied for the job) and that since his ouster from city council, Hudson had gotten a little out of control. Well, he allegedly suggested that people should vote for him because he was the only candidate who could "handle" Hudson.

Doesn't that sound like something that Dr. Frankenstein would say about his creation which ran amok through most of the book written by Mary Shelley? That's a rather cynical view of some management employee that you brought from Riverside County to City Hall. But Betro's spending if you notice is much less than it was the last time he run but then campaign war chests have sunken lower in general. It's not as obscene as it was in 2007, the last time Betro ran mostly because people don't have as much disposable income as they did before the recession and that includes developers which funded some of the campaigns including Betro's.

But maybe Betro can compare and contrast how Hudson was "handled" why he was in office and thus employing him in comparison to how it's being handled now at the upcoming candidate forum. No, it's very doubtful that a man in Betro's shoes would be able to do anything but be handled himself but if he did regain office, how long would he take to flip flop away from essentially being the anti-Betro this time (which is fitting because he faced an intense "Anyone but Betro" campaign) and turning back into the Dom.

This blog doesn't endorse candidates in elections and it hasn't done any nice, indepth interviews on candidates, where they grew up and the names of their pets. It's up to each ward to elect the candidate it collective believes (with majority ruling) will represent it best. But it's hard to really be all that enthusiastic about any of the incumbents returning although at least three are favored to do just that.

And sitting in the city council meeting last week was one reason why. It was strange watching the city act like it was gathering up all its belongings before the bank came and changed the locks on the doors. And yet the city still spends as some say, like a drunken sailor on leave. It's interesting but unsettling to watch an $8 million capital project become a $30 million one and still operate at a loss because of bad management, its focus on a very limited demographic that doesn't really exist and the economy. That $30 million hotel that's allegedly not being paid for by any taxpayer money in this city, well better watch that one like a hawk if the Fox Theater is any indication including in terms of attracting revenue when surrounded by two hotels struggling not to mention a newly tiered bed tax passed by the voters.

But then again, various members of a couple city council members had voted away much of their powers and responsibilities involving financial accountability, meaning to serve as the checks and balances over the city's finances. The finance department became umbrellaed under the city manager's office, funding levels were raised before requiring council approval on several fronts, interfund loans lost some of their oversight and the finance committee disappeared for nearly a year. When Chair Nancy Hart of that committee was asked why she never called a meeting, she cheerfully said, she was essentially waiting until city management told her there was something to discuss. Everyone on the dais smiled along with her.

So no, as far as it comes to how city council members act city-wide, it's hard to be enthusiastic about any of them, because the one thing you don't see on the dais is leadership, you barely see management. You see a bunch of people sitting there quietly listening to presentations and occasionally asking presentations about details of projects but very little in the way of the funding source and whether that's the best or even most appropriate funding source for the project. There's always a few loud, mostly new voices at first but then they go suddenly softer or even quiet over time.

So there's no in depth interviews with any elected officials endorsed or otherwise but here is a collection of photos taken during their tenures in office and more background on them than you'll find in a one-page city council report.

[Members of the Finance Committee including Chair Nancy Hart (c.) discussing...well finance.]

This was taken at a Finance Committee and you have to remember, that committee went dark from December 2008, to December 2009 after having seen its meetings fall off sharply after Hudson first arrived in June 2005 and soon after changes in the structure of the city's financial institutions were engineered. Hart chairs it but often times seems a bit overwhelmed and often does as she does here, she looks to her right. The reason why is because that's often where Asst. City Manager/CEO/CFO Paul Sundeen sits and he's the man behind the long blue sleeves in the photo. He does most of the talking although there are other finance department leaders who also answer questions or give presentations.

[The Riverside City Council at one of the regattas it holds to raise money for assorted charities]

This photo was taken at one of the annual regattas, sailing competitions, which got started at Lake Evans in Fairmount Park two years ago to raise money for charity. Here, they are accepting their awards, this one being one by Paul Davis in the dark shirt. Speaking is Park and Recreation Department Head, Ralph Nunez, one of the few relatively old-timers left in City Hall and some of his department's employees have alleged that they were harassed while trying to complain about having to subsidize the budget of the City Hall Cafeteria with its own budget because of the relationship between the eatery's operator and Hudson.

[Even though he's running unopposed, a city council member can never stop campaigning, including on the meeting agendas]

This is just a City Hall publicity still on its own Web site of Councilman Chris MacArthur who is running unopposed for reelection. It's a rare picture of him by himself at City Hall. He's actively campaigning and is quite popular with his constituents for his responsiveness to their issues.

[Councilman Rusty Bailey trying to set his course on Lake Evans and on the election trail]

Back to the regatta, Councilman Rusty Bailey is trying to steer his boat around. He was touted in the regattas as being the master sailor yet he wound up in one of them nearly stranded on the other side of the lake. Bailey's been busy running for reelection against challenger, Jim Davis. Like many cities, elections highly favor incumbents because of their access to resources (and money) they don't have to declare on their campaign disclosure funds yet some of those who recruited Bailey in the first place are a bit confused by him now. The fact that most of the city council blanket endorses incumbents doesn't hurt.

[Riverside Councilman Steve Adams bails his boat out]

Councilman Steve Adams had to bail his boat out in one regatta and needed the equivalent of the regatta's Coast Guard to fetch him in another. He's sown up the endorsements of the employee unions that didn't want him last time but then again allegations rose that the leaderships of both police unions found relations somewhat chafed at the very least when they didn't endorse him. One of his political campaign allies is apparently running around Inland Empire Craiglist claiming that his rival, John Brandriff got ejected from the Community Police Review Commission. Maybe that's why he no longer calls himself the Riverside Press Club, but then again he can't spell very well either.

Someone else printed this ad endorsing Ward Seven's fourth candidate, Dr. Bud "Chip" Monk who hasn't released his platform as of yet. Then again, it's up to the ward after all to vote for the candidate it views as being its best representative. There's certain advantages to having Adams remain in office, as when the financial climate continues to deteriorate, it's nice to have those on the dais responsible for that to be available for questions.

[Newest candidate in Ward Seven City Council race]

[City Manager Brad Hudson, gives his statement at an ethics complaint involving Councilman Steve Adams]

This is a lovely photo opportunity of Hudon with his java (though he seems too highly energized already to need it) as he prepares to give his oral statement on the record in defense of Councilman Steve Adams during a hearing involving an ethics complaint filed by LANA. The allegations were that Adams violated a section of the city's charter against administrative interference when he and City Attorney Gregory Priamos allegedly dismissed several city employees before they could speak to LANA. Hudson put on a pretty good show, doing among other things implying that members of LANA were borderline or almost criminals without elaborating.

The ethics complaint process has undergone several revisions since then but still doesn't cover city employees including those hired and employed by the city council and mayor.

[Riverside City Attorney looking calmer than he often looks when sitting next to Hudson]

City Attorney Greg Priamos is with Councilman Rusty Bailey at a meeting in the mayoral ceremonial room. It's been a bit tense between him and Hudson, sometimes things look chilly on the dais considering that they sit next to each other on the dais. But Priamos clearly knows what side of his bread is buttered and who does that. He's got two roles, to protect the city council and mayor even if he can't quite answer exactly what he's protecting them from and, to minimize the city's civil liability risk. Judging by the flurry of claims for damages, formal grievances and lawsuits in both federal and state court, Priamos needs to work to improve in this area. Most especially in the area of allegations of retaliation which allegedly dominate many of the inhouse legal actions. And allegedly, he and his assistant Jeb Brown aren't very happy about Chief Sergio Diaz distancing the department from them, not to mention that one of his deputy city attorneys is on leave and there's two different reasons given why.

[Councilmen Mike Gardner and Paul Davis in calmer times. These aren't calmer times given the allegations of favoritism and subsidizing a restaurant with park and recreation funds.]

This is the two councilmen after the first annual regatta at Lake Evans. That was back when life was a bit simpler, when the city appeared more flush with money and less debt.

Both gentlemen who won on grassroots campaigns had to make their choices like their colleagues when hitting that first crossroad in a difficult world and they apparently did as will any newly elected politician who follows. Welcome to River City's own version of Wonderland, and its very own version of the Mad Hatter but no one's stepped up to play Alice yet.

[Jack of all trades, administrative analyst Mario Lara, you just never know where he'll show up, here he's interim manager of the Community Police Review Commission]

This is Administrative Analyst Mario Lara who's worked under former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis and Hudson. He's done a variety of different tasks including twice acting as interim manager of the CPRC despite not having the qualifications required on the job description. Here, he's at an earlier (but bylaw abiding) CPRC meeting where an issue was raised about him rushing to the city council through the conduit of emails to complaint that he was being pushed to solicit complaints by commissioners. He also shows up at other meetings sometimes that of the public safety committee involving the police department.

[As Chief Sergio Diaz (l.) frets at meetings about someone allegedly undermining him, he and his two colleagues have bigger fish to worry about]

These three guys are Chief Sergio Diaz, Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino who were all hired from outside agencies in Los Angeles County after the departure of the former chief and most of his management team last year. They are sitting at a community forum that is addressing input for the Strategic Plan which still hasn't been finalized yet. Diaz has allegedly in recent weeks met with his lieutenants and above to express concerns about being undermined by someone or a few in his own ranks. It apparently got a bit heated and Diaz is clearly not a fan of this blog. But he hopefully is focusing his energies elsewhere because he's still quite new and the politics at the police department are not his main problem, it's the politics elsewhere on the city's web. It's the message that counts, not the messenger.

There's allegedly a bit of a power dynamic between Vicino and Deputy Chief Mike Blakely as Diaz watches it play out. Greer seems to have pretty much disappeared from the public eye in the past couple of months.

[Former Maywood Police Chief turned Community Police Review Commission manager came heavily recommended by individuals heavily tied into the police department's five-year consent decree]

This is Frank Hauptmann, the new Community Police Review Commission manager who was Maywood Police Department's last police chief encharged with turning that department around and in the right direction by the State Attorney General's office. He also had been instrumental in exposing Bell. Riverside's a very interesting place to find him working, given his history and he's been working hard on the CPRC during the time that he's been here.

But why would Hudson or any city manager hire someone who allegedly wore a wire for the feds to bust another? Interesting question.

The city's current organizational chart as it stands right now, which means that Deanna Lorson is the latest assistant city manager after her salary was essentially transferred out of redevelopment to the general fund, and there's a couple vacant spots including that of the development/redevelopment director which used to be Lorson. She was the biggest winner of the latest shuffling of funds out of redevelopment, where money comes out and loans go inside it.

Here are here and some of the other winners.

[Newly crowned Asst. City Manager Deanna Lorson whose salary went right along with her into the general fund. ]

Lorson first came to prominence in the collective memory of many when she was tied in with the hiring of Bill Malone to manage the Fox Theater which ran into quite a few problems including that of another employee working there. She was also involved with the situation involving downtown businesses who were tenants in a building owned and managed by the city including through its real estate management company. Characters like "Larry the Liquidator" allegedly made the rounds. Lorson's name also arose during a couple of Human Resource Boards a while back when its members received some stats on a wave of departures from the Development Department after she became its director, including older female employees. Hudson appeared at a Human Resources Board meeting to say, thanks for your concern but no, you can't have a face to face with her. Then he gave them an assignment to redefine their mission statement, goals and objectives and somehow left them convinced it was their own idea. That's pretty slick.

Lorson's move up is believed to be based partly on another interfund transfer of her salary from Redevelopment into the city's general fund. Money's moving one way, loans another.

[Asst. City Manager Belinda Graham is on the board of a prominent local organization]

She initially was in Development where she allegedly told former employee Tranda Drumwright, she wasn't "management" material. Drumwright filed complaints including with the State's Fair Employment and Housing Authority and then was fired soon after. A white woman with much less experience and educational background was seen as management material and moved into that position over Drumwright when two departments merged. Graham also ordered police officers to escort a choir from a school in Rubidoux away during an event at the seasonal downtown ice skating rink when they were singing Christmas carols to a visiting ice skating champion who was Jewish.

She was promoted to assistant city manager under Hudson and was in charge of nearly everything after DeSantis left and now is splitting those responsibilities with Lorson.

[This week, had to grapple with allegations of favoritism by Public Works in regards to certain contractors, not to mention that she didn't know how many sewer lines or footage of sewer lines had been repaired or replaced in the past several years.]

Siobhan Foster's promotion was initially nearly vetoed, one of only several according to sworn testimony in a law suit because of concerns raised about her lack of an engineering degree or experience. She oversees Public Works, including code enforcement, sewers and roads. Controversy arose with her when she allegedly was scheduled to receive a raise while employees in her department faced layoffs. Only months after they were hailed as heroes by the city council for their response during the December monsoons that flooded much of Riverside, employees within that department alleged retaliation for complaining about favoritism in the contracting out of positions.

[The storm channel adjacent to Andulka Park after the December monsoons]

[Will Asst. City Manager/CEO/Financial Officer Paul Sundeen be the one who tells the Redevelopment story?]

Asst. City Manager Paul Sundeen has quite a few titles since the finances got consolidated under Hudson's office just in time for the launch of the Riverside Renaissance. He was ready to retire at one point but got drawn back into the city's financial affairs. Here he's at a Finance Committee meeting with three council members and employees from the city's Finance Department and its two-member auditing division.

[The University Village now in receivership is part of the Redevelopment (Agency) Story but not in Mayor Ron Loveridge's version, ergo no banner.]

Banners are going up touting the successes of Redevelopment (without mentioning Agencies) on some projects but not all of them. You won't find one at the University Avenue Village because it's under receivership.

Public Meetings

Tuesday, May 10 at 3pm and 6:30 pm, the Riverside City Council is meeting to discuss this agenda. The city council and mayor pro tem will be getting an oral (and probably abridged) report on the state of the Riverside Renaissance. The council's also going to vote on a Riverside Renaissance project that will cost nearly $5 million and it's an supplemental budgetary item. But guess what, instead of a written report on the item, all you get is a one-page map. Accountability and transparency at its best folks. Not one word about where the money's actually coming from.

Wednesday, May 11 at 3pm. The Finance Committee will discuss this agenda at City Hall.

Wednesday, May 11, at 4pm. , The Community Police Review Commission will be meeting to discuss this agenda. The commission has not issued an explanation as to why it's holding a "regular" meeting at a time not abiding by its own bylaws on meeting times and locations.

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