Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Counting Votes and Transactions in River City

Source: The I didn't Vote for Brad site

The Riverside County D.A.'s office finds its way into City Hall for some investigating. On how the city handled contracts on capital projects as well as some...other "unusual practices".

New DA, Will Investigate in River City

How many investigations already?

Will any elected official even ask?

Election Updates:

MIKE GARDNER 2,603 57.32%
DOM BETRO 587 12.93%
Total 4,541 100.00%

WILLIAM ''RUSTY'' BAILEY 3,868 86.92%
JIM DAVIS 582 13.08%
Total 4,450 100.00%

Vote Count Percent
STEVE ADAMS 1,474 46.72%
TERESA R. ''TERRY'' FRIZZEL 720 22.82%
Total 3,155 100.00%

***Mike Gardner is reelected in Ward One

***Steve Adams and John Brandriff heading to a runoff election in November

***Every politician and his mother is thinking about running for the mayoral seat next year including Rusty Bailey who defeats a relative unknown in a low turnout election and thinks that qualifies him for mayor.

***What a difference one year's about to make with so many talking about whether Riverside's House of Cards is ready to fall.

***Why discretionary spending accounts in City Hall need serious reform

[Turmoil at the Riverside Police Department over the decision by the management team not to investigate an off-duty fight involving two lieutenants]

[Three members of the police department's management team, including Chief Sergio Diaz (l.), but has change really come to the police department?]

I attended the Neighborhood Conference yesterday which used to be a very highly attended event but in the past few years has dwindled in attendance because the city started charging for lunch, eliminated child care and moved its date twice. The workshops often are interesting though technically "safe" topics because in the past years, there's more emphasis on neighborhood beautification rather than organization (which is often needed for beautification) and fewer panels on how to access one's city government and what it offers to city residents.

Some courses will of course never be offered. These include how to read a financial statement, audit or annual budget for the city including its Redevelopment Agency and actually be able to understand it. How to deliver a speech at the city council in under three minutes and deal with a city councilman who walks out on public comment during meetings.

How to file a grand jury complaint or even an ethics complaint through the city's very neutered process is one course you definitely will never see offered at a neighborhood conference.

Unless it's hosted by other folks or entities rather than City Hall.

But anyway, the conference's big strength is that it's great for networking and for meeting people. It's a great place for getting in trouble for saying the wrong thing because at the end of the day, it's another public relations event. There was a lot of discussion among those in attendance about what's not being discussed at these conferences.

The panels were interesting including the one on the police department's Community Services Bureau which was presented by Karen Haverkamp. She did a good presentation and answered questions and people seemed interested. Chief Sergio Diaz made an appearance and answered some questions when Haverkamp transferred it to him. Well, I had a question about community services representatives and how they've been impacted by shortages in the civilian division. One of them Shenee Turner was transferred to records, another Nancy Castillo was left handling half the city as a result. These decisions probably arose from the fact that civilian employees are leaving including through attrition and according to the department's own newsletter, no civilian position except for dispatching has been filled in four years. This has stuck the department with a civilian employee vacancy rate of 27%. I had people asking me questions about where the community services representatives were actually working or if they had been reassigned elsewhere.

But bringing it up in a public meeting including the impact it has on the assignment of employees to positions that create the valuable liaisons with the community is apparently bad public relations. Haverkamp tried to answer the question but focused more on how internal movement and transfers helped create a more well rounded employee. The city's done that too in the past, who can forget the time one of the police captains was assigned to manage the city's municipal airport? And what is she going to say when her boss is in the audience, already nodding and shaking his head to her from the back several times after questions had been asked by those in attendance? If Haverkamp is so well-rounded, surely she shouldn't need such visual cues from her boss right?

Needless to say, my question got the head shake from the judge.

She did refer the question which I had asked with some degree of providing context about the balance and prioritization of civilian staffing in terms of serving the deficient areas with those employees who engage in community outreach and relationship building. If Diaz had been confused by my question, he could always ask for clarification. What he did instead was say, it wasn't a question but a statement and not worthy of a response. People kind of looked at him because you have to remember 99% aren't privy to the true context to the response and so such a response reflects on him. Some people did ask me afterward and I just provided the address to my Web site and told them if they read it they'd find why Diaz responded in the way that he chose to do or they can just ask him. They can do one or both and make up their own minds because that's what it was really all about, not the question. And know that he doesn't act that way all the time or with everybody.

It doesn't have anything to do with the question that I asked but on his decision not to investigate an off-duty incident involving a physical altercation between two lieutenants. Pretty basic and simple. He came into the department during one of its most turbulent times and promised that everyone would be treated equably and that there would be no preferential treatment, none of those "teams" that had ripped the department apart during the past five years or so.

Then within his first nine months, he has at least two incidents where the issue of preferential treatment has arisen. The first one involving a captain whose son was hired and then before starting work, was arrested for being drunk and fighting in a public place. The captain allegedly called Corona Police Department and spoke with a watch commander asking to give his son preferential treatment. The watch commander said no, because for one thing how would he or she explain that to the other three people also arrested who would have to remain in custody? Eventually, after it became more known, the probationary hire was told to resign. It's not clear whether any investigation or action was taken regarding the captain's own actions.

Then you had the recent incident involving the fight involving the two lieutenants off-duty at the house of one of them. When Diaz was notified about that, he said it's an off-duty matter and wouldn't be investigated even though there's a clearly stated policy involving the handling of "off-duty matters". Apparently no one was ever supposed to know that this happened but now people do and he goes to work at the department amid an environment where apparently it's been quite a popular topic of discussion. Many people asking why the fight hasn't been investigated by Diaz. Who can blame them for doing that, given that officers at lower ranks have been investigated for "off-duty" matters under those same policies and procedures?

It'll be interesting to see what will happen if or when a lower ranked officer gets into an off-duty fight or more than one of them. Will Diaz say no, it's not an "off-duty" incident and investigate and how will he explain why the officer's investigated under policy and the lieutenants were not? Or will he not investigate the officer or officers because he doesn't want to appear as if he favored the two lieutenants? Diaz, meet slippery slope.

These are what are called tests and no doubt these things happen in many law enforcement departments or other job places. Part of being the head of a department is having to deal with these challenges which can be very difficult and stressful, hence one reason why the job comes with a very generous salary, compensation package and no doubt perks like being invited to participate in highly publicized charity competitions and events. Aren't chief candidates asked during the oral interview processes what they would do in these types of thorny situations? If that happened during his interview for this job, what did Diaz answer? How does that answer back then translate into his actions recently?

But what's being tested here with the two above examples are a person's leadership and the courage of their convictions. Meaning that if they come into a job riding strongly on their brave steed, white hat on head vowing that certain problematic behaviors in the past won't be repeated, will they actually transform words into actions?

Diaz is smart if a bit inflexible with his fluid intelligence and he's implemented many of the programs that have languished during the tail end of Chief Russ Leach's tenure and weren't followed up during Acting Chief John DeLaRosa's brief reign. But he's also attuned enough to know exactly why he's in this job now and not retired or working elsewhere. He's here just like Asst. Chief Chris Vicino and Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer are here because of deeply entrenched problems in the police department caused in large part by favoritism from those at the top. He assured the populace that he would not be engaging in that behavior himself as its chief yet his dismay over this latest incident as the other doesn't seem to be in that yes, he did engage in favoritism by not investigating the off-duty fight but that people found out about it. That just makes him a good fit with nearly every department head in this city. But it'd been refreshing if he'd said instead, I'm going to investigate this because the policy states it and I'm not going to give preferential treatment on my watch. Apparently that didn't happen or hasn't happened yet and it's not likely that it will.

That's really too bad but if that's the case, then Diaz is truly a great fit for this city. But does that make him a good fit for the police department? It seems the jury is still out on that one. That's all up to him but if he's going to engage in treatment favoring some employees over others, then that's not change. That's just business as usual and he's got enough people around him who will pretend it doesn't matter him and flatter him just because he's the chief but in the long run, his decisions on these issues will define him. The city's residents and probably the police department's employers care more about his skills and vision in his job position that they're paying for than his moves on the dance floor.

Election 2011, Round One Ends

The final day of the preliminary round of Election 2011 in Riverside has finally arrived and if you haven't mailed your ballot in, you can still drop it off. As far as results, counting's already started and there will be one set of results announced at about 8:15pm and then nothing until the following day because of other county elections taking place that day. So no, nothing's really changed since the last two really slow election tabulations, if it's a nail biter of an election which could happen in two wards, you'll still have to wait for the following day for more definitive results. Proving that it's not necessary the registrar that was broken when it comes to tabulating votes in the slowest county in the state, it's the system itself.

Wonder who or what will get blamed this time.

I'm torn on this election no matter who or what under what moniker has insisted that I'm endorsing this person or that person. It'd be great to see the attrition of the past two elections continue because definitive change is needed on the dais and the city needs to start being represented by elected officials who get it, including the slogan above. Then on the other hand, given that the biggest talk citywide right now is how the house of cards that has become the city will start crashing down, it's be better perhaps if those responsible for erecting them in the first place, those who are left, would be sitting in the dais during what's sure to follow. That's if elected officials like Councilman Steve Adams can remain in their seats. Those who endorsed the incumbents without researching what they stand for or what's really going on in the city will be left explaining to their constituents why they made those decisions. Especially if they received perks from the city for doing so.

My question to those running for those seats who aren't currently sitting them is if they're really going to be prepared and want to be sitting in those seats this time next year or sooner when the populace including the 80% or so registered voters who aren't casting ballots (contributing to turnouts in the wards under 20%) start demanding answers. Answers to questions about the city's true financial status including why the city's rehired a retired chief financial officer who only works two days a week. How much utility rates will rise next year in each area to offset the massive reliance of that department's coffers to balance the city's other depleted funds.

It's beyond fascinating that city officials claim that the city's actually "balanced" which only matters this year and doesn't say whether the city will even have any money next year. And not discussed AT ALL at the upcoming budget hearing on June 14 at the city council meeting will be the massive debt that the city's accumulated to the tune of $3 billion in less than five years. The fact that the city council and mayor reassured the public on projects like the Hyatt Hotel that the public will not be paying any of the tab.

Well that's not true it all, perhaps they conflated the words "city residents" with "developer" because it's the latter who received the ultimate in sweetheart deals not the city's residents. And in the process, the city's put up four of its public facilities under Redevelopment Agency (which is a state agency, not local) ownership, so it could pay rent to use buildings which house its own services.

[The city now leases this fire station and three other city facilities including two libraries from a state agency just so a developer could build and run his own hotel in the worst region in the country for hotels]

No, the city leaders won't mention the debt it's amassed except in a defensive manner to some question. They can't have an honest discussion about it in public as long as they're willing to admit perhaps even to themselves that it even exists. But it's predicted that by this time next year, it'll be impossible for them to continue to act in denial about it.

As far as calling this election, it's likely that Rusty Bailey and Chris MacArthur (who is running unopposed) will be reelected. The residents of their wards were the winners in the area of public works improvement projects as the lion share of projects approved by the city council as part of its consent calendar during the election cycle were for the odd-numbered wards especially these two.

In the other two wards, the first one will likely result in a runoff between incumbent Mike Gardner and one of the three other candidates. There's quite a bit of rattled nerves in that ward from the closeness between some of the candidates in straw polls and the general uncertainty. In Ward Seven, that one's difficult to tell to whether they'll be an overall winner or two candidates in the runoff. Some say it will be incumbent Steve Adams and challenger, John Brandriff but one thing about former mayor, Terry Frizzel is that you can never count her out of great positioning in election results.

But whoever wins now or in any final rounds taking place in November, they will inherit the city's undiscussed problems and will likely coming out of the gate, face one of its most turbulent years in recent history. This one could make 2010 with all its eventful scandals pale in comparison mainly because this one will be centered on the city's growing financial crisis and what's behind it. Its underpinnings and its scapegoats, both will be more clear as the months unfold.

One of the major issues which will arise will be whether or not departments should have "discretionary spending" accounts. Currently, departments have $25,000 with little or no apparent overall cap for a fiscal year and Brad Hudson became the first city manager to have his own at $50,000. With all this talk about pensions running amok threatening to break the city's finances, there's the other side of the coin when certain employees have their salaries financed entirely out of discretionary type funding in amounts that separately don't go to city council meetings for vote. Not that the legislative body can blame anyone for this, because it's the one that made decisions collectively to farm away most of its financial accountability mechanisms to its direct city staff. In the next 12 months when the financial situation becomes more known, why this was such a bad practice will come to light.

And the city residents will learn more about why the legislative body farmed those mechanisms away. They'll discover why the Finance Committee really went an entire year without meeting and why interdepartmental fund transfers lost a major portion of their oversight as well. But then the biggest talk around has been what scandal will be revealed about the city next and what corner will it emerge from?

In other words, the Truth will start coming out.

Punishing the Messengers, River City Style

What's the Cost to City Residents in this Self-Insured City?

[This piece of paper with writing on it is posted in most city workplaces including at City Hall as legally required but is it just fluff and how expensive will it be to find out?]

When day breaks over the valley where Riverside lives, the city awakens often these mornings with news of more employees making complaints about what management wants them to do, more terminations and more complaints and lawsuits. The Human Resources Board was asked what it intends to do as a body in light of the recent firings of whistle blowing city employees and lawsuits being filed. Its chair Art Butler did say that next month, it wished to receive information on the recently revealed firings which Human Resources Board Rhonda Strout said were under "investigation".

But it's beyond unfathomable that the city council's been so quiet on the recent firing of Raychele Sterling by City Attorney Gregory Priamos after concerns she raised about how the city conducts its business reached the press. If he's the guy who's legally advising the city after making a boneheaded decision like that, then there's really not much faith that can be had for that type of legal representation. But the questions about Priamos pale beside those being asked about one of the city's other direct employees, City Manager Brad Hudson who even some on the dais are apparently (and very belatedly) having concerns about whether or not he can be controlled. Well gee, this guy is the city council's own employee, it hires him, it evaluates him behind closed doors and it can discipline or fire him. The city council has all of these powers as his boss and if they're frittering about whether he's difficult to handle or manage then that's more of a commentary on the strength (or weakness) of the city council and mayor.

Because his behavior, good, bad, ethical, unethical, legal or not ultimately reflects on his bosses on the dais. Something for them to keep in mind but for all these revelations to come out about city employees from Public Works complaining about favoritism in contracts and alleging retaliation, city employees from Parks and Recreation alleging retaliation for concerns raised about the alleged subsidizing of the City Hall Cafeteria by that department because the owner's friends with Hudson.

Sterling complained about them in an email to the city council and it got into the Press Enterprise and elsewhere and next thing you know, she's terminated. That was after Asst. City Manager of Finance Paul Sundeen (speaking for Priamos for some reason) said she put herself on leave voluntarily but her lawyer said no, Priamos did that. So who's telling the truth?

Well the termination and Sterling's decision to lawyer up while on leave don't speak much to the veracity of the city's position.

[Was the City Hall Cafeteria subsidized by funds from the Park and Recreations Department?]

But it remains to be seen, how many employees will complain about the practices of Hudson and others, and how many of them will just happen to be fired afterward? How many will file lawsuits and grievance claims against the city, and how much will city residents' be on the hooks for the costs to settle them behind closed doors given that the city is self-insured? Because the city says it will litigate aggressively against such frivolousness and then it settles until the next time. Mostly because those responsible for attracting the lawsuits aren't the ones paying for them.

All while the city council sits there and smiles receiving gifts of bags of oranges from their presenters at meetings and there's little discussion of whether or not they even know what their direct employees have been doing on their limited watch or that there's even employees being fired after whistle blowing at all.

New CPRC Manager Hires Investigator, Wants to Try Law Firm Next?

[Community Police Review Commission Frank Hauptmann is open to the use of independent counsel and knows the perfect legal firm. But will the city bite or send him back to his corner?]

Community Police Review Commission Manager Frank Hauptmann hired his own investigator after the contracts for Ray Martinelli and the Baker Street Group had both expired. Apparently he wasn't too happy with either firm's work product but his unilateral decision to hire his own choice left members of the commission feeling more than just a little perturbed at not necessarily the choice but the process itself. But it appears that Hauptmann is becoming more aware of the politics of Riverside and believing that it's far more complicated than it initially appeared which is very good.

Hauptmann might be looking for a legal firm to serve in some cases as the commission's legal counsel. It'll be interesting to see how far he gets in that process before his leash is yanked.

Public Meeting

Monday, June 8 at 4p.m. The Human Resources Board discusses this agenda at its monthly meeting.

Tuesday, June 7 at 2:30 p.m., the Riverside City Council will be holding one of its elections specially abbreviated meeting to discuss this agenda so it can get its business done before partying on Election night.


Tuesday, June 14 at the city council meeting, Councilman Paul Davis will be making an announcement in response to a situation that's about to break inside City Hall involving two former employees and high six figured expenditures that frankly need some explanation from the leaders of this city. How did one employee walk away from the city after picking up over $600,000 in contractual salaries for a part-time position in just three years?

Who on the dais will even ask that question let alone answer it?

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