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, June 10, 2011

Election 2011: What it Means for River City as Investigations Loom

"I only look like the ATM machine at City Hall. Actually I'm the Sewer Fund and I've got a story to tell."

"Ah I'm Electrical and so do I..."

Did department heads and upper management employees get bonuses this year? On the heels of "pension reform", did certain employees get bonuses this year? Sources say to look first at the Human Resources Department management and move on from there.

Coming soon....The House that Brad Hudson Built

"Leaves Riverside for Sacramento, and takes a pay cut? Hmm. Either somebody's running from an ensuing scandal in Riverside, or somebody wants to be in Sacramento for political ambitions. As Sacramentans, we all know. Nobody chooses to move to Sacramento!"

---Rob Thomas, Sacramento Bee comments

Will Riverside be able to pay off its bonds? We'll all find out beginning next year. And what of the lawsuits filed by employees retaliating Hudson's response was this:

"...employees whose own conduct has come under scrutiny will retaliate."

Yes, that's right, when the behavior of several department heads and even city management came "under scrutiny" or was raised privately or publicly, it seems that retaliation by other employees higher up did take place. I guess the city residents will find out if the cases go to trial or not, if they settle behind closed doors.

But the employees in Sacramento, better get those pens out to sign the "at will" contracts if you're mid management or higher.

This link contains a photo of Hudson in Sacramento from earlier today.

Details emerge that Hudson's departure is not as hearts and flowers as it publicly appeared. Several contentious hours of discussion took place in the afternoon session when it came to discussing Hudson's evaluation which had been placed on the agenda last week by Mayor Pro Tem Chris MacArthur. And several issues allegedly came to a head.

UPDATE: The posh hangout for young and old alike, the Cafe Sevilla in downtown Riverside got busted in a sting targeting businesses who sell alcohol to those underage, according to a press release issued by Sgt. Cliff Mason who's staffed in the Community Services Bureau. Also cited was the Ralphs Supermarket on the 6100 block of Magnolia. On the bright side, 12 businesses didn't engage in illegal liquor sales. The violators are often given stiff penalties including revocation of liquor license. So will Cafe Sevilla have to go dry for a while?

Brad Hudson's written farewell to the city's employees:

It is with great pride in the many accomplishments of the City’s team and confidence in Riverside’s future that I am sharing with you the news that I have accepted a position as Chief Executive Officer for Sacramento County. While I am excited about this new opportunity, I will miss the many fine employees in the City of Riverside. The City of Riverside has an excellent team in its department heads and staff and I am confident that you will carry on and continue to be a high performing organization. I will begin my new duties in August and will continue to lead you until that time. Thanks for all of your hard work and many accomplishments that have helped me to excel as your leader.


JUST IN! Gilbert, Arizona bemoans its lack of quality town manager candidates one of them our very own former assistant city manager Tom DeSantis! It will be picking its new person by June 23.

[One of the "red flag" candidates applying for the "town manager" job in Gilbert, Arizona]


Tom DeSantis left Riverside, Calif., last year after prolonged police scandals. As assistant city manager, DeSantis bought a police gun in 2005 and drove a city vehicle in 2007 with an untraceable license plate. No charges were filed, but state attorney general's office investigations found both practices illegal.

More info here on DeSantis and his attempts to get hired by Gilbert. All of the candidates except for the acting city manager in Gilbert have raised red flags. Because Riverside's elected officials gave such glowing recommendations in public, DeSantis might have a lead in getting this job. But what the editorial states that the city doesn't need is what they'll be getting in DeSantis.

Hopefully, he'll at least learn not to store public records on post it notes.

Live at the city council the Press Enterprise has brought its photographer and both cheerful and somber people are congregating for the weekly meeting. People whispering about what happened behind closed doors at this afternoon's city council meeting before the invocation was given, even though no official announcement has been made yet of a shocking decision allegedly made behind closed doors.

[Brad Hudson at a hearing on an ethics complaint filed by an elected official.]

City Manager Brad Hudson is no longer working for the city though there's questions raised about the circumstances of how that came to be. The city council had an evaluation for his job performance on the closed session allegedly after it was placed on the agenda by Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Chris MacArthur catching other officials unaware. A couple hours of discussion on some issues allegedly took place at that time.

The official statement is that he resigned to take a job position elsewhere.

Mayor Ron Loveridge says that Hudson's accepted a CEO position in Sacramento and Councilman Mike Gardner praised his six year tenure. He cared more about Riveride than people who didn't know him thought.

"He's done great things for us," Gardner said, "He'll be missed."

Hudson was not present at the meeting where council members lavished praise on them. There were indications however of a contentious discussion that took place during the afternoon's meeting, of a change in how the city's going to do its business. Not to mention the revelations of investigations into contracting by the Riverside County District Attorney's office.

More to come....

At the end of the day, there's only one vote that matters for at least the next few weeks, there will be plenty of reminders of why it's important for every registered voter to utilize this critical right that a democracy enjoys.


Engage your leadership especially about how they spend your money.


And say farewell to one of the most important reasons why.

The city manager comes up for evaluation by the city council and mayor again on June 14

[Newly elected Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach is now investigating Riverside's City Hall as the city's ruling body remains quiet.]

Election day arrived on Tuesday, June 7 as the ballots were counted in the four contests pertaining to the odd numbered wards in Riverside. Three incumbents won their reelection bids outright and the fourth, Ward Seven Councilman Steve Adams received about 46% of the total votes against challengers John Brandriff and former mayor, Terry Frizzel. So he'll be facing off against Brandriff in November. Already the allegations of investigations involving Brandriff are being raised on Inland Empire Craigslist presumably by the same individual who was actively talking about him at the weekly city council meetings.

But what's actually opening up at City Hall is an investigation by the Riverside County District Attorney's office which after all has changed guard in the 2010 county elections. The investigation surrounds the awarding of a contract on a proposed sewer plant to the tune of $10.5 million. Allegations were raised in an email written by now terminated Deputy City Attorney Raychele Sterling about the preferential bidding process that favored one firm over the others that also submitted bids on that project. There has been earlier revelations by Sterling and other current and former employees that favoritism had played a role in the awarding of other city contracts. Not to mention that the City Hall Cafeteria had allegedly been subsidized by budgetary funds from the Park and Recreation Department.

Why in these fiscally difficult budget times when departments like Park and Recreation are struggling for budgetary funds is money being set aside for the City Hall restaurant which has no connection to that department at all? But what connects the restaurant to the department is City Manager Brad Hudson who oversees the city department in question and is apparently very friendly with the owner of the eatery at City Hall. Maybe that's a question that someone on the dais will ask during Hudson's evaluation behind closed doors at this week's city council meeting or then again, maybe not.

Because when allegations came to light, the city council and mayor had very little to say about it even when the employees began to get fired and some of them sue either before or after the firings. Rumors had been abound that the Riverside County District Attorney's office had been investigating City Hall on the assignment of contracts, but is the one raised in the Press Enterprise an anomaly or the tip of an awfully large iceberg?

We'd never know the answers to that because no one who serves the public appears to actually be asking the questions. You've got more people in elected office talking about running for the mayoral seat next year then you do in addressing these issues and investigations that keep surfacing. Perhaps some quiet whispers about concern growing on the dais that it's lost control of one of its own key employees are being heard. That there might be indeed concern growing behind those photographic smiles that not all is well inside City Hall. But looking at the current city council it's difficult to believe they have any concerns at all.

Mayor Ron Loveridge is in the twilight of his political career at least in Riverside. There's some murmuring that he's actually thinking about running for state office but given what's likely to unfold in the next year, he might not have much luck getting support for that especially as a long-ago Democrat playing Republican in an allegedly nonpartisan position.

But for all the talk in between the hiring of image consultants about his "legacy", has he really thought about what's to come from financing everything from Most Livable City, to City of Arts, Culture and Innovation (tm) to the Riverside Renaissance and beyond? As the city's collective debt approaches $3 billion including $1.5 billion just from the Renaissance, will his legacy be empty facilities that the city can't pay to maintain or staff and higher utility rates across the board to pay off the massive debt?

Because as wonderful as people at City Hall have told you that the Renaissance has been for Riverside, what they're not highlighting in their comments is the fact that at least 60% of it hasn't been paid for yet. It's been "paid" for by bonds and borrowed money. And now that at least one city issued contract is under investigation by the D.A.'s office, maybe it's time to audit the rest of them including those under the Renaissance as well. Now we know that elected officials will say that no, that's not necessary, it's a waste of time and there's too much else to do rather than focus on a "bad apple" here or there. Okay, then if the city's too busy to audit or investigate its contracts including its contracting practices, then perhaps that can be done by Zellerbach's office, the Riverside County Grand Jury, State Attorney General Kamala Harris (who or the State Comptroller John Chiang instead.

That will leave City Hall with plenty of time to do other things.

Where Running for Mayor is the New Black

[As his alleged final term winds down, what kind of legacy has Mayor Ron Loveridge left now that City Hall has attracted the attention of the D.A.'s office on different fronts?]

In his State of the Union addresses lately, Loveridge hasn't talked about anything like that. he's talked about pension reform in the city's labor force and more visions of working on the city's ever changing image rather than its reality. And with his retirement supposedly around the corner (though he's not "retired" until the filing date's passed), others are clamoring for the position that might open up for the first time since 1993. First to declare was Councilman Andrew Melendrez who some felt spoke up too soon and then he was followed by former Councilman Ed Adkison and Ron Woodbury who later dropped out.

But that wasn't the entire field as it appears that after the first round of Election 2011 contributed possibly two more candidates to that list. Councilman Rusty Bailey who ran against a candidate named Jim Davis who hadn't launched much of a political campaign and defeated him by taking 87% of the vote. So Bailey who some say is Loveridge's favorite protege decides it's time for him to think about running for mayor next year. One wonders what would have happened if he had indulged in that kind of planning while running for his second term as councilman, in terms of what his constituents would think.

Bailey wasn't the only one with mayoral aspirations because Ward One Councilman Mike Gardner who beat out three candidates in the recent election with about 57% of the vote also flirted with a mayoral run. With plenty of time before the filing date even opens, it wouldn't be surprising if other individuals including elected officials put their names in the coffers to run for the position that doesn't weld much power in a city council/city manager system of government. But in the right hands it can be the most powerful position on the dais.

Loveridge has shown that through his example during the past 12 years. But who will follow in his footsteps? The election of course is too early to call but anticipate that other people will throw their names in the ring or announce that they're thinking about it because it appears to be the hot thing to do in politics right now.

One person who hasn't announced plans to run is Councilman Steve Adams who after all, didn't win the mail in round of his election outright. He carried more votes than either of his rivals but less than the 50% needed to end the election then and there. So he and Brandriff face five months of campaigning ahead of them, with perhaps a bit of a lull in the action before it picks up again in the autumn.

Interestingly enough, this election turned out to be the most contentious with allegations and complaints filed about sign stealing and threats of more complaints and criminal investigations. Complaints about whether or not this candidate should have run or that one but a democratic process embraces anyone's willingness to run who is eligible to do so. The voters, and the turnout in all the wards was dismal, cast their votes the way they see fit and in this case, two candidates were sent to the runoffs. Campaigning will have to in a sense start from scratch because there's votes to be won or lost on both sides. It's usually not advantageous to go into a runoff having won the preliminary round because more often than not, the vote flip flops as either the leading candidate flakes out on his or her campaigning believing the election's already been won or the votes the leader didn't get the first time that were spread out two or three ways were actually largely votes against him or her.

But at the very least, Adams has about six months left to serve on the dais even if he loses in the final round. Though for him just sitting in his seat particularly during public comment is a challenge enough.

[Hopefully when serious questions are asked of elected officials, that Councilman Steve Adams will actually be sitting on the dais]

Adams often took off during public comment and then returned by its end. But as election day approached, he did improve in this area. Hopefully this improvement will stick because there's going to be plenty of educational information that the city council and mayor will be receiving in the months ahead on many different issues from those who elect them into office.

Summers are traditionally the months when the government's on a reduced schedule including with its meetings and many go "dark". Sometimes that's when critical business is put on meeting agendas to pass when few people are around to know it's even on the agenda at all.

Will the Finance Committee Take a Look at the Allegations of Favoritism in Contracting?

[Paul Sundeen is the assistant city manager of finance, the chief financial officer and the city's treasurer all while being retired and working two days a week.]

The Finance Committee is holding a meeting on June 15 to discuss fees again. Chaired by Councilwoman Nancy Hart, the committee needs to start looking deeper at the finances of the city. But that would mean that the city council including the three members who staff it would have to be somewhat interested in restoring their own roles as the checks and balances when it comes to the city's finances and how they're handled including by their own direct employees. But will the Finance Committee look at issues like how the city does contracts? Member and Councilman Paul Davis said that the bidding process has already changed but in light of the allegations of misconduct that are being investigated inside the city (including through an outside law firm handpicked by Hudson) and outside of it, will this committee take on a larger role of asking questions on this pressing issue?

That remains to be seen because there doesn't appear to be much enthusiasm for it to do anything but concede the leadership of that committee pretty much to Asst. City Manager of Finance/Chief Financial Officer and City Treasurer Paul Sundeen. Allegations had been raised that go beyond those publicized involving the Sewer Plant but so far it's not clear if they are being investigated as well.

Davis had also raised concerns about the "draining" of the Sewer Fund by expenditures including those that don't appear to have much to do with the purpose of the fund which is created from fees that city residents pay monthly on their public utility bills.

But another issue that's been brought to light at city council meetings has been the use of discretionary funds by city departments. Most of the department heads have a limit of $25,000 per expense while Hudson became the first city manager to receive $50,000. In his case, that limit seemed to be at least below the $28-29 million he spent in past year. But who's paying attention to these funds which by their very nature are used by department heads including Hudson to spend money without city council approval.

[City Manager all glittered out in bling before getting dunked in the tank at the City Hall Chili Cook Off]

Some say this sets up a situation that's ripe for misuse or even abuse if there's no oversight at all over its use especially in cases where it hits the millions over a fiscal year. If that seems too extreme that this type of spending should be accountable to the legislative body, there's some examples of why that might be very critical to do that coming down the pike. There's been cases raised already of how that money's been spent. But who's been paying attention?

[When those sitting on the dais now finally wake up from their naps, what kind of city will be awaiting them?]

It's going to be interesting to see as more unfolds about what's been going on in this city during the past several years including the whole issue of how bids are taken and contracts are rewarded, how the elected officials will react to it.

Again, it'd be nice if they'd start by asking a few questions, you know one here and there to try to get the information to themselves. Too many times council members at meetings don't ask questions to get answers, they ask them so the people "at home" can understand some basic fact about how the city conducts business. When the truth is, it's debatable whether the elected officials really have any idea of what's going on. The truth probably is that those we elected to represent and serve us probably need to know the answers more than we do.

[This sign needs to be on the Seventh Floor of City Hall]

But these revelations are breaking in the press and elsewhere about what's really going on in City Hall and the city council and mayor just look apathetic and sometimes as if they don't have a clue of what's going on because of the way they conduct themselves. None of them responded to news about the investigation by Zellerbach's office not even to say phrases like "We pay for talent" and "We have full confidence in [insert name of city council employee]."

But what's happening is Riverside's work force is losing talent as employee after employee has been terminated, "resigned", "retired" or been otherwise pushed out of their jobs. The breaking point according to the complaints and litigation filed appears to be that these employees were asked or ordered to do things they didn't find ethical and not long after that, were shown the door.

It would be interesting to see if any of these lawsuits see a trial date before the city settles them behind closed doors. It will be interesting to see if this trickle of lawsuits turns into a current as more and more revelations come to light as elected officials continue to act as if nothing's happening. It will be interesting if this investigation by Zellerbach's office spawns more of them.

The long, hot summer of 2011 has begun.


[The mayor and some say his protege in training, Councilman Rusty Bailey at a Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee meeting]

"I didn't hear that"

[Did Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz (r.) really have a hearing problem when asked what to do with two lieutenants who were involved in an off-duty physical confrontation?]

The police chief's apparent decision not to investigate an off-duty physical altercation between two of his lieutenants generated a lot of discussion and debate. But what remains to be seen is whether or not Chief Sergio Diaz followed departmental policy regarding those types of investigations or not, and if the policy wasn't followed, then why.

When asked what to do with the situation involving the two lieutenants when it came to light, was his response to do the appropriate investigation as he would any other employee, or simply to walk away and say, "I didn't hear that"?

Why is it in a police department that made the news in a bad way because of preferential treatment given to the last police chief during his DUI incident, even placing itself in the position of having the question of whether or not preferential treatment was given coming up again?

Several months ago, a police captain's son was hired by the department but was arrested for a drunken fight in a public place days before his first day on duty. His father allegedly called Corona Police Department asking for him to be released early or without booking from the holding facility there. The watch commander said no thanks and the son later resigned from the department.

Then now the incident involving the two lieutenants which was allegedly not investigated by Diaz because it was an "off-duty matter".

Diaz came into the police department when the issue of trust in its handling of incidents involving its own employees in the highest places had been breached. He came knowing or should have known that this issue had caused people a lot of distrust both inside and outside the department especially given that favoritism had been a common thread woven into the agency by its prior chief.

Not the best way to address this issue by essentially saying one thing and then proving through your actions it's business as usual inside the police department. Diaz had made some great strides in several areas of the department that were badly neglected but the issue of double standards, favoritism and preferential treatment in the department are going to wind up being deal breakers when it comes to deciding what his legacy will be as police chief.

Public Meetings

Tuesday, June 14 at 3 pm and 6:30pm, the Riverside City Council will meet to discuss this agenda.

Wednesday June 15 at 2 pm, the Finance Committee will meet and discuss this agenda.

Wednesday, June 15 at 4pm, the Community Police Review Commission will hold a special meeting for training on excited delirium.

Friday, June 17 at 10am, the Friday Morning Club will be hosting Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach at its meeting at the Janet Goeske Center located at 5257 Sierra Street (corner of Streeter Avenue) in Riverside. A good question to ask him is how the department's Public Integrity Unit is doing.

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