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


My Photo
Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Missing in Action: The RPD's Strategic Plan and Firings at the Marriott?

UPDATE: RPD sergeant files racial discrimination and retaliation lawsuits against city, City Manager Brad Hudson, Chief Sergio Diaz and others...

More to come...

[Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz named in racial discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by a police sergeant]

Now here's a shocker!
Riverside City Hall picks "outside" investigator which clears it in an investigation into its contracting practices. This is where they stated that the city might have done some favoritism but it was solely so it could "Shop Riverside".

Now here's a quote:

"People are looking for something that I don't think exists," Gardner said. "I think people are reading perfectly innocent things as something sinister."

That's the quote of the day.

No, actually one of people's questions for the city government is why it has farmed so many of its own financial accountability mechanisms to the City Manager's office including most of its oversight of "interfund" transfers.

That and how one ex-city employee made off with nearly $700,000 in city monies for a part-time position several years ago. Why the city's clearly being less than up front about the truth of its financial health.

[The Ethics Complaint Panel decided that Community Police Review Commission member John Brandriff (r.) didn't violate the code of ethics as alleged by community activist Miguel Morales]

[Wi fi access point near Victoria Country Club]

UPDATE: A Smart Riverside Wi Fi Outage has been reported in Canyon Crest area since about yesterday. 311 has been notified of the outage which has led to limited or no connection between the network and its ISP provider over a large section of Canyon Crest that is connected to a piece of equipment located around the Mission Grove area.

More reports as they come in as to whether other areas are also out and on an estimated time of repair.

Two separate outages including one near Riverside Poly High School caused by construction have downed some of the region. On Alessandro, a light pole was vandalized causing some loss of wiring. Both areas are being serviced. The estimated time to replace all the wire lost in the vandalized light pole will be approximately seven days.

UPDATE: 311 reports that the light has been repaired and that the wi fi has been restored, however areas of the impacted area still experiencing outages or very sporadic coverage.

More information on the criminal case involving retired Riverside Police Department Det. Granville "Bud" Kelley.

[Riverside's elected officials make an appearance at a city volunteers recognition ceremony at Fairmount Park on July 13]

You go out of town for a few days and return to find out that even in that short period, a lot has happened in the quaint city of Riverside. The news broke out that the Marriott Hotel had fired 35 of its long time executive employees including one of the city's most well known chefs, Luis Martinez. Most of the employees targeted in the layoffs were not told why they were being fired and most were allegedly older men and women of color. The firings have caught the attention of many people and likely the media as well.

According to Inland Empire's Craigslist, the new owners are advertising to fill low-wage and possibly part-time positions for a hotel bells person, hotel controller,hotel carpet cleaner and hotel front desk. There are others including human resources manager. All of these positions are entry level positions and none of them are new jobs. What's not showing up are the kitchen positions including the chef which were vacated by the layoffs. Some sources have said that there's a reason for why the kitchen jobs haven't shown up on employment listings in that the plans for the Hyatt now under construction are missing a very important feature that's an integral part of many hotels.

One that you would think could be included in the budget of $20 million in a loan from the city via its Redevelopment Agency. But anyway, the terminations come in the face of all that's been said by city officials in Riverside about the Hyatt bringing jobs to Riverside. Some said that just the hundreds of construction workers would bring money to Riverside by flooding to the downtown pedestrian mall restaurants on their breaks. Yet, the truth is most people who work in construction bring their own lunches to work and those who don't often eat off of mobile food trucks. Spend some money downtown, your five or ten bucks might be all that a business in the pedestrian mall makes that entire day.

But then besides the construction workers, the Hyatt itself was going to bring plenty of well-paying local jobs. Except have the Hyatt owners from MetroPacific (and a few other names) made it clear how many jobs will actually be available for locals versus how many employees will transfer into the new Hyatt from other franchises or chain hotels? The problem with bringing in some of the major chain businesses to Riverside to stimulate job growth is that they tend to bring quite a few of their own peeps with them, so jobs are usually limited to part-time and at or near minimum wage as happened quite a bit with the University Village when that strip mall first opened.

This is very important to know because after all the city gave two fire stations and two libraries to the state's Redevelopment Agency as collateral for the bonds payments because the city doesn't own the hotel. At least not yet. And while the city has gone around paying to buy banners to tell people that such and such project was brought to you by your redevelopment agency, it's been woefully slow at telling city residents that such and such library or fire station is being used as collateral to finance private development. Somehow I suspect you won't see a sign like that hanging in front of the Casa Blanca Library (below) or the Canyon Crest Fire Station any time soon.

[Casa Blanca's library, property of the Redevelopment Agency as collateral in a loan to the Hyatt Hotel developers]

The practice of the city taking the financial obligations on the Recovery Zone bonds is not typical because in most cases, that's left for the developer to deal with and that's what people in Riverside were led to believe by the city council and Mayor Ron Loveridge. Remember going to those meetings when people expressed concerns about the city essentially buying a hotel? The city government shook its collective heads at the ignorance of the populace and said that the city residents would have no financial liability, that we had to grab the opportunity of these bonds quickly or we'd lose them to Ontario. I certainly don't recall any elected official saying, oh by the way, we're loaning millions to the developer using our own public facilities as collateral after letting them by the land for less than it was probably worth. I certainly never heard one elected official say from the dais that we're making a sweetheart deal with a group of developers and oh by the way, all the financial risk is on the city, not the developers. If you didn't know any better, you'd think the bonds were the real prize for the city for some reason, rather than building a hotel in the riskiest environment for doing so in the state based on foreclosure rates for hotels. But the city downplayed those risks even before the Marriott was purchased for what's been called a bargain basement price. Seems that if its financial state was all that healthy as the city's been claiming (while selling the Hyatt construction and the proposed "bed tax" which was passed by the voters), then it would have sold for at least a little bit more money.

What the political leadership did say was that if the developer couldn't make the payments, the city would own the hotel. Not the most lucrative of prizes because if people who specialize in running hotels couldn't make it a success, how could a bunch of elected officials do that? Yes, they could spend a ton of cash hiring consultants like they did with the Fox Theater (which is in the red and has to earn $2 million a year to operate if used, $1 million annually if left vacant) but not without problems.

You see, that's why you don't see city governments running around and putting themselves in situations where they might own hotels...or theaters either. And try explaining to people outside Riverside that a city actually put up collateral for a hotel, people think you're lying because on its face, it sounds so ridiculous. Ridiculous at best, reckless at worst.

The Marriott hotel was purchased for what has been called a bargain basement price of $19.3 million by Pinnacle Hotels USA which some have said is tied in with the construction of the Hyatt Hotel. And that when the construction of the Hyatt which was allegedly paid for by over $20 million in Recovery Zone Facility bonds. And not long ago, 35 jobs were lost. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for tons of jobs being brought in by the Hyatt.

More to come on the whole Hyatt/Marriott/Pinnacle Hotels/Pinnacle Everything else situation soon. Because after all, the hotel hasn't even been built yet and it's already generating waves.

Brad Hudson's Farewell Tour Continues onto Budget Talks

[City Manager Brad Hudson still has work to do before heading off to a new job with a pay cut and digs that are reportedly less impressive but more cozy than at City Hall]

City Manager Brad Hudson is still hanging around City Hall more casually attired but with apparently plenty to do before flying off into the sunset towards Sacramento. On Tuesday, July 12, the city council had its meeting to ask questions about the budget and the impact of having to pay what has been called a multi-million dollar ransom to Sacramento to keep its favorite toy, the Redevelopment Agency.

Naturally, the city government's done what it's done before and that's taken funding from Housing which was allocated for affordable housing projects and pay it to insure that they can protect their access to what are called 80% monies, meaning that allotment that's not set aside for affordable housing. Money was allegedly taken from projects in Casa Blanca and the Eastside apparently without realizing that it had already grabbed money from the Lindon/Chicago/Seventh improvement project to pay the balance of SERAF several months ago because the Capital Redevelopment fund didn't have adequate funds. Since the construction of affordable housing has long been a cornerstone of redevelopment, it seemed ironic that the affordable housing funds would be those utilized for the city to pay to keep the agency. Okay, so one of the main reasons that the city argues for keeping its Redevelopment Agency is because of all the affordable housing it provides, yet to keep it the city government pays its "ransom" from that funding source.

Why not? The private developers have already gotten their projects covered by the RDA, and that's witnessed by the newer empty buildings downtown including the new rental properties, the Raincross Promenade owned by the same Rubin who survived the crane controversy on Lime Street.

But anyway, Redevelopment Agencies aside, the discussion of the city's finances apparently got interesting at the afternoon session of the city council meeting with elected officials asking Hudson questions about the city's budget and its financial health. Witnesses said that there were concerned looks on some of the council members' faces and that Hudson's pat answers to the elected officials' questions didn't sound convincing. Not that they have to be because it's beyond clear that the majority of the city council doesn't look too closely at what its city manager has been doing since he arrived here in June 2005. Hudson said that the graffiti and code divisions would face cuts along with other programs.

Just months after the entire cast at the top floor of City Hall said that the city had generated extra revenue, had balanced its budget and had a very healthy reserve. But it also has bond payments do next year possibly starting as early as January. Bond issuers usually make sure that they collect their payments as quickly as possible which means before anything else, like city departments from public works to the police department to parks and recreation.

But if they asked meaningful questions to try to find out what the future holds, then that might be a step in the right direction but probably one taken too late. And nothing came out of Hudson's mouth that had anything to do with the bonds or their payments.

Meanwhile at the Finance Committee meeting

[Asst. City Manager of Finance/CFO/Treasurer Paul Sundeen explains a concept to members of the Finance Committee]

Councilwoman Nancy Hart who chairs the Finance Committee had this to say about all the employment retaliation and termination lawsuits filed against the city. She knew the money spent on them for litigation and settlements though not offhand because she and the rest of the city council made the decisions on the settlements in those cases. But she really didn't want to hear any details about them.

That wasn't the main topic of the meeting, which centered on how exactly the extension of Measure C will be sold to voters so it will surpass the 2/3 super majority needed to pass because it's the continuation of a tax for property owners. The city had announced that it had done a survey of 500 whole people out of over 375,000 and about 72% of those surveyed said they'd vote to pass such a measure. But there was a lot of confusion about the process because no one in the room could provide a definitive answer on whether registered voters as a whole would be eligible to vote on Measure C or only property owners.

Anyway, Hudson outlined that libraries would cut programs, cut more hours even more so than several years ago when library hours were cut while Measure C was still in place. Resident Doreen Johnson who's faced great hardship with her own business because of the Magnolia Grade Separation project and unlike the case with the Lucky Greek's restaurant, hasn't received nearly as much help attended the meeting. She asked why Measure C which wasn't meant to be a permanent tax was being used for essentially operational expenses rather than facility. Several years ago, when all the debate and discussion was being done about what would be done with the downtown library, there was a proposal to put another tax initiative on the ballot for voters to decide whether to create a parcel tax to pay for the renovation or reconstruction of the library.

Hudson had said that the polls on that proposed tax were fairly dismal so the library's work has been put on what looks like indefinite hold even as the facility continues to deteriorate. Requests for a forensic audit of the expenditures involving Measure C funding which could be used to help sell it to the voters didn't receive much enthusiasm even when one speaker said that there had been $10,000 spent on a cappuccino machine for the library that no one can seem to locate. If it's missing, maybe they could put up a "lost" sign for it at City Hall.

But Councilman Paul Davis did ask that the new auditing firm Moss Adams do a five year projective audit including accounting for different scenarios involving the retention or loss of Measure C revenues. The other two council members, Nancy Hart and Mike Gardner were lukewarm about it and the latter referred to being "conceptually" for it in some terms. The financial term minus a dressed Paul Sundeen who holds three titles looked a bit ashen at the request.

It's a very good idea especially if the public's allowed to read it. But what is also needed is to go back the same length of time in the past to do a forensic audit of the city's expenditures and funds including Measure C monies. It's estimated to cost about $2 million and before anyone gets upset about that, there's another possible team of auditors who can do that forensic audit for much less.

They work for some guy in a suit who goes by the title, State Comptroller John Chiang.

And just Underneath the Dome...

Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach is apparently mum on how many investigations are being conducted of Riverside]

Rumors have been pretty prolific about investigations being done out of the domed building downtown that houses more recently elected District Attorney Paul Zellerbach. They've been mentioned in the Press Enterprise newspaper pertaining to the contracting process for the city's sewer plant. But could the entire bidding and appointment process for contracts be under the scrutiny of the county prosecutor? Should it be? Was the city's own self-investigation which some have called a white wash adequate? Did City Hall really exercise favoritism in contracting simply to advocate the principle to Shop Riverside (tm)?

Zellerbach's office has been mum but assorted people from different places have either been contacted by the office, have contacted it or have even been interviewed. Zellerbach's response in one case was allegedly to allow the investigation to run its course. But Zellerbach who did a long stint on the Human Relations Commission while working as a prosecutor certainly has some clue about the city's complex canvas over the past several decades, and was allegedly tied politically to former Councilman Dom Betro where they encountered each other recently on some campaign literature.

But it will be a wait and see situation to see exactly what transpires in the domed building that once belonged to the city and if any of it will ever come to light.

In the meantime, life continued on in Riverside as usual with a few additional developments. Riverside opted not to spend some of the $65 million in bonds opting instead to pay off some debt. Was that due to a reality check in terms of exactly how badly it'd been buried in debt or was that due to public scrutiny over the whole legal but highly questionable practice of Riverside purchasing its own debt when a debt swap it tried to broker with Riverside County fell through because the Riverside bonds weren't rated. Riverside County doesn't purchase bonds without ratings so that was where the two sides parted ways.

This all happened even as political officials bemoan the changes in redevelopment agencies even though those in Riverside won't ask for the State Controller's office to audit its own agency let alone the city's finances. With more inter-fund loans as they're called even though most of them are actually inter-agency loans (between the city and a state agency) going on, it's head spinning trying to keep track with any of them. But apparently others have tried to do that in past years while shaking their heads at it.

Then Councilman Paul Davis wasn't appointed as mayor pro tem even though it was numerically his turn to fill the position of filling in for the mayor when he's absent. He also gets to set in on weekly agenda meetings as well as serve as the point person on the city council for the upcoming city manager search. The first councilman in recent history to have to wait six months for a stint that only arises once in a council member's term. He said in the article the following:

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"I'm kind of new and I don't want to disrupt the process that's already begun," Davis said.

That might be his position and I did get a more detailed answer from him but this sentence by itself in a media outlet is just weak. He's been a councilman for two years now and he's tackled a tough learning curve enough to know what he's doing and he does know what he's doing as a ward representative and also on city issues. He more than holds himself on the dais and when he asks questions, except for a couple rhetorically based ones here (which usually begin with "will you explain to the...") and there, they're thoughtful and based on information which he's gotten and analyzed. Finally a city council member who actually asks questions rather than nods his head like one of those bobble dolls simply because Hudson's opened his mouth.

He's just as qualified as Councilman Chris MacArthur to be a point person for the city manager recruitment and search process, maybe even more so. That's why all this language about not being experienced enough just doesn't quite make sense. None of these city officials currently on the dais were serving when Hudson was hired so no one but Mayor Ron Loveridge has experience with that process.

But Councilman Andrew Melendrez asked why the usual mayor pro tem process wasn't being followed. Which he's entitled to do if he takes issue with it.


"We haven't done any interviewing (for a city manager) and we haven't done really any selection," Melendrez said. "Generally we give rotations once every six months and I think the rotation needs to be consistent as to what we've done over the years."

One of the commenters in the Press Enterprise had this to say about it.

Davis says it might take him time to get up to speed?? What is he talking about? Where has he been the last two years?

Something doesn't smell right.

No it doesn't but Davis insisted in the article and to me through emails that it's his decision and he's not being passed over. That might indeed be so but no the whole process of appointing the mayor pro tem doesn't smell right and if this is what has happened, then that will be clear with the passage of time as most things will be.

Ex-newsman and president of the Riverside Press Association, Miguel Morales emerges to file an ethics complaint against political candidate John Brandriff. It's scheduled for a hearing by a panel of randomly selected board and commission chairs on July 19. Morales will presumably show up and make his case in some form while staying on topic and Brandriff might show up to launch a counter-argument. But if you've ever wondered what goes on at the ethics code and complaint process, show up.

Hudson pulls a shocker by adding another former Riverside County employee to City Hall's roster this time the new library director.

[Councilman and mayoral candidate Andrew Melendrez questioned the mayor pro tem process and is trying to get an update on the police department's currently MIA Strategic Plan on the agenda at the Public Safety Committee meeting]

Another downtown business, Farmer Boys, has to find creative ways to survive the crunch caused by the presence of the latest Rubin Crane. But at least the latest crane erected by Developer Mark Rubin only is blocking a street rather than dangling over a freeway. How such a dangerous situation was allowed to exist for as long as it did and took a court battle to mitigate, has got to be an interesting story. The restaurant has its own Twitter page to keep people appraised of what's happening.

RPD Strategic Plan: Missing in Action?

[Chief Sergio Diaz's been very busy but what's happened with the Strategic Plan?]

It was actually supposed to be completed at the end of 2009, just in time to pick up where the original Strategic Plan had left off when it sunset in December that year. The very first one had been mandated by then State Attorney General Bill Lockyer as part of the reform process imposed by the stipulated judgment between the city and the state. But while former Chief Russ Leach started stumping it in early 2009 and talking about the need for public input, it had stalled in the autumn allegedly from the city management inside City Hall blocking its development. When that came to light, several city council members put some pressure on their employee to ask what had happened with it, and it didn't take too long before Mayor Ron Loveridge read an email from Leach to the city council stating that the Strategic Plan 2010-2015 would be back in motion.

Public input was then solicited in the beginning of 2010 by the audit and compliance panel through an online survey on the department's Web site and through some public forums that were tailored to several different organizations. At a March 2010 meeting of the Public Safety Committee meeting, then Capt. Mike Blakely and Sgt. Jaybee Brennan unveiled the results of the public input gathering. The plan then continued forward with a draft allegedly being completed later that spring and before the hiring of Chief Sergio Diaz. It's not clear what happened to the draft but the process was stalled by Diaz' arrival and the hiring of two key management personnel from outside the department including that of Chris Vicino who had a background in strategic planning. Diaz assigned the project to him and then they set to have more public forums, this time reaching out to the four Neighborhood Policing Centers allowing more people to participate.

[Chief Sergio Diaz and most of his cabinet sitting in at one of the public forums to solicit input from city residents on the now missing Strategic Plan]

The four management employees attended various forums and both Diaz and Vicino led meetings showing off very different and interesting leadership styles. The input received was then tabulated and an inhouse survey to the police officers and civilian employees was then circulated. The results in the surveys involving the police employees and the public weren't all that different, with "accountability" being a large priority in both survey groups. Not surprising after everything that had happened in 2010 that had led to the hiring of Diaz, Vicino and Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer.

The department had been sent to have an extended command staff meeting to discuss the results and how to proceed but that was interrupted by the tragic shooting death of Officer Ryan Bonominio which tested the department in ways much different than it had been tested the first half of its most tumultuous year in over a decade. It was one of the first major challenges faced by Diaz since his arrival.

Several months later, the proposed command staff meeting took place but the focus of the plan had shifted to rewriting the police department's mission statement. Rewriting mission statements was being marketed around to different city departments by the city management and the police department apparently couldn't complete or even progress forward in its Strategic Plan until the mission statement had been done. But then things got really quiet after that and since then not a peep about the police department's Strategic Plan at least not to the public including those who showed up to the forums to provide public input on it or online to fill out the surveys. Not to mention the police employees who participated in that process and represented the department at the forums providing assistance to those who attended.

No one on the dais, not the city council members including Public Safety Committee Chair Chris MacArthur nor Mayor Ron Loveridge have even inquired publicly about it or its status. It's as if the city leadership including those who attended public forums in their respective wards have forgotten that the Strategic Plan was even supposed to exist at all. Greer who's practically disappeared from the public eye outside Chief Advisory Committee meetings and the energetic Vicino haven't had much to say about it either.

But both men have been kept very busy by Diaz and both have had to adapt to the dynamics at the higher level of the police department. Vicino allegedly had clashed with Deputy Chief Mike Blakely to the point where they were raising their voices loudly at each other while getting into their cars on one occasion. Vicino on Diaz' direction has apparently made some changes at the top of the administration including those very much needed while some of the responsibilities that Blakely allegedly has held have been rerouted by Diaz around him and onto other management employees including the captains. Whether or not that created the alleged conflict between Vicino and Blakely who both have strong opinions and pretty rigorous work ethics, it created some interesting if volatile dynamics at Orange Street Station. Diaz appeared to look at it from a distance as if to let it sort itself out.

Yet Diaz during one extended command staff meeting while claiming that someone or some people in upper management were undermining him defended his appointment of Blakely which had not been supported by denizens at City Hall. Someone had asked for examples and Diaz had offered up his experience with the Blakely appointment and then told them to forget their past experiences with the newly re-crowned deputy chief and just accept it, while Blakely sat in the room. Then there were allegedly some complaints about this blog and some swear words attached in the meeting, because Diaz for a former Los Angeles Police Department high ranking employee seems very preoccupied with what bloggers write about him.

He's not a fan of this blog and he doesn't like me much even making snide comments in public that few if anyone who witness them understand the context behind so they just view him as being chilly. It's unfortunate that he feels that way, he's entitled to his opinion but he's got much bigger problems on his plate than bloggers. Some bloggers might choose to focus on his dancing skills but what matters to most people are his leadership skills over the police department.

He's got to figure out where his police operational budget is coming from next fiscal year and who his next boss will be. The fact that the department hasn't filled a non-dispatcher civilian position in four years is a large problem as is that division's 27% vacancy rate. It affects the department, the public and the officers who rely on support but the city's apparently not made any moves to address with this issue though Diaz has tried to make it clear that at least five civilian positions needed to be filled soon. But seriously money, not bloggers are his and the department's most serious crisis beginning next year.

It'll be interesting to see how the dynamics at the top play out among Diaz, Vicino and Blakely but that still leaves Greer who's housed across the city at the Magnolia Policing Center and apparently happy about that.

He has allegedly played it smart and kept his head down a bit handling his workload bringing in his experience from his prior stint. The captains as a class experienced some growing pains adjusting to their new responsibilities, trying to adjust to a new learning curve about what was expected from them. After all, they hadn't risen to that level in anything less than a pretty cut throat environment where the skills to engage in that were emphasized more in promotional choices than one's management skills. Structured mentorship was non-existent and with those higher up in management who preceded Diaz and his cadre pretty much just micromanaging the agency when the city management was preoccupied elsewhere hadn't exactly allowed them to flex their leadership and management skills or even develop them.

In the midst of a department still addressing dynamics including several incidents involving employees at the top who were involved in off-duty behavior that elicited various responses from Diaz, it's not clear where the Strategic Plan fits in. Perhaps the upcoming budget challenges are impacting its progression but a report to the Public Safety Committee is probably a step that should be taken. So that people have some idea that the Plan still exists if it's currently missing and hasn't been abandoned (again) and dropped off the radar completely. Though it was sold pretty well at the public forums, there's not been a lot since to convince anyone that it's really a priority for the department which could use a blue print that's received input from different groups on what the next five years should look like.

And that needs to change or the police department should just tell the city council that it changed its mind about the plan. If it's still working on it and it's just not completed, then it should give an update to the Public Safety Committee, that doesn't seem all that different for at least one of the four management level employees to do quickly enough.

[With a background in strategic planning in Pasadena, Asst. Chief Chris Vicino was a natural point person for the RPD's plan and initially took the ball and ran with it, but what happened to it?]

[The Marriott Hotel in downtown was the setting for one of the public forums held last year for soliciting input on the Strategic Plan]

[Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis who allegedly spent time micromanaging the police department before quitting his job to become a municipal management consultant didn't appear to be a big fan of strategic planning]

More to Come...

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older