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

Saturday, July 23, 2011

RPD Sergeant Files Racial Discrimination, Retaliation Lawsuit

[Is the city's brand new guard rail on Arlington more dangerous to pedestrians? And why are pedestrians so expendable in our mayor's "most walkable city"?]

UPDATE: City Attorneys file motion to recuse Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Jackson from the racial discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by RPD Sgt. Val Graham.

A former prosecutor in both Los Angeles and Riverside Counties, she was a Republican appointed by the last governor several hears ago. Oh and she's African-American but of course that has nothing to do with it. Surely the city wouldn't challenge the assignment of a judge to a case just because of her race so early on with a hearing date six months away. It'll be interesting to read or hear the city's rationale on its motion against her if it shares it with the public that's paying the city's legal bills.

Update: Riverside Red Light Camera the red? And are the stats to be trusted?

Update: The decision on the ethics complaint against CPRC and political candidate John Brandriff was appealed by the complainant. That means it will be heard by the city council on Aug. 9 at 3pm.

UPDATE: Interim City Manager? Community Development Director Scott Barber...Is this the city's way of saying the three assistant city managers just aren't qualified enough to fill in?

UPDATE: RPD's Administrative officesto pack up and move into higher rent district?

This article on the Riverside Police Department showed up on the radar on an online encyclopedia site, one that's sure to attract responses. But what's the appropriate response?

To Be Continued...

UPDATE: Article on Riverside Police Department rewritten and the ISP of the latest writer?

Most recent editing changes that were done July 25th. The original draft is on the left, the current one on the right. The ISP on the right? Belongs to the City of Riverside's City Hall and other of its venues. And as it turned out, the author did come out of the city. Its response coming soon.

[Both Chief Sergio Diaz (r.) and Deputy Chief Mike Blakely are named in the lawsuit]

This past week, Riverside Police Department Sgt. Val Graham sued the police department and city of Riverside alleging racial discrimination and retaliation including with its promotional process. Named in the lawsuit are City Manager Brad Hudson, Former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis, Chief Sergio Diaz, Deputy Chief Mike Blakely and former Acting/Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa.

It's Diaz' second employee related lawsuit since he was hired in July 2010 and Blakely's fifth in the past 15 months.

The lawsuit provided the following narrative of events.

Graham who sued the city had served 25 years in law enforcement and had been a sergeant at the Riverside Police Department for 17 years, making him the most senior sergeant in the department. He's African-American and during the past decade, only two African-Americans, Vic Williams and Darryl Hurt, had been promoted to that rank. During his tenure, Graham had reported instances of racism and retaliation inside the department.

After the 1998 fatal shooting of Tyisha Miller by four officers, he had reported to then Lt. Jim Cannon that one of the onscene officers, Rene Rodriguez had heard racial comments. Rodriguez later sued claiming he faced harassment and retaliation inside the department. He was awarded over $1 million in a settlement with the city. Afterward many individuals in the department treated Graham and Cannon (who later retired quietly without a party) as if they were part of a conspiracy and retaliated.

Graham also testified in the racial discrimination lawsuit filed by Officer Roger Sutton, another African-American, that former lieutenant told him to write up Sutton for being late to roll call. Graham testified at trial that the lieutenant actually took the clock off the wall and moved the time forward to make it seem like Sutton was late. While Graham testified, DeLaRosa who oversaw Internal Affairs at the time sat in the audience giving him cold stares. A jury ultimately awarded Sutton $1.64 million and Blakely then retaliated against Graham by giving him a "meets standards" on his evaluation (when previously he had exceeds standards) stating he was "anti-management" and mentioning the clock incident.

Since 2001, Graham had tested for the lieutenant position annually and he was passed over by the department for non-African-American candidates with less training and experience. In 2001, he ranked in the top five on the promotional list and was nominated for Riverside County officer of the year for his work as sergeant of the Problem Oriented Policing (POP) unit. He had received the highest possible score on his evaluation of outstanding. But he was passed over for lieutenant seven times. Most of the candidates promoted in 2001 were lower than Graham.

The Riverside Police Department and its command staff including DeLaRosa and Blakely had a long history of retaliating against officers they didn't like by opening up bogus internal affairs investigations to prevent or make it difficult for them to be promoted or to be transferred to specialized assignments. It's difficult for officers with open internal affairs investigations to be promoted in practice.

DeLaRosa and Blakely had retaliated against Graham for opposing racial discrimination within the department by initiating sham internal affairs investigations.

In August 2009, DeLaRosa and Blakely initiated an investigation against Graham to prevent him from promoting to sergeant, four months after the alleged incident. He was being investigated for not taking a complaint report from a woman who told him her boyfriend wanted to file a citizen complaint. Because she didn't actually witness the incident, Graham gave her a complaint form to give her boyfriend with instructions to return it upon completion. Graham immediately made the correct notifications within the department including the internal affairs division through email.

Graham was never given an explanation why the department waited four months to initiate the internal affairs investigation. At the time the department was in the midst of creating a promotional list for lieutenant. Eventually former Police Chief Russ Leach heard about the investigation and ordered it to be closed over the objections of DeLaRosa and Blakely.

During 2009, Graham who had ranked eighth on a September 2008 promotional list was not promoted to lieutenant, instead a white male candidate ranked #11, was promoted. In September 2009, a lieutenants list was established and Graham, the only African-American on the list, ranked fourth out of 13 candidates.

On Feb. 19. 2010 DeLaRosa promoted a male Hispanic candidate ranked sixth on the list.

On May 27, 2010 Graham met with Hudson and DeSantis reporting that DeLaRosa and Blakely had used racism and retaliation against him. Less than two weeks later, Graham was subjected to retaliation by the department.

The next day, May 298, 2010 a white female candidate ranked fifth was promoted.

On June 9, 2010, Graham was notified that he was going to be investigated for a 2009 incident that the department was aware of and the initial internal affairs investigation had been started 229 days earlier on Oct. 23, 2009. It was believed to be a sham investigation of Graham initiated by DeLaRosa and Blakely in order to prevent Graham from promoting. The department had established a ranked list for lieutenant and promotions were soon to be made.

On June 15, 2010 Graham was interviewed for the position of Homicide sergeant and four sergeants had put in for that position. Graham had 16 years experience as a sergeant and had three years as a detective sergeant. He also had prior experience with officer-involved shootings. Graham wasn't selected but a candidate who had been a sergeant for four years and with no prior experience with officer-involved shootings was picked instead.

On June 16, 2010 Graham had scheduled another meeting with Hudson and DeSantis but Hudson didn't attend. Graham told DeSantis that after their last meeting, that DeLaRosa and Blakely had retaliated against him by initiating the June 9. 2010 Internal Affairs investigation. DeSantis told Graham that prior to their meeting he had contacted Lt. Cook who headed Internal Affairs (and who also had served on the Hemet School District Board with DeSantis) about that investigation and had been told it was minor. DeSantis seemed irritated by Graham by the end of the meeting.

On July 6, 2010 Graham met with Diaz and reported racial discrimination and retaliation He expressed concern over the timing of the internal investigation as it occurred right when he was going to be considered for a promotion and/or special assignment.

On July 30, 2010 Diaz passed over Graham and promoted three white male sergeants who were ranked second, ninth and 12th on the lieutenant's list. All of the recently lieutenants had less sergeant experience than Graham. Based on information and belief, Diaz relied on input from DeLaRosa and Blakely in making the promotions. Diaz was also upset that members of the police department had met with him to discuss concerns within the police department so he passed over Graham in part because he met with Diaz earlier that month and reported racism and retaliation.

The lawsuit will be litigated in Riverside County Superior Court by attorneys Russel M. Perry and Michael A. McGill.

The lawsuit caught Hudson just as he was preparing his exit to Sacramento County where he's allegedly taking a cut in pay and "bennies" and downsizing his office space.

[City Manager Brad Hudson may be on his way out just in time but he's been named in another lawsuit filed by a city employee]

The city council's set to meet in closed session this Tuesday to decide which of the three candidates they've recently interviewed will serve as the interim city manager until the hiring of the next permanent one hopefully by December. But Hudson's no stranger to being sued given all the employee lawsuits including those alleging retaliation for whistle blowing going around. Even as Riverside hires its own law firm to investigate allegations of misconduct and not surprisingly clears itself. Investigating allegations of misconduct raised by a city employee who is soon fired without even interviewing that employee! Simply amazing! Any city council member who doesn't ask questions about that type of thorough and "independent" investigation shouldn't be on the dais.

Councilman Mike Gardner who's one of roughly three mayoral candidates currently on the dais had this to say about the most recent outside investigation to the Press Enterprise.

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

It's kind of like gazing through the looking glass into a world where asking questions or raising concerns about how the city spends its money or whether it really has any or much money left to spend is like transposing "innocent" with "sinister", and it makes you wonder why the denizens at City Hall have taken that view point that it's the concerns and the questions being raised that appear to be the problem more than the reality. Never mind that not one person on the dais has publicly responded to allegations that a former part-time employee at City Hall was paid nearly $700,000 in city funds during a three year period including $25,000 payments (the maximum that can be spent on contracts by most departments without city council approval) from various city departments which had nothing to do with this employee's position.

Why the Sewer fund is used to finance loans to purchase properties that are then handed off or sold to developers. Some who've watched City Hall for years say the sewer fund's always been gutted or "borrowed from" for non-specific sewer purposes but does past practice make it proper? Why four city buildings including one outside a Redevelopment zone were used as collateral for a financial obligation that in most cases, is assumed by a developer on a project not a city.

Hudson's not going to look back when he leaves Riverside, some say just in time before millions of dollars in bonds come up due beginning in January 2012 and with the bulk of them in May and June, bonds the city might not have the revenue stream to pay. The city's doesn't got a lot in its portfolio that's producing a means of revenue and property and sales taxes are still suffering from the never ending recession. The Workman's Compensation fund which actually doesn't go to pay those claims because department's have their own line item budgets for this purpose already seemed like the means to borrow money to buy properties several years ago but soon got tapped out, so the lending accounts soon changed.

With all the money rushing into accounts and then being transferred to others, fast enough to make one's head spin trying to keep up, there's one account that might not have spare funds to borrow against and that's the city's litigation fund which just provided an additional appropriation of $50,000 to the Human Resources Department to pay to retain the further services of the law firm that just cleared City Hall in its investigation...paid for by City Hall.

Considering how expensive civil litigation's been in the city just counting all the employee lawsuits filed alleging discrimination, harassment but especially retaliation and violations of the state and federal whistle blower protection acts, that's one fund that got to remain flush for its intended purposes. As ancient sewers continue to erode treating residents in some neighborhoods including the Wood Streets, to sewer eruptions inside their basements not to mention the occasional erupting toilet and at least one of the city's irrigation systems sets fires on other private property, it's still difficult to keep up with the pace of money moving around the different funds in this city.

The trouble is that when employees report misconduct including with the contract process, they somehow wind up getting in trouble or fired in the process and the city's residents have to pay the monies through taxes that fund these investigations that few people outside the leadership of City Hall give much credence too. So as long as there are concerns that whistle blowing means getting fired or punished for it, you'd better keep the litigation fund filled and untapped. But then who knows, maybe they borrow from the sewer fund to pay for that if it starts to run dry.

Also being sued by Graham as well as other folks is former Asst. Chief, no wait it was Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis who was one of three city management employees who had personal flat badges that were to be made for them before they were deemed to be illegal and destroyed.

[Former Asst. Chief, oops, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis is one of the defendants in the lawsuit]

DeSantis left suddenly not long after that scandal and others broke but it might have been issues of a more personal nature (meaning that it might be similar to why he "left" another county job) that ultimately led to DeSantis' departure including an alleged domestic disturbance call to his residence in another city. He went on to become a municipal management consultant, made a chunk of change doing some consulting for public works in Moreno Valley where the husband of Riverside's public works manager happens to be employed and he tried out for the town manager position in Gilbert, Arizona and made the finals. But not without attracting concern from the local newspaper's editorial board that saw what it called some red flags associated with him and other finalists.

But even though he's no longer in town, he still is being named in a lawsuit in abstentia as the gift that keeps on giving to the city he serviced for five years.

Also departed is DeLaRosa who retired not long after Diaz arrival after coaching him through the first several weeks in his new position. Diaz stood up at a recent meeting that was attended by DeLaRosa and announced that what he had been told about certain individuals on the Riverside canvas by others when he first arrived had been bad information and that these individuals had been wrong about certain individuals.

One of these individuals that Diaz hinted strongly at was DeLaRosa who had attended a housewarming party held by Diaz when he first purchased it last year. Another individual he allegedly had been defending was Blakely. At an earlier meeting when he expressed concern and consternation about someone high up in the ranks undermining him, he had answered a lieutenant's question of an example of that by detailing how City Hall hadn't wanted him to appoint Blakely as his deputy chief. But he had done so anyway, and it was time for everyone to forget history. At the same time, he allegedly made moves to minimize Blakely's role and reach in certain areas and doesn't speak to him very much. Many people remain confused as to the whole dynamic that Diaz shared with DeLaRosa and Blakely beginning when he first arrived last year. After all, DeLaRosa had been implicated as knowing about the decision to allow Leach to be driven home without a sobriety test after he'd been pulled over inside a Chrysler 300 with flat tires by two patrol officers. In contrast, during the time period which followed, there were several DUI stops of vehicles with flattened tires where the drivers were found to be intoxicated and arrested to be taken to jail.

By the time that came to light, he'd already been acting chief several months and the blame had been placed on the lieutenant watch commander who ultimately turned the tables on the police management by getting his threatened demotion overturned by City Hall.

But history still plays a role whether it's incidents several months ago or years ago, meaning that lieutenants who got into fights in "off-duty matters" joke about not getting into fights that day and one of the deputy chief's allegedly played a major role in the departure of another chief over 10 years ago. What's past is often prologue, as the city finds itself hiring another city manager who will run into the legacy left by the outgoing one.

History could very well play out here.

To Be Continued...

[Asst. and Acting Police Chief John DeLaRosa who still appears at events involving Diaz was named in a lawsuit filed by an RPD sergeant]

[City Attorney Gregory Priamos (r.) will have to take time out from putting out fires to comment on the city's response to Graham's lawsuit against it.]

Public Meetings

Tuesday, July 26 at Noon and 6:30 p.m.
The Riverside City Council will meet and discuss this agenda and vote how to spend what's left of the city's money. Also on who of three candidates interviewed will serve as the city's interim city manager.

Wednesday, July 27 at 4p.m. The Community Police Review Commission will meet to discuss this agenda. There's this item on the $39 million to be spent from various funding sources on the renovation of the Riverside Convention Center. And the most important but controversial agenda item, which is the city's attempts to retain its Redevelopment Agency. Instead of auditing the Redevelopment Agency or asking the State Comptroller to do it, they want to reinvent it.

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