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, April 29, 2011

Who Will Really Tell the Whole Redevelopment (Agency)Story?

Update: Been getting notices of the appearance on the closed session of several city council meetings in recent weeks, of the city's attempts to purchase one of the downtown's main Asian-American businesses, the Pacific Stix. It's highly unlikely that if the city purchases it, it will remain an Asian-American eatery run by Asian-American owners. It will either be handed off cheaply or maybe free to some other business looking to relocate or it will remain empty for months while the city fumbles around some more. with its "seizing the destiny" of the downtown.

The city officials who often have eaten here especially on city council nights should be ashamed of themselves for their participation.

More examples of racism in business practices in the downtown mall? The owners of that business and the employees who work there are among the nicest people and have been successful, in a building which saw quite a few tenants including the completely subsidized Toad in the Hole (which if you recall, had its rent paid by the city) belly flop or get pushed out as in the case of McDonalds. Truly a sad time in Riverside. The mixed up sales plan and assault on local businesses in the downtown has led to it becoming even more of a tumbleweed town after sunset.

Makes you wonder why some businesses get relocated, because the Greek's not the only restaurant struggling on the "Row" on Merrill but it's the only one that's getting relocated onto city property. The Citrus Grill can own tremendous back rent at the Plaza and then almost nail the BioKorium spot at Sixth and Main. But then others which aren't failures or choices for such assistance, like Pacific Stix not only don't get similar treatment as valued businesses but are even forced out by questionable business practices by the city.

"I have never, ever been presented with any physical evidence that would suggest that anything inappropriate is going on."

---Riverside Councilman Paul Davis to Press Enterprise

Brad Hudson you called down the thunder. Well, now you've got it! The Law is coming! You tell them I'm coming . . . and Hell's coming with me! You hear?! Hell's coming with me!
-Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, except for the Brad Hudson part.

---"Riverside Heat" on the Press Enterprise site

"We are a much less desirable target for the state now because if they take us over, there is nothing left for them to steal,"

---City Manager Brad Hudson

"Admiration is the daughter of ignorance."

---Benjamin Franklin

"We're through the looking glass. White is black. And black is white."


"Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

---Lewis Carroll

The House that River City Built

A Play in Three Acts

UPDATE: Eastside once again loser in transfer of housing funds as "loan" to pay off Redevelopment's IOU to the State. The question as to why the Capital Redevelopment Fund had insufficient funds necessitating the loan from the low and moderate income housing program was never answered by City Manager Brad Hudson or anyone else but he clicked his pen a lot.

In other news, Public Works Director Siobhan Foster was asked by Councilman Rusty Bailey how many sewer lines or the span of them had been repaired or replaced in the last several years. She couldn't answer that question despite being in charge of that division. She's also had to deal with allegations by Public Works employees that they were retaliated after protesting favoritism in the city's work contracts.

Confirmed: Jeff Hall, 32, Neo Nazi and Water Board candidate killed in shooting at house. Son taken into custody.

(Excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Several residents in the neighborhood overlooking UC Riverside said they were still shaken from the early-morning shooting. Some refused to talk about it, while others weren't sure how to react after months of what they described as intimidation by Hall and other National Socialist Movement members who often visited.

"Honestly, I feel like it's over," said Juan Trejo, who lives across the street from Hall's home. "It was scary here. Hopefully we'll never see any of them again."

Trejo described a Halloween party at the home last year, when Hall flew a swastika flag from the home and guests wore KKK hoods. Trejo said Hall lived there with his wife and several children, one of whom called his son a "beaner" when the boy skateboarded near the Hall home.

[Albert A Webb Associates, the center of favoritism allegations made by several city employees]

The city fired me when I tried to make people aware of their corruption. Its been going on for years. Brad Hudson, Siobhan Foster and Tom Boyd all deserve to be fired for their corruption along with half of the city council. People think Bell is corrupt, I hope they keep digging into the City of Riverside. If Ed becomes mayor, wait and see how much more work his firm receives.

---Sean Gill, to Press Enterprise comments

"In response to Sean Gill”s statement to Press Enterprise comments as appeared in Five before Midnight, “If Ed becomes mayor, wait and see how much more work his firm receives.” The truth of the matter is, when I become mayor, my firm, as was the case when I was a City Councilman, by law, will not be allowed to perform services for the City of Riverside."

---Former Riverside Councilman and mayoral candidate, Ed Adkison

[Brought to you by Redevelopment, but has yet to generate profits.]

[Alas, not brought to you by Redevelopment is the Downtown Public Library which the city can't afford to renovate]

City Hall, coming to an auction block near you? Many of the city's buildings are collateral on its loans for Riverside Renaissance so why not City Hall?

Blogging about Riverside's been very interesting especially lately with all these revelations about the city buying back its own debt when a deal fell through with the county and picking up a county park despite budget cuts. It's spent over $90,000 on among other things trying to tell the Redevelopment Story (the abridged version) while leaving a few chapters of the saga on the cutting room floor. It's put up cute banners on some of its redevelopment projects that weren't quite technically redevelopment projects and not on others that clearly are but aren't "successes". Like the University Village which is under receivership and the Raincross Promenade which is a high end project turned apartment complex. So it's all relative with redevelopment projects whether or not they'll be included as installments in the mayor's exciting pulp novel on Redevelopment (Agencies) in Riverside.

[Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge's "redevelopment story" includes some chapters and omits others. ]

And shifting jobs in development and redevelopment to be picked up by the general fund including through its recent "promotion" of the development director. Then there's the allegations of favoritism in how the city contracts out by city employees and so forth. The ball of twine just keeps unwinding, the more it does, the more protests from the 'Hall that there's zero risk, everything's "balanced" and whatever you do don't pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

Dost they protest too much?

The Press Enterprise's got its mind focused back on what's going on in its front yard and it's interesting reading its coverage including if you go back to the origins of the Renaissance which has cost over $1.5 billion so far. And while the tone of these articles seems a bit cheerful, all of them raise unanswered questions, and together, they don't make the city's financial situation look all that good. Because often times when there's so much shuffling going along with money or debt flowing from one account to the next to the next like some express train, that's because the cash flow is slowing down or even reduced to a drip.

The questions about this movement have been asked by many people at various venues for the past five years since the Renaissance began, most of the people who were asked them were ridiculed in the process and what the people have heard is that the budget's balanced and every dime's accounted for in the city's coffers. Yet, the string of articles in the Press Enterprise has made a lot of people wonder.

The more the city's finances start to drip dry, the more you'll hear those in charge of the financial coffers cheerfully tell everyone that the budget's balanced. I think the only people who believe that so far are the city council and its president, Mayor Ron Loveridge.

I'd love to say I drank the same Kool-aid but sorry, I just can't. As Election 2011 continues onward, hopefully the city's financial status including the Redevelopment Agency's $2 billion debt will become a greater focus of discussion and debate than trying to explain why bottom level city employees need pension "reform" but upper level employees don't and elected officials need full-time raises and any kind of pension and life-time benefits at all. If pensions need adjustment then it makes sense to start at the top, rather than use the numbers of those at the top to incite fury at those closer to the bottom without implementing any such change.

In the midst of Loveridge's campaign to do pension reform, he's decided to tell his version of the Redevelopment story, again doing what every elected official and management employee has done which is to conflate the word, redevelopment with the more accurate terminology, redevelopment agencies. No one's really against redevelopment, many people distrust redevelopment agencies and how they spend money as they accumulate debt. Funding an entity on debt is risky as those in the United States will find when the nation reaches its debt ceiling on May 16 and either has to engage push that red letter day up a few months or send the nation straight back into the worst recession ever before you can type those words out. The scary thing is that the nation's dug its self so deeply in engaging in debt accumulation as its export product to other countries that there's no longer anyway out, and apparently River City is also busy embracing that cause in its own financing, of digging a deeper hole.

[Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson accused Sacramento of stealing from Riverside but is City Hall being honest about the city's solvency?]

City officials elected and otherwise know this, so they don't mention redevelopment agencies at all instead choosing the term, redevelopment. They point their fingers dramatically whenever they have an audience, and accuse so and so of being against Redevelopment almost as if they're trying to exorcise a pox in their midst. But no, many people support redevelopment, they just wish there were no such thing as redevelopment agencies sucking the cash flow out of every other fund including the general fund. How can redevelopment agencies accomplish anything when they're draining the city? And when is someone going to ask Councilman Rusty Bailey to produce an itemized list of the 1500 jobs he claimed were created by Redevelopment?

A lot of the focus has been downtown for example, which itself is a redevelopment zone which for some reason like a swamp just grew a couple blocks larger just so it could call a certain building blighted but how many businesses have arrived in the downtown since the revival began. How many businesses have left downtown? At least 14 of them are no longer there, with more to follow and nothing to fill them. Most businesses are struggling to earn any cash at all because downtown is so user unfriendly, including through the use of the new paid parking system which is losing so much money, its draining money from other city funds to keep flush.

Most modes of transportation except apparently Segways are banned in the pedestrian mall including bicycles and most people don't want to bring their cars downtown because either the parking's too expensive, the ticketing too aggressive and the businesses in the mall too inaccessible for one reason or another. The Greater Chamber of Commerce should be all over the city on the parking which is killing most of the businesses faster than the recessions did but of course not, because the Chamber picks and chooses the businesses it "supports" and the ones it cuts loose for Eminent Domain, including many businesses owned by Asian-Americans, Latinos and the few businesses left that are owned by African-Americans as most of those were threatened with Eminent Domain.

Maybe that's why the Chamber as an entity refused to endorse or participate in the very first and very successful Lunar Festival earlier this year because Asian-Americans don't own businesses, they don't spend money and they don't matter in the business world. If the Chamber could have gotten over its squishy feeling about that demographic to at least realize its tremendous buying power as the fastest growing racial group in Riverside proper, they'd have endorsed that event happily. And yes, Asian-Americans own many successful businesses in Riverside, which contribute money to the city's coffers through sales tax. But how many Asian-Americans are serving on either the Chamber's board of important people or the Downtown Businesses Partnership's board of important people?

Anyway, the downtown's been largely a success and the restaurants are seriously raking in the big dough up and down the strip because of the addition of the City Hall Cafeteria which of course hasn't sucked most of the public sector lunch crowd away from other eateries further down the Boulevard. I've seen much of the old Simple Simon crowd eating there instead and quite a few from the Tamale Factory, which if you remember used to be a stone's throw from City Hall.

This is what the Press Enterprise said about the Cafeteria's acquisition.


The email also alleges parks employees said they were told to set aside some of their budget "to subsidize the City Hall cafe," because the operator was Hudson's friend and "was not making enough money."

Sundeen said the cafe operator was given two marketing contracts and it wasn't improper.

"I reported to the City Council in closed session that I believe that all of the accusations are unsubstantiated and without merit," Sundeen said.

You have to love Sundeen's quotes. He goes behind closed doors on a non-agendized item to tell them everything's unfounded even as in the next sentence he said he never investigated the allegations of harassment and retaliation involving city employees. So he's defending the city, without actually doing any type of investigation? That sounds awfully informed and thorough of Sundeen but it's entirely fitting for the occasion. And it's not like anyone on the dais is going to ask any questions because the time to ask them was a long time ago.

But what's really interesting here is what he didn't say. Okay if the city council received this briefing behind closed doors from Sundeen, when was that and why wasn't a notation about it included on the closed session agenda as required by the Brown Act? Unless it was hidden behind one of those items involving "anticipated litigation" which tells you that either the item was never actually agendized as it should have been or someone in that email is scaring City Hall enough to think that this person, likely the city attorney employee on leave, is going to sue the city. The employee's who also hired an attorney to speak for her.

Sundeen doesn't say in his interview whether the employees went to Hudson for assistance on these allegations. If not, this is probably somewhat understandable, given that there's been allegations that some employees have been sent on unpaid vacations simply for taking Hudson up on his solicitation of questions at meetings and asking the *wrong* question. Which is why at some of those meetings including those urging "pension reform", Hudson doesn't get any or that many questions from the employees attending them.

Anyway, Sundeen did mention that the employees didn't go to Human Resources because they think that department's not independent. It's not, it's blanketed under Hudson and look what happened when the city had a relatively independent director in Art Alcaraz. He allegedly didn't want to change the educational requirements for the assistant city manager positions to drop the master's degree requirement and was eventually retired out and replaced by Rhonda Strout. After that, those pesky requirements were dropped and an employee who lacked a Master's was hired to fill that position in Tom DeSantis. The rest at least in relation to him is history.

Raychele Sterling was the city attorney employee placed on administrative leave, allegedly after she complained about the treatment of city employees who complained about the allegations of favoritism in the assignment of certain contracts. First of all, it was surprising to read of a city attorney employee under Priamos actually doing more than smiling and telling people who ask questions that he'll get back to them when he talks to his boss. But if Sterling was trying to do the right thing involving something unpleasant, of course she's not going to get accolades for it.

There's differing versions of events on why she was placed on administrative leave. Maybe I'm just a little bit dense here but why on earth is Sundeen commenting on the status of one of City Attorney Gregory Priamos' employees and not Priamos? Couldn't anyone find Priamos or is he not answering his city issued cell phone when the respectable news media outlet comes calling?

Anyway, here's the conflicting versions provided on Sterling.


He added that Sterling is on paid administrative leave "strictly at her choice."

Perry, Sterling's attorney, called that characterization inaccurate.

"(City Attorney Greg) Priamos placed Ms. Sterling on administrative leave on April 22 for an unstated reason," Perry said. "Ms. Sterling has not committed any misconduct and she is ready and willing to return to work at the city attorney's office.

Okay, so Priamos' newest spokesman Sundeen says that she chose to go on administrative leave yet her own attorney says uh, no Priamos put her on leave without telling her why and that she's ready and willing to return to work. Okay, then if she's the one that volunteered to go on leave, but wants to work, call her into the office on Monday and get her back in her spot writing and signing work contracts! If Sterling doesn't show up for work then, it's going to be pretty clear who put her on leave, so it's just tiring if the city's being dishonest and playing the city residents for the fools that it clearly believes us to be.

But the safe bet is that Sterling won't be returning to work this week even though she's said she's ready and Sundeen, in lieu of her boss Priamos, has claimed she took the leave on her own, which again her lawyer denied. Then of course, Sean Gill won't be returning to work apparently either.

But never fear, Hudson's on the case involving Sterling's allegations and has assigned this legal firm in Rancho Cucamonga to get to the bottom of it. Will the city iron out a written contract that can actually be accessed by a public document request or not? That issue was raised by a local activist, Kevin Dawson at a Finance Committee meeting when he requested legal contracts from Best, Best and Krieger and not a single one could be found. Isn't that just wonderful, for how money generated by people's taxes to be spent without a paper trail? On such shaky foundations, accountability is born? Why hasn't a single elected official addressed the issue as to why the city retains outside legal firms for legal services and can't produce written copies of these contracts when someone like Dawson asks for them under a provision of state law?

And in the midst of the mystery of the invisible legal contracts, the shuffling of what's left of Riverside's cash from one account to another account to another account and so forth (so you kind of get lost on the merry path) had taken on a more desperate tone as the house of cards built on the Redevelopment Agencies finally begin to shift on their flimsy foundations. That's become apparent just if you've been following the discussions at city council meetings and articles written by the Press Enterprise in the past several years. Seriously just trying to follow the money trail presented by these sources is enough to give you a bad case of vertigo. Yet one city council member, Paul Davis had the following to say. He was according to the article on the favortism allegations, the only city official who could even be located for comment. He refused to comment and then commented on the city's financial matters.


Councilman Paul Davis declined to comment directly on the issues raised in the email, but said he has extensively reviewed city finances and audits.

"I have never, ever been presented with any physical evidence that would suggest that anything inappropriate is going on."

The only problem with reviewing the city's audits is that they were either done internally by employees reporting to Hudson and not anyone else and as for the "independent" audits, they were done by Meyer Hoffman McCann which according to its audits, Riverside was pretty close to being perfect. The issue with that is that the now troubled firm proclaimed the same thing about Bell's audits, in fact that city even won some sort of awards for its finances.

About a year later, the police department was breaking down the mayor's door to arrest him and members of the city council and the highest paid city manager in the state.

So much for that auditing firm, which has been criticized by the State Comptroller's office for not following proper procedure during its audits of Bell's finances. And no one on the dais has the kind of skills to even realistically keep up with the flow of money in this city, let alone understand or really even explain it. Most city residents can't even sort out the audit reports that were put out with Meyer Hoffman McCann for five years, you know those "perfect" reports and how to do so is never explained to the city residents whose taxes go into the city's coffers. Perfect just like the ones that firm did for Bell...and probably Victorville (which is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission) as well.

That's why there's so much talk about pensions at the bottom of the employment ladder rather than those at the tip-pity top and what's going on up there. If it's so necessary to cut labor budgets and pension programs, why is it that Riverside is neck and neck with Moreno Valley for the most expensive city manager in the state? Remember Riverside was in second place for a while behind the city of Bel before the orange jumpsuits came out.

But some interesting news as stated earlier came out of City Hall with the promotion of Lorson although so far she's not really gotten a raise. It looks mostly to be a transfer of one management employee's salary out of Development/Redevelopment into the City's General Fund. Lorson took credit for making the Fox Theater the incredible success it is today and last year, the Human Resources Board had wanted a face to face interview with her to address concerns about the high attrition rate particularly among older employees in the Development Department. But Hudson showed up instead and aw shucked his way into telling the Board that no, that interview wasn't going to take place and the board should go off and redefine it's mission and objectives.

But was it a real promotion or merely another reshuffling of money from one funding source to another?

[Newly crowned Asst. City Manager Deanna Lorson in a decision that raised a lot of brows as her boss, City Manager Brad Hudson does some more money shuffling]

There's also more fuss about the 8%-9% of deferred compensation from most of the employees and not as much as City Manager Brad Hudson's 25% deferred compensation for example. No discussion about why city council members can get a pension and life time benefits for simply putting in a term and a year in office. In fact, as one city council member, Steve Adams so eloquently put it, it's too premature to even really discuss impacting the salaries and benefits of elected officials and management employees negatively yet city council members should be full-time and have their pay increased. Adams calls the Riverside Firefighters' Association's adoption of the two-tier pension plan as "excellent" yet isn't even open to making any discussions about the salaries and benefits of city council members including their pensions. At least city employees work many years and many deal with public safety issues to collect theirs at the end of careers lasting 30 + years not those that are less than 10 years long. When Loveridge isn't authoring the redevelopment story, he'll be benefiting from two general public sector pensions, as a college professor and as a city official.

Adams collects a medical retirement on top of his pension for serving on the city council for an alleged "in the line of duty" injury that some allege was during an intramural football game. Hudson allegedly dispatched his newest assistant city manager, Lorson on her first day of that position to call the city's largest bargaining unit, the SEIU Local to adopt the two-tier pension plan. Lorson was the direct beneficiary of the shifting of her salary from development/redevelopment to the city's general fund.

It it just me or do others feel that the multiple spinning plates that City Hall's tried to keep balanced up in the air are finally coming crashing down?

We hear all this talk mainly from the City's Financial CEO Paul Sundeen who cheerfully tells us that buying back one's own unrated bonds is "zero risk" in a game that's known for its risk. We hear about how Riverside Renaissance has already been paid for when the real accounting hasn't yet begun. Oh, and you'll see your contributions on your utility bills for plenty years to come through increases and additions of special fees. This expensive program will be the gift that keeps giving on your utility bills, because I've been looking at my bills and I can see the differences in what's being paid in just the past several years, can you?

Why Attending Finance Committee Meetings is Like Going Down the Rabbit Hole

[Asst. City Manager of Finance Paul Sundeen explains a point of finance to members of the Finance Committee, always with a cheerful smile]

[The Finance Committee has started meeting again but when will it address what's really going on with the city's financing of Redevelopment not to mention the public services?]

Remember when for an entire year, the finance committee never met at all? It was stashed in mothballs while Chair Councilwoman Nancy Hart waited for the city management including Sundeen to tell her when to meet and what to discuss. That's pretty much what she said including during a city council not long before the committee started meeting more regularly, you know like monthly. The first time it had done so since the arrival of Hudson in June 2005 led to a sharp reduction in Finance Committee meetings no matter who actually chaired it. There's more discussions and more people asking questions and last time out, the committee interviewed three independent auditing firms, recommending one from up in Oregon to follow in the footsteps of the departing Meyer Hoffman and McCann.

As always more to come....

Public Meetings

Tuesday, May 3 at 3pm and 6:30pm,
the city council will be meeting at City Hall to discuss this agenda. What's funny is how the skimpy the agendas have gotten at recent meetings. The discussion calendars are for the most part still filled with fluffy receive and file reports but the massive amount of spending hidden on the consent calendar has markedly slowed down. What's on the agenda that strikes a chord is the marketing efforts involving the sewer fund. They're talking about chemicals that make noxious smells but nothing stinks as bad as the fund itself.

As well as the city's efforts to cut its costs by reducing pension benefits for new hires. In her first act as the new assistant city manager, Deanna Lorson dialed up the SEIU Local and told them they're to adopt a similar plan to that given to the members of the Riverside Firefighters' Association. But what's ironic is of course, Lorson had her salary and benefits left untouched by her promotion which in a sense was simply a money transfer from a city department/redevelopment to the general fund.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's a Mad Mad World In Riverside's House of Cards

UPDATE: Jeffrey Hall, 32, found shot to death at a local residence. Unknown if he's the same individual who headed the Riverside chapter of the National Socialist Movement, an organization of Neo-Nazis who protested in Riverside several years ago.

Riverside city employees punished for whistle blowing on contracts given to Brad Hudson's friends?

Quote of the Day

"We are a much less desirable target for the state now because if they take us over, there is nothing left for them to steal,"

----Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson to Press Enterprise

UPDATE: Hudson promotes Development Director Deanna Lorson to an Assistant City Manager position. My, this is an interesting development in...development...more to come. Her first day, she calls SEIU, tells them about pension and benefit cuts. What are her cuts? And was this done because her boss is planning an exit strategy or simply to transfer her salary from Development to the general fund?

We're trying to tell the redevelopment story,"

--Mayor Ron Loveridge on why the city spent money on the redevelopment banners which adorn some of the city's projects but not the University Village which is in receivership. Yes, Loveridge, tell the residents the whole story, just make sure it's true.

The officer who was the son of one of the Riverside Police Department's captains had allegedly resigned before taking his position in the wake of an arrest last month for public intoxication and fighting. Allegations had arisen that his father upon hearing about the arrest tried to ask a Corona Police Department watch commander for preferential treatment for his son including his release without paperwork from a municipal jail. It's not known whether those allegations were investigated or not.

[Inside City Hall, more than a couple power struggles are brewing during Election 2011]

"You know she needed to vent, and I needed to hear it. But she did say, yeah she was considering, --she thought she had grounds for some sort of discrimination suit."

---Former Riverside Police Chief Russ Leach in his deposition about Capt. Meredyth Meredith (pg. 55, lines 8-11)

"No, the only thing after the fact was that Steve Adams didn't want her promoted for some reason unless other factors were involved; get the call from my boss and said they didn't approve my choice of captain. And it's the first time it ever happened to me so I wasn't happy."

---Leach, in his deposition (pg. 60, lines 19-24)

"I did ask why. They just said 'Look elsewhere for it Can't get the support for it.'"

---Leach (pg. 51 lines 4-5)

"I have absolutely nothing to do with promotions. There's nothing I can do."

---Adams in his deposition (p. 37, lines 20-21)

"I would describe it, it is perceived --my perceived--from his perception, me hanging out with Tim and Darryl, getting involved in campaign stuff, not supporting Steve in his reelection campaign that was my-my perception of it. And it was based not only on what occurred but as well as what he told me."

---Capt. John Carpenter about his perception on why he was prevented from being promoted in his deposition (pg. 156, lines 18-24)

There's nothing like a great conspiracy theory and the one unwoven by Riverside Councilman Steve Adams at the April 19 City Council meeting was better than most. Prompted by his supporter and international correspondent, Michael Morales who set him up with his own speech of the grand conspiracy of the "filthy five" which he didn't actually list linking Councilman Paul Davis, Adams' campaign rival John Brandriff and a bunch of other people including a woman who died a couple years ago to a conspiracy to make Adams look bad. Somehow I don't think those in his "filthy five" should be all that insulted.

It's what's known as a reversal in public rhetoric which Morales , who apparently is quite the online writer set up in his own speech and what was truly surprising was watching Adams promote it in his own speech. Morales typically shows up to serve as a point person for political candidates in need of one, just a phone call away. Though he changes his stances with the seasons, having argued for and against the Community Police Review Commission in the same calendar year (in front of vastly different audiences) for example so that offers up some degree of unpredictability from the former television newsman.

Adams in his own comments started off rather well by saying he wouldn't let an unethical officer get away with misconduct or an unethical politician. But then in the interest of "transparency", he launched his counterstrike against Davis, shocking some on the dais into being even more quiet on these issues than usual. But not Mayor Ron Loveridge who knew what he was doing when he directed Adams to continue, because he always knows what he's doing when he presides over the meetings he still attends. The second part of the speech wasn't really all that necessary for a man who was as uninvolved with the process as he had claimed but it definitely proved interesting.

Adams said he had evidence that the ethics complaints filed by the Riverside Coalition for Police Accountability and members of the Eastside Think Tank was done because Davis and Brandriff directed the organizations to do so. That's the first time I became aware of that as a member of one of those organizations. Actually, no, what led to the filing of the complaints was the allegations raised in the lawsuits filed by two now retired police lieutenants but what drove it even more was the sworn testimony (under penalty of perjury) provided by those who were subpoenaed including of course, Adams. If you haven't read the depositions yet, you should do that as anyone should so they can come to their own conclusions about the allegations raised but many of those who have read it came to similar conclusions, that being that clearly Riverside has had some disturbing actions taking place that only recently came to light. Hopefully, the constituents in Ward Seven who are asking Adams questions about his complaint will receive a copy of the sworn depositions as an answer in the interest of transparency.

Reading them was such an eye opener as it's been for many who actually did read them and a disturbing look at how City Hall does business, how it related to the police department under Leach and how from the outside of the walls of power, it just seems like City Hall's denizens speak a whole different language and operate under a whole different set of rules than it appeared. Adams must have been upset after his deposition when he gave it because only hours later, he verbally attacked me while I spoke at a city council meeting somewhat out of the blue, which seemed odd because it clearly came from out of nowhere.

But anyway, some verbal sword play took place between Adams and Davis while the comment was discussed by elected officials after receiving public comment. Bringing a new dimension to the Group Think environment that has permeated it, which needed to be smashed to bits ages ago. There needs to be someone on that dais who's bold enough to ask the questions which need to be asked, who's not looking ahead to the day when he'll be mayor.

[Councilman Paul Davis pushed for an ethics complaint to be pushed to a hearing date in front of a panel of five chairs of boards and commissions]

[Councilman Steve Adams agreed to the motion then channeled Bette Davis accusing Davis of conspiring against him to help candidate John Brandriff]

It had started a couple weeks ago when City Attorney Gregory Priamos had dismissed a complaint filed against Adams first for being the same in content as the first one, and then in the press for the the most recent changes to the much beleaguered ethics code and complaint process not being applied retroactively even though there's neither a provision in the actual code or or against retro-activity. He didn't happen to bring any documentation to defend or support that legal ruling but Priamos himself has allegedly told individuals who ask what his job is, that primarily it's to protect the mayor and city council though he seems less able to answer the question, protect them from what?

But then Priamos and his assistant, attorney Jeb Brown have apparently not been able to play as much of a major role in governing the police department as they did with the former police chief, Russ Leach. Chief Sergio Diaz allegedly has a much different idea of the role that the city attorney should play and that might have left Priamos at a loss of what to do so maybe the ethics code and complaint process is serving as a surrogate.

Anyway, even though the ethics code and complaint process had changed in part to thwart Priamos' role at dismissing complaints rather than sending them to the adjudication board, Priamos was up to his old behavior anyway. This time, three city council members, Davis, Mike Gardner and Andrew Melendrez questioned his actions including in public. The other city council members appeared to adopt the deer caught in the headlights approach to the issue but ultimately joined with the others to question why the agenda item involving legalizing retro-activity was up for them to decide on at all.

As Gardner, Melendrez and Davis spoke, Adams stayed there and watched, he even managed to stay in his seat the entire time during public comment, a huge change for him and he had his supporters in the room to at least watch including three board members from the Riverside Police Officers' Association which already endorsed him reversing its position from 2007.

[Mayor Ron Loveridge (l.) and City Attorney Greg Priamos (far right) really, really tried to help Adams but the majority of the city council saw the writing on the wall.]

The presence of the RPOA's leadership was ironic, considering the fractious relationship it had with Adams in 2007 when it opted to endorse another candidate rather than him. He had circulated a letter that had upset its leadership, at about the same time that the leadership of the Riverside Police Administrators' Association also began experiencing friction with Adams after its decision not to endorse him.

The political climate hasn't been kind to leadership in either association, sending three prior leaders of them into early retirement after lawsuits were filed by all three alleging retaliation for their union activities. And with attempts to push the two-tier promotion plan to both police associations, some have speculated that doing so at a time when three principal board members including the president are on promotional probation might be the best time for Hudson. But so far he hasn't yet made his move in that direction. Even as the battle of the pensions reached the city council debates held at California Baptist University on April 20. The city and members of city council have been promoting the two tier pension plan. Mayor Ron Loveridge did like at his annual State of the City address sponsored by the Greater Riverside Chamber of Commerce and for the first time in years, didn't receive a standing ovation from those in attendance which included many city employees.

But it's interesting while there's talk of reducing pensions for future employees, that there's discussion about making the city council stints full-time positions with full-time pay which means, hey a pay hike for them! Hmm...dudes, it's an election year, is that the best time to raise that issue because if you think pensions for public employees is very contentious topic, well, those for elected officials and management employees (think Bell! Think Mo Val!) is even more so. What's really striking is that the issues hasn't been raised about how elected officials can actually collect pensions and life time benefits simply for serving at least five years on the dais. What's with that? Some say that some elected officials ran for reelection simply to qualify for those benefits. Didn't work quite so well for one of them. But then debates are the times when candidates throw all kinds of comments out there, what matters is what is done as follow through on what is said.

Wait, did former Councilman Dom Betro really say as the article implies there are abuses in redevelopment? If you think that's what he really believes or cares, there's some lovely beachfront property in Idaho I'd love to show you. After all, he told the Greater Democrats of Riverside at their forum a while back (when he wasn't chastising them about policing their membership) that he and former Councilman Frank Schiavone were the catalysts on the dais who had brought in Hudson in the first place. Hudson didn't apply for the job because he was bored with the county, he was recruited by Riverside, and if one former councilman's comments are true, they sought him out a year before he was hired.

Which mean that they were recruiting him while still trying to figure out what to do with their current city manager, George Carvalho. If that's true, then Carvalho never stood a chance. Maybe some of the people who voted for him to stay and against his firing really agreed with the majority that fired him but took that road to please their fired up constituents who protested the firing of Carvalho enmasse at a city council meeting not long after. After all, only four votes were needed.

In fact Betro's argument apparently for being reelected to some is that yes, Hudson got a little bit out of control after Betro left and he's really the only candidate up for election in his ward that can bring him back in line or under control. As far as campaign points go, that's a doozy and it's hard to see the rationale behind it.

Betro also was featured in Inland Empire Weekly as a key proponent to the threatened use of eminent domain to seize properties in the downtown Redevelopment Agency zone. One of his campaign donors, Mark Rubin was a beneficiary of the ejection of property owners out of several major corridors including Market Street in downtown Riverside, thanks to Betro and others on the dais at the time. So it's a bit odd to see him claiming that there's abuses and/or problems with redevelopment on this campaign jag when he was championing ejecting property owners off of those streets to remold downtown into exactly what, no one still seems to know.

But even as the city pays money out of its deflated coffers to post banners trumping redevelopment projects even on projects not really coming from that funding source, it leaves out others such as the University Village which is currently under receivership and that major condo project down on Market Street after it turned out that only four condos were purchased out of over 100, the rest of them serving as rentals. The ambitious project which was to reduce the percentage of rental properties downtown only served to increase it.

I and others have been accused by Adams and his syncopates of being out to get him and get another candidate, John Brandriff in office. I learned that not only am I endorsing him, I'm actively working on his campaign. Then there's the story that Davis and Brandriff were pushing the people who filed the complaints to do that. Maybe the Davis and Adams clash was overdue but

No actually it's possible for those who think outside the political box to file a complaint challenging the ethical behavior of an elected official without being politically motivated. Ward Seven has a very important decision ahead of it, just like the other odd numbered wards which is to first, participate in the election process which is one of the country's greatest freedoms and to elect their councilman, be it Adams, Brandriff or former Mayor Terry Frizzel. It's that ward's choice.

Besides after studying the issue of campaigns, both successful and not, and then studying the performance of winning candidates, grass roots or otherwise, the conclusion I've reached is that for those who invest in council futures, it's a risky venture because no matter what promises candidates make, or what they claim they stand for and what they claim to do, it all changes within two years of them serving in their offices. It's happened time and time again where those who backed candidates, endorsed them and volunteered countless hours for them get upset because the candidate turns out not to be who they think they were or they "change" or they even do a 180 degree change as at least one candidate up for office this time did leaving many of his supporters confounded. Not so much because they're bad people or public servants, but because they're good politicians. The problem, is when being a good politician matters more than being a public servant to your constituents.

But what ultimately drives the change in victorious candidates to council members is the system that they participate in while in elected office. That's what is broken not so much the candidates themselves. You get rushed into this "go along to get along" or what's called "Group Think" on the dais. The temptation is to engage in voting bloc building first on city-wide issues and then as part of the "open market" system of bartering for support on ward projects by agreeing to do the same for your peers. If you want that park built and need support, you need to support other elected officials' projects and if your colleague is up for reelection, you blanket endorse him or you get shut out of the garden club. This kind of system slowly erodes and ultimately destroys an elected body's ability to hold its members accountable for their behavior on and off the dais. That's one reason why the ethics code and complaint process ultimately will prove to be a failure in River City no matter how many amendments are stacked into the process. Few if anyone on that dais really want that process to succeed. Remember these folks probably knew about the illicit gun sale by the police department to management employees, about the illicit badges, even receiving them themselves but what was their response as a council?

To gather behind closed doors and settle two lawsuits for more money including benefits than it would have cost to try the case in court a few weeks later and "win" it. What the settlements make clear is that despite Priamos tried and true mantra he trots out with every case settled, they clearly didn't think they'd win this round in federal court, also known as a public forum. If you've read the depositions, you'll know why they settled this case.

So where does an ethics process factor into this equation? It really doesn't, if it weren't for the pesky voters in 2004 who voted the code and complaint process into the city's charter, would it even exist.

Of course not. After all it hadn't existed up to that point.

So endorsing or pushing for political candidates really just from observing others try and fail to do that, makes no sense. The key is to vote in the process and to hold your representative's feet to the fire no matter who's on the dais because that will keep you busy enough so you don't have time to work on campaigns of the next people in line to hold accountable when you wake up and realize it's all more of the same. After all, the city's nearly turned over its entire city council in the past several cycles and it's still increasing the city's debt into amounts that the next three generations probably couldn't pay for but will be forced to try to do. It's pretty frightening what will happen when the house of cards that the city's built comes tumbling down, when you have financial CEOs engage in risky financial schemes with the public's money (well actually debt) and then say there's "zero risk".

That's absolutely not true and the fact that the city's Financial CEO is saying that to the press is just ridiculous and makes it clear how unintelligent it believes most of the populace to be.

When in the world of financial investment and spending, there's always risk involved and there's no such thing as an exception to that rule. Sundeen even contradicted his own assessment by outlining what the risk actually was, and that was the bonds were tied into the success or failure of the housing market to get out of its current basement. Riverside Renaissance was set up during a time of flush and when the city council held its coronation at the Municipal Auditorium which added to the theatrics of the event, a few people warned about the downturn ahead and were essentially poo poohed and laughed at by their elected representatives. Well some of those former and current elected officials found out the hard way that nothing including economic prosperity lasts forever and that the worst recession in decades was on the horizon. The problem that Renaissance is probably still going on right now is that the city has buried itself too deeply to get out of it, as it has been with similar development plans in other cities that mortgaged themselves down to their last building even before Riverside came up with its grand idea of the Renaissance. In this rendition, the dark ages came after it, rather than before.

When we find out that all those libraries and public safety buildings we constructed with accumulating really don't belong to us after all but if the city takes a wrong step, a financial institution that holds that debt. And members of the public had been asking the elected officials about buildings that had been put up as collateral when the city takes out bonds or loans for several years now.

One city resident pointed out a while back that the Casa Blanca library was used as collateral in a loan that had nothing to do with libraries and brought it up at a meeting only to get the usual brushoff that the public really doesn't know the full story about the city's financial situation. But when you ask most of the elected officials to provide that full story, they seem at a loss for words as well. This isn't anything new, these themes have played themselves out at public meetings for a while now, they just don't usually make the press. The city has put itself in a situation that it will take one elected official or more with frankly the guts to put themselves on the line to try to clean out the city's closets, that's what people have also been saying for quite some time.

Until there's elected officials who remain as true to exploring these issues say about two years after they're elected as they were to get elected in the first place, then endorsing or promoting candidates is pretty much a waste of energy and time. It's best to leave that up to the high priced donors through their wallets. Because the one thing Riverside has never seen, is two successful grass roots campaigns in a row.

[City Manager Brad Hudson testified (though not under oath) that he absolutely never was influenced by elected officials when making promotional decisions, yes promotional decisions.]

But anyway the Seventh Floor of City Hall continues to develop more strategies to build up the debt further, making the house more precarious, making it clear that an ethics complaint against one of its denizens is the least of its concerns.

When Managers Clash:

The Battle Between the Old and New Guard at the RPD Continues

[Riverside's Administration Headquarters, the epicenter of some epic battles in the management ranks]

[The three newest management team members, Chief Sergio Diaz, Deputy Chief Jeffrey Greer and Asst. Chief Chris Vicino at a community forum]

[Deputy Chief Mike Blakely (l.) and Diaz at a Riverside Unified School Board meeting while an officer receives an award]

Things have apparently gotten a little heated at the Riverside Police Department's Administrative headquarters on Orange Street Station in downtown Riverside. Housed there are of course Chief Sergio Diaz along with other employees working under either his division or the civilian administrative side. These include of course, Asst. Chief Chris Vicino who's second in the chain of command and Deputy Chief Michael Blakely who oversees administration and personnel under Vicino's office. If you use the paramilitary patriarchal structure of the department or something more generic like the food chain, the order of rank starts with Diaz, then Vicino and then Blakely. The other deputy chief Jeff Greer oversees field operations and investigations and thus is housed way across the city at the Magnolia Police Center and a bit of a distance away from the fireworks at the main office. Maybe he's a little relieved about that, because he's had his own adjustment on the management team in a new town.

Diaz apparently some time ago convened a meeting of a large group of employees who are up higher in the ranks to deal with some issues with them, the main one apparently being efforts made near the top to undercut him and his own efforts to manage the department. Apparently this blog wasn't held in high esteem during that conversation, in fact what he allegedly said about it had some colorful metaphors which have been used before. He's entitled to his opinion and since he'd also been to the citizen academy telling those in attendance that they'd been pretty much brainwashed by television programs and bloggers into believing something different about the police department than what existed in reality, it's not surprise he's apparently no fan of this blog. No police chief acting or permanent has been so far.

In fact, his predecessor, Acting Chief John DeLaRosa made periodic visits to roll call to unite the troops as one big family, some saw that as an attempt at reconciliation, others as ridiculous because that family hadn't ever really existed until it became necessary. He made one trip insisting for example that Lt. Leon Phillips hadn't been put in the penalty box at Orange Street Station to be punished but to be trained for a "special assignment" when about a week after he made that pronouncement, Phillips "special assignment" allegedly involved getting a notice of intent to terminate. Phillips allegedly spent time doing what he needed to do to build his case to take to city management to get his discipline dropped to a written reprimand. He stuck to his plan and prevailed, determined to not be a scapegoat in the Leach DUI incident.

At the time, DeLaRosa didn't relate his own involvement and that of his cell phone in the whole DUI incident involving he former police chief. So reconciliation didn't include a confessional component along with it and the one officer there who called him on his reconciliation message and its motives was summarily fired about eight weeks later ending a career which had lasted much longer than that. His firing was reversed even before it was sent to arbitration when the city council medically retired him when it settled his federal lawsuit paying him back salary and additional monies minus a brief unpaid suspension.

So much for family building but it appeared that Diaz was borrowing a tactic from the former chief who still apparently advises him.

He was allegedly asked by concerned individuals to give examples of the efforts by unknown people to undermine him and he brought up an interesting example, only one. It had to do with his appointment of Deputy Chief Mike Blakely last July. He had been advised by individuals at City Hall not to appoint Blakely to that position, he told his audience but he made that decision to do so anyway and that the department needed to support that and put its past behind it.

What's interesting is what he said, compared to the actual dynamics surrounding him, Blakely and Vicino and what's allegedly been playing out since back in August when the cabinet of Diaz was more firmly entrenched. Two at will employees hired from outside the city along with one long-time police employee, an interesting mix to say the least. Now Diaz is obviously intelligent in a difficult job and some of his goals like the creation of programs for youth reflect that drive towards reestablishing community policing in a city where attrition and politics shifted it downstream for a while. He appears a force to be reckoned with at City Hall keeping some folks like City Attorney Gregory Priamos and his syncopate Jeb Brown at bay which has not made either man very happy. Remember Priamos had such a hands on role in police administration that he once allegedly sought to get police lights and a radio to equip his city issued vehicle in case he had to "roll" to a major incident. Being pushed to the sidelines if that's what happened had to be a critical blow but if it was welded, then Diaz did what should have been done ages ago. A very good and prudent move on his part and he's made some brilliant strategic moves in the past six month, making them without it seeming that way. Clearly this chief learned a few things while advancing through the difficult ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department.

But what he's done in the situation that's erupted with his cabinet is take a wait and see approach as two vibrant personalities have clashed since they first crossed. Both Blakely and Vicino are intelligent, strongly opinionated and they both clearly have strong work ethics, putting in many hours in their positions without seeming to blink at it. They are located next door to each other both inside the administrative headquarters and in the parking lot outside as well. In some ways, it's a collision between old guard and interloper, an inevitable dynamic that's played out in the police department before and in other law enforcement agencies as well.

Vicino's main hurdle has been his newness, and that along with Diaz and Greer, he had a tendency to say "this is how we did it in [Insert former law enforcement agency] when proposing his changes and there's been quite a few in a couple key areas, which has left people feeling the arrival of a management team that's 75% new blood including at the top. It'd make more sense to just present the new proposals independent of any reference to where they came from and sell them on their components 0f those proposals themselves. Blakely's got the advantage of positive or negative, being a member of the home court before the new people arrived, and thus serving as a contrast to the three new arrivals. Blakely's more likely to be seen by some as one of them as opposed to individuals who only had been with the department about nine months, seemingly dropping out of the sky compared to individuals who have spent decades including working up the ranks.

But Vicino's a force of his own and he's been quite busy helping with the redevelopment of the department's strategic plan and the reintroduction of the Community Services Bureau which existed until several years ago when it was shelved during what was sold as an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to decentralize its programs and thus community policing. This time around, it was combined with the public information office and when it came time to find a lieutenant, over two-thirds of them applied for the position. Guy Toussaint who had led the Traffic Division was selected by Diaz, the Bureau became the focal priority inside Orange Street Station and received generous office space there. Hunting for the sergeant to serve under Toussaint became much more difficult because none of them put in for it, leaving Toussaint to have to recruit, and for a while, Dan Warren worked as the sergeant in that unit.

But Warren was sent back to patrol allegedly and is likely to have his vacancy filled with a sergeant on light duty, perhaps even Cliff Mason who's been out for several months with a severe patella tendon rupture which required surgery and will be set to return next month to light duty.

Vicino also is the department's third assistant chief in at least its recent history. Under the old schematic, the department had only one deputy chief until Leach promoted Mike Smith to this rank not long after he arrived, with Audrey Wilson serving as the deputy chief. Then Leach appointed DeLaRosa when he had two deputy chief positions, during that whole "at will" controversy that erupted in March 2007. The management team had greatly expanded in the past decade under Leach and currently those same positions are filled, including a deputy chief position that had been vacant after the retirement of Dave Dominguez. Maybe it's not a position that those who have led the department are that familiar with because it's not been around as long.

What's puzzling about the Blakley and Vicino dynamic is that it's not like two deputy chiefs in conflict, Vicino on the hierarchical chart outranks Blakely as the assistant chief which would seem to preclude serious conflicts from playing out, including allegedly in the parking lot when both men were at their cars. What had started allegedly with Blakely having different opinions than Vicino on how things were to be done and his testing of the authority of Vicino has led to the two men speaking very little to each other. At a recent city council meeting when both attended, there appeared to be a chill in the air.

At the center of the controversy are changes made by Vicino (presumably under Diaz' direction) to the handling of the investigations handed out by Internal Affairs and the disciplinary process itself, instituted by Diaz since his arrival. Previously Blakely had overseen the Internal Affairs process as the Personnel and Administrative captain. He had initiated investigations and disciplinary action, but Vicino apparently asked questions as to why officers weren't on active duty when the allegations against them were unfounded. He asked questions about why certain investigations were ongoing or dragging or done in the first place and looked into disciplinary practices done by that division.

[The headquarters of the Internal Affairs Division which has been a focus of the dynamics between two members of Diaz' management team]

Changes to disciplinary imposition were apparently made as well, with captains who oversaw the officers apparently making recommendations and sending them to Greer and Vicino bypassing Blakely. So while Diaz had asked for unilateral support for Blakely in that meeting in front of Blakely, was he internally changing his scope of responsibilities in his division? If so, that would certainly send a confusing message to everyone. Asking people to support his appointment yet showing them by reducing that employee's scope of power, how does that mesh with those words?

In the midst of this, are three very active and strong personalities, with stronger opinions but if there were a power struggle between two management employees where one outranks the other, how's that handled or is it not handled? When does a difference of opinion become insubordination, and what are all the layers in between the two? But then again, Blakely's been a strong player in the department behind the scenes outlasting three chiefs including the one who brought him into the department as its deputy chief. He rode out the turmoil involving Leach, his protege, DeLaRosa and the rest of the intrigue, thriving in the midst of chaos at the top and became a focal party in a number of claims and lawsuits filed by current and former employees, making very serious allegations against him and the conduct of the Internal Affairs Division.

Still Vicino's got to do more than stand his ground because he's the assistant chief and he has the energy and skills to bring into the mix and he could be a potent force for positive change, even if it's in a department that sometimes seems to go around in circles like an amusement ride, moving forward and then retreating backwards again. He's capable of more than holding his own in a battle of wills if he keeps his focus and if there were problems doing on the arena of internal investigations and discipline which was highlighted with a few well known cases in the past year, then that's a struggle worth winning but it should be in a way that builds a stronger, more accountable process that's in accordance with the state laws that shaped it. That's one of Vicino's responsibilities as an administrator upon direction by Diaz to shape an internal investigation and disciplinary process that's accountable to those moving through it, as well as the public but Vicino needs to make it appear less as if he's doing things differently simply because that's how they were done where he came from, because the Riverside Police Department is truly its own unique entity, not like the LAPD or Pasadena's police department.

Diaz has continued to adopt the wait and see approach that's a hallmark of where he came from, he's picked up his skills from those he watched and followed during his own ascension in the LAPD. But while he's looking around for people undermining him, and those evil bloggers, he's got a power struggle going on at the top that bears paying attention to, just as he learned when he made those July promotions that some of the old familiar players that had been involved in that process might return to do it again.

It's unfortunate that he apparently views bloggers as the enemy but if he's paying attention, he'll realize that he inherited a department with a lot of hardworking employees and great things going on but its share of serious issues as well including some that still remain buried. If he hasn't uncovered them yet, he will. He must remain mindful of why he's in the department and not enjoying retirement even as he looks ahead to the future of the agency he leads and manages. A familiar dynamic will likely arise if the Blakely and Vicino conflict continues, as it had with other similar dynamics with other management teams, which actually became opposing teams with varying employees joining one or another.

And that's not a chapter that's really one that needs to be relived, but one that needs to be rewritten in a new script.

An Old Face Returning?

[Former Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa has expressed interesting in applying for the Charter Review Committee]

The city's still collecting applicants for phase two of the appointment process for the Charter Review Committee which has suspended its meetings until the new members are selected. One of those who allegedly has plans to apply is former Asst/Acting Chief John DeLaRosa who told individuals at one of the meetings he attended that he's interested in putting his name in the hat. If appointed after an interview by the city council, he would certainly prove to be an interesting addition.

Public Meetings

Tuesday, April 26 at 3 pm and 6:30 pm, The city council will hold its weekly meeting at City Hall to discuss this agenda.

Wednesday April 27 at 5:30 p.m. The Community Police Review Commission will meet at City Hall and discuss this agenda. The agenda includes another round of discussion about minority reports.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Has Riverside Become Too Risky an Investment?

UPDATE: SEIU Local Under City Surveillance? Questions have been raised about the installment of a camera near its headquarters on Market Street. The SEIU Local is the largest bargaining unit of city employees in Riverside.

As people in the audience including board members representing the Riverside Police Officers' Association sat in attendance, a sharp exchange of words between Councilman Steve Adams and Councilman Paul Davis after the city council led by Davis and two other councilmen agree to send the ethics complaint filed against Adams alleging administrative interference with two police department promotions to the adjudicative body consisting of the chairs of boards and commissions. Adams accused Davis of being involved in a plot with other folks in the audience who were actively working on the campaign of his rival, John Brandriff not in attendance. Davis responded.

As someone said afterward, "the gloves came off."

Adams had a moment there when he agreed with his colleagues where one almost thought that's really great of him as a councilman to agree to have his complaint heard but then when he did what (former) Councilman Dom Betro did before him, which was try to put the complainants on trial, which simply serves to educate the public that this is what you'd better expect if you use the ethics code and complaint process. It seems to be that the more "false" the allegations, the more aggressive behavior by elected officials against complainants. Something that the public had grown accustomed to during the "nice" years of city council decorum, which reached its pinnacle when police officers were ordered to eject a number of people including on different occasions, two elderly women.

He also made some allegations of fact which were disputed by the depositions of those who testified in the lawsuits filed by two former lieutenants. Since the depositions were never tried in a court of fact, it's important for the allegations made of administrative interference, a charter violation, against Adams have their day of hearing in a public arena.

The city settled the lawsuits filed by the two lieutenants just before their April 20 trial for more money (including the retirements) than it would have likely cost to conduct a "winning" trial. Of course, if the city lost, would it have saved or lost money? Probably lost it.

He alleged that now Capt. Meredyth Meredith never complained about what had happened to her, although former Chief Russ Leach testified in deposition that Meredith had been devastated by her canceled promotion. She had sought legal counsel and had gone back to Leach saying that her attorney told her she had a "discrimination" case. Six months later, she was promoted to captain during the next round and became the first and last captain of the Communications Bureau. This is based on testimony provided in the depositions, Meredith did get told she was going to be promoted and had it rescinded.

Carpenter met with former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel who was a close friend of Adams and Adams in a Corona eatery (as all three testified they didn't want to be seen together by people they knew) on the eve of Carpenter's promotion. According to deposition, Carpenter had expressed concerns about promotional issues and related involvement in political activity with the Riverside Police Administrators' Association and documented specific concerns and incidents on a thumb drive which was apparently lost while he changed assignments, according to deposition testimony. If Carpenter had his own opinions about who the PAC of his union was going to endorse for city council then why was there a "clearing the air" meeting with Adams, the eve of his promotion and did union leaders have the political freedom to endorse candidates of their choice without repercussions?

Adams had said that in order to influence the promotional process, he'd have to go to the city manager. Testimony in the deposition conflicted in whether he allegedly contacted former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis about the Meredith promotion and the Carpenter promotion.

Adams alleged that the allegation that he posed as an undercover police officer was "exonerated by deposition" but the testimony was contradictory and Leach testified that a watch commander had received a phone call about Adams being an officer.

He was driving a city issued vehicle that had been cold plated, a practice reserved primarily for undercover surveillance vehicles but done unlawfully by the city of Riverside for vehicles assigned to city management employees and city council members including Adams. These allegations were never investigated nor were any findings released to the public. The only response to them was that the city settled two lawsuits where these allegations were raised.

Oh and the city clerk swore City Manager Brad Hudson on the witness stand to say that no elected official had ever interfered in an RPD promotion. Oh, well that's true except for the swearing in part.

[When questioned by his boss, Adams, Hudson told those on the dais and those in the audience that no elected official ever influenced a police promotional decision]

But yes, it's all "false", just like the gun sales, the badges given to both management employees and elected officials and the cold plates.

But what's not discussed in this situation is the fact that no less than three former leaders of both police associations filed claims and lawsuits alleging harassment and retaliation based on union activities including those related to PAC endorsements. All three of those officers are now currently retired after settling federal lawsuits, not to mention actions taken against leaders of other city labor associations and unions. That's why it was ironic to see the representatives of the RPOA PAC show up to witness what transpired considering three of their members are still on promotional probation, which has a tendency to make union leaders vulnerable.

In their futures are discussions of the proposed two tier pension plans promoted by Hudson that were adopted by the Riverside Firefighters' Association and apparently without much choice, by a group of executive and management employees. Which direction will the RPOA move towards, or away from Hudson's two-tier system, and when will Hudson make his move?

If Adams is transparent on these issues, then he should make available for all his constituents who ask copies of the transcripts of the depositions in the twin lawsuits so that they can read them and come to their own conclusions.

Got Management Mediation?

[Three members of a management team, which one of them is at loggerheads with a fourth?]
More to come...including the management wars inside the police department...Old vs New, who will prevail?

[Riverside, the city that can't give its own bonds away...could it see the day when it puts City Hall up for collateral?]

"What is the risk? It is zero."

----Riverside Asst. City Manager and Finance CEO Paul Sundeen about the city buying up its own debt.

"My main objective is for safety, liquidity and then yield. My fiduciary responsibility is to make sure when people come for their money, the money is there."

---Riverside County Treasurer Don Kent who nixed investing in Riverside's Redevelopment debt. Too risky, apparently.

the city and county are the first ones to complain that sacramento legislators are stealing the money they need to fund police and fire--and they are also the first ones to steal money from schools that the state would otherwise have---pot calling the kettle black---and a red flag should be raised--the county where hudson used to manage the redeveloment agency does not trust their former employee--ever wonder why?

---commenter, Press Enterprise

“We don’t confirm or deny whether an investigation is going on.”

---Laura Eimiller, spokeswoman for the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, to Victorville's Daily Press after it was reported to have been conducting interviews in Victorville.

The Press Enterprise article about Riverside buying its own redevelopment bonds really hit a lot of people where they think, in terms of the reality that this city's becoming too much of a credit and financial risk for even Riverside County to invest in. Bond ratings? Petty things really, nothing to worry about...the deal's only risky if housing prices in the redevelopment zones plunge. What could possibly be more fascinating than buying up your own debt? Maybe the reason why Riverside is "first" to do actions like this one and others isn't because it's innovative, maybe it's just because it's foolish. But when setting out to be pioneers in questionable investment and spending of the tax payers' money, the city government never thinks that maybe they're um, pioneers because they're simply acting more reckless than most governments. Sometimes you just have to look at them all grinning from ear to ear when another questionable scheme is presented and wonder what the hell are they thinking?

And even more important, are they even thinking?

[Asst. City Manager Paul Sundeen (center) explains some principle of city finances to the Finance Committee at a recent meeting]

Reading articles like this really hits it home once again just how carefree the city's become with both investing and spending money, that doesn't really belong to it. According to the article, City Manager Brad Hudson who used to head Riverside County's Economic Development Agency came up with this plan so unique no other municipality has done it to have the city and county invest in each other's bonds. Only Riverside County rather wisely balked for different reasons including the fact that Riverside hadn't gotten around to having its bonds rated and the county had made it a practice to only invest in bonds with credit ratings. Which means that Riverside County opted out of a deal with its own former director of its redevelopment agency.

When even the county doesn't want to do business with you or invest in your biggest commodity which like the rest of the nation is its debt, what is a city to do? Put itself through a reality check and ask itself, wait a minute where are we going here, or to just dig a deeper hole for itself?

What the city's choice is here is obvious.

[The finance committee headed by Councilwoman Nancy Hart (l. with Councilman Paul Davis) just started meeting again this year but how much attention is really being paid to how the city invests tax payer money?]

This news came the same time that the Finance Committee just interviewed three auditing firms to pick one for its very own and the one recommended came out of state, up in Oregon. They'll of course replace the city's former auditor which just happens to be Meyer Hoffman and McCann the firm that audited the lovely and financially up and up city of Bell. Not to mention the city of Victorville which also just fired that same firm but has now been targeted for investigating by the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission and is now probably financially insolvent.

Both Bell and Victorville didn't just have relationships with Meyer, Hoffman and McCann, the auditing firm that was found deficient by the State Controller John Chiang, but they also had relationships with Best, Best and Krieger. Guess what, so does the city of Riverside, but there's no sign that it actually does in writing because as Sundeen explained with a smile, they don't enter into contracts with the law firm. They just call them up on the phone and ask will you do such and such for us. This tidbit of information came out naturally at a Finance Committee and no one on that committee caught that, the fact that they're authorizing the spend of taxpayer money for an outside legal firm without allowing for a paper trail, which is called a contract. What kind of entity does business that way?


Most business relationships that involve financial payments also include contracts including those involving law firms but oh no, not in River City. It was like sitting in Wonderland wondering what the hell is going on with that and everyone sitting around the table is just cool with what seems on its face highly questionable to most logical thinking people. But then the reemergence of the Finance Committee has been filled by moments like that. And when the city announces that it's buying its own debt, to set itself out as a pioneer in that field, it's just hard not to sit back and reflect on the discussions of finances that the public is allowed to hear regarding its money inside City Hall.

City Attorney Priamos loves sending out responses to CPRA requests from his office saying gee, I'm so sorry (that part's not actually in the letter but it'd be nice if they were sorry) but we've done an active and thorough search for the contracts/documents/letters/public records in our office and none were found. Of course that doesn't mean they won't pop up a year or so later as happened with the employment contracts signed by former Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa and former Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel for at will positions in upper management. Those contracts were later revoked in front of an audience filled with members of both police unions and from the public as well. And then after that, they apparently vanished from the City Attorney's office for a couple of years only to reappear in Hudson's fist at a public meeting, and when they were finally produced to the public upon request, stamped inside the first page of both contracts were the city attorney's information and its contact information.

So essentially these contracts had been there all along, hiding in plain sight, I believe it's called.

Alas, it seems that some of them might not be found forever, never to be seen because maybe they don't actually exist at all?

While reading about the whole city stuck buying back its own debt article, I immediately thought of situations like the above with Best, Best and Krieger which happened at that Finance Committee as being equally ridiculous. Instead of taking concerns seriously from those who pay their salaries and keep them employed (or not) every four years, the public was greeted with pat answers like gee, we don't do contracts with lawyers (when the rest of the real world does that)and gee, we can't find those documents now...but check back in a couple years when they're no longer so "hot". The truly unsettling thing is that the mayor and city council watch this happening in the same room where they sit making decisions that impact the lives (and wallets) of city residents and they never ask any questions at least not publicly about these things happening. Like is the city just lazy or does it just not want a paper trail going back to Best, Best and Krieger?

Another thing that struck me is when in a Finance Committee, the whole issue of hiring a new outside auditor was raised because the city had to do that even if Meyer Hoffman McCann hadn't become the butt of jokes. The city charter amendment added by city voters in 2004 requires that no auditor have more than five consecutive years on the city's dime. But even the fact that the city's firm had been implicated in screwing up in Bell and possibly other cities by Chiang, Sundeen had still offered up the factoid that the city could still hire the same firm just not the same auditors as if that's not a bad thing. Thankfully enough members of the Finance Committee were alert enough to veto that quickly.

So given that it's not surprising if you have a line of elected officials defending and even stumping for this debt buying scheme which is gambling on the most unstable housing market in the country. In fact don't be amazed if you have to sit in the council chambers or at home and watch a series of PSAs on how awesome Hudson and Sundeen were to come up with another brilliant scheme to save the city. Sacramento will get to take a convenient break as the (boo hiss) villain along with public sector employees as the county is the bad guy for not going through with its deal with River City.

What else are they going to do, they are so busy fighting the evil empire up in Sacramento that they have forgotten their own jobs, which include financial accountability to their constituents. Remember, the Finance Committee itself was in mothballs for over a year as two chairs, Councilman Chris MacArthur and then Councilwoman Nancy Hart waited for Hudson and Sundeen to tell them if it was okay to have a meeting. Well, I fully understand why that committee was pretty much nonexistent for so long now. What served as a good teacher as to why was sitting through some of the most recent meetings and seeing how they unfolded.

It's interesting if unsettling to watch an assistant city manager, in this case the always cheerfully succinct Sundeen lead the council members pretty much by the nose. Councilman Paul Davis asks questions that need to be asked but he's nearing the juncture in time when he has a critical decision to make in terms of where he wants to go. Going along to get along isn't the wisest choice, and it won't get a councilman elected even in the newly redrawn Ward Four.

So it's great to see Finance Committee meeting again if only to know why it was that it hadn't been meeting.

Several cities including Bell used the firm as their city attorneys and the city of Downey got rid of its city attorney after witnessing the Bell fiasco. Riverside instead placed a member of that firm on its Charter Review Committee, a blatant conflict of interest. If you'd want to know how much business this member, an environmental attorney did for the city, sorry the city doesn't enter into contracts for legal services with Best, Best and Krieger, ergo no paper trail to follow.

We don't have any contracts on file with Best, Best and Krieger attorneys, the city will tell you.

Say what?

That's the same response one might have to the city buying its own debt and a bunch of other quirky things that have been going on since about mid-2005.

As it turns out Riverside has in its employment ranks at City Hall, one of the players in both the Bell and Maywood scandals, Frank Hauptmann who has an interesting account to relate on what his perspective is, and how first Maywood and then Bell became unraveled, with key players in both cities going down in flames and some winding up wearing orange jumpsuits. Not to mention his role in bringing some of those players down. He's a very engaging person who has been a presence felt immediately with the CPRC.

His arrival in City Hall has got to be one of those most intriguing events in the city in the tail end of the Year of Scandal. Because Bell wasn't the only city that was busy last year.

[Frank Hauptmann headed the Maywood Police Department before coming to Riverside and has an interesting account of what happened with both Maywood and Bell.]

Hauptmann had applied for the Community Police Review Commission job in 2007 before he even met Maywood. He lost the job to Kevin Rogan who stayed in it for about three years before heading off to another job in Los Angeles. Two individuals who highly recommended Hauptmann for the position were Asst. State Attorney General Lou Verdugo and former police practices specialist Joe Brann who worked in Riverside as the police monitor overseeing the five year stipulated judgment. Two people who also had business and enforcement ties to Riverside during the past 10 years.

Considering his background which goes back when as a young officer, he worked on the task force assigned to hunt down the Hillside Strangler in the late 1970s, some have asked how Hudson wound up hiring him. What was he thinking, some have asked, assuming that Hudson's doing the hiring.

After all, Hauptmann said he was instrumental in bringing down two corrupt city management employees, and Hauptmann's been a complete reversal of his predecessor, Rogan who mostly fought with some members of the commission during his stint. Hauptmann's been a very active hands on manager and some commissioners are still trying to figure him out, what is his agenda in a city filled with them. Such is the state of affairs in this city where no one really trusts anyone else. But he's definitely an interesting addition to the city's fabric and his role in it will become clear with the passage of time as he works on revamping the CPRC.

In the meantime, Riverside's found the perfect diversionary tactic to steer attention away from its investment practices. The part of the city's spending that needs fixing is of course the pension plans as the city management and city council negotiate with the city's labor unions to adopt two tier pension plans. The Riverside Firefighters' Association and some of the management and executive employees adopted the plan, with the latter allegedly not having much to freely say about it. Basically it was Hudson's way or the highway. No one wants to ask the wrong question and find themselves getting an unpaid vacation soon enough. So that's why some of these pension reform processes haven't had much resistance. I mean, if you put a lot of years in working in River City, you actually want to collect a pension.

There's some classic quotes in this article including the following.

Here you have Sundeen saying the following:

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"We have no control over our revenue," city Chief Finance Officer Paul Sundeen said. "By definition, we have to decrease our costs. ...The biggest single costs are employees."

But wait a minute, let's see isn't the city's revenue generated by things such as sales tax and property taxes? And didn't Sundeen just make a forecast in the article about the city buying its own debt about the future of the housing market, which is one source of revenue through taxes for the city's general fund?

This is another good quote by Stan Stosel who represents the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers:


"I also find it a little bit obscene that the people who are at the very top of the economic ladder, it's their (large) pensions that are driving the debate."

He's got an important point because the majority of city employees in city unions don't have huge pensions, some are pretty close to the poverty level. City employees who have retired have faced foreclosures on their homes much like other people have who don't work in the public sector. Yet there's little talk of reforming pensions like those received by city management employees like Hudson and Sundeen. There's little talk by Sundeen for example about steps that will be taken about saving costs on the management employees at his level. Hudson for example had told city officials that he had given up the same percentage of deferred compensation as other employees but he was still receiving a much higher percentage of deferred compensation as part of his employment contract that hadn't been touched by those cuts.

Some city council members said of course it's way too premature to look at their own salary and benefits package.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Ward 7 Councilman Steve Adams called the agreement with firefighters for two pensions tiers "excellent," and added the current system is unsustainable.

But he disagreed with Betro's call for management and council pay cuts."Right now I don't want to speculate on any cuts in staff or pay because that's not appropriate," he said.

So it's "excellent" to reduce pensions including for those whose salaries are much lower than those of some of the top tier management employees including Hudson but they can't even discuss any actions closer to home. Why for example do council members get pensions and other lifelong benefits simply for serving one year more than a single term in office? The public elects them to serve it, not to be on the payroll in a sense for past that time of service. Why make cuts in pensions that employees at least pay into that they put in 30 years of service or more to earn and not even discuss why elected officials get any semblance of a pension at all?

But then the only people in this salary and benefits equation who get to set their own are the elected officials who can vote to give themselves raises. At least thankfully, they know as Councilman Rusty Bailey pointed out, it's "suicidal" to even think about doing it during an election cycle for four of them.

It's popular to demonize public sector employees right now, everywhere but the pensions that are painted as exorbitant are mostly those of employees much higher up in the food chain who aren't being asked to make substantial cuts to even the pensions of those who follow in their footsteps. These employees engage in public safety in this city, they build and fix the roads that people drive on and they oversee parks, libraries and museums. It's an upside down world indeed if they're the ones who are blamed for exorbitant "personnel" costs when they put in long hours and work hard, probably not leaving them many afternoons to spend on the golf course or in gambling casinos, or even at city parks conducting business that's definitely not city related.

Instead of asking City Hall why they're engaging in risky business schemes with tax payer money, it's all about going after the pension of maybe not the guy who picked up your refuse but the one who might pick up your children's. Maybe not the employees who will save your life or your home but those who will be hired to do that for your children and their children. Maybe not just the employees who work in the libraries and museums and parks today but those who will be hired to fill all those new facilities in the future (except the downtown library which the city's too broke to build as it promised).

It's going to be hard enough for your kids who live or will be born here to pay off all those promissory notes that the city's issued on Riverside Renaissance which hasn't even begun to be paid for yet let alone pay for itself.

The world we enjoy including our city is something we borrow from our children and we are in the process of mortgaging that all away in return, beginning with budgeting the city's risky propositions on the backs of the employees who can least afford that.

Hate Riverside, hardly! There's great people living here but criticizing a city doesn't mean you don't like it. Sometimes it's just your duty as a citizen, that's all.

City Government Vs Ethics Complaint Process, Take Three

[The City Hall crew including Mayor Ron Loveridge, Councilman Steve Adams and City Attorney Gregory Priamos have to discuss that pesky ethics code again]

Riverside's city government is set to revisit its ethics code and complaint process once again and it's going back for discussion. If it sounds like deja vu at this point, it like totally is because we've all been through this several times already just in the past few months. Well, this agenda item arose last week after people spoke on the dismissal of an ethics complaint filed against Councilman Steve Adams alleging administrative interference by City Attorney Gregory Priamos. This took place after the city council and mayor had convened a special ad hoc panel to review the ethics code and complaint process after there were many complaints about the implementation of the complaint process. Statistics showed of the complaints filed, the majority of them were dismissed by Priamos before they made it to the adjudicating body. Even though there's never actually been a provision in the resolution that created the code and complaint process that allows him to do that. He can provide legal advice but can't actually make decisions about its fate outside of the judiciary body.

The other major issue with the process was having ethics complaints against elected officials sent for the hearing process to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee. The fox guarding the hen house many called it. But it was clear that when the changes recommended by the ad hoc panel (which consisted of the chairs from the city's boards and commissions), were actually adopted by the city government, they weren't ever to be implemented. Because the city attorney dismissed it without sending it to this panel and gave the explanation that it was "well settled" that retroactive implementation didn't apply unless the legislative body asked for it. That's not the same explanation he provided for the people who filed it but anyway some members of the city council who did speak up mentioned that it should be the role of the adjudicating body and not Priamos who decides whether or not to hear it.

But what's getting lost here is that this is not about retro-activity which isn't in the code and apparently not in the city's charter either because Priamos relied on this "well settled" issue to explain his actions in front of his employers and whoever watching the meetings. This is about repeated efforts of Priamos and whoever is holding his leash as an at-will employee to thwart the ethics code and complaint process whatever means they can find to do that.

[Councilman Paul Davis put the item on the agenda after being bombarded by complaints about the dismissal of an ethics complaint by the city attorney]

Councilman Paul Davis who said he had been bombarded with complaints against this action by his constituents asked for the item to be placed on the agenda for a city council meeting with both Councilmen Andrew Melendrez and Mike Gardner chiming in on the issue. The rest of the city council looked like a bunch of deer caught in the headlights, remaining silent. Adams had left his chair before public comment begun but stayed in it when it was discussed at the end of the meeting.

Mayor Ron Loveridge sighed and said that he had always put an item on the agenda when it was brought up by a city council member at a meeting so he would do so but you could tell he clearly didn't want to do it. But what will be discussed is whether or not retro activity should be included in the language of the code, not whether or not Priamos will be allowed to continue to thwart the process. Not that it's probably his idea because as stated earlier, the legal eagle can count to four. So it's not likely that anything substantial that will actually help the code and complaint process will actually be passed and if so, who cares because the city council and mayor have already shown that any actions or changes they make don't mean squat in the face of behind the scenes maneuvering involving Priamos' office.

No truly relevant ethics complaint will likely ever go through the appropriate process which has now changed how many times? The problematic history of the process going back to day one makes that clear. You've had city council members meet in the middle of the summer to introduce new language which had the sole benefit of helping one of them escape accountability for an ethics complaint filed against him that was also dismissed by Priamos. The city council blanket passed those questionable changes which were first affirmed, then affirmed again and then only a few months later, finally overturned. Who gets credit for doing that? The city residents from different wards who en masse flooded the phone lines and emails of their elected officials making it clear that this was what they wanted.

And most of the city council, not all, were astute enough to realize that their political survival rested on listening to their constituents.

Some people are upset the complaint was filed against Adams, calling it a political attack against him solely to help another candidate. Of course most of those who levy this accusation never read an iota of information on what the allegations pertain to involving alleged administrative interference by Adams involving two police captain promotions in 2005 and 2008. None of them who accuse people of using the complaint process solely for political purposes read the sworn testimony of the involved parties including Adams before making their claims. Reading the conflicting depositions by city employees and city officials both past and present was truly one of the most disturbing experiences in not what was alleged but what was actually under penalty of perjury.

Something clearly wrong happened, when you have individuals time a "clearing the ear" meeting of a long-standing personal disagreement between a police lieutenant and a councilman in between his being picked as a promotional candidate by his own chief and the day he's promoted. Not to mention all the involved parties at this meeting not wanting to be seen together by anyone which makes little sense considering there's a wide swath of reasons they might meet, both personal and professional. On its face, in the context of the sworn testimony, the meeting that took place between those involved was just inappropriate period, while the promotional process was taking place especially since the candidate had been named, then the meeting takes place, then voila, by noon the next day, the candidate is promoted.

The city council and mayor had ample opportunity to investigate the allegations themselves since they all knew about them going back to closed sessions on the lawsuits filed by two lieutenants back in 2008. And what did the city council and mayor ultimately do?

They voted to settle the case for more than it would have cost to try it (assuming they were victorious at trial) behind closed doors. About two weeks before the April 20, 2010 trial date. No, they not only didn't investigate the alleged charter violations by one of their own, they tried to hide it, so it wouldn't be tried inside a public venue like U.S. District Court. It probably would have been one hell of a trial but definitely not one the city would have liked because in actuality, there was no way to "win" it.

The revelations that arose last year stemming from the lawsuits about the micromanagement of the police department (down to its last budgetary dime) were disheartening that all these unethical and possibly illegal activities had been taking place when many people were working hard on improving the police department to the tune of over $26 million. Less than four years after the dissolution of the stipulated judgment, the department had once again gotten into trouble at its very top, and with the tendrils reaching into the Seventh Floor of City Hall. City management employees did everything to be decked out like cops short of deputizing themselves and Priamos wanted to soup up his take home car with flashing lights and a police radio so he could "roll" in on major incidents. One of the most interesting developments with the arrival of Chief Sergio Diaz is that the marriage between the police department and Priamos along with his deputy attorney, Jeb Brown is apparently on the rocks leaving the legal branch of that union more than a little miffed.

Diaz might curse this blog at his major command staff and management gatherings even as allegedly back in July he received "advice" on promotions from the same folks who had done so in the past. And apparently Diaz said no thanks, which is what needed to be said loud and clear. But unfortunately, the rights of two of his current captains were allegedly violated during a promotional process which especially at the top went horribly astray during the past few years, on the public's watch. We've surely reaped the benefits indeed of the way that captains and those above them were promoted in the past five years as the chain of events that unfolded have clearly shown. The relationship between the crises that struck the top of the police department's management level and the promotional process that got most of them there, clearly related.

No promotional candidate should have to go through the experience of being told he or she is promoted and then have it revoked before they even get to the department to meet with the chief. No promotional candidate should have to go to clear the air with an elected official as whether or not an elected official likes or dislikes a candidate (especially purely based on politics) should have no bearing whatsoever in the promotional process. The city government has shown either it's in deep denial about what's happened (not likely given all the closed sessions on the lawsuits) or it doesn't care that at least two city employees were subjected to approval outside the process before being promoted and unpromoted and then in the case of the male candidate, promoted.

It's clear from the ethics complaints getting repeatedly denied that this is an issue that the city council and mayor don't want to touch and Priamos is a useful deflection shield for them. He's not the one who's really stopping the process, it's the elected officials who employ him and evaluate his performance at least annually. During public comment at the April 12 meeting, I got paired in some conspiracy outlined by Miguel Morales, along with two other women including one that died two years ago. He's entitled to his opinion although he betrayed his own connection to Adams through some comments he made on the dais that another individual picked up on.

Then news of Adams saying he was "exonerated." Exonerated how? The lawsuits which made the allegations were settled behind closed doors again, for more money than to try the case at that point, on the eve of trial. So no, he wasn't "exonerated" by that closed session vote, and neither ethics complaint was actually heard. Even Priamos never exonerated Adams with his decisions to reject two ethics complaints, because they weren't based on the actual allegations themselves. It would be most helpful if sometime during the discussion on Tuesday if either the city council, the mayor or Priamos could explain the process they engaged in which exonerated Adams as he claimed.

The issue's not even Adams, the issue is whether or not the police department's promotional process for two of its captains was misappropriated by individuals inside City Hall. It's about addressing an issue that City Hall doesn't want addressed even as attempts were allegedly made to influence the promotional process again by the same parties, this time thankfully going nowhere. Should elected officials be allowed to veto promotions involving police management employees, that's an interesting question except you can't go too far with it. The charter clearly prohibits it, Adams testified in his deposition that he knew that (and also that it might violate state law) but what happened and will the public ever know the truth? The depositions which again are the involved parties own words were pretty disturbing. It'd be great if those who were calling this complaint political or poo-poohing the whole deal would at least read them first.

The city council, most of which no doubt has already endorsed Adams as part of the ongoing group endorsement plan has no vested interest in the truth coming out if it doesn't favor it and its endorsement decisions.

But what's going to happen on Tuesday is that the dog is going to chase its tail again and again. That's what has been happening since the Ethics Code and Complaint process was first installed. It will keep on happening until the voting public's had enough of it.

In the Community Services Division of the police department, Sgt. Dan Warren is back in a patrol assignment and don't be surprised if his position is filled by Sgt. Cliff Mason, also president of the Riverside Police Officers' Association who's on "light duty" after blowing out his patella tendon while trying out for the sergeant's spot in the METRO division. His audition had raised a few eyebrows because he was on sergeant's probation at the time and often people don't get special assignments while serving out that initial probationary period. Hopefully, he's recuperating well because patella tendon tears are pretty major and also very painful.

Press Enterprise Columnist Dan Bernstein writes about the demise of investigative reporting. Below is the death of public forums for political candidates running for office.

Where are the Truly Public Candidate Forums in Riverside?

During Election 2011, people have asked me this, because most if not all the candidate forums for all four wards have either cost money or restricted their attendance either through numbers or affiliation. Even the forum held at California Baptist University this week will have limited seating. This leaves many of those interested in attending public forums, including those who will actually be voting in this election because they actually live in the involved wards without many opportunities to listen to the candidates debate or discuss the issues impacting the city and their wards, let alone ask questions.


Tuesday, April 19 at 2 and 6:30 pm, the Riverside City Council will meet to discuss this agenda. One of the closed session cases involves a settlement of an age discrimination and harassment filed by a former Riverside Police Department Communications dispatcher, Sharon Ludwig. She filed it in 2008 alleging that her trainer made disparaging comments about her age.

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