Archive | November, 2013

More views on the cop flap

30 Nov

Below I have posted two more letters about Randall Stone and Chico PD.

 Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED:   11/29/2013 12:33:30 AM PST

I find the comments attributed to Councilmember Randall Stone (Chico E-R, Nov. 21) to be an insult to not only the citizens who attend the Chico Police Community Advisory monthly meetings but to the other board members who have taken their personal time on a voluntary basis to attend those meetings. To say “It’s like lunch with the chief but it doesn’t have any value”; “most of the members miss most of the meetings”; and the most egregious comment of all, “The topics are relatively mundane.” How uninformed and arrogant he is.

Topics discussed over the last year centered on exactly what have been the most important topics that have affected our community — homelessness and its causes, the Grand Jury report on mental health, downtown anti-social behavior, Police Department staffing, etc. All meetings start with citizen/community input. The meetings last exactly one hour and in that time impart of great deal of information regarding issues facing the city and our Police Department. To call them “mundane” shows the ignorance of the man who uttered that.

Stone has struck a tone not befitting a member of the Policy Community Advisory Board but also that of a council person. He needs to be dismissed.

— Stephanie L. Taber, Chico

Frankly,  I’ve been to the PAB meetings, and the only other member of “the public” besides me was Stephanie. Kirk Trostle has never exactly invited the public into these meetings.  Just recently, I found that Trostle had stopped posting the notices for these meetings on the city’s agendas pages, and I had to ask city clerk Debbie Presson to please start posting them again.

I also agree with Stone that these meetings are like “lunch with the chief,” an inappropriate use of high-salaried officers like Lt. Linda Dye. Dye and Lt. Jennifer Gonzales  spent almost an hour total giving the assemblage of bloated trough dwellers their take on homelessness and mental illness, based on a one week course at Butte College.

The other people at the meeting I attended were on public salaries, including Chico Chamber of Commerce director Katie Simmons, whose salary is heavily subsidized with Community Block Grant Funding from the city. These meetings are just chatter-babble intended to make them look like they’re “doing something about it.”

Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED:   11/29/2013 12:33:30 AM PST

The Nov. 21 front-page article concerning the controversy over the racist photo illustration allegedly posted by police officer Todd Boothe on the Internet reminded me of the adage that when you point a finger at a problem, there are those who will study the finger ad infinitum. It seems to me that the primary fact here is that a member of the Chico Police Department may be guilty of a racist posting and that any investigation ought to focus on that accusation. Investigating Councilman Randall Stone’s behavior in this matter looks like nothing more than a smokescreen to shift the focus away from the main issue.

I applaud Stone for bringing the matter to public attention. What we need in government, whether it’s the police department or the finance office, is transparency.

As for Peter Durfee, the Chico Police Officers Association spokesperson, I would suggest that if he is sincere about wanting to improve relations between the citizens of Chico and its Police Department, then he should first tone down the abusive in-your-face rhetoric and stop making ridiculous charges about due process and such. I am convinced that Chief Kirk Trostle is quite capable of handling this matter and will reach a conclusion satisfactory to all parties involved.

— Charles W. Bird, Chico

I do agree with Charles Bird, but I’m tired of talking about the Facebook page. I wish people would focus on the real matter at hand here – the contract talks. That’s why I wrote this letter, which ran today.

 

I hope Chico voters will not be distracted by the “flap” between Councilor Randall Stone and the Chico Police Department. The real issue here is not free speech or racism, it’s the “employee share” of pensions and benefits.When Stone spoke to the Chico Taxpayers Association earlier this year, he said in order for Chico to regain fiscal solvency, the various employee groups would have to agree to pay their “employee share”. Especially fire and police, who pay 4 and 0 percent, respectively.

The Police Department subsequently made an offer to pay their entire 9 percent share, but only if given a raise proportionate to the cost. According to Mark Sorensen, “The proposal would have cost the city about an extra $500,000 over the term of the contract, and gave up some management rights.”

Stone has exposed the nature of the contract talks and why so many people want to keep them behind closed doors. Now Stone is being ostracized and persecuted by the Police Department and their cronies. This is exactly the kind of behavior City Manager Brian Nakamura described at a recent tea party meeting.

Please join the Chico Taxpayers Association in asking council and staff to come up with contracts that require employees to pay at least their full “share” — only 9 percent of the total cost of their generous benefits and pension packages.

What decent person would expect taxpayers living on less than a third of their generous salaries to also pay their benefits?

— Juanita Sumner, Chico

This is the copy I cut and paste directly from the ER, and I have to ask – why did they go to the trouble to change “Tea Party” to “tea party.” They had to make an effort to do that, why in the world would a newspaper that claims to be besieged by letters lately take the time and trouble to change two upper case letters to lower case? I just don’t get that. 

I hope we can keep this conversation going, and get some results out of the council. If not we need to dump the three that are up for re-election in November 2014 and get some new faces in there. 

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Here’s what Sue thinks about the cop flap

28 Nov

 

Sue Hubbard is a really good sport who has supported Chico Taxpayers and been a regular at our meetings. But, we don’t always agree on everything – that’s not a prerequisite for me, although, I’ve been feeling the cool back of the hand lately over my opinions. 

So, I thought I should run Sue’s letter. I wish I had thought to run one Stephanie Taber had in the paper last week but now can’t find it. These gals have their right to their opinion, and they’ve been great supporters of the CTA, so I want to give them a chance to share.  Thanks Sue!

Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED:   11/27/2013 12:09:08 AM PST

I urge Police Chief Kirk Trostle and the Chico City Council to remove Council member Randall Stone from his position on the Police Advisory Board immediately. He clearly violated section 219.11 (a) (b) and (c) of the Chico Police Department Policy Manual regarding the Police Community Advisory Board. This section deals with confidentiality matters relating to personnel issues. According to this section, Stone has violated laws of the state of California and the city of Chico, as well as various labor contracts.

Also, by making his accusations public, Stone violated the due process right of a sworn police officer. This action has tainted the entire police department and put the officer and his family in danger. At the very least, Stone used poor judgment. At most, he may have committed defamation of character. His handling of this matter was unprofessional and unacceptable. Therefore, he must not be allowed to continue on an advisory board that seeks to improve relations between the community and law enforcement.

— Sue Hubbard, Chico

UPDATE:

Sue, I wish you had done some research before you wrote your letter. From expertlaw.com

What Are Defamation, Libel and Slander?

Generally speaking, defamation is the issuance of a false statement about another person, which causes that person to suffer harm. Slander involves the making of defamatory statements by a transitory (non-fixed) representation, usually an oral (spoken) representation. Libel involves the making of defamatory statements in a printed or fixed medium, such as a magazine or newspaper.

Typically, the elements of a cause of action for defamation include:

  1. A false and defamatory statement concerning another;
  2. The unprivileged publication of the statement to a third party (that is, somebody other than the person defamed by the statement);
  3. If the defamatory matter is of public concern, fault amounting at least to negligence on the part of the publisher; and
  4. Damage to the plaintiff.

Finance Committee meeting: Monkeys in suits moving peas under walnut shells

27 Nov

 

Here sits the brain trust of Chico. Be afraid, be very, very afraid.

Here sits the brain trust of Chico. Be afraid, be very, very afraid.  

It was a chipper 38 degrees when I headed Downtown for the monthly Finance Committee meeting, a cold that penetrated two pairs of pants, two shirts and a heavy jacket. It is a trip that would hardly impress my hillbilly relations, but I feel pretty exhilarated when I arrive at  the city building, my face stinging, eyeballs watering, my hands frozen, fumbling with the bike lock.  It’s good to be awake before you wander into one of these meetings.

They have got a lot better since Chris Constantin arrived, I’ll say. It’s a lot to chew over, some of it hard to understand if you don’t have a degree in administration, but it’s all really important in explaining how our town got into the shape it’s in and why we’re not getting out in any big hurry.

Not long after  Constantin came to town, he introduced the nursery words “loosey goosey” into the official fiscal lexicon (I dare you to say that three times, fast!). He was talking about the way this city had grown accustomed to spending money, each department using their own imaginary credit card with no oversight from Jennifer Hennessy, Miss Finance Mis-director. They were just spending as they pleased and handing Hennessy the bill, and she was using her own personal accounting style to stay a hair’s breadth  ahead of the bill collector. Of course many of us had imagined something like that was going on, we screamed and yelled for her to present the monthly accounting, and she said it was too much work. Dave Burkland said she didn’t have to do it. This may never have changed if Toby Schindelbeck hadn’t made issue of it during the last election. Council finally leaned on Hennessy, but she still didn’t give the kind of reports Constantin has been giving.

Hennessy liked to give power point presentations with  bullet lists and cartoons. A little man standing under a raincloud with the caption, “how did we get here?”  Constantin’s reports are dryer and look boring, but contain more meat.  If you look at the agenda, available here:

http://www.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/finance_committee/11-26-13FinanceCommitteeAgendaPacket.pdf

you will see sheet after sheet of figures, monthly revenues and expenditures for each department.  When I think how many times Hennessy just flat refused to produce these reports, I get a headache. At first, I was a little intimidated by these stacks of figures, but I just started reading through. Starting with the reports,  I just peruse through them, writing down words I don’t understand, then google them.

In short, departments continue to spend money “loosey goosey” without oversight, and, Constantin says, “we’re still letting our costs drive our funding instead of letting our funding drive our costs…” 

The problem I have with his statement is the use of the word “costs”. They don’t ever really tell us the true “cost” of anything down there, instead they mean, “price” that they assign stuff, which includes their salaries and benefits. See, this is how 1500 feet of plastic pipe and a couple of hydrants ends up costing $432,000 – they figure in the “overhead” of salaries and benefits of every employee who dotted an ‘i’ on a form having to do with that particular job.

What they talked about for about an hour yesterday was the process by which they transfer money from one fund to another, making it legal to use the money for uses it could not originally be used for. Over at Truth Matters they are discussing the use of sewer funds to fix the streets. Well, you say, they ripped up the streets to fix the sewers, isn’t it appropriate to use the sewer funds to fix them back?  No, sorry. There’s a road improvements fund for that purpose, which is fed through stuff like the gas tax, and all kinds of federal and state grants, etc. Unfortunately,  Jennifer Hennessy told us at one meeting years ago, that money all went to salaries and benefits, including every dime of that gas tax, which was supposed to be restricted to fixing streets. 

I thought the fund raiding would end with Hennessy, but it’s still a matter of everyday business Downtown. Yesterday they discussed “overhead” – salaries and benefits. They discussed the process by which these salaries and benefits are supposed to be charged to the specific project on which an employee is working – like a subdivision. Then the charges would go to the developer who brought the plans in. Let them complain about the salaries. But no, that’s not how it’s happening,  because council decided a few years back to defer developer fees until a project is built out. In other words, these developers come and go from the city building, using city staff like their own private toadies, and PAY NOTHING. That’s why the development fund is like, what, $9 million in deficit? And capital projects is another $3.4 million in the hole – I’m sure on that figure, they bounced that around a few times yesterday. So, they spend a lot of time talking yesterday about where they were supposed to get the money to pay salaries and benefits of those staffers remaining employed. They need about $36 million dollars to cover that. Anybody got any ideas?

Staff is chomping at the bit to start the Hwy 32 widening project, not because CalTRANS will sue us if we don’t – that never even comes up. No, they are desperate for grant money to pay salaries. Does Hwy 32 really need widening? No. But the city needs the money like a hype needs a needle.  Ruben Martinez said it in exactly so many words – “We need to get $36 million in projects done to meet our budget.” 

And Scott Gruendl asked, “How many staffers would we be able to get out of that…”

There it is folks, just what Contantin said earlier, “we’re still letting our costs drive our funding instead of letting our funding drive our costs…”  And by “costs” they really mean, staff salaries and benefits.

There was more to this meeting, I’ll get back to it when I get a chance, but for now here’s how I’d describe our city government – a bunch of monkeys in suits moving peas around under walnuts shells, waiting for more peas to appear out of the clear blue sky. 

Thanks again to Truth Matters – Brian Nakamura Jones and the Raiders of the Cookie Jar

26 Nov

Mary, Quene and Alicia over at Truth Matters have been working really hard to lay out complex issues, I really appreciate the time they are putting into the details of city operations.  If you haven’t already read their post on “Remedial Funding,” take a look here:

http://truthmatterschico.com/2013/11/22/update-remedial-funding/

They have explained how funds are raided, the money jumping from one fund to another faster than a barker’s fingers switching peas under walnut shells. Ah, the electronic age!

I think it’s funny that until Nakamura came along, Mark Sorensen was making big wah-wah about the sewer fund being pilfered, now he’s mum on that subject. What happened to that guy? One of my readers remarked that he never saw anybody go from private citizen to public trough dweller quite as fast as Sorensen.

Divvying up the city pie

25 Nov
This is a "pie chart" of the city budget.

Imagine this as a “pie chart” of the city budget.

When we went to the Tea Party meeting at Marie Callender’s last month, we picked up a pie heading out the door. I told my husband, make it something decadent, so he got this chocolate cream pie, pictured above. When we got home and divvied up three little pieces among ourselves, I said, “Wow, police and fire get the rest.”

The picture above is a pretty good representation of the “public safety” portion of the City of Chico budget. Last time I looked, the annual expenditures were around $43 million, and the police department was getting over 21 of that, or roughly half. The fire department gets less than the police department, but between the two of them, they eat about 84 percent of our communal pie.  Imagine – all the other departments, I think seven other employee groups in all, get to fight over that last little piece. Give you a little look-see what the contract negotiations are all about, eh?

Tomorrow morning I’m going to try to make it out of here by 7:45 to get to a Finance Committee meeting. I’ve already looked over the agenda and reports, available here:

www.ci.chico.ca.us/document_library/minutes_agendas/finance_committee/11-26-13FinanceCommitteeAgendaPacket.pdf

According to the monthly finance report, the police department is more than $100,000 over budget for overtime.  I’m looking forward to hearing Trostle’s explanation, I’ll keep you posted.

Time to take back the cop shop

24 Nov

In past I’ve been friendly with Tea Party members, and I still will be. But when I got this notice today, saying Randall Stone should be dismissed from the Police Advisory Board because he made public harassment by a Chico police officer, I had to tell them, we’re 180 degrees apart on this one Folks.

Below is the section of the code pulled out by Tea Party maven Stephanie Taber. It says member of the PAB must sign an agreement promising to lie to the public about what’s going on in the police department. Yep, that’s what it says – PAB members are not allowed to tell the public when there’s a problem in the cop shop. Read it yourself.

219.11 CONFIDENTIALITY
(a) Matters relating to personnel issues are governed by various laws of the State of
California and the City of Chico as well as various labor contracts. Personnel matters
are confidential. No member of the Police Community Advisory Board may divulge
any information regarding a personnel matter that has been deemed confidential by
the Chief of Police.
(b) Every new member of the Police Community Advisory Board, prior to hearing any
personnel matter, must sign an agreement, as prepared by the City Attorney, agreeing
and promising to maintain the confidentiality of any personnel matter.
(c) Only the Chief of Police or City Manager (or City Manager’s representative), with the
advise of the City Attorney, has the authority to determine what information related to
any personnel matter may be made public.

I think I know Stephanie Taber well enough to say this – if she’d found out something she didn’t like in one of those meetings, she’d squeal like a pig.  And of course, that would be legal, because she’s a member of the public. Of course, those meetings were not being properly noticed to the public until I squealed like a pig to city clerk Debbie Presson.  I had to bitch about it a couple of times, but finally she said, “As of yesterday, Police Department staff was asked to include the agenda (as had been past practice) under the “Minutes and Agendas” page as that is where citizens look for such items.  They will be doing so for all future meetings. “

See where she says, “as had been past practice“?  Trostle just dropped the notice from the notice page, apparently he didn’t think it was important to let the public in on these meetings. When I’ve been to these meetings I’ve noticed Trostle is uptight and hates answering questions. I’m sure he’d just drop these meetings if allowed. 

Presson offered to put me on the notice list, but I realized, maybe it’s not so smart to be on that list. I thanked her for getting the notices put back up, that’s enough. 

And, I told Mark Sorensen too, but he didn’t seem to think it was important. He told me, “Police Advisory Board Meeting is on the web site”  and sent me a link to the obscure police page it was listed on. That’s what Sorensen always does when I point out a problem to him – admits I’m right, but gives me private band-aid information instead of getting the problem fixed.  Does he just expect me to disseminate this info? No, here’s what he thinks – the public doesn’t care enough to pay attention, that’s what he thinks.  Sorensen can be a really snotty little prick when you press him, no holds barred. When he wants something, he’s going to get it, and he wants to be credited with “turning the town around.” Instead, I think he’s going to be that kid who knocks the puck into his own goal – Sorensen and Nakamura are going to put the last nail in our coffin.

Trostle needs to GO!

21 Nov

Sent to Chico PD Chief Kirk Trostle at kirk.trostle@chicoca.g0v

Chief Trostle,

 I think you are making a mistake trying to kick Councilor Stone off the PAB.    We all know this is about Stone’s asking you police officers to pay your own benefits. 

 Boothe should be disciplined for calling a council member “an idiot” because of his stance on employee pensions and benefits.  I believe Boothe has created a “hostile work place.” In fact, from a  citizen’s point of view, you have created a “hostile environment” for all of us, refusing to pay your own benefits when our town is in this kind of situation. Then allowing your subordinate to harass an elected officer publicly? That’s really poor judgement on your part. 

 I think you should also consider stepping down. You are obviously not suited to a management position. 

 

Juanita Sumner