A Conflict of Interest: Cop-Funded OC Human Relations Wanted to Run Police Oversight Committees
Email reveals that Rusty Kennedy, Executive Director of OC Human Relations, quietly lobbied Anaheim Police Chief John Welter for a chance to run that city’s proposed police oversight committee.
By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher
According to an email the Anaheim Investigator obtained from the City of Anaheim through a California Public Records Act request, Rusty Kennedy, Executive Director of OC Human Relations, quietly lobbied police chiefs in Anaheim and Fullerton last year to have his county-sanctioned non-profit develop “some type of Civilian Review Board (or alternative) process” that it could operate “in addition to our Police Community Reconciliation and Crisis Assistance programs on contract” with both law enforcement agencies.
Kennedy’s pitch to run proposed police oversight committees was included in a message sent to Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz, then acting-Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes, and Anaheim Police Chief John Welter on Tuesday, October 2, 2012. In it, Kennedy notified them that he was withdrawing an earlier plea that they help OC Human Relations pay registration fees for an upcoming conference being organized by the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.
The text of Kennedy’s email is as follows:
John, Dan and Joe
Please disregard my request for assistance with registration. We went ahead and paid registration for this important conference. Alison Edwards, Deputy Director, and member of the APD Chief’s Advisory, and James Armendaris, Police Community Reconciliation Coordinator and Tustin Chief’s Advisory Committee member will be attending from OC Human Relations.
I am envisioning developing some type of Civilian Review Board (or alternative) process that we could offer in addition to our Police Community Reconciliation and Crisis Assistance Programs on contract with Fullerton and/or Anaheim, IF [sic] you are interested going forward.
A few minutes after receiving Kennedy’s email, Chief Welter responded, copying his reply to Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and City Manager Bob Wingenroth:
Thanks Rusty. I really can’t say what I’m interested in. The Mayor has come out in the media on wanting a CRB without conferring with me. I have no idea who he is talking to or working with on this issue.
I wanted to wait until I attend this conference on citizen oversight before discussing the need and type of CRB with others.
The existence of this email is quite revealing not only because it suggests Kennedy was pressuring city officials to have OC Human Relations run their proposed police oversight committees, but it completely contradicts a claim he made in a “fact sheet” disseminated to Los Amigos of Orange County on March 22nd. At the time, Kennedy wrote his non-profit had only “offered to consult with city and police and community on the creation of this type of organization,” and nothing more–an outright lie.
In addition, this email, along with other documents in the possession of the Anaheim Investigator, strongly hint what Welter and Wingenroth were looking for in the “type” of police oversight committee they sought for the City of Anaheim: a weak, ineffective body that would do little, if anything, to keep abusive police officers in check. That both men–specifically Wingenroth–wanted Kennedy’s non-profit, a paid contractor for the Anaheim Police Department, to be involved, is somewhat indicative of that.
For example, as we reported back in March:
Financial records from the City of Anaheim show that since July 2006, OC Human Relations has received $67,955 from the Anaheim Police Department. Of that amount, $22,251, or 33% of the entire total, was disbursed between November 2011 and September 2012 alone. Several invoices and check request forms show even the monies the city uses to pay yearly dues to OC Human Relations comes out of the police budget, not the general fund. All payments were approved by Welter.
In April, the Anaheim Investigator also published an eye-opening email which exposed the very close ties that existed between Welter and Kennedy, pointing out the fact that in November 2012, the latter personally invited the Police Chief to attend a “special reception” at the home of a wealthy Laguna Beach donor who funnels tens of thousands of dollars each year into OC Human Relations.
Given there is no lack of evidence showing OC Human Relations is financially dependent on support from law enforcement to do it’s “work”–a clear conflict of interest that Kennedy repeatedly fails to disclose in his dealings with the general public–how can it be expected to be fair and impartial in handling complaints about police misconduct if it is assigned the task of operating a police oversight committee?
The untrustworthiness of OC Human Relations has already been well-documented in the case of Anna Drive, where Kennedy inappropriately forwarded information gleaned from area residents to the Anaheim Police Department without their permission. Mediator ethics dictate that any sharing of information, even if it isn’t “confidential,” must be done with the consent of the affected parties.
At this time, it is unclear as to what’s going on with the proposed police oversight committee here in Anaheim. Recently, there has been a change of leadership in city government. Welter and Wingenroth, both strong allies of Kennedy, have since retired or moved on. Although it’s premature to say OC Human Relations has “dropped the ball” on this matter, the Anaheim Investigator will continue to closely monitor the latest developments.
[Below is an electronic reproduction of the email referred to in this article.]
Email to Felz, Hughes, and Welter from Kennedy re: “Civilian Review Police Conference,” Tuesday, October 2, 2012 (1 of 1)