Anaheim Investigator

Archive for the category “Michael Gennaco”

Businessman Boasted To Anaheim Police Chief He Will Fund The Law Enforcement Accountability Network

Gennaco Taormina Faessal II

Michael Gennaco, William Taormina, and Stephen Faessel sitting together at the June 25th “Garden Party Fundraiser” for the Law Enforcement Accountability Network, an ACLU-backed group run by Theresa Smith.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

William Taormina boasted to Police Chief Raul Quezada and Deputy Chief Julian Harvey that he intended to support the ACLU-backed Law Enforcement Accountability Network “financially and with my time,” according to an email the Anaheim Investigator obtained from the Anaheim Police Department through a California Public Records Act request filed back in August.

The email in question, dated Wednesday, June 28, 2017, was sent out by Taormina to Quezada and Harvey three days after he made a $1,000 donation to LEAN at their June 25th “Garden Party Fundraiser,” held at the Villa Park home of Belinda Escobosa-Helzer, former Director of the Orange County office of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

“Dear Raul and Julian,” Taormina began:

Over this last weekend, I attended a garden party held in honor of Teresa [sic] Smith’s son, Caesar Cruz. The party was meant to raise money for the new organization that Teresa started known as LEAN (Law Enforcement Accountability Network). The party was a success with about 50 attendees including both Councilmen Steve Faessel and Jose Moreno. I intend to support this organization financially and with my time because I believe it is going to be a positive relationship builder between our law enforcement community and the folks that are presently less supportive of us. We need to keep building bridges and Teresa is an excellent spokesperson for her side of the equation.

In the same email, Taormina also urged Quezada to appoint Yesenia Rojas, a resident of Anna Drive, a working-class neighborhood in Central Anaheim, to his advisory board saying “she is all about the underserved, the youth, and quality of life in our neighborhoods, especially hers….”

“Thank you for you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you. It is an honor to serve alongside you both,” he concluded.

A copy of the email can be downloaded here.

Who is William Taormina?

As the Investigator previously reported, William Taormina is a wealthy real estate developer who serves on the advisory board of Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada. He has been on this body since September 2005 when former Police Chief John Welter created it “as a vehicle to advise and counsel him on matters affecting public safety and to act as a sounding board for police/community relations.”

Before William started dabbling in real estate full-time, both he and his brother Vincent ran Taormina Industries Inc., a solid-waste disposal company founded by their father in 1948. According to the Los Angeles Times, the privately held firm was a $100 million operation that served more than one million curbside customers in Anaheim, Brea, Garden Grove, Placentia, Villa Park, Yorba Linda and Colton.

In 1997, Taormina Industries merged into Republic Industries Inc., a trash hauling company then-controlled by H. Wayne Huizenga, a multi-billionaire, in a deal worth about $250 million in stock. “Brothers William and Vincent Taormina will receive 6.5 million shares [from Republic] and will operate the Anaheim company as a separate unit under its own name,” the Times reported.

Over the past thirty years, Taormina has been a major player in Anaheim city politics, pouring tens of thousands of dollars of cash into the campaigns of candidates and elected officials, both Democrat and Republican alike.

Taormina has also donated generously to many local charities and non-profits. He is  the founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Anaheim Community Foundation, an organization that not only has provided financial support for many different senior and youth programs, but has been responsible for managing tens of thousands of dollars in funds for Kash for K-9’s, Cops 4 Kids, and other projects supported by the Anaheim Police Department.

Despite his presence at the ACLU fundraiser, Taormina is no liberal. Back in 2012, Taormina and his family, both directly and through businesses under their control, gave $5,250 in campaign contributions to a city council candidate by the name of Steven Chavez Lodge, an ex-Santa Ana Police detective, who had been sued multiple times in state and federal courts for alleged “police brutality.” Later that same year, the Register quoted him as asking then-Police Chief Welter why there wasn’t a “blanket [gang] injunction” on the entire City of Anaheim to fight crime. The LA Weekly reported in 2014 that Taormina successfully pressured the MUZEO Museum and Cultural Center to cancel a “graffiti” art exhibit featuring the works of prominent Mexican muralists.

For more about the June 25th “Garden Party Fundraiser” for LEAN, please click here.

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Anaheim Police & the KKK: Office of Independent Review ‘Investigates’ Complaint Against Police Chief Raul Quezada

quezada-public-safety-board

The Office of Independent Review is “investigating” a complaint filed last year alleging that Police Chief Raul Quezada made “inaccurate, false, and misleading statements” to the Anaheim City Council and Public Safety Board.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

The Office of Independent Review, a law firm run by Michael Gennaco, a former trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, is currently “investigating” a complaint filed last year which alleged that Police Chief Raul Quezada made “inaccurate, false, and misleading statements” to the Anaheim City Council, Public Safety Board, and general public about the “time sequence” of events that took place in Pearson Park on Saturday, February 27, 2016, where a violent confrontation ensued between knife-wielding members of the Ku Klux Klan and anti-racist counter-protesters.

The complaint in question, filed by Duane Roberts, Editor and Publisher of the Anaheim Investigator blog, was hand-delivered to City Manager Paul Emery at the Tuesday, April 12, 2016 meeting of the Anaheim City Council. Emery later forwarded it to Bill McCleod, then-Human Resources Director for the City of Anaheim, who was “directed to undertake an investigation.” In a terse letter dated Monday, May 20, 2016, McCleod stated that after interviewing “many witnesses, reviewing … correspondence and attachments, and other materials as necessary,” he concluded the “allegations are not supported by the evidence.”

At the Thursday, December 15, 2016 meeting of the Public Safety Board, Forrest Turpen and Robert Nelson, the respective Chair and Vice-Chair of that body, resurrected the complaint. At the end of the meeting, Nelson queried Emery about “the complaint made by Mr. Roberts.” He then made a “motion to recommend to the City Manager that the Office of Independent Review Group review the complaint made by Mr. Roberts,” which was seconded by Turpen. According to the minutes, out of the six commissioners that were present that night, five voted in favor of the motion, with only one abstention.

Despite some initial resistance to the idea, Emery told The Investigator that given “public interest” in this matter, he “handed over the HR [investigative] file to Gennaco” in mid-January–a fact that was confirmed at last Thursday night’s meeting of the Public Safety Board. When Nelson asked Gennaco how their review of “Mr. Roberts complaint” was going, he gave two word response: “very well.” When pressed further by Turpen if whether or not the Office of Independent Review was merely “auditing” or “investigating” the complaint,  Gennaco replied that he could not disclose that information at this time.

Phony As A Three Dollar Bill: How The City Of Anaheim Will Create A Fake Police Oversight Committee

OIR Group IIAfter months of foot-dragging, city officials decided to outsource their police oversight committee to the Office of Independent Review, already a paid contractor for the Anaheim Police Department.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

As the Anaheim Investigator reported last month, the Tuesday, June 18th vote by Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and the rest of the City Council to unanimously approve an amended agreement with the Office of Independent Reviewa Los Angeles-based law firm run by Michael Gennaco, to drastically “expand the scope of services” it offers the city, signaled the death knell for any genuine police oversight in this town. The 5-0 vote, which was done quietly and without much discussion, essentially paved the way to make OIR a de facto “oversight body” for the Anaheim Police Department.

Although Tait told the Anaheim Investigator he “still want[s] a civilian review commission,” it is our opinion that if the mayor really supported police accountability, his decision to vote in favor of the amended agreement at the June 18th meeting sent a mixed message. All of the evidence we’ve collected so far suggests Gennaco’s law firm now lies at the foundation–or already is–the “oversight body” the City of Anaheim has been talking about forming. Any discussion about creating a “commission” now not only is too little, too late, but a smokescreen to divert attention away from the fact the fix is in.

In respect to evidence backing this claim, all one needs to do is look at what is going on in a neighboring city. Last May, the Anaheim Investigator filed a California Public Records Act request with the Fullerton Police Department and unearthed an email attachment Gennaco sent to Police Chief Dan Hughes on Wednesday, January 30th, 2013. In it, Gennaco proposed his law firm become the “outside independent oversight entity” for that city’s law enforcement agency. The language he uses is similar to text contained in letters sent to Anaheim City Attorneys in 2009 and April of this year

It appears one major difference between what was outlined in the attachment Gennaco sent to Hughes in late January and the text of those letters is the language used to describe his law firm’s services. The City of Anaheim has embarked on a strategy of building its “oversight body” in a piecemeal, incremental fashion. By keeping quiet about what it has been doing and omitting language describing OIR as an “outside independent oversight entity,” the council swiftly made it an “oversight body” right beneath everybody’s noses. The purpose of this: to keep residents who favor real police oversight in the dark so as not to arouse opposition.

Further proof of the key role OIR is playing in this matter can be found in the brief dialogue that took place at the June 18th meeting between Tait and then-Interim City Manager Marcie Edwards. When Tait told Edwards the vote on the amended agreement provided him with “an opportunity to bring up the idea of a citizen review commission that we talked about several months ago,” she responded by making it perfectly clear that OIR–not city staff–will be making recommendations about this in a report it is expected to submit to the Anaheim City Council “maybe a month to six weeks from now.”

The exchange was as follows:

TAIT: Item 14, I pulled that. This is … umm … city attorney approve the first amendment to agreement with Michael Gennaco, etc., increasing the not to exceed contract to the amount of $85,000 extending the scope of attorney services. This is Office of Independent Review. Umm … I support this. It’s a good … it gives me an opportunity to bring up the idea of a citizen review commission that we talked about several months ago. So I’d like to … I know the City Manager is interim, but I’d like to encourage the city to move forward with its recommendation … umm …  soon. So … Madame City Manager?

EDWARDS: Thank you sir. Umm …  one of the items that we have been waiting on, just for your information, is a report from the OIR that has recommendations … that is going to contain recommendations that ultimately we’ll be able to release publicly. I asked informally as to when they thought that might be produced and I was given an estimate of maybe a month to six weeks from now. So I wanted to share that with you.

TAIT: Very good.

At this time, the Anaheim Investigator cannot predict what kinds of recommendations OIR will present in the future. But what we do know, however, is when Gennaco attended a Fullerton City Council study session earlier this year to deliver a presentation about “oversight bodies,” he downplayed “citizen review commissions” in favor of the “auditor model” of  police oversight–a service his own law firm offers. Nevertheless, even if he recommends that a “commission” be created, we suspect it will be rigged to be weak, toothless, and ineffective. Why? Because the groundwork to have the city control it through OIR has been established.

First, the text of the letter Gennaco sent to then-Interim City Attorney Michael Houston on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 emphasizes that the latter’s office–not OIR–will make the final determination of which “critical incident cases” involving the Anaheim Police Department are “reviewed” by that law firm. So if a “citizen review commission” is eventually formed–with OIR running it–it will only be allowed to look into those cases the City Attorney wants them to examine and nothing more. That means the “commission” won’t be permitted to investigate any matters on its own, effectively tying its hands.

Second, the City of Anaheim has the power to determine who OIR releases its information to, placing it in a position to withhold information from a “citizen review commission.” Earlier this year, the Anaheim Investigator obtained a copy of the original agreement that then-City Attorney Cristina Talley negotiated with Gennaco’s law firm in 2009. This agreement, which was not altered significantly by the recently amended agreement, makes it perfectly clear that OIR is a law firm hired by the city to defend its interests and that all of its work is considered “confidential attorney-client communications and attorney work-product material”:

[A]ll internal observations, determinations, notes or other applicable material made by OIR Group in the performance of this Agreement are and shall be considered confidential attorney-client communications and attorney work-product material and subject to the appropriate claims of privilege. With the exception of any final public reports, all communications and reports to the City, including the City Attorney and the Anaheim Police Department, shall be made or submitted on a confidential basis. OIR Group agrees that no documents prepared or assembled by it under this Agreement shall be made available to any individual or organization without prior written approval of the City, unless required by law.

Third, OIR not only has no authority whatsoever to conduct independent investigations into complaints against alleged police misconduct, but it doesn’t have any subpoena power to compel witnesses to testify or produce documents. All it does is have its staff of highly paid attorneys “audit” or review case files prepared by the cops themselves to determine if an officer’s actions were in compliance with the law. That being said, a “citizen review commission” dependent on this law firm for information would spend much of its time reading reports containing “facts” Gennaco’s attorneys gleaned from police files.

And finally, OIR is funded by the Anaheim Police Department. Financial records the Anaheim Investigator obtained in a California Public Records Act request filed back in March show they have received $24,510 from them since 2008. Multiple invoices submitted by this law firm have scribbled notations and markings which make it clear they are funded out of the police budget, not the city’s general fund. Whereas we don’t feel Gennaco’s law firm is as deeply compromised by this relationship as OC Human Relations is, the fact an “oversight body” is accepting money from a law enforcement agency it oversees is problematic.

In conclusion, the June 18th vote was a pivotal moment in the so-called “debate” that has been taking place in Anaheim over the creation of a police oversight committee. After months of foot-dragging, city officials finally decided to outsource it to OIR, already a paid contractor for the Anaheim Police Department. This makes a mockery of their claim of wanting “independent” police oversight. That Kerry Condon, president of the Anaheim Police Association, has repeatedly made statements expressing unwavering support for this type of “oversight body” shows how weak it really is.

And if the Anaheim Investigator is correct in its analysis, any “citizen review commission” created now will be as phony as a three dollar bill. But we doubt such a “commission” will ever come into existence. We suspect that when this matter comes back to council, there will be a round of political kabuki theater: Kris Murray, along with her colleagues, will point out we don’t need one because we have OIR; and Tait, although he’ll argue in favor of  it, will be on the “losing” side. Although most people that night will only see a lopsided 4-1 vote against it, few will understand that on June 18th, in a 5-0 vote, both Murray and Tait voted to kill it, by backing OIR.

[Below are electronic reproductions of some of the documents referred to in this article. Click on them to enlarge.] 

Michael Gennaco Email to Dan Hughes 1 of 2

Gennaco to Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes, Wednesday, January 30, 2013 (1 of 2)

Michael Gennaco Email to Dan Hughes 2 of 2

Gennaco to Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes, Wednesday, January 30, 2013  (2 of 2) 

Letter 2009 agreement 1 of 2

Gennaco to Anaheim City Attorney Talley, August 16, 2009 (1 of 2)

Letter 2009 agreement 2 of 2

Gennaco to Anaheim City Attorney Talley, August 16, 2009 (2 of 2) 

Gennaco to Houston Letter 1 of 1

Gennaco to then-Interim Anaheim City Attorney Houston, April 24, 2013 (1 of 1) 

OIR 2009 agreement 1 of 9

OIR Group agreement with Anaheim, August 25, 2009, Page 1 (1 of 3)

OIR 2009 agreement 6 of 9

OIR Group agreement with Anaheim, August 25, 2009, Page 6 (2 of 3)

OIR 2009 agreement 7 of 9

OIR Group agreement with Anaheim, August 25, 2009, Page 7 (3 of 3)

UPDATE: Death Knell for Genuine Police Oversight in Anaheim: Council Boosts Office of Independent Review

Anaheim Council Tait

Last week, Mayor Tom Tait, along with the rest of the Anaheim City Council, voted for an “amended agreement” with the Office of Independent Review which made it a de facto police “oversight body.”

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

At the Tuesday, June 18th meeting of the Anaheim City Council, Mayor Tom Tait, along with other members of that body, voted unanimously to approve an amended agreement with the Office of Independent Review, a Los Angeles-based law firm run by Michael Gennaco, to drastically expand the scope of services it provides the City of Anaheim. The 5-0 vote, which was done quietly and without much discussion, essentially paved the way to make it a de facto “oversight body” for the Anaheim Police Department.

But last week’s decision, however, was not a victory for genuine police oversight within this city; it signaled its death knell. If anything, it was a major boost for Kerry Condon, president of the Anaheim Police Association. Condon, who has repeatedly blasted the idea of establishing an independent police oversight committee run by residents, has never been critical of Gennaco’s law firm. And despite being present at the last council meeting, he raised no objections as Tait swiftly moved to have this item voted upon by his colleagues.

It should be no surprise to anyone Condon said nary a word about this matter given the Office of Independent Review already works hand-in-glove with the Anaheim Police Department. Financial records the Anaheim Investigator obtained from the City of Anaheim in a California Public Records Act request filed back in March show they have received $24,510 from them since 2008. Multiple invoices submitted by this law firm have scribbled notations and markings which make it clear they are funded out of the police budget, not the city’s general fund.

Additionally, the Office of Independent Review is really not an “oversight body” at all. Not only does it have no authority to conduct independent investigations into complaints against alleged police misconduct, but it has no power to compel witnesses to testify or produce documents. All it does is have its staff of highly paid attorneys “audit” or review case files prepared by the police themselves to determine if an officer’s actions were in compliance with the law; it also offers recommendations how they can improve their performance.

In a letter Gennaco sent to Michael Houston, then-Interim City Attorney, on April 24th, he listed in detail the kind of “audits” his law firm will do under the amended agreement:

1. Review all critical incident cases (officer-involved shootings, and in-custody deaths) that were closed after January 1,2010 and any critical incidents that have occurred to date.

2. Review additional officer-involved shootings outside this time frame and for which representatives of the Anaheim community have raised concerns. Prepare a report to the City Attorney, as well as a written public report, regarding the results of our review.

3. On an annual basis, or on such other time schedule as requested by the City Attorney, review all critical incident cases that have been closed in that year and prepare reports as requested by the City Attorney.

4. Perform any additional critical incident reviews or tasks requested in writing by the City Attorney.

The Anaheim Investigator is intrigued with the strategy the City of Anaheim is using to create this “oversight body.” Rather than put everything out on the table all at once, they’ve decided to do it gradually, in a piecemeal fashion. They are also being very quiet about what they say in public. It is our opinion this is being done with the intent of minimizing criticism from residents who favor genuine police oversight, not oppose it. For example, if such persons had been aware this item was on last week’s agenda, they might have rallied against it, especially had they known what it would really do. 

Now that the amended agreement with the Office of Independent Review has been approved, the next step is to add a “committee component” to give it “legitimacy.” At the meeting, Marcie Edwards, Interim City Manager, stated Gennaco is expected to report back to council about this issue in a few weeks. Knowing what we know about the Police Chief’s advisory board, we suspect any committee they create will be stacked with pro-police political appointees. And they would only meet to read reports Gennaco’s attorneys prepared for them using information obtained from police files.

Curious to learn the reason why Tait voted in favor of this item, the Anaheim Investigator made multiple attempts to seek public comment from him. Not only did we leave messages on the voice-mail of his private cellphone, but we also contacted his Executive Assistant at Tait & Associates, Inc., and asked her to have him return our calls. We also sent to several messages to all of his Facebook accounts and business emails. So far, despite our sincere efforts to try to get a hold of him, Tait has failed to respond to any of our inquiries.

[UPDATE as of Wednesday, June 26th at 11:02 p.m.]

After five days of unsuccessfully trying to reach Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait via email and telephone, he finally contacted the Anaheim Investigator in a call early Wednesday morning. Although other commitments prevented Tait from talking with us at length, he re-affirmed his support for a police oversight committee run by residents. “I still want a civilian review commission,” he said. He further emphasized that at the Tuesday, June 18th city council meeting, he requested city staff report back to him about this issue at a later date.

In respect to concerns we had about his vote approving the amended agreement with the Office of Independent of ReviewTait characterized it as an “extension” of a pre-existing arrangement the City of Anaheim has had with this law firm since 2008. Without getting into a squabble over word meanings, we do agree that it could be labeled as such. But City Attorney Michael Houston made it clear in his staff report on the matter that this agreement just doesn’t “extend,” but will “expand the scope of services” this entity offers to the city.

[Below are electronic reproductions of some of the documents referred to in this article. Click on them to enlarge.] 

APD disburse OIR 1 of 2

APD Disbursements to Office of Independent Review 1/06-3/13 (1 of 2)

APD disburse OIR 2 of 2

APD Disbursements to Office of Independent Review 1/06-3/13 (2 of 2)

OIR Group Invoice 09-16

Office of Independent Review, Invoice #APD-1/09-16, 5/09-6/09 (1 of 2)

OIR Group Invoice 09-17

Office of Independent Review, Invoice #APD-1/09-17, 5/09-6/09 (2 of 2)

OIR Group Invoice 09-27

Office of Independent Review, Invoice #APD-1/09-27, 1/10-3/10 (1 of 1)

OIR Group Invoice 09-31

Office of Independent Review, Invoice #APD-1/09-31, 9/10-10/10 (1 of 1)

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