Anaheim Investigator

Archive for the category “Tom Tait”

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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ACLU-Backed ‘Anti-Police Activist’ Group Got Tickets Worth $2,108 From Anaheim Mayor, Councilmen

Smith & Faessel

Theresa Smith, the “anti-police activist” founder of LEAN, with Stephen Faessel, an Anaheim City Councilman, who was elected to his seat with $17,389 worth of support from the Anaheim Police Association.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

On Thursday, June 29, 2017, an article entitled, “Councilman Moreno Honored By Anaheim Police Critics,” was posted on the Anaheim Blog, a right-wing website run by Matthew Cunningham, a well-connected public relations consultant, by a person who uses the pseudonym, Anaheim Insider.

Insider, a regular contributor to that blog, reported about a special event which took place earlier that week where Anaheim City Councilman Jose Moreno, who represents the Third District, received an award from a group characterized as being started by “anti-police activists.”

“This past weekend,” Insider wrote, “Moreno was awarded the Public Service Award by the Law Enforcement Accountability Network, or LEAN“:

LEAN was started by local anti-police activists who frequent Anaheim City Council meetings to criticize the police in the harshest, over-the-top terms. It is ‘fiscally sponsored’ by the ACLU. Despite the group’s soft-pedaled official ‘we want to improve policing’ rhetoric, the people behind it view the police as violent, anti-Latino trigger-happy thugs and are in the bait of denouncing officer-involved shootings as ‘murders.’

In an attempt to prove his point, Insider zeroed in on comments one attendee made on her Facebook page, claiming she “helped organize the protest” in the Palais neighborhood “that predictably degenerated into a riot, leading to ‘protesters’ vandalizing the home of an elderly couple of breaking car windows.”

“This is the spirit of LEAN supporters, and they’ve let us know that Jose F. Moreno is their kind of councilmember,” Insider said.

But a two-month investigation by the Anaheim Investigator has uncovered dozens of photographs, emails, and other evidence, some of it obtained from the City of Anaheim through California Public Records Act requests, suggesting Insider’s account of this event was not only inaccurate, but misleading. Contrary to Insider’s assertion that “LEAN supporters” were people who “view the police as violent, anti-Latino trigger-happy thugs,” photos show that several prominent Anaheim politicians and businessmen, all of whom have close ties to law enforcement, attended this function.

The Investigator has learned the aforementioned event Insider made reference to was a June 25th “Garden Party Fundraiser” for LEAN, a non-profit organization founded by Theresa Smith, whose son, Caesar Cruz, was shot to death by Anaheim Police in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in 2009.

A copy of an email invitation dated Monday, June 19, 2017 sent out by LEAN to Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait states the venue for this function was the Villa Park home of Belinda Escobosa-Helzer, former Director for the Orange County office of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

Smith & Moreno

Smith with Councilman Moreno.

Photos clearly show Moreno was present, but he wasn’t the only politician there. Another attendee was Stephen Faessel, an Anaheim City Councilman who was elected to his Fifth District seat in 2016 with $15,488.80 worth of support from the Anaheim Police Officer’s Association Independent Expenditure Committee. A careful review of California Form 460 paperwork the “Faessel for City Council 2016” committee filed with the City Clerk shows the Anaheim Police Association PAC also gave his campaign $1,900 in cash.

Other photos show Michael Gennaco, a former trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, who runs the OIR Group, a Playa Del Rey law firm that has a $125,000 a year contract with the City of Anaheim to provide auditing services for the Anaheim Police Department.

Smith & Gennaco

Smith with Michael Gennaco.

One notable person that attended was William Taormina, a wealthy real estate developer, who serves on the advisory board of Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada. He is also Chairman Emeritus of the Anaheim Community Foundation, a non-profit which has managed tens of thousands of dollars in funds for Kash for K-9’s, Cops 4 Kids, and other programs supported by the Anaheim Police Department.

The Investigator has confirmed that Taormina wrote out a $1,000 check to LEAN at their June 25th fundraiser–a huge amount of money, especially since James Gilliam, Deputy Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California, boasted on Facebook: “We helped [Smith] raise almost $4,000 this afternoon.”

Bill Taormina behind Smith in Plaid Shirt

William Taormina (in the plaid shirt) sitting behind Smith.

But the biggest donor to LEAN, however, was not Taormina: it was the City of Anaheim. Emails, letters, and documents the Investigator obtained under Public Records Act requests show that Mayor Tait and Councilmen Faessel and Moreno collectively donated sports tickets worth $2,108. According to a California Form 802, “Agency Report of Ceremonial Role Events and Ticket/Pass Distributions,” Tait gave LEAN four “suite” tickets at Angels Stadium for a baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics. The tickets were valued at $225 each, or $900 total. Another Form 802 shows Moreno also gave LEAN four “suite” tickets at Angels Stadium also worth $900, but for a different game. As for Faessel, his contribution was much smaller, but still significant. A Form 802 reports he donated four “suite” tickets at the Honda Center for a “P&G Gymnastics Championship,” valued at $77 each, or $308 total, a fact later verified via email by Crystal Norman, his former Senior Policy Aide.

The Investigator has learned all of the sports tickets LEAN received from the Mayor and the Councilmen were put up for “silent auction” during the fundraiser. But the winning bidders didn’t receive the actual tickets that day. Instead, they were given a form letter printed on official City of Anaheim stationery, each signed by Tait, Faessal, or Moreno, that entitled the bearer to contact the Office of the Mayor and City Council to make arrangements to pick up the tickets they won. “Enjoy and thank you for supporting LEAN,” all of them said.

A copy of Tait’s letter is below:

Tait Letter re LEAN

All together, the Investigator calculates that Tait, Faessal, Moreno, and Taormina, made donations to LEAN worth a whopping $3,108. Of the estimated 50 people in attendance at the June 25th “Garden Party Fundraiser,” nobody contributed as much to the financial success of this benefit as did these four men.

But all of this begs the following question: Why are members of Anaheim’s political and business elite, all of whom have close ties to law enforcement, showering LEAN with gifts and money?

Stay tuned …

Anaheim Police & the KKK: Police Emails Suggest Police Chief Lied About Pearson Park Rally Time

Quezada

Police Chief Raul Quezada’s claim his department was clueless as to when and where the Ku Klux Klan would arrive at Pearson Park on Saturday, Feb. 27th is contradicted by police emails

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

On the evening of Tuesday, March 1, 2016, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait requested that Police Chief Raul Quezada give a report to the city council about “police response” to a bloody melee that occurred at Pearson Park three days earlier, where a group of anti-racist counter-protesters violently clashed with Ku Klux Klan members, some armed with knives, who came to town to hold a “White Lives Do Matter” rally.

When Chief Quezada stepped up to the podium, he thanked the Mayor and Council for giving him the “opportunity to provide some insight” into this issue, allowing him to “share and clarify some of the facts.” He pointed out that its “important that our community, including those in attendance and those who are watching, maintain the confidence in the police department because we are in fact here to serve them.”

Quezada began his comments by stating that the Anaheim Police Department was “made aware” of the pending rally when a Klan member contacted them asking for security:

We were made aware of the protest on the 23rd or a few days prior to that with respect to via a telephone call from one of the Klan members. During that conversation, there was a request to hire police officers to protect them. That is not our function. We provided alternatives, which they did not take.

“At the time of that conversation,” he said, “the Klan indicated they would be here at 1:30 in the afternoon. That is not the time they arrived [last Saturday]. They arrived at closer to 11:30.”

The Chief then spent the next couple of minutes giving a brief rundown of how prepared his officers were in handling anything that transpired at Pearson Park. In closing remarks, he veered back to the Klan, essentially hinting that they unexpectedly showed up at a time and place they weren’t scheduled to be present.

[T]he information we never have specifically is what time they were going to arrive, where they’re going to park. They can park down the street, walk their way. That information is not something we [had] available. Nor that’s something that is mandated that they share with us. Any protest can take place at any time and does not have to be notification of the police department. Sometimes out of courtesy, they make the phone call.

Again, in this instance, the police department was prepared. We had adequate resources available. The KKK arrived two hours prior to the notification of the scheduled time that they were supposed to be there; that they had communicated with us.

“Very good, I think the time sequence is important,” Tait said to the Chief after he finished his presentation.

But The Anaheim Investigator is in possession of internal police emails, obtained under a California Public Records Act request, which not only contradict the Chief’s claim his department was clueless about when and where the Klansmen would be at Pearson Park that day, but they suggest he’s made misleading statements about the “time sequence,” both to the city council and members of the general public.

The emails begin with one with the subject header, “KKK Rally,” sent out on Wednesday, February 24th to Lieutenant Curtis Faulkner, the Community Policing Team District Commander for the Central and East Districts. According to Detective Chuck Schroth of the Criminal Intelligence Unit, he received a voice message from Charles Donner, a 51-year old Klansman who lives in San Francisco.

“Lt Faulkner,” wrote Schroth, “I received a voice mail from ‘Chuck Donner.'”:

He was asking for uniformed protection for their upcoming march because of issues with “non-whites” last year. In the VM Mr. Donner said the desk sgt gave him my number. Mr. Donner requested a call back at [INFORMATION REDACTED].

Let me know if you want me to do anything with this.

“We don’t provide for uniformed protection unless they want to pay for police services,” Faulkner replied. “[The Community Policing Team] will contact Mr. Donner.”

Two days later, on the morning of Friday, February 26th–roughly 24-hours before the rally–Sergeant Chris Masilon, a Community Policing Team officer, emailed Faulkner. “[Donner] left me a VM,” he wrote. “He informed me they are going to hire their own ARMED SECURITY. I’ve called him back and left a VM.”

“It’s a public park, they can’t have armed security,” Faulkner responded.

Within fifteen minutes, the Lieutenant received another email from Masilon:

OK I just talked to [Donner]. I told him he cannot have armed security in the park, so he is going to scrap his security plan. If he decides to hire non armed security, he will call me back and let me know.

He is approximating 20 people in his group and they will be protesting on the west side of the park near Harbor Blvd.

Hours are 1200 – 1400

Rocio said they were talking about this event on KROQ this am. [sic]

“Copy thanks Chris,” Faulkner shot back.

The existence of these emails are quite revealing in that they contain information which  undermines–if not decimates–Chief Quezada’s misleading claim that the Klan unexpectedly showed up to Pearson Park at 11:30 a.m. According to multiple eyewitness accounts, a handful of Klansmen in a black Chevrolet sport utility vehicle arrived near the Southwest corner of the park shortly after 12-noon–the exact same time (and place) Donner told Sergeant Masilon they would be there.

Additionally, the Klan’s arrival time was documented, albeit indirectly, by Sergeant Daron Wyatt, Public Information Officer for the Anaheim Police Department, who issued a press release later stating that “[a]t approximately 12:10 pm on Saturday, violence erupted when six suspected members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) arrived on the south side of Pearson Park for a planned walking protest.” In an updated press release, he wrote that violence “erupted just after noon.”

The Investigator is baffled as to the reason why Quezada would risk his reputation to disseminate false information about the Klan’s arrival time. Recently, his department has come under fire for failing to deploy uniformed officers to “keep the peace” at Pearson Park. One can speculate this is a form of “damage control”: by arguing the Klan unexpectedly showed up on scene, he can say his officers didn’t have enough time to take appropriate measures to keep them away from counter-protesters.

In a future posting, The Investigator plans to explore the issue of “media spin” further and critically examine allegations made by the OC Weekly that the Anaheim Police Department spread disinformation about the exact time of the Klan rally before it happened to confuse counter-protesters. Although it’s unclear if this occurred, The Investigator is in possession of evidence showing the police disseminated false information about this matter hours after the Klan communicated with them.

[Below are the police emails used for this article]

 

Internal Police Emails 1 of 3

APD Internal Emails, 1 of 3

 

Internal Police Emails 2 of 3

APD Internal Emails, 2 of 3

 

Internal Police Emails 3 of 3

APD Internal Emails, 3 of 3

 

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)

A Conflict of Interest: Cop-Funded OC Human Relations Wanted to Run Police Oversight Committees

Anaheim Police Human Relations Patch

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.

rusty

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 onAlthough 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.]

OC Human Relations Re Civilian Police Review Conference 10-2-12

Email to Felz, Hughes, and Welter from Kennedy re: “Civilian Review Police Conference,” Tuesday, October 2, 2012 (1 of 1)

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