City Manager Admits Secret Deal with POA

By: 
Stephen Downing

Question: Just how strong is the glue of POA money that binds the mayor and City Council to the police union and their demands?

Tuesday, Sept. 17 will be a “strength-of-glue” test for Mayor Robert Garcia and the Long Beach City Council. 

Three years ago, the city kept the proposed POA contract secret until after the council vote to approve was accomplished. 

It’s reasonable to believe that the strength of public protest over that curtain of secrecy – and the after-the-fact-discovery that millions more in unprecedented  “incentive formulas” was approved – may have been the catalyst for the city to provide greater transparency this time around.

This year the memorandum of understanding (MOU) or contract negotiated with the police union was made a part of the council package last week – and available for public review – prior to the council vote which will take place tomorrow evening, Sept. 17. 

The math in the new 3-year contract – when viewed in light of provisions in the last contract – adds up to each Long Beach police officer receiving a pay and benefits increase of roughly $30,000 per year since 2017 – all of which was negotiated with City Hall staff in complete secrecy.

But the new transparency is not fully transparent, nor is the motivation behind one particular provision.

The language of an unprecedented provision (Section IX) in the new contract is misleading – as is the fact that City Manager Pat West, now promoting its formal adoption, in fact agreed to and implemented the provision four months ago. He says that he now wants to put it in the contract and have the City Council vote to adopt in order to “memorialize” it.

Section IX of the proposed MOU asks the City Council to contractually agree to tip off the POA when a member of the public exercises their rights provided in SB 1421, legislation made effective Jan. 1, 2019 that requires the city – for the first time in 50 years – to produce police records related to officer involved shootings, use of force resulting in great bodily injury or death, sexual assaults by police officers and sustained disciplinary actions related to lying and other forms of dishonesty.

The proposed agreement (already operational) requires the city to not only notify the POA when a request is first made by a member of the public but to also include the identification of the requestor and the language of the request.

Following that notification, if the city later determines that the request meets the requirements of SB 1421, the MOU states that “The department will provide the involved active employee(s) (the POA) with an opportunity to review the redacted records “at least five calendar days prior to public release.”

This provision raised many questions posed from several media organizations as well as on social media.

Questions posed by this writer to the mayor and council members, included:

  1. The employee has all of the rights under SB 1421 as does the citizen. If the employee wants to exercise that right, why does he or she need to know if a citizen has exercised that right?
  2. To what purpose does the POA and the city believe information about the requestor will benefit the employee?
  3. Why does the employee need identifying information on the requestor?
  4. What protocols or checks does the city have in place to prevent a misuse of the identifying information about the requestor by the involved employee (POA) during the waiting period?
  5. What authority does the city presume the employee can exercise in a review that is not afforded to the requestor?
  6. The law charges the city with specific categories that require redaction. This is a city responsibility. Why does the city believe that the employee has the right to a five-day delay of the city’s statutory duty to review redactions?
  7. Does the city plan to provide the employee veto power over any part of the redaction process?
  8. Why does the city believe that the requestor’s right to receipt of responsive documents be delayed by five days when fairness to both the employee and the requestor is better served if both receive the documents at the same time?

All of the eight questions were posed to the mayor and council members via email last week. 

No one responded.

It is not clear if those questions were in turn asked of the city manager, but a last minute memo of explanation located on the “Memos to Mayor and City Council” web site was found to have been sent by West to the elected officials late Friday, Sept. 16.

West revealed in the memo that Section IX was not in fact a part of the POA MOU negotiations, but rather a request from the POA made to the city – which was granted and made operational – last April.

West’s memo also cleared up the question that came from the vague language of the proposed MOU that led the reader to believe the five days would be used to review the redaction process. 

In his last-minute explanation memo West revealed one major truth lurking behind the five-day delay – it will provide the officer (POA) sufficient time to “file a legal action in court to prevent disclosure.”

Another unstated truth behind the advanced notice requested by the POA is much darker.

According to Beachcomber sources the city and the POA has observed what they consider to be a troubling trend of SB 1421-related public record requests being made by sentenced prisoners looking for evidence of patterns of untruthfulness by officers that the LBPD, by law, did not produce at their criminal trials – evidence that could serve to establish their innocence.

The addition of Section IX to the new MOU once again demonstrates how the strength of the POA treasury is put to work against the rights of the people, especially learning now that City Hall has already put its stamp of approval on the measure and made it operational over four months ago.

The provision has been described as toxic, un-democratic, unnecessary and a violation of a citizen’s statutory and first amendment rights – not to mention underhanded in its purpose and execution.

The question that remains is that posed at the top of this report: “Just how strong is the glue of POA money that binds the mayor and City Council to the police union and their demands?

Campaign records suggest the strength-of-glue coming from the POA treasury may make the difference in how the City Council votes tomorrow night, Sept. 17 on this – and other provisions in this year’s very expensive MOU.

Between 2017 to date the POA has squeezed the following out of their treasury’s money tube to support Long Beach elected officials:

  • Robert Garcia – $117,800
  • Rex Richardson – $8,400
  • Al Austin – $6,950
  • Suzie Price – $2,650
  • Roberto Uranga – $7,468
  • Stacy Mungo – $8,218
  • Daryl Supernaw – $750
  • Dee Andrews – $750
  • Jeannine Pearce – $0

The council vote on Tuesday will reveal just how binding that amount of glue may be.

 

Stephen Downing is a Long Beach resident and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.
stephen.beachcomber@gmail.com

 

 

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Comments

Section IX of the MOU, as currently drafted, undermines the intent of Senate Bill 1421 to safeguard the public’s right to know about police use of force and misconduct, provides an unwarranted opportunity for officers to obstruct and delay disclosure through litigation, and likely violates the Public Records Act.

Long Beach Police Department has, so far, not been cooperative with requests for records pursuant to SB 1421. The ACLU of Southern California requested a broad set of records on January 1, 2019, but nearly nine months later has yet to receive a single page in response. The City has also taken the unique position that it need not turn over public records related to an officer who is a witness in a pending criminal case, an interpretation utterly at odds with both the language and intent of SB 1421. And just days before SB 1421 took effect, the City destroyed 23 years worth of relevant police records that would have become disclosable.

Incredibly terrible. The city has no respect for the letter or the spirit of the law. The only cure for this is for the US Justice Department to get involved, but that is a long shot and the city and its police know that. We need nevertheless to try and keep on trying to make this city transparent and honest, which it shows that it is not.

WTF!!! what is going on with these people? they take money from the Police Union and now they going to vote on a contact!!! They hold secret meeting regarding pay rises and how to intimidate the public by providing the names of the people asking for information the the misconduct that they committed.!!! Jeannine Pearce – $0 should be the only one that should be able to Vote the other have already been bought and sold.!! Mayor Robert Garcia – $117,800 is the biggest violated, now we know why these dirty politicians have never held these corrupt cops accountable. Now they passing ways they can intimidate the citizens of LBC behind our back. FIRE THEM ALL, they are only looking out for themself's and the corrupt cops!!.. We deserve a corrupt free government. Send this bought MAYOR packing!!!

Mayor Garcia's idea of "Transparent Government" involves secret deals with campaign donors?
Obviously, it's time for him to be promoted to a higher office!

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