Schipske Sets Ethical Standard for Mayoral Race

By: 
Stephen Downing

Price Announces Candidacy for Mayor

On Jan. 10 Councilperson Suzie Price announced her candidacy for mayor and for the first time in her two-term City Council career publicly slammed Mayor Robert Garcia’s effectiveness in office saying, “Help me bring Long Beach back by having an inclusive and functional city government! Together we can invest in public safety, infrastructure and strengthen our economy.”

Price’s cry for help resonated with the promises made by Garcia during his time in office. And those promises – once elected with the help of the Long Beach Police Officer’s Association’s (LBPOA) – were turned into multiple tax measure campaigns, also financed by the LBPOA.

The LBPOA-paid mailers helped score a victory for each of Garcia’s tax increase campaigns but public safety, infrastructure and a strengthened economy never became a reality.

The LBPOA always got first cut on the new taxes in pay raises and overtime allocations, but the mayor and council never addressed any kind of build-back to the 208 deployable officers that were cut from the FY 2010 budget.

Price and Garcia both chaired the council’s Public Safety Committee during their time on the council. During his term as chair, Garcia never held a single meeting to address the public safety impacts of the budget cuts.

During Price’s two-term tenure on the Public Safety Committee not only did her committee not examine the impact of budget cuts on police, but she also joined with other council members in approving – 9-0 – the elimination of the LBPD’s field anti-gang unit.

Will Price Take LBPOA Money?

Minutes following Price’s announcement the Beachcomber sent the candidate an email and asked: “Is your campaign and candidacy going to accept the endorsement and/or campaign donations from the LBPOA or any organization that they may funnel funds through to support your election?

Ten minutes later Price replied, writing: “I believe every candidate that has already announced their candidacy for the mayoral race will be interviewing for the POA endorsement tomorrow. By implication, that would mean that every major candidate in the mayoral race is competing for their endorsement and would accept their support.”

Will Schipske Take LBPOA Money?

Having been informed by Price that the LBPOA was conducting their standard “audio recorded candidate interviews” on Jan 11 the Beachcomber asked Mayoral candidate Gerrie Schipske if she had been invited to meet with the LBPOA board members and she replied that she had and that she planned to attend “out of courtesy to their invitation.”

Following the meeting Schipske issued a press release stating that she was invited to meet with the board to “answer a variety of questions on her positions concerning public safety.”

The mayoral candidate said that she told the POA board that she was concerned about recent statistics that show an increase in crime, that public safety should be the number one priority of local government, that the Police Department is understaffed and that, “this is not the time to divert police funding into other programs.”

Schipske also informed the POA board that, “most importantly, we need to hold our public safety employees accountable.”

The candidate said that she also told the POA board members that the Citizen Police Complaint Commission is not effective either for the public or the police and that – in spite of the upcoming recommendations from a city consultant who is proposing changes to the CPCC – “We need to see the actual proposals and have extensive public discussion before the changes are put on the November ballot.”

As to the question of taking campaign donations from the LBPOA, Schipske said that she “cautioned the LBPOA board that their reputation has been harmed because city politicians have relied upon their large financial support to pay for campaigns to raise taxes and utilities. “

Schipske continued, “As mayor I will never do that. You are an employee association, representing our law enforcement at the bargaining table. I will not cheapen that relationship by asking you to serve as a piggybank for political and ballot campaigns.”

Price’s Response to Schipske Ethic’s Position

On Jan. 12 and 13 the Beachcomber asked Suzie Price for a statement relative to her meeting with the LBPOA board and – having provided the mayoral candidate a copy of Schipske’s press release – asked the following:

Do you agree or disagree with the position taken by Gerrie Schipske, as stated in her press release about the LBPOA, that: “You are an employee association, representing our law enforcement at the bargaining table. I will not cheapen that relationship by asking you to serve as a piggybank for political and ballot campaigns.

It is our understanding that you were granted their endorsement. Is that true and if so, will you accept their financial support in your campaign?

Finally, what position will you take relative to your past practice of supporting the distribution of campaign flyers by the LBPOA on your behalf that feature police officers in uniform?”

Price did not respond.

Rex Richardson’s Response to Schipske Ethic’s Position

On Jan. 12 the Beachcomber sent an email to Mayoral Candidate Rex Richardson, presently serving as vice mayor and councilmember for the 9th district, asking for comment on his interview with the LBPOA, his endorsement by the LB Fire FightersUnion and his response to the ethics standard assumed by Schipske with regard to taking money and/or financial support from either the LBPOA or the LB Fire Fighters Union.

Richardson did not respond.

Franklin Simms’ Response to Schipske Ethic’s Position

On Jan. 12 the Beachcomber asked the same questions of mayoral candidate Franklin Sims.

Sims stated: “As a mayoral candid who was excluded from addressing the police union, I think Schipske showed courage inside the belly of the beast. We can’t reach the high ground of a safe city unless both law enforcement and candidates get out of the business of pay-to-play politics and into the heart of doing what is right for Long Beach families.”

LBPOA Response to Schipske Ethic’s Position

On Jan. 12 the Beachcomber wrote to LBPOA President Rick Chambers and asked him to verify information received by this newspaper that Suzie Price won the LBPOA endorsement for mayor.

In the same email the Beachcomber also asked for comment relative to Gerrie Schipske’s statement that, “You are an employee association, representing our law enforcement at the bargaining table. I will not cheapen that relationship by asking you to serve as a piggybank for political and ballot campaigns.”

Neither Chambers nor any member of the LBPOA board of directors responded – as has been their practice with Beachcomber inquiries for the past three-plus years.

About the LBPOA

There are 23 different employee bargaining units in the City of Long Beach representing a total of 6,000 city employees.

The largest bargaining unit is the IAM (International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers) with a membership of 2,918.

The smallest unit is the City Prosecutors Association with a membership of 17.

The LBPOA unit has a membership of 809 sworn police employees including police officers, sergeants and lieutenants.

Sergeant Richard Chambers became president of the LBPOA in 2019. The POA contract approved by the City Council uniquely permits Chambers to spend all duty hours managing the business affairs of the LBPOA.

According to Transparent California, LBPOA president Sgt. Richard Chambers’ total salary and benefits in 2019 was $226, 211 and in 2020 was $296,785.

According to Beachcomber research, no other bargaining unit associated with the city is staffed with personnel whose wages and benefits are paid by the taxpayer.

Eighty-two percent of LBPD sworn employees live outside the city and are therefore not eligible to vote on matters affecting the quality of life in the City of Long Beach.

The POA Park

In April 1976 the city entered into a contractual agreement with the LBPOA in which a sizable piece of parkland was placed under the employee association’s management care and authority.

Beachcomber research was unable to locate any similar agreement made with any of the other 22 bargaining units.

The Picnic Site Management Agreement with the LBPOA was executed on April 6, 1976 and gave the association “responsibility to maintain an account, segregated from the general funds of the association that lists all fees collected by the association in connection with management of the picnic site….”

The contract also provided for annual audits by the city. The Beachcomber - through the PRA process recently determined that the city has never audited the account – “segregated from the general funds” in the 45-year life of the contract.

The POA Park – until recently – was rented to the public for as much as $1,800 per day.

The Beachcomber asked - though the PRA process – for the city to obtain the park-related financial documents from the LBPOA, since the documents are required by a city contract and the income is from city land – thus making them subject to the Public Records Act.

The city replied, “There are no responsive documents. “

According to data obtained from the Long Beach City Clerk Office LBPOA’s contributions to political candidates and campaigns between March 2015 and March 2020 totaled $1,131,025.

It is unknown how much of the money obtained from public rentals of the public parkland collected by the LBPOA has been co-mingled with and expended through the LBPOA’s political campaign expenditures.

The Beachcomber is in the process of finding the legal mechanism that will allow that question to be answered.

 

Stephen Downing is a resident of Long Beach and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.

stephen.beachcomber@gmail.com

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Comments

More of the some corrupt people running for office. Some of these so called candidates didn't even have the nerve to answer the Beachcomber simple questions, that says a-lot. I know for sure that these corrupt cowards that only want the LBPOA money is not getting my vote.

To avoid the perception of corruption and pay for play, each Mayoral candidate interviewed should require their recorded interview be made public so the public knows what promises were made to the POA by the Mayoral candidate to secure their endorsement.

Did Mayoral Candidate Suzie Price promise the POA 25% raises during the next contract negotiations and business as usual in order to secure the POA endorsement? That is a question that can only be answered by making the recorded interviews available to the public.

Gerrie was the best Councilperson we have ever had (I'm 44 year 5th district resident). She stood up to the cabal with their phony "emergency". She is honest, open, and hard-working. We would be very fortunate to have her serve us as mayor.

No one has reached out to me from the #thebeachcomber. I am not taking any big money donations, period. Pay to play politics have put us in this desperate state of power hungry politics. I am a representative for the people. I hope to earn your votes, neighbors of Long Beach. I was unfortunately working the day of this debate and was invited to go. Josh4lbcmayor.com

Why is EVERYTHING the Long Beach Police does hidden behind such a cloak of secrecy? If they have nothing to hide, shouldn't all of their Mayoral interviews be open to the public? After all, don't the police work for the public and aren't they paid with taxpayer dollars?

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