Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cities That Don't Defend Themselves Get Sued Anyway

The Pasadena Star News's best reporter has been focused on the Sierra Madre Police Department situation lately. And Alfred Lee's article in yesterday's edition, Sierra Madre's tiny Police department leads many others in pending lawsuits, certainly brings a lot of information to the discussion.

Now there is something in this article that hits particularly hard. It seems obvious that the lawsuits being brought against this City by our Police Department are not exactly helping their cause. Many of them are petty to the point of absurdity, and honestly I've never had much sympathy for people who whine about their bosses. And when that whining leads to the spending of my tax money, well, the perception certainly doesn't get any better. I don't think I am alone in this, either. People are just getting sick of it.

Here are the paragraphs describing the legal predicament Sierra Madre finds itself in thanks to the POA and its pliable charges:

A storm of lawsuits swirling around the city's 20-member Police Department reveal sharp disagreements between top brass, rank-and-file officers and residents of this quiet town of 11,000 ... At the City Council's last meeting, members went into closed session to discuss a total of 10 legal cases involving the department: four lawsuits and two claims filed by the police officer's union against the city, and another three suits and one claim filed by residents alleging misbehavior by officers ... Another three lawsuits could soon be filed by the union, after the city denied three grievances earlier this month, union attorneys said.

Our Police Department has filed so many lawsuits and related actions that you have to wonder how they find the time to do their jobs. Obviously kittens stuck in trees have even more to worry about these days.

Now the lawsuit situation is just one aspect in the growing consensus here that perhaps we should replace these litigious losers with uniformed guardians of the peace who won't bite the hand that feeds them quite so much. After all, didn't we vote ourselves a 100% tax hike just to give these ingrates a raise? That these guys now devour a full 52% of our General Fund (before litigation) isn't working for very many people here, either.

Now Mr. Lee, hoping to provide some insight into how this City's elected officials are going to deal with these many pressures, quoted City Councilman Joe Mosca this way:

"The cost of litigation is a factor in considering whether or not to contract out services."

Now let me see if I have this correctly. Sierra Madre is now subject to an incredible amount of lawsuits initiated by both our Police Department and the POA. Yet according to Joe we should concern ourselves about the possibility of lawsuits should we decide to sever relations with the people who are already suing us multiple times?

Of course, Joe's statement here is a bit Delphic, and can also be interpreted as saying that the litigation initiated by the POA is a consideration in whether or not to sever relations with the officers whose interests they are clearly not helping. At least in the eyes of many taxpayers. But given Joe's previous statements expressing his love for the cozy communality of a more mythic SMPD, I'm going with the former interpretation.

Now many here can remember when Mayor Stockley and three like-minded members of the City Council claimed that it was the prospect of lawsuits that drove them to settle the One Carter fiasco with Dorn Platz. Who, once given the keys to the hillside, went on to sue us over and over again. And certainly we can remember Enid Joffe's "historic" settlement with the POA, an abject surrender that was at least supposed stop them from suing us so much. After which the POA has sued us something like 10 times. And counting

Now we are in the process of negotiating a tactical surrender to the folks currently in possession of One Carter and Stonehouse in the hopes that it will end some remaining law suits and won't lead to any more in the future. Something that smacks of wishful thinking.

It certainly seems obvious to me cities that don't go on the legal offensive as a way of protecting the interests of its citizens out of a fear of lawsuits end up getting sued anyway. Certainly has been the pattern in Sierra Madre. So why don't we do something radical and just sue the bastards back? Who knows, something crazy might happen.

Like we'd actually win something for a change.


  1. This is not too difficult to understand. It's all basic behavioral psychology. Settling lawsuits only rewards filing lawsuits. Whining about it only makes the people feel more powerful. Therefore settling and whining about it makes people more likely to come back for more.

    On the other hand, defending lawsuits and kicking their a** for filing them makes people think twice about filing them.

    Yes, it costs money to defend lawsuits, but it's false economy to settle many times in the name of saving money. I've always thought you should settle based on merit. On that basis the Maranatha case against the City should never have been settled.

    In my opinion the development cases are all just an excuse to permit development.

    As for the police department, if these are unwinable, perhaps they should be settled. If they are unwinable, the reason should be investigated and fixed. Otherwise, stand our ground and slug it out.

    May not sound too nice.

  2. We need to fight the ridulous lawsuits...I'm so tired so seeing our officers, two to a car, (really, do we need that?) pull someone over, then have "back up" because you know it's 7:30 in the morning...and heck ... you just never know. Enough is Enough ...Fight back ..stop the Nonsense .... If they don't like their beats..find a new one ...no harm no foul.

  3. It is passivity that attracts bullies. Pressure groups like the POA
    believe that there are no consequences for suing Sierra Madre,
    which is why they keep doing it. Time to prove them wrong.

  4. It is a breath of fresh air when I read Dr Staccto's post.The VOICE of Reason instead of whimpy despair .I for one would like to see our elected council members do the job most of us elected them to do and not fall upon their knees before every special interest on the block.

  5. If for no other reason I'd like to see us get rid of these Police because of the lawsuits. People talk about how they belong to our community, but how can that be if they sue us so much?

  6. Maybe we need new attorneys..You judge performance by wins..Where are the Wins?

  7. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Sierra Madre pays MORE for their policing than La Canada and they have TWICE as many people! And, the crime rate statistics of both cities are very similar (in some instances the La Canada stats are better). What's wrong with this picture.

  8. Can someone post exactly what the law suits are about including the ones from residents against the city's police? The agendas don't give any detail. I agree with Dr.S, if there are proplems on the city's side those problems must be addressed. If the suits are unjustified, FIGHT.

  9. One can agree with "all of thr above"...however our protest go no further than these postings. Unless penalties thru direct action can be applied to the elected reps; no change can really occur.The CC depend for much of their information and advice from City Hall which needless to say has their own axes to grind.It is easy, "Go along"."be reasonable", and so forth.The CC members are private citizens and most have full time jobs.They need therefore constructive input from active citizens to lobby for their their interest.To put it bluntly...we need to lean on them to do the right thing .

  10. Let me start off by saying I am an outsider and do not reside in Sierra Madre, however I have become a fan of the blog and try to check in from time to time.

    Didn't the folks in town recently approve a tax increase to help fund the police? I suspect that the lawsuits, and the cost of litigation, is being "charged" to the cost of running the police department and thus the approved tax increase is going directly to this cost?

    "juli" brings up a good point about the city attorney...maybe it is time to go shopping for new representation. In these tough economic times, it might be possible to retain a firm on a flat yearly fee vs. an hourly rate. Under the current contract, the city attorney has no incentive to prevent or quash these suits....the more work, the more money for the law firm.

    Just food for thought.

  11. The present council, 3 sane, 2 same old same old, inherited these messes. They did not create them, and they are trying to work their way through the quagmire that has been fostered over the Shenanigan Years.
    I suspect that some of the criticism against MacGillivray, Zimmerman and Watts comes from the Dirts as part of an intentional campaign to associate those council people with the terrible decisions made by their predecessors.

  12. Good memory skillsAugust 25, 2009 at 9:45 AM

    I wish we could slap the hustlers down too, and just make them pay for all of these wasted court hours. Remember when the Maranatha thing was going on, there was a significant loss of another Religious Land Use case that made the outcome look very, very good for us.
    However, how about all the attorney fees that we've already paid? Could we really get some or all of that back?
    Is it possible on a practical level to do what should have been done 6 years ago?

  13. police departments and litigation are a fact of life. after all, it seems to me (a lawyer) reasonable that one would file a lawsuit when shot while sleeping unarmed in the back of a nissan. moreover, litigation is expensive. a fact that to me (a lawyer) is hard to lament.

    our real problem is that our lovely foothill village and it's tax base is not large enough to absorb the varying costs associated with maintaining our goofy, little, and grumpy police department. i am greatly encouraged that the city seems to be moving toward replacing them with a professional staff from another jurisdiction. and i am thankful that the department, its officers and its lawyers are doing everything they can to make sure that replacement occurs.

  14. Day makes a great point. Think of it, the Moscateers are so out of gas that all they can hope to do is blame their own failures on others? Damn, and here I thought the library gambit was the dumbest thing ever.

  15. It would be worthwhile to know what activities the SM Police can invistigate and pursue. I know they call in the Pasadena Police, the CHP, and other jurisdictions because they are "not authorized" to deal with some incidents. And if the speeding on Grandview, Canon, and the downhill slalom off the mountain is any indication they abdicate that "authorized" responsibility as well.

  16. The police issue seems a p*ssing match between the Chief and the Union. Our council and attorney is caught in the middle.
    I think it will resolve itself, one way or another.
    Let's not go off the target here....we want to stop over development and the consequences of eminent domain.....SB375 is a very serious issue, as yesterday's Tattler about the citizens of Berkeley have decided to fight.
    Don't be sucked into the dirts "campaign" mantra the used during Measure V against the residents desire to not have Sierra Madre developed into Walnut Ave in Pasadena or Myrtle in Monrovia.
    Support the City Council members who have YOUR interests in mind. We all know who they are.
    MacGillivray, Watts and Zimmerman.
    I totally trust their good judgment.
    I will fight for this council to stay in place at the next election....otherwise we turn the city over to SCAGBOY Mosca and Bart Doyle's gang of development devotees.
    Their horrific record of voting on the side of developers speaks for itself.

  17. Don't forget the minority Fireman who was awarded millions because another Fireman put "dog food in his chili". They know exactly what they are doing. Check the doctors who specialize in "disability" for Firemen and Police. Its very well organized.

  18. OK, while I don't disagree with you, in the minds of most people in this town there are 2 issues. The cops and the Dirt Nursing Facility. And if these situations are not dealt with the Moscateers (love that!) will try to ride them all the way to April. The last things our little Joey wants people talking about are issues like development and fiscal sanity.

  19. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, remember, it takes the filing fee and a sheet of paper to file a case. Merely filing a lawsuit does not mean that it has merit. And having a lawsuit pending does not necessarily mean that there are big dollars being spent on it either. I agree with Day, let's don't get panicky because there are lawsuits, but let's defend those that are defensible and vigorously. If we're in the wrong, then a reasonable settlement might be right, and correct the reason for the case in the first place. I still maintain, however, that Maranatha should never have been settled. It's costs will extend for a long while into the future--every developer with any size project ambitions sees that as the blueprint for approval. Disgusting.

  20. We're hoping our people will do just that, Doc.
    You're right as always.
    It is very sad to see what happened at One Carter, and we know whose to blame.
    Most of the citizens who supported the RPSM were duped. Those of us who weren't tried out damndest with no help from that now disgraced steering committee (RPSM). We came within a few signatures on a petition to stop them in court, a valiant effort that would have stopped it all.
    A valiant fight led by one courageous individual.
    Don't give up, Sierra Madre, WIN this fight for that patriot.
    We can't ever allow our hillsides from being plundered in the future. Or our downtown....our favorite patriot did WIN that one with Measure V, and had more than a little to do with the defeat of Enid Joffe. Sorry we couldn't bring down John B. as well.
    Keep fighting, Sierra Madre.

  21. what do we expect?

    we hire the bottom of the barrel officers, who can't get hired by other police departments and then we hand them weapons

    I gave up when the city promoted a dispatcher and gave her a gun, that's plain stupidity

    Amos would be fired from any other police agency and certainly would not be put back on the street - his lack of judgement caused him to pull out his gun and shoot down an unarmed man -

    our esteemed Chief had her officers patrolling outside of Sierra Madre and it's a matter of public record that they were making traffic stops late at night way outside Sierra Madre and weren't patrolling our streets

    we don't need this PD, they are reckless and many have self-absorbed condesending attitudes towards citizens, I could understand that in a high crime area, but I suspect our cops are bored and sort of ticked off they can't get hired for serious police work in other cities, but then again, they aren't wanted by other Police Departments

    this is the same police union and cops who were proudly displaying banners, Sierra Madre SUCKS a few years ago, lead by Abernathy and the dude lives here, if it sucked so much, why didn't he move on?

    at some point, the SMPD will kill somebody. they almost did it thanks to Amos

    I hope the citizens who got roughed up by our cops wins enough money to shut down the PD - I noticed how the charges filed were dropped - who'd thunk that our PD would make up charges

    plus, it's the same group that pulled out guns on kids at the Skilled Nursing Facility

    i'll be glad when the SMPD goes away

  22. Sir Eric, when you parse Joe's words as skillfully as you have, he turns out to be Delphic indeed.
    "The cost of litigation is a factor in considering whether or not to contract out services." Joe specializes in effluents of unknown origin and purpose.

    What the heck did he mean?
    Thanks for putting a spotlight on his absurd pronouncement.

  23. It's almost as though the SMPD wants us to

    kick them out. They are certainly pushing the


  24. Huge clouds of smoke visible from the 210 tonight on my ride home. Terrible feeling seeing that again.