And certainly there was no shoddier circumstance than yesterday when two of Sierra Madre's Finest got to walk off with $25,000 for literally nothing. How that was accomplished defies all known logic as understood by most of the human race. But whoot, there it is!
The City put out a press release on this matter yesterday. And what is described there really is quite discouraging. Here's part of it:
Settlement in Case of Ellins and Toribio vs. Sierra Madre Announced by the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority: The case of Jesse Toribio and John Ellis versus the City of Sierra Madre was settled yesterday by the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (JPIA), against the adamant protestations of the Sierra Madre City Council. "The City Council and I were in unanimous agreement that this case should be fought in court and the City would prevail. Unfortunately, pursuant to the City's agreement with the JPIA, the decision is ultimately the JPIA's and not the City Council's," said Mayor MaryAnn MacGillivray.
Curious as I am about the arcane ways of that vast mysterious organism known as government, I decided that perhaps I should try and figure out what exactly a "California Joint Powers Insurance Authority" is all about. And it didn't take long to dig up the following explanation on the tastefully subtle CJPIA site:
The CALIFORNIA JOINT POWERS INSURANCE AUTHORITY was created by the members, for the members. When the insurance industry abandoned cities in the mid-1970s, a group of 33 progressive cities joined together to form the California JPIA for the purpose of providing liability protection for its members. Today the California JPIA is one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state.
So I guess what we're talking about here is a kind of insurance cooperative for small cities. Which on the surface seems benign enough. But apparently the purpose here is not to fight for the rights of cities to defend themselves against nuisance suits from, let's say, your random litigious flatfoot. Rather it is to save the CJPIA as much money as possible while at the same time protecting towns such as ours from being sued out of existence. The financial survival of this agency apparently being the first priority.
And the process really is no secret. Check out this passage from the City's press release:
The JPIA, a risk management pool of which the City is a member, settled to avoid further costs associated with defending the City. Despite the settlement, the California JPIA expressed that this was not an admission of fault on behalf of the City. "This case was settled solely to avoid the high costs associated with defending the City against such litigation," said Liability Program Manager Paul Zeglovitch.
So what this basically means is that if you are a cop, or any other kind of City employee I suppose, and something happens that you think might work out for you in a court of law, sue the City and then pick up a fat check from the CJPIA. Because our insurance cooperative is not obliged to pay the money it would take to prove in court what a fraudulent poltroon you are. No matter how loudly the City Council protests, as they certainly did in this case. A pretty choice situation if you think about it. No wonder the City has had to slog its way through 10 lawsuits initiated by our beloved boys in blue. It's free money!
So what exactly happened that allowed these two officers to enhance their bank accounts in this nefarious way? The press release continues:
The facts as alleged by the two plaintiffs were that upon discovering unlocked lockers in an area accessible to the general public, Sierra Madre's Police Chief opened the lockers, found a dangerous weapon and other police equipment inside, removed those items and later returned them to their owners with instructions to keep them secured in the future. The Plaintiffs filed suit asking for money damages from the City and claimed the Chief's actions were an invasion of their privacy.
So these two knuckleheads didn't lock their lockers, which could have resulted in one of their weapons being taken by any nosy malcontent who happened to be in the area. Their boss found out, and tried to make sure they not only knew the error of their ways, but that they wouldn't endanger the lives of citizens with such ineptitude again. Which naturally led to the offending cops splitting a check for $25,000.
You do know that despite this check having been cut by this insurance organization, that money comes out of our hide, right? Not only because our taxes are used to cover the usual premiums such a service requires, but also because the more we get sued, the higher the rate we'll have to pay. A disincentive worked into the mix to reinforce proper municipal behavior. And we still have 8 more SMPD lawsuits to go. That is, if they don't go out and cook up some new ones.
Why we voted ourselves a 100% User Utility Tax increase to give these characters a pay hike now somehow escapes me. After all, they do have this surefire alternative income source. So does anybody care to explain to us exactly how that UUT vote happened? And why we would ever want to repeat that mistake? For the life of me I can't imagine why we would.