Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Two Sierra Madre Police Officers Get Enhanced Christmas Bonuses

Sometimes I think that the entire world looks upon cities such as ours as places to get their hands on some easy money. Maybe it's because we are amongst the smallest and therefore most vulnerable forms of government with the power to tax, and that makes us particularly easy marks. There seems to be vast coteries of hucksters and frauds out there who just want to get their mitts on our tax money, no matter how shoddy the circumstance.

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.

62 comments:

  1. Readers of the Tattler are more informed on important issues to this city and surrounding cities than most of the folks who read local papers.

    Thanks Sir Eric and thanks to your team of researchers and bloggers who get us the facts on these important issues.

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  2. I saw this story on both the Sierra Madre News.net and Sierra Madre Weekly sites, but all they did was reprint the press release from Sierra Madre. Nothing on the Mountain Views News site, which hasn't been updated this year.

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  3. This money should go to the kids.

    Who will think of the children?

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  4. The City can't win..If some one took the weapon and injured or god forbid killed someone, the city would certainly be liable as well as the Chief,I would think.So what is the solution..or is there any!Can we begin by firing these clowns or would that ALSO be grounds for a law suit!

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  5. Jesse Toribio email
    jtoribio@cityofsierramadre.com.
    John Ellins email
    jellins@cityofsierramadre.com.

    let 'em know how you feel!

    Unless you are scared of our own police!

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  6. & I'm sure you are, so what can we do?

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  7. 8:15, those officers are NOT still with the force, are they?
    If so, they need to go elsewhere.
    And one small consolation - as bad as it is for us to lose $50,000 on those worthless incompetents, $25,000 each won't last long in the hands of a fool.

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  8. "Unless you are scared of our own police!"Of course!!!!!!Send a justified complaint and watch what happens next time you have to call for help when one of those men is on duty.I think it's called extortion.And it's also financial terrorism, to use Faye Angus' phrase, with CJPIA in the "protection" racket.

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  9. My understanding is the $25K is to be split between the two.

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  10. Grrrrrr at 8:29

    LOL, you sound like you are very familiar with the "Chicago Way"?

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  11. Well Mr. Toribio and Mr. Ellins, I have no doubt that you are faithful readers of this blog. If you have any integrity whatsoever, you will donate your "winnings" to the library or some other community group. You know, the community that taxed itself to give you a raise? The ones that didn't know about the secret surplus and voted in the tax hike solely for your benefit? Time to man up boys.

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  12. Good point Whiteside. I look at it as a test. Do they really care about this community, or just see us as something to exploit. Moment of truth time.

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  13. Great idea, 8:47.

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  14. Most of the people who work for the city don't give a damn about the community. They are just punching the time clock and waiting to go home, away from this town. Or retire out on a nice fat bunch of benefits from all their hard, hard work. That's why they are so blase about spending our money - it's not their money and they don't care.

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  15. makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about that utility tax, don't it!

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  16. The police MOU is up for negotiation very soon. I hope the city attorney, city manager and the city council remember all the law suits the police have brought is the last couple of years.
    They don't deserve anything.

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  17. This case is disgusting. For quite a while, and in many areas, the trend has been to do what appears to be financially expedient instead of what is right and just.

    This is a short sighted mentality that ends up costing more in the long run.. both in tangible and intangible costs.

    Here, with such an easy settlement, it actually invites additional lawsuits, because people will know that the city will likely settle for some amount rather than fight. So, in the long run, you actually spend more money. An intangible cost is the erosion of "doing the right thing".

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  18. 9:36

    That's just like the "railroad train" that gets set up when you have City Councils (like Pasadena) that overrule all objections and findings by commissions and committees and vote for approvals because some applicant has ignored the process and gotten influential with the City Council members, promising funding to City coffers.

    When that happens, everyone else might as well go home and not waste their time. Or "fire" the councilmembers responsible for doing this. Once this starts, nobody takes the process seriously and it's all just politics.

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  19. Preaching to the choir, 10:03. You might not be familiar with an environmental catastrophe we have in Sierra Madre, called One Carter Estates. A city council, an infamous city council (Buchanan, Torres, Stockly, Joffe) ignored the Planning Commission and approved the disaster.
    Of course none of them live anywhere close to it.

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  20. Another mess with our PoliceJanuary 6, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    Yes, the two officers must donate their money to a program in town. The Senior Citizens, The School Arts Program and not to planting a tree. Return the $$$ To the people! And this event should be made public ASAP. How can they ever again walk the beat and look any of us in the eye. Thank you Sir Eric for the story behind the truth.

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  21. Look at it this way. Our Police are really not all that different from the rest who work to steal our money. The consultants, lobbyists, redevelopers, duplicitous politicians, Sacramento, are they really doing anything different? The assault cities are under in California is incredible. It's a wonder City Halls are housed in forts.

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  22. Re 10:53 - Hmm, looks like there won't be any donations .. But maybe a new Dodge Charger in the lot behind the Police Station?

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  23. Hope Bill Tice comments about this.

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  24. I'm feelin' a F250 no a boat,...yeah a boat!

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  25. I don't know, half of $25,000 .... maybe you should look at a rubber duck?

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  26. Are we ever going to see a Blog about the looting of City coffers by the Fire Department?

    So far in the last year over $800,000 has been unjustifiably spent on unnecessary, new equipment, while so-called "volunteers" are being paid salaries. Is this what they hid over a million dollars for?

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  27. An independent audit would be a good way for us to spend some of the obvious wealth we have - and you know we have it, cuz damn city hall and its associates keep spending it!!!!!

    Who woudda thunk our little town needed a city manager for one hundred and forty five thousand dollars a year?

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  28. Be great men, men we can respect, give a donation to our school. Help our kids.

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  29. City Manager for Pasadena earns $264,999.90 annually. City Manager for Bradbury earns $141,000 in salary and benefits. Looks like Elaine isn't out of the ballpark if you compare her with Michelle Keith - small town vs tiny fiefdom.

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  30. Wow. Looks like local government is the career opportunity of our times. Of course, with all jobs going to the cheap labor markets, maybe government is the only thing left?

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  31. where is the money?January 6, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    What ever happened to the independent audit?

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  32. It was deemed detrimental to the egos of City Staff.

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  33. Anonymous at 3:16 pm it doesn't behoove us to accuse the current management team in City Hall of the transgressions of the former incumbents, i.e., Tammy, Michelle, Margie, that little red haired snipe, Gillison, Davidson, Christianson, that whole passel of grifters who worked at the behest of Bart during the Shenanigan Years. The best defense against a repeat of those years is a sound City Council who has our best interests at heart and not the interests of the BIA, CAR, SCAG, OOG, and on and on.

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  34. During the shenanigan years we were in the hands of an occupation government.

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  35. Did this ever happen when Chief Bailey was here? Hmm, I didn't think so. Officers Ellins and Toribio are GOOD men and GOOD police officers.

    When is our city council going to realize this is only the beginning of the lawsuits that the city will be paying out at the hands of our current police chief.

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  36. If the rewards for suing weren't there, the lawsuits wouldn't happen.

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  37. The final outrage of the "Shenanigan Years" started in 2006, when Joe Mosca did something unprecedented before in Sierra Madre. He brought in a major national political party by the dozens from out of town to campaign for him.
    This same political party called all registered in their party and told them to vote for Joe....ONLY for JOE, even though two other candidates belonged to this political party.

    2007:
    This time SPECIAL INTERESTS invade Sierra Madre's mailboxes and phone lines. They invade the privacy of 2 sitting members of the city council- Kurt Zimmerman and Don Watts......the investigate them, trying to get dirt on them.
    They can't find any, so they start a website to slander them, slander them viciously with hideous and hurtful lies.
    A few of their minions, naming themselves the "downtown dirts" commit vandalism and borderline terrorism on their neighbors in Sierra Madre. Smashing windows, blowing up mailboxes, slashing tires, throwing dead animals on people's driveways, stealing signs, etc.
    They did this all with the help of ONE HUNDRED and SEVENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS in "donations" to the No on V. Campaign.
    2008:
    Again, a major political party interfere in Sierra Madre city politics.....traditionally NON PARTISAN positions of city council and city clerk.
    The donate large amounts of money to John Buchanan, Enid Joffe and Karma (BART DOYLE employee)Bell.
    But wait, there's more....they then have a person from the same political party, the Los Angeles chapter make illegal canned calls, telling people to NOT VOTE FOR MARYANN MACGILLIVRAY.

    Isn't it about time Sierra Madre just says ENOUGH IS ENOUGH to out of town special interests and political parties interfering in our city elections?

    The people of Sierra Madre are smart. They understand the issues, they understand that they want to keep our town special. That's our "special interest".

    Please lobby your councilmembers and candidates for office to say NO to these disgraceful "donations".
    They are unfair and just wrong. They discourage decent, honest citizens to even run for office here in Sierra Madre.

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  38. During this next local election all voters in Sierra Madre must ask for the identification of the people on their doorstep or sidewalk or on the phone and totally ignore the message coming from anyone who is NOT a Sierra Madre resident.

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  39. Exactly right, Look you in the Eye!

    This is the only way this kind of thing will stop.

    If there is a backlash from the voters....it won't likely be tried again.

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  40. 3:16 "it was deemed detremential to the egos of the city staff"? WHAT? YOU HAVE TO BE JOKING?

    They are adults? This proves we have big baby's who have bullied the residents to keep the independent audit from happen'? Time is up. They are not qualified to do the job or be paid any salary. I thought Kurt asked for the Independent Audit. Why was his idea not followed through? Who cares about their feelings that much? Isn't it our money that keeps being played with?

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  41. As "OK....but, said..." suggested, we really need a discussion on the SMVFD. No lawsuits, but huge amounts of money being wasted to keep the "club" happy. Won't say more in this thread, but Sir Eric, please?

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  42. Our mountains are as deep and pure as our love of Sierra Madre. And I share in that deep abiding respect for everything you want to hear me say.

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  43. Pinocchijoe? Did you believe in preserving Sierra Madre before you didn't?

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  44. "I thought Kurt asked for the Independent Audit. Why was his idea not followed through."

    Why don't you ask the Mayor and his fellow Council Members that question? While you are at it, why don't you ask them what happened to some of Kurt's other good ideas like rolling back the UUT,the anti-blight law, requiring Susan Henderson to disclose how many (or how few) subscribers she actually has etc., etc., etc.

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  45. Thanks, 9:14, for bringing those matters up.
    Maybe the council can address them (audit/uut/anti-blight/henderson's supposed #s) at the next meeting.

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  46. I'd read of the settlement in the Star News. I did not realize that the lockers involved were in a public area. That's very strange if it's where the cops keep their weapons (locked or unlocked.) That's a liability in itself.

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  47. Judges are public servants, Juries, have many public employees in their make up, Firemen and Policemen are public employees. Any bias here when one fireman puts dog food into another fireman's chili and the "animal house" prank results in a 1 million settlement? The "locker" scenario is ludicrous. Fire the sham insurance company and settle with the police for $100 and let them sue for additional damages. This whole scenario reeks of Public Employee Abuse of the City

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  48. You know, in the world of private business if some employee left a firearm laying around unsecured where any fool could get their hands on it, they'd be fired in a heartbeat. Why is it we can't do that with these guys?

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  49. ain't gonna happenJanuary 7, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    Oh goodness 2:42, we cannot start holding city employees to the same standards that exist in the business world!
    They'd have to be accountable, hard-working and loyal!!!!!

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  50. Just wait until lawsuits start getting filed against the City because of the negligence and incompetence of the Fire Department...that no one here seems to want to discuss.

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  51. Yea 2:59, don't you just admire those accountable, hard working, loyal Teamsters!

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  52. ain't gonna happenJanuary 7, 2010 at 8:01 PM

    7:36, so those are the two choices, our city employees or the teamsters? There are a lot more examples of successful business practices to compare.
    And if our city manager is getting more than half of what the Pasadena City Manager is getting, for hiring consultants to run a city that is like 90% smaller - that is bad business.

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  53. My Kid did a field trip to the Police Dept. a while back, are the lockers acessible to the public? He would open a locker and not even think it was wrong, he'd be curious. Where are they located?

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  54. Ain't gonna happen...........In a sarcastic tone, you were inferring that city employees don't possess the same work ethics as those who work in the business world. I say your assertion is untrue. How many times have you heard of city employees going on strike? How many times have the autoworkers, hotel workers, teachers, truckers, nurses, etc., gone on strike? As a whole, it seems to me city employees are much more dedicated, loyal, and hard working. Unfortunately, there aren't too may perfect people in this world.

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  55. Don't choke on the kool-aid Diane.

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  56. ALL of these lawsuits could have been avoided if Steve Abernethy was Police Chief.

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  57. lol 5:54 - we'd be halfway up Mt. Wilson with lawsuits if Abernathy was Chief - dude had zero qualifications and was barely respected in the community - funny though your comment

    by the way, what ever happened to the lawsuit of the sleeping dude who got gunned down by Officer Amos?

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  58. Aren't we halfway up Mt. Wilson with lawsuits under Diaz? Doesn't seem to matter who the person wearing the chief suit is, the little buggers'll sue us no matter what.

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  59. OMG, pretty soon we will be at Mt Wilson and Diaz and her side kick are laughin their way to the bank.
    I wish the "little buggers" the best of luck in their fight. And, if the lawsuits continue, wake up Sierra Madre!

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  60. First off the lockers aren't accessable to the public. Second Diaz should have know the law, she is not without blame. How can you be the Chief of Police and not know the Police Officers' Bill of Rights?

    "3309. No public safety officer shall have his locker, or other space for storage that may be assigned to him searched
    except in his presence, or with his consent, or unless a valid search warrant has been obtained or where he has been
    notified that a search will be conducted. This section shall apply only to lockers or other space for storage that are owned
    or leased by the employing agency."

    Isn't Ellis off work anyways from a steroid related injury (torn bicep?) that we are paying for through his Worker's Comp claim?

    The SMPD has a long way to go before it is a respected and professional law enforcement agency.

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