Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sierra Madre Noir

The noir genre of detective and crime novels is a big favorite of mine. Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, all of those guys and more have a place of honor on my bookshelf. Their depictions of life in big cities such as Los Angeles, stripped of all cheap sentimentality and peopled by hardboiled sleuths with detached and at times even flippant perspectives on the desperate goings-on around them, have been a source of entertainment here for years. Pulp fiction rules the wasteland at my house.

And apparently that pulp influence is now being felt at The Mountain Views News. Long noted for its light hearted boosterism and informed pronouncements on such important topics as how to put pants on your dog, the weekly has now apparently veered towards a chillier perspective, particularly on the matter of crime and our police department. This is an entirely unexpected development, and we thought it might require some commentary here.

As a bit of background, the MVN has long been the place to go when you wanted to find out where our city government might be taking us. Rigidly aligned with the G4 and all of its weighty pronouncements, the weekly has often served as the media venue for publicizing those policies and agendas to its dozens of avid readers. The Fab Four have had no more loyal a messenger than the Mountain Views News.

But on the matter of the Sierra Madre Police Department at least, that long standing policy may have changed. And it was with some considerable puzzlement that we read the following top o' the front page article in last week's edition of this City's adjudicated paper:

Lawsuit Against SMPD Officers Lands In Federal Court - Suit Filed Accuses Officers Of Assault, Battery and Excessive Force - In what may have begun as a routine traffic stop last year has led to a filing of a federal lawsuit against a former SMPD Officer, a current officer and the City of Sierra Madre.

On March 26, 2010, former SMPD Officer John Ellins and another unnamed officers are alleged to have "unlawfully detained" and "assaulted" a resident in violation of his civil rights. The causes (sic) against the officers also included claims of 'malicious, fraudulent and oppressive behavior' as well as a charge of false arrest ... In addition, the city is accused of negligence in its 'duty to care for the plaintiff, false arrest and a 'cover up.'

Step aside Philip Marlowe, there is a new detective with a typewriter in town, and her name is H. Susan Henderson. And the news regarding these "causes" gets even more troubling.

No stranger to lawsuits or controversy - John Ellins has been involved in several lawsuits against the city. Last year, it is rumored that a settlement awarded $25,000 to him for violation of his civil rights regarding an alleged unlawful search of his locker. There is also an Appeal pending ... In addition, numerous citizens have accused Ellins of physical abuse and other egregious acts. In this lawsuit, it is noted that there have been at least three Internal Affairs investigations involving Ellins including one that involved drugs ... Ellins is also a known body builder.

This case is scheduled for trial in July 2012. The other officer who was with Ellins at the time of the traffic stop, has not been identified in court documents ... At press time, Chief Diaz was unavailable for comment.

Egregious acts indeed. So since when has H. Susan Henderson ever had a problem getting hold of Chief Diaz? Considering the huge amount of sunny ink the Chief has received in the MVN over the years I'd have figured they had each other on speed dial. Along with Skype, two way walkie talkies, instant messaging, carrier pigeons and tin cans connected by a string. Besides, Susan had a full week to call Chief Diaz about this matter. She does publish a weekly after all. No, something must have changed here.

There are two possibilities that I can come up with at 4:21 AM in the morning. The first is that the plaintiff in this matter, whose name is apparently Patrick Buchan (not mentioned in Susan's article, but a matter of public record), has some sort of personal connection to the Hendersons and their society friends. And that this case has taken on some personal significance for the paper's publisher.

However, there is also this. The Mountain Views News has faithfully served City Hall and the current G4 Council as loyal mouthpiece for quite some time now. And there has never before been such a level of in your face criticism for the City or any members of its Police Department. So is there a policy shift regarding the SMPD in process? And if so, what could the possible reasons be?

There might be an answer for us. Consider this passage from the MVN piece:

Documents filed appear to focus on Ellins as the primary defendant. Ellins, who has since left the department, was at one time the President of the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association.

As you may be aware, the City of Sierra Madre and the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association have been in secret negotiations on a new contract (or "Memorandum Of Understanding" in government speak) for quite a while now. Perhaps the gloves have now come off, and all those tales about our "heroes in blue" will no longer be sustained by the copious quantities of usually cheerful PR generated by City Hall?

This could have very well been a message with that specific target in mind.

Stupid Politician Tricks

On our new favorite state political news website, California's Capitol, there is an interesting bit of information regarding a fundraising ploy now being used by Orange County Assemblyman Allan Mansoor. Here is how it is described:

For a contribution of $3,900, the maximum allowed under state campaign law, two people can attend eight such breakfasts over two years and any other district events Mansoor chooses to throw. The $3,900 constitutes membership in Mansoor's "Platinum Club."

This is, of course, a lot of dough for most people to spend on 8 breakfasts, with or without the splendid company of Assemblyman Mansoor. So for the rest of us there are other tiers of membership. As an example, you could be a Silver Club member for $500. Which gets you two breakfasts with the Assemblyman. Just don't feed the kids for a few weeks and you'll have it covered. Access is everything, you know.

It appears that a breakfast of this very kind is being held on August 5th at the Costa Mesa Country Club, and if you are a member of any of the designated precious metal clubs, you can attend. Speaking that day will be special guest Ed Ring, and the theme of his talk will be "Stop the Special Interest Money Now."

So do you know who some of the $3,900 "Platinum Club" level donors might be? And could very well be attending this informative Mansoor sponsored breakfast talk on getting special interest money out of politics?

Among the $3,900 givers to Mansoor located in Sacramento were Philip Morris, Pacific Gas & Electric, Chevron, the California New Car Dealers Association, the California American Council of Engineering Companies and Farmers (Insurance) Employees and Agents.

Should be quite an interesting crowd there on the 5th.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

53 comments:

  1. Interesting. I had heard from one potential candidate for city council that he was considering having the police department reduced to a part time force. Maybe its a trend.

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  2. Yep, Susan must have a personal reason to have written this article. Does anyone know anything about the person that has brought suit? Age? Race, Resident/Visitor? Has he spoken out against the department before?

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  3. Most curious.
    I'm going to come down on the side that Henderson was following orders. She has maintained her con here very well, and I don't think she would jeopardize it - there must have been a directive to her to print that story.

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  4. The Mansoor Platinum Club has clearly the height of perfection in hypocrisy.

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  5. Mr. Ellins has abused a lot of our citizens of our small town, only to be awarded a bonus by Diaz poor judgment. Whether appealed or not. What is the appeal going to cost us? The City is also on the hook for defending Ellins. Makes me feel proud where my money is being spent! The rags change in position is just what has been rumored for months, that Elaine is going to have a new "sheriff" in town.
    I now of at least one other lawsuit that is going to be file against the City’s Police Department. How many more are there to come?
    What is that one going to cost us?

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  6. These two stories have more in common than meets the eye. Susan Henderson has taken, and probably continues to take, funding from seniors, sort of her own little Tin Club

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  7. The Troll and friends have the same type of club. I wonder what the cost to join is? Is it a yearly membership?

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  8. Tattler, is that true that they're going to have that speech?

    How can any of them keep straight faces?

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  9. 9:18, it is true! Follow the Tattler link in blue above. It'll take you to the "Geez, no irony here" story. Could as easily be called "Geez, no doublespeak here."

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  10. Susan seems to have been the recipient of a lot of privileged information. Maybe she says she didn't talk to Diaz as a way of disguising her source?

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  11. 9:18
    easy. They are politicians!
    In the 3 j's case just a big smile.

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  12. It is the political law of opposites. If a politician says one thing, think the opposite. Joe wants to preserve our "precious jewel of a town." what he is really saying is he wants to scrape it down to the bedrock and turn it into Rancho Cucamonga.

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  13. Rather than scraping it all down, 9:38, I think it's more that Joe and his crew want to prettify everything, put a bow on it all and say isn't it nice and sparkly.
    And develop yes, but with an eye on the pretty of it all.
    Terrible idea for this town, which is so cool because it is so varied.

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  14. Joe wants the town to be a reflection of himself. Or his image of himself.

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  15. How can you not like someone who is just so nice? It is a defense mechanism much like an adult woman who speaks in baby talk. It is a defense mechanism because how can you ever be mad at a baby. 'He's/I'm just so nice...' is the opposite side of the same coin for a grown man.

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  16. So here's my take: City Hall is beginning the campaign to do away with the PD. With Diaz' retirement comes an opportunity to transition to something less expensive. It won't be popular but then that's why Buchanan was elected, right? We'll see less of Diaz in the coming months, more of Susan dropping PD bombs to whip up support for an outsourced department, and a real push toward the sherifff's department.

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  17. Once the money starts to dry up, the rats jump ship. There seems to be a lot of "hedging" of former positions (both physical and verbal) going on. The bed spread is just beginning to be lifted to expose what is under the bed. Sleep well tdo those whose hands are in the cookie jar.

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  18. 10:21 - good theory, but here is my problem with it. Buchanan and Stick Boy are main stream LA County Democrats. They cannot go against a public employee union. Especially Joe, who sees himself running for higher office. This would be seen as union busting, especially after the POA cranks up their bullhorn.

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  19. You could be right, 10:21 am. They'll need to save some money on the PD if they're to pay the VFD, and that's generally where the town is trending. Maybe a token contingent of volunteers for PR purposes, but more and more towards a payroll department. We all agree there's money to be saved by going to the Sheriffs rather than an expanded small army.

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  20. Information gets disseminated in Sierra Madre a lot like it was in the old Soviet Union. People read the official government sanctioned press, but only between the lines. And using whatever clues they find there, come up with conclusions that are far different than the politicians were hoping for.

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  21. buchanan will be off the council next spring; the moron and pro tem walsh will take the heat; joe can be seen as supporting both the pd and a paid fd. very important to get potential candidates in place and their platforms synchronized!

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  22. Good point 10:40. Nobody trusts the papers.

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  23. she was told to write the article by somebody

    Henderson doesn't have an ethical or journalistic bone in her body - she was scripted because that has been her pattern

    and 10:45 - don't be surprised if Mr. "I know more that you, smarter than you" Buchanan doesn't buck the so-called tradition of Sierra Madre that he supposedly loves and seeks a third term - if he doesn't I guarantee you that he'll wait for the next election and run again - he can't help himself and won't stop until he has something named after him in the city

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  24. oh I get it, blame the guy who isn't here anymore

    lol Henderson is such a joke and transparent

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  25. come on, phuuulease Henderson

    we have a cop that point blank shoots a guy who was sleeping in his car, had his car towed to the PD shop, was climbing out of his vehicle and Deadeye Barney Fife Amos panicked and shot the victim in the back and Henderson and the local rags don't say a peek other than blame the victim

    and nothing is said about the lawsuit or the settlement

    something smells wrong here - I assume Henderson has an agenda or was told what to write

    no way she bites the city because the legal advertising is her meal ticket

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  26. I know of a few kids that had our PD pull their guns on them - for simple sneaking in the Nursing facility or I know of two 12 years olds that were playing with the Air Soft guns (when they were legal) and had the bright orange tips and a cop pulled his vehicle on the sidewalk on Canon, cutting the boys off and then got out of his vehicle with HIS GUN DRAWN and made the kids get on the ground. He actually said, "drop your weapons"

    we've got a bunch of overly steroided idiots and poorly poorly trained cops on our PD, can't get hired anywhere else, overweight and quick with a temper

    I know some and like them but never would trust them with a serious situation

    We needed the Sheriff's Dept 10 years ago

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  27. The SMPD takes 54% of our General Fund. How much more do they think they are entitled to?

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  28. Mr. Mustard in the Drawing RoomJuly 21, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    Does anyone seriously doubt that Henderson would have any scruples about using the journalistic standard "couldn't be reached for comment" for her own purposes? Phooey. Just like the excellent comment at 10:40 has it, the corruption of Susan's, AOL's, and the Weekly's so called reporting stinks to high heaven, and we all know it.
    Journalism as Hide and Seek, or Clue.

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  29. Last I heard, the Dirt, Downtown Investment Club, Civility party were passionately for keeping the police at any cost. In fact they have kept them at any cost.
    They used that position as a threat during the last election, saying that the uncivil slow growth side was advocating complete and utter lawlessness in Sierra Madre.
    Better vote for Buchanan Doyle or there will be no effective law enforcement, and no library for the little children.

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  30. Buchanan is a very expensive date.

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  31. Local and slightly hyperJuly 21, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    It is maddening that we have to second guess everything,that city council and city staff will not be more frank about what they are planning-other than the 5 year plan strategic updates we get once a month that tells us everything is great and our trust is improving.

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  32. So you think Buchanan wants something named after himself?
    Let's christen the Stonegate/Carter thing "Buchanan's Crater"
    or "Bonds Buchanan Boo-Boo"

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  33. Any word how Core Media and AOL are covering the PD matter?
    That'll be a sure sign that the Civiltarians are making a move.

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  34. Patch today has an article up that implies that Tim Donnelly is up for reelection this year. Absurdly bad reporting.

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  35. When Chief Diaz came into the police department, it was in far worse shape than she is leaving it. We spent a lot, a lot, of money to bring it up to proficiency, and now that money seems like it was a waste. Don't misunderstand - I'm for hiring the sheriff, saving money, and maybe even more than people think because we can offer them the PD building as headquarters. Plus whoever negotiates with them has to lead with what the crime level really is here. Talk about a cushy job.
    Guess I'm just crying over spilled milk.

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  36. Diaz worked here just long enough to qualify for her second pension. Then flew, like a bat out of he'll. She did make the Police Department bigger, but not better. Not by a long shot.

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  37. There's better training for the officers that wasn't in place before.
    But it's a moot point if the Downtown Investors have decided to throw the police department under the bus.

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  38. Now if the investors and their cheerleaders would just decide to get rid of Colontuono & Levin, and find a bright young law firm that specializes in helping small cities stay that way....

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  39. I think the Gang of Four would give up their mothers before showing Collie and Levin the door.

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  40. Diaz did both - made the department bigger and better. Now, she can reduce the department in half by getting rid of the officers that she brought in to be role models to the young pups. When you see three patrol cars at one traffic stop, you know you have too many officers.

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  41. Patch hasn't seen a new comment since early Tuesday.

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  42. Wonder what kinds of articles Henderson wrote about the Police Department when she was in disguise as a far journalist and ethical person, back in the Mount Wilson Observer days?

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  43. Susan wrote lots of things in favor of slow growth and for Measure V. That is when she was getting money from the Dunns. After that relationship fell apart she needed to find a new source for cash, and went over to the other side. She has no beliefs or principles. It is all about who is giving her cash the time.

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  44. I always enjoy looking at that great old paper, though it's painful to realize what we've lost. The archives are online,
    http://katinadunn-mtwilsonobserver.net/archive.htm

    Henderson and Dunn cowrote "Volunteers Needed for Sierra Madre Police Initiative" in Vol. 2 #2 in 2007. (Co-wrote kind of unlikely huh? More like Dunn was being generous with credit for a well researched article)

    and here's Henderson in Vol. 2 #4 in 2007:
    "What was the city thinking when it pushed the Police Officers to demanding a public vote in order to protect themselves? Are they so drunk that they don’t know that Public Safety ought to be our No. 1 Priority?"

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  45. Is it true, Henderson has conned older residents, especially, old men, out of money?
    I know the late Dr. Neiby was supporting her "paper".
    I have heard other naive people have been conned by crook Henderson.
    True?

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  46. Those of us who follow local politics here in Sierra Madre are so used to a morally compromised press that no one is even surprised, and that is a sorry comment on the proliferation of propaganda.

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  47. I like Diaz and still think we should go with the country sheriff department. And it is far beyond time we should have LA County Fire Department. I believe they trained the some 40 Sierra Madreans for CERT and the SMVFD cannot get it's chief to see this group of trained individuals for the asset that it is. Too damn stupid beyond words.

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  48. An ex Sierra Madrean told me that it was with the political rise of Bart Doyle that the volunteers in Sierra Madre were criticized and minimized into purely controllable areas.The most important quality about any volunteers became that they can be controlled.

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  49. Maybe Marilyn can go to the Sheriff's for a couple of years and score a triple play pension. Is there a Guiness record for most pensions from a single government employee?

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  50. The city staff has said more than once that volunteers are not dependable.

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  51. Maybe what they are saying 4:41 is that they city staff cannot depend on volunteers to keep their mouths shut about things they find out while in city hall.

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  52. Yes, residents are undependable. The job can only be done properly by full time out of town employees who are fully insured and are receiving monthly contributions to a PERS account. Our needs can only be met by experts and professionals. We are helpless without them.

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  53. I've heard that if something in your area of responsibility ends up on The Tattler you are called into the City Manager's office and asked to explain how that might have happened.

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