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.