NEWS |  S A V E   I R V I N E

"No one disputes that an on-duty Irvine police officer got an erection and ejaculated on a motorist during an early-morning traffic stop in Laguna Beach. The female driver reported it, DNA testing confirmed it and officer David Alex Park finally admitted it."

Feb 2, 2007

Ex-Cop Acquitted Of Sexual Battery Charges
(CBS) SANTA ANA, Calif. A former Irvine police officer was acquitted Friday of charges that he sexually battered an exotic dancer during a 2004 traffic stop.

Jurors deliberated for about five and a half hours over two days before finding David Park, 31, innocent of three criminal counts.

Park, of Lake Forest, was acquitted of one count of digital penetration by threat of authority and two counts of sexual battery, including sexual battery by restraint, in connection with the Dec. 15, 2004, traffic stop on Laguna Canyon Road.

Prosecutors claimed the officer stopped the woman, referred to in court only as "Lucy," twice in 2004 while she was driving home from a job at Captain Cream's Adult Dance Club -- once in July and again on Dec. 14.

According to prosecutors, Park found a baggie with residue resembling cocaine during the first stop, and Lucy gave him her telephone number because she was afraid of going to jail. Park called her that night and again the next day to make a date for lunch, but she made an excuse and did not arrange to meet him at that time, the prosecution claimed.

On the night of Dec. 14, the dancer had a conflict at her job at Captain Cream's and was asked to leave. She had two drinks before she left around midnight, but this time, she was on probation for a DUI, which resulted in a license suspension, Deputy District Attorney Shaddi Kamiabipour said during trial.

While driving home, she noticed she was being followed, and was eventually pulled over while on Laguna Canyon Road. The officer told her he could arrest her, Kamiabipour said, while "kind of rubbing up against her."

Park then unbuttoned his pants and placed himself in her hand, Kamiabipour alleged. He also grabbed the woman's breast and used a finger to sexually penetrate her, the prosecutor said.

Afterward, she called a friend, who advised her to report the incident to authorities and to talk to a lawyer, the prosecutor said. About 90 minutes after the alleged sexual assault, she called the Laguna Beach Police Department, Kamiabipour said.

Defense attorney Allan Stokke did not deny that sexual conduct occurred that night, but said it was not criminal in nature.

For it to be a crime, Stokke said, it would have to be against her will.


"She placed something of value on the table, so to speak, and that is a sexual favor," Stokke said.

That favor, the lawyer said, gave her a way to avoid going to jail.

[ Wikipedia  -  Bribery is a crime implying a sum or gift given alters the behavior of the person in ways not consistent with the duties of that person. It is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions as an official or other person in discharge of a public or legal duty. The bribe is the gift bestowed to influence the receiver's conduct. It may be any money, good, right in action, property, preferment, privilege, emolument, object of value, advantage, or any promise or undertaking to induce or influence the action, vote, or influence of a person in an official or public capacity.]

Stokke said investigators corroborated sexual activity, but the investigation did not corroborate it was against her will.

The woman's attorney filed a $10 million claim against the city of Irvine, and she later received a check for $400,000, Stokke said.

Park was initially suspended with pay, and he left the department on Feb. 15, 2005, after an internal affairs investigation, Irvine police Chief David Maggard said earlier.


Community Service/Policing Award
Lisa Peasley, police officer
David Park, police officer

http://216.173.246.226/Astories/feb19/officer.htm



Tuesday, January 9, 2007
Irvine funds Great Park balloon
The $3.6 million will launch the orange helium balloon.
The Irvine City Council on a 4-1 vote Tuesday night approved spending $3.6 million to launch the Great Park's orange balloon this summer. Councilman Steven Choi dissented.

The Great Park Corp. will spend $3.6 million on the passenger-carrying helium balloon. The Lennar Corp., developer for lands around the park, will pay the other $1 million in start-up costs.

The council also approved a $4.3 million increase for the Great Park budget to pay for the balloon, a sports fields study and higher park design costs, and to compensate for the loss of farming leases.

And the council allocated $500,000 for staff time that will be spent in the next months on studying and preparing the first plans for the Great Park and surrounding development.

On TV: Council meetings are shown live on ICTV, cable channel 30.

In print: Read Thursday's Irvine World News.

Contact the writer: Sonya Smith, 949-553-2911 or sosmith@ocregister.com
 

Friday, December 22, 2006
Ex-judge barred from court
Susanne Shaw censured for rude behavior, says state commission.
By RACHANEE SRISAVASDI
The Orange County Register

A former Orange County judge was barred from ever working for a state court for berating those in her courtroom and jeopardizing parties' rights to a fair trial, including a criminal case that was reversed partly because of her behavior, a state commission found Thursday.

Susanne S. Shaw, who was a judge in Orange County from 1985 until she retired in September, improperly handled five criminal cases in 2003 and 2004, according to the state Commission on Judicial Performance. In two cases, she suggested the defendant's testimony was untruthful, the commission found.

Shaw has agreed to never work in any capacity for a state court again - the commission's maximum sanction for a former judge.

In one case, an appeals court reversed an aggravated assault conviction in Shaw's court and granted the defendant a retrial under a different judge because of Shaw's rudeness, the commission wrote.

During that December 2004 trial, Shaw accused the defense attorney in her chambers of violating her rulings and said: "When I make a ruling, I'm not just some fly by night here that's sitting here, and I don't want you to take me on or me to take you on in front of the jury."

The appeals court characterized Shaw's directive as unwarranted "elementary school scolding."

That same month, Shaw mistreated a prospective juror, the commission found. After the woman told the judge she needed to finish a paper because she was studying to be a social worker, Shaw replied: "Well, that's nice. I've got lots of things to do too. My problems are of constitutional proportions, so you are going to have to do that at night."

But her attorney Edith R. Matthai said the report did not reflect Shaw's dedication to the public.

"She was one of the most hard-working and diligent judges," she said. "She's served Orange County well for many years."

Shaw, a former Orange County deputy district attorney, has drawn scrutiny three other times from the commission, including in 1988, when the commission wrote her an advisory letter after she drew a picture of a hanged man and had her bailiff deliver it to the investigating officer during a preliminary hearing.

In 2000, the commission publicly admonished her for telling a slightly built white male she was sending to jail that "skinny white males in prison are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault."

C. Robert Jameson, a former Orange County Superior Court judge felt the commission's ruling was harsh, but said jurists must be respectful.

"One thing a judge is taught: If someone gets under your skin, get off the bench, take a recess," he said. "If not, you're liable to do something that is regrettable or detrimental to the case."
 

Grand Jury Slams Irvine's Control of Great Park
By Jean O. Pasco, Times Staff Writer
June 17, 2006

In a biting report aimed at efforts to build one of America's largest urban parks, the Orange County Grand Jury suggests the ambitious plan could founder if left in the hands of Irvine city leaders.

The Orange County Great Park, which would take shape at the former El Toro Marine base, has gained national attention for its ambitious scope, and landscape artists from around the world recently competed for the right to design it.

In its report, the grand jury recommends that either an elected board chosen from across the county take over development of the 1,300-acre park or that the county sue to get the property back from Irvine. The land was turned over to the city after Orange County voters killed plans for an international airport in 2002 and replaced it with park zoning.

Without a way to ensure countywide participation in the development, jurors concluded, the park has become merely the "Irvine Great Park."

The 11-page report, to be publicly released Monday, decries the Irvine City Council's move in April to assume authority over the park and the $401 million in development fees and assessments to build it.

Even the jurors' title for their report takes a shot at Irvine: "The Orange County Great Park: Whose Park Is It?" The subtitle then quotes Lord Acton: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Mayor Beth Krom said she was disappointed with the report's conclusions given Irvine's commitment to building the regional facility. She said she would have been happy to share the park's successes with jurors but wasn't interviewed.

"I'm always disappointed when things are done for political motivations instead of the public interest," said Krom, who said she had not seen the report.

The report said that a three-member majority voting bloc on the Irvine City Council controls the fate of the park, not the nine-member independent body created by the city in 2003 to fulfill its promise of countywide control over the base. Irvine officials had promised Orange County residents that the park would be governed by an independent board to which the city would lease the land and provide the money for development.

Moving the park in-house creates a potential conflict, jurors said, between the interests of the city and the interests of the park. For example, they said, if the city was asked to build a swimming facility at the park, City Council members could balk because they wouldn't want to compete with the city's aquatic complex.

Krom said that was a spurious worry. "It's a pretty weak argument when measured against the city of Irvine's very concerted and laudable effort to ensure this project," she said. "This project is being handled very well and public resources are being invested wisely. Anyone can come up with hypotheticals."

Bill Campbell, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, declined to comment on the report Friday because it hadn't been formally released.

Jurors were critical of the board for turning the base over to Irvine instead of ensuring that the wishes of voters were honored by keeping the property under county control. Both the county and the city must prepare formal responses to the report's findings and recommendations.

But the bulk of the report's ire was aimed at Irvine for backing away from its promise of countywide governance for the park. By making the park just another city project, money could be siphoned off for other city needs, jurors said. "Even with careful financial controls and frequent audits, placing Great Park funds in the city general fund is questionable fiscal policy," they said.

Jurors also were critical of several no-bid contracts awarded for public relations, legal representation and a recycling center at the park.

Since its creation, the nonprofit Orange County Great Park Corp., composed of all five Irvine council members and four directors from outside the city, has spent about $30 million to hire a master park designer, an administrative staff and public relations consultants.

In April, a council majority voted to make the park board advisory only. Krom and City Council members Sukhee Kang and Larry Agran, who chairs the park board, said the move was merely clarifying the city's control over the park. City Council members Christina Shea and Steven Choi opposed the move, saying the city was betraying promises made when the board was created in 2003.

Krom said the rules of the game changed when the Navy announced that it would sell the abandoned base at auction to the highest bidder. If the land had stayed in the county's hands, she said, no one would have been interested because of the restrictive park zoning.

"We have an interest in seeing this project fully realized," she said. "We have no reason to apologize after the city of Irvine put $27 million on the line to kill the airport and advance the Great Park vision."
 

Agreeing to disavow Taiwan puts Irvine at center of uproar

Irvine apologizes to Taiwanese
DEMONSTRATION: Alice Hsueh of Alhambra waves two flags as part of a protest Tuesday outside Irvine City Hall.

Taiwanese people would like you to know - Taiwan has never been part of Communist China - and likely - never will be.

"Hey Hey Mayor Krom - what-do-you-say - if you like Communist China - move there and stay."

"Free China - Free Irvine - Free China - Free Taiwan"

By Gillian Flaccus
ASSOCIATED PRESS

June 21, 2006

IRVINE - Representatives of this growing commercial hub have signed an international pact that requires the city to formally disavow the existence of Taiwan, putting it at the center of a political storm.

The recently signed sister-city agreement with Xuhui District in Shanghai includes promises not to send official city delegations to Taiwan, not to fly the Taiwanese flag and not to play the Taiwanese national anthem or attend National Day celebrations.

It also bans the use of the terms "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan" and stipulates that Irvine recognizes "that there is only one China."
The pact has created an uproar among the estimated 10,000 Taiwanese who live in Orange County, who say it "violates freedom and democracy" and threatens Irvine's sister-city relationship with a Taiwanese town, Taoyuan.

"This is not just one incident, this is a continuous threat from a dictatorship country trying to overtake a free and democratic nation," said Stan Yang, president of the Orange County chapter of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs.

Yang, who says he has received dozens of calls and e-mails about the pact, wrote a letter Monday to Mayor Beth Krom demanding the city "rescind the agreement immediately."

Krom said she was unaware of the controversial language until late last week, although the city delegation returned from Shanghai on June 2.

Krom said she signed a routine sister-city agreement at an official ceremony in the Xuhui District and wasn't aware another employee had signed a memorandum that contained the hot-button language.

The employee, who was new to her position, had no authority to sign the document and it isn't binding for the city, Krom said.

"She very well may not have read it as well as she should have," the mayor said.

Krom said she will mail a letter to Xuhui officials this week explaining that the memorandum portion of the agreement wasn't acceptable because "it appears to constrain the relationship between the city of Irvine and the city of Taoyuan."

The City Council will discuss the matter at its meeting next week, she said.



Irvine Set to Take Control of Great Park
At the inception of the park, city officials had said that an independent entity would build it. Critics say one city shouldn't hold the reins.
By Jean O. Pasco, Times Staff Writer
April 25, 2006


The city of Irvine is preparing to retreat from a pledge to transfer control of the Orange County Great Park to an independent countywide panel that has been overseeing its development for three years.

The Irvine City Council, whose members have squabbled for years over the vision of the park and who should control it, tonight is expected to vote to relegate the Orange County Great Park Corp. to an advisory role.

The change would mean the city alone would control about $380 million in developer fees earmarked to build the park.

That would not be the way the park idea was sold after Orange County voters killed plans in 2002 for an international airport on the site of the former El Toro Marine base.

City officials said creating a separate entity to build the park would protect Irvine taxpayers if costs soared beyond what was envisioned.

Since then, the Great Park corporation, comprising the five Irvine council members and four directors from outside the city, has spent about $30 million to hire a master park designer, an administrative staff and public relations consultants.

Mayor Beth Krom, who is pushing the proposed city takeover, said the corporation would function as a city department. Recent contracts, including hiring New York City landscape architect Ken Smith to design the park, would be sent to the council for ratification.

"Anything that happens there is going to have an impact on our city," she said of the park.

"The city has ultimate responsibility for this resource. It's not just some power trip we're on."

Critics of the park plan have argued against allowing such a large public resource - one of the biggest tracts of open land in Orange County - to be controlled by a single city.

The park will cover about 1,300 acres.

An additional 2,400 acres of the former Marine base will be developed into homes and businesses, and 1,000 acres will be preserved for wildlife habitat.

"This is the difference between great expectations and reality setting in," said Robert Stern with the center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles.

"The obvious difference is that now the park board becomes window dressing."

The council was set to vote last July on a lengthy operating agreement that spelled out the city's promise to lease the park land to the corporation for 99 years and to allow it to spend the millions in development and other money generated from the park.

But no vote was taken. A second draft circulated in October also wasn't acted upon.

Irvine Councilwoman Christina Shea, a frequent critic of how park funds have been spent, began pressing in January for a clear definition of how the city and corporation should function.

Making the board's role advisory "guts the entire purpose and authority for what it was created to do," Shea said. "We're totally going back on what we promised. This is really unethical."

Irvine Councilman Larry Agran, who is the park board's chairman, is expected to support the change.

He couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

The prospect of the park board losing its authority caught some surrounding government officials by surprise.

"I hadn't heard about this," said Laguna Hills Councilman L. Allan Songstad Jr., who still chairs a coalition of 10 South County cities that fought the airport and urged support for the Great Park.

"Surrounding cities still have an interest in how this public acreage is developed," he said. "I would hope that whatever structure they end up with and whatever advisory groups they have fulfill their promise of having significant input from around Orange County."

Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell, a finalist last month for a vacant park board seat, said he wasn't aware that the city intended to keep the land and the developer fees.

"That's a real change," he said.

Former park board member Richard Sim said he resigned last year in part because he felt the board should have greater representation from outside Irvine.

"If they do this, what they've done is lied to the people of Orange County," Sim said.

"It has just been promise one thing, do another, and that's why I left. They should change the name to the Irvine Great Park."
 
Deputy fire chief faces indecency charge
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 7, 2006 10:17 AM


Leroy Donald Johnson was caught this weekend in a barn with his pants down, literally, according to a sheriff's office report.

"You caught me ... I tried to (expletive) your sheep," Johnson told his neighbor, according to the report.

But the Mesa Fire Department deputy fire chief changed his story when a sheriff's deputy arrived on his doorstep minutes later, denying anything happened.

Johnson, 52, was jailed on suspicion of disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing after the neighbor told investigators he found Johnson, unzipped and holding a sheep down on its side.

That's the sanitized version. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office report released Monday night is a little more graphic.

Johnson's neighbor told sheriff's deputies he was called home Saturday afternoon when his 13-year-old daughter saw Johnson drag one of their sheep into a barn.

The teenager said Johnson had first knocked on the front and back door of the home in the 1200 block of East Catclaw Street, in a county island in Gilbert, before grabbing the small gray lamb, records showed.

One of the deputies noted that Johnson had bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol, and neighbors who confronted him said he admitted everything.

According to the deputy's report, "(The owner) took me into the back yard and showed me where he and (neighbor) pulled up. He took me through the corral gate and I saw the victim for the first time. She was a small gray lamb about three feet tall and four feet long."

The men then told the deputy they walked over to the small barn, opened the door and "saw Leroy holding the lamb down on its side in the hay with his pants down trying to have sex with it. That's when he made the statement about (expletive) the lamb."

The men said Johnson stood up and zipped up his pants.

"The sheep ran out of the barn at that point," the report says.

Johnson apologized, according to the report, and said he'd had "too much to drink."

The Mesa Fire Department placed Johnson, on paid leave Monday pending an internal investigation. Johnson, deputy chief of technical services, has been with the Mesa Fire Department for nearly 26 years.

Assistant Fire Chief Mary Cameli said Johnson has been an "exemplary" employee with a spotless personnel record.

"We were all very surprised by this," Cameli added.

Johnson did not return a call for comment Monday.

When confronted by a deputy at his home, Johnson initially denied the incident, saying he had been at his neighbor's house to talk about annexation.

Johnson said he went into the barn after hearing noises. The deputy said to him, "I believe something more than that happened," and offered help.

Johnson responded, "I probably do need some help, but I don't know if this is the time or place for it," according to the report.

When asked how the animal got into the barn, Johnson said, "I'm not going there," then asked if he was going to be arrested and demanded to know his legal options.

He continued to deny that anything happened in the barn and was arrested.

"I think it's disgusting," Sheriff Joe Arpaio said. "I think of Ghandi who said you judge the morality of a country by the way they treat their animals. . . . I do look at (bestiality) as some type of animal cruelty.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Irvine inspectors under suspicion
Building officials accused of taking material, soliciting investments.


By JEFF ROWE
The Orange County Register

IRVINE - City officials are awaiting separate reports from an outside investigator and the Police Department on allegations that include building inspectors' acceptance of gifts and solicitation of funds for investments.

The report from the firm should be complete in a few weeks, said Judy Pal, a city spokeswoman.

Among the allegations: Inspectors accepted "gifts" of building materials and tried to sell investments to people whose properties they were inspecting.

Police said they are conducting their own "professional and thorough" investigation of the city's building inspector department.

One building inspector, Don Plowman, resigned Monday, the city confirmed. The city declined to comment on Plowman, and he couldn't be reached for comment.

A former city building inspector says the department has been troubled for years.

Two years ago, one of the city's building inspectors agreed to pay a fine and perform 40 hours of community service for accepting bricks from a builder he was inspecting. "He took the position they were 'throwaways,'" said Tom Crofoot, deputy district attorney. Crofoot said accepting the bricks was "contrary to the policy of the building department" and a "conflict of interest."

David Diamond was that inspector, and he still works for the city. He says he wishes he had never taken the bricks, although he insists they were being discarded. But he said he paid for his mistake with the suspension. Misdemeanor charges a year later that added community service and a fine amounted to double jeopardy, he said.

Potentially more serious allegations came from Chicago-based W. E. O'Neil Construction Co., which was building a car dealership in Irvine. Robbie Robinson, the supervisor on the project, said the city building inspector asked for a $2 million investment in a recreation site proposed for the Imperial Valley. Robinson said he understood the implication was that the inspection would go more smoothly if O'Neil were to invest in the project. The company called police.

Irvine employs a chief building inspector and 14 senior inspectors; it also uses 17 other inspectors on a contract basis. Last year that team made 125,000 inspections.
 

Grand jury probing Great Park
Questions have been raised about the dealings of Irvine officials and project planners.

By TONY SAAVEDRA and NORBERTO SANTANA Jr.
The Orange County Register

BACKGROUND
The Great Park Corp. began a design competition in April 2005. The field of 24 firms was narrowed to seven based on resumés, and then to three based on the firms' designs.

WHAT'S HAPPENING
The Great Park Board met twice in December to consider a master designer and asked each firm about its willingness to work together.

WHAT'S NEXT
The Great Park Board will meet to consider a master designer at 10 a.m. Jan. 23, in Irvine City Council chambers at Alton Parkway and Harvard Avenue.

IRVINE - The Orange County grand jury is looking into the dealings of Irvine City Council members and other administrators of the Great Park project.

Irvine administrators this month notified council members as well as members of the Great Park Corp. board that the grand jury asked to interview Councilwoman Christina Shea. Councilman Larry Agran and Shea acknowledged the memo sent by Irvine's acting City Manager Sean Joyce.

According to Agran, Shea was interviewed this week by a grand-jury investigator. Shea declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of grand-jury proceedings.

Agran said he was not worried.

"I welcome any scrutiny that is given to the operation of the Great Park Corporation," he said.

Bette Flick, forewoman of the 2005-06 grand jury, declined to comment on the group's inquiries, adding, "We do our talking in the final report."

Longstanding concerns have hounded the proposed Great Park virtually since the nonprofit corporation was founded in the wake of the closure of the El Toro Marine base. Much of the criticism has centered on Agran's dominance on the park board.

In May, retired Irvine Co. executive Dick Sim resigned from the board, saying the group was playing fast and loose with no-bid public-relations and engineering contracts. Sim questioned the hiring of Great Park CEO Wally Kreutzen, saying he had no experience in park development. And Sim questioned a $600,000 international design competition for the park, arguing that many other issues - such as toxic cleanup - should be considered before considering designs.

While the board has slightly more than $400million in developer fees from Lennar to build public infrastructure and the park, Sim said the money could run out fast without better planning.

"Their business practices stink. That's why I resigned," Sim said Friday.

This summer, the Great Park agency drew questions when nearly a dozen board members and staff went on a $50,000 trip to Barcelona, Paris and New York to conduct final interviews with design finalists. This month, board members announced they wanted to use all three designers.

Meanwhile, Agran and others have noted the possibility that the 1,350-acre Great Park may have to be shrunk from its original size, opening the possibility that more land could be available for development. With soaring construction costs, there are also concerns that there may not be enough money left to fund the first phase of the park.

CONTACT US: (714) 796-6930 or tsaavedra@ocregister.com
Orange County Grand Jury 714-834-3320  (Fax) 714-834-5555

Great Park travel seen as possibly violating law
Open-meeting requirements are at issue as the district attorney investigates.

By NORBERTO SANTANA JR.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER


Photo: Members of the Great Park delegation pose in Paris. Board members conducted the entire trip as a public meeting.

SANTA ANA - The longest and most expensive public meeting in Orange County history has triggered an investigation by the local district attorney.

Last November, a dozen Great Park board and staff members traveled to Barcelona, Paris and New York to conduct interviews with three design finalists vying to create the 1,350-acre park.

Because of public concerns about the nature of such a trip, board members conducted their 10-day journey as one long public meeting to comply with the state's open-meeting laws.

Despite briefings for board members on limits of their conversations and monitoring by Great Park CEO Wally Kreutzen on the trip, there were questions about whether the state law known as the Ralph M. Brown Act might have been violated. For example, while the group traveled under an exemption that allows for inspecting property, board members' questions for designers were wide-ranging during their meetings. Also, it is nearly impossible to have monitored all board members' discussions while at dinner, on shuttles and at meetings.

Great Park Corp. General Counsel Rob Thornton accompanied board members on their trip in December to Stockton, San Mateo and San Francisco. Several times while the group was traveling by bus, he cut off questions by a reporter or terminated discussions that veered into broad policy or judgment issues.

"This is really uncharted territory," said Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition. Scheer said the nature of such a roaming public meeting brings up fascinating questions for the state law. "Even if they were acting in good faith, it's next to impossible to comply," he said.

The trips could even trigger a need to amend the state's open-meetings law, Scheer said, to set up a framework for such roaming public meetings.

Kreutzen said he was contacted by the District Attorney's Office in late November or early December after the group returned from its trip. Other board and staff members were interviewed this week by investigators from the District Attorney's Office.

Susan Kang Schroeder, spokeswoman for the district attorney, said, "It would be inappropriate for me to confirm whether there is a pending investigation."

Investigators interviewed Irvine Councilwoman Christina Shea on Friday. While Shea doesn't think the trip to Europe violated any open-meetings laws, she has raised concerns about how consensus was formed around this week's decision to hire New York architect Ken Smith.

"It's completely compromised," Shea said of the selection process.


Register staff writer Jeff Rowe contributed to this report. CONTACT US: (714) 285-2862 or nsantana@ocregister.com






San Bernardino Sun

Rialto chooses sheriff!

9-14-2005

Nikki Cobb, Staff Writer

RIALTO - The City Council decided Tuesday night to contract with the Sheriff's Department for police services despite an overwhelming majority of speakers who opposed the matter.

More than 150 residents and members of the Police Department packed an emergency meeting, overwhelming the Council Chamber and spilling onto the outside lawn. Dozens outside chanted "Save our police.''

The council supported dissolving its Police Department on a 4-1 vote, with Mayor Grace Vargas dissenting.

"Get a police chief from in house, someone from the ranks, who has worked his way from the bottom up,'' Vargas said.

The meeting, announced late Monday, was called in the wake of several lawsuits filed by police officers against the department, the city and Police Chief Michael Meyers and Deputy Chief Arthur Burgess.

Officers voted no confidence in the chief and deputy chief in late August. And last week a so-called "corruption report,'' purportedly written by sworn officers and distributed throughout the Police Department and City Hall, issued scathing claims of corruption and mismanagement by Meyers and Burgess.

Meyers and Burgess did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Councilman Joe Sampson supported the move to sheriff's jurisdiction.

"What does home rule mean if you don't have control, and we don't have control right now,'' he said.

Council members said they had received threats in recent weeks.


"We have a very important decision in front of us, but we've been elected to make decisions,'' Councilwoman Winnie Hanson said. "I have never been threatened as I have when I was on the verge of making this very difficult decision.''

The speakers overwhelming supported their Police Department, heckling and jeering Councilman Ed Scott and City Administrator Henry Garcia throughout the meeting.

"We need to take back control,'' Councilman Ed Scott said of the department. "These people are out of control they're not professional, and they lie and they lie and they lie.''

"I'm appalled by their behavior,'' Scott said.

Councilwoman Deborah Robertson said that despite the loud police supporters, there were also those who agreed with the council's viewpoint.

"How do we bring some order back? I live here, too,'' she said. "There is a silent majority out there as well.''

Accused officer off Irvine force


By JOHN McDONALD
The Orange County Register

IRVINE - Police Chief David Maggard said today that an officer accused by a woman of sexually assaulting her while on duty last year is no longer with the force.

The officer, David Park, was placed on paid leave several weeks ago as the allegations were investigated. Parks is no longer with the department, Maggard said, adding he could not provide further details.

The woman, 32, has filed a claim against the city.

Her claim, filed by Newport Beach attorney Jerry Steering, contends Park, driving a marked patrol car, followed her from a Lake Forest club July 29. He stopped her car, exposed himself and took her phone number.

Dec. 14, Park followed the woman again and stopped her car along a dark section of Laguna Canyon Road. He gave her a field sobriety test, and her blood-alcohol level registered 0.06 percent, less than the legal limit for driving, according to the claim.

Park also ran a license check on the woman and then threatened to have her jailed for driving with a suspended license unless she sexually touched him and let him sexually touch her. She went along out of fear of being jailed, Steering said.

CONTACT US: (714) 796-6743 or jmcdonald@ocregister.com

Perks fill out city managers' compensation
Running a town earns officials home loans, SUVs and free gas.


By BLYTHE BERNHARD and TONY SAAVEDRA
The Orange County Register


They're responsible for the streets you drive on. The parks your kids play in. The shopping malls you visit.

They have a hand in how your town looks, from the greenbelts lining the streets to the lights shining down on sidewalks.

City managers have the top jobs in town.

In Orange County, they make an average base salary of $161,358. They average $44,000 in benefits - enough to cover the salary of an entry-level police officer.

"City managers are very well paid, because it's a huge job," said Raphael Sonenshein, a political science professor at Cal State Fullerton and longtime student of local government. "They have to maintain the integrity of the administration of the city while being sensitive to the elected officials who run the city. They have to protect the daily employees from political interference while making sure that the city government is responsive to the public. That's a tall order."

On average, city managers make lower salaries than school district superintendents, who typically oversee larger budgets and more employees.

But because of their benefits, city managers still make a good living.

Irvine's Allison Hart has more extras than any city manager in Orange County at $70,873 annually. Her total compensation is also the highest in the county at $275,873.

Managers' benefits include free SUVs, free gas, free toll-road passes and home subsidies. City managers' retirement funds cost each city about $20,000 annually.

San Juan Capistrano pays $44,326 toward David Adams' retirement, plus $8,500 in deferred compensation, the most of any city manager in the county.

Twelve cities give cars to their chief executives, including a Chevrolet Suburban (Laguna Hills), Toyota Sequoia (Brea) and Buick Rendezvous (Buena Park).

The others get an average of about $500 a month for car payments, gas and maintenance, although actual allowances vary widely. For instance, David Morgan of Anaheim gets $824 a month in transportation funds, while Costa Mesa's Allan Roeder receives $300.

Dana Point City Manager Douglas Chotkevys gets a four-wheel drive, 2003 Ford Excursion equipped with first-aid supplies because of the city's proximity to the San Onofre nuclear power plant, according to his contract. San Clemente - four miles closer to the plant - didn't provide a car to its manager, George Scarborough.

Chotkevys told the Register that the council decided he needed an SUV in case he had to drive on the beach to transport himself and seven other city officials to an emergency center.

Harold Kaufman, a member of the Dana Point City Council that hired Chotkevys, said the SUV was added after Kaufman left the council. He said he would have opposed it.

"It strikes me as a little bit odd, (an SUV) to get away from the nuclear cloud?" he said. "All the sand would be glass."

Russ Chilton, a council member who voted to give Chotkevys the SUV, said the vehicle has come in handy for other emergencies.

"With all the recent rains, we had slope failure, creek-bed failure, in which our city manager had to engage his four-wheel drive," Chilton said. The SUV, he says, "was a smart move."

Dana Point's City Council also voted to lend Chotkevys $250,000 toward the purchase of a house in the city.

"We really wanted him to live in the city, go to various city functions, be available to people, experience what was going on in the city, drive through the traffic lights," Kaufman said.

Others manage their cities while living elsewhere. Villa Park's manager, George Rodericks, commutes from Riverside.

"It's an attractive place to live and work," Rodericks said. "I wish I could live here. I only can afford to work here."

Mark Nielsen, a San Juan Capistrano resident, has no problem with high salaries for city managers with high achievements. But Nielsen pointed out that negotiating between city councils and their chief officers is done behind closed doors.

"And the question is, is the compensation more of a subjective matter that doesn't have public scrutiny?" he said. "I'm not sure there is anything made public that says, 'Here are our objectives for our city manager.'"

City councils determine their managers' salaries and benefits, usually by comparing them to the compensation of managers in similar-size agencies.

There are exceptions.

Stanton's Jake Wager is the lowest-paid city manager in the county at $144,771 a year. The managers of 10 cities smaller than Stanton earn more than Wager.

"I don't necessarily need to compare my situation with somebody else," Wager said. "Am I satisfied with my relationship with the city and the council? Am I able to provide for my family and live the life that I'm comfortable with? And the answer is yes."

On the other side is Laguna Hills City Manager Bruce Channing, who commands the seventh-smallest city and is the seventh-highest paid city manager in the county, with a total compensation of $224,817.

Channing said there are other factors to consider, such as experience, performance and how much councils are willing to pay to keep their chief executives from taking other jobs.

Channing has been in Laguna Hills since 1991.

"Performance is the key factor," he said. "If the City Council didn't think I was providing a valuable service, they would have decided long ago I wasn't worth the compensation I receive."

Some city managers refuse pay raises, including Costa Mesa's Roeder, who has turned down at least $18,554 since 1987.

"Where I've had situations where we had to ask employees to do belt-tightening or laying people off, I'm sorry, I can't take a pay increase when we are having those kinds of actions," Roeder said. "First and foremost, as a city manager, we need to be setting the examples."

Some city managers argue that they could get much more if they worked in the private sector.

"When you compare them to chief executives of corporations, the cities are getting a bargain," said Robert Stern, head of the center for Governmental Studies, a think tank in Los Angeles. "I think it would be pennywise, pound foolish to cut their salaries down. You get what you pay for."

Peter Cappelli, professor at the Wharton School of Business, said the jobs of city managers and corporate executives require different skills.

"Administering a large government agency requires executing a reasonably well-defined agenda that is delivered in advance. Running a large business requires continually redefining strategies, reorganizing capabilities and then executing.

"City managers aren't in competition with CEOs for jobs," Cappelli said. "Nobody is hiring away city managers to run multinational (corporations)."


CONTACT US: (714) 445-6692 or bbernhard@ocregister.com
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San Diego now "Enron by the Sea"

By John Ritter, USA TODAY

SAN DIEGO - This laid-back city seems to have it all - stunning beaches, best weather this side of Honolulu, a national image as a vacation playground and top convention destination.

A new ballpark and condo towers in the trendy Gaslamp Quarter, a Skid-Row section turned upscale shopping and dining, gives "America's Finest City" a lively, urban feel.

San Diego is also known as a tightwad. City Hall's Web site proclaims it "the most efficiently run big city in California." Howard Jarvis, architect of Proposition 13, California's landmark 1978 ballot measure capping property taxes, once said that if all cities were as financially prudent as San Diego, there'd be no need for a tax revolt.

That was then. This is now: a financial mess dragging the nation's seventh-largest city toward insolvency, federal investigators looking for evidence of corruption, a $1.7 billion gap in city workers' pension fund and retiree medical benefits brought on by years of mismanagement and alleged sweetheart deals.

The city manager and city auditor quit in disgrace. Allegations of conflicts of interest dog pension-fund trustees. The City Council and Mayor Dick Murphy, who's up for re-election Nov. 2, are accused of short-changing the pension plan to stem red ink and keep pet programs afloat, then shying from tough steps needed to close the gap.

"America's Finest City" has become "Enron by the Sea." Wall Street bond underwriters claim city officials duped them and balk at new loans until the scandal is cleared up. The city's credit rating tanked, costing it millions more in interest on its debt.

"If they had borrowed the money from loan sharks instead of Wall Street, there would already be bodies floating off Point Loma," says Michael Conger, a lawyer who won a class-action lawsuit against the city and the retirement fund. "Because there's no doubt what they did, and they did it on purpose." The city settled the lawsuit in July by agreeing to fully fund the pension system starting this year.

Murphy admits mistakes were made but thinks the city's woes are solvable, not the crisis that critics paint.

San Diego's situation is extreme, but many cities feel the burden of soaring pension costs. In a September survey by the National League of Cities, 79% of cities said pensions were eroding fiscal health. The economic downturn and stock market nosedive that cut income from pension-fund investments forced cities to cover gaps from general revenue. Many resorted to heavy borrowing.

Inflation also swelled pension-fund investments, so the city decided to give retirees annual bonus checks instead of setting the income aside for lean times.

When annual contributions to the pension fund began to squeeze the budget, the city in 1996 and again in 2002 went to the pension board seeking to make smaller payments. In return, the city granted even more generous retirement benefits. Both deals apparently violated state law barring cities from funding pensions below rates that outside financial experts recommend. Neither deal was disclosed to Wall Street.

When the stock market plunged, investment income plunged, too. The city's liability grew as a pension plan that for years had been 100% funded shrank to less than 70% funded. Wall Street gets nervous when the level slips below 90%.

This coastal city of 1.3 million has closed swimming pools, cut library hours and raised fees to control spending. Potholes go unfilled and police and firefighters complain that aging equipment isn't replaced. Critics warn of bigger cuts in services and layoffs.

Meanwhile, the average police officer, firefighter or clerk retiring after 30 years takes home a one-time $300,000 check from a much-criticized deferred retirement program established in 1997, plus a $50,000 annual pension for life, inflation adjusted. A few top officials have left with $1 million deferred-retirement checks and $144,000 a year for life.

San Diego's benefits are "certainly on the high end of the spectrum," says April Boling, head of a pension-reform committee created by City Council.

The depth of the city's financial hole is unclear. Murphy says the current budget is balanced, but the city hasn't released financial audits the last two years and a new auditing firm's report won't be out until after the election.

"The mayor doesn't know if the budget's balanced," says Ron Roberts, a San Diego County supervisor trying to unseat Murphy. "To balance the budget, they didn't make full payments to the pension plan. They just pushed a lot of debt off."

Nearly a decade of fiscal shenanigans came to light when Diann Shipione, a pension board trustee, blew the whistle. But it took some doing. She wrote letters to the mayor, city officials and fellow trustees. She spoke up at City Council meetings. She wrote opinion columns in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

But the City Council and the trustees ignored her. At one point the pension board bought an ad in the Union-Tribune that scoffed, "Chicken Little Would Be Proud."

Only in September 2003, when Shipione alerted a lawyer handling a municipal sewer bond sale to facts the city hadn't disclosed, did Wall Street pull the plug. The bond issue was canceled. Soon the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI and the U.S. attorney were asking questions. In January, the city admitted errors and omissions in its financial statements.

"The city's conservative image is completely false," Shipione says. "It's reckless, it spends wildly and lavishly, it saves nothing and it hides the truth."

Last month, the reform committee urged raising the retirement age to 62 from 55, dropping the deferred-retirement program and borrowing $600 million. City Council watered down a key recommendation to prevent conflicts of interest by purging the pension board of city employees who have a financial interest in its decisions. Critics want stronger medicine, including a rollback of lucrative pension benefits.

To avoid falling further behind, the city needs to add $259 million to the pension fund next year, about a tenth of its annual budget.

Murphy wants to freeze salaries and says he'll ask unions to accept reduced pension benefits, but they've rejected that before. He proposed borrowing the $600 million but didn't say how he'd persuade Wall Street.

Many think the scandal, arcane as it is, resonates. "It hits home," Boling says. "People in both public and private pension plans are very concerned about the stability of their retirement."

20 Pct. of Oakland Workers Made $100K

OAKLAND, Calif. -

More than 800 people who work for the financially strapped City of Oakland made at least $100,000 in the last fiscal year, according to records released following a court order obtained by a newspaper.

The total represents about 18 percent of the city's work force of about 4,500 from July 2003 through July 2004. About three-quarters of the employees were in the police and fire departments.

Oakland is facing a projected deficit of more than $45 million over the next two years that threatens basic city services. The deficit is partly due to pay raises and improved benefits approved during the economic boom of the 1990s.

About two-thirds of the top earners had salaries set under $100,000, but earned more due to extras, such as overtime. One police officer made $177,311 during the period, although his base salary was $73,188, according to the records.

The number of employees making $100,000 or more in salaries and overtime is similar to the 813 The Washington Times found last year in the District of Columbia, which has a much larger work force of about 34,000. A majority of those district workers were making more than $100,000 without overtime.

The city released the salary records to The Contra Costa Times and Montclarion newspapers after initially turning down a public records request. A judge ordered the city to release the information last month.

Officials said they are hiring an auditor to review police spending, though City Administrator Deborah Edgerly said costs may have risen due to officers working overtime to cover for sick colleagues, special events or chronic crime. She said the fire department did not exceed its overtime budget because it has been understaffed.

Mayor Jerry Brown welcomed the audit, telling the San Francisco Chronicle he hoped much of the overtime could be reduced by "looking the whole structure of the Police Department with fresh eyes and making changes."

Last month, voters approved a parcel tax that calls for hiring as many as 70 more police officers as well as additional firefighters.

City turns over the key to her castle!

By Laylan Connelly Irvine World News

Patty Koss talks about her experience buying a home Wednesday morning. Koss is the first person to qualify for the city's first-time home buyer program. Patty Koss jumped up and down with excitement, her eyes brimming with tears. She had just walked into her new home and had already neatly placed her shoes near the front door, making sure she wouldn't track dirt onto her off-white rug. Despite the absence of furniture and pictures on the walls, mail on the kitchen counter and a small plant near the sink signified that the home was taken.

Koss on Tuesday was given a small home-warming by city employees and Jamboree Housing Corp. at her one-bedroom condo to celebrate a moment that unlocked a door for first-time, low-income home buyers in Irvine. Koss is the first person to get a $50,000 down payment loan through a new city program. She couldn't sleep the night before. Her 17-year-old son Tuesday morning packed up a truck to move their belongings.

It's a bit tighter than her previous residence. The night prior, Koss and her three teenage sons slept in a two-bedroom apartment. Now, her three boys will pile into one bedroom, while she will sleep on a fold-out couch in the living room. But the trade-off meant a give-and-take. "Pride of ownership," she reasoned, grinning continuously throughout the morning. "It's very overwhelming. I feel like I won the lottery or something," Koss said. "I would like to paint the walls and actually hang things.

They're my walls and I can do what I want with them." The city's first-time home buyer assistance program is financed with $500,000 in federal funds. Six people have been approved for the loans. Three more would-be buyers are in the process of getting documents in order and are looking for housing, and a total of 20 people have been told to contact the lender to see if they qualify.

The lender does the credit checks. But actually getting into a home has been a task in itself. First, a list of 250 applicants must wait behind city employees, Irvine school district teachers and Orange County Fire Authority employees who live outside Irvine. The Irvine City Council set it up that way to help low-income employees live closer to their place of employment. Three of the first group approved met those criteria. Koss is a recreational programmer with the city's Senior Services Department.

Even Koss thought the odds were against her. When the initial consideration list of 12 people came back, she came back as "lucky number 13." "Well, that's never going to happen. I'm out," she told a representative from Jamboree Housing. She was told not to lose hope. While she was eventually put onto a list that would move her forward in the process, another struggle came when she went to look for a home. She originally looked at a different condo, but another buyer took it. "The hard part was finding a place.

There's not much on the market," she said. Irvine has a lot of competition for housing, said Dianne Russell, director of social services with Jamboree Housing, which administered the program. One- and two-bedroom condos are at a premium, she said. "At any given time there are maybe three condos in Irvine, and we have two or three people looking, that kind of competition can raise the price of housing," said Russell. Therefore, housing priced below the maximum allowed under the city's program, $278,125, may not be available.

On top of that, a person who qualifies as very low income, with a household income of $33,150, has yet to qualify for the assistance program. A person still needs to qualify with a conventional lender, meaning they have to make enough money to make a monthly mortgage payment and also need to have credit in good standing. Twelve out of an initial 20 applicants were very low income. The only applicants gaining approval are those who fit into the low-income bracket, or a household income of $47,250.

The city began discussing the program two years ago, and asked the nonprofit Jamboree Housing Corp. to administer the program. Last summer, they announced the program and received a total of 250 applicants by Sept. 20. The down-payment loans are to be paid back when the owners move out or after they pay off their mortgage. For more information of Irvine's first-time homebuyer assistance program contact Dianne Russell: (949) 263-8676. Contact the reporter: Laylan Connelly at (949) 553-2911 or Lconnelly@ocregister.com.

Bisbee, Arizona

Do we really need Cadillac Cops in small-town Bisbee...

By Ellis Heckman

The Bisbee combined police budget for this year is about $1.6 million. This figure does not include another $200,000 or so from federal COPS grants. The $1.6 million figure works out to $267.57 per capita; that is, for each and every person in Bisbee the police force costs about $268. Contrast the Bisbee per capita police cost with the per capita cost in Sierra Vista, which happens to be $134.25. It turns out, by applying not too much arithmetic, that the Bisbee police cost twice as much per capita as Sierra Vista police. Another way to look at it might be to see what portion of each town's general fund is allocated to police. In Sierra Vista, the police get a little over 6 percent of the general fund. In Bisbee the figure could reach 28 percent.

Last year the Bisbee police budget was a shade or two less, but even so there were overruns notably in overtime. For fiscal year 1999-2000, the one that ended this past August, I compared the budgets of nearly two dozen municipal police forces using cost per capita and percentage of the general fund as criteria. By these combined measures, the Bisbee Police Department costs more than just about any police department I looked at. More than Show Low, where the population effectively doubles for half the year. More than Sedona, where they really can afford Cadillac cops. Almost as much as Phoenix, in the middle of their incredible crime wave. But it gets worse.

I made these comparisons without including the infamous auction fund. When you add in the portion of that fund that went to the police last year-which is most of it - you may well wind up with a police budget that exceeds Phoenix's in terms of cost per capita. Why is this so? Why, for example, are we financing a department with a budget larger than Sedona's department? Sedona has more than twice the population of Bisbee, and it covers a lot of area. And the people of Sedona have the per capita income to afford any and all the security they might feel they need. Another way to compare police cost-benefit performance is to look at numbers of employees per thousand of population, and numbers of badges per thousand of population.

I talked to a police commander in Calexico, Calif., a few weeks ago who told me they have half a million people going through their town every day and they only have about 1.2 badges per thousand population. Those folks need some more badges. The average in the cities of the Western states is 1.8 badges per thousand. According to the Sierra Vista police chief the number there is about 1.3 badges per thousand. Bisbee maintains 3 badges per thousand population.

These are tough times for Bisbee. I was at a budget meeting last summer when citizens were pleading with the council not to eliminate a full time animal control officer. Money was finally found that had been allocated for refurbishing the council chamber, and the animal control officers job was safe for another year. At the same meeting the council approved a record high police budget that included money for four new cars. Voters have done their part to make this incredibly expensive sewer project a reality by resoundingly approving the sales tax hike. But the council needs to do more. Taxation is only one side of the fiscal formula. The other is reduced spending. We need to give up our Cadillac Habits.



Placentia residents urge city to keep police force Hundreds gather at City Hall to oppose proposal to disband department. City has sought bids for takeover of police services.

By PATRICK VUONG The Orange County Register

PLACENTIA - An overflow crowd had to watch on television Tuesday night as dozens of residents and police officers threatened the City Council with a recall election if it disbands the Police Department.

"This (proposal) is a knee-jerk reaction to the state budget crisis," resident Gary Eaton told the council. "Is this evidence that you can't manage your finances?" Eaton and dozens of other angry speakers, some armed with picket signs, urged council members to withdraw a request sent Thursday to Anaheim, Brea, Fullerton and the county for bids to take over the city's police services. Off-duty police officers estimated that 1,200 to 1,500 people were on hand Tuesday. Some of those who couldn't fit inside City Hall watched the proceedings on television inside the Police Department. Police officers have rallied the residents over the past two weeks, distributing more than 35,000 fliers asking people to attend the council meeting if they had concerns about the bids, which are due April 10.

Placentia has had its own police force since it was incorporated in 1926. The city spends about $9 million a year for 56 officers to patrol seven square miles and serve about 47,000 people. Councilman Norman Eckenrode initiated the effort after voters rejected a proposal to increase the utility users tax in the Nov. 5 municipal election. The tax boost was meant to fund a 7 percent raise the city said it couldn't afford to give officers. City officials said the bid requests are a means to scrutinize city finances during tight economic times.

"No one on this council back then in December or since then want to disband the Placentia Police Department," Mayor Scott Brady said. Eckenrode has cited Yorba Linda's contract with the Brea Police Department as an example of savings. The city pays Brea $6.4 million annually to handle about 17 square miles and 60,000 people. But to many residents, the issue isn't about economics. "There are major intangibles that you cannot put a price on," John Cullum said. "You cannot put a price or value on public safety." In 1993, the same issue sparked heated debate in San Clemente when that city swapped local service for the Sheriff's Department.

Tom Lorch, then a San Clemente City Council member, said residents feared losing local control. He was the lone opponent on the council when service was switched. Lorch, however, changed his opinion after Sheriff's Patrols began, saying the city was getting more officers for less money plus access to the county department's helicopter.  He joined the majority when it came time to renew the police contract. "I didn't see any reason to vote no. All the things that had been promised had materialized," he said Tuesday. "If you stack up the positives and negatives, I think the positives are a bigger stack than the negatives, and I think that's true today, too.

(In 1993-94, San Clemente paid the county $5.8 million, a $2.1 million savings.) Now with a population of about 50,000, the city pays about $7.76 million a year for services that include 42 sworn officers. Stanton, which has more than 37,000 residents, switched from local to county control in 1988. Today, the city pays about $5.7 million annually to the Sheriff's Department for 32 sworn officers. In its first year with the county deputies, the city reduced its police costs from $2.9 million annually to about $2.6 million a year.

(Twenty-one county cities maintain their own police departments.) Councilwoman Judy Dickinson said the city will not make any hasty decisions. "When we get the information back," she said, "the staff will present it as a forum and a lot of people will look at it. ... It's not some arbitrary decision we're going to make." City Manager Robert D'Amato said the council will examine the bids and take action, if any, in May. 

Thursday, March 6, 2003 Placentia residents fight City Hall And they win, when the City Council drops its proposal to replace the Police Department with outside law enforcement.

By PATRICK VUONG The Orange County Register

PLACENTIA

The change at the police station from Tuesday to Wednesday mirrored the weather - from gray to sunny in 24 hours. Tuesday, many of Placentia's 56 officers thought they could be unemployed by summer, Sgt. Dale Carlson said. But by Wednesday, they were all smiles, trading high-fives as they arrived for work. More than 1,200 people had flooded City Hall the night before to support the Police Department and pressure the City Council to drop its idea of replacing Placentia's officers with outside law enforcement to save money.

The council unanimously made the about- face, casting an emergency vote after more than four hours of often emotional speeches by residents, some of whom threatened a recall. "We're feeling touched by the outpouring of community support," said Sgt. John Armstrong, "and we're feeling very happy about the outcome." Councilman Norman Eckenrode, who initiated the bidding idea last year, was influenced Tuesday by his council colleagues. "Three council members had already made up their mind from public input that police protection was more paramount than a fiscally responsible government," he said, noting that the city has the most expensive police force in Orange County on a per-capita basis. Placentia's price tag for police services is about $9 million a year.

The department serves about 47,000 people. Mayor Scott Brady said Wednesday that he underestimated how threatened the officers would feel by the city's idea. He said the city was merely scrutinizing its largest personnel and not trying to infuriate officers or residents. "Why divide the city?" he said. "Why anger the Police Department over a process that has become inherently flawed?" Fearing that their department could be disbanded, officers launched a community relations campaign in recent weeks. They canvassed the town, sent out mass e-mails, supplied 388 picket signs and 2,000 bumper stickers, and distributed more than 35,000 fliers.

Carlson, 36, said he spent eight to 10 hours a day on three Saturdays going door to door to hand out the notices. One day, he rolled around on his 6-year-old daughter's scooter to cover more homes. Detective Tracy Elwood said the two police unions and some police employees spent $2,000 on the fliers and bumper stickers, while the picket signs were donated by a printing company. Gary Eaton, who spoke at the council meeting, said Wednesday that Placentia officers are irreplaceable, adding that he has seen them in action after having his garage burglarized last week and his car stolen three years ago. "They do their job in a professional manner," he said. "They're efficient; they take their complaints seriously, whereas police in other jurisdictions don't."

PATRICK VUONG The Orange County Register
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