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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Transparency in Government

As Citizens, one of our greatest rights is to participate in government.  Truth about what our government officials—all employees at every level—are doing with our trust and our money is essential and is our right.  It is so essential that more than one law has been written to ensure open access to know what’s going on… but here in Charlotte, our City officials just don’t seem to get it. 

Repeated requests for CRVA (Charlotte Regional Visitor Authority) records went deferred and unanswered, put off by attorneys for weeks then months, and are still not fully answered.  There’s still not a straight answer to how much money is owed on the NASCAR Hall of Fame, or what the true operating losses on all CRVA venues amount to.  (See CRVA Losses Not the Same as Other Losses?)

It’s one thing to lose millions of dollars and not take responsibility to make changes, or to have terrible runoff and clear-cutting from developments that are approved for friends of council, or other such stories… but when it comes to the Police Department, things start getting even more serious.

Citynewswatch has received documentation, and published plenty of it already, documenting distressing practices conducted by Police Chief Rodney Monroe, approved by his boss City Manager Curt Walton, all with the full knowledge and approval of Mayor Foxx and all City Council Members, who are responsible for oversight and the hiring and firing of the rest.   City Attorneys who are informed continue (according to documents viewed) to allow the practice of denying public records requests. 
It seems all of these practices may have begun from the moment Chief Monroe was hired, or before.  Waters Consulting Company, Inc. was hired at a rate of $19,500 flat rate plus contracted amount not to exceed in expenses of $11,000 to perform an the executive search for a new police chief, and the contract includes numerous tasks, from formulation of qualities and needs, through advertising and search, to conducting a background investigation and report.  Some of those details are specified this way:
·       Conducting Background Investigations, Reference Checks and Academic Verifications  
·       Company will obtain a list of up to ten work-related references for each finalist
·       Company shall complete a formal background investigation of each final candidate.
·       Background investigation will include at a minimum: reference check, past and current employment verification, social security verification, education verification, Federal, State and Local criminal record check, Federal Courts search, Sex Offender registry check, motor vehicle and credit history check.
·       PHASE III – recommend finalists and final written report

This leads to questions about what exactly the company found in his background.  Did they perform the duties they were paid to do?  If so, what report was provided.

And if they did a thorough report which included the information we know now about Monroe, does that mean that Walton, Council (Foxx was on council at the time) and Mayor McCrory knew fully about the all-but-two courses at Phoenix on-line degree, even though a Masters degree was preferred?  Lower-rank officers are required to have a Bachelor’s degree.   What about the fact that his degree is not in Criminal Justice, even though he stated it was on his resume?   What about the Federal probe underway over allegations of misspending of about $350,000 on a million dollar grant in which he controlled the spending and then the records “disappeared.” (sound familiar?)   That investigation ended in a civil settlement since much of the evidence disappeared.  What else might be in that report?  Don't we have a right to know, considering how many other issues have been troubling.  Either the background check was not done properly or it was done and ignored.
There seems to be an issue of factual differences or at least questions between statements made and checking the facts.  With Mayor Foxx touting the confidence he has in Rodney Monroe to run the Security for DNC 2012 because of his experience spearheading the security for the Million Man March and handling two previous Presidential Inaugurations, you have to check some facts.  DC police have no confirmation of the experience claimed.  Rodney Monroe makes the statements in his recent “interview” with WSOC’s Erica Bryant here, but the only documents—and these are admittedly promotional pieces for Monroe—show that he was in charge of the Million Man March and the 1997 Presidential Inauguration…

A 2005 article in TheBrass Key when Monroe started in Richmond states as much.  Interesting that it also says “Richmond Police General Orders are not set in stone. They are constantly in a state of review and are routinely rewritten.  Simply put, the new chief can change the rules.”  Maybe old habits die hard.

Then there’s that pesky degree issue that some say isn’t important.  Well, it was a requirement for his job.  He is the only person (save one posthumous award) out of 15,000 in VCU history to be awarded a degree despite only taking two courses on the campus, rather than the required minimum 30 on-site credit hours out of the total required…  Then he admitted that he “accidentally” wrote on his resume submission that his degree—awarded if not earned—was in Criminal Justice, which it was not. 

It’s hard to understand how you would mix that up.  Both issues seem pretty fast and loose with rules for someone in charge of knowing and keeping all the laws of the state and municipality.  And, didn’t the background check reveal this detail?  It’s important to know or remember that the only reason this issue was discovered was through a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request made by a journalist as reported in Richmond’s Times Dispatch article How Freedom of Information Act Was Used in Monroe Case by Karin Kapsidelis who asked for payment records checking on educational reimbursements exceeding allowable amounts and charged to the department, according to reports.

Officers that work at much lower rank are required to have a Bachelor’s Degree and to be able to read and understand basic rules, as well as to be truthful.

WFAE’s LisaMiller, who also mentions fellow WFAE’s Julie Rose’s efforts to ask Monroe numerous times to ask Monroe about promises he made to continue his education here in Charlotte, in an effort to quell the questions and scandal surrounding his questionable degree.  He said he planned to take additional classes, but would never answer if he has started doing so.  It’s strange, then, at about the same time tearful press conferences about undergraduate degrees and decisions of whether to continue education were ongoing, Monroe gave an interview in Richmond with Scott Bass of Style Weekly magazine published January 2009:
Monroe says he felt like he became the scapegoat. He says he was in no rush to graduate that May, and if anyone at the university had “even uttered those words” that he needed more credits he would have simply taken more classes. After getting his bachelor's, Monroe notes, he began working on his graduate degree at VCU and has since earned an additional 18 credits.

“Again, I should have known. But when you have advisers at the university, why would I challenge them?” Monroe posits. “Everything got pushed back to me.”

It seems very unusual that he did not offer information about these 18 credits he offered to a reporter in Richmond at any emotional press conference in Charlotte, or to any of the numerous press inquiries since—especially when his degree from VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University, his stated alma mater) was a job requirement and has been such a source of contention.

This quote from Monroe referring to himself in third person is an interesting insight into his view of things:

“Come rain or shine or whatever,” he says, “anything I do will be done for Rodney Monroe and not to satisfy any one entity.”  

Monroe won’t answer questions submitted in writing, blatantly ignoring multiple Public Records requests, as have been seen and documented here.  But this pattern was also observed very publicly during the case of now-former officer Marcus Jackson.   Monroe now takes responsibility for having at least a part in what happened--at least he did after the fact.   That means after at least six women, including a teenager, were sexually assaulted by the on-duty officer with prior restraining orders, domestic issues, and a history of lying on police reports which Monroe knew about.   There are documents in his Internal Affairs of more than one letter to Monroe of his bad prior acts.  Monroe and City Manager Walton, along with City Attorney Dewitt McCarley went to the carpet to keep Jackson’s full personnel file from being reviewed by City Council, and Council and the Mayor voted not to look at it.  

It just doesn’t match reality.    Again.

It causes one to wonder what else is going on internally.  It casts an unfair pall on all the men and women who are doing an excellent, difficult, and dangerous job because it causes a lack of trust where there should be no room for any.  When Curt Walton directly states that he will not investigate any concerns about what the Chief of Police is doing, personnel or otherwise, and continues to refuse public records requests as well, something needs to change.  Forewarning of a problem should be more than sufficient to take action to investigate concerns.

Despite this decided effort to pretend to be kept in the dark, Monroe recently extolled how open and forthcoming he is on this interview with Paul Brown, who spent a fair amount of time throwing softball questions and thanking him for the great job he was doing as Chief of Police.

During the Paul Brown exchange, starting at the 8:47 mark, referring to his officers, Monroe says:   
I’m always willing to listen to them…  I’m always willing to look to see what I can do to see what I can do to see what can make their jobs easier or more efficient in order to deliver the services that we’re supposed to deliver.

My office is not off limits.  I believe in sitting out in the lobby.  I believe in staying connected… and making sure I know what their needs and concerns are.

This is not consistent whatsoever with what’s coming in from officers.  It’s not consistent with the kind of treatment outlined when you consider maybe a couple of hundred officers’ records disappearing and then threatened with loss of state certification.

This is not consistent with the use of “Rule of Five” authority which has been instituted for the first time in memory during the recent rounds of very unusual promotions, which Curt Walton and Human Resources has refused to review.  Now the RAC Sergeants who have taken tests to apply for the new Lieutenant position have been told the “Rule of Five” will be used on them as well.  CMPD Directives have not been written for this Lieutenant position—not that following Directives seems to matter in the least. 

Even more obvious is the bizarre imbalance in the testing for this round:  20% written and 80% oral.  In other words, the Chief and his close crew will use the “Rule of Five” provision to choose whomever they want to put in Lieutenant positions, leaving many RAC sergeants to be demoted, lose take-home cars (still looking for some of those cars…), and other pay and benefits and then report to the cronies of Monroe who are promoted.  Can you imagine anything worse for morale or management of a Police Department?  Is there any more unfair way to choose people to promote? 

When Brown asks about dealing with controversial issues, he talks about Marcus Jackson without naming him.  Judge for yourself if you find the answer to be consistent with actions:
Be honest about the issue.  Listen to people.  I’m not going to run and hide from any issue.  Good or bad.  Even when we had, you know, an officer out here violating women and so forth, we weren’t going to hide that issue.  We weren’t going to cover that issue up.  We were going to bring that issue to the forefront.  We were going to lead the charge in identifying victims, identifying exactly what this officer’s conduct was and with that I think it just allowed us to deal with, as painful and hurtful as it may have been, but it allowed us to move past it and to keep moving on.  To not talk about it and not be open and honest about it I think would have haunted us for years to come.  And it still may but I feel good that we were open and honest about it and that’s how we’re going to look at any situation dealing with our members or anybody else and think that’s what the public expects.

We’re not gonna close ranks.  We’re not gonna put up that thin blue line. We’re a part of the community.  So with that we want the community to have an opportunity, you know, to see what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.  You know giving access to people to see what we’re doing and experience some of the things that we’re doing I think those are good things.  I think people develop greater confidence when they understand what you’re doing and how you’re doing it vs. putting up a mask and saying you can‘t talk about we can’t tell you about this, I don’t necessarily agree with that.

More to come.

Here is the posting with full job requirements at the time Rodney Monroe applied for the job. 
 Police Chief

Charlotte – Mecklenburg Police Department

Charlotte, North Carolina

The Charlotte – Mecklenburg Police Department (2000 employees, 1627 sworn, $182M budget) is seeking a Chief of Police. Experience in: leadership and management of police organizations; fostering constructive strategic and operational innovation; fostering police-community trust; working with diverse communities, neighborhood organizations, and police employees; developing and using technological advances; budget preparation; developing employment – management collaboration; ability to collaborate with public agencies as member of the City Manager’s Executive Team. Applicants need public-service values, strong communication and “people” skills. Requires bachelor’s degree (master’s preferred) in public/business admin/law enforcement/criminal justice/related field; 5 years as a senior administrator in large departments. City residency within 6 months. Salary commensurate with experience.
Final Candidates may be introduced publicly!
If interested, visit our website for more details at: http:// .You may also submit resumes to: Waters Consulting, attention Mr. Chuck Rohre at: or fax to 972-481-1951.

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