OVERSIGHT DESPERATELY NEEDED CITY MANAGER/POLICE
Maybe the Federal Scrutiny that should come with the Democratic National Convention 2012 coming to Charlotte will be exactly what the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department needs.
Yesterday’s article in the Charlotte Observer made it crystal clear that most of City Council and the Mayor are barely paying attention to what City Manager Curt Walton is doing, especially as it relates to oversight of the police department.
More disturbing, those who commented said they didn’t mind that they had no idea what they had done with their votes or what was going on.
The Observer article states that DNC purchases won’t be coming before a vote or include spending disclosures, which would be the normal procedure, and that the full Council approved this plan to leave the public AND City Council members completely in the dark.
They voted to give City Manager absolute power over DNC contracting decisions with no oversight. Even more disturbing, most say they have no memory of doing so. And it gets worse (if that’s possible): They say they’re fine with not remembering granting this absolute power to operate in secrecy with $50 Million to form a police state in any way Walton and his sidekick Rodney Monroe see fit.
The Observer quotes Santiago Corrada, Chief of Staff for Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, as saying by contrast, “We have a vetting process for those purchases."
Tracy Montross, assistant for Mayor Anthony Foxx, released a statement purportedly from Foxx which said “I am not bothered by the discretion given to the City Manager unanimously in a vote by the last City Council. As the Convention draws closer, we will need to be expeditious in decision making. Council members know that they are welcome to address any questions to the City manager at any time.”
After what happened with Foxx’s repeated demands through Montross for upgraded travel payments for his trip to China at the end of the year, which he later denied knowing about, it seems Council members were not free to ask any questions at all of the City Manager. When Andy Dulin tried to ask for explanations of what the Mayor knew and when he knew it, as well as the implications for budgeting for the organization that had received demands, the employees of the City Manager said “no, we won’t tell you” (paraphrased). That was concerning plane tickets and a much smaller budget than a $50 Million security grant.
Republican City Council member Warren Cooksey told the Observer he didn't realize he had voted in February 2011 to give Walton leeway to grant contracts. He said in retrospect that might not have been the best decision, and that such police spending should be debated in a public forum. "We are relying on trust," Cooksey said.
Council member David Howard, who is also a Democrat, said he didn't realize he had voted to give the manager spending power. But he's OK with the decision. "I definitely don't remember that vote, but it doesn't bother me," Howard said. He added it's important to give the manager authority to act quickly because the DNC is so complex and important... If something goes wrong, we won't care about how we did it."
Andy Dulin, the only other Republican on council, said he doesn't remember voting to give the manager spending power. Dulin said he trusts Walton to "make the right purchases," but said there should be more transparency. "For intellectual purposes I would like to know what we purchase," Dulin said. "Some of it would be very interesting to taxpayers."
Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon, a Democrat, said he was OK with the purchases not coming before a public vote because he doesn't want protestors to know what equipment the police will be using.
Democrat John Autry, who was elected to council in November, said he didn't want to question the previous council's vote. But he said the police purchases should come before council and be scrutinized by elected officials and the public.
The Observer article went on to give this conflicting information from the City:
· Walton said Friday that the city is putting the DNC police purchases out to bid.
· Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann said last week one reason the council gave the manager power to grant contracts was for greater speed and flexibility. Hagemann said the information, however, was public.
· But the CMPD has refused to disclose what it is buying.
So, is the information public or do they have a right to keep it secret and let one man make all the calls on $50 Million in contracts? The City Attorney rightly stated it is public information, but now what will he do to enforce that?
OVERSIGHT, POLICE PERSONNEL and CONTRACTS
Current investigations into EEOC practices by Police Chief Rodney Monroe will be revealing as personnel are compelled and able to give information regarding the operations of the department.
A judge has already ruled against Chief Monroe, finding he did not follow due process in the case of Sgt. Tammy Hatley.
IA investigations and background checks that have been initiated on Monroe but not necessarily completed should be verified. All of the open questions should not be left open, up through and including the representations Monroe made about his educational background and even the experience he has claimed with heading security for national events in Washington, D.C.
There was lack of attention or acquiescence by Walton, Mayor and City Council at the time Monroe was hired—nobody paying attention to his background check either—we need to see what was in it. WBTV just aired this editorial that he should at least finish his degree, which was a requirement for the job (better four years late than never).
Nobody paid any attention to Monroe’s statements in 2009 that he thought Predictive Analytics would be the wave of the future and something to investigate, when in fact Monroe already had plenty of experience in that area. He had run a nearly identical computer program and done advertising for the same company who was subsequently awarded a multi-million dollar contract here in Charlotte back when he was Chief of Police in Richmond, VA. That is a business relationship that needs to be explored. There are others as well.
MORE RECENT QUESTIONABLE PERSONNEL PROCEDURES:
The Civil Service Board is made up of seven members: three appointed by the Mayor, four appointed by the City Council.
Their duties include
· Reviewing and approving or rejecting applications for positions in both the Police and Fire Departments.
· Reviewing and approving or rejecting promotions in both the Police and Fire Departments.
· Holding hearings for employees in both departments charged with violations
Chief Monroe called a special meeting of the Civil Service Board on Tuesday (January 24th, 2012) for the sole purpose of putting forth promotions. Cedarposts reported on the secretly-held meeting which lasted under 15 minutes. There was no other business conducted and a strange internal announcement was made within CMPD that there would be a promotion ceremony on Friday, but no names were given (as they normally would be). Perhaps the names on the list would cause disruption among rank and file.
Civil Service Board Agenda
January 24, 2012
CMGC, Room 701
January 24, 2012
CMGC, Room 701
1. Call Meeting to Order
2. Approve Agenda
3. Approve Police Promotions
Why, in this time where budgets are short and Monroe and City Manager Curt Walton keep telling the officers on the street there’s no money for raises would there be an emergency need to promote what is rumored to be brass-level employees—again? And why is Monroe doing it in secret, special manner again? Were these jobs vetted and was everyone considered according to experience, accomplishments, ability to lead, integrity, and other fair factors?
It seems if that were the case, there wouldn’t be a need to do it in a secret way.
The writer of Cedarposts made this editorial suggestion about the suggested promotion this week of Major Victoria D. Foster to Deputy Chief Foster, after explaining that she has been earning only $2,000 less per year than Deputy Chief pay anyway—way out of line than her “peers” as Major:
Those who know Chief Monroe report that while Foster's promotion to DC had been promised long ago that Chief had repeatedly looked for a solid reason to promote her. As months passed he became more frustrated finally just opting to press the issue.
PROBLEMS WITH BACKGROUND CHECKS?
Looking back at regular meetings of the Civil Review Board, there doesn’t seem to be much time devoted to qualifications considering how critical the backgrounds and qualifications of our Fire and Police Civil Servants are.
It also seems that what used to be a solid review of backgrounds may now be relegated to a review of summaries put forth by recruiters, but it is difficult to tell.
At one meeting last year, the CRB reviewed 35 recruits, went into closed session “to consider the qualifications, competence and fitness of prospective Police applicants” for three candidates (indicating a possible hitch in the application), whom they ultimately approved, approved minutes from previous meeting, discussed “numerous typos evident in the packets”, “provided a weighted explanation of the factors involved in the police recruit hiring process”, explained how many recruits would be in the next class, and “summarized the ethnic diversity of the class.” There was an update on upcoming hearings.
All of this was accomplished in 32 minutes.
Should the public be surprised at the quality level of SOME of the police recruits and the police force we are left with, considering the depth of review associated?
What was the “weighted explanation of the factors involved in the police recruit hiring process?” The document that is called the MINUTES of the meeting is not actually minutes of the meeting. It is instead a sort of running commentary on what happened. There is no explanation, for example, on what factors are receiving extra weight in the recruitment process. Are there “weighted factors” involved in promotion decisions as well?
For years, Monroe and his recruiting staff have denied that any standards have been lowered to allow any recruits into the Police Academy. This statement and others in the partial minutes call that into question.
There is no identifying name of the company responsible for doing background checks, or background check transcripts, or both—with numerous typos. There’s no statement on exactly what the typos were about, how serious the implications of mistakes, or how they were discovered. Are they about something significant? Have they been corrected? Have the checks been improved or the company replaced? Is anyone reviewing the packets? Or are these among the ones Monroe and DC Graue say disappeared from the Academy last year?
. . .
If you have read any other posts by citynewswatch, this next statement will be superfluous, but will be stated nonetheless: There are many, many highly-qualified, highly-trained, very capable, thoughtful, brave, intelligent, caring men and women who work long hours in difficult and often life-threatening conditions who are sacrificing for each of us. That sacrifice is appreciated and admired without reservation.
Even officers working who haven’t earned all the other accolades are working in the same unpredictable and dangerous conditions as officers who deserve the respect and trust that always used to come automatically with a badge.
When standards are lowered, the same officers who shouldn’t be out there must be relied on not just to protect and serve citizens, but each other.
If officers think they’re keeping their collective jobs safe by keeping the thin blue line intact, consider what happens when you call for backup.
When the Chief of Police keeps making end-runs around the process:
· by making unprecedented use of the “Rule of Fives” to choose among officers that wouldn’t normally have been promoted,
· by setting up tests to be 20% written and 80% oral with his already-chosen staff,
· by having been proven in court to deny due process to his RAC Sgt (whom he previously credited with what he has claimed are significant drops in crime he has achieved),
· and more issues among his staff…
well, it’s just not good for morale. And that’s not good for officer safety. And that’s not good for anyone’s safety.
MORE STRANGE MEETINGS
At the CRB meeting on March 1, 2011, Dan Tran and another officer were introduced as new members of the Recruiting Staff. These introductions and the review and approval of 14 new police recruits took less than 11 minutes. Dan Tran has now been cited for termination as of December 22nd, 2011, and will be able to appeal to this same Review Board, but was arrested in Lowell, Massachusetts for what police say was assault with a dangerous weapon.
Another really strange meeting was called on January 4, 2011 and lasted only 4 minutes, during which two officers were approved to be promoted to Sergeant, but Deputy Chief Graue explained that these along with others recently approved by the board would take place some time in the near future—maybe in February. It’s unclear whether this was a management flub that they weren’t included earlier or some other reason.
Civil Service Board minutes on June 7, 2011 include discussion about the unacceptable number of typos in the material brought by the Police Recruitment Division regarding the background of each candidate. “Mr. Anderson wanted the out-sourced vendor who provides these packets to provide work free of errors.”
During the July 5, 2011 meeting, Captain Smith provided race and gender information for all applicants. One applicant was presented in October, but had been presented in September as well. No explanation was given. Two applicants were pulled and a motion made “to go into closed session, pursuant to subsection (a)(6) of NC General 143-318.11 to consider the qualifications, competence and fitness of prospective Police applicants,” which usually indicates some potential problem with their employment. However, after returning from closed session, both applicants were approved.
There are other notes of officers with disciplinary actions and deferred hearings.
IS SUFFICIENT REVIEW AND A GOOD ENOUGH POOL OF RECRUITS BEING PRESENTED?
WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA THAT ARE “WEIGHTED” DIFFERENTLY FROM BEFORE, AND HOW DOES THAT AFFECT RECRUITING AND PROMOTIONS?
The total time taken to discuss and review the issues is unnerving. The mistakes in the background information presented by the recruiting department are troubling. The unexpected meetings for special promotions when Chief Monroe decides there should be extra promotions are a concern.
What oversight is there of the Police Department activities?
City Manager Curt Walton is supposed to oversee Monroe’s actions, and the City Council and Mayor are supposed to oversee what Walton is doing. But we saw clearly in referenced Charlotte Observer that most of the City Council is barely paying attention to the votes they’re casting, the power they’re giving away, the money they’re committing, or any actions Curt Walton is taking—particularly when it comes to Rodney Monroe.
Several also said they didn’t mind that they weren’t paying any attention and didn’t know what was going on. They said it was “a matter of trust” with Walton.
Blind trust is not the answer. The stupefying responses of City Council regarding out-of-control, secretive spending of $50 Million by the Police Department after some of them “realized” they had voted to give Walton absolute power to cede contracts in secret any way he sees fit should not be tolerated by Charlotte.
Allowing the rest of Charlotte’s Police Department operate in total secrecy with no oversight in personnel matters, no oversight in numerous contract issues, no oversight in unusual “charity” setups with money by the Chief and his cohorts, no oversight for the 50 brand new police cars CMPD stated are missing, no oversight for the hundreds of police officers’ personal records CMPD has admitted are missing from the Police Academy, and more.
Maybe we know the answer for this now: City Council is not paying attention, and they say they’re fine with that.