Kropke Harasses Police, Drops The F-Bomb!

An anonymously sent email showed up in my inbox the evening of June 30, email from our interim Police Chief, Capt. Adam Hawley, to the City Manager and members of Council. Considering the topic, I’m surprised it doesn’t appear to have been sent to BOUSD Superintendant Dr. Brad Mason.

It was a courtesy report (sort of an executive summary) on department activities related to the BLM protest earlier that evening. You can get a copy here: Hawley Report.

For those not clicking the link, paragraph five was especially interesting. “It should be noted that although the group is small, they are vocal and noncompliant. Also, it was reported to me that one of the protestors is a BOUSD Board Member.”

Pressing down on the matter, it turned out to be Keri Kropke who allegedly repeatedly shouted “the F-bomb” at the officers monitoring the protesters.

Enraged, I swung into action.

I immediately fired off an email to Dr. Mason, District Superintendent, making what I believed to be a strong case to have this put on the board’s agenda for discussion. It seemed obvious to me that there was a conflict of interest… that there was a violation of board ethics as well.

Several hours later I got the obligatory brush off, suggesting the matter should be brought up during Public Comments rather than agendized as a discussion item.

I responded, pointing out how that approach seriously reduced the impact the topic deserved and, without being agendized, the result could only be zero response, zero action.

Adding insult to injury.

Two days later news of another clash between Ms. Kropke and the Brea PD surfaced. Paraphrased from my email to Dr. Mason, “BPD officers were dispatched to a theft call involving a homeless black male who allegedly stole food from a bakery. The suspect was detained at the Circle K/Union 76 gas station around 10:30 a.m., where Ms. Kropke happened to be as well.

She reportedly video recorded and harassed the officers as they detained the suspect. The bakery owner wanted to press charges, however, officers convinced the owner otherwise and released the suspect.

Ms. Kropke apparently continued to interrogate the officers about racial discrimination. (Both officers, by the way, are black.) She also said she was a “city official” and the officers would be hearing more from her.

She is not a “city” official, she is a school board member, which sounds to me like misrepresentation and misuse of authority.

The concerns I’ve raised are sufficiently grievous as to demand open discussion by the board. The sooner, the better. The pattern of behavior, which we’ve all endured for over eighteen months, must be publicly addressed and appropriate action taken.”

You can get a copy of the full email string here: Dr. Mason Communications.

Digging down for the facts.

An old hand at using the California Public Records Act (CPRA), my next step was to formally request from Capt. Hawley “copies of the audio recordings from the officers who had the encounter with Ms. Keri Kropke yesterday when she interfered with their interrogation…” and from Dr. Mason “By declaring herself as a “city” official, the video she produced became public record. I am making this formal CPRA request for an unedited/unaltered complete copy of the video captured by Ms. Kropke.”

I’m still waiting to hear back from Dr. Mason, presumably on Monday.

The response I got back from Capt. Hawley stated, “Per standard protocol, I will forward your PRA request to our City Clerk, Lillian Harris-Neal. In the future, please direct PRA requests directly to the City Clerk.”

Standard protocol? You, dear reader, deserve to read my response to that hogwash verbatim.

“Are you telling me that the City Clerk is the official custodian of BPD records, reports and evidence? Because, that is potentially what the audio recordings are, evidence. Where are incident reports filed?

I looked through the City Clerks Records Retention Schedule and find no mention of any police records outside of those connected possibly to email/electronic communications, budgeting and purchasing matters.

I do not believe that the City Clerk needs to be conscripted into this matter. Please, simply record digital audio files to DVD and mail them to me.”

(Sound of mic dropping) Guaranteed that will get a response on Monday as well. Again, you can get a copy of the full email string here: Mason/Hawley CPRA Requests.

Let’s hear you loud and clear!

Please, be bold enough to add your thoughts and opinions here. Public comments add an important dimension to One Brea.

Hopefully Brea First’s admin will pick this up for their Facebook Group (if you haven’t joined yet, now would be a perfect time to do so). You can also share on that platform as well.

Please, rattle Dr. Mason’s cage!

Add your voice to mine, whether you share my outrage or not, and send Dr. Mason an email (bmason@bousd.us). Be sure to let him know you want your communication read during Public Comments.

Epilogue – 07/07/20

BOTA announced today their endorsement of Keri Kropke’s reelection.

Excerpt from a BOTA update from President Pattie Romero distributed to members by Glenda Bartell, BOTA Secretary, “School Board Elections – As you know, a committee of BOTA volunteers took part in interviewing our school board candidates over a two day period. Each candidate was asked the same questions that were written by the interview committee. The candidates interviewed included Gail Lyons, Paul Ruiz, and Keri Kropke. After discussion, the committee unanimously recommended that BOTA endorse each candidate in their election.

There are a couple of big problems with this. Candidate documents won’t be available to take out for four more days. I don’t remember hearing about any public declaration of her intent to run but, as of today, Keri Kropke is not a candidate! No one is, officially. Is incumbency automatically indicative of running for reelection?

And exactly who is the union comparing her to if there are no other openly declared candidates? This paints a pretty clear picture of just how bright the BOTA leadership is. Their choice would never be my choice.

Vargas Dismissal

Please share your opinions with the school board, click this: PUBLIC COMMENT.

Epilogue – 07/15/20

Brea PD released a summary report of incidents between their officers and BOUSD Board Member Keri Kropke. You can read/download a copy of this public document here:  PD SUMMARY REPORT

Released last night, this report reads a little like Cliff Notes but fully vindicates all details in this blog and more. There was a third incident in the Brea Downtown that readers will find particularly interesting.

There is a 90% chance a more detailed sequel will be released and I will add it here. Kudos to Mayor Simonoff, members of Council supporting his demand for clarification and anyone else behind the scenes who pressed for full public disclosure.

Epilogue – 07/17/20 (8:00 p.m.)

Statement from Keri Kropke Regarding Letter from Brea Police Department to Mayor/Council: Emailed to the BOUSD Board and posted to her Facebook page and Instagram.

As a person who comes from both a union and law enforcement family, I am disheartened at the misinformation that has circulated regarding my interactions with the Brea Police Department.

-At no time have I ever used a racial slur or epithet toward a Brea Police Department officer, or anybody else. As explained in a separate letter being sent to the Chief of Police, I was providing an explanation of how a store owner yelled a racial slur at the subject being detained during the encounter described in the Police Department’s narrative sent to the Mayor and Council. How the repetition of what a store owner said became confused for my use of a racial slur toward an officer is bewildering. As mentioned at the School Board meeting, I am the single mother of an African American son and have never used a racial slur toward anyone.

-At no time during the Black Lives Matter march did I direct profanity toward a Brea Police Department officer. I was at the march with my son, to exercise my Constitutional right to free speech and assembly and to champion values I believe in. I have asked the Chief of Police for all recordings and to correct slanderous statements against me.

I have spent my career as an unapologetic champion for equality, diversity and inclusion and will continue to stand up for those values when threatened. I have always and continue to support the brave women and men in law enforcement, like my grandfather, who commit to community through constitutional policing, building community and racial harmony through transparency and effective partnerships.

Respectfully,
Keri Kropke – Brea Olinda School Board Member, Clerk

Epilogue – 08/07/20 (8:00 p.m.)

Contrary to the emotional assertion, at last night’s BOUSD board meeting, of working hard for Brea schools, parents and kids… Keri Kropke chose not to run for re-election to BOUSD.

This afternoon she completed qualification to run for District 7 of the NOCCCD and tonight has removed her BOUSD Official Facebook page.

A New Decade Begins.

In city government there is no sense of reciprocity. The wealth, the benefit, the power and authority only travels in one direction — like water downhill — away from the people. Anyone who’s ever taken the time to actually go to a meeting or catch it on streaming video, will confirm… the voice of the people falls on deaf ears.

Hurry Up And Wait.

Everything centers upon the immediate, the now, the tyranny of the urgent. There is never enough time or money to do anything right the first time but always seems to be enough of both to fix things later.

And, that balanced budget they constantly brag about is proving to be little more than a myth. It is a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul, all wrapped up a David Copperfield sort of accounting process that makes finding the truth about anything an impossibility.

Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain!

The recent discussion over water funds is a prime example. As Council wrestled over spending another $1.2 million on some mysterious form of Cal Domestic water shares, Bill Gallardo and Cindy Russell referred to three different “water funds” with distinctly different functions within the city budget.

The problem? There is only one water fund, the 420 Water Utility Fund. Throughout Council’s “discussion”, including an awkward effort by Steve Vargas to get to the bottom of things, no one on Council seemed aware that there is only one fund.

Here is five and a half minutes of “must see teevee”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=/LpP4TUE1Ecg

Digging Into The Details.

I looked at the documentation in the 2019-20 Operating Budget and confirmed several things about this strongly limited fund.

Described by Gallardo, in the opening, as an “enterprise” fund that can only be spent on water improvements, water capital, water purchases. “We cannot use it for anything not related to the water system because that is an enterprise fund… it is separate and distinct.

Hogwash! I discovered that every year several millions of dollars received from the sale of water are diverted to other funds! In the Adopted 2018-19 Operating Budget, $15,261,399 was diverted (transferred out) to these funds:

  • $118,895 to the Fixed Asset Replacement Fund (182) which provides funding for the replacement of City owned infrastructure, facilities and capital assets.
  • $289,667 to the Risk Management Fund (470) used to account for the costs of operating a self-insured program for general liability, workers compensation, long-term disability and unemployment compensation.
  • $0 to the Information Technology Fund (475) used to account for the operations of the City’s Internal Information Technology Division. (Skipped this year.)
  • $14,852,837 to the Capital Improvement Fund (510) used to account for the citywide costs of constructing street improvements, parks and other public improvements.

Did you read anything about water there? Yeah, me either. Someone has some very serious explaining to do.

Public Water Utility – Not For Profit?

Governed by the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission), a mutual water company is defined as any private not-for-profit corporation or association organized for the purposes of delivering water to its stockholders and members at cost, including use of works for conserving, treating and reclaiming water.

In 2019-20, the city received $24.4 million in revenue and expensed $22.5 million. That generated a “profit” of $1.8 million for the year. That’s after disbursing all transfers to other funds. Where did it go? Shouldn’t it have been refunded to rate payers? Certainly it didn’t find it’s way into offshore accounts.

Peeling the onion that is Cal Domestic Water Company and all of it’s holdings is long overdue. We’ll revisit that can of worms later.

Truth Or Consequences?

It is my very strong opinion that Council’s decisions are made with little concern for consequences other than those effecting re-elections or perpetuating those six figure public employee jobs with lavish pensions.

Facts and details are meticulously obscured to protect the perpetrators from discovery. The “insiders” have developed their own language, immortalized in policies, civil codes and laws.

The first response to any request from the public is, “No.” The NIH Factor (not invented here) is in full force. An unsupportable behavior from a staff that must always turn to expensive outside consultants to resolve even the most simple of tasks.

Until transparency and accountability become something more than campaign rhetoric, until the arc of history bends back again towards truth, justice and the American way — we will be forever trapped within the status quo.

Someone Find The Broom!

As 2019 draws to a close, there is growing rumbling about producing a sequel to Clean Sweep. The question becomes, how?

There are some who believe a combination of naturally ending terms and a recall could clear the dais and give Brea a fresh start. The problem is we have no idea who is lurking in the shadows to fill the void.

Frankly, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t” has kept many an inept council member on the job for multiple terms.

Maybe there is a less severe plan that would make more sense. I’m too annoyed at the moment to think about it.

Well… Happy New Year from Brea Matters. Let’s hope that 2020 is a prophetic reference to our vision for Brea’s future.

 

Birch Hills Golf Course, An Independent Legal Review.

Thankfully, for all of us, Dwight Manley sent a copy of the massive set of documents accompanying the October 1st item to accept title of the BHGC (Brea Hills Golf Course) to his attorney for review.

Richard Montevideo is the Chair of Rutan & Tucker, LLP’s Environmental Law Practice Group since 1992.

The review that follows was provided by him and shared with members of Council and the City Manager prior to last Tuesday’s circus of a Council meeting.

 

 

Property Transfer Document Review

There is a lot to unpack with these documents, but from my initial review of the Settlement Agreement, the AS IS Indemnity Agreement, the Guarantee, the Consolidated Area Easement Agreement and the Environmental CC&Rs, I have the following big picture comments from the perspective of protecting the City’s interest:

  1. For both legal and practical/business reasons, the City should clearly be preparing a formal Phase I Environmental Assessment Report on the Property before taking title to the same. The Phase I Report would provide some legal protection to the City from future enforcement action, and equally important, would consolidate all in one report, a description of the history operations that led to the contamination, a description of the type, levels and media of contamination, the remedial work that was conducted, the residual contamination that remains, and the risks posed by the residual contamination that remains.
  2. For all contamination on the Property, except for essentially contamination caused by Union Oil and that exceeds an existing cleanup standard, the City is indemnifying the seller, including Union Oil. As such, unless this provision is changed, the City should do everything it can to make sure it fully understands the nature and extent of the contamination, meaning conducting a Phase I Report and further evaluating the risks associated with the existing contamination for onsite workers and guests/invitees.
  3. The contaminants of concern at the Property, i.e., PCBs, dioxins, furans, arsenic among others, especially the dioxins, are significant carcinogens and thus the City should have the resulting risks associated with the residual contamination evaluated by a qualified environmental consultant, and presumably a toxicologist/risk assessor. If there is a problem in the future and someone is hurt or claims they are hurt from the contamination, it would be a PR problem for the City, in addition to being a significant legal problem.
  4. Pursuant to H&S code section 25359.7, the seller of the property is required to provide written notice of the existence or potential existence of all hazardous substances it knows or believes exists on the property to the buyer. In this case, I see no evidence of any due diligence disclosures that have been made to the City. Such due diligence reports/disclosures would provide a beginning point for the City to hire an environmental consultant to conduct a Phase I Report.
  5. The protections provided to the City under the various agreements are weak.   Essentially, the City is providing a full release of any all claims under Civil Code 1542, except for among other items, contamination caused by Union Oil that is above current regulatory agency action levels. Thus, if the cleanup standards change in the future, the City is on the hook for addressing the contamination. And in fact, DTSC is currently reviewing and will soon be issuing new guidance/policy on vapor intrusion standards, which may or may not impact the Property, depending on the nature of any volatile organic compounds on the site and their location.
  6. If a problem arises in the future resulting from existing contamination found to exceed existing cleanup standards (which is the only scenario requiring additional work by Union Oil), even then there is no direct remediation covenant that extends to the City. Instead, the City only has a general indemnity to rely upon and will need to show it has suffered some Loss before the general indemnity will kick in. in short, if there is some existing contamination exceeding existing/current cleanup standards, the City will not be able to require Union Oil to clean up the contamination. Normally, in a situation like this, you would negotiate a Remediation Covenant in the Agreement triggering an automatic cleanup obligation.
  7. Stormwater runoff, including dry weather runoff, is a significant issue in California, and golf courses can be big offenders of runoff limits, especially for nitrates, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. From the documentation provided, it is unclear whether the City has hired anyone to evaluate the stormwater runoff compliance issues, but it is clear that the City will be accepting this obligation.
  8. A certain quantity of contamination was buried within the Consolidated area, which then has resulted in a recorded set of Environmental CC&R imposed on this property. The City should make sure that its current and future use of the Consolidated area will not violate these restrictions. This is where again a Phase I Report would be helpful/important.
  9. The AS IS/Indemnity Agreement the City is committing to arbitration and waiving its right to a jury trial.
  10. The “Guarantee” provided by Union Oil is NOT a separate indemnity, but nothing more than Union Oil guarantying the very limited indemnity provided in the AS IS Indemnity agreement.
  11. The Guarantee agreement contains a Confidentiality clause which is unenforceable or otherwise irrelevant in this context when it is being provided for the benefit of a public agency. Either way, it looks bad from the City’s perspective and makes no sense.

I do not know the business/financial benefits of the transaction from the City’s perspective, but from a pure legal and environmental risk perspective, there are a number of issues that the City should take a second look at.

Also note, that the above are the larger issues with the agreements as written, but there are many more. The agreements appear to me to be seller oriented.

A “Reasonable Person” Responds.

I’ve made no attempt to distill Mr. Montevideo’s observations into lay language. As lawyers are apt to say, these remarks are understandable by “any reasonable person” – no reason for me to butt in.

I’ll close by simply saying this, all concerned… Council, Staff, “we the people”, have only a fraction of the facts and information needed to make a prudent decision in this matter.

By failing to admit their error, by not putting on the brakes to give much closer scrutiny to the details and implications of a decision this huge… Council fails us miserably.