No More Waiting For The Kropke Files.

Finally, after almost 50 days and countless attempts to block or delay fulfilling my public record requests Council finally relented and sent me a link to a Dropbox with 110 files relating to the Kropke incidents with Brea PD.

Yes, tonight. 110 files. Audio files and their transcriptions, video files, officer’s reports, email communications. The whole enchilada.

Because my request for police files succeeded in getting them publicly released, they are all available to you too. Well, they will be tomorrow.

Click the “Transparency” link on the city website home page and you’ll find the link. You’re welcome.

The substantiation of every allegation leveled at Ms. Kropke is there. Enjoy.

Outsiders attack Brea PD and Staff.

Anyone watching last night’s (08/18) City Council meeting would have heard our city clerk read four nasty emails from Ms. Kropke’s out-of town buddies. Pretty much that same crew she enlisted in her attempt to attack the Fanning legacy.

Notably, the spin doctors were Luciano C. Gomez, MD, Richard W. Hughes, Monica Lucero and the less than honorable John Briscoe. Not satisfied with how our City Clerk read his lengthy email, Mr. Briscoe jumped up and spoke during Matters from the Audience as well. Hey John… you only get one bite at the apple.

Speaking from the podium were Jeff LeTourneau, Vice-Chair, DPOC North Orange County, Gina Clayton-Tarvin, President of the Ocean View School District Board of Trustees (the irrational screamer) and double dipping John Briscoe, also a member of the Ocean View Board as well.

I won’t try to paraphrase the total BS these Kropke acolytes spewed. You’re going to be visiting the city website anyway, watch Matters From The Audience again. The groundless nature of their comments will be readily apparent.

Manley to the rescue.

Thankfully Dwight Manley rose to the occasion, motivating Bev Perry to follow suit, and handily put these small minded intruders in their place.

They pretty much debunked every lie and exposed the attack for what it was, a last ditched attempt at damage control for a political campaign on the verge of going completely off the rails.

Now… go back and read the 50+ comments on the last blog and remember that feeling when you’re filling out your ballot for NOCCCD District 7.

The good news?

A new precedent has been set regarding Brea’s public and police records. No longer just a word in a political slogan, there is a new transparency in Brea.

Epilogue: 08/20/20 1:30 p.m.

The Kropke data dump is three clicks beyond “Transparency” – this link should take you to the city’s statement which includes a clickable link to the Dropbox archives.

The Obligatory Caveat.

When the City Manager confirmed the data dump link for me last night he also gave me a paraphrased version of the Public Information Brief (above). There wasn’t a hint at what the city has included in the last two paragraphs.

I believe the statement and link were delayed being posted this morning after they read my closing comment, “A new precedent has been set regarding Brea’s public and police records. No longer just a word in a political slogan, there is a new transparency in Brea.”

So, to cover their ass, they added this…

”The release of exempt records in this situation is not a precedent. In different circumstances, exempt records may be withheld to the extent permitted by law.”

Mr. Gallardo, Mr, Boga and anyone else complicit in trying to continue withholding the truth from an information hungry public… screw you.

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.

Epilogue – 08/18/20

Ms.Kropke has purchased an endorsement from Women in Leadership (WIL). They define themselves as, “… a bi-partisan Political Action Committee formed in 1993 for the purpose of electing women candidates to local, regional and state-wide office who are dedicated to keeping access to full reproductive rights. We provide funds to candidates who believe that ensuring access to reproductive education and healthcare is essential to safeguarding rights for all women.”

Think of WIL as a virtual slate mailer where endorsements are bought and paid for. Whatever a candidate provides about their background appears to be published without any attempt to fact check or validate. How else would you explain this on their website?

Confirmed today, by the President of the Cooperstown National Baseball Hall of Fame, no team has ever been inducted and Keri Kropke has not been personally inducted or honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Public Records Retention?

retention

We lose a little piece of Brea every day.

Most folks, when asked, “What is a public record?” will respond with birth or death certificate, high school or college diploma, marriage license. And they’d be right.

The public records and records retention I’ll be talking about here are the documents that give us a data trail describing how Brea’s government has been managed and by whom.

And we have a problem. A massive sucking black hole sort of problem that is allowing hundreds, if not thousands, of important records to disappear without a trace… forever. Every day. We are bleeding out.

Records retention is complicated.

retentionI’ve got to do a little bird walking to establish the context here. I apologize in advance and hope you’ll have the patience to stick with this to the end.

Brea has had a Records Retention Schedule for years, last updated 18 months ago. It only addresses the old world of paper. It does classify all manner of city documents. 518 actually, over 12 departments.

Some types of documents are controlled by state law. Council agendas, staff reports, resolutions, ordinances and minutes are managed and retained by the City Clerk from start to finish.

Electronic copies of these documents are available online, only back to 2010, which is a problem Council should have addressed decades ago.The good news is that we still have 100+ years of records. The bad news is they’re in old boxes in a dusty storeroom somewhere in the bowels of the Civic Center. Thankfully, our City Clerk and her staff is perfectly willing to go dig up anything out of there if someone requests. Bless them.

Brea’s records retention: Land of the Lost!

retentionOur records retention policies never made the leap into the digital age. Even though all communications have long since moved from the IBM Selectric to personal computers and storage cost on the cloud is quite manageable.

Unfortunately we have no true electronic communications policy for email and other documents.

What we do have is a 14 page IT Department policy that makes the following reference, “Employees should be aware that all public records, whether on paper or computerized, are subject to the mandatory public disclosure requirements of the California Public Records Act.”

The policy does state, “E-mail messages sent and received, including any attachments, which messages can be considered an Official City Record, are to be stored in computer files or printed as a hard copy and filed in accordance with the Department’s Filing Policy.”

Except there are no Department Filing Policies. My very thorough CPRA request specifically included them but none were ever produced. Most other cities do have Department Filing Policies and were quick to send me copies.

This general IT Policy also says, “Although the IT Manager may automatically delete any data stored in the e-mail system that is 90 days old, individual employees are responsible for the management of their mailboxes and associated folders. In order to assure maximum efficiency in the operation of the e-mail system, staff is encouraged to delete e-mail messages that are not Official City Records from their in-boxes once they are no longer needed. If a hard copy of data which constitutes an Official City Record has been printed and filed in accordance with the City’s Record Retention Policy, the e-mail may be deleted.”

The 90 day black hole!

retentionWell, buried in that massive bowl of bureaucratic word salad is the heart of the problem. Everyone on staff has defaulted to the path of least resistance and has allowed the auto-delete function do all of the work.

I cannot fathom how many priceless pieces of Brea’s public records have been forever lost in this manner. So much of what we might really like to know about how things were done in the past is lost. What was the context of the moment and the state of mind of those making the decisions?

The “claimed” loss of important correspondence surrounding the city’s dismissal of all interests in the Gateway Center is a classic example. Falling back on the ubiquitous “there are no records responsive to your request” (get-out-of-jail-free card), staff used the 90 day black hole to dodge a bullet.

When pressed if such correspondence ever existed the City Manager, Bill Gallardo, and Director of Community Development, David Crabtree, went mute. Crickets.

That’s because when it becomes known that a public record is incomplete or missing, there are precedents requiring that record to be restored. That’s how we got the deleted consultant’s proposal back on the Hines Project.

The heart of the policy.

retentionAs an aside, most of the IT Policy (12.5 out of 14 pages) focuses upon contents, i.e. employee rights and limitations, prohibitions against dissemination of derogatory, defamatory, obscene, disrespectful, sexually explicit or sexually suggestive content. Prohibitions against electronic snooping or tampering.

Confidentiality and perception of privacy are covered as well as establishing the City’s right to monitor and record employee usage… and a page requiring all employees, by signature, to acknowledge they have received, read and fully understand the terms of this policy and agree to abide by them. The terms and potential disciplinary actions include termination and/or criminal or civil prosecution. Yeah, I’m sure every employee is fully onboard with this and understands every word.

Records retention is really two problems.

The first problem is to thoroughly and completely identify and categorize every typical form of city communications in a manner which separates important public records from the chaff of everyday business.

The second problem is the greater of the two.

The bigger problem is oversight and enforcement. How do you get 300 to 500 busy people to consistently follow the guidelines, almost on a daily basis, in a manner that successfully maintains the public record?

Lets take a lesson from our neighbors.

La Habra is one of only two cities to address the enforcement problem. They have established a Records Management Committee, designated representatives from each City department and the Records Management Staff, created for the purpose of administering and coordinating the Records Management Program and to maintain and control the disposition of records in the respective departments.

Yorba Linda’s recently updated their Records Retention Policy. The City Clerk’s office takes the lead role in coordinating with all City Departments on the timely and appropriate destruction of obsolete records according to the Records Retention Schedule.

Particularly important is this part of Yorba Linda’s policy, “Before any records can be purged, each department will complete the Authority to Destroy Obsolete Records form which identifies each record and will require sign-off from the City Attorney and Department Head. Certificates of Destruction will be issued and these shall be permanently kept on file with the office of the City Clerk.”

Why can’t we do that?

retention