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.

Gateway Center: Kiss Your Assets Goodbye.

In October 1991 the Gateway Center at Brea Blvd. and Imperial was launched as one of Brea’s first RDA projects. On March 7, 2017 the City Council, acting as the Successor Agency, terminated 100% of the city’s interests in the center in exchange for a check in the amount of $7.8 million dollars.

But wait… there’s more. Brea had to pass this revenue on to the Orange County Auditor-Controller to pay off all taxing entities (other agencies having a right to a portion of the proceeds). The City netted only $1.2 million. I’ll explain later where it went.

Not such a good deal.

In simple terms, staff provided Council with their recommendations, backed by just a 5 page Memorandum by Keyser-Marston, extolling what a great deal this was.

Since 2012 we’ve received an average of $354K annually from rental income (subject to the same pay off to all taxing entities). This one time payout would generate around 3.5 years income.

Instead, why didn’t we opt to continue collecting annual rent? Our participation agreement ran another 30 years… until 2048. Rents would have more than doubled by then but Keyser-Marston left that out.

What staff and Keyser-Marston also failed to disclose to Council was that we had a 25% equity stake in the Gateway Center. It would be triggered by either a refinancing or a sale (full or partial) of the property.

In 2005 Watt-Craig Associates Limited Partnership, per the timeline provided by staff, “sold majority stake in ownership to AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust (AFL-CIO) but continues to retain a small portion of the partnership interest.”

Staff’s claim, when pressed on the matter, is that only a 100% sale would trigger a payout to the city. Watt-Craig retained a 1% stake in Gateway. Who was the rocket scientist that thought this was okay and that we should walk away from around $16.2 million?

Conservatively, the Gateway Center is worth about $80 million… you do the math. Termination of the city’s interest robbed us of $20 million if the property sold today.

Who knows how much our equity would be worth if we simply let it ride?

You can fool some of the people…

Did no one on Council see these red flags? No, because they assumed staff had provided the full scoop. The deception of Council was anchored in their belief that the property owner, Watt-Craig Associates LP, had opened the discussion of a termination agreement.

Not so, even though the staff report, the Keyser-Marston memorandum, the fancy always to be trusted PowerPoint presentation and the Successor Agency Resolution SA 2017-02 all stated otherwise, “The Owner is proposing the buyout of the Successor Agency’s interest…”

It was disclosed, early last week, that this process was initiated by our Director of Development, David Crabtree, presumably at the suggestion of City Manager Bill Gallardo. It was also disclosed that protracted negotiations followed which lead to staff’s recommendations.

From where I sit, this smacks of premeditation and reinforces the notion that this was all fabricated to generate the revenue needed to balance an otherwise upside-down budget (see below).

I’ve made a series of thorough CPRA requests for all communications and documents relating to the termination of our participation in the Gateway Center project. The City’s initial response last week overlooked numerous responsive documents and the City Clerk, Lillian Harris-Neal, has promised to provide them as quickly as she can.

gatewayFollow the money.

You can’t. As is the custom, the revenue was dumped into the General fund where it vanished into thin air. Well, sort of.

It had been determined that the FY2016-17 budget, thanks to declining sales tax revenue, was coming up short somewhere between $800K and $1M – an alarming dilemma for a city that had “always” balanced it’s budget.

Subsequently, unanticipated revenue miraculously offset the shortfall and… voila, the budget was balanced after all. I can’t help but wonder how many preceding “balanced” budgets benefitted from similar fiscal skullduggery.

A couple more scary thoughts.

Not one of Brea’s commissions or committees has a resident member with expertise in commercial real estate or the taxing authorities.

Staff has been careful to keep City Treasurer Rios, Planning Commissioners McGrade and Ullrich (both with deep experience in commercial real estate and the taxing authorities) as much in the dark as they have Council.

We own Embassy Suites and lease land. Staff is contemplating to sell off another “legacy “ asset!

Where does this leave us today?

In deep shite. We have a new budget about to be proposed in the face of continued revenue decline.

Cuts have been made, without clear validation as to how and where considering that the city’s “soft cost” approach to accounting fails to consider labor as a cost.

Many fees have been increased thanks to the city’s ability to calculate labor and overhead down to an hourly rate.

Hang on… am I the only one who sees the contradiction? The city needs to convert to a true cost accounting system and to stop trying to solve the reduced income situation by handing is off to taxpayers to pony up even more.

Time to put on the brakes!

A FY2018-19 operating budget would go into effect in about 47 days. I’ve seen no report from that new fancy special strategic budget oversight committee.

The City Treasurer, Rick Rios, who has leveraged California statutes governing the authority and scope of responsibilities of an elected City Treasurer to reconstitute the office’s role as fiscal watchdog, has yet to see a single page of a proposed budget.

It’s time to put a halt to City Staff’s Ready-Fire-Aim approach to managing city business.

I suggest that Council approves a 30 day emergency stay by employing the proposed operating budget for the month of June only.

This breathing room will allow for Council to give staff more finite instruction, for the Budget Oversight Committee to actually do some oversight and give the City Treasurer the time and opportunity to do the job we elected him to do.

rock the boat

I’m Still Mad As Hell.

mad as hellLast week I shared a couple of issues I was having with how the City Attorney conducted themselves. Within moments of hitting the publish button two amazingly coincidental revelations were communicated to me.

Remarkably, after languishing on the bottom of the City Attorney’s in basket for over nine months, the Records Retention Schedule update miraculously was returned to the City Manager… done. Reviewed.

Now it can move on to Council for approval. Good news.

The other news, regarding amending the Brea Municipal Code, was unfortunately bad. Apparently, just two weeks ago, the Council reversed it’s majority support to revise the code to eliminate both unilateral dismissal by the appointing Council member and the inherent threat of violating the Constitutional rights of due process when dismissing Commissioner and Committee members.

Everything was on track since late January. The City Manager reconfirmed he was keeping pressure on the City Attorney… four times over five months. The goal: to remove portions of the BMC that violate the Constitutional right to due process of Commissioners and Committee members.

These coincidences are anything but.

This abrupt about face, I believe, is the result of heavy lobbying by the City Attorney not to “let that damned blogger tell us what to do.” After all, lawyers by their very nature are adversarial. They’re groomed to instantly take issue with every challenge. Their win-at-all-costs mentality causes them to spend far more time formulating their rebuttals than listening to the opposition.

I can just picture it. As soon as “Poking Holes In Markman & Flower” was published the behind-the-scenes battle to discredit and dismiss “that geezer on social media” went into overdrive.

The underlying theme to the City Attorney’s objection was expressed thus, “The odds this problem might ever occur again or that we would face due process litigation even in the distant future is so limited it’s a waste of time and energy to address Mr. Clark’s concerns.”

Really? Please explain to me when it is okay not to do the right thing because it’s too difficult or because the odds of getting caught are so slim.

When is due process not due process?

mad as hellNever. I believe the Constitutional protection of due process cannot be arbitrarily applied. The City Attorney also contends that due process only applies to city employees. If the founding fathers included a fair number of HR professionals, maybe that theory would hold water.

Well Mr. Markman, it doesn’t.

While there are due process issues associated with property rights, in this case retirement benefits, the violations I’m talking about have nothing to do with property.

I pointed out clearly to Council the procedural and substantive violations triggered by the BMC, specifically as it relates to prior notice, means of appeal and definition of duties. The BMC, in defining how a Commission or Committee member may be dismissed, does not include any provision for proper notice, a pathway for appeal nor does it define a single duty. No job description.

Here’s my challenge.

cityMy closing question to Mayor Hupp and MPT Parker, when we met on January 9, went something like this…

city“Are you telling me that, when I raised my hand and took the oath of office to support the Constitutions of the United States of America and the State of California (no mention of the Brea Municipal Code by the way) that in the same breath I gave up all rights they provide?”

I’m still waiting for an answer. I’d interpreted their willingness to task the City Attorney with drafting amendments confirmation of their rejection of the idea… that civically minded folks would even consider giving up their Constitutional rights.

I know more than a few Commissioners and Committee members who might not have been so quick to raise their hands… to volunteer their time and energy in community service. I suspect many other Breans, considering applying for an appointment, will reconsider.

We should care about process and the rule of law.

This is a request to Council to reject the adversarial nonsense coming from the City Attorney and to put the amendments recommended on the General Session agenda in the very near future. You knew it was the right thing to do before…