Goodbye Yorba Linda.

Yellow TapeYesterday, January 3rd, the City of Brea distributed a press release announcing that the delivery of police services to Yorba Linda would cease at midnight tomorrow night. That’s the boots on the ground. Dispatch Services will follow later Saturday morning.

OC_logoYorba Linda, using the OCAlert system, informed all Yorba LInda residents of the transition on Wednesday, January 2nd, but you can’t find the press release on the Brea city website anywhere.

According to the release, “Other terms and conditions affecting the early termination of the law enforcement services agreement are still being worked out.” The release doesn’t clarify what this means. Are we on the hook for a big cash settlement or two? Are we giving away a fleet of cars and motorcycles? Could there still remain a lingering threat of litigation?

Using the excuse that the OCSD’s premature hiring of 21 Brea officers (likely half of the force assigned to Yorba Linda) caused the Brea PD great harm and drastically reduced their ability to live up to the contract, Brea seems to have leveraged a threatened lawsuit into an early out agreement.

LightsLooking for more details?

Brea Matters has covered this story from the beginning in posts published on December 17 and December 21.

In response to the OCR article on December 19 “Yorba Linda will stick with sheriff’s contract” I commented, “Since, according to Mr. Schwing, the OCSD has everything in line to take over duties, i.e. cars and pirated officers, except for a couple of wall lockers, would you mind if Brea pulls the plug on December 31?

People scoffed at my comment saying that such a quick exit was impossible, but it seems that I was more right than wrong. Can I get a big… I told you so?

The OCR also hinted at the early exit on December 21st as well, citing, “The Orange County Sheriff’s Department is now working on a plan to expedite its takeover of police services in the city, said Capt. Steve Doan of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The department could be in charge of patrolling the 20-square-mile city by Jan. 5.”

NBC-LA: New Sheriff In Town.

In case you didn’t quite catch it, Mayor Garcia said, “I think any community that isn’t looking at that is woefully not looking at the train coming down the tracks.” Thanks for clearing that up, Mister Mayor.

Staff as sneaky as ever.

So… if we all pretty much saw the handwriting on the wall, why has Brea waited until now to even whisper about it? Because Brea operates with a culture of secrecy and it’s greatest fear is that residents will actually want to know what’s going on and, heaven forbid, dictate what they prefer!

BREA-YLThe closing comment in the news release stated, “A Brea only Police Department increases budgeted costs by approximately $2.5 million annually due to the loss of economies of scale and sharing of command positions with the City of Yorba Linda.  The budget increase is anticipated to be partially offset by new city revenues stemming from a recent boost in the economy combined with cost savings from a major, structural city reorganization implemented at the beginning of the Great Recession.”

What! Are you kidding me?

Not a loss due to economies of scale, a loss due to the sudden and unanticipated termination of what must have been a very lucrative contract.

We didn’t share command staff, we charged Yorba Linda an arm and a leg for command support. Are they thinking of the Fire Department’s relationship with Fullerton? (How’s that going by the way?)

And do they really think we’re that stupid to buy off on their “recent boost in the economy” line? C’mon, what’s in your wallet?

And what “structural city reorganization implemented at the beginning of the Great Recession” are they talking about? The one where the WPA bailed us out or the one where Tim O’Donnell and senior city staff got big fat raises?

Hard to tell if they’re referring to the “New Deal” or the same ol’ crap!

I don’t know about you, but that obnoxious O’Donnellism, “Leadership is disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb.” seems to have been the underlying mantra of staff and council for at least a decade or more.

Start doing things for us Tim, not to us.

Ending the costly relationship with Yorba Linda early makes sense and saves us money, funds we’ll need to offset rising costs to police our own neighborhoods. But I’m still hot under the collar that Brea took so long to offer this half hearted half baloney attempt at keeping us informed.

Where is Measure U now that we need it? Oh, you didn’t pass it. Maybe next time.

elephant2

The other elephant in the room.

Brea PD Update – Final Edition

A little Yorba Linda history.

They (Schwing, Anderson and Rikel) blindsided fellow Yorba Linda council members and their city manager, and fired Brea.

apples-oranges_150They solicited bids. Their RFP couldn’t describe the lemon they wanted, so they got handed apples and oranges instead. They crunched numbers. They argued for months, strung out between political issues and personal agendas.

The people waded in, as did the unions and other special interest groups. It got nasty… really nasty.

Finally, on April 24th, after months of bickering and infighting, hours of heated public comment… sometime just before dawn, they came to a conclusion. The law enforcement contract that had been with Brea for 42 years would be given to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

And, exhausted, everyone went home.

Mayor Lindsey reopens the can of worms.

YL_councilUnsatisfied that the right decision was made the first time and tempted by the possibility that a few more bucks might be saved, Yorba linda’s new Mayor reopened the can of worms and the whole ugly process started over.

Deja vu all over again.

In addition to revisiting the apples and oranges problem, they wrestled with the differences between what was legal and what was ethical. One big issue, OCSD’s alleged premature conscription of over 20 Brea cops, severely crippling the agency they were to replace.

Another issue, law suits.

Speculation, in both Yorba Linda and Brea ran rampant. Truth be told, no one really knew where a suit might emerge, against whom, for what and what the damages sought might be (Brea’s final offer from very lame duck Mayor Schweitzer promised to cover all of Yorba Linda’s damages from any suit by the county should they choose to reinstate Brea’s contract).

Finally… another final decision.

YL_vote12/4 – Once again the people were heard, the hour got late, the meeting adjourned without conclusion and was reconvened last night, 12/18. More blah, blah, blah and yadda, yadda, yadda.

At last cooler heads prevailed and Yorba Linda decided the divorce was final, O’Donnell limped away, beaten at his own game again.

Where do we go from here?

Clearly Yorba Linda is now fully Yorba Linda’s problem. Like I said, they made their bed, they can lie in it. My lingering concern, and the concern of most Breans, is how will Brea pick up the pieces and rebuild a police department around a new Brea only model?

The Chief responds.

BREA-YLI contacted Chief Conklin, expressing our concerns, to which he replied, “It is a bit early to comment on the status of the police department, however, following the April 24th decision by the Yorba Linda City Council to change providers my command staff, other city staff and I spent many long hours in meetings over several months and developed a plan for a new Brea “specific” Police Department. I’m confident it will not only maintain, but will enhance law enforcement service to the City of Brea.”

Some final key points.

  • The 28+ sworn officers leaving the department in recent months have no impact on building the “Brea Only” department. They worked in Yorba Linda. Other than those who’ve retired, the balance are either employed by the OCSD or another jurisdiction.
  • Detectives and motor officers pulling extra duty and being paid overtime will be a thing of the past the moment we hand the keys over to OCSD. That’s a savings of roughly $35K per pay period.
  • Brea’s “in town” force, for several years, hovered around 60 sworn officers. There are currently 62 sworn officers on duty. There are neither hirings or layoffs in the future for Brea PD. Brea is fully staffed and without vacancies.
  • There is bound to be some increase in the police budget post the Yorba Linda contract, but the full extent is still uncertain.  The hope would be that whatever incremental cost increase the “new” Brea PD requires it will be within the realm of affordability, allowing Brea to live within it’s means..
  • Brea, Fullerton, La Habra, and Buena Park are studying the possibilities of regionalization. The study is examining everything from a full consolidation to simply the sharing of specific police services. The city of Placentia is also involved, but their interest is limited to studying the creation of a regional dispatch/communication center.

What’s the bottom line?

Brea will get past this. The police department will emerge from the fracas with Yorba Linda virtually unscathed and Breans can sleep well at night. The city may have to do a little belt tightening to make things work, but this isn’t turning out to be the fiscal catastrophe of Mayan proportions many thought would occur.

And the city manager will need to do a lot of soul searching if he wants to hang on to the plum position he now enjoys. It won’t take too many more episodes like the OCFA and OCSD affairs, the tax payor funded vacation to South Korea and Japan with Schweitzer and Murdock or his ostensible disregard for sound business practices before rising public outcry will be asking Council to seek other options besides the continued reign of Tim O’Donnell.

(May 19, 2013) – With public interest and discussions ramping up on budget issues, notably Brea’s unfunded pension liabilities and appropriate disposition of the 560 fund, there is a growing case for taking a hard look at what happened here.  Is the loss of the Yorba Linda contract symptomatic of the fiscal mismanagement that leads to terminations?  A pattern of arrogant and presumptive behavior, not beneficial to the community at all, would be grounds for termination as far as I’m concerned.

 

Brea PD Update

LightsI received an interesting and, in many ways thought provoking comment, from a Yorba Linda resident named Shawn. He raised several issues, posed several questions, all of which deserved more exposure than to be buried at the bottom of an older post.

Here is what Shawn wrote:

OSCDAfter reading your blog I became concerned for my city and talked to some police officers and detectives I know with Brea, now with OCSD. Here is what I learned:

  • The officers that left for the OCSD were offered $10,000 to stay with Brea until the end of the contract with Yorba Linda. Many of the officers also had the opportuity to stay employed by the city of Brea. Most, if not all, left because they felt there was more benefit going early than there was staying in Brea, risking their careers with the issues in Brea.
  • The officers that retired didn’t leave because they were nice or because they felt it was the right thing to do. They left because Brea gave them between $25,000 and $50,000 to retire.
  • Detectives and motor officers assigned to Brea are working patrol. Detectives and motor officers assigned to Yorba Linda are handling duties as normal. That means Brea cases sit without investigation and Brea traffic, during the busiest time of year, goes without adequate enforcement. Everything in Yorba Linda is handled promptly as required by contract.
  • I wouldn’t say there is “no chance” Yorba Linda goes back to Brea for police services. After Brea has officially offered to cover all costs associated with Yorba Linda’s breaking the contract with OCSD, I am guessing Yorba Linda will consider anything.
  • I hope Brea’s managers see the errors of their ways soon and take the proper approach to making sure our communities are safe rather than having officers work patrol that haven’t responded to a radio call in 20+ years.

Yellow TapeA well deserved response.

BREA-YLShawn covered a lot of ground and I appreciate his adding his two cents. His observations, questions and opinions more than deserve a response.

  • I’m still trying to uncover whether correspondence from the OCSD to Brea cops on the bubble threatened to rescind their offer to hire. This allegation is widely circulating but validation has been difficult.
  • It is confirmed that $10K “pay-to-stay” offers were made and refused and $25K to $50K early out bonuses were paid. Watch Chief Conklin’s comments at the 12/4 YL council meeting.
  • I did hear that a couple of the retirees have taken positions with OCSD where they can start building another retirement package. Double dipping?
  • I did hear about similar comments from a Brea detective, claiming that their work is falling behind due to patrol duties. I’ve made inquiry to a council member to confirm this but have heard nothing. The standard response from city hall seems to be silence.
  • I’ve only seen one motorcycle officer on the street in three weeks. When I asked him how he “got so lucky” his response was to point to the stripes on his sleeve and smile. I’m not really sure what that means.
  • No chance? Sorry. By the time Mayor Tom Lindsey can run the latest offer up the flagpole, Don Schweitzer will have left council and the new Mayor will deserve a say in the matter. Though whomever gets the gavel will likely not make waves.
  •  Schweitzer’s letter, written by staff, must have had the blessing of Council. Did they vote on this in closed session? How does a staff prepared letter, one that seriously obligates the city, get signed by the Mayor without a majority of council members reviewing and approving it?  This matter does not fit the Brown Act exception and should have been conducted in open session.
  • Promising to indemnify Yorba Linda against a breach of contract suit from the OCSD is a fiscal nightmare. What is the full extent of Brea’s potential liability? What might the legal fees be to handle this?
  • Brea failed to “keep” the contract with Yorba Linda, in my opinion, thanks to a lackluster response from city staff to the RFQ that didn’t put a good offer on the table at a respectable price. Once again, we have O’Donnell to blame.

HandcuffedWe could have known this.

You know, I can hardly think of a better example of why Brea voters should have passed Measure U. It would have forced issues like this to be fully vetted in public and provided an opportunity for Breans to wade in with their thoughts and opinions.

Several matters have been discussed in closed session lately, agenda items cloaked in nebulous language so as to avert public interest, none of which meet the litmus test of the Brown Act.

Shameful.

There is a lot at stake here. Public safety and emergency services are not issues to be handled behind closed doors.

Period. End of story.

I hope the newly reorganized Council understands this and conducts themselves in a more transparent and accountable manner.

If they don’t, as likely as not, we’ll see another Measure U on the ballot in 2014.