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City Manager to Appoint Independent Investigator? Please.

Check out the one page staff report by that fighting crusader against police misconduct Tony Madrigal:

[www.ci.santa-cruz.ca.us/ (item #23)]

The text reads:
 
CITY COUNCIL AGENDA REPORT  
DATE: January 18, 2006
AGENDA OF: January 24, 2006
DEPARTMENT: City Council
SUBJECT: INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION REGARDING POLICE SURVEILLANCE AT COMMUNITY MEETINGS
 
RECOMMENDATION:  That the City Council, by motion, direct the City Manager to conduct an independent investigation surrounding recent incidents of police surveillance at community meetings.
  
BACKGROUND:  At its January 10, 2006 City Council meeting, the Council heard complaints, concerns, and demands for Council action from more than a dozen members of the public, regarding the Santa Cruz Police Department and the conduct of two of its officers at planning meetings for a “Last Day Santa Cruz DIY? New Year’s Eve parade that took place on December 31, 2005.  Furthermore, we have received numerous emails and other forms of communications expressing a strong community concern about this issue. 
 
DISCUSSION:   In addition to the concerns of the public, it has been brought to the Council’s attention that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a Public Records
Act request to look into whether or not the privacy rights of the attendees of these planning meetings were violated.  Finally, public concern has been expressed about the City’s action to conduct its own internal investigation.  
 
FISCAL IMPACT:  Approval of the above recommendation has unspecified fiscal implications.
 
Submitted by: Tony Madrigal
Councilmember

Though the title says "independent investigation", the resolution is to send the investigation to the City Manager Dick Wilson. Wilson appointed Police Chief Skerry. The SCPD higherups have overseen similar coverup operations in the past (Officer Loran Baker in sexual improprieties with 10 women in 1992; the Happy John Dine slaying by Officer Connor Cary in 1997).

I suggest Just Us and whatever other community organizations are interested in making real change here hold their own public hearings, using public documents obtained through Public Records Act requests, as well as taking public testimony from those who have been spied on in the past.

I'll be bringing the matter up at the HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) meeting on Wednesday morning 8:30 AM at the County Building (in the breezeway between the courthouse and the county building).

Note also that the City Council itself will be conducting a "Public Employees Performance Evaluation" of the City Manager at 7:30 pm on Wednesday January 24th in the City Council Courtyard Conference room (right next to Council chambers).

Though this is a closed session, the public is permitted to testify on items before the review begins at an "open interval".

It would be salutary for those who oppose this continuing spying business (and other police abuses such as tasering, selective enforcement, pain compliance holds and assaults on protesters at UCSC's Tent City last April, etc.) to hold City Manager Dick Wilson accountable and demand a real explanation. He appointed Skerry (with no real public input or public hearings).

The Homeland Security grants are regularly granted. Patriot Act cooperation may be proceeding apace. Wilson helped kill the Bill of Rights Defense Committee's bid to establish stronger safeguards two years ago.

It's true that this Wilson "review" is really a closed session farce, which is a routine rubberstamping. It could be forced into being a more open forum if enough people attended with concerns.

The City Council agenda describes the January 24th session as follows:

 
SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL AGENDA
Special Closed Litigation Session
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
 
7:30 p.m.                        Closed Litigation Session, Courtyard Conference Room
 
At 7:30 p.m., the presiding Officer will open the City Council and Redevelopment Agency Closed and Litigation sessions in a public meeting in the Courtyard Conference Room, for the purpose of announcing the agenda; thereafter the meeting will be closed to the public.
 
A. Labor Negotiations (Government Code §54957.6).  
Richard Wilson – Negotiator
Employee Organization – Executive Team (Department Heads)
  
B.        Public Employees Performance Evaluation (Government Code § 54957). 
City Council’s performance evaluation of City Manager
 
 
The City Attorney’s Office will present an oral report in an open session at 9:30 a.m. on January 26, 2006.
                                   
Adjournment — The City Council will adjourn from the special Closed Litigation Session meeting of January 25, 2006, to the next regularly scheduled City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 14, 2006, for a closed litigation session at 1:30 p.m. in the Courtyard Conference Room, followed by 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. open sessions in Council Chambers.
 
Note:  The Council Chambers will be closed ten minutes after the meeting is adjourned.

I contacted the assistant City Clerk today. She told me that the "open session" on Thursday January 25th where the Council reports of its "review" of Wilson actually amounts to nothing more than City Attorney Barisone coming to her office to say "we discussed the city manager".

Of course, if there were a crowd in her office on Thursday morning, demanding public comment on the report--which the public is entitled to do, the Council would have to assemble a quorum and allow it. And maybe even respond to it.

I have zero confidence in this council to truly hold its powerful staff accountable. But if people come in numbers, they will be forced to go through the motions of doing so. And ultimately some Council members who once nurtured notions of independence (Porter and Fitzmaurice) may actually make a move or two.
 


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