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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Vanguard Chosen Once Again Among Top Yolo County Blogs

For the second time in three weeks, the Woodland Daily Democrat has chosen a blog entry from the People's Vanguard of Davis as one of the top blogs in the county.

Admirably, this was a piece that was critical of the Woodland paper's coverage of the incoming District Attorney Jeff Reisig. It was nice to see a local newspaper comfortable enough with their reporting to post an article that criticize them by name.

We would like to see hard-hitting coverage from the local papers questioning and reporting on a number controversies. The District Attorney's office under previous District Attorney Dave Henderson has accumulated a long list of complaints and questionable prosecutions. This morning our blog highlighted the prosecution of Khalid Berny, a farmer who faced 60 years in prison for allegedly allowing his goats to run "at-large." This is precisely the sort of thing we believe the local papers ought to cover and that the new District Attorney Jeff Reisig needs to help clean up.

More Information About the District Attorney’s Office in the Khalid Berny Case

On January 3, 2007, we reported on the prosecution of Khalid Berny. There was another part to the story that we were informed of at the time of the original interview that could not be run until it was verified by those involved. It has now been verified by at least two and sometimes more sources.

It seems that both Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hayes and her immediate supervisor Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Steve Mount at various points in time expressed concerns about the case. Deanna Hayes at this time was a probationary Deputy District Attorney. Steve Mount was her immediate supervisor. His supervisor was Deputy District Attorney Ann Hurd (who is now the No.2 person in the department). Robert Day who is now retired, was No.2 under recently retired District Attorney Dave Henderson.

DDA Hayes prior to the trial told a source that she did not want to embarrass herself in court with a goat case, and that she was ready to drop the case if Mr. Berny gave her a check to cover the cost of impounding his goats.

However, DDA Hayes changed her mind apparently on the day of the trial and threatened Mr. Berny with 60 years in prison.

The source became angry that they were told one thing on Friday and the opposite occurred on Monday. So they called a member of the District Attorney’s office to find out what happened.

Mr. Berny played the following message that he captured on tape from one source:

"Hayes stated that her supervisor said that they required that Hayes get a conviction out of it, even though Hayes expressed her concerns about getting a conviction.”

Moreover, they said, “it clear to Hayes that she had to get some form of conviction out of it.”

Furthermore, DDA Hayes added charges: “apparently Hayes did more research in the case and found out that there were complaints from my neighbors, vineyards that were destroyed and tens of thousands of dollars of damages that my neighbors were claiming and that I had to pay restitution to my neighbors..."

According to Mr. Berny’s neighbor, there was no damage and he is outraged that people are falsely using his name and property to “justify their criminal activities.”

According to those involved, Deanna Hayes as a newly hired Deputy District Attorney was highly unlikely to concoct the story herself. More likely, this came from either one of her superiors or the Sheriff’s Department itself.

Moreover, Steve Mount who was the head of the misdemeanor division, told witnesses that he wanted nothing to do with this case and he did not want his name mentioned in association with the case.

Deputy District Attorney Mount however may not be completely candid as he reportedly has a reputation for pushing attorneys to press forward on very weak cases regarding other aspects of the law. Fearing that he would be named in the lawsuit may have given him reason to attempt to distance himself.

On the other hand, we could just as easily go up the chain of command where Ann Hurd, Robert Day, or even then Yolo County District Attorney Dave Henderson himself could have pushed a trial attorney forward even though they believe they could not prove the case. From several sources that I have talked to, this appears to be a characteristic of the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office that is not the case in other jurisdictions.

While this does not resolve the puzzling question of why this case was pushed forward, it does shed some light on the fact that pressure being put on a young and inexperienced Deputy District Attorney perhaps both from Yolo County Sheriff’s Department and from her supervisors. They wanted her to get a conviction and she perhaps felt that she could not or even should not press forward.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, January 12, 2007

Dunning and Mazelis continue crusade against Councilmember Lamar Heystek

There were several major reasons that I started this blog, but one of them that continues to stand out for me is that ability to correct the public record about statements that Bob Dunning makes in his Davis Enterprise column that are potentially damaging to progressive office holders if left unchecked.

Yesterday, Dunning went into his mailbox and addressed some emails by commenting about them in his Enterprise column.
"Writes N.B. at, commenting on a recent bitter letter to the editor about the struggles of a certain City Councilman: "Seriously, Bob, doesn't this bit about overcoming much hardship through genuine struggle apply to some 20-50 percent of the adults in this fair city? That category would include Officer Pheng Ly, whom Lamar … and the shadowy and cowardly CAROLE, spent months pillorying mercilessly."

N.B. — Indeed, struggle is part of the human condition, and it doesn't always have to do with which economic class the struggler finds himself in. If you wish to wear your struggles on your sleeve and openly brag about them to gain advantage, fine, but don't discount the struggles of others, just because they keep them to themselves."
Who is N.B.? None other than Noreen B. Mazelis--the writer of the original letter to Bob Dunning.

The recent "bitter" letter to the editor was from Bill Ritter. Is "bitter" a clever play on words?

Mr. Ritter sought to set the record straight in terms of the background of Councilmember Lamar Heystek.
Lamar does not come from a privileged background. He has overcome much hardship through genuine struggle in his life. Lamar grew up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Oakland where violent crime was frequent. His family life is filled with adversity and tragedy. For Dunning and Mazelis to make belittling comments about Lamar's life (which evidently they know little or nothing about) was appalling, careless and just plain mean.
The letter Dunning cites from Mazelis distorts a couple of key points. The letter to the editor was written in response to the exchange between Dunning and Mazelis in which Heystek's credentials to speak at a talk on "struggle" were called into question by them.

Dunning at the time wrote derisively:
Dunning wrote: "Writes my friend Noreen: '… Lamar Heystek will be on a panel with three other privileged men to discuss 'struggle.' " Dunning then adds: "... wow, nobody knows the trouble he's seen, overcoming his college education and teaching position at UC Davis to become one of the youngest City Council members in Davis city history ... struggle? ... Lamar? ... heck, he's not old enough to have even struggled with a razor ..."
That was the context for the letter and the complaint. Whether it applies to 20-50 percent of the adults in Davis is irrelevant. Dunning and Mazelis were questioning Councilmember Heystek's credentials, not whether or not the others had struggled. If 20-50 percent of the adults in Davis could speak on the issue of "struggle" so too could Heystek. So why bring it up to begin with?

Secondly, the letter contains the assertion that Heystek "spent months pillorying mercilessly" Officer Pheng Ly. Never once did Heystek even mention or attack Officer Ly. Heystek only expressed general and moderate support for better means to oversee the operations of the police department including the establishment of a civilian police oversight board. I challenge Dunning and Mazelis to show a specific statement that proves otherwise.

Dunning himself then makes the assertion, "if you wish to wear your struggles on your sleeve..."

This is another false assertion. Heystek never mentioned his upbringing or his struggles at any time during this debate, during his campaign for office, or during his ten years of living in Davis. In fact, Heystek does not talk about his background. Even most of his close personal friends knew nothing of his upbringing and the adversity of it. The reason I found out about Heystek's past was because of Dunning's column. The only people who brought up Heystek's background were people defending Heystek from Dunning and Mazelis' attack. Heystek never mentioned his struggles, they are much too personal and too raw for him to discuss, let alone wear them on his sleeve.

Dunning and Mazelis have turned this into a personal crusade against Heystek, even though their facts were initially wrong and they now attempt to distort the argument.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Eleanor Roosevelt: Well-intentioned project has become a fiasco

On July 7, 2005 the Davis Enterprise reported on the ground breaking ceremony for Eleanor Roosevelt Circle — described as an affordable housing project for senior citizens. This was the result of years of planning and work. It was an idea that was needed—senior housing that was affordable for middle income people. It was a 60-unit project, with 21 units set aside for disabled and homeless or “at-risk-of-homelessness” seniors.

The projected was funded through a mixture of federal and state funding.

By April of 2006, it was already clear that there were unforeseen problems.

The Davis Enterprise quotes Cindy Unger, vice chairwoman of the Davis Senior Housing Cooperative, which oversees Eleanor Roosevelt Circle,

"The definitions in that HCD grant are a little more than I think we bargained for…. It talks about homeless people. Originally, we were talking about low-income. Now they have to meet a disabled, homeless and elderly requirement… The HUD (Housing and Urban Development) requirement was specifically for seniors, but the HCD did not specify age… Housing and Community Development told me (the developers) were walking a very fine line."

Developer David Thompson countered:

The project is being built exactly as it was planned and approved. "ERC was intended to be for low- and very low-income seniors. However, funding for senior housing is very difficult to obtain and very competitive. We were asked to find as much funding from external sources as possible."

Councilmember Don Saylor said: "These are Davis people already here. There will be on site case management and they will receive services needed in the places they normally get them."

But in fact, the project is not required to provide services, as Thompson stated in April.

Councilmember Stephen Souza said at the meeting that he was excited to get the project under way. While Saylor added: "This project will provide a housing source in the community for the people who have little option and who need it."

Unfortunately instead of being a decent but imperfect solution to the problem of affordable senior housing, this is turning quickly into a fiasco. For the second time in two months, Mayor Sue Greenwald reported at the last City Council Meeting that there are massive numbers of vacancies in Eleanor Roosevelt Circle. And that if they are not filled by current Davis Residents, they will open them up to the entire state.

The project is beset by numerous problems including problems of an undesirable location and distance from public transportation. In addition, there is no assisted living. And while it is classified as “affordable,” it is classified for a high end of affordability and provides a relatively small dwelling for what is still a decent chunk of money.

Moreover, as disabled advocate Anne Evans suggests, the requirements imposed in order to gain the grants are so restrictive that they cut off a large group of people who might otherwise be interested in taking advantage of the system.

“I have been interested in affordable senior housing - since I became disabled several years ago with breast cancer. I was not allowed to put in an application for the senior units because most places required seniors to be at least 62 years of age.”

Many other cities have units available for disabled seniors 55 and older. However, the Eleanor Roosevelt Circle complex was set up to feature different income levels—but not younger disabled seniors. And most of the units are available to seniors with higher incomes. So while Davis is now having to draw from outside of the area, there are a group of Davis residents not served by the project.

The problem here is that you are talking about only a small number of units for truly low income people and once you get up to the upper end, you are talking about nearly $1000 for a ~ 600 foot one bedroom apartment. That is a very small dwelling. You can get other apartments in Davis that are considerably larger than that for not much more than $1000.

So we now have a facility that received a tremendous amount of state and local funding, that remains nearly vacant. The proposal was supposed to help people within this community stay in our community as they age, and now city government are having to go statewide with their advertising efforts to recruit prospective tenants to fill the vacancies.

The City Council needs to order an audit on this project and evaluate exactly what went wrong. As we have reported in recent weeks, there is a great and expanding need for affordable housing. The housing market is rapidly pricing many lower and middle income people out of the area. This project should have been a boon for the senior community, serving a vital niche and instead it has become an absolute fiasco.

It seems clear that future project approvals need to look more carefully at a number of factors. First, they need to look at the people who will be serviced by the project to ascertain if the requirements are serving the people who actually need them.

Second they need to look at the location of the project. This location is problematic at best in terms of desirability of living but also availability of transportation.

Third, they need to look at what services are provided in the project. There are no assisted living services. So that generally closes off people with special needs. There is limited disabled facilities. So another group of seniors is closed off too.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Suits Filed Against Yolo Grand Jury Dismissed

The Sacramento Bee reports this morning that a Federal Judge threw out a lawsuit challenging the recruitment and selection process for Yolo County grand juries. Former Director of the Yolo County Housing Authority David Serena had contended that the composition process of the grand jury was discriminatory against Latinos.

Toward that end, Serena and his legal team that included James Hammer and Whitney Leigh, produced statistics that showed a 13.5 percent discrepancy between expected and actual Latino composition.

U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. ruled that the three year time period was not long enough to demonstrate substantial underrepresentation of Latinos. Moreover, they did not have direct evidence of intent to discriminate.

Over the past 10 years, Latinos have only been underrepresented by 6.5 percent which would be equivalent of around one juror on average. This was not enough to demonstrate a violation under the Constitution's equal protection clause.

However, Judge Damrell did say that while he could not consider solely the last three years, he did find the higher disparity in the last three years to be troubling. The Sacramento Bee quotes him as saying "Unaddressed or ignored, this continuing disparity is likely to provide future evidence of systemic underrepresentation of a constitutional dimension."

The defendants in this case were Judges Steve Mock and Thomas Warriner along with Jury Commissioner Robin Weaver.

According to the lawsuit filed, "the lack of specific rules for grand jury selection in Yolo County has left it open to abuse." Serena and his attorneys argued that residents of Latino decent comprise around 26 percent of the population but only 5 to 11 percent of the make up of the grand jury.

While the suit was dismissed, local civil rights groups can take some comfort from the ruling that Yolo County is on notice to improve their record of the racial composition of grand juries. This is a vital link between the citizenry and the justice system.

Unfortunately it appears at this time, that in order for action to be taken the situation must continue for the next few years. That is unfortunate not only for Mr. Serena who is facing criminal prosecution for his role in the Yolo County Housing Authority, but also minorities in this county who seems to have their rights violated on a regular basis through the criminal justice system.

The Judge's ruling gives a reprieve to Judge Mock and Judge Warriner, but they will remain under scrutiny if they do not figure out ways to remedy the situation.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Commentary: On Confidentiality and Its Misuses by Government

Recent events have brought the issue of confidentiality to the forefront. There are times in government when dealing with the issue of minors or personnel issues that confidentiality is not only legitimate but also necessary to protect the people involved. The dismissal of former Davis Police Captain Nick Concolino is one such use of legitimate confidentiality. He as a former at-will employee of the City of Davis is entitled to having the issue of his dismissal remain confidential. (Although if the city manager is serious about considering him for the new police chief position, the council ought to request he waive that right). That is a perfectly legitimate use. However, other recent uses by both the Davis City Manager and the Davis Joint Unified School District seem more questionable.

The hiring of a new police chief

Tuesday’s Davis Enterprise article cited just such a case where the use of confidentiality is questionable at best (and perhaps inappropriate according to our reading of the law): “Davis City Manager Bill Emlen declined Monday to identify the seven candidates by name.”

In fact, Emlen according to multiple well-placed sources has not informed the members of the Davis City Council as to who the seven candidates are. His rationale was that this was a personnel matter.

Personnel matters do receive a large degree of confidentiality protection. However, under almost no circumstances, are names of applicants or candidates for a job considered confidential. Indeed, as one person I spoke to pointed out, the university is actually required to hold part of their interview process in public at which point the names of those who make it to the presentation stage of the interview are divulged and those individuals have to present their research in front of the public in addition to the hiring department.

In fact, according to the public records act: Personnel, medical and similar files are exempt only if disclosure would reveal intimate, private details. (§ 6254(c)) Employment contracts are not exempt. (§ 6254.8). See also: California Government Code.

While I am not a lawyer, I would have to guess that the name of applicants is not exempt from the public records act, as revealing a name does not reveal any information that is intimate or private. City Manager Emlen then could be required to divulge this information to the public.

This issue also goes back to the heart of our city government model that was discussed last week. Who makes the hire of police chief? The unelected city manager. The city council itself has the power to hire and fire the city manager who then has the sole power to hire and fire employees. There is no transparency in this process.

More concerning is the implication that the elected representatives are being kept out of the loop. Again, some personnel matters I understand being kept from the public. What I continue to not understand is how they can be kept from the City Council who are representatives of the public. And in this case, this appears to be an abuse of confidentiality requirements.

The handling of the Harper Junior High harassment case

We have been reporting on the case stemming from a harassment incident involving a 13-year-old student at Harper Junior High who was harassed by 14 of his classmates because of perceptions about his sexual orientation based on the lifestyle of his father who is gay and lives with a partner of the same sex.

The school district and school board had a long meeting in public about this issue in mid-November where they discussed numerous ways that they were going to deal with it to prevent such occurrences in the future. Let me make this clear—I absolutely applaud those actions. There seems to be a misconception among some in the district and on the board that we are neglecting to include all the things that the District is doing to address the situation.

However, from day one, our main concern has been to get Zach Fischer back into school. And now we have this other kid who likewise we need to get back into school. We just do not believe that the District has addressed these concerns in a timely or adequate manner. Perhaps the District wants to counter this contention, they are welcome to correct this on the record at any point in time.

The school district is basically now arguing that they cannot talk about it on the news or in blogs because of confidentiality requirements. This is an argument or perspective that I simply do not understand. We do not need to know that a specific student, John Doe, has been suspended for three weeks or has an expulsion pending. That is a confidential matter and not our business.

However, if the school district is implementing a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who uses sexual orientation as a means to bully another student—how is that a confidential matter? Or if the school district offered to have an escort for these students between classes to ensure that they were not bullied—how would that be a confidential matter?

What seems to be happening here once again is that the school district is using the fact that there is a pending court case and the fact that these are incidents involving both students and teachers, both of whom are protected by such requirements—to avoid going on the record with a discussion about what is being done to prevent incidents from happening in the future both in general and with specific regard to this student.

Once again, this is an abuse of the confidentiality laws. They are using them not to protect the students or their employees but to protect the district. They are using and misusing confidentiality to cover up and avoid talking about their wrong doing. They undermine transparency in that way. We cannot hold our elected official accountable when they declare these matters closed or use a gag order to keep it secret.

Buzayan Case

This is precisely what we saw happen last spring in the Buzayan case. The juvenile justice system seeks to protect the identity of juvenile offenders precisely to avoid the type of situation that occurred last spring when the release of sensitive material was used to harm the reputation of a minor. A minor in this case who was cleared of any wrongdoing by the judge. Now, Councilmember Don Saylor, Ted Puntillo, Officer Pheng Ly, and Deputy District Attorney Patricia Fong all pointed out that the judge dismissed the case based on the civil compromise. Well it does not matter. In this country, there is a presumption of innocence unless someone is proven guilty by a court of law and when the District Attorney’s office chose to disclose these tapes they violated the rights of a minor to keep such matters confidential.

The District Attorney’s office got upset because the minor and her family were able to talk about the case, but not them. Well that’s how the law is designed and as a public agency that goes with the territory. Under the law, the juvenile and her parents have every right to talk about the case. The law is set up to protect the minor from a smear campaign not to protect the prosecutors and law enforcement from charges of misconduct.

All three of these cases now represent a misuse of confidentiality laws to protect a public agency from charges of misconduct or prevent scrutiny by the public of their actions. We as a community should demand transparency in our government and we must recognize that government officials operate under a public trust that does not exist for private individuals. That means there are different standards of behavior that public officials need to adhere to that private individuals may not. At times that may make it more difficult for the public agency to deal with charges of impropriety, but that is the cost of doing business in a free and open society where the value of accountability and transparency must be paramount.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wednesday Midday Briefs

Dunning must now lie in the bed that he helped to make

As I have been a critic of Davis Enterprise Columnist Bob Dunning at times, I must acknowledge that we share the conviction that we not see a closure of the Valley Oak Elementary School. In fact, if Dunning were paying attention after my criticism of his column on Councilmember Heystek's alleged "privileged" life, he would have noticed a few columns asking that we keep the elementary school open.

So it is from a standpoint of agreement that I still must call Dunning to task for his column entitled, "Don't be shocked, it's not in their back yard." In it he writes:
YOUR SILENCE IS DEAFENING … as we approach the national celebration of the biggest name in the civil rights movement, it's distressing to see that civil rights organizations and civil rights activists in this town have largely stayed on the sidelines of the impending closure of Valley Oak Elementary … I guess if your kid goes somewhere else and your school isn't threatened with closing, you can look the other way and pretend it isn't happening …

These, of course, are the same folks who get worked into a frenzy about something as silly as the name of a street, then are missing in action as the most vulnerable neighborhood in the city is gutted of one great source of pride, its long-standing elementary school …

In a town that consistently finds a way to protect toads and owls and hawks, protecting a neighborhood and its cherished school should be elementary …
Dunning is inaccurate and misleading when he writes the above. Many individuals contacted the People's Vanguard of Davis to share their concerns which have been tagged on as comments to our articles. Many citizens have written letters to the editor which have been published in the Davis Enterprise criticizing the proposed closure. Many citizens have spoken out publicly at school board meetings in opposition to this proposal too. Even fellow Davis Enterprise columnists Jann Murray Garcia and Jonathan Landon have written in opposition to the closing of Valley Oak.

And yet if Bob Dunning would take a step back and see the bigger picture, he is one of the reasons why there is not an overwhelming response in opposition on this issue. In June 2006, it was Bob Dunning among many others who led the way towards the removal of Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and many others from the Human Relations Commission In fact, the City Council put the HRC on hiatus, removed all of its members, and then reconstituted the commission in September under much tighter rules. Bob Dunning APPLAUDED these moves and the purge every step of the way.

Dunning on June 29 wrote:
"the City Council had little choice but to give the Human Relations Commission and its insult-a-minute chairwoman a prolonged kindergarten-style "time-out"
Well Mr. Dunning what you reap, so shall you sow... And therein lies the rub, Bob Dunning was all too willing to throw Mrs. Escamilla Greenwald and the Human Relations Commission under the bus when they were rallying people to help those they deemed oppressed by the Davis police department. Now Dunning is wondering why no one is rallying to the defense of his children and their school that stands in the way of closing. Perhaps he would take some comfort in reading the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller who wrote about the inactivities of those in Nazi Germany. His closing line was, "When they came for me there was no one left to speak out."

Well Mr. Dunning, fortunately you have the People's Vanguard of Davis, but when the HRC was disbanded, leaving with it were the best means to mobilize those in the community and bring awareness to problems such as the one that you write about. Perhaps next time you decide to pillory members of this community who are standing up for those in need of assistance, you will remember that one day the children in need may be your own.

Speaking of children in need... what in the world is going on at Harper Junior High

Yesterday we reported on an incident last week that related to the issue of harassment of children due to perceived sexual orientation. Now this week in the Davis Enterprises "Briefly" we get yet another assault that required police intervention...
Teen arrested for assault on campus

Davis police arrested a 15-year-old Harper Junior High School student Monday after he allegedly assaulted another student on the East Davis school campus.

The boy, whose name was not released because he is a minor, reportedly tripped and pushed the 14-year-old victim during a verbal argument, then kicked and punched him once he was on the ground, Lt. Colleen Turay said.

Police took the boy into custody and booked him at the Davis police station, then released him to a parent with a notice to appear in court, Turay said.
The Davis Joint Unified School District better figure out a way to handle these problems, but at some point people are going to get tired of seeing all of these lawsuits being filed against the district.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Formerly Fired Police Captain Nick Concolino on Short List for Police Chief

Last night the Davis Enterprise reported that the city has seven final candidates for the position of Police Chief and that one of those candidates is not interim Chief Steve Pierce.

City Manager Bill Emlen was quoted as saying:
“We’d like to find somebody who’s going to be around for a while, is able to set the department forward with clear vision and will be able to implement that vision.”
City Manager Bill Emlen not only has not disclosed the list of finalists to the press, but he has not disclosed it to the city council. While this is a personnel matter, it would not be inappropriate to divulge the names of candidates particularly to the members of the council. Several sources have informed us that this is a highly unusual move by the City Manager. While some personnel matters are confidential, the names of those on a short list are not--particularly to the City Council who is ostensibly his boss.

The People’s Vanguard of Davis has learned from multiple well-placed sources that one of these seven finalists is former Davis Police Captain Nick Concolino who was dismissed from the Davis Police Department in June of 2000 by then Police Chief Jerry Gonzales and then City Manager John Meyer.

Furthermore, our sources tell us, that there is a strong behind the scenes movement lobbying for his hire as the new police chief. Former Davis City Councilmember and current Yolo County Judge Dave Rosenberg, who is a very close and personal friend of Concolino, is according to well-placed sources actively lobbying for his hire. Moreover there is strong speculation that the Davis Police Officer’s Association is also strongly moving for his hire. Finally Lt. Darren Pytel is said to be strongly in favor of such a move as well. Pytel may himself have future ambitions toward this position and may believe that such a hire would pave the way for his eventual ascension to the chief position.

The nature of personnel matters is shrouded in confidentiality agreements that prevent the release of reasons for a dismissal. As such, the public and even the City Council at the time were never informed of the reasons. We spoke with the Mayor of Davis during the time of the dismissal, Ken Wagstaff. He expressed his frustration stating, “this was the most frustrating thing about being on the council.”

Any hire of Nick Concolino would re-open old wounds. This action resulted in a huge and ugly controversy as the Davis Police Officer’s Association (DPOA) and many citizens campaigned against the dismissal of Concolino and then began an orchestrated campaign against Chief Gonzales. In response many citizens and civil rights activists came to the defense of Chief Gonzales.

Prior to this controversy, both Gonzales and Concolino were well liked by Davis citizens and both were longtime Davis residents.

Both Gonzales and Concolino were longtime police officers with the city of Davis and both had been good friends for many years. This ugly controversy split the community and eventually resulted in Chief Gonzales resigning from his position in December 2000.

Gonzales was a 20-year veteran with the Davis PD. He had advanced through the ranks from patrol officer, to sergeant, to lieutenant and finally to captain before being selected as Chief of Police in 1996.

Gonzales had been selected to replace Chief Phil Coleman who resigned following being reprimanded for sexual harassment of female police employees. Indeed, the city had settled several civil complaints brought on by Chief Coleman’s inappropriate behavior.

Concolino began his career with the UC Davis Police Department and transferred to the Davis Police Department. Every time Gonzales was promoted, Concolino was selected to succeed to Gonzales’ old position, due in large part to recommendations by Jerry Gonzales to promote his friend Nick Concolino to succeed him. When Gonzalez was promoted to Police Chief, he selected Concolino to succeed him as captain. Concolino then became one of only two captains on the force joining the senior captain Leo Sacket.

Concolino’s transfer from the UC Davis to the Davis Police Department is also shrouded in mystery. Concolino had been a seven year veteran of the UC Davis police department when some incident occurred that resulted in his dismissal.

While the events leading to Concolino’s firing from the Davis Police Deparmtent are still largely a mystery. Concolino himself as recently as this past June claims not to know the reason why he was dismissed. Davis Enterprise Columnist Bob Dunning ran a long series of defenses of Concolino that stirred up a strong public backlash against Chief Jerry Gonzalez that many believe ultimately led to the no-confidence vote that ultimately cost him his job. Dunning defended Concolino as a family man and a little league coach who was wrongly fired.

However, sources tell us that Nick Concolino’s firing was due to strong insubordination, political backstabbing, and attempts to undermine the Police Chief by rallying the support of the rank and file against him. He would often refuse to take orders from the Police Chief Gonzales and Senior Captain Leo Sacket who was the number two person in the department by seniority.

In the year leading up to Concolino’s dismissal it was becoming common knowledge that Nick Concolino was creating a division within the department by openly challenging and competing with the senior Captain Leo Sacket. Concolino was also currying favor with the DPOA who was increasingly becoming upset with Chief Gonzales who would engage the community in dialogue and when appropriate correct or discipline his officers.

Concolino was both openly and behind the scenes insubordinate to his superiors, which was causing dissention in the ranks and negatively impacting morale.

John Meyer would eventually advise Police Chief Gonzales to dismiss Concolino. Meyer would then accept a new position at UC Davis. He was thus not the City Manager during the many months of controversy that would follow the firing and was not in a position to defend or guide the police chief.

Concolino used his power and influence to undermine the police chief and try to gain reinstatement. They would eventually come to terms on a rather generous severance package that included one year of pay and benefits.

The City Council upon the resignation of Police Chief Jim Hyde and their subsequent dismissal of the Human Relations Commission, conveyed the concern about the tone of dialogue in the city and the divisiveness between various groups. If that is a true concern, bringing Nick Concolino back in the position of police chief would open many raw wounds.

There are strong concerns among civil rights and social justice groups in Davis about the signal that would be sent by the hiring of Concolino. Moreover, given the nature of the political dynamics in the department, the hiring of Concolino at the behest of powerful cliqués within the DPOA would signal to them that they would have free reign and would limit the power of Concolino to control his department in the face of many issues that confront it in the wake of last year’s controversies. This would be a strong step backwards.

Moreover, if the City Council is to approve this hiring (if it indeed occurs), it would seem entirely appropriate, indeed a requirement, that Concolino should be compelled to waive his confidentiality clause and reveal to the present city council the reasons for his dismissal. Current council members should seek to force this action if necessary.

The current city manager would be well-advised despite the strong political pressure on him to look to someone with a fresh perspective from outside the department that can heal rather than inflame the wounds in this community.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Gay Harassment

NG Blog covered the on-going Fischer story today. On his blog he posted a video from the CurrentTV network.

It created by a couple of teens describing incidents of anti-gay harassment against them in Pennsylvania.

It's well worth a watch.

New Revelations in the Fischer Harassment Case

In the latest in what now has to be described as an escalating situation at Harper Junior High School, we saw this mention in the "Brieflies" in the January 3, 2007 Davis Enterprise:

Davis police cited two 13-year-old Harper Junior High students Tuesday — one on suspicion of assault, the other for allegedly possessing drugs.

Officers were first called to the East Covell Boulevard campus shortly after 1:30 p.m. after one of the boys entered a classroom and attempted to strike a student, nearly hitting a school employee who tried to stop him, Lt. Colleen Turay said. The Davis boy was cited on suspicion of assault and released to a parent.

About an hour later, a school administrator received information that another 13-year-old allegedly was in possession of marijuana on school grounds. The administrator confronted the boy, who turned over a plastic baggie containing the drug, Turay said.

Police again responded to the campus, and the boy, a Woodland resident, was cited and released with a notice to appear in court.
What the "Brieflies" do not mention is the connection between this event and the ongoing harassment at Harper Junior High School

This incident involved the second victim who came forward after Zach Fischer and his father Guy Fischer complained about a string of continuing harassments.

The second victim reported the problem to the administration and according to anonymous sources, the administration once again did not take this situation seriously. However, they would eventually follow up with some of the victim's friends that had witnessed the new round of harassment. Upon the administration receiving confirmation from the victim's friends they proceeded to suspend the harasser.

However, they sent the student home without the parents being present. So the student returned to the school site and waited at the classroom door where the victim was until the end of class. When the class ended, the student proceeded to attack the victim once again.

A female teacher, alertly noticing what was about to take place, stepped in between the victim and the harasser to prevent the student from harming the victim. The harasser then struck the teacher (reportedly in the stomach). Several other faculty members intervened and the police were called.

In addition to the assault, there was another student (may or may not involved in the initial incident) that was in possession of drugs. The police interviewed this student and discovered a small bag containing marijuana.

Once again, the school district appeared slow to respond to what quickly became a very serious and dangerous incident. It was not until the teacher was actually physically struck before they actually called the police. In addition, this situation was created because they sent the offending minor home without parental supervision. The district is now reportedly in the process of expelling the offending student.

This incident further validates the fears that the Fischer family has that their son is not safe returning to school. At this point, their son is receiving in-home tutoring. The family has now made the decision that their son will not be safe returning to school. Part of their pending lawsuit in federal court will be for compensation for their son having to go to a private school rather than attending public school in Davis.

Originally, one of the reasons the second family withheld their name was to enable their son to remain in school. However, after this most recent incident, they too have pulled their son from school. Neither student will be returning to the Davis Joint Unified School District anytime soon.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, January 08, 2007

Monday Midday Briefs

Matt Rexroad to keep his job as head of Meridian Pacific

Matt Rexroad got sworn in today as County Supervisor for the 3rd District. Reporter Josh Fernandez in this morning's Woodland Daily Democrat writes:

Rexroad, who heads the political consulting firm Meridian Pacific out of Sacramento, said he will juggle both duties as supervisor and CEO of the company, without sacrificing his effectiveness as a representative of the 3rd District.

"I will never give up my business," Rexroad said. "That's not gonna happen."

This brings up an interesting question, obviously Rexroad's company can continue to survive with Rexroad dealing the bulk of his time to his duties for his 3rd District Constituents. On the other hand, does being a political consultant and operating a political consulting firm while at the same time being an elected official strike more than just me as being a bit unseemly?

Congratulations to Joel Butler, Yolo County's New Assessor

Matt Rexroad wrote in his blog this morning, "It has been a long time since the campaign began. I am happy it is over."

Joel Butler has to be thinking it has been a long time since the campaign was over, I am happy to begin. Butler gets sworn in as the new county assessor replacing Dick Fisher after 8 years working in the office as the chief deputy. Butler won a resounding victory last June over Bob Milbrodt, a margin that belied the bitterness of the charges thrown about by Mr. Milbrodt during the campaign.

Dixon Downs to the Ballot?

The Davis Enterprise and the Daily Republic are reporting this afternoon:
The [Dixon] City Council here will take a second look this week at its decision to allow a controversial state-of-the-art horse racing track and entertainment complex in town, and either will rescind that approval or send the issue to the voters.
This comes amid a petition effort by citizens groups that produced over 1,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot. This effort has now forced the Dixon council to reconsider their earlier 4-1 vote to approve the controversial race track.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Seven Early Stories for Davis in ‘007

At the end of 2006, we covered the top 10 stories in Davis for 2006. In today’s blog entry, we will look ahead to some of the stories brewing as the largest for the first part of 2007. As always, new stories will undoubtedly arise at a seconds notice, but the People’s Vanguard of Davis already has a full plate. These are just some of the stories we plan to be covering in the ‘007.

Open Seat in the 8th Assembly District

Outgoing Incumbent Lois Wolk's (D-Davis) third and final term as Assemblywoman for the 8th Assembly District of California has barely begun and the speculation for her replacement has already started. In a district that is heavily tilted toward the Democrats, the primary winner will for all practical purposes determine who becomes the next Assemblymember for the 8th Assembly District.

The gauntlet has been thrown down by Woodland Daily Democrat Editor Jim Smith in his blog:

Posturing is taking place right now between supervisors Mariko Yamada and Mike McGowan and West Sacramento Mayor Chris Cabaldan. The word from Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez is that it’s “Chris’ turn” for the 8th District seat. McGowan, an attorney who represents West Sacramento, may be given a judgeship to keep him from seeking higher office. Yamada, if she stays true to the Democratic Party, could have her chance by 2014.
It seems that Nunez has jumped the gun a bit here. Yamada would be an extremely formidable candidate if (and that's still a big if) she chooses to run. Cabaldon is not without baggage of his own. He is unpopular with the unions for bringing Wal-Mart to West Sacramento and for supporting anti-union positions on a variety of issues. He has upset a lot of Democrats for supporting development interests rather than neighborhood and constituent interests.

The race for 8th Assembly District is far from over and the race will be decided on the west side of the Sacramento River, not the East Side.

Continuation of Law suits against the Davis Police Department and Yolo County District Attorney’s Office

At least two major lawsuits have gone forward against the District Attorney's Office in November 2006.

Last week, we reported about Khalid Berny, a farmer from Clarksburg who is suing both the Yolo County and the Yolo County Sheriff's Department and Animal Control. This is an amazing case that stems from allegations that Mr. Berny intentionally allowed his goats to run at large. For this horrendous crime, Berny faced 170 misdemeanor charges which carried a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison. Mr. Berny's case was dismissed after a last minute recusal by Yolo County Judge Timothy Fall brought retired Judge Bill Lebov into the case who then oversaw the dismissal of all charges against Mr. Berny. Through a civil lawsuit, Mr. Berny now charges Animal Control and the Sheriff's Office with discriminatory enforcement of the law based on the severity of the punishment inflicted on him in comparison with others for similar offenses. In addition, Berny is charging the Yolo County District Attorney's Office with malicious and discriminatory prosecution. Prior to the dismissal of charges in Judge Lebov's court, Yolo County Deputy DA Deanna Hayes had offered to drop the charges in exchange for Mr. Berny dropping his suit against the county--an offer that Berny refused.

Along similar lines, one of the top stories from last year, is the case of then 16-year-old Halema Buzayan who was arrested for an alleged bumper bender in a Davis supermarket parking lot in 2005. Ms. Buzayan, who is now a freshman at UC Davis, and her family are suing the Davis Police Department including former Chief Jim Hyde, Former Internal Affairs Sgt. Gina Anderson, and Officer Pheng Ly for a variety of offenses. In addition, they are suing the Yolo County District Attorney's Office and the Davis Enterprise newspaper.

Some of the most troubling aspects of the case are: Internal Affairs Sgt. Gina Anderson during her interview of Halema Buzayan (while supposedly conducting an internal review of the actions of Officer Pheng Ly), allegedly threatened her mother with jail if Ms. Buzayan did not confess to the crime. The Yolo County District Attorney's office after the case was dismissed, illegally leaked the arrest tapes to the Davis Enterprise, thus violating juvenile confidentiality laws. The Davis Enterprise not only published the story on the tapes, but posted the tapes on their website, in the process releasing confidential and private information about the Buzayan family but also the victim, Ms. Adriene Wonhof. The District Attorney's office then continued their smear campaign against the Buzayans into May, with Deputy District Attorneys Tim Wallace and Clinton Parish claiming that the Buzayan family paid off Ms. Wonhof to keep her from testifying. Finally, Bob Dunning, a Davis Enterprise columnist got into the act with a long interchange with the ACLU and attorney Bill Kopper. For more on the Buzayan case, please view the video from KGO ABC News 7 in San Francisco.

Ironically both Mr. Berny and the Buzayans filed their court cases in early November and will be proceeding during the course of the year.

Anti-Gay Harassment of the Junior High School Student

Last November, the People's Vanguard of Davis broke the story of a thirteen-year-old Harper Junior High School Student was being harassed because he has two Gay fathers. For good background see the following video clips: Father Speaks at City Council Meeting, Father Speaks at School Board Meeting, and the ABC News 10 in Sacramento report.

There are new revelations coming out tomorrow on this case. Check out the People's Vanguard of Davis first thing tomorrow.

Closing Down of the Valley Oak Elementary School

On Saturday we reported that the Davis Joint Unified enrollment projections were not looking good in terms of the issue of school closure. Neighbors seeking to keep Valley Oak Elementary School open cited possible future development projects as a possible source for future students. This argument was dismissed by the school board, claiming that they should not take into account development plans that are not yet approved. On the other hand, Baki Tezcan pointed out it is "ironic that after counting [the expected population growth] for [the unapproved] Covell Village [development] in building Korematsu, now they [the school district] say they cannot count for something that does not exist even though it will not require a city-wide vote and will probably happen in due course and produce new students in need of a school to go." The decision on the closure has not been made, but parents are concerned about the loss of a neighborhood school in one of the lesser affluent neighborhoods. This figures to remain a very hot issue for 2007.

Writing of the new general plan

In December 2006, the council moved forward with a plan that would create a steering committee to help draft an update to the city of Davis' general plan. This drew a strong and contentious debate between the council majority faction and the progressives Mayor Sue Greenwald and Councilmember Lamar Heystek. And this was just over a procedural issue that would create a 15-member committee comprised of three appointees per council member. The moment of absurdity occurred when Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Asmundson complained about the use of the world "surrogate" being used to describe the members of the proposed commission. Our crack team of lexicon experts however, surmised that this was a correct usage of the term and it did not have a pejorative connotation at all.

One of the issues that the Vanguard figures to follow is one of affordable housing. This comes amid a report that the average family in Yolo County must earn around $17.50 per hour to afford the average two-bedroom apartment. We have also been told that the Eleanor Roosevelt project which was supposed to be provide affordable housing to seniors, has laid mostly vacant due to some rather severe restrictions.

Continued Harassment of Area Minorities by the Police

In May of 2006, 150-200 UC Davis Students Marched on the Davis Police Department complaining of racial profiling and harassment by certain members of the Davis police department. Racial profiling and police oversight were among the large problems of 2006, and the year of 2006 ended the way it begun. We have a video clip of an African American resident getting harassed once again by the Davis Police, this one was caught on tape.The basic problem that faces Davis is a practice of "phishing" by the Davis Police whereby they spot a vehicle that does not appear to "belong." It might be old or poorly maintained. The police officer then looks for a pretense to pull the person over--sometimes it is real as in the case of the video above, other times it may be suspect. In any case, they are looking for people they believe might be gang members, wanted criminals, or on probation. They are using these minor stops as a pretense to see if they can make a big arrest.

Davis hired an Ombudsman in 2006, but that will not put this problem to a rest. Policies must be changed and that will be a large part of the focus in 2007.

New District Attorney for Yolo County

Today, Monday January 8, 2007, the new District Attorney of Yolo County will be sworn in. As we wrote last week, Jeff Reisig faces a formidable task with a department heavily under investigation, many of whom are facing actions in law suits. Reisig faces his own questions with regards to the gang injunction in West Sacramento. That case comes up for appeal in April. Moreover, the Buzayan and Berny cases cast a lot of scrutiny on the actions of the previous District Attorney David Henderson as well as a number of people who currently work as Deputy District Attorneys including a large number of strong supporters of Jeff Reisig. On KDVS, Ron Glick was arguing that we should wait and see how the new DA does, but he has a tough task ahead of him and that will be a large focus of the first part of '007.

Look forward to further coverage in '007 of these stories and much more, here on the People's Vanguard of Davis.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sunday Evening Briefs

Well Wishes to Kingsley Melton

I wanted to send out well wishes to Kingsley Melton who was seriously burned down in San Diego on his way to a winter vacation. Kingsley is the son of public defender Barry Melton and active in politics and the community himself.

Davis Enterprise Poll on Iraq

I was looking the latest "poll" in the Davis Enterprise. I haven't taken their polls very seriously since I saw the manipulation that occurred with the one last July pertaining to the Human Relations Commission. Assistant Publisher and Editor Debbie Davis was informed of this manipulation, she acknowledged problems with the polls, and yet the poll results were still published in the paper with no explanation.

Nevertheless this one was somewhat interesting.

This question is:
"Do you think President Bush's plan to increase U.S. forces in Iraq will help bring a quicker resolution to the conflict?"
I was thinking about this, I ended up voting "no." But in honesty I think the answer is yes, but in the opposite direction that the President hopes. I think it will speed up the ending unfortunately because it will place more of our brave troops in harms way. The Iraqi security forces added 70,000 or so troops to Baghdad in late June. July became the largest month casualty-wise in Iraq. Why? Because they put some many people in harms way. And I fear this is what is going to happen now. So I'd like to vote yes, because I think that would be the straw that ends this war. But I couldn't in good conscience, because most people would interpret it the opposite way.

Regardless, it is nice to see the Democrats at least verbally applying some resistance to this new plan.

KDVS Broadcast

I wanted to thank Richard Estes and Ron Glick for having me on their show on KDVS "Speaking in Tongues." We had a great conversation mainly on the Junior High School harassment story, the Buzayan story, and the Khalid Berny story.

If you would like to hear that broadcast click on:

MP3 Stream (56kbps, dial up)
MP3 Stream (128kbps, dial up)

Make sure you select the top tab which should be for the January 5, 2007 broadcast.

Senior Citizens Commission Meeting

While I am not completely certain what this item is about, I was directed to the Senior Citizens Commission agenda.

Item D under new business reads: "Review and discuss information related to the Internet blog" Vanguard"

What they will be discussing, we shall find out.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Yolo County Supervisors should revisit issue of pay raise

It is unfortunate that the Yolo County Board of Supervisors last month decided to table their proposed pay raise. While Dudley Hollman (former Mayor of Woodland) threatened to put a referendum on the ballot, we do not believe he would prevail in Yolo County. Moreover, the Yolo County Taxpayers association would absurdly end up spending more taxpayers money to put on an election fighting this modest pay increase than would actually be spent on the pay increase.

There is a time for principle and fighting government waste (which a modest pay increase is not), but then there is a time for pragmatism. The Yolo County Taxpayers need to weigh those two values.

In the meantime, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors would win this fight if they fight on the principles of the matter.

Helen Thomson as we posted this week, gave a brilliant speech on why a pay raise was needed. She spoke of the need for people who were not independently wealthy to be able to afford to be County Supervisors.
"It is unseemly to be sitting here to talk about whether we deserve a pay raise. Unless you're independently wealthy or you are someone with a spouse with a very good salary, you can kiss off public life."
Supervisor Thomson was absolutely correct in the speech that she gave. It was a brilliant moment of public discourse. Unfortunately, in the end she was unsure about pushing for the immediate pay increase. Both she and Supervisor Mike McGowan need to join Supervisor Mariko Yamada in supporting an immediate pay increase.

We strongly urge Supervisor Thomson to bring the issue back up this session. The current County Supervisors deserve to be adequately compensated for their hard work. Future aspiring County Supervisors should look at the position as a means to serve their community without some of the sacrifice in terms of financial well-being. And the voters of Yolo County will be supportive of this pay increase as long as people like Supervisor Helen Thomson continue to speak passionately and forcefully on why it is needed.

The public is very generous when their public officials are open and upfront about the reasons for them seeking a pay increase. We again urge Supervisor Thomson to bring this vote back for reconsideration.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting