This was an article we posted back in May of 2012 when we requested all contracts for outside legal help by the City Attorney’s office. There were no documents responsive! This was recently brought to the forefront with a new article by Dan Bernstein from the Press Enterprise, “Riverside: The (Hidden) Cost of Business.” Bernstein refers to all the non contractual outside legal services which are not documented, a hidden cost as he calls it, but not hidden to taxpayer monies. One of the most striking documents we at TMC found a couple of years ago was one which Best, Best & Krieger had their own charge card, to charge the City of Riverside as they needed to for legal work rendered. Charges to the tune in excess of six figures?
The writers of the below public records request were trying to determine by what authority did the City Attorney’s Office claim their right to hire outside legal without City Council approval. The following first two documents are the letter of request to the City Attorney’s Office asking them to answer the question of no contracts. The last letter is a response by City Attorney Greg Priamos stating there are no documents responsive.
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The question then arose was because of Section 702 Eligilbility, powers and duties of the City Attorney, from the City of Riverside City Charter. This section of the charter stated, “The City Council shall have control over all legal business and proceedings and may employ other attorneys to take charge of any litigation or to assist the City Attorney therein.” We were told that state bar requires a lawyer to provide a contract for any work done for a client. We believe that Section 702 makes all outside legal services require approval by the majority of the City Council.
With this in mind, an new issue arose, this was of the City Manager, Scott Barber. The PE reported that the city has hired, with two contracts of $49K each, a law firm to conduct an investigation of two councilman, Davis and Soubirous. The $49K is significant because it is just below the $50K cap that the city manager can spend without seeking council approval. We don’t contest that the City Manager has the right to spend this money without council approval, but we don’t believe that Section 701 of the City Charter gives the City Manager the authority to hire outside legal without City Council approval.
Section 703 of the City Charter says: “The city clerk shall have the power and be required to: (c) maintain separate books, in which a record shall be made of all written contracts and official bonds.” We believe the intent of this charter requirement is for there to be a publicly accessible record of how public funds are being spent. The practice of hiring outside legal services circumvents the intent of this section.
Section 1401 of the city charter states: “the violations of any provision of this charter shall be deemed a misdemeanor and be punishable upon conviction by a fine of not exceeding one thousand dollars or by imprisonment of a period not exceeding six months or by both such fine and imprisonment.” We can therefore ask the question, “Is it per incident?” If it is, it certainly can add up for some individuals. When we are talking about millions of dollars, as indicated in the Press Enterprise, we have to ask the question, “Does it become a felony?” How then can one account for such mismanagement of taxpayer monies without a legal rationale for the beneficial purposes of those monies? What is the real truth here that appears to have been circumvented by City Attorney and City Managers by a document called a City Charter? A document which appears not to be abided by when it should.
We say this because of the circumstances. We bring the incident which involved our current City Manager Scott Barber. Just in September of 2012, City Manager Scott Barber decided to take his City Manager hat off and play Council by authorizing a change order of $2.5 million without council authority for the Fox Performance Plaza. He brought the issue to Council and basically appeared they would rubber stamp the idea, after-the-fact. Had this type of shenanigans been done before by the prior City Manager? The City Manager’s discretionary spending cap is at $50,000.00, anything over that amount must go to council. Certainly violated the Charter Amendment. What made Barber think that he had the authority to act as an elect and ferret it out without them? A complaint should have been filed against him with Human Resources, and Council should have fired him immediately.
Or the time, which involved City Attorney Greg Priamos denying that he had anything to do with the command for the arrest of public speaker, Karen Wright. Officer Sahagun was commanded by the City Attorney to arrest public speaker Karen Wright. Then Priamos calls the police report “inaccurate”, this then implies that officer Sahagun is s liar. Brian Smith, RPOA President states, “we call that a lie in the profession, and the State of California calls it lying in a police report a crime.” So if it is in fact a lie, will Priamos prosecute Officer Sahagun for falsifying a police report? To this day it remains unclear what Priamos meant by referring to the report as “inaccurate.” In addition, has yet to give an explanation of what was actually said between himself and Officer Sahagun. Again is City Attorney Greg Priamos a liar?
The question is, “Why should the taxpayer put up with what appears to be “rogue” activity? What should be done about it? Why isn’t anything being done about it now?” It is appearing that by default we are experiencing the “two sets of rules syndrome.” So why does the house always win, when the taxpayer should be in charge?
It has been apparent to the community of the close working relationship between the law firm Best, Best & Krieger and the City of Riverside. What’s quite evident in fact is that the working relationship between the two entities involves oral contracts.
According to City Attorney Gregory Priamos no hard contracts exist not even a retainer agreement, when a public request act is initiated. When it comes to a public accounting of the expenditures of the City Attorney, as requested by Mayoral Candidate Dvonne Pitruzzello, a rejection letter below, for the request was sent. According to the letter Gregory sent, there is no such accounting that has been prepared, and according to law, the law does not impose any duty to create such a record. Therefore, non is required. Since when has the taxpayer not be allowed to know what their money is being spent on? This should be disturbing to many people, because it states that they treading waters they should not be treading. And according to the law, the City Attorney’s office is not required to disclose the spending of taxpayer monies. You have to know there is something very wrong with this picture. Common sense would tell you there is something to hide behind the dark glasses of City Attorney Gregory Priamos. But there was nothing to hide after allowing $159 million in illegal RDA loans to be approved by City Council, then rejected by the Finance Office for the State of California. What would then be the result of his performance evaluation, which was being discussed in closed sessions Tuesday April 4, 2012, at City Council? I’m sure, just as it went well for our former City Manager, this will go well..
Above is a letter sent to Mayoral Candidate Dvonne Pitruzzello regarding her request for an accounting of the City Attorney’s from Gregory Priamos. The law does state that if no documents are responsive to ones request, they, the city has to help you identify the request.
On 05/15/2012 at City Council, Mayoral Candidate Dvonne Pitruzzello stated to City Attorney Gregory Priamos, ‘how many denials of public records act does it take to get disbarred”? What’s a real contradiction is that the City of Riverside has ‘retainer agreements’ for services with every other law firm they do business with. Though an excess in millions of dollars have been paid out to BB&K, there has been no pertinent or rational explanation to the taxpayer. We were even denied BB&K’s billing hours under the public records act. As taxpayers, should we believe that we should expect anything less than a written contract? I would say not. When individuals ask for a rational explanation regarding no contracts, the city’s implication to the community is that “we don’t need no stink’n contracts”? Is this an act of arrogance or defiance by a public servant toward their employer, the taxpayer? If anyone has dealt with lawyers there is always a contract, but it appears that the City is the only entity that is allowed to perform this “verbally”, or as we understand it, not even with a “memorandum of understanding.” One of the biggest law firms in the nation, Best, Best & Krieger is hands down an exception with the City of Riverside? What is it between the two? As community residents, are we also to accept the fact that Best, Best & Krieger is allowed to dictate carte blanche their legal fees to the taxpayer via their own credit card? It seems so, according to the following documents, but what else is the public to otherwise believe?
And we’re not talking nickels and dimes, but six figures and more. So the question is, who’s in charge and watching taxpayer’s coffers? It appears the city council is not, not even the mayor, it definitely appears that the city attorney’s office isn’t according to the excessive litigation cost. So who’s minding the store? Inquiring taxpayers would like to know. But just maybe, the store has an open door policy, right to the cash register. Why? Quite possibly in their incestuous relationship that has grown over the years.
Such as the cozy arrangement between certain ex city of riverside employees or just BB&K employees who are strategically now on city committees. Conflict of interest? The cast of BB&K characters interlaced with City of Riverside, who previously worked with the city, on their boards and committees are numerous. Former Grover Trask (former Riverside County District Attorney), Michelle Quellette (City of Riverside’s Charter Review Committee), Jack Clark (Committee to name City Hall after Mayor Ron Loveridge) or Charity Schiller (Vice Chair of Riverside Downtown Partnership). BB&K has also been in the media with the City of Bell, whereby the city is now suing BB&K attorney Edward Lee for faulty legal advice. Even Governor Jerry Brown subpoenaed BB&K records regarding pay packages in Bell, California. In any case, we don’t know how this one fell through the roof, but we did manage to receive one arrangement between BB&K and the City of Riverside to represent Former Chief of Police Russ Leach. What a surprise, it’s signed by City Attorney Greg Priamos and Grover Trask, former Riverside County District Attorney now in the employment of BB&K. Oh lets’ just call it a “contract”, or correctly a “retainer agreement”. Tomato, tomahto, oh let’s just call the whole thing off… Wish we could, but it gets better.
Then there is developer Mark Rubin’s connected liaison with the City of Riverside and the City’s alter ego, the Redevelopment Agency. There is no doubt the brazen display of a conflict of interest displayed and perpetrated by the City of Riverside in approving the Citrus Tower’s lease deal between Best, Best & Krieger, Developer Mark Rubin and the City of Riverside. “Three peas in a pod?” Is it at all possible that the BB&K deal was orchestrated and designed to provide a lease revenue stream for the bonds held on the Citrus Tower project? Was BB&K involved in bond advice for the city? Councilman Paul Davis first told colleagues he’d heard concerns about “the general perception of the gift of public funds and creating a monopoly” to benefit a private developer, but he ended by saying it was a moot point because the city already has signed a lease. How long will the City of Riverside continue to terrorize the taxpayer with shear incompetence and their breach of fiduciary duty to protect the coffers of hard earned taxpayer monies by the City Attorney’s Office? Good questions for City Attorney Greg Priamos, who coicidently has attended two of my alma maters, Loyola Marymount University and the University of Southern California. A sad day for both university’s Gregory. The question in the community are the ruthless expenditures within the City Attorney’s Office. How much taxpayer money has been litigated out, or settled out as if it was your own, without any rational cognitive reasoning? Or was it just for sport? Or is the threat of litigation just a city tool used against the opposition for what is known in the business as “client control”? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. TMC believes the later is mostly true at our expense. Therefore why would the city litigate to the tune of 9 million, then lose, and then have to award out 250K in one documented case? Of course, that wouldn’t happened because after all as taxpayers we should all believe what the city does is rational and in our best interest. Well the truth of the fact is, that it did, and nothing was in our best interest. Though he serves at the pleasure of the council, should the City Attorney answer rightfully to the employer, which would be “we the people”? This I say because the council and mayor has failed to supervise the activities of the city attorney. The failure is such that we must ask the question of what makes one believe the city attorney needs to incorporate police lights with all the bells and whistles in their pimped out city vehicle? Where did one lose the sight of whose money it really is? TMC can’t answer that, but I’m sure there is a rational answer from our city attorney, as in the case with the ‘no contracts allowed with our best customer.’ It may not be right but it is an answer. Ultimately, the council and mayor is responsible for the activities, failures and actions of the city attorney. In an article in Cactus Thorns, the 29 Palms City Council questions the spending to their City Attorney, and when they looked at public records, that was even a total shock. In this continuing painful saga, one can hire BB&K to run a city attorney’s office. Carte Blanche in Riverside. For a price, instant city attorney, as in this article in The Orange County Register? In the City of Yorba Linda, for example, BB&K attorney Sonia Carvalho represented the city in the capacity of the City Attorney for over a decade. Conflict of interest?
TMC, RATED RIVERSIDE’S MOST “SLANDEROUS” AND
MEZZSPELLED, “MISSPELLED” AND “OPINIONATED” BLOG SITE! TEMPORARILY BLOCKED BY THE CITY OF RIVERSIDE AT PUBLIC ACCESS SITES WITHIN THE CITY, THEN UNBLOCKED. I GUESS YOU CANNOT DO THAT ACCORDING TO ACLU. NOW TAGGED LOCAL BLOGGERS OR LOCAL MEDIA? RATED ONE TWO ONE STAR OUT OF FIVE IN TERMS OF COMMUNITY APPROVAL RATINGS.. TMC IS NOW EXCLUSIVELY ON FILE WITH ZELLERBACH’S DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE, AND PROSSIBLY POSSIBLY ON FILE WITH THE CITY OF RIVERSIDE’S POTENTIAL SLAPP SUIT LIST… WE WILL HAVE TO ASK GREGORY ABOUT THAT ONE ( OUR PEOPLE WILL HAVE TO CONTACT HIS PEOPLE)… AGAIN, THANK-YOU COMMUNITY OF RIVERSIDE AND THE CITY OF RIVERSIDE EMPLOYEE’S FOR YOUR SUPPORT! COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOMED, ESPECIALLY SPELL CHECKERS! EMAIL ANONYMOUSLY WITH YOUR DIRT OR FOR CONTACT! THIRTYMILESCORRUPTION@HOTMAIL.COM