The whole idea that you build me the restaurant, and I’ll tell you how at a cost, then I’ll provide the food and service, again at a cost. How did the city and taxpayer get into the restaurant business? Close friends and possibly a little favoritism?  Well let’s look at how this whole web of events play out. First, we start with Rodney Couch who is president of Preferred Hospitality Inc.   Now, under this umbrella falls The Market Broiler chain and Provider Foods Contract Servicing.  Under Provider Foods Contract Servicing,  falls City Hall’s Raincross Café , Stewart’s Boat House Lakeside Room Fairmont Park, Grier Pavillion City Hall, Orange Terrace Community Center Café , Orange Terrace Library Café, and other City Recreation venues.  The city has six contracts with Rodney, and the only one making money in the relationship between the City and Provider Foods/ Market Broiler is Rodney Couch!  If this isn’t favoritism, I don’t know what is!  The City of Riverside has spent BUCKETS of money on Provider at a total loss to the taxpayer.  Need a caterer, nope you can’t use them, you have to use Rodney.  They are, afterall the sole caterer to the City, or let me clarify in politically correct terms “preferred” caterer.  Provider is also involved with other projects such as The Atrium Café Riverside on Lemon St., The Atrium Café at Riverside County Administrative Center.  Conflict of Interest? Monopolization of the surrounding free market place and a breach of laissez-faire economics?  Not to mention, that the Raincross Cafe was built with taxpayer money. We also paid for the kitchen equipment, maintenance, utilities as electric and water, repairs etc. It’s a great deal.  No other vending machines are allowed in city hall except Rodney vending machines.  

Rodney is also paid for his services from the net sales of operations, so it doesn’t matter if they make a profit or not. Then you have those encentive bonuses, 20k for advertising etc., of which we have yet to see.  We know the city has control of the billboard off the freeway for advertising, but we are sure Provider would not have to pay for that advertising service as others would.  Did the Law Firm Cihigoyenetche, Grossberg & Clouse ask to see the receipts Provider/ Marketbroiler was suppose to utilize for advertisement and marketing services of City owned food service/ restaurant facilities?   Just like magic, as one of the partners Scott Grossberg performs on the side, they found no evidence that contracts were steered to friends of City Manager Brad Hudson.  That’s a shocker! You hire a law firm at taxpayer expense to represent you, and  voila, you get the answer you want!  That’s magic…  But it appears that magic has a price.  It appeared that the firm was very close to getting an answer on this favoritism debacle, when the City decided they needed to give the firm more money as to the tune of a measly $100,000.00, for a total payout of $150,000.00.   The firm’s final report, released this week, describes in detail several cases about which questions were raised, and of course the answers the City was looking for. 

But what continues to be agregious, I don’t know if people are seeing this, but you have a City Manager who thinks he can breach the lines of privacy and possibly violation of attorney client privilege information or even ECPA (the Electronic Communication Privacy Act) , and the law firm Brad hired is stating it is acceptable. Brad Hudson is not Assistant Deputy Attorney Raychele Sterlings superior.  City Attorney Greg Priamos is!  There is something wrong when the City Manager goes beyond his range of duty, and breaches an associates department.  The council or the mayor don’t appear to really understand this scenario. But I would expect more from Greg Priamos, a leader and superior of that department.  If this same scenario happened in the private sector, Brad Hudson would have been fired. City Hall has become a culture of enablers creating a dysfunctional introverted world. This scenario is wrong. But what we have is a culture of relationships, such as Greg Priamos and Brad Hudson seen on a Friday night, June 10, 2011, with two unidentified ladies at Duane’s Restaurant at the Mission Inn have dinner and conversing.  So do we have microcosm’s of undefined relationships breaching the laws the community has set forth?  Well, we must then ask ourselves, what would be Raychele Sterling’s modus operandi?  Sterling said city employees brought their concerns to her because they didn’t feel comfortable going to the Human Resources department, but she never stepped outside her role as a city attorney.  “There would be no reason for me to make this stuff up,” she said. “I got fired for doing the right thing — where’s my incentive?”  That’s exactly right, why would an Assistant Deputy Attorney make this up?

 The law firm’s investigator found that Hudson had a legitimate reason to look at Sterling’s emails “based upon concerns that he had received in February 2011 from a public works employee about (Sterling) improperly interfering in public works business affairs.” The report also says Hudson cited a 2009 complaint about Sterling’s conduct. Sterling said she has never been questioned about or given details of any such concerns. Again, a complaint against Sterling’s conduct would have properly been addressed in a one on one meeting with follow-up documentation of the event, usually signed by both parties. This would be impossible for Brad Hudson to know this or conduct a meeting at this level.  He is not the superior, Greg Priamos is.  City Councilman Mike Gardner said Thursday he doesn’t see that any rules were broken, and the report lays out reasonable explanations for how the contracts in question were handled.  Again there is so many holes in this investigation, and it is shameful that taxpayer money was waisted on this event, and especially shameful that Councilman Mike Gardner does not see the breach of duty by the City Manager, as well as the City Attorney, and goes as far to support the rejection of a statement by an Assistant Deputy Attorney implying wrongdoing. 

And where’s City Attorney Greg Priamos in all of this?  He still behind the closed secure doors of his office, possibly making a phone call or two for another expensive consult with Best, Best & Krieger, and that’s OK! it’s not his money… There’s alot here, and a good part was initiated with the leadership of the City Manager.  The law firm’s report also said  that Couch and Hudson are not personal friends, Hudson had nothing to do with  signing the contracts with Provider, and because of the profit-sharing  agreement, “a legitimate reason existed to issue a marketing contract to  increase profits.”   All original contracts with Provider were signed by Ex-Assistant City Manager Tom DeSantis as The City Manager, with what appears to be Brad Hudson’s initials next to his.  This is how the real City Manager Brad Hudson rolls.  Most other contracts are signed by any of the assistant manager or staff as “for Bradley Hudson, City Manager”.  He therefore can always deny signing, but he is  ultimately responsible as the person in charge of this office, and he knows what are in those contracts.  And of course, the City Council and the Mayor are ultimately responsible for all his actions.  TMC is investigating the total amounts of payouts Brad Hudson has allowed to go to Provider, then you the taxpayer, can make your own decision about favoritism, corruption or missuse of public funds.

Read the contracts between The City of Riverside and Provider Foods: Be patient, some of these take a little time loading: 

1. Raincross Cafe Contract 2006

2. Provider Food Services Purchase Orders

3. Advertising Services for Raincross Cafe, Grier Pavilion, Stewart’s Boathouse Fairmont Park, Orange Terrace Community Center Cafe.

4. Preferred Food Service Provider Agreement to Stewart’s Boathouse and Orange Terrace Community Center Cafe.

5. Design Consultant Services for Orange Terrace Library Cafe and Grier Pavilion

6. City Hall Grier Pavilion Reservation Guidelines

“People are looking for something that I don’t think exists,” Gardner said. “I think people are reading perfectly innocent things as something sinister.”   OK, I got it Mike, that’s must be like telling us your running for City Council, then running for Mayor…

UPDATE: 07/24/2011: In the midst of Assistant Deputy Attorney Raychele Sterling indicating retaliation by City Manager Brad Hudson.  Just this past week, Riverside Police Department Sgt. Val Graham sued the police department and City of Riverside alleging racial discrimination and retaliation including with its promotional process. Named in the lawsuit are City Manager Brad Hudson, Former Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis and Chief Sergio Diaz. Last year, three out of four similar lawsuits based on retaliation were settled out of court, which may have included the case of Deputy Chief Pete Esquivel and Officer Neely Nakamura.  If a “strategic plan” was in order, as promised by Chief Sergio Diaz, would this have made a difference? Again there continues to be a pattern of employee related lawsuits.  Is this a continuation of a lack of leadership skills or qualifications?  Why does the taxpayer continue to have to pay out enormous settlements to employee related firings. But this is nothing new, Sterling filed three complaints in February and April 2011 alleging retaliation by Hudson and City Attorney Greg Priamos.  There is a problem when the Council and the Mayor are unable to control the henhouse.  Community of Riverside demanded accountability after Ex-Chief Russ Leach’s DUI incident.  But a pattern of police behavior appears to continue, with no answer on this issue from Chief Sergio Diaz, except the response of irritation.  I believe these two powerful positions, Chief of Police and City Manager should be elected postions. We have a city in denial and a pattern of behavior with a track record that have yet to be addressed.

UPDATE: 12/05/2012: NO PROFITS EVER FROM RAINCROSS CAFE SINCE 2006 OPENING.  OPERATING COST HAVE COST THE TAXPAYER IN EXCESS OF $300,000.00  THE CITY OF RIVERSIDE MAY BE LOOKING FOR A NEW OPERATOR FOR ITS TAXPAYER OWNED RESTAURANT, BUT HOW SMOOTH OF AN OPERATOR WAS RODNEY COUCH?

Comments
  1. scott says:

    Why do you use a lawfirm to conduct an independant investigation? The results can be controlled and kept secret under attourney client privaledge! So the City attorney, acting at instruction of the city council, initiates a contract with the lawfirm “to conduct an independant investigation” of contracting irregularities. All communications between lawfirm and any investigator hired by them is confidential and given only to the city attorney. All of the city attorney’s communication to the city council on this matter and findings is confidential communication to client the city council! Only the desired results need be released publicly!!! transparency in city hall?!

  2. […] UPDATE: Alicia Robinson blogs regarding the Status quo on the menu at Riverside City Hall cafe.  The taxpayer has paid in excess of $3 million dollars to construct this cafe, which is open to the public.  The question TMC asks as Ms. Robinson ask, is the question is it the role of the public sector to pass that gray line and began to run their own businesses at taxpayer expense, in direct competition with the private sector?  TMC brought this to the attention with a posting regarding Rodney Couch, Provider Foods/ Market Broiler, and the thin line that exist between associations, friendships and favoritism:  You Provide the Food and the Couch, I’ll Provide the Millions! […]

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