Measure U committee asks intelligent questions

Recruitment and retention are public safety’s largest challenges

File Photo
Hemet’s Measure U Oversight Committee at their swearing in last month. The committee is asking many intelligent questions of city staff.

■ By Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Reporter

While the Measure U oversight committee is all bite and no chew when it comes to how Measure U funds are spent, I will be honest – they are by far the most prepared and inquisitive group I have ever seen at the dais. They did their job during their first “official” meeting by asking questions the city certainly didn’t anticipate – and based on city officials’ reactions – they did their job well.
They met for the second time on May 1 and asked questions – pushing city staff again to ensure they are able to do the job outlined in the resolution.
The City Council selected oversight members who pushed for the tax, funded the tax and/or contributed to council members’ election campaigns. We did a public records request on the council members’ campaign statements (Form 460). You can request them from City Clerk Sarah McComas. Per the Fair Political Practices Commission, “the Form 460 is also required if $2,000 or more will be raised or spent during the calendar year at the behest of the officeholder or candidate.”
We requested the public records because we had a feeling that campaign contributions had been made to current council members by members of the Measure U oversight committee. In addition to that public records request, we requested the ballots from the meetings that selected the committee members. The Measure U campaign also endorsed Council members Karlee Meyer, Bonnie Wright and Mayor Pro Tem Michael Perciful.

Who gave what to whom
Councilwoman Bonnie Wright received 2016 campaign contributions from Eric Gosch ($250), Suzzanne Kozma ($150), Richard Dana ($150), Therese Steadman ($100 – Charles Steadman same household).
Councilwoman Karlee Meyer received 2016 campaign contributions from Eric Gosch ($500), Connie Hall ($400), Robert Davis ($200), Keith Meissner ($100), Emily McDonough ($100), Charles “Chuck” and Therese Steadman ($100).
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Perciful received 2016 campaign contributions from Connie Hall ($100).
The top 11 candidates for the Measure U Oversight Committee were Marion Allen, Richard Biber, Robert Davis, Daniel Goodrich, Eric Gosch, Brad Hyman, Suzzanne Kozma, Marie McDonald, Jeff Retmier, Robin Rickert and Charles Steadman.
The votes from each council member (in order of preference) leading to the final seven selected are as follows:
Bonnie Wright: Eric Gosch, Robert Davis, Suzzanne Kozma.
Karlee Meyer: Hemet residents Jeff Retmier, Marie McDonald, Robin Rickert, Richard Biber; Sphere of Influence: Charles Steadman, Robert Davis; Suzzanne Kozma.
Michael Perciful: Hemet residents Richard Biber, Jeff Retmier, Robin Rickert, Marie McDonald; Sphere of Influence: Robert Davis, Eric Gosch, Daniel Goodrich.
The final seven selected were Jeff Retmier, Richard Biber, Marie McDonald, Robin Rickert, Robert Davis, Eric Gosch and Suzzanne Kozma.
Unfortunately, the funds received from the tax audit are “cleaned-up” – as Administrative Services Consultant Joy Canfield put it – a few months after the end of the quarter, so there is a delay in knowing exactly how much revenue the city generates. My hope is that the tax earns well beyond the amount of money we borrowed from the reserve account to fund the initial injection.
The Police Department has had its Strategic Plan for some time and in the wake of the stalled homicide investigations, has moved up the hiring of two investigators from year two to year one. This gives the families of homicide victims hope that unsolved cases will be cleared sooner rather than later, giving their loved ones some long-delayed justice. You may recall that the citizens were immediately promised more “boots on the ground.” However, it seems that any new boots we get are just replacing boots that either leave or retire.

One thing worth noting is that legal and risk management fees are included as acceptable Measure U expenses. As Richard Biber pointed out during the meeting, depending on the volume, these two line-items could detract from the ability to hire the necessary “boots on the ground.”

Measure U proviso for legal fees and risk management

One thing worth noting is that legal and risk management fees are included as acceptable Measure U expenses. As Richard Biber pointed out during the meeting, depending on the volume, these two line-items could detract from the ability to hire the necessary “boots on the ground” to hit the target of 1.2 full-time officers per 1,000 Hemet residents, which Rob Davis stated, “was the entire reason for passing the Measure in the first place.” Neither comment was meant to be negative, but rather a comment on the reality of the situation.
Davis also pointed out that about 15 percent of the total proposed expenditures are slated for recruitment and retention, which again, hinders the ability to increase our police presence and diminish crime. We did just announce a “War on Crime.” If you are going to wage a war, you need people to fight it, right? Was the ‘War on Crime’ announcement a bit too premature because of lack of officers? Should the city have waited for the department to hit pre-recession staffing levels before declaring such a war?
Should we have waged a war on crime?
Is waging this war going to segregate our community and completely dissipate any trust – having the opposite effect and increase violence? Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck just wrote an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times regarding such an action. Chief Beck explains that he “was part of Operation Hammer — the war on gangs and the war on drugs. We truly believed that we were at war and that more arrests and tougher policing was the solution to the plague of violence sweeping through the city. And make no mistake about it; the city was incredibly more violent. Murder, rape and robbery all occurred at levels three to four times greater than today.”
He goes on to say that, “Unfortunately, when we declare war, several things happen. We cause collateral damage, which erodes whatever moral high ground led to the declaration. Our “opponents” — now unified — possess their own moral mandate for counterattacks. This is what we did when we declared war on our own communities during the 1980s and 1990s.”
Personally, I am not OK with declaring a war on my community. This puts everyone at risk – our community and our officers.
Retention is a problem
However, during the second Measure U Oversight Committee meeting on May 1, the concern of affordability was raised. Administrative Services Consultant Joy Canfield responded that the measure is a catalyst to increase the tax income for the city as it becomes safer.
The San Diego Union Tribune recently interviewed San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman regarding how the department is struggling to meet its hiring goals, despite an increase in benefits last year that officials hoped would reduce departures.
Chief Zimmerman said that the “city has hired 135 officers since the start of the current fiscal year in July, including 44 in the police academy class that started on Monday. Of 110 officers who have left the department in that period, at least 19 hired on with other law agencies.”
She does go on to say that the new contract was helpful and that without it they would be in worse shape than they are right now.
The minutes from the council meeting on Dec. 13, 2016, state that Councilman K. Paul Raver “expressed concern that the report seems glowing when the reality is that Hemet Fire Department has a retention problem and continues to train firefighter/paramedics that move to other cities. Councilman Raver recommended that a salary survey be conducted.”
Mayor Linda Krupa responded with “a salary survey is part of the Fire Department’s Measure U spending plan.”
We will discuss the retention plan next time.

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