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Police Chief Controversy Resurfaces as Elections Approach

While some have alluded to the fact that the City was unsatisfied with the former police chief's performance, Watson says it came as a "complete surprise."

The for is back in the spotlight as November elections approach in South Pas.

Patch Blogger Ron Rosen's recent post—and comments that ensued—have made their way into San Gabriel Valley Tribune columnist Larry Wilson's Sept. 20 piece, "When a Police Chief Dares to Pen a Note."

Wilson calls the nonrenewal of former Police Chief Dan Watson and subsequent appointment of Payne "fishy" and adds: "It also seemed to come out of the blue, and to not be tied to any dereliction on Watson's part."

But he also notes Payne's comments on South Pasadena Patch: "To put your claims in perspective, when a police chief loses the support of the council, city manager, and the POA, it's time for a change of scenery. ... Any one of those three spells trouble."

"As far as my appointment, sometimes the ends justify the means," Payne continued.

DA's Involvement

After Patch put in a phone call to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office this summer, to a complaint filed in August 2010 from a South Pasadena resident, who alleged that the City Council violated the (which requires public meetings).

While the DA's reponse to the council found "no factual findings with regard to the alleged conduct because there is no independent source of evidence," it also said the circumstances "reviewed provide a sufficiently reasonable concern."

If, in fact, Watson's agreement was presented by the City Manager or otherwise discussed in closed session as an offshoot of “Performance Evaluation of City Manager,” the council was in violation of California's Brown Act.

Nevertheless, there are other aspects of non-renewal that could lawfully be considered in closed session as long as they are accurately depicted on the agenda, Assistant Head Deputy of the Public Integrity Division, Jennifer Lentz Snyder, explained to Patch in June.

But some residents claim that the City did not properly create an agenda for these meetings, especially because two job candidates—including Payne—independently confirmed with the Pasadena Star-News that they were being interviewed for the position in closed session August 2010.

Watson and Others Respond

Council member Philip Putnam told Patch his only private input was: "Chief Watson—as far as I could tell—was doing fine."

"But I didn't supervise him on a daily basis, so I had no way of telling what his job performance was," he continued.

Putnam did admit, however, that "closed session agenda items could be posted a little more clearly"—also mentioning there is very little transparency when it comes to personnel issues.

"Employee privacy rights trump the public's right to know," he told Patch. "How they are itemized is the only opportunity for increased transparency."

And while some have alluded to the fact that the City was unsatisfied with the former police chief's performance, Watson says it came as a "complete surprise."

"I worked for four City Managers, all of whom were satisfied with my performance," he told Patch in August. "When I met with the City Manager on Nov. 5, he told me that he was very satisfied with the job I was doing and had communicated that to the Council. I had a good working relationship with all the Department Heads."

Council member Richard Schneider, Watson's contract should have been renewed, declined further comment when recently contacted.

Patch Asks: What do you think? Was City Council in violation of the Brown Act? Or are some South Pas residents drawing innacurate conclusions?

Ron Rosen September 22, 2011 at 01:05 PM
Councilman Putnam continues to amaze me, and he misses the point about the Brown Act. While the DA was concerned about the mislabeling of closed-session meetings where the Council discussed Watson and his contract, the real concern that I raised with both the Council and the DA, which the DA agreed with, was that the Council had absolutely no right to discuss Watson in closed session because only the City Manager can hire or fire the police chief. Both Putnam and Ten wrongly interpret the DA's letter as saying the Council did nothing wrong. It doesn't say that at all. A couple days ago, Assistant DA Jennifer Lentz Snyder, who wrote the original letter, wrote the following to me, "Your request that we send a [another] letter that sates: "nothing in the letter should be interpreted as an exoneration of the Council", we believe that has been accomplished." Putnam's statement that he thought Watson was doing fine but he didn't supervise him on a daily basis is just double talk. Putnam continues to pay lip service to the notion that the City Manager instigated the removal of Watson, but that's not the case. David Sifuentes proposed the removal of Watson and Mike Ten went along with it. Putnam and Cacciotti tried to play both sides, but in the end went along. Schneider, of course, supported Watson from the start. If Putnam really had no idea how Watson was doing, he shouldn't be serving on the Council. Putnam continues to defend what the Council did, while saying...
Ron Rosen September 22, 2011 at 01:26 PM
Putnam continues to defend the Council's actions while at the same time saying he had nothing to do with it - that it was all the City Manager's doing. That's just not the case. The City Manager was on the job only six months. He thought Watson was doing a very good job and told him so. But the City Manager wanted to keep his job, and the clear direction he was getting from Sifuentes and Ten was that he should replace Watson with Joe Payne. And that's just what he did. Putnam knows this. So does Cacciotti. It's time to start coming clean, gentlemen, and it wouldn't hurt City Manager Davidson to start telling the truth either. A word about the selection process: Word was all around town by December 2009 that the Council's plan was to replace Watson with Payne. That Payne was the choice was published in the Star News and Review in January 2010. Then, after a long "selection process" where 18 other highly qualified candidates applied, Joe Payne emerged as chief, although he probably had the least senior-management experience of any candidate. No one with a logical brain can look at these facts and not conclude that Payne was the only choice the Council would accept. Given some of his intemperate remarks on Patch in recent weeks, including his statement that his selection is an example of "Sometimes the ends justify the means," is a lesson in why police chiefs need years of management experience. In this case, the process and its results were seriously flawed.
Ron Rosen September 22, 2011 at 01:40 PM
Oh, and lets not forget that Candidate Art Salinas' campaign "advisor" is Jeffrey Monical, whom he introduced at his kickoff along with POA VP Tom Jacobs. It was Monical and the POA who put David Sifuentes into office by financing virtually his entire campaign, and apparently they got what they paid for when Watson was removed. We don't need another Councilman with the Sifuentes, Monical, POA agenda.
Lynn Chiang September 22, 2011 at 08:13 PM
What comes across to me and my friends is that Mr Rosen is bitter about something. His negativity is bad for his karma. He is entitled to his opinions, but they are based on his own speculation. "Word was all about the town", "he thought"- is this for real? What is his real agenda? Who or what is really behind this? Most of us are interested in facts. We can make up our own minds. He filed a complaint, it was dismissed. He made accusations, which he can't back up. He seems to take all this personally. Everyone is pretty tired of this by now. Did Mr. Rosen not want the city manager to have made the decision? Saying he was only here 6 months is silly. He has 30 years experience. It seems to me that his decision came as a surprise to many.. We would all like to know what it was based on. From everything I read, I assume that Ten and Siffuentes did not want the chief (but I have never heard why- just wild guesses which no one believes). The others said they supported Mr. Watson. Schneider was the earliest. Whether the others changed their minds or always did, they at least came out publicly at the time. But everyone said the decision was up to the city manager. The city manager told us he made the decision himself. I personally would like to believe him. Is Mr. Rosen saying he was lying? Or unfit to make the decision? Awfully harsh criticism
linda krausen September 22, 2011 at 11:42 PM
I was stunned when Chief Watson's contract was not renewed. I found him to be fair and very civic minded in every way. My idea of a fine public servant. I also have no complaints about Chief Payne, who comes well respected. My issue is with the process of our city government. I do wonder about what goes on outside of Council sessions with our councilmen. We don't know who lobbies our councilmen, who is influencing them for special interests. Is there disclosure of who visits our councilmen and who they conference with on So Pas business? In person and by text telephone and internet? Who they speak to them on the phone on public business? Where they are invited to "social " events as a result of their positions? We the public do not get nearly enough information, nor enough chance to find out and to respond to what goes on in our city government. 3 minutes of public comment and no dialogue with our councilmen on subjects of importance in the council chamber is not very democratic, and is definitely not an " open" discussion of the issues we citizens should know about and be involved in the decisions on.
linda krausen September 22, 2011 at 11:44 PM
(Con"t) Ms. Chiang seems a bit naive as to the lure of the power of public office. The temptations to fame and fortune are great - here as at every level of government, and thus there is a natural tendency to shade the eyes of the public from back-room manoevers of those in public office. That's why there is a Brown Act and other such laws. Without real disclosure and open dialogue rumours abound which can unnecessarily besmirch the names of people in public office, so could some one please explain if there was indeed a role of big campaign contributions in letting Chief Watson go, and whether the eliminating a pedestrian crossing light where I believe a young lady was later hurt- influenced this non renewal of his contract? These are rumours that I wish someone would explain openly so we could hear the truth about them and discount them for good, if necessary. thank you. lk
Ron Rosen September 23, 2011 at 12:12 AM
Dear Ms. Chaing: I'm sorry if you think I'm bitter. Perhaps what you're seeing is passion. I think I'm just a bit shaken because until December 2009 I had no idea what was going on in city government. I would like to make sure that nothing like the Watson matter happens again for awhile. I would like to answer each and every one of your questions because it sounds like you do have some serious questions about what happened and I think I can answer them. Space is limited in these comments, so I will probably answer them in my Patch Blog within the next few days. I would be happy to meet with you and your friends, or anyone really, to explain what happened. I have no agenda other than open, honest government. Because of that, my current agenda is to tell this story as best I can and to make sure that the next city council consists of people who are honest, don't have hidden agendas, and won't engage in back-room deals of the kind that Sifuentes, Ten, and Monical brought us in the fall of 2009.
Ron Rosen September 23, 2011 at 05:14 AM
Dear Ms. Krausen: It was Mike Ten, not Dan Watson, who had the crosswalk removed. Ten helps out as a crossing guard at the Middle School and felt that things would run smoother without the crosswalk. Unfortunately, he was in such a hurry to do so that he didn't follow the procedures, which include public notice and a 30-day waiting period. Ten pressured the city to move too quickly. Unfortunately, the city had to pay out a lot more money and its share of the insurance pool was negatively affected when the case was settled because the removal of the crosswalk was technically flawed. This is why some refer to Ten as a "loose cannon." He gets an idea in his head and runs with it, often without input from others or considering the consequences. It was Ten, not Watson, who pressured Public Works to remove the crosswalk without following proper procedures.
linda krausen September 26, 2011 at 01:42 AM
Mr. Rosen: Thank you for clearning that up.. And did the removal of the cross walk result in an accident the victim of which later sued the city?And how much money did the city have to pay out because of this apparently improper removal of the crosswalk? ( Money of course, that could have been used to abate our water rate increases, for example.)With regards to that crosswalk, is it true that Chief Watson was opposed the removal of that crosswalk for safety reasons and made or was going to make statements on it of an official nature which brought about a desire by some counclmen for him not to be in an official capacity on South Pasadena issues? Also, I would love to have finally cleared up the role that campaign contribution that somehow crisscrossed among the candidates in the then recent election also had in the removal of Chief Watson.. Money seems to be having a very negative - undemocratic influence on our government- foiling the will of the voters-on the state and national levels -- did it influence the decision here in South Pasadena not to renew the contract of Chief Watson,who by all accounts was doing an excellent job? And lastly, what was the role of the Police union in all of this? Thank you, Linda Krausen
Ron Rosen September 26, 2011 at 02:14 AM
The removal of the crosswalk probably didn't cause the accident, but because Mike Ten pressured the city to get it done faster, proper procedures were not followed. (People who've observed Ten over the past 8 years say that he often tries to get around procedures when he wants something done.) The city had to settle the case of the injured girls for a much higher amount than it would have because the improperly removed crosswalk likely would have resulted in a jury awarding an extremely large judgment against the city. I've heard that it cost the city around $4 million over ten years. I do not believe that Chief Watson opposed or favored the crosswalk and I don't believe Watson's removal had anything to do with the crosswalk. The police department was not involved in the crosswalk removal. I don't know anything about the campaign contribution that you refer to. I do know that Ten received money from the Police Officers Association, and Sifuentes received almost all of his money from Police and Fire. The POA backed the removal of Watson, probably because they believed Payne would be more supportive of their demands - after all, they were instrumental, along with Sifuentes, Ten, and union consultant Monical, in putting him in the job. Now the POA, Sifuentes, and union consultant Monical are backing Art Salinas. That sounds like more of the same union-controlled politics.
linda krausen September 26, 2011 at 06:42 AM
Procedure is the rule of law, writ specific; the voters' choice made concrete. Amazing how those that most spout law and order, skirt the law, and cause disorder. and lost us money when there isn't any to spare.

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