Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove
The Burbank Police Commission’s July meeting yesterday at the Burbank Police and Fire Headquarters was very difference from the previous month. In June, the commission voted to adjourn before conducting any real business because of a cloud of uncertainty hanging over newly appointed commissioner, John Brady.
In a controversial move, the Burbank City Council voted to remove Brady from the police commission citing his probation for a DUI as the reason. Nevertheless, the human rights activist showed up at yesterday’s commission meeting and sat with a small group of local citizens.
This time around, a written agenda was handed out to the public and those wanting to speak to the commission were given the chance during oral communications. Oddly, the June commission meeting did not have oral communications, even though the printed copies of the minutes of that meeting stated otherwise. Burbank resident David Piroli pointed this out to the commission, which acknowledged the error and said it would be corrected. The written minutes are the only official records of the police commission meetings.
The commissioners may have been a bit apprehensive when Brady stepped up to speak for five minutes. Brady soon put them at ease. There was no rancor or anger from him. Brady spoke politely about the importance of the commissioners handling their duties responsibly, “…power should not be taken lightly …” and then, wished the commission well. Burbank resident Ester Espinoza used her five minutes before the commission to lay out some of the long running complaints she has about what she believes is mistreatment of her family by the Burbank police.
The most hard hitting speaker was long time resident Mike Nolan who began by admitting, “I’m really pissed off.” Nolan proceeded to explain he has been asking a series of questions at Burbank City Council meetings for weeks and so far has not received any answers. Nolan’s questions pertain to the alleged lawsuits and investigations swirling around the city. For the commission, Nolan laid out the questions again, which included: “How many lawyers have been hired” to deal with the investigations? “How many law firms?” “When did you hear about the cowboys or cowgirls?”
Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr responded by saying, “…not to my knowledge —not to my staff knowledge…” to Nolan’s question about a subversive group in his department. Both Chief Stehr and Burbank City Attorney’s Juli Scott attempted to assure Nolan that the information he requested was being gathered. Attorney Scott told Nolan he would probably get the information “… before next Tuesday’s” meeting of the city council.
Next, the commission elected new officers. Only five of seven commissioners were present: Robert Frutos, Hagop Hergelian, Claudia Bonis, Elise Stearns-Niesen, and James Etter. The Burbank City council has not appointed a replacement for Brady. Nathan Rubinfeld was absent, however, that did not stop his fellow commissioners from electing him vice-chairman. An odd decision, since Rubinfeld was not there to either accept nor reject the nomination for office. Also, Stearns-Niesen was elected secretary and Frutos chairman.
It appears the police commission and the police department have heard public concerns about the effectiveness of this board. There was quite a bit of discussion about the duties of the commission and how to stay connected with Burbank residents. Attorney Scott handed out memos on meeting procedures and an overview of the California Brown Act, which requires local government bodies, boards, and commissions to hold open public meetings. Also, Stearns-Niesen introduced a motion to request the city council to change the commission’s quarterly meetings to monthly. That motion passed four-to-one with only Bonis voting against it.
Also, Chief Stehr and members of his staff gave reports on crime statistics, budget, and recent activities in the police department. The most disheartening was an update on the Kitty Pants caper. Stehr reported that the latest efforts to get the adoptive family to give Kitty Pants back to its original owners, Amy and Jim Roach, have failed. So it looks like Kitty Pants will not be coming home any time soon.