Recently, the Burbank City Council renewed the three-year contract of consultant, Michael Gennaco, of the Office of Independent Review, as an independent monitor of the Burbank Police Department. The cost of Gennaco’s contract, $80,000. In light of the growing tab for the notorious police cases and the BPD’s handling of that nasty incident involving Magnolia Park merchants last August, monitoring of the department is absolutely necessary.
Mistakes by the Burbank Police Department have cost taxpayers plenty. Burbank has paid out millions in a slew of scandalous police cases involving allegations of misconduct, discrimination, harassment, and civil rights violations. Many of the cases are related to the 2007 takeover robbery at Porto’s Bakery and subsequent investigations, which prompted probes by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as well as the FBI. Some of the lawsuits were filed by current or former members of the BPD dealing with treatment they alleged they received while on the force. It’s no wonder these cases have come to be known as the “police mess.”
Last month, Burbank spokesman, Drew Sugars, sent Media City Groove an update on the cost to the city for the police mess: “For the police litigation arising from Porto’s, the City has spent $12,132,721, which includes the City’s cost of its outside attorneys as is represented on the City website, judgment to Bill Taylor, his attorney fees plus interest, and settlements. The City estimates that it will receive over $7,000,000 in reimbursements from the City’s excess insurance carrier.”
Also, Sugars said: “Besides the litigation cost…the City has spent $678,039 on outside counsel for administrative proceedings arising from Porto’s.” These costs are as of August 31, 2015 and are still going up, because there are still several unresolved cases from the police mess.
Last July Gennaco, went before the city council and delivered the details of an independent audit of the Burbank Police Department — the third such report in his three years involved in oversight of the agency. The report did not reveal any major issues with the department, however, Gennaco cautioned that as an auditor he’s always, “looking for ways in which the department can improve.” For that Gennaco needs to review the BPD’s handling of an incident just a month later that some are calling “poopgate.”
The incident concerns the Romancing the Bean restaurant in the 3400 block of Magnolia Boulevard and outlandish allegations made by the owner, Kerry Krull, against a nearby merchant, Ralph Persinger. Krull reportedly convinced Burbank Police Officer Ashley Johnson, to make a report against Persinger for allegedly taking a dump in a trash can in the restaurant bathroom. If you have been following the merchants’ feud on this stretch of Magnolia then you know there’s a lot of bad blood on the block.
On the morning of August, 21, 2015, Persinger says the BPD rookie cop walked into his shop, Burbank Antiques, and accused him of the dirty deed. When Persinger vehemently denied it, Officer Johnson is said to have told the shop owner she saw him on the restaurant video tape. Shocked and appalled by the accusation, Persinger has made several attempts to get copies of the police report and the video tape showing the culprit, however, all his requests have been turned down by the BPD.
At the September 24, 2015 city council meeting activist, Mike Nolan, spoke out about the bizarre situation during the first public comment section.
Nolan chided the BPD for foot-dragging saying “What are we doing in Burbank? What kind of training are we giving our police officers? They should be embarrassed. Break out the tape. It’s either the man or it isn’t and ended it!”
The city council should have backed Nolan up on this, but it didn’t. Remember, how the city council ignored the rumblings of the police mess until it became too big and expensive to ignore. Is history repeating itself? Has Burbank stepped into another legal mess. Persinger, who believes his reputation and business have been damaged by this ugly incident and without a way to clear his name, has hired a lawyer. So Burbank may soon be dealing with another expensive legal case, which will be paid for with taxpayer dollars.