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Debate and controversy at Burbank City Council meeting

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Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — Burbank City Hall

That discrimination lawsuit filed by five members of the Burbank PD last Thursday, popped up several times at the Burbank City Council meeting last night. First, it was on the written agenda as having been discussed with legal counsel earlier in the afternoon during the council’s closed session. Also seven, yes that’s right,  potential cases against the city were brought up in that behind-closed-doors discussion as well.

The present lawsuit alleges a pattern of discriminatory hiring and promotional practices, harassment, retaliation and other offenses in the Burbank PD. It was brought up or alluded to by several speakers during the public comments. Both City Manager Mike Flad and Councilman Dave Golonski reiterated Burbank’s policy for zero-tolerance when it comes to discrimination. Neither spoke directly about the allegations.

Although the council would not discuss the lawsuit pubicly, it was definitely at the core of a new controversy that flared up at the meeting. The council decided to reconsider its vote of four applicants to fill vacancies on the Burbank Police Commission. A visibly upset Councilman David Gordon was the only  “no” vote out of five, and he called the action  “wrong,” and “a reshuffling of the democratic process.”  Even though none of the applicants were mentioned by name, it was clear during the heated debate who was the target of the re-vote campaign.

The unidentified applicant is apparently on some form of probation from a DUI. The police commission application did not ask about criminal background, so how did this become an issue? Police Chief Tim Stehr admitted at the council meeting that someone in his department brought it to his attention. Stehr passed on the information to the city staff and the city attorney then informed council members.

Chief Stehr is one of the defendants specifically named in that Burbank Police discrimination lawsuit. The unidentified applicant reportedly has stellar credentials for fighting racism — one of the main accusations in that suit. You gotta wonder, if Stehr and his sources in the police department came up with that DUI information in an attempt to get the unidentified applicant removed from the police commission.

Councilman Gordon was clearly uncomfortable with the timing of the DUI revelation and how the information came to the council. However, other council members appeared to be more concerned with creating a police commission with a certain image, during what they frequently referred to as this “sensitive” time. By the way, Mayor/City Council member Gary Bric has disclosed in the past and did so again at last night’s meeting, that he got a DUI, 13 years ago.  

So who would the proponents of the re-vote campaign like to see on the police commission? Well, probably Joe Gunn, the chairman of the police commission, who did not get a seat on the panel during the first vote. Gunn wrote that infamous e-mail to fellow police commissioners dated May 13, 2009.

In the e-mail, Gunn asked police commissioners not to talk to certain city officials about, “…a major investigation going on within the Burbank Police Department.” Also, Gunn wrote: “Please refrain from asking city council members and the city manager about this investigation. They also do not have all the facts at this time and repeated requests for information keeps stirring the controversy and gives ammunition to those who wish to do the Department harm.”

This Gunn e-mail outraged some locals who feel the police commission’s job is to provide oversight for the police department and to be first and foremost, looking out for the best interest of the residents of Burbank. I agree with that, but believe the police commission’s effectiveness in carrying out its duties is now hampered by its own controversy.

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41 Responses to Debate and controversy at Burbank City Council meeting

  1. snoopy Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 6:40 pm #

    These emails among the Police Commissioners appear to be an indicator that the commission itself has become an insider club that lost it’s direction all together. This is a citizen oversight commission and the focus for them has become protecting the department.

    I find it very telling that so much effort would be put into trying to keep the status quo on this commission, at a time when many questions are being asked and the very commission that should be asking them has failed to do so. The chairman has ordered that the commissioners are not even suppose to speak with council members or the city manager. It appears that the police commission has lost its way and needs new blood to get back on track.

    One has to wonder just what is so important to protect that there would be such resistence to any change on this commission.

  2. Fronnie Lewis Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 7:32 pm #


    I agree, it does appear “the police commission has lost its way and needs new blood.” Hopefully after some thought and review, the city council members will gain the insight and the determination needed to create a bold, independent police commission that will put the interest of the citizens first.

  3. Marie Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 1:31 pm #

    I watched this on TV and the City Council Members really looked ridiculous. It was apparent that they didn’t know what to do without the police chief telling them what to do. It really looks like they don’t know what they are doing. What a mess!

  4. Fronnie Lewis Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 2:13 pm #


    I was at the city council meeting and the handling of the police commission re-vote matter appeared confusing to me as well. It was not a good demonstration of city government by the Burbank City Council.

  5. T.J.B. Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 2:28 pm #

    I was SHOCKED by how bad they looked! You must have been confused by their confusion! 🙂

  6. T.J.B. Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    Is the Joe Gunn you are talking about the same man who is/was on the los angeles police commission and in this video ?

  7. Carole Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 9:06 pm #

    I looked at the Los Angeles Police Commission on the internet. With the Burbank Commission you can’t even find a page that says who they are but in Los Angeles they even have their meetings archived so you can watch them on demand.Take a look at how they have public meetings people could even watch so why are Burbanks police commissioners a secret and their meetings a secret ? Where are the tapes of their meetings ?

  8. Carole Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 9:10 pm #

    Here is the link for a news release page at the Los Angeles Police Commission web site that says Joe Gunn is Executive Director and picking the new chief back in 2002.

  9. Jim Carlile Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

    Good piece, but there’s a little bit more to the story.

    We’re also not sure exactly who Golonski is going after, and why. It may in fact be both the male commissioners who were just appointed. And it might not be just a DUI, either– the Burbank Police were quite upset about the interaction between them and this individual in the past. This implies more than a DUI situation, which I don’t recall was specifically cited.

  10. Fronnie Lewis Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 10:06 pm #


    This appears to be the same Joe Gunn who served on the Los Angeles Police Commission as well as the Burbank Police Commission.


    I went looking for a page of information on the Burbank Police Commission, too.

    You are right, the Burbank Police Commission meetings are not video-taped.

    We need more transparency and less secrecy in Burbank city government. The best time to start is right now.

  11. Fronnie Lewis Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    Jim Carlile,

    Even though they beat around the bush a lot, I think it was clear they were speaking about a DUI incident and the police commissioner being on some kind of probation. That’s why Mayor Bric got testy and stated he got a DUI 13 years ago.

    Also, behind the scenes there were some meetings with this un-named applicant. Apparently pressure has been applied for him to step down, but he has refused.

    So it appears the next move is up to the city council.
    Also, you could be right — that Golonski could be after more than one new police commissioner.

    As for the Burbank Police being upset about an interaction with this individual — I’m not ready to assume this is a negative for the individual until all the cards are on the table and all complaints are out in the open.

  12. Reese Place Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 10:47 pm #

    Maybe we should round up everyone in Burbank who has a DUI. This is grasping at straws by a desperate city council. Its time to get serious about this mess and talk about a recall of a few people who if they didn’t know what was going on sure should have known. No doubt we will all get to pay for their failure to take care of business but we sure should not keep paying them for it.

  13. Reese Place Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 10:50 pm #

    Oh and most people in Burbank didn’t even know there was a police commission until all of this came up, so what has that group been doing, where do they do it and who have they been doing it to anyway ?

  14. Fronnie Lewis Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 11:42 pm #

    Reese Place,

    Some very good points. I agree that some Burbank city officials should have known about these problems — and if they did — should have taken some kind of corrective action.

    And yeah, all this attention and discussion about the Burbank Police Commission has a lot of folks asking questions about the panel and city government. I think that’s a good thing. Hopefully, all of this will bring about constructive change.

  15. Reese Place Friday, June 5, 2009 at 1:37 am #

    Welcome to the Peoples Republic of Burbank. The problem is nepotism, inbreeding causes small minds and breeds racists. Constructive change is a recall so we can fire their relatives.

  16. Jim Carlile Friday, June 5, 2009 at 2:40 am #

    I agree that it looks like grasping at straws. If the individual is who I think it is, the police are targeting him for reasons that have nothing to do with a misdemeanor. They want him out and not for good reasons, in my view. He’s a social activist. But they have no problem dragging him over the coals and defaming him with lots of innuendo.

  17. Fronnie Lewis Friday, June 5, 2009 at 11:54 am #

    Reese Place,

    I have heard many complaints about nepotism in Burbank city government. As you suggest, that can very well be part of the reason the city is in the messy situation it is in now.

    Jim Carlile,

    I agree, the group in the Burbank Police Department that is targeting this new police commissioner is not doing this because of a DUI. They want him off the commission because he is very knowledgeable on human rights and battling racism. And yes, they are trying to smear this man’s reputation with their actions. They fear this guy and the way I see it, that’s a good reason to keep him on the police commission.

    Too bad some city council members don’t seem to be aware of this. If they were, I would think they would not have been so quick to approve a re-vote for the vacant seats on the police commission.

  18. Fuscardo Friday, June 5, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    Interesting point that it’s:
    ‘to bad council membets don’t seem to be aware of this”

    Is it being unaware of this or is it being a part of this ?

    I vote for some of them being apart of it because if they are so unaware of things we are really in trouble.

  19. Fronnie Lewis Friday, June 5, 2009 at 1:57 pm #


    I hear what you are saying. Either way you look at it, there is reason for serious concern among the citizens of Burbank.

  20. Fuscardo Friday, June 5, 2009 at 2:19 pm #

    Thanks for hearing! It is really hard to feel you are ever heard when you live in Burbank so THANKS!

  21. Fronnie Lewis Friday, June 5, 2009 at 2:30 pm #


    Keep on speaking out. It’s your right. The more of us who tell the politicians we want change — the sooner it will happen.

    Barack Obama became President of the United States because the voters demanded change. And got it.

    In Burbank, we can send politicians a message at the ballot box as well.

  22. Resident Friday, June 5, 2009 at 4:17 pm #

    What does a major investigation really mean ? Who is investigating ? Is it this police commission ? What is being investigated ?

    Also how often do these people meet and where do they meet and exactly what do they do.

    If I got a ticket could I go there and explain the circumstances or what ? I never heard of them before so I am curious.

  23. Carole Friday, June 5, 2009 at 4:26 pm #

    I think they hang you if you go and tell them you got a parking ticket.

    There is nothinmg anyplace about them so they are some kind of secret society or something. Stay away from secret societies because they always mean you harm.

  24. Carole Friday, June 5, 2009 at 4:28 pm #

    You know the Burbank web site is very hard to use. That thing is designed to get you lost and confused. There is a page that says all agendas but nothing about the police commission, like I said it’s some sort of secret society like a shadow government or something.

  25. Carole Friday, June 5, 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    Oh and even if I can’t find anything that even says there is a olice commission there is a page under all agendas that is called the sustainable Burbank task force. What on earth is that and does anybody really look for that, if you do please tell me so I understand why that is even there.

  26. Fuscardo Friday, June 5, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    Hi Carole

    Is this link what you are talking about ?

    That must be something they think is important for you to know about because it even has links for it but it doesn’t do much when everybody wants to know what the police commission does that’s for sure.

    To answer your question it’s a waste of web space.

  27. Fronnie Lewis Friday, June 5, 2009 at 4:39 pm #

    Resident & Carole,

    The Burbank city website is being re-designed. It might be a good idea to let city hall know you want information about the police commission included and easy to find on the new site.


    You can’t get much out out city officials about the investigation.

    In my post called “More controversy in Burbank”

    Councilman/Ex-Mayor Dave Golonski is quoted as saying at a council meeting “…there are internal and external investigations going on…” Clearly, Golonski and others in city governent have knowledge of these investigations. Details they are not sharing with the public.

  28. Resident Friday, June 5, 2009 at 4:40 pm #

    I found something but it sure doesn’t help beecause it says they meet on call. What does that mean if I want to talk to them I call and say meet ? Who calls them and why don’t they have regular meetings people could go to ?

    ESTABLISHED: By Burbank Municipal Code §2-1-413.
    COMPOSITION: Five members appointed by Council. On 5/22/07, the Council added 2 more members.
    TERM OF OFFICE: Four years.
    MEETINGS: On call in the Police Services Building, 200 North Third Street
    STAFF: Tim Stehr, Police Chief
    PHONE NO.: (818) 238-3200
    FAX NO.: (818) 238-3209
    ADDRESS: Police Department, 200 North Third Street, Burbank, California 91502
    CHAIRPERSON: Joseph Gunn
    VICE CHAIRPERSON: Robert Frutos


    David B. Ahern

    Claudia Bonis

    Joseph A. Gunn

    Elise M. Stearns-Niesen

    Hagop Hergelian, Sec. 05/22/2007 06/01/2011
    Robert Frutos 05/22/2007 06/01/2011
    Nathan W. Rubinfeld

    This is from this page I finally found after searching for an hour on the web page for the city

  29. Resident Friday, June 5, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    About it being redesigned ? It should have a big sign on it that says under construction or something it gets the worst web site award. You can’t find anytyhing!!!

  30. Fronnie Lewis Friday, June 5, 2009 at 4:46 pm #


    I agree, the present Burbank city website is a challenge to navigate. You have to have a lot of luck and patience to find what you are looking for on that site.

  31. Resident Friday, June 5, 2009 at 4:49 pm #

    Fronnie Lewis;

    It is set up so that everything is hard to find. I think they design it so people won’t find things but if they complain they can say you are wrong it’s right here. Not that a person with normal intelligence would ever find it that’s for sure. I want to see information on this police commission but so far nothing. Why is that all hidden ???

  32. Reese Place Friday, June 5, 2009 at 5:02 pm #

    The whole idea is to keep you confused so you won’t figure out what is going on. They pay millions to keep you confused all the time.

  33. Tim R Friday, June 5, 2009 at 7:47 pm #

    I never knew there was a Police Commission. I don’t think they do much about anything.

  34. Fronnie Lewis Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 1:00 am #


    I hope the new Burbank city website will be better organized. I really don’t know why the information on the police commission is not on the front page of the city website. You can call the city clerk’s office at city hall on Monday and maybe get some answers to your questions.

    Reese Place,

    The purpose of the website may not have been to confuse, but it does so on many levels.

    Tim R.,

    You are not alone. A lot of people are hearing about the police commission for the first time. From what I understand, the job of the panel is oversight of the Burbank Police Department. An important job.

  35. disgusted citizen Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 4:05 pm #

    In all honesty, everything I read makes me aware that we have some group called the Police Commission. Everything I read also makes me realize that they see, to feel important with a title and that seems to be about all they do.

    Can anybody name one thing this group has done ? Wbat I mean is something they have done other than feel important and meet in secret?

    Are there any suggestions from this group anyone has ever heard about ? I read the Burbank Leader and in all honesty I don’t ever remember reading this group did anything at all.

    I think everyone is right they don’t do anything at all but I bet it somehow costs us to have them do nothing. We have to many useless groups filled with self inflated people who do nothing and that is the problem.

    From what I am reading everyplace the officials in Burbank need to wake up and change this worthless group and get some new people who just might do something.

  36. disgusted citizen Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 4:27 pm #

    One more thought. Just how do citizens contact this police commission and just how do citizens file a complaint with this commission ?

    If citizens can’t file a complaint with them and have some kind of a hearing they are a worthless bunch of self inflated egos and that is the problem with government!

  37. Fronnie Lewis Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 5:58 pm #

    Disgusted citizen,

    A lot of folks in Burbank are feeling your frustration. It’s hard to find information about the police commission on the Burbank city website, but here is a link where there are some details

    Also, you can click over to the city of Burbank website home page and under departments you will find the city clerk’s office. You can call that office on Monday and asked where to send a complaint (818) 238-5851.

  38. Jim Carlile Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 9:40 pm #

    It’s only until recently that the police commission has done anything. They rarely met and when they did, the majority of the members were ex-police officers.

    Until last year they also refused to process citizen complaints against individual police employees. In his defense, Golonski a few years ago tried to get them to do this, but they came back and told the council that such a task was not necessary.

    What finally caused them to change was when the city’s own consultants came in (ex-police officers themselves) and told Burbank that they had to alter the commission’s duties to include personnel complaints.

    BTW, there’s an update on the real story behind John Brady:

    This has nothing to do with a DUI. As soon as he got on board, Brady started asking uncomfortable questions about discrimination. He has also been a long time civic activist in Burbank, and has complained to the council about the BPD before. That’s how they know him.

  39. Fronnie Lewis Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 12:12 am #

    Jim Carlile,

    That update post on your blog is very good. Yeah, I believe the DUI is a smoke screen, an excuse, being used by Chief Stehr and his group on the Burbank PD to try to bump Brady off the police commission.

    I agree, the reason Chief Stehr and the others are targeting Brady is more than likely fear of Brady’s outstanding record as a civil rights activist.

    The way I see it, Brady has the kind of experience and expertise the police commission needs.

  40. Tim R. Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    If they never meet no wonder no one ever heard of them lmao. So when they did meet what did they do ? Like sit there, pat each other on the back for a great job and then go of feeling all powerfull, all knowing and all important ?

    A dude that believes in civil rights is the right experience for a group like that is how this sounds to me. So I get it the dude they want to dump believes in civil rights but what I don’t get is what do the rest of them they want to keep believe in anyway ?

  41. Fronnie Lewis Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 8:41 pm #

    Tim R.,

    This controversy swirling around the police commission has focused new attention on this panel, its members, and its duties. I suspect in the very near future, the police commissioners are going to be asked some of the same questions you just asked. Like many others, I look forward to hearing their answers.

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