Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — Ex-Burbank City Council Member/Mayor, Marsha Ramos
A few weeks ago, Marsha Ramos stepped out of the public spotlight and back into private life after two terms on the Burbank City Council and twice serving as mayor. Also, Ramos has worked on numerous city committees, boards, and panels, including the police commission, over the years.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Ramos has been watching the dramas and controversies swirling around Burbank with particular interest.
Earlier this week, on Tuesday June 9, Ramos answered some questions for me via e-mail.
1. What do you think of the decision to re-vote the police commission vacancies? What do you think of the decision to do background checks on police commissioners?
I acknowledge that all board and commission members serve at the pleasure of the City Council, and can be removed for no reason at all. However, in this case both the timing and the questionable procedures have created a perception that is damaging. The decision to conduct a background investigation after the appointment was made is troubling to me. The City Council and Burbank Police Department had never indicated or even implied that a background check was necessary or considered. In my opinion isolating this commissioner and conducting a background check after his appointment was a discriminatory decision.
It is especially troubling because this is the type of decision making process that lends support to the allegations the 5 police officers are citing in their lawsuit. And now, at the direction of the City Council last Tuesday, all the police commission appointees must file additional paperwork and submit to a background check after they’ve been appointed. This is a procedural nightmare.
I was a police commissioner, at no time during my service, or as a participant of the police community academy was I informed that a background check had been conducted as a condition of service or required for a police ride-along. The role of a police commissioner is very different than that of a Police Department volunteer. The two should not be confused. Volunteers are provided training and regular office hours and have access to more confidential information than any Council member. The Police Commission, an advisory body to the Council, meets only four times per year and had very limited access to confidential information.
In the future if the majority of the Council chooses to remove a commissioner or board member they have a responsibility to act appropriately, and a duty to be fair and respectful to those in our community willing to serve.
2. What do you think about the discrimination lawsuit filed by five members of the Burbank Police Department?
I’m saddened, because I think this should have been avoided. Leadership is critical. That said, I recognize first hand, that hands are tied by a dysfunctional system that escalates conflicts to a point of no return. Already the divisive rhetoric has surfaced, and one hopes that the morale of a department that has had a stellar reputation will not erode. Ultimately, protecting the financial interests of the City is the primary consideration. The adversarial positions crafted by the city attorney’s office will be carefully molded with very little room to move toward an expedient resolution. Sadly, it is the nature of the legal system.
3. What about those “internal and external investigations” going on?
These are very complex conditions in a climate that is clearly tense. There are and have been multiple investigations and allegations. The courts will sort through some of them, outside eyes will make other determinations and findings, and the court of public opinion is more engaged than usual.
4. What course of action should city officials take to deal with the current situation with both the media and residents demanding answers and action?
Proceed with great care.