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UPDATED 10/29/09:New developments about the Burbank Police Commission

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Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove. (From left to right) Commissioner James Etter’s empty chair, Chairman Robert Frutos, Commissioner Claudia Bonis, and Commissioner /Vice-Chairman Nathan Rubinfeld at the October 14 police commission meeting.

There’s a good chance James Etter’s chair will be vacant at this Wednesday’s special Burbank Police Commission Meeting. Commissioner Etter walked out of the police commission meeting on October 14, after complaining loudly about what he considered a lack of progress by his fellow commissioners.

Later on, the commissioners voted to hold a special meeting to draft a letter to the city council asking to “beef up” their responsibilities and become as Commissioner Ray Adams put it:”… more valuable to the community…” during these difficult times. The commissioners decided to hold that special meeting this Wednesday, October 28. There were reports about that special meeting on this blog and elsewhere on the Internet and in the media. However, it seems all the commissioners may not be on the same page when it comes to being more helpful to the public.

Yesterday, I e-mailed Chairman Robert Frutos and asked what he hoped to accomplish at the special meeting and if Etter would be attending. Frutos’ response this morning was:”I will be glad to answer the questions at our Wednesday meeting.”  When I asked for a clarification Frutos wrote:”I would like to give my response in public with the other commissioners present.” Hmm, that’s strange. Does he really mean, to give his response under the watchful eyes of Police Chief Tim Stehr and Assistant City Attorney Juli Scott?

Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — Assistant City Attorney Juli Scott gives direction to the commissioners during the October 14 meeting.

The purpose of the special meeting was stated publicly by the commissioners at their October 14 meeting. So why can’t Chairman Frutos answer simple questions about that meeting from a Burbank resident and yes, a member of the media?  Also, the word is already out that Commissioner Etter may not show-up for the special meeting because of a medical issue.

Skeptics have called the Burbank Police Commission’s new found “desire” to be more active in the community and responsive to public needs and inquiries as more smoke than fire. Sadly, they may be right, at least in the case of one commissioner.

UPDATE 10/29/09

Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove —(from left to right) Commissioners Elise Stearns-Niesen, Claudia Bonis, (Chairman) Robert Frutos, (Vice-Chairman) Nathan Rubinfeld, Ray Adams, and Hagop Hergelian at the October 28, 2009 special police commission meeting.

They did it. The Burbank Police Commission composed and approved a letter last night to be sent to the city council. The letter was drafted by Commissioner/Secretary Elise Stearns-Niesen with the aid of Vice-Chairman Nathan Rubinfeld and input from the rest of the commissioners, including the absent James Etter.

As I reported earlier, Commissioner Etter is dealing with a medical issue, in fact, he had surgery on Monday. However, days before the medical procedure, Etter sent several e-mails to Chairman Frutos: one apologizing for walking out of the previous police commission meeting, another asking for certain issues to be placed on future agendas, and a third offering a suggested letter to the city council.

No action was taken on Etter’s agenda items because he needed to be present to do that, however, his suggested letter to the city council was used as a framework by Stearns-Niesen and Rubinfeld. The draft letter asked for a clarification of the police commission powers and duties as dictated by the Burbank Charter, apparently with the intent of the commission becoming more helpful to the city and its citizens during this troubled period of lawsuits, investigations, and yes, scandal.

That letter is supposed to go out officially to the city council this week. Chairman Frutos stated Etter would be “… up and running…” and able to attend the November meeting. The only problem is there will not be a police commission meeting next month. The commissioners voted to not meet again until Wednesday, December 2, 2009.

The Burbank Police Commission is moving forward, perhaps a lot slower than many would like, but it’s making some progress. We’ll just have to wait and see whether the commission will be able to get up to speed in the next few months and become a real value to the community.

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16 Responses to UPDATED 10/29/09:New developments about the Burbank Police Commission

  1. Stretch Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 12:03 am #


    Why would anyone have to refrain from telling the truth? Nothing will change because the people who are responsible for this mess are still in charge.

    It’s all checks (bank of taxpayer) and no balances.

    All we can hope for is a law enforcement agency is watching.

  2. Fronnie Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 12:35 am #


    For a while there, it looked like the Burbank Police Commissioners were ready to step-up and help led the city out of this mess. Sigh, you may be right in saying it’s going to take outsiders to do the job.

  3. DixieFlyer Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 6:47 am #

    Can’t agree with you, this time.
    Chairman Frutos appears to be far from desirous of doing anything “under the watchful eyes of Police Chief Tim Stehr and Assistant City Attorney Juli Scott” other than try to conduct the Commission business IN PUBLIC!!!
    This special meeting is the first opportunity for these Commissioners to share and exchange their own views of how they can be REAL, EFFECTIVE and MORE VALUABLE TO THE COMMUNITY.
    Perhaps Chairman Frutos is showing sensitivity to his fellow Commissioners by not announcing, in advance, his personal prefences–but rather to avoid the “edicts” issued by his predecessor.
    Hopefully, we haven’t forgotten the e-mail messages, the urging of Commissioners not to ask questions of City Council members or the City Manager???
    We, the public, now have a MUCH better understanding of major elements of the MESS this Commission faces along with the Police Department–and all of us.
    This meeting, to compose a letter to the City Council outlining THEIR requests for improved means to conduct meaningful, effective, and worthwhile meetings, can be just the breakthrough needed to start us on the road to recovery.
    Far from not being able to answer simple questions, the Chairman appears to be being respectful of his fellow Commissioners, and affording each and every Commissioner the same opportunity to share their visions TOGETHER–and in the full light of the PUBLIC.
    I,for one, believe that this Commission IS ready to “step-up and help lead the City out of this mess” as STRETCH commented.
    At least Chairman Frutos responded to e-mails, unlike other public officials recently.
    Big questions in my mind include:
    Will Juli Scott let them really DISCUSS their suggestions???
    Will our City Council be capable of allowing our Police Commission to actually function???
    These comments are intended to respectfully disagree with your sentiments as expressed, with the hope that my thoughts will be considered,also.

  4. Reese Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

    Dixie Flyer:

    While what you say maybe true, it bothers me that Chairman Frutos didn’t just reply that what he hoped to acomplish was exactly what you stated above.

    This group has been too secretive for too long. Maybe he should try to answer public questions when they are put to him and not after he consults with the chief.

  5. Carol Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 1:05 pm #

    Maybe if they want to discuss things and answer questions they should send the city attorney and the ploce chief out of the room while they do it.

    Everything I read everyplace suggests they open their mouths only with approval from the police chief and city attorney.

  6. Fronnie Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 1:11 pm #


    You make some good points. Still I must say I have attended several of the recent police commission meetings and Chairman Frutos frequently leaves the door open for Juli Scott to run all over the commissioners. You don’t see the City Attorney acting like that at the city council meetings.

    I understand what you are saying about Frutos not wanting to speak for the entire commission, even on an issue where he and many of the commissioners have already made public statements.

    Also, Frutos was not asked to speek for everyone, just himself. Public officials do that all the time. Sooner or later all of the Burbank Police Commissioners are going to be asked questions outside of their meetings and their answers should be more than just “come to the meeting and hear what we have to say.”

    Bottom line, if the police commissioners want to
    to really help get the city out of this mess, they have to be able to answer not just the simple questions, but the hard ones that will come from the public and the media.

  7. Tim Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    I don’t have great hopes but it will be interesting to see just what the commissioners come up with.

    This group needs to tell the council here is what we have been doing and it does not work. Here is what we need to do because things have got to change.

    Short of that they are just wasting time meeting at all.

  8. Incognito Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 2:27 pm #

    Oh!, how sad, if this is the case. I really want to believe that they do want to step in and help sort this GIANT mess.

    But, I will stay open minded and give them the benefit of the doubt till tomorrow’s meeting, after that there really won’t be any questions and we will have our confirmation of who really runs the city and how deep it really is. (I hope I am wrong for the sake of this community).

    Stretch, you are so right on about the NO balance, why should they care, it’s not their money and no one has ever really put them in this spot before. Keep the comments coming, I appreciate the information.

  9. Going Nuts Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    The problem is not just the police commission. They are useless without the backing of a strong, legitimate city council to vote for reform proposals. With Barlow and Golonski bossing around the others…nothing will be done.

    The commission only existed so if anyone ever came asking…the chief could say see we have a commission that says everything is great!

    The true puppet masters are the chief, Barlow and Scott, Flad and Golonski. As long as this broken chain of leadership is in place there is no chance for objective reform. If one council member had the cajones to petition a consent decree, this whole thing would be over quickly because the temporary chief would put a stop to all the nonsense.

    You can’t control people who don’t let you control them.

  10. Kyle Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 5:18 pm #

    Honestly I think this city is beyond hope without some changes on the city council.

    The Mayor doesn’t even get what is going on in Burbank and the Vice Mayor is to busy with her little group of friends to understand much of anything either.

    Honestly those two seem to only perk up their ears and listen to Golonski and their city attorney. When it comes to anyone else they hit the mute button in their mind and just ignore.

    My money is on their ignoring things catching up and biting them big time in the rear.

  11. DixieFlyer Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 12:42 pm #

    Thanks one and all for the above exchange!!!
    THIS is what we need our City Council and Boards & Commissions to practice–kicking thoughts and ideas around –between and amongst themselves.
    While we can watch & listen.
    MINIMAL staff participation, at the call of the chair or other members request.
    And last but not least, direct answers to questions including, when appropriate”We don’t know…but if you want we’ll find out and report back”

  12. Fronnie Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 1:24 pm #


    I agree.

  13. Stretch Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm #

    But remember Dixie…we saw it last night at the council meeting when Gordon asked the key questions. Barlow answers again “Its all confidential”.

    Barlow and friends won’t be able to hide behind confidentiality for long. The trials will call at least half of the department to testify and it will all spill out like water from the Delta.

    I cant wait for Chief Stehr to take the stand…the whole truth and nothing but “I plead the fifth”

  14. Going Nuts Thursday, October 29, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

    Your right Fronnie about “wait and see”. The time to build a fire department is not after you have a house ablaze. I doubt that the commission will be able to get up to speed in time. Nobody wants to get their feet wet with the “big one.”

    However, I think they are to be commended for their efforts thus far.

  15. Reese Thursday, October 29, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    Completly agree with going nuts. By the time the police commission gets their act together there just might be some oversight commission set in place by the Federal Government. Remember the Christopher Commission forced on the city of Los Angeles ?

    While the drag their feet they miss the opportunity to show that just maybe Burbank is capable of showing some leadership and doing something.

    The train has left the station and the Police Commissioners sit around the station debating on whether or not they should buy a ticket.

    Efforts are great going nuts but come on now, efforts can also be a front for doing nothing. I am out of patience on this. It will cost us a bundle and it just may cost us the ability to do anything because we showed we were not capable.

    The commission is a disappointment.

  16. Incognito Friday, October 30, 2009 at 5:05 pm #

    If we don’t learn anything from the tragic loss of a decorated 22 year veteran (Sgt Gunn), who just took his life, because of all the stress, pressure and other issues at hand we will never be well.

    It’s disheartening that Sgt Gunn, had no support within his dept, management or hierarchy and this was the only way he saw out.

    WAKE UP Burbank, this is NO longer just about a few officer’s allegedly crying wolf, money hungry as they have been called. We are talking about Precious Human life.

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