Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — Burbank Mayor Gary Bric read a statement at last night’s council meeting.
Finally, after weeks and months of mostly silence or as some folks have described it stonewalling, the Burbank City Council spoke out last night about the controversial and very messy situation surrounding the police department. Back on May 13, I wrote a post about the alleged problems in the BPD and called on the city council to not… ” wait until it all explodes into a full blown controversy, but step forward now and explain the situation to residents.” Mayor Gary Bric and city council members Anja Reinke, David Gordon, Jess Talamantes, and Dave Golonski did not heed that advice from me and other citizens, but remained tight-lipped about the situation.
So after seven lawsuits have been filed by former or present members of the Burbank Police force, including a former Deputy Police Chief, and persistent rumors about investigations by outside agencies like the FBI, the city council is going public about the growing scandal.
At the beginning of Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Mayor Bric announced he would read something “very important” … “a statement” he says the council members agreed to earlier in the evening, in closed session. Here is the full text of that statement, which is now posted on the city Burbank website.
Statement from Mayor Gary Bric
Burbank City Council Meeting
September 29, 2009
There has been a lot of press recently regarding issues at the Burbank Police Department and I’m sure the community is concerned and wants to make sure that these issues are being appropriately dealt with. There have been a number of lawsuits and claims filed that contain multiple allegations of improper conduct ranging from wrongful termination, discrimination and retaliation to abuse of force and various forms of covering up such activities. These are all very serious allegations and I think it is clear to everyone that the police department is facing some major challenges. All of these allegations have arisen from sources within the department or from former members of the department.
As a result of allegations prior to these lawsuits, a number of investigations have been initiated both by the department and by outside entities at the invitation of and with the cooperation of the city. These investigations began long before the filing of the lawsuits and claims mentioned above. Chief Stehr requested the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department come in and perform an independent investigation. The city also began an independent investigation using an outside attorney and an outside investigator, both of whom report directly to the City Attorney and City Manager’s office. Your Burbank City Council has met with the outside attorney in order to confirm that there are no limitations on the scope of the investigation and to indicate that any signs of lack of cooperation by anyone within the city are to be brought to the Council’s attention. The Sheriff’s department requested that the city hold off commencing its investigation until the Sheriff’s investigation was completed. In addition to these investigations, the FBI has been conducting their own investigation into these matters and we are cooperating with their inquiries to the city. It is our understanding that when the Sheriff’s investigation is complete, it will be forwarded by the Sheriff’s department to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. The city’s investigation is now ongoing and includes all of the issues raised by the lawsuits and claims that have been filed and will also include any additional issues that may arise in the future.
While we cannot legally share the details of any of these investigations, we felt it was important to share with you that the issues in the Burbank Police Department are being taken very seriously and investigated by outside independent agencies. These investigations have been taking what seems like a very long time, but the investigators know the seriousness of the allegations and are making sure they do a complete and thorough job. We are frustrated that we cannot share more detailed information with you, but the integrity of the investigations and strict legal rules governing the privacy of police officers that may be under investigation prevent us from making any further comments.
While we know the entire community is disappointed to know that there are issues within the police department, please rest assured that the City Council is taking every step possible to make sure all of the issues are identified and that steps are taken to make sure that any problems that are identified are dealt with in a manner that insures they are never repeated. This may mean some severe consequences for any persons involved in misconduct, but we believe the integrity of our police department is extremely important to this community and is our paramount concern.
With our firm commitment to discover and correct any misdeeds within the police department, I can assure you the majority of the men and women in our police department are not involved in these issues and we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize the excellent job they do protecting the safety of our community during these difficult times.
End of statement
In the past, city council members have reluctantly acknowledge some “lawsuits” and “investigations,” but in this statement for the first time, there is public disclosure of the involvement of the FBI. The investigations are said to be looking into conspiracy charges and a pattern of corruption as well.
Recently, the call for leadership and action from the mayor and city council has become loud and demanding from Burbank residents. Now that those city officials have taken action, will it ease public fears, anxiety, and bolster confidence in the city leaders’ abilities to handle the police scandal and all of its ramifications? At this point, we will have to just take the mayor’s suggestion, from last night’s council meeting, to “stay tuned” and see what happens.