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Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Police Chief Scott LaChasse at the podium during the joint meeting of the city council and police commission at Burbank City Hall November 23, 2010

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G — Police Chief Scott LaChasse at the podium during the joint meeting of the city council and police commission at Burbank City Hall November 23, 2010

The Burbank Police Commission is under siege. The first target is the outspoken Jim Etter, but it appears to be part of a carefully crafted plan by City Hall insiders and their minions to divide and utimately muzzle the commission. The Semichorus blog has an interesting post about the Etter attack with some background on some of the players involved.

A while back, rumors were flying fast and furious about a “certain” city councilman who wanted to disband the present police commission and install ALL new members of his choosing. Sounds outrageous? Remember, “certain” members of the city council tried to take over the police commission public forum last August, but when that tactic got panned all over town — they were forced to step back. The outrageous and hard-to-believe frequently happens in Burbank city government these days.

Community reaction to the public forum was overwhelmingly supportive for future forums and for this new more involved police commission. Who championed police commission public forums and kept bugging his fellow commissioners and city council member, Anja Reinke, until they all got on board with the concept? The renegade, Jim Etter. Who has pushed this police commission to move away from the docile do-nothing panel it used to be — to one that’s more relevant and beneficial to the community?  Yup, Etter again.  He is the most forward thinking on the police commission, therefore, the most obvious target for some backward thinking critics.

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Police Commissioner Jim Etter at the National Night Out kick-off event in Burbank, August 3, 2010

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G — Police Commissioner Jim Etter at the National Night Out kick-off event in Burbank, August 3, 2010

A full blown attack on Etter occurred at the recent November 23 joint meeting of the Burbank City Council and the Burbank Police Commission.  City Councilman Dave Golonski demanded some kind of code of conduct for police commissioners, because he had “… gotten some pretty serious complaints…there is some behavior I think is highly inappropriate…”

So what or who had Golonski so riled up? You guessed it, Jim Etter. The renegade had been wearing his police commission shirt at non-events, offering his assistance to residents by passing out business cards or posting the cards in his vehicle.

Etter, who has agreed to stop wearing his shirt without permission or handing out or posting his business cards, defended his actions as a way of letting residents know he’s there to help: “You can’t find me on the website … you won’t give me an e-mail… you won’t give me an address…”

Burbank City Attorney Dennis Barlow was called to the podium at that meeting to give a legal opinion that might support Golonski’s charge of “inappropriate behavior.” Barlow’s response:”… no specific codes of conduct… that would apply to commissioners in the city…’

That was just the first round. Also, Etter was accused of  “interfering” with a police officer during one of those infamous Friday Night Classic Car Shows at Bob’s Big Boy on Riverside Drive. Etter, a car buff,  admitted he asked a Burbank Police officer at the event about a parking/traffic situation that the car show participants did not like.

Later, Etter passed on a suggestion to Police Chief Scott LaChasse, which was used to resolve the issue. So what was the thanks for Etter –LaChasse joined with Golonski at the meeting in accusing him of “interfering” with a police officer doing his duty.

And there is more. During final public comments, Burbank resident Brett Loutensock accused Etter of perjury in some court case…but then admitted”… I cannot prove any of that ..he was asked a question… he perjured himself, in my opinion. He’s a public figure I’m allowed to make those kinds of statements.”

Also, Loutensock admitted he had taken pictures of vehicles in Etter’s driveway, with business cards in the windows, on more than one occasion. Loutensock said he “…took pictures tonight..” and brought the photos and camera with him. Gee, how did Loutensock know that Golonski was going to bring up the issue of Etter and the police commission business cards? Hmm.

When Etter began responding to his allegations… Loutensock got up and walked out. At the end of his statement Etter said of Loutensock: “He’s dead wrong on what he’s telling the council and the public and he should be admonished for that or (laugh)…slapped around a little bit… I don’t know.  He’s just not telling the truth.”

In round two, Loutensock returned to the city council on Tuesday, December 7, and produced what he said was evidence of court cases involving Etter. In an e-mail to me, Etter admitted he had been involved in some court cases, but his memory was fuzzy on the details:” I can’t remember the birth dates of all my children, however, it doesn’t mean I were not there.” He said.

Also, Loutensock claimed that Etter’s final  comment about him two weeks before amounted to threatening “… a member of the public with violence.”  Loutensock called on the council to remove Etter from the commission.  Oh, before he wrapped up …Loutensock thanked council members Gary Brick, Dave Golonski, and Jess Talamantes for their assistance.

In an article last weekend about the Etter controversy on the Burbank Leader website, Loutensock reportedly said he did not plan to “…press criminal charges” against Etter. Apparently the city council has decided to look into the matter.

Interestingly, none of the council members objected when Etter made the controversial statement last month. Perhaps they felt that it was made in jest — not intended to be taken seriously. Sort of like the remark made by Councilman, Gary Bric, at the December 7 meeting during the discussion of sidewalks on a section of Screenland Drive where most of the residents do not want them.

Reluctantly, Bric said he would vote not to include that area in a sidewalk construction project,  but there were some safety issues with overgrown hedges and something had to be done. He felt strongly enough about it to  go down there himself with hedgers and … “knock it down in the  middle of the night…”  Are we going to see some resident come in later and accuse Bric of  threatening vandalism on their property?

I think not. Bric was just trying to make a point. Perhaps the way Etter was doing earlier with a little drama and some theatrics. Maybe in Etter’s case,  he needs to be “slapped around a bit” by his wife before meetings, to shake up his long term memory and to remind him to cut back on the long winded speeches and drama.  Juuust kidding!

How does the Etter controversy affect the rest of the police commission? After the verbal flogging of Etter at that joint meeting last month, the commissioners were told by the city council to come up with a code of conduct for themselves.

Also, after witnessing the treatment of Etter it is highly unlikely the commissioners will be adventurous enough to reach out to the citizens of this city in any way other than holding monthly meetings or at a city sponsored event like a public forum. That’s a shame.

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