September 21, 2011. Pasadena Star News
Columnist Larry Wilson comments on an
exchange between me and South Pasadena
Police Chief Joseph Payne.
Larry Wilson: When a police chief
dares to post online
THE South Pasadena watchers among us, weary of the disaster that has been the turgid construction project on Fair Oaks Avenue being the only subject of conversation in town, harken back to the glory gossip days of last year, when a police chief was ousted in a political coup.
Regular readers will recall the situation. And they will recall that, here in the post-Wild West, chiefs of police outside a megalopolis don't report to an elected mayor or the members of a city council. Democracy is not the point here - it's the taint of patronage, and favoritism, that comes with political placements.
That's why we have city managers, appointed by the elected leaders, to whom all other professional staff in the city report - usually with the exception of a city attorney, and sometimes a city clerk; in the case of South Pas, the treasurer is also elected.
But it was very fishy, as I reported, the way popular, affable former Chief Dan Watson was drummed out of town. (From all reports, by the way, the former LAPD commander is doing fine as the new chief in Mammoth Lakes, an excellent place to round out a career.) His ouster seemed to many in town to come out of closed-session council meetings, not any independent action by the city manager. It also seemed to come out of the blue, and to not be tied to any dereliction on Watson's part. Word was, I reported, that the former South Pas officer who was installed as chief had talked about running for council himself, and that a cabal of the current council talked him out of it by dangling the chief's job before him.
I called the council members who went along with the putsch - Mike Cacciotti, David Sifuentes, Philip Putnam and Mike Ten - the Gang of Four, and lauded Councilman Richard Schneider for not going along with the purge.
I know that Sifuentes is not running for re-election. But I see that he was at the kick-off for candidate Art Salinas, and that his campaign manager is Jeff Monocal, who works with the police union. Tom Jacobs, head of the police union, was at the event, and was introduced.
But something I find particularly interesting is an exchange I read this week in the comments section of a South Pas blog. Local Ron Rosen, who I think sometimes calls himself "Mr. Earl" in anonycommentary, writes: "Looks like we have someone using an assumed name. If I were guessing, I'd guess it's one of the players in the story. Mike Ten? Joe Payne? David Sifuentes? A member of the POA?" Then a certain Joseph Payne responds: "Not me, Ron. The days of `Mr. Earl' notwithstanding, I have never felt the need for disguised posts, and I resent your reckless inference to anonymous posts. To put your claims in perspective, when a police chief loses the support of the council, city manager, and the POA, it's time for a change of scenery . . . Any one of those three spells trouble. As far as my appointment, sometimes the ends justify the means."
This past Sunday, the chief bowed out bowed out of the conversation, promising to comment no more.