Photo:Councilman Dave Golonski from Burbank City website.
I was at last Tuesday’s Burbank City Council meeting and it was truly a disappointment. A couple of actions by the council are still bugging me. Yeah, there’s some other stuff that I thought was kind of whacked as well, but two decisions at the January 5 meeting stick out the most and are of great concern. I can’t help wondered about the ramifications of those decisions.
First, Councilman Dave Golonski’s attack on two members of the Burbank Civil Service Board is really disturbing. Golonski targeted Nathan Schlossman and Ex-Burbank Mayor Mary Lou Howard for removal from the board for making what he considered inappropriate comments, while rejecting the temporary appointment to Police Captain of Lieutenant Armen Dermenjian. Hmm, is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black? How many times, have members of this city council, Golonski included, made inappropriate remarks during council meetings in the past year? Has anybody been keeping a count?
During pubic comments, Civil Service Commissioner, Ted Milner, bravely stood before the council and defended the remarks made by his two fellow board members as “courageous” and “honest.” Very gutsy of Milner to speak up for Howard and Schlossman and risk the wrath of Golonski. But speak up he did. And I agree with him.
If Howard and Schlossman went too far in scrutinizing Dermenjian’s appointment, from what I’ve read of their comments in the transcripts, it was with good reason. Dermenjian’s name has been mentioned in that ongoing FBI probe of the Burbank PD. We don’t know if he’s considered a witness or something more. The FBI is not giving out details.
Also, then Police Chief, Tim Stehr, pushed hard for Dermenjian’s appointment, despite being on shaky ground himself. In the wake of all those lawsuits, investigations, low morale in the BPD, and the suicide of Sergeant Neil Thomas Gunn, Stehr decided to retire last November. I think Schlossman and Howard were looking out for the best interest of the city and its citizens when they questioned Dermenjian’s promotion.
Even though the Civil Service Board blocked Dermenjian’s appointment to acting police captain twice, city officials managed to find a way to circumvent the board. Dermenjian got that promotion. Still last Tuesday, the city council voted 3-to-2 ( Dr. David Gordon and Mayor Gary Bric were the “no” votes) to censure or publicly reprimand the two civil service commissioners for their inappropriate comments. I disagree with the decision and consider it, ah, well, inappropriate for the alleged offense.
Photo: Burbank City Attorney Dennis Barlow by FLewis/A Writer’s Groove
Also, I had some difficulty understanding how the city council could quickly vote to hand over $1.2 million of city funds to pay some new high-priced lawyers. A million of that is being set aside for attorneys Merrick Bobb of Police Assessment Resource Center and Debra Wong Yang of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Ironically these lawyers already have been hired. Last Tuesday’s vote apparently was just a formality.
I thought it was interesting when Councilman Gordon questioned Barlow about whether he’d asked for a price break on the steep legal fees. Barlow answered “no” because he didn’t want to “nickle and dime” the big time lawyers. I don’t think we’re talking about chump change here. This is serious money!
I’m not sure what kind of advice on improving the BPD these lawyers can give before the results of the investigations are known. So why start hiring expensive lawyers now? Some believe the real reason these lawyers are being brought on board is to defend the actions of some of THOSE folks who had a hand in causing many of the problems and legal challenges now facing the city and the police department.
Again, I’m disappointed in the city council. I don’t think these two decisions were in the best interest of the city and its citizens. Not a good beginning for 2010.