Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “September, 2014”

The Stanislaus Sheriff’s Dept Doesn’t have a StingRay but is Missing Military Equipment

By Emerson Drake  sheriffsbadgelogo

After hearing and reading how the Sacramento Sheriff’s Dept. had purchased a “stingray device”  we decided to make a Public Records Request to discover if the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Dept. had made a similar purchase. News 10 broke the story about a device that mimics a cell tower and can take information from your cell phone and tablet without your knowledge.  The scary thing is the police haven’t applied for warrants or told judges or defense attorneys about information they might have obtained. According to the News 10 report the deputies have been trained to lie in court as to how the information was obtained. These devices have been proven to have been purchased by Sacramento, Oakland and San Jose Police Departments.

“The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department may be keeping judges, prosecutors and the public in the dark about the use of a controversial electronic surveillance tool known as the StingRay, according to new information obtained by News 10.

Despite evidence showing the sheriff’s department is utilizing the device, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office and Sacramento Superior Court judges said they have no knowledge of StingRays or similar tools being used in Sacramento.”

Here are the results from our two requests:

Mr. Drake,

Your email dated August 1st, 2014 requesting documents related to a “stingray device” was forwarded to the Office of County Counsel for response. You specifically asked, “…if the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Dept. or the District Attorney owns and or operates a ‘stingray” or like device.”

Neither the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Dept. nor the District Attorney’s Office own such a device, and therefore there are no public records in that regard.

Additionally, pursuant to California Government Code 6254(f) and California Evidence Code 1040 the County deems any records related to investigatory files, or records of investigations, exempt from disclosure by express provisions of law.

Sincerely,

Robert J. Taro

Deputy County Counsel

Office of Stanislaus County Counsel

 

We had concerns since the Sacramento Sheriff’s Dept. felt it was within their rights to lie to the public regarding this device we wanted to ensure the information was void of deception so we made the second request.

Dear Mr. Drake,

Your recent request at the Board of Supervisor’s Meeting on August 12th, 2014 requesting documents related to “records and grant applications with the Harris Corporation since 2005” was forwarded to the Office of County Counsel for a response.

Pursuant to Government Code section 6253, this email is to inform you that we have determined that your request seeks copies of disclosable public records in the possession of the County, and that the County intends to provide records responsive to your request.

You will find those records attached to this email in two separate attachments. The first attachment contains several documents that include a “Supplier Payment History Report” as well as several invoices. Please note that the “Supplier Payment History Report” is a summary of the purchases made from “Harris Corporation” during the time frame you requested. The invoices are titled “Oracle Account Coding Strip”. You will see that these invoices are all from the “Emergency Dispatch” aka “Stanislaus Regional 9-1-1” department from 2010 and 2011.

Even though the “Supplier Payment History Report” reflects purchases made in 2005 and 2007, I have been advised that we do not keep invoices from that long ago, therefore there is no other “record” of invoice.

In addition to those documents, you will also find a spreadsheet of purchases from the Harris Corporation during the time frame you requested.  Please note that there is a description of the purchased items on this spreadsheet. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these is a item that cost $24,605.04. That item is described as a “Crash Kit for Microwave” and was purchased in 2005. I have been advised that it was purchased for “Stanislaus Regional 9-1-1”.

It does not appear as if any of these items are for a “Stingray or like device” that was the basis of your original request.

I would also note that a “Grant Application” is usually made to a State or Federal agency. An award of a grant generally results in the receipt of funds used to purchase equipment, labor, or other services which would be reflected in these attachments I have provided.

We feel that the attached records comply fully with your request.

If you have any further questions or concerns based upon the above, please feel free to call.

I can be reached at the Office of Stanislaus County Counsel – (209) 525-6376.

Sincerely,

Robert J. Taro

Deputy County Counsel

Harris_Corporation_4  Harris_Corporation_Spreadsheet

AllGov reports 

10 California Police Agencies Suspended from Pentagon Program for Losing Weapons and Gear,  Stanislaus Sheriff’s Dept is Among Them

Most of the California suspensions occurred last year. NBC Bay Area reported last week that the Napa County Sheriff’s Office lost an M-16 assault rifle and was suspended on May 6. The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department didn’t know where two M16A1 rifles were and was suspended in October 2013.

Suspended agencies don’t have to return all their military equipment, but can’t order any new stuff. If an agency screws up bad enough, its status is downgraded to “terminated,” but that has only happened to seven of them.

Other suspended agencies listed were: California Highway Patrol-Sacramento, Arcadia Police Department, Huntington Beach Police Department, Maricopa Police Department, Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department, Stockton Police Department, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and Sutter County Sheriff’s Department.

So almost needless to say we filed a Public Record Request to find out what had gone missing at the  Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Dept.   We’ll keep you informed  when they make their response.

A hearty thank you to one of our readers for bringing this issue to our attention.

 

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City Council Theatrics, a Glimpse behind the Curtain

By Emerson Drakeroyalty-free-vector-of-a-comedy-and-tragedy-theater-drama-mask-logo-by-john-schwegel-51421

We’ve all read the fairy-tale version Mayor Marsh, city staff, Cecil Russell  (lobbyist from the Chamber), Ryan Swehla,  and David White from the Alliance, staged for the public and the Modesto Bee, but is it the truth?  One thing we can assure you of and that is that it’s NOT the whole story.

Thanks to a public records request we discovered Mayor Marsh and Josh Bridegroom from the city and Ryan  (NSP2 funds debacle) Swehla had been having conversations behind the scenes regarding the purchase of the old JC Penny building at 11th and J streets.  As you may recall Swelha is wired into city staff because of his business relationship with former Councilman Joe Muratore.  Muratore was forced to return a $58,000 real estate commission payment from the sale of an apartment complex to avoid felony charges. On top of this it seems city staff had set aside $1.2 Million for his and Swehla’s apartment project while several other developer’s projects languished due to a lack of NSP2 funds.

Is this all about sales commissions?

In order for Swelhla and Muratore’s company NIA Benchmark to make the sale to Valley First Credit,  Modesto would have to make concessions of approximately $445,000 in parking revenue to Valley First Credit. These proposals/demands are listed in the email suggesting they  have  already been discussed and acquiesced to by the Mayor and staff.  It would leave a sour taste in citizen’s mouths if they thought it was all being done for realtors, especially these two ,considering their histories. It would be a hard sell if not impossible.  So they decided to reinvent the story.

Is David White more familiar with downtown businesses than Swehla and Muratore?

It belies credulity that a newcomer to Modesto is more aware of business conditions than those who control more than 2 Million square feet of office space and represent many of the lots ready for development, yet that is what we are supposed to believe.  Benchmark is always out in front of the crowd.  Remember, they were cornering  the Salida market when all hell broke loose regarding the  backroom talks taking place over Modesto’s annexation desires. Of course Muratore was in on the initial discussions behind the scenes before Marsh and  Cogdill Jr. took his place.

White makes the perfect Frontman

David White, being new to Modesto needed a feather in his cap to get a little credibility/gravitas but this might not have been the way to get it.  He has been going around telling his different audiences what they want to hear.  When he talks  to the City and County he promotes business parks and bringing new businesses to Modesto.  But when he was thanking the MID Board (3 of the 5 are farmers) for their $10,000 contribution, in advance he denies looking at farmland for business parks and stresses local business.  Heck, speaking out of both sides of his mouth the way he does,  you’d think he was running for office.  Getting credit for allegedly bringing 70-100 jobs, after five years can’t hurt.  What falls by the wayside is these jobs were already in Modesto located at Orangeburg and College.

To Balance the Parking Fund, Parking Meters Will be Installed.

Timing is everything and this is no different. The Council and their committees will be entertaining a proposal from the Downtown Improvement Association  to re-install the parking meters they recommended be removed years ago.  There is little doubt they will be suggesting a PRIVATE company administer/own these meters.  To understand better try reading Griftopia by Matt Taibbi. Our council has a history of wanting  to privatize city jobs not always for the better…. well, except for those who get our money.

The sale hasn’t gone through

Yes the sale hasn’t gone through.  What was lost in the stage play was the air in the basement of the Penny building isn’t of the best quality.  The county used to rent space there but had to give it up because of environmental concerns.  To sum it up, this whole dog and pony show was staged this way so a realtor could get his commission, a newcomer could get his spurs, the council could claim a victory of sorts and get some of the annexation stink off of themselves (it didn’t work regardless of whether or not this sale goes through) and the parking concessions are being done at the taxpayers/store customer’s expense.  After all the  street parking is free now so why should we pay for it?

Here is one of  the emails we drew information from  Swehla and Marsh

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