Manipulation, influence, and favoritism, taint Glendale police promotion.
The Glendale Coalition for Better Government (hereinafter the GCBG) investigated the events leading to the examination conducted on December 1, 2015, for the position of a Police Captain in the Glendale Police Department.
The GCBG has determined that conduct calculated with the purpose of defeating a well established examination process under the civil service rules has occurred. The GCBG has determined improper communication for the purpose of influencing the outcome of the examination has occurred. And the GCBG has determined that the examination outcome was predetermined and conducted merely to placate procedure and provide false hope to applicants and the appearance of impartiality.
The GCBG calls upon Glendale officials to immediately re-institute the full requirements of the civil service rules including internal and community panels to oral examinations. Provide a fair and unbiased examination process to applicants, and seek remedial measures as stated in the recommendations in this report.
This report presents facts and conduct that taken as a whole resulted in the annulment of the examination. Furthermore this report raises concerns on the susceptibility of current Glendale procedure in appointment of panel members resulting in undue influence and lack of transparency.
On December 1, 2015, the Glendale City Police Department conducted an oral interview of candidates to fill the vacancy for the position of Police Captain in the Glendale City Police Department. To conduct this examination, the police department assembled a panel of qualified individuals. The GCBG has identified the individuals of this panel to be:
1. Chief Sam Gonzalez, Chief of Police Azuza Police Department
2. Chief Kim Raney, Chief of Police Covina Police Department
3. Chief Mark Matsuda, Chief of Police Torrance Police Department
4. Chief John J. Neu, Chief of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation. (Previously Chief of City of Redondo Beach)
Hereinafter referred to as panel members.
Originally 7 Lieutenants from the Glendale Police department applied for the position of captain but subsequently one lieutenant withdrew resulting in 6 individuals competing for the vacant position of captain.
The Panel was tasked to select 3 candidates from the 6 applicants in an order of 1st through 3rd in preference for the vacant position. The result of this process would be used in offering the current vacant position of Captain to the 1st candidate and as other captain positions are vacated and promotional opportunities are available, these newly available position would be made available to the 2nd and then the 3rd selected candidates. Sufficed to say that the process will determine the career trajectory of all applicants for the next 5 years or more given the expected retirement of Glendale captains that will come up.
Investigation of Facts
On December 9, 2015, the Glendale Civil Service Commission upon the presentation of HR director Matt Doyle, that improper communication had occurred in the examination process, canceled the results of the oral examination that was held on December 1, 2015. Notably the commission members stated that
1. They did not know what was the improper communication;
2. The Commission declined the request of the president of Glendale Management Association, Ms. Laura Stotler, for an investigation;
3. The commission declined to re institute the community and internal panel portions in the deliberation process.
Accordingly, the GCBG proceeded in investigating and the below was discovered:
On 9/16/2015 Chief Castro in an email states to panel members:
“I will set up a conference call to speak (with) you and give you my input before you come in and HR gets in the way” (Exhibit A)
On 11/6/2015 Email from chief Castro to panel members:
“thank you guys for agreeing to be on my captain’s promotional panel. I want to set up a conference call in the next week or two to discuss my needs. HR is pain in the ass here and I need the right people in the right order to fix things.” (Exhibit B)
On 11/17/2015 Chief Castro in an email to panel members states:
“Are you guys available after 11am on Monday Nov 23rd for a ten minute call? As you well know HR departments try to run the process and many times cause poor results when a chief cannot share his needs. I was able to go before the Civil Service Commission here and convince them to let me change the process so there is no community panel or internal panel. Your ratings will be the list”
included in the email was the conference call information
Phone 1605-475-3225 access code 1069531 (Exhibit C)
On 11/18/2015 Email from Chief Castro to panel members confirming the conference call:
“thanks guys, let’s set up the conference call for 12:10 pm on Monday” (Exhibit D)
On 11/24/2015 Chief Castro in email to panel members states:
“I had one applicant withdraw for the Captain’s process so there will be six candidates. Lts Tim Feeley, Stewart Brackin and Scott Bickle are all still in the process.” (Exhibit E) [Please note the names of other applicants are not listed in the email of Chief Castro.]
Additional relevant facts about the process.
Please note on 11/17/2015 Chief Sam Gonzalez in an email to John Neu states:
“I was sitting on a captains oral board for Dave in El Monte” (Exhibit F)
The Coalition is informed and believes that the results of the December 1, 2015 oral examination was as follows: 1) Lt Tim Feeley, 2) Lt Stewart Brackin, 3) Lt Scott Bickle in the order stated.
The relevant law
Government code section 45200 states as unlawful for any person to:
“(a) Willfully by himself or in cooperation with another person to defeat, deceive, or obstruct any person with respect to his right of examination, application, or certification for employment under the personnel system, merit system, or civil service system of any city.”
Glendale Civil Service Rule and Regulations adopts government code 45200 and in relevant parts states:
“No person shall, by themselves or in cooperation with another person, interfere with the employment opportunities of any individual with respect to the individual’s right of examination, application or certification for employment under the Civil Service System of this City. The provisions of Government Code Sections 45200 and 45201 as they now exist or may hereafter be amended are hereby incorporated by reference.” (SECTION 1. INTRODUCTION AND AUTHORITY)
The Rules also tasks the Civil Service Commission with the authority to protect the application process:
“The Civil Service Commission has the authority to take necessary action against applicants, candidates, eligibles or representatives or advocates of such who would use political influence or special interest to circumvent the Civil Service System to achieve employment opportunities for themselves or others.” (SECTION 1. INTRODUCTION AND AUTHORITY)
Furthermore, examinations are expected to be open and merit based:
“All examinations for positions in the classified service, except as otherwise provided by the Charter or these rules, shall be public, competitive, free and based on merit, and open to qualified or the most qualified candidates who have filed applications and who have not been disqualified for cause.” (SECTION 6. COMPETITION)
Additionally, and in the interest of fairness and transparency, Glendale Civil Service Rule and Regulations adopt regulations for recording of oral examinations.
“A stenographic report or sound recording of all oral examinations shall be made in accordance with the provisions of Rule XI (City Charter XXIV Section 4).” (SECTION 9. ORAL EXAMINATION RECORD)
Finally, with regards to oral board examination, the Glendale Civil Service Rules and Regulations require fair, objective and unbiased manner
“When utilized for a given examination, oral board examinations shall be administered in a fair, objective and unbiased manner. Structured job-related interview questions and scoring methods are developed by Human Resources for the interview process.” (SECTION 10. GRADING OF EXAMINATIONS (1)(a))
Cancellation of the December 1, 2015 Examination
Based on the facts stated above with regards to the emails of Chief Castro and the subsequent conference call # 1069531, an improper communication has occurred that would be considered an interference with the employment opportunities of any individual with respect to the individual’s right of examination in violation of Section 1. of Glendale Civil Service Rule and Regulations.
The conference call with panel members has not been disclosed, and therefore can not be ascertained if competitive advantage was provided to some applicants to the detriment of another applicants.
However, the email dated 11/6/2015 specifically states the purpose of the conference call is to get the right people in the right order. The email on 11/17/2015 specifically states chief Castro’s plan to setup a panel that can be influenced. Furthermore, the email dated 11/24/2015 (Exhibit E) exclusively mentions 3 applicants out the of the 6 . Finally the ultimate decision of the board is consistent with the 3 named applicants.
This raises insurmountable concern that the named individuals are the recommendations of Chief Castro to the panel. This conduct is in violation of section 6 of Glendale Glendale Civil Service Rule and Regulations that calls for “public, competitive, free and based on merit” examination.
The above conduct raises substantial concern that the examination was NOT administered in a fair, objective and unbiased manner pursuant to section 10 of the Glendale Civil Service Rule and Regulations.
The cancellation of the examination under the authority of the HR Director was appropriate. However, the current process for an oral examination board consisting exclusively of individuals appointed by the Chief continues to remain flawed and susceptible to abuse in the future.
The Oral Examination Process continues to be Flawed and Susceptible to Influence
The cancellation of the December 1, 2015, exam did not result in any safeguards that prevent future improper communications. As has occurred in Glendale, it is a common practice for chiefs from other neighboring cities to sit on oral examinations. Exhibit F in the emails above establish the proclivity of Chiefs in neighboring cities to sit on oral examinations of other chiefs. In fact the procedure was repeated again when the current examination was repeated on February 4, 2016.
It would be natural for Chiefs of other cities to give great deference to the recommendations of the sitting chief in considering the applicants for promotion. In fact that would be the norm considering the professional courtesy each is extending to the other by sitting on these boards as a favor. It is equally impossible to control communication between chiefs when requesting each other to sit on panels for their own cities and thereby stating their recommendation in conveying their “needs” (Exhibit B). The lack of a community panel or an internal panel make the examination much more susceptible to the undue influence of panel members select by the chief. (Exhibit C).
The continuing of the existing oral examination procedure to the exclusion of community and internal panel members is flawed and the GCBG urges all interested persons to consider the recommendations stated below.
- The GCBG recommends an immediate reinstatement of the community panel and internal panel to oral examinations. The diversification of the panel will ensure that no set of individuals will exert undue influence on the process. While any process may be susceptible to impropriety, the GCBG calls on the Civil Service Commission members to stay vigilant in ensuring a fair, objective and unbiased process. The Coalition is aware that this particular improper communication may not occur again with Chief Castro, at least by email. However, continuing with the current process without the involvement of an internal or community panel will create a precedence of legitimacy to a process that is susceptible to influence again long after the current Civil Service Board members service has concluded.
- The cancellation of any examination results that have been conducted under a flawed system but not yet awarded to the successful applicants. While this may result in frustration to the winning applicant. It is equally important to the winning applicant that the position he/she has earned is based on merit in a fair and objective process and not due to favoritism.
- Due diligence investigation by questionnaires to panel members drafted by the HR department. While the HR department is tasked in appointing panel members, it is understandable that HR may consult department heads on who would be appropriate person with experience to serve on a panel. However HR remains the department responsible and must insure panel members do not have a pattern of practice in providing paid or unpaid services to other panel members and/or Glendale personnel whose department may be affected. HR must insure the decision of panel members do not create any appearance of partiality and/or conflict of interest.
- Educational programs should be provided to managers and individuals charged with creating or fulfilling vacancies.
The GCBG’s investigation is ongoing and spans multiple cities and agencies. Not all cities or agencies have cooperated in providing information they are required to provide by law. Certain cities denied having any documents despite clear evidence to the contrary. Others have provided partial and selective information. Others have communicated with other cities to ascertain what was provided before determining what they should reveal. Collusion among cities to act in a manner calculated to defeat a citizen’s inquiry under California Public Records Request Act is a serious violation and will be referred to State or Federal investigative agencies upon conclusion of our investigation.
The Glendale Coalition for Better Government stands for advocating for sustainable, responsible and transparent government in the City of Glendale CA. Submitted on behalf of the Board of Governors for the Glendale Coalition for Better Government.