Earlier this week, we reported on San Bernardino’s announcement that it would be filing bankruptcy, making it the third California city in two weeks to make such a decision. It’s also the largest in the state to do so. Now, though, law enforcement officials say they suspect misconduct in the city government and have opened a criminal probe.
While there’s not much being released in terms of who specifically is being investigated or how far along the investigation actually is, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department released a statement confirming the probe only.
Several months ago at the request of San Bernardino city officials, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, along with the San Bernardino Police Department and the district attorney’s office began an investigation related to allegations of possible criminal activity within departments of the San Bernardino city government,
the statement said. “The investigation is continuing, and details will not be released at this time. Updates will be provided as new information becomes available.”
There was mention at the city council meeting that there might have been unethical or even illegal activities going on in previous administrations. Those allegations include falsifying financial documents to hide the seriousness of San Bernardino’s financial troubles.
Another concern was that the city might not have enough to even meet the upcoming payroll. Now, though, both the police and fire chiefs have reiterated the agencies’ commitments to “aggressively respond to crime, fires and medical emergencies”, despite the decision to seek bankruptcy protection or the just announced criminal probe. Both are confident their agencies aren’t in the crosshairs.
By filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, the city can redesign and renegotiate its various labor contracts while also stalling payments to creditors and better protecting the city from potential civil suits – recognizing the criminal probe might complicate the legalities of the city’s decisions. It would also allow the city to rewrite its budgets while allowing its various departments to make a comeback. This new criminal probe, however, could also complicate those efforts.
City Attorney James Penman explained earlier this week and before the law enforcement announcement that,
The city needs breathing room and the bottom line is we cannot default on payments to our employees without violating the law.
Fire and Police
Rob Handy, the police chief who took office last October said he would be shifting officers to more specialized assignments so that quick responses can be made for reports of criminal activity. He said his agency will always provide emergency and other essential services to the city’s residents. He said they would “do what it takes”. Still, concerns linger that some law enforcement could leave or retire in wake of the bankruptcy filing. Handy admitted this could “affect crime prevention and community policing programs” as his city continues to see crime rates increase.
Both Handy and fire Chief Paul Drasil voiced concerns that their public agencies could feel the effects of the financial storm since their budgets account for more than 75% of the city’s expenditures. Unfortunately, those concerns are ones not being addressed as those who are in the know aren’t saying and those who aren’t continue to wonder when the bankruptcy will occur and how long the criminal probe will continue.
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