Monday, October 31, 2011

PROLOGUE: Amid Budget Cuts, San Leandro Officials Spent Money On Other Things

Oct. 31, 2011 | The biggest police scandal in San Leandro history began simply with a group of names scribbled on a white board situated on the third floor of the city's police station. It featured the order of promotion for sergeants in the upcoming year. Weeks earlier, prospective officers hoping to become sergeant navigated a battery of oral and written tests. Some were delighted with the results. Some were disappointed. Some were outright pissed. This was 2007 and in the next four years this story of police corruption, political ineptitude and gross entitlement fell well below the radar of residents and became much more than a dispute over workplace politics, but a catalyst for unparalleled instability in San Leandro likely to change the face and reputation of the city for years to come.

Until today, San Leandrans know little about the vast amount of taxpayer dollars that went in to litigating this wide-ranging beast of a scandal. Most in the mid-sized Oakland suburb are likely to recall during this period a wave of constant cries by politicians for city-wide austerity. Young children were asked to forego a summer of frolic in one of the city’s popular public swimming pools because of proposed budget cuts. An anonymous donor eventually fronted the $30,000 to keep the facility open. In the past two years the same financial construct was used to cuts crossing guards from the city’s schools. The cash-strapped city said they couldn’t foot its share of the $100,000 bill, but after consecutive years of angry threats from parents and residents, the city capitulated. Its annual Cherry Festival was also mothballed indefinitely. Nearly 20 percent of the city’s workforce was trimmed along with a bevy of services. By the end of the current union contracts with city employees, it will have been five years since workers have received a pay increase. It was amid this atmosphere of diminished revenues and belt-tightening rhetoric city leaders helped set in motion a scandal eventually costing $1 million in settlement payouts alone and millions more in legal fees. When it was all over, it would include the enrichment of the two police officers of which an investigator hired by the city concluded from the get-go included ginned up sexual harassment claims by six San Leandro female police officers against another officer, who is black.

Like many scandals which grow so large they begin to create their own destructive orbit, this one would eventually go a long way in devouring the city’s entire leadership. In a period spanning 14 months, ending last December, San Leandro replaced its last two police chiefs, its city manager (of which, after nearly a year, has not been replaced) and through various political calculations, inadvertently upended the incumbent mayor. The fate of the city attorney could also be up in the air from issues borne of this scandal. And in the parlance of law enforcement, the host of characters aligned with inflicting so much damage on San Leandro, almost got away with it, until the one person who bore the brunt of the scandal decided to speak out.

Read the cover story featuring former San Leandro police officer Dewayne Stancill starting this Wednesday, Nov. 2, in the next issue of the East Bay Express and follow the story on the EastBayCitizen at EBCitizen.com.


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