Banning Police Chief files $ 250K claim
Banning Police Chief says he suffers from “severe anxiety” and “stress” – files $ 250,000 claim against City
7/19/13 - On July 1, 2013, Banning Police Chief Leonard Purvis filed a $ 250,000 claim against the City of Banning, i.e.
its taxpayers. Purvis says he is suffering from “severe anxiety” and “stress”. Usually, Police officers make these types of claims because they are traumatized by what happens to them on the street.
But Chief Leonard Purvis does not work the streets – he sits in a comfortable office – day in and day out. Purvis says his “severe anxiety” and “stress” were solely caused by the actions of one City Council member (view Purvis’ claim). We contacted Chief Purvis via email to ask for his comments about this matter. He did not respond.
BLAMED : BANNING’S “FISCAL PITBULL”, COUNCIL MEMBER DON PETERSON
In his claim, Police Chief Purvis blames newly elected Council member Don Peterson as the sole cause for his “damages” . Political newcomer Peterson, a retired Police Sergeant, received 4,198 votes during the 2012 City Council elections, more than any other candidate. It is safe to say that the people of Banning have given Peterson a clear and unmistakable mandate to restore accountability in the City of Banning, a City widely known as the “Corruption Capital of the Inland Empire”.
In his capacity as an elected official, Peterson has made it his premier goal to question how tax dollars are spent in the City. Peterson was the first City Council member to ever publicly question the City’s out of control take-home car policy (see previous article). But the pursuit of accountability naturally comes with questions about pay, perks, efficiency, competency, leadership, integrity, spending and other related issues. It appears some people in Banning do not like it when too many questions are being asked.
To understand the Police Chief’s claim, we have to go back to March 7, 2013. On this day, Peterson was unclear about the registration status of an antique Jeep that he owns, so he decided to ask Chief Purvis if he could check it on the DMV computer. Peterson left a message on Purvis’ voice mail (transcribed in Purvis complaint), asking the Chief for the favor. That turned out to be a mistake.
The transcript of the message makes it clear that at no time did Don Peterson use his office and direct Purvis to conduct the check. But Chief Purvis says in his complaint that it was illegal for him to run Peterson’s plate. By the letter of the law, that is correct. However, the law attempts to protect third parties from accessing the DMV information, not the owner of the vehicle himself.
Had Peterson filled out DMV Form REG-31 , and taken it , along with his Jeep, to Purvis’ Department, then Peterson would have been entitled to the same information he was requesting from Purvis over the phone. This raises the question : is someone trying to split hairs here ?
POLICE CHIEF ATTEMPTS TO CRIMINALLY PROSECUTE COUNCIL MEMBER PETERSON – FOR ASKING A QUESTION
In his claim for damages, Chief Purvis states that he made a report to the District Attorney about Don Peterson asking for the registration status of his personal vehicle. With this report, Purvis tried to have Peterson criminally prosecuted under anti-hacking laws (PC Sec. 502. “Unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data”).
Purvis claims that by asking for clarification on the registration status of his personal vehicle, Peterson solicited the crime of “hacking”, as it would have been illegal for Purvis to access the DMV computer for this purpose.
POTENTIAL CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION
Purvis’ attempt to criminally prosecute Don Peterson may constitute a
violation of Peterson’s Civil Rights. Under the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution, every citizen of the United States has the right to petition his/her government. The right to petition also includes the right to ask for assistance and to ask the government questions (source) – all without fear of punishment or reprisals (source) . Whether the government has to answer the question, is a different issue – but to ask is a fundamental Civil Right.
What country do we live in, if we have to live in fear of asking our government the wrong question – and be thrown in jail for it ? What if the Banning Informer asked City Hall for privileged information which was kept on computers, for example social security numbers or personnel records of employees ? This kind of information would clearly be illegal for the City to divulge. Would we be thrown in jail for soliciting a crime of hacking? This example goes to show how profoundly absurd the Chief’s prosecution attempt of Peterson really is.
What happened to Chief Leonard Purvis’ oath of office to defend and protect the US Constitution ? Has Leonard Purvis just unmasked himself as another Banning good-old -boy who is trying to protect the status quo from someone like Don Peterson, who is asking way too many questions? It appears that Chief Purvis left no stone unturned to silence Peterson by any means possible.
CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION OF FORMER MAYOR DON ROBINSON
As one of the reasons for his claim for damages, Purvis cites that last December, Peterson “attempted to
insinuate himself” into a criminal investigation of former Mayor Don Robinson. In this particular case, a former Robinson employee, Stacy Raines, had accused Don Robinson of sexual battery.
Purvis states that he refused to give Peterson any information about the status of the Robinson investigation. Peterson disputes this account, stating that Purvis responded that the case had been given to the District Attorney. As of the date of this article, no charges have been filed against Don Robinson.
Here we have yet another example of a citizen and Council member asking a question and being scolded for it.
IS POLICE CHIEF PURVIS KEEPING “FILES” ON HIS POLITICAL OPPONENTS ?
In his complaint dated July 1, 2013, Purvis is able to cite – verbatim – a phone message from Don Peterson left 4 months earlier. Who would save a voice mail message for that long ? Is the Chief keeping a file on City Council members ?
In this context it is also noteworthy that it took Purvis over 3 months to attempt to criminally prosecute Peterson for the content of his phone message. The Banning Informer has learned that the matter was turned over to the DA just last month. Why did Purvis wait 3 months – why wasn’t he concerned that a crime was committed the same day he received the message ?
Could Purvis’ delayed attempted prosecution of Don Peterson be evidence of retaliation against Peterson for asking too many questions? Can we smell a scent of ill will or even malice here ? Has Police Chief Purvis turned into Banning’s J. Edgar Hoover ?
PETERSON ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BANNING POLICE DEPARTMENT
Peterson is a retired Police Sergeant. As such he has intimate knowledge about the inner workings of Police departments.
During the last few months, Don Peterson has made no secret about the fact that he had questions about Purvis’ Department and his leadership. He publicly questioned the City’s take-home car policy – with the majority of take home cars given to Police employees .
Other questions were raised, but it would go beyond the scope of this article to discuss them all. Peterson says that for most questions that he asked, no answers were ever provided.
UNCONSCIONABLE : CITY MANAGER ALLOWS POLICE CHIEF TO REMAIN ON THE JOB AFTER CLAIM
In the City of Banning, the hiring and firing of the Police Chief or other Department heads is the responsibility of the City Manager, Andy Takata. However, despite the Chief’s claim of suffering from “severe anxiety” and “stress”, it should come as no surprise that Takata has taken no action to protect the public from a – by his own account - mentally impaired, and therewith unfit Police Chief.
This makes for the latest example of Takata’s unaccountable management style, a style that has cost the taxpayer millions ( *think “take-home cars”(story), $1.8 million oil spill misrepresentation/overpayment (story), Art Gallery rent losses, etc.(story) ). It seems Andy Takata has caused nothing but problems running the City of Banning.
Many of Takata’s decisions have been contrary to the interests of the people of Banning. This time it is no different : How does leaving a mentally impaired Police Chief on the job serve the interest of the public? The simple answer is, it doesn’t. If anything, this exposes the City to even greater liability, as the Chief’s self proclaimed “severe anxiety” and “stress” may impair his judgment (see graph).
With his $ 250,000 claim against the City, Police Chief Purvis has created a problem not only for Councilman Don Peterson, but for every Banning taxpayer. How can the taxpaying public feel “protected and served” by a Police Chief who is getting ready to sue them for $ 250,000 – or more ?
Can Banning really move forward this way, or is it time for both the Police Chief and the City manager to leave ? You decide.
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