Montebello’s police officer’s union came to the defense of its police chief in the wake of a lawsuit filed against him and the city alleging discrimination and retaliation.
The Montebello Police Officer’s Association voted unanimously for a vote of confidence for Kevin McClure and his administration. “That the vote was unanimous is telling,” MPOA President Julio Calleros said in a statement to EGP on Friday. “The general consensus is that Chief McClure has brought a level of professionalism, expertise and stability to this department that had been lacking severely for several years prior to his arrival, which has resulted in improved public safety to the businesses and citizens of the community.”
Related Story: Montebello Police Officers Slap Chief With Lawsuit
This was a response to a lawsuit filed on June 11 by Captain Greg Wilsey, Captain Brian Dragoo, Sgt. Kimberly Lundy, and Lt. Ricardo Rojas. The four police officers accused McClure of discriminating against racial and gender minorities in the department, and of retaliating against attempts by some officers to expose legally questionable behavior by some members of the department. The lawsuit claims McClure dismissed requests to hold cultural diversity training, called African Americans “dirty” and women “MILFS” (a derogatory sexual reference); and ignored the police officer’s attempts to report possibly illegal activity in the city.
In Friday’s statement, the police association, which repesents sworn police officers and police sergeants, defended McClure’s record with the department, saying that he reduced overtime and was able to maintain a unit to target narcotics and gangs despite a tight budget. McClure took over as chief in April 2011, after 30 years serving with the LAPD.
Former Vernon city official, Eric T. Fresch, whose financial dealings were at the center of a major state audit, was found dead Thursday night at a state park in Northern California.
His body was found on the shore of a rocky beach on the east side of Angel Island State Park, said Tiburon Fire Department Battalion Chief Ed Lynch. Fresch was 58 and a resident of Tiburon.
Park officials first received a report early Thursday afternoon that Fresch had missed two scheduled ferries back to Tiburon. Park superintendent, Amy Brees, said they conducted a search. At 6pm, they found Fresch’s bike, which led them to his body.
The news of Fresch’s death comes as auditors for the state, looked into Vernon’s finances. In a report released that same day, auditors said Fresch failed to respond to repeated subpoenas for information. Senator Kevin de Leon, who on Thursday called for a criminal investigation into Fresch and the city’s finances, found out his Fresch’s death the next morning and released a statement expressing his “deepest condolences and sincerest sympathies to his family and wife.”
The state’s report that prompted De Leon’s call for a criminal probe pointed to numerous financial problems stemming from “past poor decision making” that left the city’s energy utility with a $24 million deficit, and the city itself with $60 million a year in debt services for the next ten years. The report also said the city, which has long touted its energy utility, lacked “a clear energy strategy” and had no policies to “guide decisions to issue debt.”
Fresch who last November announced his intent to resign, and continued to consult with the city until May, was involved in many of the city’s big financial deals, especially ones that involved its light and power department, such as the purchase of a 15-year prepaid supply of natural gas for the power plant.
At a recent Vernon city council meeting, city officials admitted the purchase of the natural gas supply was a bad deal, and that the value of natural gas had gone down significantly since they purchased it.
State’s auditors said the city sold off a newly-constructed power plant two years after they purchased the 15 year natural gas supply.
One businessman in the city who has seen his electricity rates and cost of doing go up in recent years told city officials at the meeting, “If we were your stockholders, we would fire you.” Others threatened to move part of or all of their operations elsewhere.
City officials once praised Fresch for his financial work with the city, but last week in response to the business community’s outrage at higher electricity rates and a proposed utility tax, they admitted that deals like the natural gas purchase was part of what landed the city in its current situation.
The city released a statement Friday afternoon, offering “its heartfelt condolences to the family of former Vernon City Adminsitrator Eric T. Fresch in their time of great personal loss due to his unfortunate passing.”