Kensington residents may have noticed an increase in "news" articles about our elected volunteer Board, and our community funded police department and its chief, Gregory Harman. So far the stories have mainly focused on alleged “violations” of Harman’s rights, specifically the claim that questioning him about city business or holding him accountable will cause him to sue our city. The "concern" over violating his rights has led the majority board to meet secretly when they are discussing Harman’s duties (he is also city manager) and has also led to an unprecedented and extensive “classification" of public documents.
An example is Harman’s and Toomb’s holding that all internal documents about Harman’s use of the city credit card show only proper expenses, but at the same time holding that releasing these public documents would violate Chief Harman’s rights and lead him to sue the city.
Harman doesn’t hold himself to this standard when he makes reckless claims about an elected Board member.
On the Kensington police website, Chief Harman listed no crimes were solved in 2011, but when an elected Board member cited Harman’s statistics in a community distributed flier, Harman told a Patch reporter that she’d told “a blatant out and out lie,” called her “malicious,” and then cited an irrelevant 2012 solved murder, apparently to "prove she’s a liar."
He read aloud a letter from his own lawyer at a public Board meeting, which castigated this elected Board member for having filed a citizen complaint about a police officer, one month after she had first reported the incident to Harman, who had failed to investigate it, and failed to contact her about his decision to ignore her complaint.
In the Patch report, Harman’s lawyer supposedly quotes what one officer once told Harman, who later told his lawyer, who then included this alleged third-party statement as "evidence" of a Board member’s "lying" character. The unlikely "quotation" included the implausible claims that she’d confided in a police officer that she planned to outsource his job, and that she’d also told this police officer she’d “say anything to get Chief Harman (his direct boss) fired.” In fact an undisclosed number of past police officers were fired based on what Chief Harman had “said,” and some have apparently successfully sued our city. These cases, however, are "classified," lest they cause Harman’s rights to be violated, which could cause him to sue our city. (In 2011 nearly $300,000 was paid out in unexplained legal expenses. )
Here’s a list of the employees who have been either fired by Harman, or quit during Harman’s tenure:
(1) Helen Horowitz, administrator (Kensington Resident)
(2) Steve Smith, administrator (Kensington Resident)
(3) Stephanie Fries, administrator
(4) Donald Miller, internal affairs (Kensington resident )
(5) Sgt. Angela Escobar
(6) Officer Caesar Celada,
(7) Officer John Ty
(8) Officer Paul Borgfeldt
(9) Officer Rodney Lafitte
(10) Officer Jill Chandler
(11) Officer Susan X?
(12) Officer Doug Medina
(13) Officer Duong
(14) Anita Darden Gardyne (possibly, she hasn’t been seen recently, but there has been no official announcement. By the by, when she’d been here six months she told me that Chief Harman told her on her first day that he didn’t intend to learn her name because she wouldn’t last long enough for it to matter to him.)
Does it not seem strange that a city employee who works for the Board would have so little fear of losing his job that he would smear one of his five bosses, in public and in newspapers? But, in a recent article published in the Contra Costa Times, Chief Harman did express his fear that he will be "de-contracted," should Kosel (and Hausken) win. So we should be unsurprised to find that the Kensington Police Officer’s Association donated just shy of $1,000 to Toombs and Gillette, who vow to continue protecting Chief Harman’s rights, whatever the cost to our community.
Should we not, as a community, wonder if we want to retain this police chief, or should we allow him to relocate to the greener pastures, the expressed reason our majority board hurried through a 17 percent pay increase for him, with no time for community input or debate, and without making public the cited documentation that led them to select the 17 percent amount.
Pro’s and con’s of keeping Chief Harman:
We never had much crime, he didn’t lower it by 90 percent after all, and it’s up so far this year, so the critics of Measure G were right, who the police chief is doesn’t impact crime, and we probably could get by with a less expensive police chief.
Reportedly we are one of the safest driving communities among comparable cities, and without Harman we could institute proven safety measures to keep our drivers and pedestrians safer, and not have to continue with Harman’s very own directive, which is an admittedly expensive, ineffective and un-recommended (but après coup Chuck Toombs-approved) "use" of a traffic safety report, because of fears that residents asking for effective policies could violate Harman’s rights and cause him to sue us.
On the plus side, the city has some great new vehicles (and more coming), for example that black sedan (nicknamed the Black Maria) with the heavily tinted windows, which seems to be Chief Harman’s preferred "modus o’concord-commute."
Gillette recently suggested, in an article published in the Contra Costa Times, the fact that 70 percent of residents voted for Measure G obviously means we don’t care how much the community funded police force costs, (and presumably we’ll be glad to vote the police department more money, as soon as they again run out, scheduled for mid-2013?).
All joking aside, Harman is expensive, he’s in his fifties, he’ll qualify for retirement benefits within two years, and he’ll qualify for retirement within 10 years. Do we really want to saddle ourselves and our heirs with his lifetime upkeep; for this fellow who doesn’t seem particularly competent, who feels free to publicly disrespect Board members we elected, who can’t get his reports in on time, or be consistent, or get his numbers right, and who seems always threatening to sue us?
Harman’s fear he’ll be de-contracted is reality based (although strange given we pay him so much supposedly because he’s in hot demand). His contract includes the provision that he can be de-contracted at any time, with or without cause. (If it’s no cause, we just pay him six months salary, and he can’t sue.) It’s not whether or not he’s a fine fellow well met, it’s whether Kensington residents can afford him.
Let’s talk with our neighbors about our options, and whoever is elected in November, let’s ask them to start making smarter spending choices so we can have a future that doesn’t include (avoidable and embarrassing) city bankruptcy.
Anna Shane is a resident of Kensington.
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