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San Gabriel Public Safety Forum Criticizes City Administrator’s Priorities

By Wonder
San Gabriel public safety forum criticizes city administrator’s priorities

Detective Fabian Valdez, president of the San Gabriel Police Officers’ Association, hosts a town hall meeting at the San Gabriel Masonic Lodge on Wednesday, May 30 – Photo by Jim E. Winburn

The SGPOA, in partnership with the San Gabriel Police Management Group and San Gabriel Firefighters’ Association, discussed staffing problems and other issues that seemingly point to city administrators’ lack of regard for public safety.

Nearly 70 residents and business owners attended the May 30 meeting at the San Gabriel Masonic Hall that followed on the heels of the public safety employee groups’ recent labor agreements with the city.

Detective Fabian Valdez, president of the San Gabriel Police Officers’ Association, told attendees that the POA was not happy with the agreement. “We were stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Valdez said. “But we wanted to show the community that we are willing to do what it takes to help San Gabriel through these rough financial times.”

Summarizing the public safety employee deal, Valdez said the groups agreed to pay their portion of their retirement, which is 9 percent, but would be receiving a cost of living increase of 3 percent in 2013. “So we are at a net loss of 6 percent,” he said. “We have gone about five years without a raise, but we understand the community is hurting.”

Reminding the public of the soured negotiations served as the meeting’s premise for outlining the police association’s greatest concern: “Are we providing the best possible police service to our residents?”

Valdez said that City Hall was not mindful of the needs of its line level personnel due to staffing shortages. According to group representatives at the meeting, police are short about seven officers and firefighters are down by six. In addition, a proposed restructuring of the police department would make room for an additional captain. According to Valdez, these are administrative issues that directly impact public safety for the community.

“We’re one of the lowest paid police departments and … now we’re going to restructure the police department to add one more administrator? Really? Is the staff being forthcoming with the council?” he asked, going on to explain that the community is in need of more line level police officers, especially in light of AB109, legislation that allows for the early release of low-level prisoners and parolees from state supervision.

To make public safety a top priority with city administrators, Valdez said that the public employee associations required the help of community members to better represent the interests of San Gabriel residents and business owners.

“We are looking for like-minded community leaders who want to bring improvement over San Gabriel’s overall wellbeing,” he said. “But we need you; we need people in the community to say, you know what? Enough is enough.”

San Gabriel police Sgt. Jeff Whitney, who represents the Police Management Group, told everyone present to let the City Council know that city administrators are not representing the public’s best interests regarding public safety issues.

“Go to their town hall meetings, because with those town hall meetings (unlike the council meetings) they have to answer you,” advised Whitney. “They take notes, and they try to answer everybody’s concerns.”

Valdez told members of the community, whether they are for or against the restructuring of the police department, to email their city councilmembers and let them know.

“They’re going to listen because three of them are up for re-election, and each one of you is a voter,” he said.

The town hall meeting updated the community on another pressing issue, which was the status of the Police Officers’ Association’s lawsuit filed against members of the City Council on Mar. 8.

“We are moving forward with the lawsuit,” said Valdez. “We the Police Officers’ Association do not stand to gain anything. We are just asking that the money that was taken from that account be put back. That’s your money.”

The POA’s lawsuit alleges that city officials illegally spent $5.7 million in employee retirement funds. However, the city has denied the allegations, filing a response to the police association’s lawsuit that requests a trial by jury.

For information regarding future meetings, contact the SGPOA at (626) 818-3738 or visit their web site at www.sangabrielpoa.com.


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