Editorial: Still no answers about police survey
May 15, 2008
We’re still waiting, and so is the public. On May 8 and 9, the Tribune wrote four stories documenting the overall negative summary report of a South Lake Tahoe Police Department climate survey. The 10-page document – which starts out by saying it is a brief summary of a 44-page report – describes results of a survey completed by 37 members of the police department. The summary found that the majority of respondents did not trust or have confidence in department management. Police Chief Terry Daniels described the survey results as preliminary and said the findings needed to be validated and interpreted by the consultants.
After the Tribune stories were published, we e-mailed nine additional questions to City Manager David Jinkens and six to Daniels.
On May 8, we e-mailed Jinkens these questions:
— When will the full, 44-page climate document be made public?
— Why, after seven months, is it (the 44-page document) still in “draft” form?
— Who donated the money to have the study done, and how much did it cost?
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— Why weren’t public police funds used to hire Taylor-Nelson (who conducted the survey), since on the surface it seems like a legitimate expenditure of money?
— Are police contract negotiations complete?
— Is the police contract actually in place?
— Which other city employees, in addition to yourself, have testified before the El Dorado County grand jury during its current term?
— How much has the city paid in legal fees in connection with this grand jury investigation?
This was Jinkens’ response the same day:
“Thank you for your communication.
“The City Attorney is out of the office, and she will not be back in the office until Monday. As soon as we can discuss your questions either she or I will provide a response to the extent that we are able to do so.
“As you know, matters involving the Grand Jury and matters involving personnel are confidential and protected by law. I don’t make the laws.
“You might want to contact the Grand Jury and County Counsel’s Office to see what they are willing to release.
“I have always tried to be open with you and the media when I can legally do so. Thanks for understanding.
“I will be able to get back to you early next week.”
Later that day, the Tribune e-mailed Jinkens these additional questions:
— Have police contracts been ratified departmentwide? If not, which positions have had new contracts ratified?
— Are there still positions at the police department who are undergoing contract negotiations? If, so which members?
Jinkens responded that the city Human Resources Department could provide that information, and we subsequently received what we asked for later that day.
But since we had received no answers to any of our other questions we originally e-mailed May 8 (presumably because city officials wanted to meet with the city attorney), we again e-mailed the same questions plus a few more to Jinkens and Daniels on Thursday afternoon. By then, city officials would have had about four days to meet with the city attorney.
Here is Jinkens’ prompt e-mail response to the Tribune on Thursday afternoon:
“Adam (reporter Adam Jensen):
“As I have mentioned to you previously, I do not have a copy nor have I ever had a copy of the draft and non-validated 44-page report. To my knowledge no member of the Council received a copy.
“The remainder (of the) questions are ones that others should address.
As you’ll note from our list of questions, we didn’t ask Jinkens if he or City Council members had a copy of the full, 44-page report. Instead, we wanted answers to questions we did ask.
Jinkens’ response that “the remainder (of the) questions are ones that others should address” skirts the issue.
Who else will answer the questions?
Jinkens followed up with another e-mail on Thursday, saying, “No one is hiding from you or your questions. We can answer some questions and can not answer others for reasons explained to you by the City Attorney and me.”
Daniels, for his part, hasn’t responded to our latest queries, nor has he attempted to e-mail or speak to the Tribune since our stories ran.
Reporter Adam Jensen twice has called Taylor-Nelson LLC, the company that prepared the police department climate survey. On one occasion, nobody answered, and on the second try, he left a message. So far, no return call.
Unfortunately for the public, this has all the earmarks of an attempted whitewash.
So much for accountability.
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