Archive for March, 2014

Police to citizens: for your safety, break the law

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

The Berkeley (California) Police Association, a labor organization composed of police officers, has sent a message to its subscribers with crime-prevention advice.

I have written back with some comments on the advice given, as follows:

To: Sergeant Chris Stines
President, Berkeley Police Association

“• Don’t advertise new purchases; cut up packaging or boxes and place in garbage can”

In other words, violate Berkeley’s recycling ordinance. When the police tell us to break the law, something significant is going on.

“• Always use indoor timers for lights – not just when you go on vacation”

In other words, keep the lights off when you need them and keep them on when you don’t.

“If ever you feel unsafe in your home, please call the Berkeley Police
Department. We welcome your calls and are here to serve you.”

The message that you sent out, if recipients believed it, would make any reasonable person feel unsafe at home day and night. If everybody called the BPD all the time, the BPD obviously wouldn’t be able to cope.

The obvious thing that your message didn’t say is:

“If you are sick of having to barricade yourself at home and keep struggling to fool burglars, tell your representative on the City Council that you’re ready to pay additional taxes to fund a truly effective Police Department with a crime-prevention program that really works.”

Why didn’t your message say that?

Trial postponed in Berkeley senior co-op lawsuit

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Berkeley, California, 19 March 2014

The trial of a lawsuit involving a Berkeley senior housing cooperative was postponed yesterday at the request of two of the parties to the suit. Berkeley Town House and Jonathan Pool, the member of the co-op who had filed the suit, jointly asked their judge in Alameda County Superior Court to postpone the trial, which had been scheduled for 4 April, and the judge agreed.

The postponement came in the wake of an announcement that seven of the defendants in the suit would be appealing one of the judge’s orders in the case to the Court of Appeal. The appeal, said the request, was going to postpone consideration of most of the issues in the case anyway, so holding a trial on the minor remaining issues would not be practical.

While canceling the originally scheduled trial date, Judge George C. Hernandez, Jr., scheduled a case management conference for 19 May.

The suit asks the court to award the co-op more than $200,000 in damages for wasted assets, to order that warnings of seismic risks be heeded, and to issue injunctions against alleged financial and procedural misconduct. The order that is being appealed invalidated the parties’ interpretations of an agreement to settle the case and declared that agreement void.

Berkeley co-op names committee to handle lawsuit

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Berkeley, California, 13 March 2014

The board of directors of a Berkeley senior housing cooperative voted unanimously yesterday to create a litigation committee and entrust it with the management of the co-op’s position in a two-year-old lawsuit. The suit asks the court to award the co-op more than $200,000 in damages for wasted assets, to order that warnings of seismic risks be heeded, and to issue injunctions against alleged financial and procedural misconduct.

At a sparsely attended special meeting and with one director (a defendant in the suit) absent, directors of Berkeley Town House explained that, because two of the five directors are defendants and a third is married to a defendant, the board cannot act for the co-op with regard to the suit without suffering from conflicts of interest. The board named the other two directors to the committee and added one non-director, a new co-op member who had voiced ideas at a prior meeting about the budgetary implications of the litigation and had assumed leadership of one of the co-op’s social programs, a weekly video screening series. One director suggested it was healthy to have somebody with a fresh perspective join the committee.

Directors explained that the litigation committee would act for the co-op in its dealings with its attorneys about the suit, would give reports to the board of directors, would also report directly to the co-op membership, and would examine all of the billing records involving legal services to the co-op related to the litigation. Two members attending the meeting complained about the paucity of information shared by the co-op with its members about the suit and asked whether this would change. One director appointed to the committee said he hoped the flow of information would indeed improve, noting that when there is no prompt and detailed information inaccurate rumors tend to fill the void.

At the meeting president Almalee Henderson also announced that the board had terminated the services of corporate counsel Stephanie J. Hayes. At the previous board meeting, the co-op treasurer had estimated that the co-op had paid Hayes about $120,000 for services related to the litigation. Papers filed in the suit claim that Hayes knowingly billed the co-op for unauthorized work and refused to try settling the claims in the case by mediation before the suit was filed in court. In a related dispute, Hayes threatened visitors with arrest if they tried to attend a meeting on civil liberties at the co-op. Hayes’s termination was disclosed only a few days after the co-op announced that another person figuring prominently in the litigation, community manager Christopher Stanley, was being replaced.

Henderson said that the board had entered into a contract with Walnut Creek attorney Zer Iyer. One attendee proposed that to address the members’ information deficit on legal matters the co-op invite Iyer to attend the annual membership meeting scheduled for late May, and this proposal seemed to meet with approval from the directors.

Defendants announce appeal in Berkeley co-op case

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Berkeley, California, 6 March 2014

The attorney for seven current and former directors of a Berkeley senior housing cooperative filed a notice yesterday in Alameda County Superior Court stating that he will appeal an order issued a month earlier in the case.

The order by Judge George C. Hernandez that is being appealed by attorney Fred M. Feller set aside a settlement between the parties and left the issues in dispute open for litigation. In the lawsuit, which plaintiff Jonathan Pool, a member of Berkeley Town House, filed two years ago, Pool complained that defendants Almalee Henderson, Judith Wehlau, Charles Tuggle, Katherine Miles, Nancy Epanchin, Raymond Dirodis, Rita Zwerdling, and Cheryl L. Samson had wasted co-op funds on defective construction, put residents at risk by neglecting warnings of possible seismic weaknesses in the co-op building, and violated rights of co-op members to information disclosure, access to common areas, financial accountability, and democratic participation.