Long Beach PBA President & Dem Supporter Secretly Gets $100,000.00 Taxpayer Award- Despite "Fiscal Crisis"
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The new city administration is proposing a 16% property tax increase on Long Beach homeowners citing a so-called “fiscal –crisis”. City Manager Jack Schnirman was quoted saying that LB residents “ However, while he asks us to “take our medicine” Schnirman, Adelson, Mandel, and Torres secretly handed out another sweet heart deal to one of their most devoted and loyal supporters; Long Beach Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President, Stefan Chernaski.
This past December City Council President Fran Adelson was awarded a $20,000 taxpayer funder award for a frivolous lawsuit she brought against the city. Now it has been uncovered that in March the City Council passed a resolution settling a lawsuit, which Long Beach Police Benevolent Association President (PBA) Stefan Chernaski filed, against the city. ; according to the city council agenda, Chernaski was not getting one single penny for the settlement. But recently obtained city hall documents reveal that there is much more to the story than Adelson, Torres, and Mandel told the public! It appears Chernaski was handed a sweetheart deal worth well over $100,000.00 from your tax dollars!
; Council members Fagen and McLaughlin posed some concerns, while residents voiced other concerns. But most questions could not be answered because according to the administration the final terms of the settlement were not yet made despite the fact that the council was voting on the matter that very night. Why would the city council vote on a settlement before the actual terms were finalized? The answer to that question lies in the actual settlement documents that were signed in secret nearly two weeks after the meeting and only obtained because of a Freedom of Information Law request I made.
The filing of the lawsuit by Sgt. Chernaski was an “election season surprise” in that the suit was filed just weeks before Election Day., and just days before the PBA, under Chernaski’s leadership, endorsed Adelson, Torres, and Mandel for City Council . The lawsuit alleged that the previous administration passed over Chernaski for a promotion to police Lieutenant because of his political affiliation. In fact, when Chernaski was passed over for a promotion, which is 100% allowable under civil service law, he never even filed a grievance, because even he knew it was completely legal. Maybe he was not offered the promotion for other justifiable reasons. Documents reveal that Chernaski may not have been fit to be promoted to lieutenant; in fact is he was found guilty of two very serious disciplinary charges. One involved a disciplinary action brought against him for allowing a prisoner to escape from the Long Beach Police precinct while under Chernaski’s command and the other involved Chernaski strong-arming the department doctor to put another member (and Chernaski’s friend) out on sick leave when the surgeon indicated the officer was well enough to work. For the record, when Chernaski was promoted to Sergeant, he passed over another eligible person who had a higher score than he did on the promotional list (in accordance with civil service law). Yet, when it happened to him, he claims he was being “retaliated against.”
At the city council meeting the Schnirman, Adelson, Torres, and Mandel only told the public that the case was being settled for an attorney fee totaling $25,000. According to the City Council agenda item Chernaski was not getting one penny! But the devil is found in the details; the same details that no one wanted to reveal at the city council meeting. Now that we have the documents we can begin to understand why no one wanted to talk about the details of the secret agreement. Besides the $25,000 attorney fee, here is a list of what Chernaski was awarded. Sgt. Chernaski was awarded the following:
- He was promoted to the rank of Detective
- He was given another promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. What makes this so ludicrous is that in 2008, Chernaski was not even eligible under civil service law to be appointed to Lieutenant!
- He was given yet another promotion to head the Detective Division of the Long Beach Police Department- despite the fact he has never been a detective or had any detective training or experience. Adding insult to injury, he was replaced a decorated veteran detective who had honorably served for years. Also, this is the first time ever there were two detective lieutenants serving the city at the same time.
- He received a raise from $123,000 to $148,000
- His promotion was retroactive back to September 2008
- His tenure, longevity, benefits, and seniority was also retroactive to September 2008. He now has seniority over other Lieutenants who have worked longer and who have more experience.
- The probationary period for his new rank as Lieutenant was completely waived.
- If the police receive any retroactive pay from collective bargaining or labor arbitration for the years between 2008-2012, Chernaski will received pay at the rate of his new position, not his old rate of pay.
- According to the settlement Chernaski “shall never be demoted below the rank of Detective Lieutenant and/or discharged for any reason other than malfeasance or gross dereliction of duty. This means that if the detective division was eliminated or all lieutenants were eliminated, Chernaski will remain in that position for as long as he remains employed by the Police Department! Basically, he has tenure, like a schoolteacher has!
- He was awarded 687.5 hours of “personal’ time. This time, which equates to 85 days, was put directly into Chernaski’s existing bank of time. Upon retirement he can cash out with this money.
- He had 200 hours put into his bank of vacation days; again he will be paid out for this time upon retirement.
- Two disciplinary charges that Chernaski was found guilty of were completely expunged, as if they never existed. One of these disciplinary charges found Chernaski guilty of allowing a prisoner to escape while under the command of Sgt. Chernaski.
In total, Chernaski’s award is worth no less than $108,000, four times more than originally stated! Ironically, the settlement states, “In light of the cities’ fiscal crisis, Chernaski’s agrees to waive any back pay” to 2008. But because Chernaski was awarded nearly 900 hours of time, when he retires he will be paid out for those days at the rate of pay he is earning at that time in the future when he is making more money than now, not the rate of pay he currently collects. In essence he was awarded an annuity with compounding interest- with our taxpayer money. To imply that Chernaski is somehow doing the city a favor in light of the cities’ current fiscal crisis is a slap in the taxpayers face. In the end this settlement will cost the city exponentially more then it would have cost to pay him today.
The Long Beach PBA, and under Chernaski’s leadership endorsed, vigorously campaigned for and donated to the Long Beach Democrat Candidates Fran Adelson, Len Torres, and Scott Mandel, the same people who as council members voted for the settlement (Fagen and McLaughlin did not vote in favor of the settlement).
The manner in which Council Members Adelson, Mandel and Torres and City Manager Schnirman settled this case raises some serious concerns. Adelson, Torres and Mandel campaigned with a promise that they would be transparent in their dealing with city residents. However, once again, their actions speak louder than their words. If they wanted to be transparent they never would have settled this case until all terms of the settlement were finalized. How can city residents get answers to questions about the settlement in a public forum if the terms have yet to be arranged? Why was there such a rush to get this settlement done? Why couldn’t it wait until the next city council meeting? Why the rush? There is no logical answer, except one. The only reason for doing what they did is to hide the details of the agreement from the public and to avoid answering the serious questions that would have been asked had the terms of the settlement been public. How could the city claim there is a “fiscal –crisis” when they are handing out another award to a supporter?
The actual city documents suggest a deeper more revealing series of events, especially given the fact that this case was brand new, only months old. No judge had any opportunity to review the case and/or dismiss it outright. This case was at least a year from being justifiably settled; others say it would have been dismissed because it didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. On November 17, 2011 (just two weeks after the election where Chernaski’s team won), a letter was written from the city attorney to the judge in the case. It stated that since the Adelson, Torres, and Mandel won the election, “The new administration’s supervision is likely to influence the city’s litigation strategy.” It further stated that, “Because the matter will be litigated under the direction of the new administration, it seems appropriate to afford them the opportunity to resolve the matter.” The bottom line is that the city never even made a motion to dismiss the case, which is standard procedure in these types of cases. A judge never reviewed the case; it was settled quickly and quietly and the wheels of the settlement were set in motion immediately after the election.
It is clear that settling this case was a top priority of the new administration. The city was facing many other more pressing issues, yet this issue was pushed to the top of the pile, right under Adelson’s $20,000 taxpayer funded settlement!
When it comes to transparency in city government this new administration has proven they are utter hypocrites; they spent the last few years accusing the prior administration of a lack of transparency. Now that they control city hall they have been anything but transparent.
I have said it before and I will say it again; I do not believe the city faces the kind of “fiscal-crisis” Schnirman, Adelson, Mandel, and Torres say we are in. The fact that they keep handing out sweetheart deal after sweetheart deals to their supporters indicates that this is the case.
In conclusion, while the administration asks homeowners to pay a 16% tax increase they continue to use our hard earned tax dollars to award their friends with jobs and their supporters with awards. It just doesn’t add up, and it’s just not right!
If this is how they spend our tax dollars during a fiscal crisis imagine how they would spend it if the city had a surplus?