Kenton Rainey, the newly appointed commander of the San Antonio Airport Police, has spent the last four months on paid leave from his previous post: Police Chief of Fairfield, California, a Bay Area suburb hard-hit by the housing crisis and subsequent economic fallout. And although some tension clearly surrounded his departure, it sounds like Rainey was on the side of the angels.
The Fairfield-Suisin City Daily Republic reported in July that Rainey would leave the position, which he’d held for a little more than two years, in September; subsequent news stories revealed that community leaders were blaming two city council members, Catherine Moy and John Mraz, for pushing him out. The public outcry was especially bitter in Fairfield’s faith communities, which credit Rainey with completing a long-planned Police Activities League youth center, and bringing a diverse range of citizens together to address crime from the ground up.
“It sucks that you guys are getting him and we’re losing him,” said the Reverend David Isom of St. Stephen CME Church, who says Rainey recognized the power of church leaders to reach thousands of people each week. “He was very instrumental in community policing ... He had a very open-door policy to the community. He was not someone who was untouchable.”
The Reverend Ira Manning, who serves as president of the Faith Partners Against Crime council which Rainey helped found, says Rainey is “probably one of the finest men in law enforcement I’ve ever met.”
Enthusiasm for the man extends to former colleagues as well. Public Information Officer Gale Spears calls Rainey “a stellar individual” with a rare combination of good police skills and administrative acumen. “I always felt the Chief was very approachable, easy to work with,” Spears said. And “willing to answer tough questions.”
“I had hoped he would be with us much longer,” she added.
So, what happened? Council member Mraz, a retired police officer, declined to elaborate because Rainey is on paid administrative leave through the end of the year. “When he’s not attached to the city, I may have a lot to say,” Mraz told the QueQue.
Reverend Isom, who serves on the Fairfield PD’s citizen review committee, says it’s a classic authority conflict fomented by a police veteran who was able to sow some dissension in the ranks. “This was `Mraz’s` opportunity to push some brass around,” he said.
Interim Fairfield Police Chief Larry Todd says there “clearly was some political as well as internal union issues that ultimately led `Rainey` to make the decision to move on.” He notes that crime in Fairfield is at a 10-year low, “during a period of significant economic downturn,” no less. Violent crime such as homicide, rape, and aggravated assault is down 18 percent from last year, an achievement Todd credits to programs Rainey put in place.
“When Chief Rainey got hired here,” Todd said, “it was a traditional enforcement-oriented department ... He introduced the concepts of problem-solving and community relationships.”
If Fairfield’s loss is our gain, our welcome-wagon gift is no wheelbarrow of rainbows: Rainey is taking over the Airport Police leadership from Interim Commander Ronald Bruner, who was cut loose earlier this month and whose tenure was marked by charges of favoritism, persecuting whistleblowers, and at least three EEO suits. As the Current reported in April of ’09, the Municipal Civil Service Commission recommended that the City reinstate Corporal Russell Martin, whose termination was recommended by Bruner and initiated by current Interim Commander John Gruchacz (City Manager Sheryl Sculley demurred). `See “Flight plans,” March 4, 2009.`
Martin’s case brought to light the questionable personal and professional histories of some Airport Police employees — including Bruner, who in the early ’90s was demoted at SAPD for submitting a false police report stating that his son had died, telling a detective that he had cancer when he did not, and cooking up a phony divorce decree — and Sergeant Orlando Battles, who was arrested in 2003 for public intoxication after he tried to break into a neighbor’s apartment while she was home.
The Airport Police division is less than a year into a major transition of its own: The commander now reports directly to Police Chief William McManus. McManus knows the man he picked to be his number two at the airport that services the nation’s seventh-largest city: They worked together in Dayton, Ohio, where McManus hired Rainey — an action that led in part to an employment-discrimination lawsuit filed by a 27-year veteran who lost her job. Dayton settled the suit after it lost in court.
Rainey will take up his new post after the first of the year.
In last year’s presidential election, Bexar County swung more solidly Democrat than it had since 1976, when 54 percent of registered voters backed a one-time Georgia peanut farmer to force out disgraced President Nixon’s ex Vice. As 52 percent of registered voters clicked the Obama button, the Bexar County Democratic Party seemed to be on the mend after years of instability. At least that was the appearance to those not sitting in on the group’s finance committee or executive board.
While the faithful worked to transform enthusiasm over Obama into donations, current and former members of the party’s leadership allege Bexar County Democratic Party Treasurer Dwayne Adams had already siphoned off thousands in state funds from the party’s primary election account. In all, more than $202,000 is said to be missing, according to Carla Vela, who resigned as chair of the BCDP last week to seek a seat as County Clerk. As Adams’s superior, and some would say defender, Vela has also fallen under a harsh light since last week’s revelation.
“Like anything else, when there’s trouble, the snakes come out,” Vela said of a former party treasurer and former precinct chairman who criticized her in a recent Express-News article.
But did she miss the warning signals?
“If the `executive committee` was concerned, or these people, they should have brought it up to the body, you know, and urged it more,” Vela said. “Hindsight, I wish I would have done things a little different or been on `Adams` more or got to the bank sooner. I wish I had done a lot of things different. … That was my fault, I trust or believe people.”
But repeated requests for financial information and a bounced $100,000 check last summer should have prompted earlier action by Vela, said Jamie Lewis, an exec committee member and county deputy chair for Precinct 3. “I asked month after month, meeting after meeting, for clarity,” Lewis said. “I was distressed that this man was our treasurer and he couldn’t put together a bank report. But we were told by the chair to back off. I don’t care what she says, that’s what I heard.”
In fact, despite sustained complaints, Vela didn’t check on the bank account until the day before she announced her resignation, saying she was then “shocked to see what had happened.”
Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said he referred Vela and Interim Party Chair Roberto Flores last week to the white-collar-crime division of the San Antonio Police Department. An officer with that department said only that the matter is “under investigation.”
However, Vela said Flores has yet to submit the official complaint to SAPD, and Lewis said Adams’s attorney is still promising his client will return the money. Deputy Chair of Precinct 2, Angie Garcia, says while the scandal will not be good for the party, “We will survive.”
Of course, the party will march on, but will the ambitious Vela?
“We demand Carla Vela turn herself in to the DA, because she’s just as responsible as the person who stole the money,” said Gilbert Gallego, of the United Public Workers of Texas. “The corruption has gotten out of hand. They’re not only hurting the party, they’re hurting the community.”
Ian Straus, deputy party chair for Precinct 4, said Vela has a degree of culpability. “I’m sure that will be the opinion of the Secretary of State, whose money that really is,” Straus said.
Adams’s listed phone number has been disconnected, and his attorney, Charles Jones, failed to return calls to the Current. Flores also declined to return repeated calls for comment. At the top of the Bexar County Democrats homepage it reads: “Dollars for Democrats! Rent, utilities, and supplies for the party office are paid for with donations from Bexar County Democrats like you.” Depending on the outcome of the SAPD investigation, any number of other items could be added to that list.
“I feel so sorry for the budget and finance guys. Person after person dropped out of that committee,” said Lewis. “They couldn’t get anything from Dwayne `Adams`, and Carla would not let them push. Where she gets in trouble from me: She’s the chair. I don’t care if your committee’s supposed to do something or your treasurer is supposed to do something, ultimately the buck stops with you. So you should know what’s going on. There’s no escaping that.”
And the buck stops ...
City Manager Sheryl Sculley is working up to the holiday deadline, just like the QueQue, and she called late Monday to clear up a few lingering mysteries from our December 2 story about the City jail and those long-neglected jail-abuse complaints `see “The story that didn’t run,” at sacurrent.com`. Beginning in fall 2006, the newly created Municipal Integrity Committee began sending complaints about the treatment of arrestees at the Frank D. Wing detention center to the Municipal Court that oversees the jail. And there they sat for two years, even though, Court Clerk Fred Garcia told the Current, they told Deputy City Manager Pat DiGiovanni more than once that they didn’t want to investigate their own employees. P.S., they added, we don’t want to be running this jail, either.
Although everyone the Current interviewed at the Court and the City agreed that the decision to send the complaints to SAPD’s Internal Affairs was made in the fall of 2008, no one was quite sure how it happened. Enter Sculley.
The lost OMI jail-abuse files were the victim of poor communication between the Municipal Integrity Committee and the Court, she said, “only on this transition piece.” Once she became aware that there was a problem, “We recognized it and addressed it.”
How did she become aware of the orphaned files? According to sources the Current spoke to — both individuals involved in the decision to work with Internal Affairs and current and former Express-News staff — former Express-News investigative reporter Todd Bensman began looking into the OMI files in the late summer and early fall of 2008, setting off alarm bells at the the City. The story never ran, either because there was no story (according to E-N Editor Bob Rivard), or because the story was killed (according to our
E-N sources). But Court staff said Bensman did sit down with them to review the files, and according to DiGiovanni, Bensman also met with DiGiovanni and the City Manager.
“I don’t know exactly when I became aware of `the issue`,” Sculley said. “I don’t think `Bensman` ever interviewed me.”
So the catalyst may remain murky, but at least we know someone’s in charge.
On the issue of getting the City jail out from under the Court’s (and the City’s) management, as recommended in the ’06 and ’07 Dorfman reports `see the QueQue, December 16`, Sculley said she’s all for it, but they haven’t had any takers.
“No one wants to manage a jail,” she said. A privatization RFP issued in ’07 yielded only one hopeful, who was new to the business. A 2007 deal with the County to take over the jail at Wing fell apart (the County did assume magistration responsibilities, “a major accomplishment at the time,” says Sculley), but could be resurrected as Bexar looks at building a new facility.
“I’d love to do it,” Sculley said. “I don’t want to be in the jail business.” •