Friday, December 19, 2014

Pepper-spray costs keep mounting

Cruz Reynoso, a retired California Supreme Court justice who chaired a UC Davis task force examining the Nov. 18 pepper-spraying of nonviolent protesters, listens during a town hall meeting last week at Freeborn Hall at which the task force's report was discussed. Its conclusions were based on facts gathered by Kroll Associates Inc. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

From page A1 | April 18, 2012 |

“It’d be cheaper to put two Porta-Potties and have the police patrol than if something goes wrong,” Griselda Castro warned other members of UC Davis’ ad hoc leadership team last November.

The assistant vice chancellor’s comments are included in a 130-page report by Kroll Associates Inc., a New York-based security firm detailing the decisions that led up to the pepper-spraying of Occupy UC Davis protesters.

Kroll has since submitted its bill for its work: $445,879.40.

Kroll’s fee — about $300 per hour for the six investigators and three supervisors — is one more indication of how costly those mistakes will turn out to be, in dollars and cents alone.

The money will be paid out from insurance reserves from the University of California Office of the President, Lynn Tierney, associate vice president of communications for the UC Office of the President, said Monday.

Working from the facts gathered by Kroll, a task force headed by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso last week issued its findings and recommendations for changes meant to prevent another such use of police force.

The report placed blame for the pepper-spraying on Chancellor Linda Kaethi’s 11-member leadership team and on members of the UCD Police Department.

The Federated University Police Officers Association also forced UC into a monthlong legal fight over the Kroll and Reynoso reports. UCOP did not immediately provide a cost estimate for the legal work done by staff and outside attorneys.

The union sued in Alameda County Court to prevent the release of the Kroll and Reynoso reports. A judge ruled for UCD, which avoided an even more costly union appeal by agreeing to redact the names of most police officers.

In January, The Enterprise revealed that UCOP spent about $100,000 on a “reputation and risk-management” consultant, a division of New York-based Marsh Risk Consulting Inc., as the Davis campus coped with the worldwide attention brought on by a viral video of the pepper-spraying. The money to pay Marsh also came from insurance reserves, Tierney said.

The 13 members of the Reynoso task force — among them students, staff, faculty and alumni — were not paid.

Decisions about whether police will be disciplined will be based on an internal affairs investigation. For now, Chief Annette Spicuzza, Lt. John Pike and a third officer, identified from still photos as A. Lee, but whom UCD has declined to name out of concern for his safety, remain on paid leave.

In 2010, Spicuzza earned $140,417 and Pike $110,243, according to a state worker database. No salary for a UCD police officer named Lee is listed.

UCD is paying Van Dermyden Allison Law Corp. of Sacramento $250 per hour and Yorba Linda-based Norman A. Traub Associates $160 per hour for that inquiry. The office of the vice chancellor for administration and resource management will pay those fees.

The costliest bill may be yet to come: Protesters have filed suit in federal court against the university, its leadership and the Police Department.

After the public outcry over the pepper-spraying, the administration backed off of protesters, who promptly rebuilt an encampment that grew up to about 80 tents and started an occupation of Dutton Hall.

A more hands-off approach has not come without a price.

UCD provided equipment like portable toilets, lights and hand-washing stations to the encampment at a cost of $2,237. It estimated the bill for repairs to Dutton Hall at $7,000 and to aerate and re-seed the Quad at $1,500. Police overtime tallied $5,850.

Protesters have laughed off such figures as inflated or the cost of unnecessary actions.

Campus officials also tried to negotiate their way out of a bank blockade, warning protesters of penalties they might face rather than send in police. A faction of Occupy UC Davis forced the U.S. Bank branch inside the Memorial Union to shut early each day, starting on Jan. 2.

On March 12, the bank announced it would close the branch for good. That ended a 10-year deal, signed in 2009, which was to have brought in $3 million for student services.

U.S. Bank and UCD have traded accusations over which failed to do enough to end the protests. Both are demanding lost income. Neither has filed suit.

The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office plans to file misdemeanor charges against 11 students and one professor for their role in the blockade. They could be ordered to pay the bank $1 million to compensate for its losses.

— Reach Cory Golden at Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden



Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter.
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