Photo by Joe Green via Flickr Creative Commons

Phantom OIR Report Still Eluding Scrutiny

By Gerry Bill

Last month, we reported on the ongoing saga of the missing final report done by Eddie Aubrey, the former head of Fresno’s Office of Independent Review. The report is supposed to be a review of the activities of the police department, in particular, the quality of the department’s internal investigations of alleged police abuse of citizens.

Aubrey claims he submitted the report to City Manager Mark Scott in April, but repeated attempts by citizens’ groups to gain access to the report have been stonewalled by the city. In September, the Community Alliance submitted a California Public Records Act request for the report. The city manager responded by saying that the report was not yet finished. He added, “I would hope maybe two more weeks and it will be done.” Those two weeks were up on Oct. 7.

On Oct. 31, I, along with six other concerned citizens, met with the city manager to try to pin him down. As usual, Scott was extremely elusive and didn’t want to give an exact date. He tried to blame the delay on the difficulty of editing Aubrey’s report, although his arguments were not convincing. After all, he has had at least six months to do the editing.

Finally, he told us that he expected the report to be released during November and that after that happened he would allow our delegation to review Aubrey’s draft report so that we could see for ourselves what editorial changes had been made. Let’s see if he keeps that promise or tries to weasel out of it.

Two days after our meeting with Scott, another community group, the League of Women Voters, joined the chorus of citizens asking to see the report. Francine Farber, on behalf of the League, filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request to see the report. On Nov. 9, Scott replied, saying that he had taken extensive steps during the previous week to expedite the release and to communicate with Aubrey, “who is cooperating fully in this effort.” He went on to say, “I am not prepared to release Mr. Aubrey’s draft at this time, nor my comments to him.”

So the report remains a secret, for now. There is reason to believe that the City will drag this process out even further. In a Nov. 8 Fresno Bee article, City Council President Lee Brand said he expects the council to see the report by the end of December—which would be well after Scott’s stated goal of getting it out in November.

What is the City hiding? That is hard to say. Scott says he didn’t receive the report until June—not April, as Aubrey claims. Scott claims he received the report only in dribs and drabs, bits and pieces. Aubrey disputes those claims in the Nov. 8 Bee article, saying that he would not “be so unprofessional as to leave a late, half-finished report on his boss’s desk.” It is hard to know whom to believe.

Perhaps Scott will still get the report out in November, but as we went to press the report had not been released and there was no word of any imminent release. Stay tuned.

*****

Gerry Bill is professor emeritus of sociology and American studies at Fresno City College and is on the boards of the Fresno Free College Foundation, Peace Fresno and the Fresno Center for Nonviolence. He is co-chair of the Central California Criminal Justice Committee and a long-time activist in Fresno.

  • Mike Rhodes

    Mike Rhodes is the executive director of theCommunity Alliance newspaper and author of the book Dispatches from the War Zone, about homelessness in Fresno. www.mikerhodes.us is his website. Contact him at mikerhodes@comcast.net.

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