The Fullerton Police Department is facing at least two controversies: its police chief is on paid leave after an alleged fight at a late August concert and, separately, a former sergeant was charged with falsifying a 2016 police report.
The department may have an interim chief to run the department as the District Attorney investigates Chief David Hendricks and what happened at the Aug. 24 Lady Antebellum Irvine concert.
Hendricks and Captain Thomas Oliveras, who was also involved in the alleged fight with emergency technicians, are on paid leave while the District Attorney’s office is reviewing the fight at Irvine’s FivePoint Amphitheater.
But the public still hasn’t been told by Irvine or Fullerton authorities what reportedly caused the fight or other details.
In a closed session meeting Sep. 4, the Fullerton City Council opted to hire an outside attorney in an “administrative investigation” and authorized City Manager Ken Domer to look for an interim police chief.
“The problem whether we go with the interim is we don’t know the timing. The DA has the case right now and I have not heard from them on what the timeframe may be. That’s one of the issues there. Is this a short term, a long term?” Domer said in a Sept. 6 phone interview.
Mayor Doug Chaffee said the city must do its own investigation to determine if any policies were violated.
“Because, irrespective of what the DA does, we must do our own internal investigation. We might do something entirely different, we have no criminal penalties in mind … we have to do our own thing,” Chaffee said in a Sep. 5 phone interview.
“The DA could come back and say, ‘hey, no case’ and we could come back and say, ‘hey there’s a violation of department policy’… then we would take a different action,” Chaffee said.
Meanwhile, Captain Bob Dunn is the department’s acting police chief.
“The council gave me direction to research hiring an interim (police chief) so I am talking to several potential candidates right now and I’m also working with acting Chief Dunn for an interim plan,” Domer said.
According to a memo from Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel to Irvine council members Aug. 25, Irvine police officers responded to reports of a fight between two men and two emergency medical technicians.
“Upon their arrival, they contacted two Emergency Medical Technicians who alleged two men physically assaulted them while they were attempting to provide medical aid to an injured woman,” reads Hamel’s memo.
“Irvine officers learned one of the suspects is Dave Hendricks, Chief of Police for the City of Fullerton, and the other suspect is one of his police captains. It was also learned the injured woman was the wife of Chief Hendricks.”
Hendricks and Oliveras weren’t arrested and Irvine police told the two to leave the concert, according to the memo.
Irvine Police spokeswoman Kim Mohr said there was no sobriety test given to either of the two that night.
“We did not conduct a sobriety test in this case, as it is not our practice to do so in this type of investigation,” Kim wrote in a Sept. 5 email to Voice of OC.
Friends For Fullerton’s Future, a local blog about city politics, broke the story Aug. 26 and posted an apparent memo from Domer to the police department about the fight.
“At my direction, Chief Hendricks and captain Oliveras have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation,” the memo reads.
Irvine police spokeswoman Kim Mohr said a copy of the police report was provided to Domer.
No council members have been provided with the police report.
But Domer said he had to sign a confidentiality agreement to get the report and it can only be shared with the city’s hired investigator and attorney at this time.
“I was provided a copy under a confidentiality agreement, just initially, so I can provide it to the external counsel we have and to the investigator so they can get a head start on anything. It was not been provided to council,” Domer said. “I just know I agreed to a confidentiality agreement and I’m not going to violate that … There will be a time it will be available and I just don’t know when that time is.”
Mohr said Irvine won’t release the police report at any time.
The confidentiality agreement was made through email exchanges between Domer and Hamel.
“You have requested to receive a copy of the police report from the incident on August 24, 2018, involving Chief Hendricks and Captain Oliveras. You have agreed to treat the report as confidential pursuant to Government code section 6254(f). Please respond to this email acknowledging your agreement and I will transmit the report to you pursuant to the agreement keep it confidential,” reads Hamel’s Aug. 25 email to Domer.
Domer also received audio and video accounts of the incident from Hamel, according to the email exchange.
Voice of OC open government consultant Terry Francke said the agreement appears to be a safeguard because “releasing the information to the public in one instance, the city had waived its ability to deny it to anyone else.”
“But since the person (Domer) receiving the tapes (and police report) would not be deemed ‘a member of the public,’ this precaution seems to be excessive,” wrote Francke in a Sept. 10 email.
He also said some information from the report is public, including the time and date of the report, the victim’s name, and the factual circumstances about the incident.
“That information cannot be kept confidential by [the] agreement,” Francke wrote.
Councilman Bruce Whitaker said if it was a police report about the “average citizen” it would probably be public.
“The fact again that your average citizen involved in something like that, it’s pretty much public news right away,” Whitaker said in a Sept. 5 phone interview.
According to Transparent California, Fullerton had three police captains in 2017, including Oliveras.
Fullerton Police Sergeant Charged
In a separate case, the DA filed a felony charge against former police Sergeant Rodger Jeffrey Corbett Sep. 4 for falsifying a police report about former City Manager Joe Felz’s car crash on Nov. 9, 2016. The maximum sentence is three years in prison, if he’s convicted.
After attending election night parties in Downtown Fullerton, Felz drove his minivan over a curb and into a small tree at the three-way intersection where Highland Avenue dead ends into Glenwood Avenue — half a mile from city hall and Felz’s house.
He tried to flee the scene until a resident heard the thud of his car striking the tree and the subsequent rumbling of his engine as he tried to get off the curb and drive away.
Felz managed to get the minivan back onto the street and, even though it had at least one flat tire, started to drive away and made it roughly 200 feet down Glenwood Avenue before officers arrived. The resident said she could hear the sound of “screeching” rubber as Felz tried to drive away.
When a Voice of OC reporter visited the scene Nov. 9, 2016, evidence of a car rim scratching and imprinting itself on the street’s asphalt could be seen.
Former Police Chief Dan Hughes, who, at the time of the accident, was in his last week at the Fullerton Police Department before taking a job at Disneyland as head of security, said normal protocol was followed that night.
“I provided the above directions to the field sergeant and also briefly spoke to the city manager on the phone to explain what protocol would be followed. The sergeant conducted the assessment and made the determination that the city manager had consumed alcohol, but did not meet the criteria of 23152(a) CVC (driving under the influence). The city manager was driven home and his vehicle was towed,” reads Hughes’ Nov. 9, 2016 memo to council members.
There was no breathalyzer test given to Felz that night. Although he was initially charged with driving under the influence in March 2017, Felz pleaded guilty to reckless driving involving alcohol last December.
Nearly two years after Felz’s crash, Corbett has been charged with falsifying the police report.
“Roger Jeffrey Corbett did knowingly and intentionally file a report … with the agency which employs him/her regarding the commission and investigation of a crime in which defendant made a material false statement,” reads the DA’s Sept. 4 court filing.
Fullerton spokesman Stephen Hale said Corbett’s last day with the police department was March 8, but didn’t clarify if he quit or was fired.
“As this is a personnel matter, the City cannot comment further,” wrote Hale in a Sept. 6 text message.
In the DA’s news release about the charge, investigators allege Corbett was called to the scene to conduct the investigation because the city manager was involved.
“Corbett is accused of conducting a cursory examination of Felz and writing in his police report that Felz was not under the influence of alcohol. Corbett is further accused of driving Felz home,” reads the Sept. 4 news release.
The news release continues, “After responding to the scene, Corbett is accused of knowingly documenting false information regarding Felz’s sobriety in a police report.”
At an unrelated April 2017 public nuisance hearing, Hughes — who was not under oath — said the investigation was handled with “objectivity.”
“What was special about this was that it involved our city manager. So, in cases that involve a city councilmember, city manager, another city employee … those are cases that generally speaking they would wake a police chief up and let them know about that,” Hughes said, adding that he explained the protocol to Felz.
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC reporter who covers south Orange County and Fullerton. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio