Here's a followup to our story on former Operation Phoenix director Glenn Baude's decision to retire. This is an extended version of the article that will appear in The Sun.
Baude was under a gag order for much of the time that Phoenix-related developments and controversies dominated the news during the summer. He's now able to speak his mind.
By Andrew Edwards
SAN BERNARDINO -- Glenn Baude, the former leader of the city's Operation Phoenix program, says he's never been told whether any specific error on his part killed his career with the
"I'm still wondering what I did wrong," Baude said Wednesday.
Baude has been cleared of wrongdoing by a pair of official investigations, but has nonetheless chosen to retire after spending about three months on administrative leave.
Now free to discuss Operation Phoenix-related matters that he was previously forbidden to talk about, Baude acknowledged that he and others made some mistakes in the difficult days after youth center manager Mike Miller was arrested on suspicion of child molestation.
But he also maintained that Operation Phoenix remains a worthy program to reduce crime and improve the lives of San Bernardino youth.
And he's worried that this summer's controversies have dealt too grievous a blow to the anti-crime initiative.
"You've destroyed a program that was the best program we've ever had in my tenure," he said.
Baude also served as the city's Code Enforcement director until being placed on paid leave in late July. He was Mayor Pat Morris' Operation Phoenix point man for about two years before the allegations against Miller inflamed city politics.
Operation Phoenix is an anti-crime program built upon inter-agency collaboration, increased police patrols, and youth services. The program -- intended to simultaneously fight and prevent crime -- was and is a focus of Morris' administration.
The mayor launched the program in 2006. This July, Operation Phoenix was rocked when Miller, who supervised the program's flagship community center, was arrested on suspicion of child
Miller has pleaded not guilty.
The arrest led to several news reports of management problems within Operation Phoenix. For example, Miller was technically employed by the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department, but it wasn't clear whether he was supposed to report to Baude or parks
chief Kevin Hawkins.
Other revelations included reports that before his arrest, Miller had been accused of a series of on-the-job transgressions. One notable allegation was Miller's reported involvement in pellet gun wars with other city employees.
Baude said he and others were trying to clarify management issues during the time before Miller ended up in a jail cell. Emails show that Baude and Hawkins had discussed plans to officially transfer Miller to Baude's supervision during May of this year. Baude says the difficult process of putting together a city budget delayed that effort.
But city politics ran off the rails soon after Miller was in custody.
Looking back, Baude said city officials may have been able to forestall some of the controversy by taking a more public stance after Miller's arrest.
"We were behind the scenes fixing it, but we weren't out front saying it," he said.
Morris and other city officials did not call a press conference on July 3 -- the day Miller was arrested -- or in the following days
The mayor's most detailed pronouncements on his response came on July 18 when he met with The Sun's editorial board. He then announced a restructuring of Operation Phoenix management, with aide Kent Paxton given responsibility to coordinate the program. Baude was left out of the picture.
Asked about Baude's opinion that city leaders may have erred by not making enough public statements, Morris said Friday that he never attempted to be secretive about the city's efforts to fix problems within Operation Phoenix.
"We tried to be as open and obvious and transparent as possible, but that wasn't the way it was seen," he said.
Baude says he's willing to accept blame for any errors he may have committed but also believes that news coverage did not give him a fair shake.
"I just want the truth out there, because it's muddled," he said.
Baude doesn't think the public knows the full story regarding an email exchange that occurred on June 27, shortly before Miller's arrest.
The emails -- obtained through public records request -- showed that Baude, Hawkins and other employees had communicated with each other after one employee heard that current and former city employees planned to report that Miller had a "possible sexual involvement with a minor during work hours."
The first article in The Sun regarding the emails reported that "two top city officials knew about an employee's alleged molestation of children four days before police say they were alerted to investigate."
But further review of the communications shows that the word "molestation" was not used in the emails. The emails did not have any specific information that connected the rumor of an improper sexual relationship to any of the alleged crimes that Miller has been
formally charged with committing.
A District Attorney's investigation found that the emails had nothing to do with any of Miller's alleged victims. That report -- which cleared Baude, Hawkins and the others -- was released on July 25. Those findings were published on SB Now and in The Sun upon their release.
Prosecutors' report featured the conclusion that the emails stemmed from a rumor -- itself based on scanty evidence -- that Miller had inappropriate contact with a 16-year-old girl.
Baude said he became aware that the rumors surrounded a teenage girl, but he had no idea that Miller was suspected of molesting a small child until police made their arrest.
"We didn't know about the 7-year-old. We didn't know about that until the police arrested the guy," Baude said.
Baude said he's never seen any report generated from the City Hall investigation that also cleared him of wrongdoing.
City Attorney James F. Penman said the city's probes are not finished. He doesn't expect the city's investigative report to be come public until the city faces a lawsuit related to Miller's alleged misdeeds.
As of Friday, no one has filed such a case, Penman said.
Baude's severance deal -- signed Oct. 28 -- was released on Wednesday.
The buyout package provided for Baude to receive nearly $75,000 -- six months worth of pay that Baude would have received during the remaining term of his contract had he not retired.
The deal also allows Baude to receive compensation for unspent leave time and $5,300 reimbursement for his attorney's fees.
Seventh Ward Councilwoman Wendy McCammack said she would have been happy to let Baude return to his job as Code Enforcement director but opposed the settlement.
"I do not feel that we needed to spend a ton of money to shut him up, and I believe that's what happened," she said.
The mayor disagreed and said that paying Baude hush money would have been a futile endeavor.
"Glenn is his own man. You know Glenn. He doesn't shut up," Morris said.
Baude also said retirement doesn't mean he's unwilling to ever again lend a hand to Operation Phoenix.
"I'm not upset at all. If the city needs my help at all, I'll help," he said.
"Maybe I'll run for council one day," he also said. "Somebody's got to clean up the politics."