Citizens Task Force Turns in Polished Pine Mountain Security Review Report

By Patric Hedlund

It appears the bar has been raised for review of the Pine Mountain Club Security Patrol.

Since last summer, the popular security team has allegedly been the object of what has been called “retaliatory harassment” in filings with the California State Labor Commission. It allegedly began after Security Chief Rick Wastaferro submitted a report to the California Department of Fish and Game alleging that Lee Benavidez, the current chairman of the PMCPOA Board, may have taken a dead bear from the side of Mil Potrero Highway to remove its claws.

Security patrol personnel reported that Chairman Benavidez asked one of them to assist him to move the bear. California penal code refers to such action as “poaching.” The officer refused.

Benavidez has told numerous people about taking the claws with a chain saw and “giving brother bear a Native American burial.” To others he has given denials.

What nobody denies however is that security patrol personnel were told to surrender their defensive weapons (pepper spray and billy clubs, used principally to protect themselves against biting dogs).

A board investigation into the patrol’s “SOPs” (standard operating procedures) was said to be underway, removing Wastaferro’s authority to dispatch his crew on routine calls to meet residents’ needs.

Board members floated the idea of “outsourcing” security. The general manager who spoke of changing patrol as a cost-cutting and “liability reduction” measure was booed by a gathering of PMC members. Property owners became increasingly outspoken against the board’s “fixing something that isn’t broken” and challenged the legality of their review committee.

Meanwhile, under pressure from the community, security officers had their tools returned and Wastaferro was allowed to resume normal operations.

In December a group of retired law enforcement investigators with a cumulative 94 years of professional law enforcement experience formed their own Citizens’ Review Committee (CRC) to do the job the board said needed to be done. The board welcomed their participation and gave them a liaison, dismantling its own former investigation and empaneling a new one.

Within a week the PMCPOA board withdrew cooperation from the CRC.

In January the former manager was dismissed from his job by the board without explanation, and by February a confused series of votes by the board formed two more review panels—now four separate security review groups which have still not rendered any actual review.

Finally, on Saturday, March 20, the citizen group stood before the board to deliver a polished report. Denied a place on the board’s agenda, according to William Martin, the group delivered the results of their 12-week effort during the “call to the public” section of the meeting.

You can see the full 19-page report online here.

This is part of the April 02, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.