When Fontana City Manager, Ken Hunt, forced the city’s police chief, Rod Jones, into an early retirement on January 21, both Fontana police unions were able to halt any plans they may have had to conduct a vote of no confidence against the chief. Due to a history of concerns regarding the chief’s integrity, insiders say the unions were each planning a vote of no confidence because they did not believe the city manager would take appropriate action on information collected during a recent personnel action.
In his correspondence to the mayor and city council, Hunt wrote, “I wanted to inform you that I have decided to terminate the employment of Police Chief Rod Jones. In accordance with the term of his agreement I will be paying Chief Jones his severance amount as a result.”
In the city of Fontana, the city manager is responsible for overseeing all departments. According to Section 2-72 of the Fontana Municipal Code, “The city manager is also responsible for general policy supervisions of the public safety functions and primary liaison between these departments and the city council.” In an effort to keep politics out of the police department, the city council placed the responsibility of overseeing the chief of police back with the city manager in 2014 after several situations occurred.
“Chief Jones has served this community faithfully for the past 35 years and it [sic] my hope that he will be afforded all of the respect and dignity due an individual who has given so much to Fontana,” Hunt concluded. Jones sent out his own email announcing his retirement.
According to city sources, Jones’ termination came on the heels of an investigation in which Jones was alleged to have lied about what happened during a Skelly hearing. A Skelly hearing relates to Skelly v. State Personnel Board 15 Cal.3d 194 (1975). In that decision the California Supreme Court ruled that an employee is entitled to due process before being terminated.
While any government employee is likely violating personnel rules if they lie about official matters, it is particularly serious when the employee is a sworn law enforcement officer. Such intentional misstatements of truth can lead to being declared a “Brady Cop” in law enforcement.
In Brady v. Maryland 373 U.S. 83 (1963), the United States Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor has an obligation to make a Brady disclosure if there is exculpatory evidence. Such tends to be favorable to a defendant. In the case of peace officers, if an officer has a history of dishonesty, it must be revealed to the defense. The officer is labeled a “Brady Cop.” Prior dishonesty could cause the prosecution to lose an unrelated, current case in court as jurors must decide if the officer is being truthful in the case at hand.
Sources say this was not the first time Jones’ integrity was called into question but more like the final straw. This reporter received numerous tips and leads in 2014 and 2015 about issues within the department, especially retaliation and personal vendettas, but was unable to write about the situations due to those providing the tips fearing retaliation from the chief.
In the case of Justin Moyer, a Fontana Police Officer whose case was profiled in the April 2014 of PORAC on pages 24 and 25, the chief seemed to take a special interest in “doing in” the officer. He called the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office with potential “Brady” information before the case was fully investigated and interviews conducted. A hearing officer overturned the officer’s termination.
Concerns about integrity were also raised in reference to the city’s aggressive asset forfeiture program. Asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to confiscate assets, especially cash, of those involved in certain crimes. The assets are confiscated prior to any conviction and the burden of proof that the assets were not part of a crime is on the owner of the assets. Law enforcement agencies that are aggressive with these programs win control of the assets more often than not whether they were indeed part of the crime.
The asset forfeiture program was used to partially fund the Fontana Police Regional Air Support program, which also came under scrutiny when the city council discovered that agreements were signed with other cities for use of Fontana aircraft without council knowledge. The chief may have subjected the city to liability that the council was not aware of nor approved.
Jones’ last day is February 5. Captain Bob Ramsey will serve as interim Chief of Police.