News

Palo Alto officer taped, released private call

Internal investigation finds an officer violated department policy by releasing phone transcript to Page Mill Properties

A Palo Alto police officer who secretly recorded a phone conversation between an East Palo Alto tenant activist and an official from Page Mill Properties in December 2008 and then released the transcript to Page Mill violated a department policy, a recently completed internal investigation found. (View the transcript)

The investigation was prompted by a March 2009 complaint from tenant activist Chris Lund, who has been one of Page Mill's most vocal critics. The Palo Alto-based property manager bought more than 1,800 units in East Palo Alto in 2006 and 2007, but lost these units in August 2009 after defaulting on a $50 million loan.

The investigation, which was conducted by retired police Capt. Brad Zook, found that a Palo Alto officer released the transcript of Lund's conversation with Russell Schaadt, Page Mill's director of asset management, in violation of a department policy on confidential information.

The summary of findings, which the Weekly obtained this week, states that the officer "should not have released the telephone recordings." The officer, who is not named in the summary, violated a policy regarding "unauthorized, intentional release of designated confidential information, materials, data, forms or reports."

The summary states that the "involved employees have received counseling and training regarding our policy for retaining and releasing evidence." Police Chief Dennis Burns wouldn't say which officer violated the policy, but the transcript of the phone call has Agent April Wagner's name written on top of it. Burns would not confirm or deny Wagner's involvement in the pretext call, citing personnel laws.

Wagner has since been promoted to sergeant.

Palo Alto police recorded the phone call between Lund and Schaadt upon request from Page Mill officials. Page Mill had filed a claim against Lund, accusing him of trying to extort the company. Police recorded the conversation as part of their investigation into the extortion claim.

During the phone call, Schaadt repeatedly offered Lund $20,000 to halt his campaign against the company. He told Lund he would "just as soon get you out of the picture" and offered him money.

"I mean, you are continuing to disgrace me, you know, and our company, you know, with going around and posting these things," Schaadt said, referring to fliers Lund had posted criticizing Page Mill. "But that seems to be what it is about at this point and I would just as soon accommodate you in your request, get you out of the picture, and I want, you know, to move on."

"I (would) just as soon give you the twenty grand," Schaadt later added.

Lund declined the offer, saying his opposition to Page Mill "is not about the money" and "has never been about a personal settlement." He was cleared of all charges shortly after the phone call.

Burns said that while it's typically illegal to record phone conversations without the consent of the parties, it is acceptable to do so during the course of a criminal investigation. The "pretext call" was arranged because of Page Mill's allegations against Lund.

Burns said an officer released the recording to Page Mill with the understanding that the company would transcribe the phone conversation and facilitate the department's investigation against Lund. Police turned the recording over to Jim Shore, a former Santa Clara County deputy district attorney who served as Page Mill's general counsel.

Shore then released the transcript to the Daily News, much to the surprise of Palo Alto police.

"They offered to transcribe the tape to facilitate the investigation and then went ahead and released it without our knowledge," Burns said. "We were not releasing it to Page Mill with the intent to have it released to the press.

"It was not the intent to release it to the press or to damage in any way the reputation of Mr. Lund," he added.

The transcript of the phone call was released last month by CalPERS, which lost $100 million by investing in Page Mill. The pension fund was ordered by a San Francisco Superior Court judge to release thousands of documents pertaining to its failed investment in Page Mill. The group First Amendment Coalition sued CalPERS after the pension fund refused to release the documents.

In his complaint, Lund asked for the name of the Palo Alto officer who released the transcript to Page Mill. He also wrote that it is his understanding "that such evidence, or in this case, lack thereof, generally remains under seal."

The pretext call wasn't the only case in which a member of the Palo Alto Police Department intervened on behalf of Page Mill. Lund also complained to the police about an incident on Jan. 29, 2009, when a man allegedly walked up to Lund's house with a camera and began taking pictures. The man refused to identify himself and fled the scene after Lund called East Palo Alto police.

The man was later identified as Palo Alto police Lt. Tim Morgan, who moonlighted as Page Mill's head of security. The recent internal investigation confirmed the department's earlier finding that Morgan violated the department's policy prohibiting active officers from working in private security or holding outside jobs that may constitute a conflict of interest or an appearance of a conflict of interest. Morgan retired from the Palo Alto department days after Lund's allegation became public.

Though the internal investigation sustained Lund's allegation that Morgan violated the department's policy pertaining to outside employment, it did not charge Morgan with using his position in the department to gain influence in his work for Page Mill.

"It could not be proven that the employee was attempting to use his position to gain influence or authority in his non-departmental activity," the summary of findings stated.

Lund told the Weekly he was satisfied with the police department's response to his complaint and pleased to see the investigation conclude after almost two years.

"It took a little longer than I would've liked, but they took it seriously and looked into it thoroughly," Lund said.

He said he has forwarded the report's findings to an attorney for a review.

Burns wrote in the summary letter that the department "will make some improvements in our operations to ensure that something like this does not occur again." He said one of the outcomes of the investigation is that department will work with the city's independent police auditor to "clarify our outside employment policy."

"It'll be more specific as to off-duty employment and what is acceptable and what's not acceptable employment," Burns told the Weekly.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Wants-To-Know
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2010 at 9:01 am

> A Palo Alto police officer who secretly recorded a phone
> conversation between an East Palo Alto tenant activist and an
> official from Page Mill Properties in December 2008

While this article focuses on releasing the transcript of this conversation--shouldn't someone be asking how the Officer came to be recording conversations between EPA "activists" and PMP officials? Was this recording under authority of a warrant? Was it an illegal recording? Was a "bug" involved? Just how did the recording come to be, in the first place. Why was the Palo Alto police involved in this in the first place? How many other conversations does the Palo Alto Police Department have on file between various members of the community. Does the Palo Alto Police routine record telephone conversations of other people too?

Too many unanswered questions. Another of the less-than-stellar reporting efforts of the Weekly.


Like this comment
Posted by Finally!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2010 at 10:36 am

Many of us, in addition to Dr. Lund, have been waiting for this investigation to be completed. It's a shame that more punishment wasn't leveled at the officers involved. Once again, Page Mill has caused honest taxpayers a waste of money. If Page Mill hadn't been so crooked, this wouldn't have happened. I'm very glad to read that Dr. Lund has forwarded the findings to an attorney. EPA renters have been incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Lund among the many activists, but he has been among the bravest to shine light on Page Mill's nasty deeds.


Like this comment
Posted by Finally!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2010 at 10:47 am

@Wants-To-Know - I think this pretext phone call was due to spurious allegations against Dr. Lund that he was trying to extort 20k out of Page Mill. Perhaps, since Lt. Morgan worked for Page Mill, Morgan and Page Mill cooked up the scheme and that false accusation was all that was needed for the pretext call. I wonder how many man hours were involved, overall, in the whole case, and what it cost you good citizens of Palo Alto? Your city, like most, is facing serious budget issues and a waste of money such as was likely involved to investigate this "matter" could've been put to better use. Perhaps residents can request an accounting of the time and cost of this wrongful investigation.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2010 at 10:48 am

The Police Officer was moonlighting for another organization, and was not on duty for the City of PA at the time. He has long ago left the PAPD.


Like this comment
Posted by Shocked!
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 20, 2010 at 11:10 am

Violated a 'department policy'? How about, the LAW.


Like this comment
Posted by Finally!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2010 at 11:10 am

@Resident - so what's your point? Others involved in the pretext phone call and leaking information to Page Mill Properties still work for PAPD. Being dismissive of such questionable behavior doesn't serve anyone or any decent means.


Like this comment
Posted by Corey Levens
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 20, 2010 at 11:37 am

Wants-to-Know has raised the core issue here: Why was this call recorded? Under California law, it is illegal to record a conversation without the consent of the party being recorded. Unless there was a warrant issued in this case, it would appear laws were broken.


Like this comment
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 20, 2010 at 11:43 am

This is not the first time April Wagner's name has been brought up in the context of bad behaviour. Until we have a Independent Police Review that provides independent oversight, this will continue to happen. The current police auditor acts in an important role for taxpayers as a liability mitigation specialist, but by no means plays the role of police auditor.

Let's get some transparency going for our stellar police department. A couple bad apples keep giving Palo Alto a black eye.

Respectfully,

Tim Gray


Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 20, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Typical irresponsible smearing by Mr. Gray. He takes one incident and uses a broad brush to imply there is more to be found. Facts please, Mr. Gray.


Like this comment
Posted by Shameer
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Oct 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm

...and then promoted to Sgt. That's our PAPD. If you are in the right "circle" then the rules don't matter.


Like this comment
Posted by Wants-To-Know
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Ok .. from putting together some of the comments, it seems that:

1) an off-duty PA police officer, working for PMP, recorded a phone conversation, presumably with the permission of at least one PMP official. The use, and distribution, of this recording is unknown, at the moment.

2) A subsequent investigation into the police officer's behavior, reveals to the PA investigator the existence of this recording.

3) For some reason, the PA PD comes into possession of the recording.

4) At a latter time, an office in the PAPD releases this recording to parties unnamed, for reasons unknown. (Note--this many unknowns leaves a lot of room for the hint of money passing hands to fill some of the gaps.)

5) At even a later time, someone (presumably the officer investigating the original officer's activities) learns that the conversation (one of many??) has been improperly (but not illegally?) released to parties unknown.

Wow! What a tangled mess. If the conversation were of no particular interest--this becomes even a bigger waste of time. If there were possibly incriminating evidence on the recording, this opens another can of works.

It would be interesting to see if document/recording/etc. that is considered as "confidential" is actually stamped, or otherwise tagged, so that people who pick up a file folder know what the securing classification of the folder, and its documents, might be?


Like this comment
Posted by Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Oct 20, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Gennady Sheyner is a registered user.

Wants-to-Know,

I updated the story to address some of your questions.

Gennady


Like this comment
Posted by Finally!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm

MS. Sheyner, thank you for updating the story, which clarifies the happenings a bit. Clearly, pretext phone calls are legal. But why the heck would PAPD release the the taped call to Page Mill for any kind of facilitation? Facilitating what? More investigation, which is the job of PAPD? This whole thing stinks to high heaven, giving the strong impression that Page Mill received very, very special treatment by PAPD due to their employment of both Morgan and Shore. is it legal to allow a private company to "facilitate" part of a police investigation? Was it legal to release the tape? Was it legal for Page Mill to leak it to the press?

I hope that Lund's attorneys take action on this if it's actionable.


Like this comment
Posted by who cares
a resident of Triple El
on Oct 20, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Another day-another city department scandel in Palo Alto. Meanwhile city manager Keene is unavailable (again), city attorney Baum won't answer calls, mayor Burt doesn't return e-mails or phone calls. Maybe that's part of the problem, nobody wants to be in charge of a dysfunctional mess.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry S
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Oct 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm

PAPD doesn't come out smelling very good in this affair. First, they have no reason releasing a police dept transcript to one of the involved parties for any reason whatever. Second, the police officer who violated dept policy (and the law?) gets counseling - and a big promotion. (Which sends the bigger message?) The most sinister aspect seems to be the police lieutenant working for Page Mill Properties. Moonlighting in a case like this was clearly inappropriate, but going over to a complainants home and taking pictures is far more than moonlighting - that's intimidation and a violation of privacy! Was this officer ever disciplined before retiring? Should have been!
The fact that a lieutentant - who supposedly knows the rules! - would do such actions on behalf of one of the largest landlords in the area seems to indicate some kind of understanding or collusion on the part of the police department or at least a lack of oversight and training at its highest levels. I like to be a supporter of the police, I really do, but it is for them to be worthy of our support, to be above suspicion. They are certainly not so in this case.


Like this comment
Posted by Finally!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2010 at 3:52 pm

@Larry S., thank you for your salient points. Personnel laws prohibit some of the important info being revealed. Those of us on this side of the creek that went to community meetings recall Morgan accompanying Page Mill executives a la bodyguarding, after he'd told the police chief his job was as consultant for emergency preparedness or something like that. The security patrol reported to Morgan and he was their de facto boss. Even though he's now gone from PAPD, the stink remains - and is increased by the actions of the other officers cooperating, perhaps even unknowingly, in this nasty series of events.


Like this comment
Posted by PAPD-Critic
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 20, 2010 at 6:38 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Koa
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 20, 2010 at 8:09 pm

It sounds to me like Page Mill and their hired Palo Alto cops were conspiring to entrap Lund.


Like this comment
Posted by Adam
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2010 at 8:30 pm

More corruption stories about Palo Alto police and prosecutors. Aren't they ashamed of their deeds? Those are supposedly the ones who bring justice to the nation they supposedly protect, and every day we read a different story about the violation of citizens and their rights. Men of law enforcement of Santa Clara, you bring shame to our society here in Palo Alto, and to the general American nation. We are embarrassed with you.


Like this comment
Posted by Zee
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 21, 2010 at 6:34 am

"Wagner has since been promoted to sergeant."


This speaks volume of how the incompetent and corrupt end up being in charge of our lives. Law enforcement officials (some of them not all) make sure they get everything they think they deserve, but try as an ordinary citizen and make a simple mistake like asking, "Sir, why am I being arrested?" and get your arse thrown in jail for resisting arrest.


Like this comment
Posted by Zee
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 21, 2010 at 6:37 am

By the way, great story Gennady. It is time one of you Palo Alto journalists did the right thing and reported a story without bias. WTG.

Make sure you get to the bottom of every story if you want to be taken seriously. Expect resistance and hatered and don't be afraid to speak the truth.

Thank you again.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2010 at 10:08 am

Koa - I bet you're right. If they could entrap him, that justice oriented thorn would be out of their side. Instead, he complained about his treatment, went public at a city council meeting and continued to expose Page Mills' awful behavior towards tenants, investors and taxpayers. Dr. Lund has a lot of integrity and kept it intact although he'd made a powerful enemy and had a lot at risk.


Like this comment
Posted by Bob O'Connor
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Oct 21, 2010 at 10:43 am

The officer broke the law! he should be prosecuted to the full extent and fired! Does the local DA have any balls?


Like this comment
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 21, 2010 at 11:33 am

Web Link

To discuss the actions of police is in no way to disrespect and not appreciate the great and noble efforts of law enforcement.

Civil discourse requires openess. This means community discussion without name-calling.

The above link is one more story about a public servant that strayed. Only in this case, accountability was applied. While we lack the details that would surface in due process, so we don't know the whole story -- there seems to be a departure from the accountability most taxpayers expect from their City. Bad behaviour cannot hide behind the shield of respect we offer to Law Enforcement.

Respectfully,

Tim Gray


Like this comment
Posted by Finally!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Oh-My-Dog. This transcript is a must read. A total set-up.


Like this comment
Posted by Koa
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 22, 2010 at 7:18 pm

I read the full transcript. Very troubling indeed. Lund was running out of ways to say no to Russel's repeated attempts to bribe him.


Like this comment
Posted by Finally!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 23, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Pretext phone calls are a great way to catch a criminal. They're also, apparently, a good way to trip yourself up when you're the lying criminal who's pretending to be innocent. Heads need to roll. What will happen to Jim Shore, former prosecutor and Page Mill's hired gun? Was Wagner's part innocent? Was she duped, or was she a participant in this crookedness? Some residents are complaining about the OT paid to PA officers during Obama's recent visit. How come no one's complaining about all the monies spent on Page Mill's FALSE complaint against Dr. Lund, and the necessary investigation following?? Let's see, so far, we know that there was:

-An investigation into Dr. Lund, incl the pretext phone call

-The investigation following Dr. Lund's complaints about this call and the leaked tape, which involve multiple police personnel (was anything ever sent to the DA to review?)

-Any resulting discipline costs to officers involved

What will the future of this crookedness bring, and what will be the cost to residents? Was there a coverup? Is there now a partial coverup?


Like this comment
Posted by Zee
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 24, 2010 at 7:11 pm

The local DA (dolores) has no balls, unless there is something we don't know about.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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