PALM SPRINGS –It is customary at the end of the year to compile lists, lists of those who left us, list of top songs, top movies, and more. As we at Uken Report look back at 2019, we, too, compiled a list. In 2019 we expanded coverage throughout Riverside County and reached audiences beyond. Our Top Ten Stories of the year reflect some of that coverage.

Our Top Ten stories of 2019 are:

No. 1: Executive Team at Sheriff’s Office Purged: RIVERSIDE – Six members of former Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff’s executive team have been released from duty in the wake of Chad Bianco’s ascension to the office on Jan. 7.

Among those released were two Assistant Sheriffs and four Chief Deputy Sheriffs. Also released was Sniff’s Legislative Assistant, a civilian employee. A correctional chief deputy has been demoted to Correctional Captain. The shakeup has been described as nothing short of a “bloodbath.”

The only unscathed member of the formerly constituted executive team is the Finance Director, a civilian employee.

2. Complaint: Walker Put Penis in Woman’s Hand: CATHEDRAL CITY –Police Chief Travis Walker on one occasion allegedly pulled out his penis and placed it in a female employee’s hand, according to a discrimination complaint filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

On at least six to eight separate occasions, Walker allegedly tried to fondle the female employee over and under her shirt, according to the complaint, which was filed June 3, 2019.

Walker was placed on paid administrative leave on May 2 and has been under investigation for a personnel issue. The details of the personnel issue have never been disclosed until now. Walker remains on paid administrative leave, City Manager Charles McClendon confirmed Thursday for Uken Report.

3.     Mayor Pete Buttigieg is coming to Palm Springs: PALM SPRINGS — South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic candidate for president of the United States, will be in this community for a fundraiser on Nov. 15, Uken Report has confirmed.

Rich Weissman, director of The Richard Norris Weissman Charitable Fund, and his husband, J.D. hosted about 200 people at their Palm Springs home on Oct. 20, for the kick-off of the PS for Pete campaign. Mayor Pro Tem Geoff Kors and Councilmember Lisa Middleton both eloquently spoke and encouraged us to work hard on this campaign, Weissman said.

4.     Mayor Pettis Dies at Eisenhower Health: Mayor Gregory S. Pettis, 63, a longtime political fixture in Democratic politics, died about 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15 at Eisenhower Health where he had been hospitalized since Jan. 9 following a City Council meeting.

“It’s a shock, an absolute shock,” said Pastor Lee Ireland of Presbyterian Community Church Cathedral City. “It’s an absolute shock to us all. We are here sitting at Rotary reminiscing about Greg wondering how anyone can fill his shoes.”

The church is affectionately called “the church in the Cove.” It is the church Mayor Pettis attended.

Mayor Pettis was taken to Eisenhower last week where he was being treated for complications due to weight-loss surgery he had in November at Riverside Community Hospital.

He was Cathedral City’s first openly gay mayor. He was sworn in as mayor on Dec. 10, 2018.

5.     CCW Permits Available Online in Riverside County: RIVERSIDE – During the November 2018 race for Riverside County Sheriff, then-Sheriff Stan Sniff repeatedly said his opponents were looking for a candidate, then-Lt. Chad Bianco, who would hand out carry concealed weapon (CCW) permits like “popcorn.”

About four months after being sworn in a sheriff, Bianco is looking for more space to process CCW applications.

Effective April 8, the Concealed Carry Weapon’s (CCW) Unit has returned to the Ben Clark Training Center, 16791 Davis Avenue, in Riverside, where it once was housed.

This move, according to Bianco’s office, will allow free parking for CCW applicants and a larger office space to process applications, conduct background checks, and issue identification cards to those that are approved to carry a concealed firearm.

6.     Sheriff Revokes CCW Permit in Retaliatory Move: Less than 24 hours after a San Jacinto resident, and former longtime volunteer with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, posted on social media what he knew about a student being shot at the Ben Clark Training Center on Aug. 10, his CCW permit was revoked.

Sheriff Chad Bianco had never publicly released information about the incident.  As more and more people corroborated what Michael Boehnlein had heard and suspected, he reported it in a firearms group on Facebook. Bianco is also a member.

“I don’t care,” Michael Boehnlein told Uken Report. “It was not my intent to hide it from him. He has an obligation to disclose this.”

The incident occurred on Aug. 10 when a Riverside County Deputy allegedly “negligently fired” a firearm. Boehnlein claims basic firearms safety rules were violated and instructors were not qualified.

7.     Idyllwild Serves as Backdrop for New TV Show: IDYLLWILD — This picturesque community nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains serves as the backdrop for a new television series for FX titled “The Old Man.” The series stars Jeff Bridges. It was filmed in Idyllwild on Oct. 30.

The show is based on the Thomas Perry novel about a former CIA agent who has been living off the grid, until an assassin enters the picture.

“The Old Man” marks the first starring role on TV for the Academy Award-winning actor Bridges. He won He won numerous accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Otis “Bad” Blake in the 2009 film Crazy Heart.

The Film Commission was able to meet the needs of the film production in downtown Idyllwild, while taking into account the impact to the local businesses.

8.     Pettit to Oppose ‘Controversial’ Kors: Longtime Palm Springs community leader, Drag Queen, and philanthropist Alan “Alfie” Pettit has filed a Candidate Intention Statement to seek the District 3 seat. He will challenge Incumbent Mayor Pro Tem Geoff Kors, whom he refers to as “controversial.”

The District includes most of the Downtown Palm Springs business district and immediate surrounding neighborhoods.

Pettit minced no words in explaining why he sees Kors as a controversial figure.

“Mayor Moon has been bullied and treated horribly,” Pettit said. “I think Kors has played a big part of it. Moon is not one of them. I hurt for him.”

9.      Cadet Dies by Suicide at Sheriff Training Center: A cadet who died by suicide Thursday morning at the Ben Clark Training Center leaves behind a wife and three children, according to an email the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department distributed.

About 5:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 18, staff were notified about the death of a recruit  according to information the Riverside County Sheriff’s office released.

The death has since been ruled a suicide.

According to the email distributed, the man’s name is Dimitry Razhkou. He was a member of Class 207.

10.   Local Activist Carlos Pineda Dies at 43: Carlos Pineda, a community activist who sought election to the Palm Desert City Council in the Nov. 6 election, has died.

“Carlos passed away on Jan 1, 2019 surrounded in death as he was in life — by those who loved and respected him,” Lynnie O’Neill, a Democratic activist confirmed for Uken Report. “Carlos became a U.S. citizen just over one year ago and he used his last year on earth in the most noblest of pursuits: to live a purposeful life.

Happy 2020!

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