In early January, the city announced it had hired Michael Gennaco as interim Police Auditor. One of his first tasks was going to be most difficult – he was charged with auditing the McGregor Scott Picnic Day report. This news came just as the city announced that the public would basically not be able to read even a redacted version of the McGregor Scott report.
In an environment filled with segments of the population registering distrust for the process to begin with, this was disastrous for the city and the source of great frustration for many of the councilmembers.
Now here we are, closing in on 50 days since this announcement, and we still do not have the auditor’s report that was estimated to be coming in 30 days according to a statement by the city manager at the time (he said, “It is anticipated that the interim Police Auditor’s review of the Scott report will take approximately thirty days to complete.”).
“This was shocking,” William Kelly said during public comment. “Apparently the answer to when this report is coming out is never. I don’t know if this was something that could have been foreseen in December when the city manager’s office said it was forthcoming or over the six-month period, when many of us interpreted your silence as waiting on this report to get the facts.”
But it gets worse, because as time ticks on, the credibility of McGregor Scott, in some circles at least, is likely to continue to take a hit.
When the city of Davis hired former Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness, he was relatively easy to discredit. He said very provocative things on the Sacramento right wing talk radio station, and not just the fatal comment about blacks being better off prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He made comments calling into question racial profiling, which clearly called into question his ability to be
fair and objective.
And in fact, after he stepped aside, he basically told the Sacramento Bee that he hadn’t seen anything in the Picnic Day incident that caused him concern.
Out goes Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness, in comes former federal prosecutor McGregor Scott. Mr. Scott comes in with strong credentials, and has since completed his report, that another auditor will review.
And even his critics will point out that, while he is definitely pro-law enforcement, he is also very thorough.
But leaving aside lingering concerns over his handling of the Lodi terror case about 15 years ago, there are new areas of growing concern about his independence.
There was a brief matter of controversy last summer, when it was learned that David Spencer, an attorney at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, is working with the Yolo County DA’s office to get trial experience by prosecuting cases while on the payroll with Orrick.
Given that the Yolo County DA was at the time prosecuting the five Picnic Day defendants with felonies, it seemed like a potential legal conflict of interest.
What has transpired in the last few months since the conclusion of Mr. Scott’s investigation is a bit more concerning.
In late October, Mr. Scott was nominated by President Trump to become a U.S. attorney, the same position he held under President Bush when he prosecuted suspected terror suspects in Lodi.
One of his first major operations since taking the appointment has been the gang raid in Woodland, once again working side by side with DA Jeff Reisig.
U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced, on Valentine’s Day, the arrest “of 18 federal defendants on narcotics and weapons-related charges as part of a multi-agency law enforcement investigation into coordinated criminal activity in Woodland, California.”
U.S. Attorney Scott stated, “Today’s operation is the result of a months-long endeavor involving federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to disrupt coordinated criminal activity that, although centered in Yolo County, spread to several other Northern California counties. This operation demonstrates how federal law enforcement can join forces with our state and local partners to make our communities safer and stop illegal guns and drugs from flooding our streets.”
“The FBI is committed to joining forces with our state and local partners to effectively combat the gang and drug-related violence that plagues our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI Sacramento Field Office. “Our shared goal is stopping gang violence, getting drugs and weapons off the streets, and helping to bring justice to the victims of crimes committed in our communities. Today’s arrests demonstrate the strength of successful law enforcement collaboration and highlight our shared commitment to the public we serve.”
They called this “Operation Silent Night.”
To top it all off, Mr. Scott is listed on Jeff Reisig’s campaign website as an endorser of the district attorney for reelection.
So now you have the supposedly independent investigator, who has clearly been working hand in hand with Mr. Reisig who prosecuted the Picnic Day 5. Is that not a matter of concern that calls into question the independence of Mr. Scott?
The good news is that the city has Michael Gennaco as the interim auditor looking at the Scott report. He has a good track record on police oversight cases, including his work in Orange County in the Kelly Thomas killing. But he is acting as auditor here, which means he is reviewing the report, not offering a separate independent investigation.
The Picnic Day matter is a sensitive one for many in the community, and the actions of McGregor Scott since he completed his work on this case have to call into question his independence in this matter.
—David M. Greenwald reporting