Oceanside resident Woodrow Higdon continues his search for additional evidence of police corruption and city council collusion. During the Wednesday, October 21, council meeting, Higdon testified before Oceanside councilmembers and says he was snubbed by Mayor Jim Wood and the city council.
For months, Higdon has focused on the case of Oceanside police officer Damon Smith, who has admitted to covertly recording interviews he conducted with criminal suspects without submitting the tapes to the courts, and Higdon believes that Smith was not the only one that knew about the recordings. He accuses Mayor Jim Wood and his ally on the dais, councilwoman Esther Sanchez, of protecting the Oceanside Police Department and Officer Smith in exchange for police and fire union support. He says Wood's 31-year career as a police officer and Sanchez' previous job as a criminal defense attorney is further evidence of their collaboration in the corruption.
"For a number of months I've been coming before this council and I've been talking about the corruption that exists in a police department and a fire department union organization and how it is connected to some members of this city council," Higdon said to the council.
He informed councilmembers that his "undercover" investigation of police and city council corruption has revealed some disturbing information, such as the fact that the police and fire unions have donated thousands of dollars to the political campaigns of Mayor Jim Wood and councilmember Esther Sanchez. In addition, Higdon mentioned that the effort to recall conservative councilmember Jerome Kern from his seat was largely funded by the unions who oppose Kern's stance on city employee pension funding.
After going over the basic tenets of his argument, Higdon focused on Mayor Jim Wood and Wood's reluctance to look into accusations of corruption in the city's police department: "He will manipulate the council agenda to force speakers, like myself, to the very end of the session so they have to sit around for four or five hours. It's a method of trying to discourage citizens of coming forward with complaints. It's also a violation of the Brown Act."
Higdon's allotted three-minute comment period ran out as he went into his investigation of Officer Damon Smith.
Higdon writes in an October 21 email, "Part of the reason for the cover-up is to protect the public image of the police department so that it would not adversely impact the new union contract negotiations that are under way and scheduled for a vote in January 2010."
Several sources reported October 23 that the Smith tapes were turned over to the district attorney's office. The tapes, which go back as far as April 2003, could change the outcome of 37 cases that have been adjudicated since then. Due to the Peace Officer's Bill of Rights, there's no word on how or if officer Smith will be disciplined.
According to citizen Higdon, "The careers and reputations of chief of police McCoy, mayor Wood, councilmember Sanchez, and [district attorney Bonnie] Dumanis all hinge on suppressing attorney notifications, limiting the [Smith] investigation and number of contaminated criminal prosecutions, and keeping officer Smith's mouth shut about the identity of other police officers that knew about the secret audio tapes.... The only way to keep officer Smith's mouth shut is to protect him from arrest and prosecution. If he is fired, he becomes smoking-gun evidence for tens of millions in civil liability."