Looking behind the scenes: Police chief mystery calls for answers

Looking behind the scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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Expediting the notebook while wondering why the Governator is using the next 90 days to try to appoint Abel Maldonado as lieutenant governor when there’s a statewide election in about 100 days. Hopefully, Assembly members and state senators on both sides of the aisle will quash the Maldo appointment so that we the people can actually vote on such trivial matters ... Another conundrum is what in the heck went on in the upper levels of the Lincoln Police Department? We now know that Police Chief Brian Vizzusi has parted company with the city, but other than a cryptic and terse announcement, we really don’t know why. Editor Carol Feineman and her hard-working crew over at the Lincoln News Messenger have been on the trail of this story for weeks, making life miserable for the secretive types currently running the show in that village. The enigma was wrapped tightly around Vizzusi, and remains so until we get all the answers. Who knows? Maybe the city of Lincoln will hire the same guy who wrote Tiger Woods’ mea culpa. Before the official announcement, every time the press asked the correct questions, the city’s response was to play waltz music at about 200 decibels and swear to God that it knew nothing. Now, that last part may be true enough, but rest assured Feineman and Co. never stopped peeling away every layer of this rotting onion. So what really happened? Maybe this: Vizzusi, lured away from Rocklin’s police force in 2004, became Lincoln’s chief in July of 2006. Lincoln originally hired him mainly for his leadership and administrative skills.  It should be pointed out that these very same attributes were almost always lacking in Lincoln’s leadership strata. Once in charge, Vizzusi set about to improve that woeful little contingent, starting with hiring so-called lateral officers from other departments. That worked for a little while, but then Lincoln’s proclivity for spending resources about two years ahead of actually collecting them caught up with the city, and layoffs were ordered. As usual, first hired was first fired and Vizzusi was left with that same small cadre he began with. By the way, he worked diligently to find new jobs for those laid off by Lincoln. Because idle hands do indeed do the devil’s work, that small group wasted little time in whispering into the ear of City Manager Jim Estep that they “had lost confidence” in their chief. There was no real vote, but you get the idea. Vizzusi was quietly told of the ongoing machinations, and hurried to burn up as many banked days off as he could before the inevitable. Oh, by the way, he also secured legal advice, a possibility which appears to have been a complete surprise to the city council. Now in case this isn’t what really happened, then by all means tell us what did and I’ll promptly alert the citizenry. The beat goes on: Last week, we told you of an impending review of Placer County Chief Executive Officer Tom Miller’s handling of that recent audit. Now we can tell you that the hot seat will have at least one additional occupant at that mid-March meeting of the Placer County Board of Supervisors. I’m told by two highly placed sources that the second guest will be Micheal Johnson, the former Planning Department chief who succeeded John Marin as boss of the Community Development Resources Agency. Johnson will face some questions about the possible misuse of a credit card assigned to the Planning Department. Now, make no mistake here. Nobody is questioning the legality of the use, but there are some unanswered questions of who bought what and why they did so. And as an added bonus, County Auditor Katherine Martinis continues looking into the workings of the county’s various departments, and continues to unearth nuggets that could cause additional squirming down the line. She and County Treasurer Jenine Windeshausen continue to be the county’s best and brightest, and nobody should feign surprise if they’re eventually tabbed to a higher calling, so to speak ... Predictions: Look for a well-known hamburger chain to announce it will open a branch at North Auburn’s Plaza ... Don’t be surprised if a very familiar company moves into Auburn’s vacant Gottschalk’s site ... Isn’t it true that North Auburn’s Home Depot is considering sub-letting a small piece of its mammoth parking lot to a fast-food operation? ... The City of Auburn is about to announce it is no longer pursuing a Costco operation ... and ... Parrotheads will be thrilled with an upcoming announcement concerning a future recording studio in the Nevada City area. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sunday’s in the Journal. Reach him at