UPLAND—The lawyer for former Upland mayor John Pomierski is threatening legal action against the city if it does not provide him with representation in defense of a civil suit filed against Pomierski, other former city officials and the city by the ownership of the now-shuttered Chronic Cantina restaurant and bar.
Ontario-based attorney Robert Schauer this week lodged a claim against the city at the city clerk’s office on Pomierski’s behalf calling for the city to underwrite the cost of the former mayor’s defense against the suit. If the city refuses, Schauer intimated he will represent Pomierski in legal action to force the city to pay the now disgraced ex-mayor’s attorney’s fees and other damages.
The owners of the Chronic Cantina, Robert Mills, Scott Schaller, Thomas Smith, Keith Scheinberg and Dan Biello, collectively known as KSDB, Incorporated, filed a lawsuit against the city and several city officials including Pomierski in April in West Valley Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga. The suit maintains that Pomierski, Upland contractor John Hennes and former Upland police chief Steve Adams extorted them by withholding and then withdrawing their operating permits.
While Pomierski denies all elements of the Chronic Cantina’s lawsuit, the issue is much more complicated than that. In March, Pomierski was indicted by a federal grand jury which criminally charged him with engaging in the same activity – conspiracy, extortion and bribery – which is at the center of the Chronic Cantina’s lawsuit. What is more, the federal indictment specifies the Chronic Cantina’s ownership and management as one of two entities extorted by Pomierski; his appointee to the city of Upland’s housing appeals board, John Hennes; and two others linked to Pomierski, Jason Crebs and Anthony Orlando Sanchez. Pomierski is maintaining his innocence in the face of the charges against him. Sanchez has fled and is now considered a fugitive from justice. Both Hennes and Crebs have entered guilty pleas and are cooperating with prosecutors.
In this way, the city is being asked to utilize taxpayer money to propound a defense of an individual facing accusations that he broke trust with the very people – Upland’s residents – Pomierski is asking for financial assistance from.
Schauer, nonetheless, maintains that state law requires that Upland’s taxpayers shell out money to defend his client. In the claim he filed for Pomierski, he cites California Government Code 995, which holds that “a public entity shall provide for the defense of any civil action or proceeding brought against him, in his official or individual capacity or both, on account of an act or omission in the scope of his employment as an employee of the public entity.” Schauer said he has consistently requested the city to indemnify Pomierski and that the city has an obligation to do so.
Schauer is something of a controversial figure, himself. He was an appointee to the Upland Planning Commission, a panel which Pomierski dominated during his tenure as mayor and which was involved in a number of the abuses of governmental authority under the Pomierski regime. As a member of the planning commission, Schauer once openly supported converting Old St. Mark’s Church on 18th Street in the midst of an upscale residential neighborhood immediately adjacent to a junior high school, into a tavern. Behind the scenes, Pomierski had pushed for the conversion of St. Mark’s Church, to provide him with a forum for carousing that was off the beaten track, out of the public lime light and relatively close to his own home.
After Pomierski was indicted and KSDB filed its suit, Schauer resigned his position on the planning commission.
No date for KSDB’s civil suit has been set. Pomierski’s trial date on the criminal charges has been set for April 24 in federal court.
Upland mayor Ray Musser, who was long the sole voice of dissent on the council led by Pomierski and twice opposed him in the 2004 and 2008 elections, said the city had yet to formulate a response to the claim.
“The city manager wanted to review it and delegate it out to key people, but he is on vacation at the moment. We will get it in its proper timetable. I don’t want to make any comment because if it turns up in litigation, it will be used against me and the city no matter what I say,” Musser said.