Albiso Era In Local Education Circles Draws To An End

San Bernardino City Unified School District Associate Superintendent Mel Albiso, who has been a lightning rod of controversy in public education circles at the core of San Bernardino County over the last five years, will be leaving his post at the end of the school year.
Albiso, who was previously a member of the school board in the Colton Joint Unified School District until he was voted out of office there in 2010, is leaving the educational field amid a growing cacophony of criticism and in the aftermath of the departure of two members of the school board in San Bernardino who had been his political allies.
Those allies, Dr. Elsa Valdez and Teresa Parra, were widely perceived as responsible, along with former San Bernardino City Unified Superintendent Arturo Delgado, for Albiso’s advancement to the associate superintendent’s post, despite his lack of educational credentials. In some measure, the defeat Valdez and Parra suffered at the polls in November came about because of their links to Albiso.
The 56-year-old Albiso, who had been with the district for 22 years, was not fired, but persuaded to  accept an early retirement offer in the form of what the district  calls a Supplemental Early Retirement Plan, which will provide him with an annuity for five years based on his salary.
Albiso had acceded to the second highest ranking position in the district under Arturo Delgado, who abruptly resigned as superintendent in June 2011 to become superintendent of schools in Los Angeles County. For more than three years there have been perceptions within and without the district that Albiso advanced to the associate superintendent’s position because of a secret backroom deal he brokered with Delgado.
On January 27, 2009, the San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD) school board voted 6-0 to give Albiso, who had been the district’s director of personnel and was promoted to assistant superintendent in 2005, a 2 percent raise, retroactive to January 13, 2009. Undisclosed at that time was the salary enhancement was intended to put him into a higher compensation bracket consistent with duties it had already been secretly agreed he would assume the following month. Indeed, the following month the school board created the position of associate superintendent – in effect the district’s staff position second only to superintendent, and promoted Albiso into that position. Among the position’s duties was supervising the district’s assistant superintendents.
Albiso was provided with a $151,188 annual base salary, such that he was receiving a total annual compensation package exceeding $210,000, including all benefits and salary. In March 2009, in his capacity as  a member of the Colton school board, Albiso voted to provide layoff notices to 52 full-time Colton Unified employees for the 2009-10 school year, including 20 elementary teachers, all four middle school librarians, at least one counselor at each level, and several home economics and woodshop teachers. Meanwhile, in the San Bernardino district,  Delgado utilized Albiso as his budgetary axe-man, assigning him to the task of laying off other administrators. Albiso’s promotion into the second highest district office fell under criticism because of his lack of experience, qualifications and expertise with regard to the role he took on. He had previously overseen the non-educational, non-teaching departments, known as the district’s classified divisions: employee relations/human resources, facilities/maintenance & operations, and information technology. He continued to supervise those departments and employees but was also put in charge of the district’s assistant principals, whose jobs included managing instructors. Albiso does not have an educational degree or any type of state credential, including an administrative credential.
There were suggestions that Delgado had promoted Albiso as part of an arrangement by which Albiso would later arrange for Delgado to be hired as Colton Joint Unified’s superintendent if he were ever forced out of the San Bernardino position. In the ensuing months, a siege mentality set in, during which Albiso was practically inaccessible to members of the public, either his constituency in Colton or teachers, employees, residents or parents of the San Bernardino district, or the press.
For many, Delgado’s promotion of Albiso sounded alarms. Albiso’s status as associate superintendent positioned him to become what was  the de facto acting superintendent when Delgado without warning tendered his resignation last year to move on to the position with Los Angeles County Schools.
Albiso’s ascendency to the interim superintendent’s post had the effect of bringing greater focus to another  troubling circumstance,  that is, the nepotistic and conflict-ridden relationship between Albiso, his daughter and then-San Bernardino City Unified School District board members Elsa Valdez and Teresa Parra.
Mel Albiso’s daughter, Nicole Albiso, was originally hired as a programmer with the district in 1999, even though she did not have a degree in information systems at that time. An administrative hearing officer, Norman Brand, the past president of the California Dispute Resolution Council who was brought in by the school board to look into accusations of racism and cronyism within the district raised by personnel director Abe Flory, examined district files to determine there was no record of Nicole Albiso’s test results for the programming position in the district’s personnel file. Three performance evaluations she was given during her probationary term with the district indicated she needed to improve her computer skills – including learning Visual Basic, which all other district employees in her department had already mastered. Nevertheless, she became a permanent employee at the end of her hiring probation. Subsequently, she resigned, but in 2001, after she changed her name to Nicole Ramirez, she applied with the district once more and was rehired.
Her immediate supervisor, Thomas McCauley Jr., complained up the district chain of command about Ramirez’s performance. McCauley maintained that his superior, Dilip Patel, told him to rescind his complaint because of who Ramirez’s father was. When Ramirez tested for the position of web developer in 2003, she was the only candidate who failed to finish the test, even after she was provided with an extra hour. According to McCauley, Ramirez passed because a panel member gave her 8 out of 10 points for two questions she did not answer. Despite her performance on the test, Ramirez was promoted to the position.
In 2005, Ramirez resigned from the web developer position and wangled being rehired two days later as a “substitute” web developer who did not need to work out of the district office and could function from home. She was provided the highest level of pay for the web designer position. Patel acknowledged Ramirez did not have the requisite five years experience working with Visual Basic, as required in the job description.
Brand told the district’s personnel commission that “The case of Nicole Ramirez, Albiso’s daughter, can only be explained by nepotism. The evidence of her special treatment is overwhelming.”
With complaints about Nicole Ramirez’s qualification to serve as the district’s web designer mounting, she was moved into a senior and lucrative position in the district’s nutrition services department without going through any competition or testing for the position. Nicole Ramirez is the proprietor of an Ontario-based business, Advanced Computing Concepts, which, according to its own website, is involved in advertising, website development and political campaigns. Ramirez touts herself and her company as being able to help a candidate “project the right image, have a clear and well articulated message, and adopt a campaign strategy with clear and concise goals. We offer a comprehensive approach to campaign consulting, including strategic planning and marketing, issue research and message development, and media consulting. A few of the many services we can provide for your campaign include: Direct mail marketing targeted to the highest propensity voters, email marketing, Web development, campaign signs, fliers, and other marketing materials, fundraising event planning, [and] multimedia presentations.”
Ramirez and Advanced Computing Concepts have, her website boasts, been involved in school board, city government and school bond and municipal bond campaigns and issues. Among those candidates referenced on the Advanced Computing Concepts website are San Bernardino City Unified School District board members Dr. Elsa Valdez and Teresa Parra.
Both Valdez and Parra supported Mel Albiso’s promotion to associate superintendent at SBCUSD and were his political supporters when he was with the Colton Joint Unified School District, where he was voted out of his position as a board member in November 2010.
Complaints have cropped up that the hiring of Ramirez was improperly done and timed to provide her with medical benefits to cover the cost of the birth of her child. Ramirez worked in her full-time position away from the district office in San Bernardino, either at home or at her Ontario business office. There have been suggestions that she was paid by the district while actually engaged in work for Advanced Computing Concepts.
Other charges of nepotistic hiring were leveled at Albiso. David Delgado, brother of Arturo Delgado, was hired as the principal of Cypress Elementary School by Albiso. Albiso hired Teresa Parra’s daughter into a clerical position with the district. And Mel Albiso’s sister-in-law, Laura Albiso, was hired by the district as a bi-lingual clerk.
The district’s reliance on Albiso in guiding the district did not sit well with many of the district’s teachers. The teachers’ union president Rebecca Harper told the school board on June 21, “The San Bernardino Teachers Association cannot and will not support another superintendent who lacks the educational background in curriculum and instruction.”
Albiso functioned last summer as acting superintendent until journeyman school administrator Richard Bray was brought in to temporarily oversee the district, pending a long term superintendent being hired. Bray lasted little more than a month, however, as he found himself overwhelmed with the disarray in the district. In October, Yolanda Ortega, SBUSD’s assistant superintendent of employee relations, was tapped to lead the district as the November election, in which both Valdez and Parra were seeking reelection, approached. In that election, both Valdez and Parra were turned out of office.
Last year, the one-time director of the district’s maintenance and operations department, Ed Norton, prevailed in a wrongful termination lawsuit against the district based on allegations that Albiso had engaged in reverse racial discrimination in firing him. That suit cost the district $360,000.
Subsequently, in a move that did not auger well for Albiso, his daughter’s employment with the district was severed.
More recently, Albiso was buffeted with accusations that he engineered the hiring of Helen Rodriguez at SBCUSD as special education director in the aftermath of a problematic circumstance she had worked herself into at the Colton Joint Unified School District, where she had been protected in her position as director of pupil personnel services there when Albiso was on the school board. Rodriquez engendered a litany of complaints in Colton with regard to failure to comply with federal regulations pertaining to the preparation of education plans for students with disabilities and instead substituted an unapproved curriculum. These complaints led to legal wrangling between the Colton Joint Unified School District and the Association of Colton Educators, that district’s teachers’ union.
The final straw came when in March, Brand, who was looking into Flory’s claim that he had been unjustifiably terminated as personnel director in 2007, concluded that Albiso has engaged in numerous examples of nepotism, cronyism and race-driven favoritism. Brand found that Flory’s firing was unjustifiable and Brand recommended that Flory be reinstated with $550,000 in back pay. The district’s personnel commission confirmed Brand’s recommendation and called upon the district to pay Flory’s legal costs, consisting of $263,000 in attorney and court reporter fees.
For Albiso, the writing was on the wall. With his two crucial backers on the board, Valdez and Parra, gone and the district’s independent hearing officer having made findings that are severely critical of his hiring, firing and operational decision-making and with a personnel director with whom he has tremendous differences set to return to the district, Albiso on April 3 said he would accept the Supplemental Early Retirement Plan the district had offered many of its employees last year.
In seeking early retirement, Albiso recommended to the board that his position with the district be eliminated.
The board has accepted, in principle, Albiso’s proposal.
One report is that he will receive a five year annuity based upon 107 percent of his base $151,188  annual salary for five years. He was given a seven percent salary bonus last year by the board to remain with the district in the aftermath of Delgado’s departure. In five years, he will then be eligible to pull a $89,667.62 per year pension.

Redlands Approves Social Host Liability Ordinance

Redlands, which a few years ago faced the challenge of dealing with huge outdoor raves  where underage drinking and drug taking proliferated, is now reaching to end or limit drinking in smaller, less public and even intimate venues.
A social host ordinance given tentative approval by the city council this week makes it illegal to provide a place for a minor to consume alcohol.
According to Mario Saucedo, co-chairman of the Common Vision Coalition, under-age drinking is a problem in Redlands and needs to be controlled. Police department figures show that in 2011 officers were called out 1,900 times to parties, mostly in residential areas, where underage drinking sometimes appeared to be a factor.
Police chief Mark Garcia and members of the coalition believe the social host ordinance will give police the authority and leverage they need to issue citations to adults supplying alcohol to minors that will discourage the practice. Under state law, law enforcement officials must have compelling evidence that a minor obtained alcohol directly from an adult, usually in the form of an eyewitness, confession from the minor or a video, to take action. The ordinance lowers the bar, such that police will now need only to satisfy themselves that a minor was at an event where an adult provided alcohol.
The ordinance imposes civil fines from $750 to $2,500 for participating in a circumstance where underage drinking takes place.

Hagman’s Tower Reparation Bill For Chino Hills Fails

What was widely viewed as a moribund legislative attempt from the outset failed last week when Assembly Bill 2235 was shot down at the committee level.
Authored by Assemblyman and former Chino Hills mayor Curt Hagman, Assembly Bill 2235 would have mandated compensation to Chino Hills residents whose property was determined to have been “devalued by the installation” of Southern California Edison’s 198-foot high towers for high-voltage electric lines through the city.
Edison has long had a right-of-way for its power lines that runs for nearly five miles through upscale Chino Hills. In its effort to meet state-mandated renewable energy goals, Southern California Edison has undertaken the $2.1 billion Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, which is intended to generate at least 1,500 megawatts of power from new windmills to be erected within a 50-square mile wind field in the Tehachapi area, an undertaking three times the size of any existing wind farm in the United States. In routing the lines carrying that energy southward from Kern County to the Los Angeles Basin, Edison sought, and in 2009 obtained from the California Public Utility Commission over Chino Hills city officials’ objections, permission to utilize the power line right-of-way through Chino Hills from Tonner Canyon to the Riverside County line.
Beginning last year, Edison erected 12 of the towers before a city appeal to the California Public Utility Commission and Public Utility Commission Chairman Michael Peevey in particular succeeded in the imposition of a temporary halt to the towers’ construction while a potential alternative, such as undergrounding the lines or rerouting them through Chino Hills State Park, is explored.
But given the money SCE has already put into erecting the towers and the cost of alternatives, the imposition of the towers and the high voltage lines in Chino Hills appears, if not inevitable, highly likely.
According to Edison officials, any change to the approval of the overall project already given by the California Public Utilities Commission would boost considerably the already budgeted cost of that portion of the project through Chino Hills per the specifications adopted in 2009 of $166 million, and would entail an added expense of no less than $8 million.
The alternative of erecting shorter towers would boost that projection to at least $174 million and perhaps as much as $192 million. By skirting the city and going through the state park, the cost would escalate to at least $424 million and could go as high as $589 million. The undergrounding option would be the most expensive, running from $601 million to more than $1 billion, Southern California Edison officials maintain.
In an unorthodox move, Hagman put forth Assembly Bill 2235,  which called for homeowners receiving “compensation for any substantial reduction value of their property resulting from the building, expansion or operation of a plant, line, pipeline or other facility by a public utility.”
There is no precedent whatsoever in California law for such provisions. Historically, citizens have been required to accommodate the undertakings of utility companies, the expansions of which have been considered of benefit to the state and its citizenry individually and collectively. On April 23, Hagman’s proposed law was soundly rejected by  the Utilities and Commerce Committee, which did not provide even a single vote in its favor. In a face-saving gesture, Hagman has asked that the bill in a substantially different form be reconsidered.
A bail bondsman by profession, Hagman previously to no avail sought to push through the legislature legislation that would have delivered Chino Hills out from beneath the onus of the large power towers. In 2010 he introduced Assembly Bill 2662, which would have prohibited an electrical corporation from constructing substantially larger transmission towers in an easement intended for smaller transmission towers when the easement runs through an occupied residential area. Like AB 2235, that bill did not pass muster to be considered by the whole legislative body, dying at the committee stage.
Hagman’s ineffectual efforts in Sacramento with regard to the power lines in his hometown have not put a dent in his popularity within his current bailiwick, the former 60th State Assembly District, which includes all, or portions of Anaheim, Chino Hills, Diamond Bar, Industry, La Habra, La Habra Heights, La Mirada, Orange, Rowland Heights, San Dimas, Villa Park, Walnut, Whittier, and Yorba Linda.
In 2008, he was elected to the Assembly with 55.9% of the vote. The year his colleagues rejected Assembly Bill 2662, Hagman was re-elected by his constituents with 65.3% of the vote. Hagman  was displaced from his current district by redistricting  and is now running for reelection in the newly drawn Assembly District 55, which is to consist of Chino Hills, Walnut, Yorba Linda, Placentia, Brea, La Mirada, and Hacienda Heights.
Members of the group Hope for the Hills, who are advocating any plausible alternative to the currently approved placement of the towers, have lauded Hagman for his efforts.
The city of Chino Hills has spent more than $2.3 million in legal fees fighting Edison on the project, suing Edison in 2010, claiming the company had “overburdened” the power line easements. That effort failed when West Valley Superior Court Judge Keith D. Davis ruled the California Public Utilities Commission has exclusive jurisdiction regarding the route used by Edison and that the matter fell entirely out of the Superior Court’s purview. Davis threw the suit out. Chino Hills appealed Davis’s ruling to the 4th District Court of Appeal, asserting the city had the right to have the case heard by a jury because the Public Utilities Commission allowed the imperative of completing the transmission line to facilitate the wind power project to take precedence over policy and safety and aesthetic guidelines, which should have been considered and adhered to as part of the approval process.
But on September 12, the 4th District Court of Appeal turned back the city of Chino Hills’ chal-lenge and affirmed Davis’ 2010 Superior Court decision, ruling that the California Public Utili-ties Commission, and not the courts, has exclusive jurisdiction over property rights issues between the city and Edison.

Moffatt Advocating Reform In Run For State Senate In 21st District

Star Moffatt, a paralegal and founder of a non-profit dedicated to helping the downtrodden turn their lives around, is seeking election to the state Senate.
Moffatt is running as a Democrat in the newly drawn 21st District, which pits her in a head-to-head contest against Republican Steve Knight, an incumbent two-term assemblyman seeking to move from California’s lower house to the upper house.
While Moffatt makes no bones about her fidelity to progressive ideals of social change, she touts herself as a conservative with regard to family values and fiscal policy. She said her extensive experience in the private sector distinguishes her from her opponent, whom she characterized as a life-long government employee.
Moffatt said her platform, which lays out the three things she is most committed to achieving if she is elected, covers what she considers to be the major issues she sees facing both the state and the 21st Senatorial District, which encompasses Lancaster, Palmdale, Santa Clarita, Victorville, Hesperia, Apple Valley, Adelanto, Oak Hills and Spring Valley Lake,  “My platform consists of three basic themes,” Moffatt said. “I want to reform the public education system, I want to reform our approach to job creation and job retention and I want to reform the health care industry.”
Moffatt said she intends to improve the public educational system by “holding the state accountable to the constituents when it shifts, borrows or transfers educational funding to other programs. We need greater transparency. The state is borrowing from educational funds and not paying them back. In 2008 alone, the state took $16 billion from the education budget. It was supposed to put that money back. Instead, we ended up laying off 17,000 teachers. If I were entrusted with being in office, I would introduce legislation to prevent educational funds from being tapped into without a strict specification and timeline for where the money is going and when it will be paid back. We should have transparency and complete accountability. And if there is to be an increase in taxes, there should be a requirement that the state account for and show what is being done with that money. Last year the state on the governor’s initiative did away with redevelopment agencies and said that $5 billion of that redevelopment money would go to public education, K through higher education. We should be making sure that money is going to education in the amounts promised. My remedy would be to sponsor legislation to make it the law that money is used as specified and accounted for and to prohibit the borrowing of educational funds if the accountability is not maintained.”
With regard to maintaining transparency and accountability, Moffatt said she would simultaneously push for a requirement that “the state update its auditing software system. We are currently using one that was put in during the 1990s and is out-of-date, if not obsolete entirely. That software system only records receivables and not expenditures. How can you balance your ledgers and budgets if you do not have all of the information to consider and work with? Some people have said it’s too expensive to update. I say it is too expensive not to update it. In the private sector it would be called cooking the books. Auditors at the state level are aware of all of that. I would write legislation to accomplish that change.”
Moffatt was a bit coy when asked to expound on her plan for using the authority in Sacramento to create jobs and retain them within the state, saying she intends to “unveil my job plan at the Palmdale Chamber of Commerce on May 16.” Pressed for a hint of her jobs creation blueprint, Moffatt said that her ideas hinge on “getting large numbers of dislocated workers back to work.”
In addressing the third plank of her platform, healthcare reform, Moffatt said affordable healthcare has to be made available to all citizens. “I’m not talking about a giveaway,” she said. “But we need healthcare to be available and affordable to everyone.” She said that healthcare is available to the classes at the extreme ends of society, the top and the bottom. Those in the middle deserve healthcare no less than the others, she said.
“The law firm I am with represents several corrections officers, so I have a chance to talk with people working within penal institutions,” she said. “Inmates receive the best of healthcare. Inmates receive organ transplants. They get routine healthcare. Many have individual specialized needs for types of medications, many times expensive medications. We even have inmates who have chosen to change their gender and they are receiving medications for that. What I would say is that the same type of state of the art healthcare offered to inmates should be offered to citizens who have fallen between the cracks. It is a shame to see people in America who are law abiding citizens and are not a burden to society who do not have health coverage and are not receiving benefits we give to criminals. What I would do in office is introduce legislation that opens the door for health coverage for all individuals at fair and reasonable rates. There is no good reason why someone who is going to work every day should not have healthcare.”
Moffatt said she would further push legislation prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions. On just this issue, Moffatt endeavored to draw a clear distinction between herself and Knight.
“My opponent had an opportunity to vote for a bill that came before him in the Assembly that said insurance companies could not discriminate against children with pre-existing medical conditions. He voted no on that. He voted no because he was getting money from the insurance companies. He is getting money from special interests and supporting those special interests. What about the parents of a special needs child who might die without proper care?  We need someone in office who is a humanitarian and cares about his constituents. My opponent’s voting record speaks for itself and speaks for him whenever there is a difference between special interests and his constituents.”
Moffatt said she hoped the district’s voters would closely examine her and Knight’s respective careers and backgrounds. In every regard, Moffatt said, she comes off better by comparison or at worst even. She is a creature of the private sector, she said, while Knight’s resumé shows he is a long term and almost exclusive government employee. Though Knight hails from the GOP, which has traditionally been sympathetic to the entrepreneurial class’s call for lower taxation and less government regulation, Moffatt pointed out that her experience in the business world has oriented her toward limiting taxation and government interference with those risking their life savings in an effort to succeed in the marketplace.
“I have real world business experience,” she said. “I worked for both Security Pacific Bank and Bank of America managing trust funds. I started and ran a non-profit, MiracleStar Women’s Recovering Community Home, providing housing, treatment, counseling and assistance for drug addicts, homeless people, battered women, families caught up in dependency court or trying to get back into dependency court. I now work for a law firm that specializes in tax issues and rehabilitating businesses. I understand what it takes to run a business. I think changing our tax structure is absolutely necessary to helping business to move forward. I favor a flat tax, for taking the complication out of the process. I am in favor of keeping American jobs here.”
She is better educated than her opponent, Moffatt asserted. “As opposed to my opponent, I have college degrees and have gone to law school. I attended Antelope Valley College, L.A. Mission College and William Howard Taft University School of Law. When I was in law school, I became pregnant with quintuplets and had to leave because of complications with the pregnancy.” Four of the five she carried were lost, but Moffatt did bring one child to term. “I am still involved in the legal field, working as a paralegal,” she said. “I have not yet taken the bar exam.”
Like Knight, Moffatt is a veteran, having served in the Army for six years, primarily in supply and transportation, during the 1980s. She served as both a truck driver, jockeying a 5,000-gallon fuel tanker, and then later moved into a material control accountant specialist position before retiring from the Army with a rank of E-4.
Ironically, Moffatt coordinated with Steve Knight’s father, Pete Knight, when he was in the legislature, authoring several pieces of legislation. That experience, she said, offsets Knight’s perceived leg up on her because of his experience as a lawmaker.
And Knight’s other claim to fame, his law enforcement experience as a 17-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, does not hold up to scrutiny, she said.
“Steve promotes the fact he is or was an LAPD officer,” she said “But he is no longer with the department. My opposition research has found he was asked to resign in order to prevent being terminated. It is almost unheard of for someone who has been with the police department for 17 years to not serve out to get their 20 retirement.”
Moffatt claims her own pro-law enforcement credentials as a participant in  InfraGard,  an information sharing and analysis program consisting of  a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the private sector. InfraGard is an association of businesses, academic institutions, state and local law enforcement agencies, and other participants dedicated to sharing information and intelligence to prevent hostile acts against the United States. InfraGard chapters function out of local FBI field offices.
Moffatt, 48, lives in Palmdale with her husband and five-year-old son. She was raised in North Hills and attended and graduated from Monroe High School.

Redlands Approves Social Host Liability Ordinance

Redlands, which a few years ago faced the challenge of dealing with huge outdoor raves  where underage drinking and drug taking proliferated, is now reaching to end or limit drinking in smaller, less public and even intimate venues.
A social host ordinance given tentative approval by the city council this week makes it illegal to provide a place for a minor to consume alcohol.
According to Mario Saucedo, co-chairman of the Common Vision Coalition, under-age drinking is a problem in Redlands and needs to be controlled. Police department figures show that in 2011 officers were called out 1,900 times to parties, mostly in residential areas, where underage drinking sometimes appeared to be a factor.
Police chief Mark Garcia and members of the coalition believe the social host ordinance will give police the authority and leverage they need to issue citations to adults supplying alcohol to minors that will discourage the practice. Under state law, law enforcement officials must have compelling evidence that a minor obtained alcohol directly from an adult, usually in the form of an eyewitness, confession from the minor or a video, to take action. The ordinance lowers the bar, such that police will now need only to satisfy themselves that a minor was at an event where an adult provided alcohol.
The ordinance imposes civil fines from $750 to $2,500 for participating in a circumstance where underage drinking takes place.

RDA Demise Triggers 17 Rancho Layoffs

RANCHO CUCAMONGA–The shuttering of Rancho Cucamonga’s redevelopment agency has resulted in 17 municipal employees losing their jobs.
Like all cities up and down the state, Rancho Cucamonga was forced to phase out its redevelopment authority, which used a variety of financing mechanisms to eliminate blight and spur economic development. The redevelopment agency employed nine full-time workers and 11 part-timers.
Pursuant to two bills put forth by Governor Jerry Brown and passed by the legislature last year which were challenged by a coalition of cities but upheld by the California Supreme Court, the agencies were closed out and their funding routed to law enforcement and education.
Rancho Cucamonga, which covers 39.8 square miles and boasts a population of 165,269, lost well over $3.4 million as a consequence of the state’s action. The city was able to move three of the 20 displaced employees into other municipal posts.
Rancho Cucamonga is not alone in having to conflate its workforce in the aftermath of redevelopment’s demise. In Montclair, for example, the dissolution of its redevelopment agency will entail the loss of at least $1.3 million and will result in the loss of 11 full-time employees at the close of the current fiscal year. Other cities in the county are bracing for instituting similar economies.

Chino Converting Former Home Depot Into Police Department Headquarters

The Chino police department will soon transfer its headquarters from the 28,4000 square foot facility it has occupied since 1978 to one more than three times that size.
Chino is expending $21. 5 million to adapt the former Home Depot building off Walnut Avenue between Central and Benson into a 102,700 square foot edifice that will be more than large enough to house the police department and all related operations, even after the city achieves build-out.
According to city officials, the police department’s base of operations will not need to be expanded again. The city’s detective bureau, which is currently operating out of the county-owned Chino Courthouse, will transfer to the new headquarters.
The police operations center will feature energy efficient lighting and heating, 9,400 square feet of storage capacity, interrogation rooms, a gymnasium and a hangar to accommodate the city department’s mobile command center.
The city paid $9.9 million for the building.
The makeover of the empty Home Depois represents the city’s last redevelopment project, as its redevelopment agency was abolished last year by the state.

Highland Council Continues Paramedic Assessment

The Highland City Council voted last week to perpetuate but not raise its 26-year-running paramedic tax.
The city will continue to collect the $19 per residence and $38 per business fee, which will generate roughly $351,000 in the 2012-13 fiscal year beginning July 1.
City officials maintain that the paramedic program provided through the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, with which the city contracts for fire protection, costs $1.2 million. The tax first imposed on Highland residents in 1986 before the city’s 1987 incorporation was intended to entirely defray the cost of the emergency medical service. The population within the city limits has doubled in the last quarter century to 53,104 and the cost of the program has escalated as well.
The city council last week discussed increasing the fee, with Mayor Larry McCallon most strongly in favor of raising the tax rate and asking voters to consider doing so on the ballot. Councilman John Timmer and councilwoman Jody Scott appeared to be the least enthusiastic about calling an election on the matter.
Scott said she thought more money to support the program could be recouped by having the paramedic vehicles transport patients to a hospital if further medical attention is necessary rather than allowing private ambulance companies to reap a profit by taxiing the patients to medical centers and then billing their insurance carriers.
The council voted unanimously to continue to levy the $19 and $38 annual charges.

Ramos Latest Third District Candidate Accused Of Disclosure Violations

The acrimony in the race for Third District county supervisor ratcheted up a notch with a Fair Political Practices Commission filing last month by a supporter of the incumbent, supervisor Neil Derry, charging one of Derry’s opponents, former San Manuel tribal chairman James Ramos, with having previously failed to disclose all of  his income and real property interests on state campaign reporting forms.
The complaint was lodged with the commission on April 12, alleging that in serving as a board member with the San Bernardino Community College District, Ramos withheld information pertaining to property he owns in Big Bear Lake, along with Pfizer Inc. and  General Electric stock he owns, and that he did not report any income from his tribal stipend, interest in the tribe’s affiliated holdings and any income or loss from two of his San Bernardino-based holdings, Yum Yum Restaurant and Pepito’s Restaurant on any of the statements of economic interest he was required to fill out as an elected official, known as California Form 700s.
As a member of the college district board, to which he was first elected in 2005 and elected to again in 2010, Ramos was required to complete the forms. He also had reporting requirements relating to having been appointed to the state Native American Heritage Commission and the state Board of Education.
The information contained in the complaint and upon which the reporting violation was alleged  was gleaned from Ramos’ most recent filing of a Form 700, made in March in conjunction with his candidacy for supervisor. In that document, Ramos disclosed his stock in Pfizer is worth between $10,000 and $100,000 as is his stock in General Electric. The dates Ramos acquired the stock is not provided. Collectively, the Dum Dum and Pepito’s restaurants are valued between $100,000 and $1 million and together produce over $100,000 in revenue per year, according to the filing. The property in Big Bear is valued at over $100,000 but less than $1 million, according to the filing.
This week, the FPPC informed Marge McDonald, who had filed the complaint, that the discrepancies between  Ramos’ earlier filing and the one for supervisor  “appropriately reflect the different disclosure requirements to each position he holds,” and that the commission would carry out no further investigation.
Derry was himself charged last year with failure to properly disclose a $5,000 campaign donation from developer Arnold Stubblefield in 2007 during the lead-up to the 2008 election. Derry last summer entered a no contest plea to failing to properly disclose a campaign contribution.
In McDonald’s complaint, she said, “Mr. Ramos is aware of this [reporting] requirement and has failed to file the appropriate amendment.”

Pomierski Enters Guilty Plea To Single Bribery Count

UPLAND – Former Upland Mayor John Pomierski yesterday pleaded guilty to bribery, a move that will likely bring to an end the federal government’s prosecution of charges against him contained in a 11-count indictment handed down by a grand jury last year.
In the plea signed by all parties on April 7 which Pomierski entered in court on April 26, he admitted taking a $5,000 bribe in return for helping a business obtain a conditional use permit from the city.
Pomierski, 58, pleaded guilty to count 7 of the March 2, 2011 indictment which named him and Upland contractor John Hennes, who had been Pomierski’s business partner and appointee to the Upland Building Appeals Board.
That indictment painted a picture of a conspiracy involving Pomierski and Hennes, who worked in conjunction with two others indicted separately, Anthony Orlando Sanchez and Jason Crebs, to shake down individuals with pending developments or business applications for permits before the city. Hennes, Sanchez and Crebs would represent themselves to applicants as consultants who for a fee could ensure, by means of their connection to Pomierski, city approval of projects or applications.
All four of those involved in the conspiracy originally entered not guilty pleas but since that time have entered into plea arrangements with federal prosecutors. Crebs, in April 2011,  pleaded guilty as part of an arrangement with prosecutors.  Sanchez signed a plea agreement early on but fled to Costa Rica. He returned to the U.S. in January and remains in custody. He is scheduled to plead guilty on Monday, April 30 at federal court in Riverside. In December it was revealed by Hennes’ attorney, Kenneth White, that Hennes had been cooperating with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office prior to his indictment and that Hennes had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and making false statements to federal agents as part of a sealed plea agreement.
Count 7 of the indictment pertains to the delivery of a $5,000 bribe to Pomierski from what is described as “Business A,” an entity known to have been the now-defunct Chronic Cantina through Crebs and Sanchez.   The Chronic Cantina restaurant opened in 2007 but was forced to shut down in April 2009 in the aftermath of vigorous city code enforcement at the establishment. Pomierski on Thursday acknowledged accepting $5,000 from “Business A” in exchange for assisting the business in obtaining a new conditional use permit. Court documents filed in conjunction with Pomierski’s plea say that between August 2009 and October 2009, Pomierski was in contact with Crebs, 39, regarding the restaurant/nightspot. Pomierski consented to using his authority as mayor to obtain a new permit for the tavern in exchange for money, according to the plea documents.
During a meeting with one of the Chronic Cantina’s owners on October 26, 2009, Crebs and Sanchez, 36, were given a $10,000 check. When the bank at which the check was deposited put a two-day hold on it, an impatient Pomierski sent Crebs a text message asking, “Where’s the beef?”
Crebs attempted to reassure Pomierski that the money would soon be available. Pomierski responded with another text message. “We’re running out of time 4 me 2 hit my bank! What[s] up…” Crebs responded that he was still working on getting the check squared away. When the check finally cleared, Crebs provided Pomierski’s business, JP Construction, with a $5,000 check.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Behnke, who prosecuted Pomierski, offered no public statement.
In response to a request for comment, Pomierski tersely said, “Not now.” Later in the day, the phone at his home office for J P Construction was left off the hook for several hours.   Neither his criminal attorney, H. Dean Steward, nor his personal attorney, Robert Schauer, returned repeated phone messages seeking comment.
Ray Musser, who twice ran unsuccessfully against Pomierski for mayor in 2004 and 2008 and succeeded him by being elevated to the mayor’s post after Pomierski’s resignation last year a week in advance of his indictment, refused to dance on his one-time political rival’s grave.
“I feel so sorry for his family and JP, as well,” Musser said. “I really don’t have anything more to say except that this went on so long, it is good to see this come to a conclusion and get it behind us.”
Pomierski faces a maximum of ten years in federal prison and a fine/restitution of up to $250,000. Steward has asked Judge Virginia Phillips, who is scheduled to sentence Pomierski on August 6, that Pomierski be given 24 months in a minimal security facility intended for white collar offenders.
The plea arrangement does not vacate the other nine counts lodged against Pomierski and they will remain on the docket pending resolution until August 6, at which time Phillips will have the option of dismissing them upon a motion by Steward if the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not object.