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VICTORVILLE— (April 22) The specialized employment company owned by First District San Bernardino County Supervisor Robert Lovingood will not follow through with a lawsuit against the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority, as was previously implied by a claim for more than $3 million filed by the firm’s attorney.
The contretemps between the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority and Industrial Clerical Recruiters, Inc, which is owned by Robert Lovingood and known variously as ICR, ICR Staffing or ICR Staffing Services, Inc., has created a considerable stir, with charges of political conflict of interest, criminal conflict of interest, violations of the state of California’s prevailing wage law and the federal Davis-Bacon act, incompetence and political gamesmanship being bruited about the county.
In 2011, ICR competed in a bid process to obtain a two-year contractual arrangement with the Victor Valley Water Reclamation Agency for the provision of workers to work on the Upper Narrows Pipeline project. That contract was entered into more than a year before Lovingood was elected as First District supervisor. The contract extended through a portion of 2011 and into 2012 and then to 2013. ICR was paid approximately $260,000 per year for the services its recruits provided.
Upon becoming supervisor in December 2012, Lovingood became a board member of the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority (VVWRA), as the authority’s charter and the joint powers agreement that formed the authority involving the cities of Victorville, Hesperia, Apple Valley and the county designates the county board member overseeing the Victor Valley as one of its directors. In 2013, the contract came to a close and it was not renewed, though work on the pipeline project was not complete. In a bid competition that year, ICR lost out to Hesperia-based iLink Business Management, which offered to do the work at a lower rate than that bid by ICR.
In a claim dated August 22, 2014 authored by ICR attorney Diane Carloni Nourse and served September 11, 2014, ICR Staffing Services alleged that VVWRA failed to pay prevailing wage to ICR’s contract workers between 2011 and 2013 and solicited ICR’s temporary employees to jump ship to iLink.
The Federal Davis-Bacon Act and California’s prevailing wage law requires that workers on governmental projects be paid prevailing union scale wages. There is a question, however, of whether it is the responsibility of the government agency or the company employing the workers to meet the prevailing wage requirements. In the case of the ICR contract with VVWRA, ICR participated in a bidding process for the work, and obtained the contract on the basis of having submitted the lowest responsive bid.
Lovingood’s company filed the claim nearly a year after the two-year contract came to a close.
Carloni Nourse maintains that the ICR workers should have been paid prevailing union scale wages and that ICR should have been paid in excess of $1.5 million per year for the work. ICR further maintains that after the agency contracted with iLink, it attempted to lure ICR’s recruits to work for iLink.
Such claims are considered a precursor to a lawsuit. Upon a public agency’s rejection of a claim or after a failure to respond to the claim for 45 days, the claimant is eligible to initiate a lawsuit based on the issues raised in the claim.
Lovingood remained as a Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority board member until August 2013, at which point arrangements were made to substitute Lovingood’s colleague on the board of supervisors, James Ramos, in as the VVWRA board member to replace him. Ramos represents the county’s Third District, which does not include the Victor Valley. Some have questioned the legality of the arrangement by which Ramos has replaced Lovingood on the authority board.
ICR’s threat of a lawsuit against the authority resulted in severe complication for Lovingood. Former Victorville councilwoman Angela Valles lodged a complaint with the FBI and the district attorney’s office, alleging a criminal conflict of interest inherent in a former authority board member having made a monetary claim against the authority. Moreover, since Lovingood was the owner, president and chief executive officer of ICR when it entered into what the company now claims was an illegal arrangement with the Victor Valley Water Reclamation Authority, his judgment, acumen and intention, not to mention his knowledge of the law, was called into question.
Despite ICR’s $3.62 million claim and its assertion that the 2011 contract had been awarded under “a wrongful bid process,” ICR this week gave indication it would not file a lawsuit over the matter. Rather, in an abrupt reversal, through public statements attributed to Lovingood’s wife, Melanie, who is now serving as ICR president, the company announced its intention to place ICR workers into temporary or other positions with the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority in the future by competing in a marketplace that features wages well below prevailing union scale.
That statement, contained in the Victorville Daily Press, said ICR would respond to requests for bids from the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority with “our best service and our best prices.”
By Mark Gutglueck
(April 23) The videotaped beating of Francis Pusok shocked many of San Bernardino County’s residents as well as those who live outside the county and California. The video, captured by the Los Angeles NBC affiliate station’s Newschopper 4, was replayed for a statewide, national and international audience. To the sensibilities of those who perceive law enforcement officers as the thin blue line separating the civilized members of society from sociopaths, the images of Pusok being beaten even after he had ceased attempting to flee, had ended his resistance, was complying with the officers’ commands and was attempting to surrender were incongruous with the their conceptions of peace officers as disciplined functionaries dedicated to upholding the law.
For a significant number of San Bernardino County residents, however, the action of the sheriff’s officers in administering summary punishment to the suspect was no surprise whatsoever. In their direct or indirect experience, San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department deputies are not reluctant to use force liberally, excessively or preemptively to maintain their psychological advantage and physical domination over those they are assigned to police and patrol.
Comments by pundits, observers and law enforcement professionals laid the responsibility for the breakdown in discipline and unbridled violence evident in the Pusok incident to a training and leadership failure within the department. But the culture of violence and summary retribution that pervades the sheriff’s office is attributable, at least in part, to the other law enforcement institution in San Bernardino County that co-exists and functions side-by-side with the sheriff’s department: the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.
At least since the tenure of district attorney Jerome Kavanaugh in the 1940s, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has made a practice of closing ranks with police officers and sheriff’s deputies in the face of charges that officers or deputies had brutalized the criminally charged or convicted, suspects, citizens and even witnesses. In an effort to ward off contemplated or filed civil cases brought against law enforcement officers, their agencies, and the city or county that employs them, the district attorney has filed criminal charges against the plaintiffs or potential plaintiffs, in most cases P.C. 148 charges, that is, resisting arrest. This strategy entails obtaining a conviction against the citizen, thus lessening the viability of any civil suit that has been filed on his behalf or discouraging the filing of a suit under preparation.
Confident that they have the backing of the district attorney if their use of excessive force is ever brought into question, officers feel free to indulge in violence against suspects or those they encounter in the field if they perceive their authority, dignity or self-esteem has been insulted or even questioned. Such excessive uses of force are routinely followed up with a police report, written by the officer who utilized the excessive force, describing circumstances that provide an ostensible justification for the use of force. Those reports may or may not be forwarded to the district attorney’s office. On occasion, contingent upon the discretion of the reviewing attorney in the prosecutor’s office, charges are filed against the suspect, citizen or witness.
There are often indicators in police reports intended to blunt charges of police brutality that can be discerned by an experienced law enforcement officer or lawyer which give away that the accusations of resistance or obstruction of a police officer are marginal, exaggerated or outright false. Those flaws, however, do not necessarily prohibit a prosecutor from charging the suspect or defendant with resisting, obstructing or delaying a peace officer.
In San Bernardino County, charges against police officers and sheriff’s deputies for excessive use of force are exceedingly rare, and charges against police or sheriff’s officers for falsifying their police reports are virtually unheard of.
The most recent exception that proves that rule involved the prosecution of deputy Michael Parham, who was charged in the May 20, 2012 beating of Mario Madrigal at Madrigal’s home in an unincorporated county area near San Bernardino, while a heavily intoxicated Madrigal lay handcuffed on the ground. A jury convicted Parham of assault by a police officer and battery after a seven-day trial in 2014.
The most celebrated case relating to excessive use of force in San Bernardino County prior to that was the prosecution of two former Adelanto police officers, Thomas Chandler and Kenneth Gailey, accused of trying to beat a confession out of one suspect and beating another before forcing him to lick his own blood off a booking room floor in 1994. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office took up that case, but it was dismissed because of prosecutorial misconduct. While the matter was under appeal, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles stepped in and filed charges against Chandler and Gailey, who then pleaded guilty in 1997 to federal civil rights violations.
The Parham and Chandler/Gailey cases entailed extraordinary elements that set them aside from other examples of excessive use of force and police brutality. Charges were filed against Parham and another deputy involved in the Madrigal beating incident, Shadia Adham, after Adham, who was approached by a witness to the beating who asked for her and Parham’s identities, gave the names of two other deputies. This led to a circumstance in which other members of the department felt it necessary to provide an accurate description of what had occurred during the encounter with Madrigal in their reports, as well as their being willing to testify against Parham when the matter went to trial. Adham was initially charged with a misdemeanor count of impersonating a police officer, but that charge against her was later dropped.
In the case involving Chandler and Gailey, an audiotape recorded in May 1994 the pair did not know about came into the possession of the prosecutors. In that recording, Chandler could be heard asking Joseph Valdes, who was suspected of abusing his daughter, “Are you going to tell us what we want to hear?” as he and Gailey beat him, twisted his limbs and kicked him. In October 1994, Chandler and Gailey beat Henry Easley, who had been arrested on drug charges, in retaliation for Easley having spat on a fellow police officer. Easley was hit so hard on the head that he started to bleed, at which point Chandler ordered Easley to lick his blood off the floor. A just-hired police officer who had witnessed the beating came forward to inform on and then testify against Chandler and Gailey.
Dan Lough, who was a prosecutor with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office from 1977 until 1985, was then a senior prosecutor with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office from 1986 to 1994 and assistant district attorney in San Bernardino County from 1995 until 2001, said prosecutions of police officers and sheriff’s deputies in San Bernardino County are very uncommon.
He said that the reluctance to prosecute law enforcement officers is an outgrowth of the close relationship between the prosecutor’s office and the law enforcement agencies within the prosecutor’s office’s jurisdiction. He suggested that the pass peace officers are given on citizen abuse cases is less a result of prosecutors trying to cover up wrongdoing than a reflection of the practical difficulties entailed in obtaining convictions against law enforcement officers, who are generally viewed more favorably by juries than are run-of-the-mill criminal defendants.
“Police officers are trained as witness and for that reason they make a really good impression on a jury,” Lough said. “In addition, the investigators on these cases are often friendly to the officer.”
In partial reference to the Chandler/Gailey matter, which the district attorney’s office did pursue while he was second-in-command under district attorney Dennis Stout in the mid-to-late-1990s, Lough said, “I don’t think there was an absolute unwillingness to prosecute bad police officers. I think it was more, in my case, whether the quality of evidence existed that would allow us to get a conviction that prevented us from pursuing those types of cases. As the assistant district attorney, I had to personally sign off on all of the cases involving charges against police officers. A supervisor was required to handle those cases and before they would be filed they went to me. If you could prove they [the officers] were good for it [i.e., guilty] and there was the evidence to make a case and get a conviction, then I would approve going in that direction. That did not happen often. We passed on [rejected] most of those cases. I saw conduct by officers a lot of time I did not approve of, but I had to evaluate the case from a prosecutorial standpoint as to whether we could prove criminal intent and criminal conduct to a jury. Juries are much more willing to side with the officer. More often than not, the police officers are not going out there to kill or hurt someone. A lot times they do make mistakes. But does that rise to the level of a crime? For me, it is the provability of a case that translates into willingness to prosecute someone.”
Lough said he understood that officers are intent on maintaining command presence and sometimes overreact to any challenges, real or just perceived, to their authority. That overreaction, he said, can escalate into the use of force. “Very often, the police are concerned about control,” Lough said. “There is a reason for that. Sometimes control comes down to perception or just a feeling. They have been trained to control a situation and when that control drifts away from them, they often act badly. In this society, we have a right to disagree and a right to do certain things even if others do not like it, but if you are interacting with a police officer, and are even within your rights, you might flunk his attitude test, and things can end up going badly for you.”
After the fact, the police officer has a last word of sorts, Lough said, because he can put his description of what occurred into a police report, which has official status. Lough said he often detected in police reports an effort to obfuscate the use of excessive force. “I am tougher to fool than a jury,” Lough said. “The suspect does not get to give his side of what happened in those reports.” And, Lough said, the deputy prosecutors evaluating those police reports have less experience than he has, and some of them buy what is being offered in the police reports and then file resisting arrest charges against citizens who were the object of excessive force.
“They are usually P.C. 148 cases, resisting arrest, which get pretty short shrift, less than a DUI case,” Lough said. “The reports are written in such a way to support the officer. Seldom, if ever, do you get the story from the citizen. These are usually evaluated by a junior member of the DA’s office. So, he or she will get a 148 report and it is very difficult for someone who just got out of law school and has passed the bar and is now in his first job as a prosecuting attorney to say to the officer, ‘We don’t believe you.’”
Lough acknowledged that on occasion, deputy prosecutors have leapt into the breach, filing resisting arrest charges against citizens who have been roughed up by law enforcement officers as a means of staving off a possible lawsuit against the officer or officers, the agency employing them and the county or one of its cities.
“I’m not going to defend that,” Lough said.
Since 2003, Mike Ramos has been district attorney. He was elected and reelected with the support of law enforcement, including police administrators, management, and officers, including police employee unions. In his public statements and acts, including his prosecutorial policy, he has made no acknowledgement of the reality of officer-on-citizen violence, instead focusing on citizen-on-officer violence.
In May 2013, Ramos formed a specialized unit devoted entirely to prosecuting those alleged to have assaulted law enforcement personnel. Christened the Crimes Against Peace Officers Unit, the division consists of two deputy district attorneys and a victims’ advocate. In forming the unit, Ramos said, “Every hour of every day law enforcement officers in San Bernardino County put their personal safety at risk to protect our communities. In 2012, in our county alone, over 2,100 peace officers were assaulted, injured, threatened, or interfered with in the performance of their duties. Of these crimes, over 600 were felonies involving physical violence against an officer, use of a weapon on an officer, or threats to kill or injure an officer.
“In the past three years,” Ramos continued, “over 6,000 peace officers in San Bernardino County have been the victims of crimes committed against them simply because they were performing their duty protecting us.”
While the record of prosecutions and convictions of police officers for the use of excessive force in San Bernardino County would seem to indicate that the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers is so rare as to be virtually nonexistent locally, that is belied by the proliferation of civil suits alleging such brutality. While over fifty such claims or lawsuits are pending, ten cases going back over the last nineteen years resulted in substantial rewards to the plaintiffs. These cases are:
• Morgan v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. District Court, Central. District of California (Riverside), (1996), $714,000.00 settlement following jury verdict for excessive force and false arrest during a search warrant execution in Victorville, California;
• Darr v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. District Court, Central. District of California 2000), $50,000.00 settlement for violation of first amendment right to freedom of association;
• Austin v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, $500,000.00 jury verdict for false arrest and excessive force;
• Lopez v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. District Court, Central. District of California (2002), $50,000.00 settlement for racially motivated battery;
• Miller v. City of San Bernardino, et al., U.S. District Court, Central. District of California (2003), $35,000.00 settlement for unlawful detention;
• Calderon v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. District Court, Central. District of California 2003), $115,000.00 settlement for false arrest and illegal search;
• Ford v. County of San Bernardino, (2007), $80,000 settlement for excessive force;
• Diaz v. County of San Bernardino, et al. , United States District Court – Riverside (2008), $49,999.00 settlement for excessive force;
• Grasso v. County of San Bernardino, et al. (2009), $180,000.00 settlement for unreasonable force / infliction of emotional distress;
• Aubry v. County of San Bernardino, et al, U.S. District Court (Los Angeles) 2012, $325,000.00 settlement for the use of unreasonable force and for false arrest.
(April 21) The county of San Bernardino’s legal costs in defending its 2012 acquiescence in the Santa Margarita Water District’s approval of the so-called Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project have now reached $2,349,332.
This week, the current county land use services director, Tom Hudson, asked the board of supervisors to increase by a half million dollars the fees to be paid to the legal firm of Downey Brand. The board did so.
Downey Brand had already been paid $1,849,332 for providing the county’s responses to legal challenges related to approvals of the memorandum of understanding by and among the Santa Margarita Water District, Cadiz, Inc., Fenner Valley Mutual Water Company and the county of San Bernardino related to litigation that the Cadiz Water Project has provoked. The $500,000 approved by the board ups the amount now paid to Downey Brand to the aforementioned $2,349,332.
The county became embroiled in eleven separate lawsuits challenging the Cadiz Valley Water Project in large measure because it opted out of challenging the Santa Margarita Water District’s assumption of lead agency status in overseeing the environmental certification of the undertaking. The project is based not in Orange County, where the Santa Margarita Water District is located, but in the East Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County.
Upon completion, the Cadiz Water Project will extract an average of 50,000 acre-feet of water from the East Mojave Desert annually and convey it via pipeline to Orange and Los Angeles counties for use there.
In reaction to the project and its approval, eleven lawsuits were filed in San Bernardino County, Orange County and in U.S. District Court, alleging the project will drain the aquifer in both the Cadiz Valley and nearby Fenner Valley, wreaking environmental harm. The lawsuits explore various issues, including questioning an approval process for the project which entailed a water district in Orange County more than 217 miles from the project area certifying the environmental report on the project, the alleged violation of state and federal environmental laws, the county of San Bernardino’s failure to apply its own desert groundwater management plan in accepting the Santa Margarita District’s approval of the project, conflict between the project and provisions of both the National Historic Preservation Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and the interference of water extraction with salt mining and other pre-existing industrial operations in the area.
Plaintiffs included Delaware Tetra Technologies, which operates a salt and mineral mine in the Fenner Valley, the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the International Union of North America Local No. 783, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Colorado River Branch of the Archaeological Heritage Association, Santa Margarita Citizens and Ratepayers Opposing Water Nonsense, and Rodrigo Briones.
The project is an undertaking of Los Angeles-based Cadiz, Inc., which since the 1980s has operated a 500-acre organic grape, citrus, melon and pepper farm in the Cadiz Valley. Cadiz, Inc. arranged to have the Santa Margarita Water District, to which it is contracted to deliver a portion of the water to be extracted from the desert, to assume lead agency status for the project’s approval. Many of those opposed to the project considered that to be a conflict of interest. San Bernardino County contemplated, but in March 2012 ultimately elected against, challenging Santa Margarita’s assumption of lead agency status on the project and instead on May 1, 2012 entered into a memorandum of understanding with that district and Cadiz, Inc. and its corporate entities, including the Fenner Valley Mutual Water Company, allowing Santa Margarita to oversee the environmental impact report for the project and conduct the public hearings related to project approval.
On July 31, 2012, the Santa Margarita Water District Board of Directors approved the Cadiz Water Project and certified the environmental impact report for the Cadiz Water project.
On October 1, 2012, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors gave approval to a groundwater monitoring plan to facilitate completion of the project.
Even before the lawsuits materialized, the county, on March 27, 2012, retained the San Francisco-based law firm of Downey Brand at what was then said to be a not-to-exceed cost of $449,322 to assist county counsel in responding to any lawsuits it contemplated might be triggered by the project. Within four months, however, those funds had been exhausted and on July 24, 2012, the board authorized a $250,000 amendment to the Downey Brand contract, increasing the amount to $699,332. Legal billings to the county by Downey Brand ate up that funding by December 2012, and Christine Kelly, who was then county land use services director, asked the board to give approval for the expenditure of another $250,000 to cover continuing legal costs, pushing the Downey Brand contract to $949,332. Downey Brand’s total billing to the county exceeded the million dollar mark before 2013 was half over and on June 18, 2013 the board of supervisors complied with a request by Tom Hudson, who succeeded Kelly as the county director of land use services, to increase the contract with Downey Brand by $500,000 from $949,332 to $1,449,332. In January 2014, Hudson called upon the board of supervisors to increase the existing contract with Downey Brand LLP for legal services to $1,849,332.
Because of an overlap in plaintiffs, the eleven cases were consolidated into nine cases. Three of the nine cases, those involving plaintiffs Archaeological Heritage Association, Santa Margarita Citizens and Ratepayers Opposing Water Nonsense, and Rodrigo Briones, were dismissed in 2012 and 2013. The remaining six cases proceeded to trial before Orange County Superior Court Judge Gail Andler over twelve days in December 2013, and January and February 2014.
On May 1, 2014, Andler issued a ruling denying the petitions filed in all six remaining actions. Andler’s ruling affirmed the county’s approval of the Groundwater Management, Monitoring and Mitigation Plan and the memorandum of understanding. Notices of appeal were filed in all six cases and those cases are now pending in the Fourth Appellate District. On the record in the trial court proceedings is the following statement by Andler: “The court finds that the Santa Margarita Water District should not have been designated the lead agency for the project. The California Environmental Quality Act’s underpinnings of accountability and stewardship support the conclusion that the county should have instead served as the lead agency. The county was in the best position to objectively balance the benefits and risks of the project rather than the purchaser of the water.”
Whatever ruling the appellate court makes, the county finds itself under withering criticism for having relinquished oversight over the project to the Santa Margarita Water District, which approved the environmental impact report for the project despite data provided by biologists and hydrologists contradicting that report. Among those inveighing against the project is U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has publicly stated that the project’s proposed extraction of more than one million acre-feet of water from the Eastern Mojave Desert over the 50-year life of the project will significantly exceed the United States Geological Survey’s estimate of the area’s recharge capability.
Environmentalists insist Cadiz has cynically overrepresented the amount of annual precipitation recharging the groundwater basins in the Cadiz and Fenner valleys, and that springs linked to those ground water basins within the Mojave National Preserve and the plants and animals that depend on them are thus under threat.
Among those condemning the county’s approval of the project was the late John Goss, a former assistant administrative officer with San Bernardino County who drafted the county’s desert groundwater management ordinance before it was adopted in 2002. Prior to his death, Goss said that ordinance was violated when the memorandum of understanding between the county, Cadiz, Inc. and the Santa Margarita Water District had been entered into before a groundwater management plan for the Cadiz project was adopted.
A prime mover in the county’s acquiescence in Santa Margarita’s approval of the project was former First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who left office after he did not run for reelection in 2012 when he instead unsuccessfully vied for Congress. Mitzelfelt, whose district included the Eastern Mojave, received $48,100 in political donations from Cadiz, Inc.
The project’s proponents, including Scott Slater, the general counsel for Cadiz, Inc., insist the project is a “responsible and environmentally safe” one that “protects the desert” and provides thirsty Southern California with “an innovative water supply option.”
County officials maintain the county’s taxpayers are not being hurt by the litigation.
In keeping with Section 24 of the memorandum of understanding and the conditions of approval adopted on October 1, 2012, the county is indemnified against any action challenging the county’s acceptance of the Santa Margarita decision, the Groundwater Monitoring Management and Mitigation Plan or the memorandum of understanding. The Cadiz Water Company is supposed to reimburse the county for its legal expenditures.
SAN BERNARDINO—(April 22) In a settlement unique in San Bernardino County history, the county has conferred a $650,000 cash payout on an Apple Valley man whose beating at the hands of sheriff’s deputies on April 9 was captured on a news helicopter video.
The county announced that Francis Jared Pusok will receive the lump sum cash award, even though he had yet to file a lawsuit or a claim over the incident. Instead, Pusok’s attorney, Jim Terrell, had negotiated the settlement with the in-house lawyers for the county, known as county counsel, having arrived at the terms of the settlement on Friday April 17, one week and a day after at least nine sheriff’s deputies participated in a melee in which Pusok was punched, kicked and bludgeoned with guns or tasers as he attempted to surrender following a three-hour chase.
Pusok, who had felony and misdemeanor convictions on resisting arrest, animal cruelty and attempted robbery charges, was at another Apple Valley residence on April 9 when deputies attempting to serve a search warrant at that home in connection with an identity theft investigation encountered him. Pusok, who claims he has been roughed up by deputies in the past, fled. A 3-hour pursuit ensued, initially in vehicles through both the incorporated and unincorporated areas of Apple Valley and the unincorporated area of Hesperia and then across Bowens Ranch into the Deep Creek Hot Springs area. Pusok abandoned his vehicle, feeing on foot until he stole a horse.
More sheriff’s department personnel were inserted into the area by helicopter as the pursuit continued over rough and steep terrain. With a sheriff’s department, a Highway Patrol and an NBC helicopter hovering overhead and several deputies on foot on his trail, Pusok fell from the horse when the sheriff’s department helicopter made a pass directly over him as deputies were closing in.
Pusok was shot with a taser and immediately surrendered, spreading out on the ground face down, at first with his arms out and then behind his back in compliance with the deputies’ commands. Despite his submissive posture, deputies administered to him a sustained round of summary punishment, kicking and punching him in the head and neck area, shoulders, torso, legs and groin, disregarding the news helicopter overhead, which the deputies apparently mistook for a second sheriff’s department airship. The cameraman aboard that aircraft, known as Newschopper 4, caught the entire pummeling on video.
County counsel brought the finalized settlement to the board of supervisors, which held a regularly scheduled meeting on April 21. The board, with supervisor Janice Rutherford absent, after discussing the settlement in closed session, approved it
“The sole purpose of this agreement for both parties is to avoid the costs involved in litigation,” said board of supervisors chairman James Ramos. “This agreement is a fair outcome for everyone involved, including the taxpayers.”
According to the terms of the agreement, the county “acknowledges no wrongdoing” and the payment to Pusok closes out any and all potential claims he might lodge against the county relating to the incident.
Sheriff John McMahon released a statement Tuesday saying he supports the action of the board of supervisors in negotiating the settlement with Pusok.
Terrell told the Sentinel, “The Pusok family is happy to put this awful chapter of their lives behind them and begin the emotional and physical healing that must take place. This was never about money. Mr. Pusok and the county of San Bernardino agreed to the settlement early on instead of engaging in litigation which most likely would have netted Mr. Pusok a substantially larger amount of money. This case stands for the valuable rights that all Americans have, as provided by our U.S. Constitution. This settlement is remarkable as there was essentially no investigation nor any indictments. Rather, it is based on a video which depicts a violent and brutal attack by San Bernardino County deputies on a private citizen. As such, it was the county and not Mr. Pusok’s attorneys who initiated the settlement negotiations.”
In response to the assertion that the early sttlement of the case would deprive the public of a vehicle, i.e., a lawsuit and trial, through which access to the belt recorder audio recordings and other data and materials that would more fully reveal a pattern of brutality on the part of sheriff’s deputies, Terrell said, “Hopefully, an investigation by the FBI will reveal that my client, like so many others citizens in San Bernardino County, had his civil rights violated by SBSD using excessive force. The public will get what the public demands. It is hoped the national attention this case gained will be a catalyst to bring about the necessary reform and change within our county and throughout the United States. Change is obviously needed.”
(April 21) An Orange County-based psychiatrist who has realized a substantial profit over the last four years and nine months on a no-bid contract for the provision of so-called mental competency restoration services was this week given another one-year, no-bid $4.7 million contract.
Thomas C. Lester M.D., who has long been doing business as Liberty Healthcare of California, Inc., has had an exclusive contract with the county of San Bernardino since June 22, 2010, having first gotten that work as the provider of services under what was referred to as a “pilot program,” thereby bypassing the need for competitive bids. Since that time, his contract has been renewed without any competitive bidding.
While the first contract Lester’s company landed with the county for the three-year period between July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2013 specified a not-to-exceed $499,977 annual cost, not including the cost of medication, the contract approved this week zoomed to more than nine times the original cost, $4,756,536 for the period from June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016.
Once a trial court finds a defendant mentally incompetent to stand trial and orders the defendant committed to a state mental hospital for care and treatment to restore competence to stand trial, the state mental hospital has 90 days to make a written report to the court concerning the defendant’s progress toward recovery of mental competence.
According to Kathy Wild, the sheriff’s department’s health care administrator, “The demand for restorative programming and treatment at the state hospital has been increasing over the past decade so that many individuals are forced to wait in the county jail for months until a bed is available. This wait creates an extended period of incarceration for the inmate and excessive delays in the adjudication of their criminal charges.”
As part of an effort to clear the county’s jails of this backlog of inmates awaiting admission to the state mental hospital system, the county in 2010 hit upon the idea of bringing in a psychiatrist who would provide to those inmates in the county jail the same services those inmates would receive in the state mental hospital.
According to San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Captain Shannon Dicus, “The California Department of State Hospitals is responsible for returning to competency individuals charged with a felony who have been determined to be incompetent to stand trial by the California Superior Courts. Once an individual is committed to a Department of State Hospitals facility for treatment, the facility has 90 days to make a written report to the court concerning the defendant’s progress toward recovery of mental competence.”
Currently, The California Department of State Hospitals has insufficient beds within the state hospitals, thereby creating lengthy waiting lists of inmates in county jails, including those in San Bernardino County, who are in need of mental competency restoration services. To address this shortage, the California Department of State Hospitals is contracting with the sheriff’s department to provide access to portions of the West Valley Detention Center to administer the Jail Based Competency Treatment Program and provide inmates, from both Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, with restoration of competency treatment services similar to those provided in state mental hospitals, for up-to 76 patient inmates.
“This program would allow inmates to begin treatment faster and significantly decrease the time these individuals remain incarcerated due to a faster adjudication of their criminal charges,” according to Dicus.
“In May of 2010, the California Department of Mental Health contracted with Liberty (State Agreement No. 09-79156-000) to establish a pilot program to provide restoration of mental competency services in a county jail. On June 22, 2010, the board of supervisors approved a revenue agreement with Liberty to allow West Valley Detention Center to be used as a site for a state pilot program to provide restoration of mental competency services to county inmates. The sheriff’s department allocated 20 beds in a sheltered housing unit for use by Liberty and assigned a deputy to provide security for Liberty’s staff. On June 4, 2013 the board approved Agreement No. 13-367 to continue the program until June 30, 2016.
“To expand the program and maintain the continuation of services with the additional capacity,” Dicus continued, “approval of the contract with Liberty on a non-competitive basis is recommended. The proposed contract will allow for a team of licensed clinical personnel to work approximately forty hours per week, and provide Jail Based Competency Treatment Program patient inmates with treatment services such as: mental illness management, prescription of psychotropic medications, competency restoration, physical stimulation, mental/social stimulation, and other components required by applicable state law and regulations. Additionally, Liberty personnel will comply with all the state’s reporting requirements on the progress of the program’s patient inmates. [The county department of] Purchasing concurs with the non-competitive justification.”
The county’s costs on employing Lester another year are not limited to the $4.756 million. The sheriff’s department will allocate space for 76 beds in the West Valley Detention Center’s sheltered housing unit for the use by Liberty; and will provide office space, furniture and security for Liberty’s personnel. Nor will Liberty cover the cost of medicine to be provided to the patients/inmates. Routine inmate healthcare, including medications, will be provided through the department’s existing pharmacy, medical records and medical service delivery systems. To meet the operational needs of the contract, the sheriff’s department will add a combination of safety and general employee positions in Fiscal Year 2015-16. At the end of the contract, the sheriff’s department would transfer incumbents in the California Department of State Hospitals contract-funded positions into existing vacant budgeted positions or delete the positions through attrition. The contract term with both parties is June 1, 2015 through May 31, 2016. The sheriff’s department was unable to extend Lester’s contract on it own authority as County Policy 11-05 requires board of supervisors’ approval for services in excess of $100,000. The proposed contract with Liberty includes two one-year options to extend, provided that an extension of the county contract with the California Department of State Hospitals is approved.
By utilizing a psychiatrist to provide mental competency restoration services to inmates deemed to be mentally incompetent within the jail setting as opposed to transferring them to a state mental hospital, the county stands to obtain reimbursement of $10,857,697.44 from the state.
(April 21) Every year, approximately nine million people travel through San Bernardino County to go to Las Vegas.
This has appealed to the entrepreneurial spirit of many corporations and enterprising individuals, who have seized the opportunity to set up businesses, ranging from gas stations and mini-marts, to liquor stores, fast food drive-thrus and restaurants, along the I-15 Freeway corridor to capture the money of their fellow Californians sojourning to and from the gambling mecca.
Law enforcement officers have also taken advantage of the opportunity this provides them to make some arrests.
Facilitating this is the COPLINK® system and a just-entered-into memorandum of understanding between the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
According to San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Captain Shannon Dicus, the foundation for enhanced, digitally assisted communication between the sheriff’s department and other agencies was established in 2009 when a Homeland Security Grant award provided $1,078,910 for the acquisition of the COPLINK ® system and its installation in eleven law enforcement agencies, and fourteen sheriff’s contract cities/towns, the sheriff’s unincorporated area including the county jails, and the county probation department.
The COPLINK ® system data repository node containing information from law enforcement member agencies in San Bernardino County has become the centerpiece of what is referred to as the San Bernardino County Data Sharing Initiative, and the sheriff’s department serves as its administering agency.
Across the California border, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is the administering agency of the COPLINK® data repository node of law enforcement information in its geographic area for the State of Nevada.
In a report to the board of supervisors dated April 21, Dicus referenced the roughly nine million travelers through San Bernardino County on their way to Las Vegas, going on to say, “Many of these individuals are contacted for different reasons by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and other law enforcement agencies in the southwest portion of the state of Nevada. The information gathered from those contacts is entered into their COPLINK® node and is often requested and found valuable by local law enforcement agencies to solve crimes within San Bernardino County.”
At Dicus’ recommendation, the county board of supervisors on Tuesday entered into a non-financial memorandum of understanding between the county of San Bernardino Sheriff-Coroner’s Department and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for the sharing of law enforcement information through the San Bernardino County Data Sharing Initiative.
“The purpose of this MOU is to facilitate and improve the sharing of law enforcement information owned by member agencies, other than San Bernardino County Data Sharing Initiative, and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, for which they have been allowed custodial status by agreements with these agencies,” said Dicus.
By Count Friedrich von Olsen
It is my sorry duty to report that the Rialto Unified school board has allowed opportunity to pass it by once more, to the detriment of those its members are elected to serve, namely the students of the Rialto Unified School District…
As of midweek, the district has offered the position of superintendent to Los Angeles County Office of Education Assistant Superintendent Cuauhtémoc Avila. As I am writing this, on Wednesday morning, Dr. Avila has yet to accept the offer, though he applied for the job and his acceptance now would seem to be only a formality. My criticism is not of Dr. Avila, whose current position as the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s overseer of educational programs has prepared him, I am sure, for leading the Rialto district. Nor do I have any quibble with the other elements of his resumé, which include having served as a principal and director of educational services in the Glendale Unified School District and his impeccable personal educational background, which includes a doctorate in educational leadership from USC, a master’s degree in educational administration from Cal State Dominguez Hills and a bachelor’s degree from UCLA. The Rialto School District paid the La Quinta-based firm Leadership Associates $26,500 to carry out a search and recruitment to replace former superintendent Harold Cebrun, who left under a cloud last year. I have said before and will state again that I believe the search did not need to be conducted as the district already had in place an excellent replacement for Dr. Cebrun, the fellow who had filled in for him on an interim basis, Mohammad Islam…
Mr. Islam, the district’s associate superintendent of business services, was appointed to take over for Harold Cebrun, when he was placed on administrative leave as a consequence of the scandal involving Judith Oakes, the district’s accounting official who embezzled $3.2 million in proceeds from the district’s school lunch program over the twelve year period between 2001 and 2013. Miss Oakes might still be pilfering money from the district if it had not been for Mr. Islam paying attention to detail and following up on what he observed and reacting appropriately and forthrightly. Though there is nothing to suggest that Mr. Cebrun was involved with Miss Oakes in her depredations, there is evidence to suggest that the two were an item. Within a year of his having been hired as associate superintendent of business services in the Rialto district, Mr. Islam took notice of the numbers running through the accounts for the district’s nutrition program. Looking at the numbers of students, the numbers of meals, the cost of preparing those meals, the income and the outgo, Mr. Islam saw that the numbers did not scan, and he sensed that something was not quite right. He acted sensibly and bravely. He did not inform Mr. Cebrun of his suspicions. Rather, he risked his own personal position by arranging to have a long dormant video recording system in the district’s money counting room reactivated…
The result of that action is now well known. Moving images of Miss Oakes stuffing money into her bodice were captured on that video recorder. She was arrested and prosecuted and has pleaded guilty to embezzlement and has been sentenced to five years in state prison. Last year, after six months on paid leave, Mr. Cebrun retired…
How someone reacts to an exacting challenge demonstrates the quality of that person’s character. Mr. Islam has already amply displayed his competence. In the relatively short period of time that he was with the district as associate superintendent of business services, he recognized a problem that previous superintendents, assistant superintendents, finance managers, accountants and accounting firms had consistently missed for over a decade. He did not shrink from what he saw. He risked his career on behalf of the students of the district. Had he reported to Mr. Cebrun his observations, what guarantee was there that Mr. Cebrun would not have informed Miss Oakes? Mr. Islam might have been fired. Wisely, he took a more considered and effective course. But in this there too was risk. What would have happened to Mr. Islam if Mr. Cebrun had learned he had gone behind his back to reinitiate the video recording and was in touch with authorities outside the district?
For my money, Mr. Islam demonstrated a degree of situational awareness, skill, determination, intelligence, courage, principle and dedication that is precisely what is so sadly lacking in much of our political and institutional leadership. Taking nothing away from Dr. Avila, the Rialto Unified School District has failed its students once again by neglecting this opportunity to reward true vision and leadership…
Born in Pownal, Cumberland County, Maine on December 5, 1834, William Henry Randall was the son of William and Lydia (Haskell) Randall.
William Randall, Sr. was a mill owner and merchant in Pownal. Mrs. Randall, the daughter of Gideon Winslow Haskell, was descended from the New England Winslows who figured prominently in the early history of New England’s Plymouth Colony.
William H. Randall was educated in North Pownal. When he was twelve in 1847, his father died at the age of 38. Young William inherited the Mill property from his father and by his late teens was running the mill operation and overseeing the family homestead, which consisted of forty acres. On January 20, 1862, he married Miss Helen J. Sylvester of Cumberland, Maine. He remained in his hometown until he was nearly 30 years old. In 1864, he went west, stopping at Virginia City, Nevada, where he engaged in mining. He remained there for ten years. In 1874, he returned to Maine and shortly thereafter brought his family to San Bernardino County, locating in Riverside, which was then part of the county. Subsequently, his wife died in Riverside, leaving three sons, George W. Henry I. and Martin M.
In 1878, he formed a partnership with William T. Noyes and purchased one hundred and twenty acres of land in what is now Highland. He acquired, by pre-emption, forty acres of government land. From this beginning he became one of Highland’s active and progressive citizens. He was a prime mover in the development of the Highland water system and an organizer of the Highland Vineyard Association.
On October 4, 1880 Randall married Mrs. Dorcas C. Thomspon, widow of James H. Thompson
In 1892, Mr. Randall was elected on the Democratic ticket as supervisor from the Fifth District. He served one term on the San Bernadino County Board of Supervisors, from January 2, 1893 to January 4, 1897.
He was a member of the board of supervisors when what is now Riverside County seceded from San Bernardino County on May 2, 1893, after seventy percent of voters approved the formation of Riverside County. He was succeeded by George M. Cooley. As a county supervisor, Randall’s efforts were directed toward the advancement of the interest of the public and he labored tirelessly in that effort. He was active in the appropriation for the new granite courthouse and in instituting necessary reforms in the county hospital and poor farm, placing the latter on an economically sustainable footing. Mr. Randall was an earnest advocate of the temperance cause.
Randall died in Highland on May 25, 1897.
By John Miller, Public Affairs Officer
U.S. Forest Service
SAN BERNARDINO (April 21, 2015)–If you have seen a flying squirrel, the US Forest Service would like to hear from you. The San Bernardino flying squirrel is a subspecies of the northern flying squirrel. It is only known from the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains although it has not been seen in the San Jacinto Mountains for about twenty years.
Flying squirrels are closer in size to chipmunks than our larger native gray squirrels. They are nocturnal and have large flaps of skin that connect their front and hind feet. These flaps of skin allow them to glide from tree to tree. They do not fly in the same way that birds do – no flapping is involved. Their flat tail is used as a rudder to steer as they glide.
US Forest Service biologists have been studying flying squirrels on the Mountaintop District of the San Bernardino National Forest since the early 1990’s. Research is needed to have a better understanding of the current distribution, their habitat requirements, and the status of the population. Much of what we know about the distribution is based on reports from residents who see flying squirrels at their bird feeders at night or those who have found dead flying squirrels.
If you have seen flying squirrels in our local mountains, please report the sighting information to Robin Eliason (firstname.lastname@example.org 909 382-2832). Photographs would also be appreciated.
The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. Learn more at http://www.fs.usda.gov/sbnf