County In Lease Deal With Figure From Mays/Hlawek/Eaves Scandal

By Mark Gutglueck
In a deal worked out through the county’s real estate services department, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors last month entered the county into a $14.6 million lease arrangement on a building owned by a figure involved in a real estate lease/bribery scandal two decades ago that sent two top county administrators to federal prison and resulted in the criminal conviction of a former county supervisor.
It does not appear that the county staff members who recommended the county enter into the contract or the lawyer that vetted it knew of the newly-leased property’s landlord’s connection to the three county officials implicated in the now-two decade past bribery case.
At the board of supervisors’ last meeting in 2017, held on December 19, the board was presented with a recommendation from the county’s director of real estate services, Terry Thompson, and the director of the county’s transitional services department, Gilbert Ramos, that the county enter into a $14,036,184 lease agreement with 27th Street TAD, LLC, for approximately 38,150 square feet of office space located at the northwest corner of 27th Street and Little Mountain Drive in San Bernardino, also described as Assessor Parcel No. (APN) 0148-021-66-0000, for occupancy by the transitional assistance department for the ten year period beginning August 1, 2019 and running through July 31, 2029.
The transitional assistance department, which is sometimes referred to by its acronym TAD, provides a wide array of federal and state mandated social services and income assistance programs to the residents of San Bernardino County, particularly those whose loss of jobs or income has put them at risk of becoming, or has rendered them, homeless. The current San Bernardino transitional assistance office, located within 33,792 square feet of office space at 2050 North Massachusetts Avenue, in particular draws a clientele from the west end of the City of San Bernardino and unincorporated area of Muscoy and its surrounding vicinities.
According to Thompson and Ramos, the transitional assistance department and the department of human services reviewed their operational needs at the Massachusetts site and determined the site is no longer viable, as the current facility does not provide room for improvements and there are limited expansion opportunities. The transitional assistance department is restructuring its operations to create call and processing centers to handle the case volume derived from the newly implemented federal Affordable Health Care Act.
On April 18, 2017, the board of supervisors approved and authorized the release of a request for proposals, which is essentially a solicitation of bids, for the lease of approximately 37,700 square feet of office space for transitional assistance department offices in the San Bernardino area. On April 21, 2017, the real estate services department issued that request for proposals, and three proposals were received; two for new build-to-suit facilities and one to keep the transitional assistance operation intact at 2050 North Massachusetts. The site proposed by Schneider Real Estate Associates, Inc. for a new build-to-suit effort on property located on the northwest corner of 27th Street and Little Mountain Drive was deemed most suitable, according to Thompson and Ramos. On October 18, 2017, the county’s transitional assistance and human services departments approved a floor plan for the new build-to-suit facility.
The real estate services department negotiated a 10-year lease with two five-year options to extend the term of the lease. The initial rent, including turn-key tenant improvements, is $106,820 per month or $2.80 per square foot per month/full service gross, with annual increases of two percent. The county does not have the right to terminate for convenience during the initial 10-year term, but if the term is extended, the county will have the right to terminate with 90-days’ notice.
During negotiations of the new 10-year lease, Schneider Real Estate Associates, Inc., which is under contract to purchase the premises, advised it had formed a new California limited liability company called 27th Street TAD, LLC, and assigned its rights in the purchase contract to 27th Street TAD, LLC. Accordingly, the county’s real estate services department negotiated the lease with this new entity, contingent on 27th Street TAD, LLC acquiring legal title to the premises.
A principal in 27th Street TAD, LLC is Scott Beard.
In 1997, the FBI descended upon San Bernardino and undertook intensified scrutiny of a number of issues relating to its top ranking officials both elected and appointed as well as business executives with contractual relationships to San Bernardino County. Ultimately, county treasurer Thomas O’Donnell, former county administrator Harry Mays, then-county administrator James Hlawek, and county investment officer Sol Levin in 1998 were charged with involvement in a bribery scheme along with North Carolina-based financial consultant Richard Tisdale, county consultant/contractor Ronald Canham, former Norcal Waste Systems vice president Kenneth J. Walsh. In 2001, supervisor Jerry Eaves, Colton Mayor Karl Gaytan, and Colton councilmembers Abe Beltran, Donald Sanders and James Grimsby, along with billboard mogul William “Shep” McCook, real estate broker Allan Steward and Suncrest Homes general manager Michael Berg were likewise indicted. In the meantime, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office took up an investigation into Eaves, Hlawek, Mays, McCook and Steward. Ultimately, O’Donnell, Mays, Hlawek, Levin, Tisdale, Canham, Walsh, Eaves, Gaytan, Beltran, Sanders, Grimsby, Steward and Berg would be convicted or enter guilty pleas. McCook was acquitted when he went to trial.
One of the issues relating to FBI/U.S. Attorney’s Office’s action was that payoffs – i.e., bribes – had been channeled to various county officials by entities doing business with the county. Among the issues the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney focused upon was the county’s 15-year, $26 million lease of the former Kmart building in Rialto owned by SHL Associates Ltd., a partnership involving Scott Beard, former county chief administrative officer Harry Mays and Lance Goodwin of New York. That lease was approved in a controversial 3-2 vote on June 23, 1997, with then-supervisors Jerry Eaves, Jon Mikels and Kathy Davis prevailing. The building was converted for use by the county’s behavioral services department. The deal was promoted by then-county chief administrative officer, James Hlawek, who had been Harry Mays protégé and successor as the county’s senior staff member. Eaves, Mays and Hlawek were indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with bribery and kickback schemes pertaining to several county contracting arrangements. Mays and Hlawek were convicted on federal charges. Eaves eluded being convicted on federal charges after similar charges were filed against him in state court, and U.S. District Judge Manuel Real ruled that Eaves could be tried for the same crime in only one venue. In his confession to FBI agents and federal prosecutors, Hlawek said that during a meeting with Mays, Eaves and Beard, Mays provided him with a briefcase stuffed with about $60,000 in cash as a payoff for securing the county K-Mart building lease with SHL.
Beard was a longtime Eaves supporter. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office was angling to indict Hlawek, Mays, Eaves and Beard on charges relating to the K-Mart building deal, but was persuaded to back off because of concerns that a state prosecution of the matter might complicate or clash with the ongoing federal prosecution.
Ultimately, Beard was not charged in the matter, but all of the others pleaded guilty. As a consequence of his plea arrangement, Eaves was forced to resign as supervisor and end his 25-year political career. The debacle resulted in Beard, who had been a major player in supporting politicians at the local level and winning lucrative government contracts for leases of his properties, assuming a much lower profile than he had previously. It was not until 2013 that Beard resurfaced in any substantial public way, when he spearheaded a blanket recall attempt against all of the city council members and the mayor in the City of San Bernardino.
Today, Beard acknowledged that Hlawek had made statements implicating him in a bribery arrangement relating to the K-Mart building, but insisted there was no substance to the allegations. “Twenty years ago, that was his claim,” Beard told the Sentinel this morning. “That was never proven at all as it related to my deal That was never substantiated by anybody other than Mr. Hlawek. I was heavily investigated by both federal and local authorities, by the FBI, by the San Bernardino County District Attorney and, frankly, the California Attorney General. I was cleared of any wrongdoing. I was never charged with a single thing. I was never indicted. I was never nothing. It was not true. If it was true and he had received money, based on that, trust me, the county would not have a lease on that building.”
Beard indicated the county was still leasing the K-Mart building from his company. He said that what had occurred two decades ago had no relevance to the current situation.
“You are calling me about something that happened 18 or 20 years ago, simply because I was the winning bidder on an RFP from the county,” Beard said. “I am the one guy among all those people who didn’t go to jail. I don’t know why I would be penalized today. I do not have any involvement with Mr. Mays. We have remained casual friends over the past twenty years. All those guys are 80 years old and have had zero to do with the county for 20 years. I am not in the public arena. I am a private developer who responded to a request for proposals. I received and was the winning bidder. I am not sure how that puts me in the public arena. I am not sure what the issue would be. I do not mind you scrutinizing the contract, but that you single me out is irritating. To make an allegation that I’m somehow tied to those guys after twenty years is just a little bit offensive to me, personally.”
Beard said the county is far more exacting now about keeping graft out of the equation when it comes to leasing contracts than it was in the past.
“This was done through an RFP process that was completely open and above board,” Beard said. “The county, to its credit, now insists on RFPs because of what happened. We have to sign, under the penalty of perjury that no county officials are involved in our company. I am at a loss to see what the issue is here.”
There is a lack of clarity as to the degree to which current county officials remain cognizant of Beard’s connection to the Hlawek/Mays/Eaves scandal, and that the issue at its heart pertained to the provision of a substantial bribe to a high ranking county official to induce him to engineer a long term lease on property to be occupied by a county department.
Thompson, who has been in place as the head of the county’s real estate services since 2014 but was employed in Orange County previous to that, was not available for comment.
The actual 91-page contract document between the county and 27th Street TAD, LLC contains a section titled, “Former County Officials” on page 25 under which it is specified that “Landlord agrees to provide or has already provided information on former county administrative officials, as defined below, who are employed by or represent [the] landlord. The information provided includes a list of former county administrative officials who terminated county employment within the last five years and who are now officers, principals, partners, associates or members of the business.”
The disclosure document for former public officials contained within the contract document as “Exhibit C” on page 76, states “None.”
The contract was reviewed by the office of county counsel, the county’s stable of in-house attorneys. Deputy county counsel Agnes Cheng was assigned to review the contract and signed off on it. The Sentinel contacted Cheng on Wednesday January 3, in an effort to get from her an explanation as to the county’s willingness to enter into a building lease contract with 27th Street TAD, LLC and Beard, in the light of the circumstance involving Hlawek, Mays, Eaves, Beard and another of Beard’s companies. Cheng, however, said she did not know who Hlawek, Beard, Mays and Eaves were.
“I don’t know anything about any of those circumstances,” Cheng said. “I’m not familiar with those people you are talking about. I’m not sure I’m the right person to answer the questions you are asking.”
Cheng said she would forward the questions elsewhere to see if a response could be had.
Subsequently, the Sentinel was contacted by the county’s public spokesman, David Wert, who referenced the Exhibit C on page 76 of the contract. Wert said, “The property owner reported that there are no former county administrative officials involved in the lease.”
Further, Wert said, “There would be no reason for county counsel or real estate services to know or care about who Scott Beard is or for the county to ‘blackball’ him because it was never suggested he ever did anything wrong. There was [bribe] money from Mays to Hlawek on other matters, but Hlawek was inconsequential in terms of that lease. No one was ever charged with anything in connection with that lease, and it was never suggested Mr. Beard knew anything about what was going on between Mays and Hlawek. No one was ever charged with a crime in connection with the K-Mart building lease, and the county would have no basis for disqualifying Mr. Beard or entities with which he is associated from participating in competitive procurements or being awarded a contract. Doing so might in fact expose the county and taxpayers to legal action.”
As for the section of the contract asking for disclosure of the identities of county officials involved in 27th Street TAD, Wert said, “”That is standard contract language. The county requires all contractors to disclose whether any former county officials work for or represent them. 27th Street TAD, LLC did so by completing the form. Their answer was ‘none.’”

Overreach Has Fontana Risk Loss Of Code Enforcement Authority

By Carlos Avalos
In a multitude of municipalities throughout Southern California controversy has attended code enforcement efforts. Some see the aesthetic and safety standards taken to be at the core of these codes as ones that enhance the quality and tenor of collective existence, and that has given the enforcers substantial license. But those codes are not always uniformly and evenly applied, and on occasion become a cudgel onerously wielded by officious bullies acting under the color of authority but outside the spirit of the common good.
Of late, those armed with code enforcement authority In Fontana seem intent on challenging their counterparts in Rancho Cucamonga, Upland and Hesperia – wherein the overstepping of that authority is legendary – to lay claim to being the San Bernardino County city bringing the most onerous vexation upon city residents.
Fontana Municipal Code sections 18-1 through 18-27 relate to the authority Fontana has given itself to dictate to the city’s residents that they come into compliance with what is assumed to be a shared aesthetic sensibility. The municipal code tells a person what he/she can and cannot do. Substantive law is the part of the law that creates, defines, and regulates rights. Procedural law is that body of law that delineates formal steps to be taken in enforcing legal rights.
Section 18-1 of the Fontana Municipal Code provides a list of nuanced regulations, from rat droppings to brown bushes. As one moves through 18-2, 18-3, 18-4, one sees that the rules and regulations are progressive and procedural in nature in that they specify the remedies for code violations and deadlines for effectuating them.
Section 18-3 relates to “involuntary” abatement which is the very first step in Fontana’s abatement process. For example, a Fontana code enforcement officer might come to a person house and notice garbage piled where it shouldn’t be, or weeds that are not cut. The officer will then post a letter on the person’s house to take a certain action, i.e., redress or abate the perceived problem, which in some fashion falls under the rubric of the municipal code. On this letter that a code enforcement officer leaves, a time frame in which the person or address cited has to fix the issue at hand is specified. If the person owning or residing at the address where citation is made does not fix or abate the alleged problem by the specified deadline, a so-called final notice from the code enforcement division will be issued to that address.
Fontana’s municipal code does not specify a time limit with regard to such final notices; the notice does alert the homeowner, property owner, resident, renter or lessee that the situation is going to start costing him or her money. This is basically standard procedure and fits the mold of many municipalities and their code enforcement processes. If at that step in the process the person cited does not voluntarily abate, he or she is invited to what is called a public nuisance hearing. Upon showing up at the public nuisance hearing, the individual is given an opportunity to state a case in defense. This includes presenting evidence, make a case that there is no nuisance or problem to abate, or that the called-for remedy is not based in law. Virtually never is such a defense accepted. If such a claim by the person cited is made, he or she is invited through a letter into the city manager’s office or the office of the city manager’s designee to deal with the issue. The Fontana Municipal Code gives specific instruction on the form of the letter and that it must be both posted on the garage of a residence cited and it must be certified mailed. Fontana municipal code 18-6-7-8-9 and 18-10 all center around that process. This service of notice requirement is intended to ensure there is no confusion on the part of the responsible property owner, renter or lessee with regard to the issues cited.
At this point, there has been no official determination that a public nuisance exists. It is at the public nuisance hearing in the city manager’s office, also referred to as an administrative hearing, where the forum for such a determination is provided. That hearing is considered by the city to be the cited person’s “day in court.” If the city manager upholds the code enforcement officer’s assertion that a violation has occurred, an order is issued. The order is served upon the landowner or responsible resident, renter or lessee. The person issued the order is given a short period – generally around ten days – within which to voluntarily comply with abating the nuisance or problem.
Clark Cavanaugh and his wife, Fontana residents both, were fined $20,000 dollars for having excessive leaves on their property, running a business out of their house, having two boxes by their water heater, debris on the side of their home, and a few other code violations. The Cavanaughs were cited with eight violations in total. In seeking to exhaust their rights under the protocol available to them, the Cavanaughs examined their due process remedies and wrote a letter to appeal the citation to the city office where such appeals are heard. In theory, they should have been afforded a hearing. Nine days later, the Cavanaughs received a letter stating that the way they submitted their appeal letter was not up to city standards. The city’s reasoning was that Clark and his wife put all of the information of the appeal on one page. The City of Fontana wanted each appeal on the individual matters cited submitted individually. The Cavanaughs went to City Hall and in dealing with the city clerk’s office directly marshaled each citation and filled out a complete appeal form for each. Clark insisted upon the city clerk stamping his copy to prove that he filed it. Thenceforward, the Cavanaughs did not hear from the City of Fontana. The city did not then nor ever set up an appeal hearing or process any of the appeals on any of the citations, which at that point called for the imposition of some $4,000 worth of fines. The Cavanaughs were not afforded the right to appeal, which is in direct violation of their civil rights, as well as the municipal code under which the city was proceeding against them.
The Sentinel has learned of roughly forty audio-recorded accounts of Fontana residents that are similar to the Cavanaughs’ story. Mr. Cavanaugh said that he is beyond concerned and is appalled and worried over the issue. He said his experience is minor compared to what has occurred to others, including those that have been documented in the audio-recordings. The Sentinel is in the process of getting access to digital remakes of those recordings.
There is a provision in FMC 18-25 that allows the city to take a criminal action concurrent to the code enforcement issue. But the criminal action concurrent has to be justified by some type of emergency to make an end run around the due process of law sections. These sections are important because they create due process for an individual. The point is if someone’s due process is not afforded to them, there better be a critical reason why, such as to save or preserve human life.
This is completely understandable. A city should be allowed to make emergency criminal actions toward someone if justified, and there is a provision for that in the municipal code. What the Sentinel has found that was odd was that in all the cases the Sentinel came across during a three-year time period, all criminal actions brought were done prior to and without the exhaustion of all of the due process steps in the municipal code.
This has raised the question as to why the city is defaulting to criminal cases in every instance of a code enforcement violation. It is not certain whether this approach originated with the City of Fontana, its police department, or the law firm representing the city. One theory as to why the city’s attorneys are bringing these criminal actions is that the city is entitled to abatement awards under 37/7/83.5 of the California Government Code. Such monetary awards go to the prevailing party. The motivation appears transparent: Charge someone with a criminal action for a code enforcement violation and receive the money.
It can be safely assumed that Fontana’s goal in telling a person that he or she faces a fine or assessment of a certain amount is to serve him or her with a tacit warning that any further contact with the city’s code enforcement division or its self-appointed hearing officers is going to result in the individual being assessed or fined even more money. The citizen is then given the option to settle or to keep the trial and charade going. The Sentinel researched and found that 22 out of 24 people agreed to settle. The Cavanaughs and one other person did not. Both elected to take the matter to a criminal trial.
Fontana appears to be at a crossroads, one where the cities of Upland, Hesperia and Rancho Cucamonga arrived at previously.
In Rancho Cucamonga, beginning in 2003, that city began a code enforcement crusade against Guillermo Reyes, a city resident who used his side and front yard as a staging area for recyclables – cans and bottles – he collected and cashed in to augment his income. Reyes took the citation he had received to heart and began to empty and remove the bins. He did not act quickly enough, according to the city, which began legal action, in time appointing a receiver, giving him license to proceed toward abating the nuisance on Reyes’ property. Unrestrained, the receiver borrowed about $120,000 against the property to effectuate the clean up and pay himself. The original loan application called for an annual percentage rate of 11.21%, and imposed monthly payments of $775 on Reyes, who at that point was a retired senior citizen with no source of income other than his recycling efforts. The $775 monthly payments were to continue for 120 months, whereupon a balloon payment of $93,775 would be due, payable on May 1, 2016. Reyes never signed any of the documents relating to the borrowing against his home, which he once owned free and clear. With no income stream, he was unable to pay the loan, he was declared to be in default and he was evicted. From that point on, Guillermo Reyes became a denizen of the streets, pushing a shopping cart about Rancho Cucamonga, homeless and nearly blind. On a bitter cold day in January 2011, Guillermo Reyes expired, having collapsed on the sidewalk from exposure to the elements.
In Hesperia, that city undertook a code enforcement action against Esther Duran and her daughter, Janet, charging them with having too many animals on their property where they ran a temporary rescue shelter for horses that would otherwise have been sent to slaughterhouses for euthanization or processing for the dog food or glue manufacturing industries. The Redwood property prior to city incorporation was zoned for agricultural use. The post-incorporation zoning was agricultural residential and the Durans were permitted under the city’s code to have up to six horses on the property per its acreage. Based upon the violations the city said the Durans were engaged in, they were slapped with fines totaling $129,000, which resulted in Esther Duran’s mortgage increasing from $1,400 to $4,700 per month.
Unwilling to take the city’s action lying down, the Durans hired Upland-based attorney, Louis Fazzi, who removed the matter to U.S. District Court, where he alleged the city was engaging in an unconstitutional abridgment of the Durans’ rights. In April 2012, U.S. District Court Judge John E. McDermott ruled that the city’s action against the Durans was improper. At that point the hunters became the hunted and the Durans appeared to be on the brink of prevailing in a landmark case that would potentially establish that the administrative citation process that not only Hesperia but most cities engage in is unconstitutional and actionable. While McDermott’s ruling was pending, the city offered the Durans a $200,000 settlement. The tendering of that offer, and the Durans’ acceptance of it, put the matter to rest, preventing a potentially precedent-setting ruling that would prohibit the city from continuing to employ the same tactics against other city residents.
In Upland, the City in 2014 began criminal proceedings against Fernand Bogman, a city resident who had ceased watering lawn as the three-year running drought gripped all of California. The city and its enforcement attorney, Dan Perlman, sought to force the issue to prove that the city’s code enforcement power is absolute. Despite the city’s threat to have him jailed, Perlman and his attorney, Mark Grossman, stood their ground, with Bogman asserting that it was immoral to profligately use water during times of such an acute shortage. At that point Perlman became a cause célèbre, with local press coverage sparking Los Angeles television and radio stations to report on the city’s attempt to bully him, followed by television reports of the matter throughout the state and then national coverage. Shortly thereafter, California Governor Jerry Brown mandated water conservation measures statewide that mirrored the action Bogman had taken on his own. In the span of six short weeks, Upland had gone from threatening to jail any of its residents who did not water their lawns to threatening to jail one who did water the lawns. The city and its officials became laughingstock.
Meanwhile, back in Fontana, audio recordings of every code enforcement hearing were requisitioned through the Public Information Request Act. Mr. Cavanaugh was given the recordings. Cavanaugh explained to the Sentinel that in fact he was given all the information necessary to hang the city in court because the city did not know exactly why he was requesting the information. Cavanaugh believes that had Fontana city officials known why he was requesting this information, they would not have given it to him. He also told the Sentinel that once those officials realized the degree to which he had advanced in being able to demonstrate how unconstitutional the city’s code enforcement procedure is, they locked up and stopped giving him information.
Cavanaugh believes he has stumbled onto serious illegal activity on the part of the City of Fontana, the police department, and its code enforcement department. Mr. Cavanaugh believes that more information needs to be dug up, but that the city is now vulnerable to a civil suit brought against it under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing, closing a perceived loophole that allowed a person or persons who instructed someone else to carry out a criminal act to be exempt from the trial because he, she or they did not actually commit the crime personally.
Mr. Cavanaugh stated that Fontana is trying to settle this case before it gets to the public, because there is major corruption and violation of peoples civil rights going on now and previously in Fontana.

CVUSD Board Relents On Charter Proposal & Comes To Terms With Employees

In the final month of 2017 the Chino Valley Unified School District took three significant steps that will shape the tenor of district operations for the next couple of years.
On December 14, the school board voted to give tentative approval to the creation of a charter school to operate during the 2018-19 school year. That school will likely be located at the El Rancho Elementary School campus, where for the last seven years the academically successful but financially challenged Oxford Preparatory Academy had been located. A firm commitment on locating the school there has yet to be made.
Oxford Preparatory had soared into rarified scholastic atmosphere after it was chartered by the school district in 2009 under the guidance of Sue Roche, who had established her instructional bona fides as the principal at Rhodes Elementary School, the highest-performing school in the Chino Valley Unified School District consistently over a number of years. The application of Roche’s formula utilizing studious intensity, old fashioned book learning and parent involvement resulted in Oxford’s students consistently outperforming all other schools in San Bernardino County over the next six years. In late 2015, district officials learned that Roche, through the creation of an academic service and supply company and an academic management corporation which she then arranged to have the district enter into contracts with, had diverted into her own bank accounts or those of her associates something approaching $3 million. In March 2016, the school board, at superintendent Wayne Joseph’s recommendation, voted against renewing the Oxford Preparatory charter beyond June 2017.
Oxford’s board, administrators and the parents of its students made a series of appeals to the Chino Valley Joint Unified board, the county school board and the California Department of Education, pleading at every level to allow Oxford to remain in place. But their insistence that the charter school had ended its relationship with its founder – Roche – and that it had instituted a host of administrative, governing and financial reforms did not persuade any of the decision-makers to relent in their resolve to see the charter academy closed. Subsequently the ever determined parents of Oxford students and Oxford staff members and other supporters put together proposals to revive Oxford, with Oxford Rise Academy being one of those and a school dubbed Allegiance Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math Academy – Thrive, also referred to as Allegiance STEAM – Thrive, being another. Those proposals were presented to the Chino Valley Unified School District. In November, the school board took up the Oxford Rise application.
The district brought in La Verne-based certified public accountant Paul S. Horvat to make a critical examination of the proponents’ claim that Oxford Rise would perform financially in accordance with state guidelines. Horvat’s verdict was that Oxford Rise was essentially a new version of Oxford Preparatory Academy that was virtually indistinguishable from its predecessor. District staff made a further finding that many of those involved in the Oxford Rise proposal had connections to the now-discredited Roche and were what was referred to as her “loyal followers.” By a vote of 4-1, with James Na dissenting, the school board rejected the request to charter Oxford Rise.
It thus appeared that the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive alternative to be considered last month had not even a ghost of a chance. A resolution prepared for the board’s endorsement that was indeed ratified by the board laid out reason after reason why the charter school should not be permitted to operate under the district’s auspices.
According to that resolution, “The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petition, as submitted, presents an unsound educational program for the pupils to be enrolled in the proposed Allegance charter school’s charter petition, and supporting documents appear to be copied from a variety of internet sources without consistency of purpose or any sense of how it all fits together as a whole, and Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s “STEAM-focused instructional program” is not likely to be of educational benefit to Allegiance STEAM – Thrive pupils without adequate STEAM professional development for Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s teachers… The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petition because the charter petition presents an unrealistic financial and operational plan for the proposed Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter school… The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Budget presents a Year 1 reserve of 0.3%, which fails to meet the legally required financial reserve of 4.0%… The August 24, 2017 charter asset management funding commitment letter of $4.5 million is based on receivable factoring, is not a legally binding commitment, and is specific to the 2018-2019 school year only… Because successful factoring for amounts budgeted by Allegiance STEAM – Thrive is dependent upon Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s likely overstated enrollment, Allegiance STEAM – Thrive may have insufficient cash flow to meet Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s Year 1 financial obligations… The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive budgeted special education encroachment is understated by $100,835, which increases Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s budgeted expenses in equal amount, thereby reducing Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s 2018-2019 Year 1 fund balance to a financially flawed deficit/negative ending fund balance of $89,650. As a result, Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s Year 1 Fund Balance Reserve is reduced to a negative 2.0%… The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petition because the ASA charter petitioners personally lack the necessary background in California kindergarten to 8th grade charter school curriculum, instruction, and assessment… The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petition fails to contain a reasonably comprehensive description of the proposed Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter school’s governance structure because Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s governance structure fails to ensure there will be active and effective representation of Allegiance STEAM – Thrive parents and guardians… The Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petition fails to contain any description of the qualifications to be met by Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s speech language pathologist assistant, instructional aides, PE aide/proctors, and world language teachers, in addition to the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive charter petitioners’ failure to provide a reasonably comprehensive description of the qualifications to be met by Allegiance STEAM – Thrive’s teaching staff and director of business services.”
The resolution also took issue with the charter school’s admission requirements and its public random lottery preferences for admitting students.
Nevertheless, on a 3-2 vote on December 14, the school board, after hearing Sadie Burroughs, Andrew Vestey, Troy Stevens, Vanessa Okamoto, and Eric Hasanoff implore the board to grant the charter, approved giving Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy conditional clearance to operate as a kindergarten through 8th grade school, the administration for which will initiate in July and which will open to students in August for the 2018-19 school year.
According to the resolution, “The Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education recognizes the extensive public support for the charter petition at the November 9, 2017 public hearing, and that charter schools may assist the district in offering diverse learning opportunities for district students. The board of education has carefully considered the potential of the proposed charter school to provide Chino Valley Unified School District students with an education that enables them to achieve their fullest potential.”
The resolution states, “Whereas, despite the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy charter petition’s material failures as set out above to comply with Education Code 47605 and California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 11967.5.1, which the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education hereby finds are sufficient for denial of the charter petition, the board of education believes that all of the deficiencies in the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy charter petition can be addressed and remedied to the board of education’s satisfaction in separate memoranda of understanding to be entered into between the district and Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy.”
One of those memoranda states, “Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy shall hold harmless, defend, and indemnify the district, its officers, agents and employees, from every demand, liability, claim, causes of action, suits, or liabilities of whatever nature or kind, including, but not limited to actions or investigations by state and federal agencies to recover funds, attorney’s fees and litigation costs, that arise out of or relate to any actual or alleged act, omission, or crime on the part of Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy, or its current and former officers and employees.”
Another memoranda states, “Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy shall not have the legal authority to enter into any contract that would in any way bind the district, or to extend the credit of the district to any third person or party.”
Among other commitments, the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive Academy proponents said they would credentialize the director of educational programs and employ an educated and experienced director of business services, submit to the Chino Valley Unified School District staff an employee recruitment plan, a student recruitment and enrollment plan, job descriptions including employee qualifications for speech language pathologist assistants, instructional aides, physical education aides and proctors, and world language teachers, along with certificated job descriptions including employee qualifications for elementary teachers, math teachers, science teachers and classified job descriptions for secretaries, custodians, clerks, health technicians and instructional aides.
The approval of the Allegiance STEAM – Thrive school plan, including the use of the El Rancho campus, is conditional and provisional, based upon the proponents meeting all of the conditions outlined in the memoranda and resolution, as well as a determination that the El Rancho campus will be available.
The board voted 3-to-2 to grant the charter, with members James Na, Andrew Cruz and Sylvia Orozco prevailing and Pamela Feix and Irene Hernandez-Blair dissenting.
A second issue resolved by the school board last month was the settlement of labor agreements with both the Associated Chino Teachers and California Schools Employees Association bargaining units. For sixteen months the district’s contract with its teachers had been expired. The agreement arrived at December 5 took that issue out of suspension.
According to Associated Chino Teachers President Steve Ball, who spoke at the December 14 school board meeting, the agreement is retroactive to July 1, 2016 and runs through June 30, 2019. It left intact the previous salary structure through June 30, 2017 and entails a salary increase of two percent effective July 1, 2017 for the current school year, augmented by a further two percent increase for the 2018-19 school year. The same increase will be applicable to annual stipends granted to those teachers who are involved in extracurricular work, such as coaching, student tutoring workshops and supervising or chaperoning after-school events and activities.
According to California Schools Employees Association President Denise Arroyo, her union, which represents the district’s non-teaching and non administrative employees, has reached a similar tentative agreement with the district.
Also occurring at the December 14 school board meeting was the elevation of Pam Feix to the position of board president. A former English instructor who taught at Kolb Junior High School in Rialto, Redlands High School and who occupied administrative posts in the Redlands, Burbank and San Gabriel school districts, Feix rounded out her career with the Chino Valley Unified School District, teaching at Canyon Hills Junior High School in Chino Hills until her retirement in 2014. Not quite two months later, Feix filed for candidacy on the school board and was elected in November 2014. She was the board vice president in 2017. The board also designated James Na, who was twice previously board president, to serve as vice president. Irene Hernandez-Blair was appointed board clerk.
-Mark Gutglueck

After 36 Years Of Danger On Duty, Falce Felled As A Civilian

Larry Falce

Larry Falce

Larry Falce, a 36-year veteran of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, died January 2, less than three days after he was involved in altercation following a minor traffic crash in north San Bernardino on Sunday.
The 30-year-old driver, whose fatal assault on Falce on December 31 was seen by at least two witnesses and captured on video, was taken into custody some seven hours after the incident. On Wednesday, he was charged with murder.
According to authorities, Falce, who was off duty at the time, was driving a red Chevrolet pickup through the intersection of Kendall Drive and University Parkway in San Bernardino at about 10:50 a.m. on Sunday when, to avoid hitting a dog in the roadway he “stopped or applied his brakes,” according to San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan. Alonzo Leron Smith, driving a 2002 Ford Explorer registered to his brother, was closely behind the Chevrolet. The Bronco rear-ended the pickup.
The Sentinel has obtained a one minute and forty-four second video on which the confrontation between Falce and Smith is shown. The video was taken by a surveillance camera surveying the parking lot of a yet-unidentified business. As the portion of the video opens, Falce in his pickup can be seen pulling over to the side of the road, passing Smith, in a dark hooded jacket, who is already out of the gold-colored Bronco, which is parked on the street behind the curb cut into the parking lot. Smith, who appears to have just exited his vehicle, comes around from the driver’s side as Falce’s pickup continues forward and moves temporarily out of the range of the panning video camera’s scope of view. As the video pans in rotation back and forth, Smith can be seen walking back toward the Bronco and waiting there and momentarily going out into the street on the driver’s side of the car and getting back into the Bronco. The video pans to show that Falce’s pickup is parked just beyond the curb cut into the parking lot. At the 29 second point in the video, Smith emerges from the Bronco and at the 32 second point Falce, in a striped shirt, is seen walking toward Smith. Smith steps out of the street up onto the sidewalk in front of the Bronco and Falce approaches toward the front of the Bronco, momentarily, it appears, surveying the vehicle’s front end from roughly 12 feet away. At the 42 second point, it appears that Smith and Falce begin to converse. There is no audio. At one point Smith appears to be pointing to the front of the Bronco, and at another point gesticulating as if he is pointing down the road in the direction from which they both came. Around the 53 second point, yet engaged in what appears to be some level of verbal exchange, both men appear to be moving toward the front of the Bronco. Just prior to the one minute mark on the video, with Smith now moving toward the driver’s side of the car, there is further gesticulating from both Smith and Falce. At the one minute two second point of the video, the exchange between the two appears to have become more animated, with something that Falce said appearing to have provoked Smith, who at that point was again on the driver’s side of the car but then comes forward to the front of the Bronco. There is a further exchange between Falce and Smith, with Falce standing near the curb or within the gutter about five feet in front of the Bronco. Smith at that juncture is yet on the driver’s side of the Bronco’s front hood. At 1:15 into the video, it appears that Smith might be starting to get back into the Bronco, but he then abruptly moves forward and comes around to the front of the Bronco directly toward Falce. At the one minute and nineteen second point, Smith sucker punches Falce, who immediately collapses onto the sidewalk. One minute and 21 seconds into the video, a splice in the video appears to have occurred. The Bronco is still in place in advance of the curb cut into the parking lot, but Smith is inside the vehicle. A white SUV in the interior lane of the street has come to a stop parallel to and slightly forward of the Bronco and a man, apparently its driver, has come out of it and is standing in the street some five or ten feet from the Bronco’s driver’s side door. Additionally, two men, one wearing a red shirt and another wearing a gray shirt, are on the sidewalk near the fallen Falce. At the one minute and 25 second point on the video, as Smith begins to back the Bronco up, both men on the sidewalk approach the vehicle on the passenger side, and they seem to be intent on stopping Smith from leaving the scene. At the one minute and thirty-two second point, Smith begins to pull away. The driver of the white SUV, however, has reentered his vehicle, and at the one minute and thirty seven second point accelerates rapidly to collide with the Bronco on the driver’s side of the vehicle as Smith is trying to get away. At the one minute and 40 second point of the video, both vehicles have moved beyond the scope of the video.
Smith was apparently able to elude the white SUV, but witnesses took down the license plate number of the Bronco. That led the San Bernardino Police to the home of the Bronco’s registered owner, Smith’s brother. Smith brother was arrested because he matched the description of Falce’s attacker.
Later that evening, Smith was found at his girlfriend’s residence and he was taken into custody.
Authorities characterized Smith as a career criminal, with convictions for selling marijuana and for gang activity. He has also been charged with crimes for which he was not convicted or for which the charges were dropped, including extortion and robbery. In 2012, he was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and using it to benefit a street gang after he was witnessed participating in a suspected drug transaction. The others involved in that alleged crime left in a vehicle and were not collared, however, though Smith, on foot, was arrested. On appeal, the appellate court held that the gang charge was inapplicable because prosecutors had charged no others in the crime, and the participation of multiple perpetrators is an indispensable element of gang activity. The conviction was thrown out on December 31, 2014, three years to the day before Smith’s fatal encounter with Falce.
Smith had been arrested by San Bernardino police and sheriff’s deputies numerous times, and there was speculation that he may have had prior contact with Falce.
Falce, who had served in the Army before gravitating to a job in law enforcement, was 20 years beyond the age at which sheriff’s employees are eligible for a pension. At the age of 70, he was the oldest deputy on the force.
“He was a very productive, proactive deputy sheriff,” said San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon. “He loved his job and was committed to helping the citizens of this county.”
On Wednesday, Smith pleaded not guilty to the murder charge lodged against him.
Mark Gutglueck

Bob Hammock, Supervisor During SBC’s “Golden Age Of Corruption,” Cashes Out

Bob Hammock

Bob Hammock

Bob Hammock, whose tenure in political office corresponded with a significant portion of the “Golden Age of Corruption” in San Bernardino County and whose tenure in county office was marked by his ability to do the bidding of his cronies and political benefactors while advancing and enriching them and himself, has died.
His parents, Lynn Benoit and Mary Etta (Sites) Hammock, came to San Bernardino County’s High Desert from Eagle Pass, Texas shortly before his birth. It was in Lenwood, near Barstow, that Robert Lynn Hammock was born on November 20, 1940. In 1944, the Hammock family moved to Rialto, where Bob received his education at San Bernardino High School, San Bernardino Valley College and California Polytechnic University in Pomona, where he majored in aeronautical engineering.
On January 17, 1959, Hammock married Anita Thumma, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Ralph W. Thumma. They raised a son, Ralph, and two daughters Kathy and Patricia. Over the years, Robert and Anita, prior to their divorce, welcomed nine foster children into their home.
From 1962 until 1969, Hammock was employed in the title business, becoming familiar with all elements of the real estate industry while working for the Title Insurance and Trust Company in San Bernardino. In 1968, he was elected to the San Bernardino City Council. In 1969, he went to work for Glen Ludwig as a civil engineering technician with the San Bernardino office of the Ludwig Engineering Company. In this capacity he became intimately familiar with the development industry.
At the same time, through his status as a councilman and volunteer work with the YMCA, the Boys’ Club, the Zoological Society, the Boy Scouts, serving as a coach of his son’s Little League team, as a sponsor of a girls’ softball team, and fundraising activity on behalf of the Arrowhead United Way, the March of Dimes, and the Jaycees, he husbanded important community-based contacts and connections. He also conceived and directed the “Newspapers for Viet Nam” program, by which the Sunday editions of the San Bernardino Sun-Telegram were mailed to serviceman from San Bernardino serving in Viet Nam. In 1976, he parlayed his considerable public stature into a successful run for Fifth District county supervisor, replacing Nancy Smith.
Hammock’s primary constituency as supervisor was the development industry, and he jockeyed as a supervisor to put himself into a position by which he could clear the way for development companies and individual developers to carry out their agendas and designs. In this way, he virtually commandeered control over one of the primary elements of governmental function: land use authority. He served as the head of the county’s redevelopment agency and as the vice-chairman of the San Bernardino County Industrial Development Authority. He served on the East Valley Planning Agency’s airport land use committee and East Valley Transit Service Authority. He was a member of the Omnitrans Board of Directors and wangled an appointment as California’s designee on the National Housing and Community Development Committee of the National Association of Counties.
His most effective gambit in taking control of the government’s regulatory function with regard to development was achieving a position on the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which possesses the authority to hash out jurisdictional and border disputes between the county’s cities and other governmental entities. During the era in which the LAFCO board was under Hammock’s influence, he used his power and votes on that panel to arrange deals with cities that were competing with their neighbors to annex properties between their then-existing mutual borders. Of significance to the development companies that coveted building within those disputed areas were the development standards that the cities intended to apply to that land once it was annexed. More exacting standards on infrastructure and restrictions on density could make developing that property less profitable than it would be otherwise. Accordingly, Hammock would ascertain which city would be willing to apply the least cumbersome land use standards and then make arrangements to have his Local Agency Formation Commission colleagues support giving that city the nod in making the annexation. This redounded to the benefit of his development industry patrons, who rewarded him with hefty political contributions which Hammock then utilized to wage effective election campaigns consisting of slick and glossy mailers sent to voters in the Fifth District, together with radio and newspaper advertisements and billboard ads, all of which kept him in office. In the 1980s, the Local Agency Formation Commission board also seated William Kragness, then a Fontana City Council member who would go on to become that city’s mayor. During Hammock’s and Kragness’s tenures, with developers and landowners connected to Hammock who had interests in or options on land in the Fontana area driving the agenda, LAFCO consistently granted Fontana’s annexation requests along its eastern border with Rialto and similarly accommodated its aggressive jurisdictional seizures along its western frontier with Rancho Cucamonga. In virtually all cases, Fontana committed to and delivered upon allowing the developers to build housing that was of inferior quality to that being built within the city limits of their adjoining communities, augmented by public improvements that were one, two or even three cuts below that which would have been tolerated on the other sides of the civic divides. Three decades later, Hammock’s legacy consists of neighborhoods at the periphery of Fontana that are marginal, at best. And today, the excesses of that time resonate, as Rancho Cucamonga has striven to ward off any further territory grabs along its extreme ends by maintaining a presence – a significant one – on the LAFCO board. Two of the LAFCO board’s seven voting members hail from Rancho Cucamonga: Rancho Cucamonga Councilwoman Diane Williams and James Curatalo, a member of the board of directors for the Cucamonga Valley Water District.
Hammock proved an astute politician. He was twice appointed chairman of the board of supervisors, serving in that capacity from 1980 until 1982 and again from 1985 to 1987. A Republican, he hewed to a pro-business philosophy and line, which coordinated perfectly with his pro-development political formula and provided him with cover on those relatively rare occasions when questions about his favorable treatment of his cronies and benefactors surfaced. He furthered his political reach by serving as a member of the executive board of Inland Manpower and as a member or alternate member of both the Tri-County Council on Criminal Justice and the San Bernardino County Criminal Justice Planning Committee. He was also a member of the Southern California Air Pollution Control District.
Following his initial election to the board of supervisors, he was reelected thrice, in 1980, 1984 and 1988. His power seemed to increase with his time in office, to the point that in 1990, he was at the height of his status as a public official.
Despite the marginal, highly questionable and even illegal activity Hammock involved himself in as an elected official, he was never held to account or prosecuted. Throughout the entirety of his time as a politician in San Bernardino County he functioned within an ambience in which self-dealing by politicians was not only tolerated but expected and accepted as a part of the county’s ethos. He developed a nonchalance with regard to the outrage his unabashed support of his financial supporters on occasion engendered, providing a standard answer to challenges of his votes and actions, telling those who inquired that he was “comfortable” with his votes. When county residents, citizens or his political opponents came forth with evidence, documentation or allegations of his wrongdoing, Hammock did not need to stand up for himself. Rather, he would be defended by his political colleagues, many of whom were emulating him, albeit with a lesser degree of audacity. Meanwhile, a cross section of his accusers found themselves as the targets of crooked high ranking county law enforcement officials and prosecutors, and at the mercy of dishonest judges aligned with the political establishment of which Hammock was a part, a circumstance that served to dissuade others from becoming too vocal in their opposition to him and providing him with further insulation.
He garnered the Republican nomination for Congress in California’s 36th District in 1990. In a contest against the entrenched Democratic incumbent, George Brown, Hammock came very close to ousting his opponent, garnering 47.2 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, that would prove to be Hammock’s high water mark, which somewhat ironically led to his political demise. The scrutiny that came with his run for national office led to revelations about the depth of his untoward associations with developers, the quid pro quos that were an undeniable element of his successful political formula and more and more hints about how he had utilized insider information gained from his position as a county supervisor to guide his investments or those of his friends, associates and family members in properties or buildings which were subsequently leased or purchased by the county. His divorce from Anita alienated many of his supporters.
In 1992, with then-assemblyman Jerry Eaves, a Democrat, announcing he would depart from Sacramento to vie for Fifth District supervisor, Hammock decided to again challenge Brown, in so doing foregoing running for reelection as supervisor. But with the rampant revelations about the backroom dealing he had engaged in on a constant basis, members of his own party had now come to see him as a liability. His political career was dealt what turned out to be a mortal blow when Bob Gouty, a Covina-based political consultant to Republican candidates who had handled Hammock’s electioneering efforts going back to his maiden run for supervisor, abandoned him in favor of Dick Rutan in the 1992 Republican Primary. Rutan outpolled Hammock in that election, knelling the end of Hammock’s days as an elected politician.
Nevertheless, he was able to capitalize, for a time, on the connections he had amassed while in office. He left San Bernardino for an upscale neighborhood in Redlands, and there he embarked on a fourth career as a lobbyist, working under the auspices of his firm, Empire Consulting. He yet had contacts with county government staff members whose careers he had helped advance, including top ranking members of the county’s planning division, later referred to as the land use services department, and the county real estate department. Calling in favors, for over a decade he was able to influence decisions at the level of the board of supervisors and the county’s administrative echelon that redounded to the benefit of his clients and associates, measurable in tens or hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars when they received county contracts or achieved approval of their project proposals.
The last several years of his life, Hammock carried out a spirited battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which did not prevent him from enjoying playing golf, traveling, and spending time with his family. On December 12, 2017, he passed into eternity. He is survived by his wife Barbara; sister Linda Butler and her husband, Alan; brother Kenneth; and his children, Kathy Martin and her husband Mike; Patricia Runzel and her husband Steve; his son Ralph and his wife Kathryn; five grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
Mr. Hammock’s family suggested that those who wish to honor and remember the former supervisor consider supporting the American Cancer Society or the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Mark Gutglueck

Puckett Forced Out As Apple Valley’s Assistant Manager & Finance Director

Marc Puckett, the Town of Apple Valley’s finance director who since 2011 has been serving as the town’s de facto assistant municipal manager, has been terminated.
Puckett had been on voluntary paid administrative leave since December 7, following a criminal filing against him on December 5 on a charge of felony hit and run driving arising out of a July 20, 2017 collision on Interstate 15 in Rancho Cucamonga.
Although it is widely recognized that the criminal charges leveled against Puckett precipitated his demise, the town is maintaining that the position he held is being eliminated “for financial reasons” effective as of this morning. No salary for the dual position Puckett held is being included in the budget for fiscal year 2018-2019, which begins on July 1.
The town sugarcoated the firing, nonetheless, conferring upon Puckett a severance package equal to six months pay and benefits, which totals $109,252 in monetary terms.
One of the reasons for not tying Puckett’s forced exit to the pending criminal case against him is to prevent him from taking legal action against the city in a wrongful termination suit, as Puckett has yet to go to trial on the charge, and he has entered a not guilty plea in the matter. Puckett has maintained that he left the scene of the accident because he was seeking a means to contact the Highway Patrol. He claims he did not have access to a cell phone after the accident.
The town
has been brought into the matter in a way it had not anticipated. The motorist whose car was hit by Puckett’s vehicle, Lola Espinoza, suffered injuries in the accident, and she filed a claim against not only Puckett and his insurance company but the town as well. On December 12, a week after the criminal charges were filed against Puckett, the town council denied Espinoza’s claim. It is yet anticipated that the town will be named in a lawsuit to be filed by Espinoza’s lawyer on her behalf.
According to the town, Puckett’s departure and the severance package were mutually arrived at three days after Christmas. Puckett has reportedly signed an agreement with the town to hold it harmless for any issues relating to his leaving.
Puckett’s departure was the first major action following Doug Robertson moving into the position of town manager January 1. Robertson, who since 2011 was the city manager in Victorville, accepted the position of town manager with Apple Valley in November following a four-month long recruitment drive to replace former Apple Valley Town Manager Frank Robinson that was carried out by the headhunting firm of Ralph Andersen & Associates.
Puckett was previously considered indispensable to Apple Valley’s operations, given his command of the town’s financial affairs. In the last two years, he served as the point man on the town’s efforts to engage in what is essentially a hostile takeover of Liberty Utilities, which is the town’s water purveyor. That effort is seen as a yet-to-be-accomplished administrative tour-de-force, with legal and financial components. The town is pursuing the takeover through the court, and has not ruled out the use of the eminent domain process. Simultaneously, the town is looking to raise the necessary capital to effectuate a buyout of Liberty’s Apple Valley assets, which the town once hopefully sought to accomplish by putting up a mere $54 million. It is now apparent that the takeover will under the most realistic of scenarios cost at least $109 million and could escalate to as much as $150 million.

Forum… Or Against ’em

By Count Friedrich von Olsen
The already absurd pasquinade of governance in Adelanto has now descended into buffoonery, with what appear to be competing charges of sexual harassment having been trotted out against both the mayor and the city manager…
In August, when Gabriel Elliott was brought in as Adelanto’s fifth actual or acting city manager in two-and-a-half years, Mayor Rich Kerr was all for the new arrangement. Only two months later, Mr. Gabriel and Mr. Kerr were apparently on the outs, or most certainly headed that way. That Adelanto is going though city managers only slightly less frequently than the average American changes coffee filters is a function, no doubt, of the upheaval that is accompanying the city’s move, in accordance with what might be arguably asserted is a larger societal shift, to make the production and sale of marijuana a central component of that city’s economy. Reasonable individuals can certainly disagree not only with regard to the wisdom of such an approach but the actual implementation of the policies and regulations accompanying it. Thus, the departure or replacement of a city manager or maybe even two in the meantime might have been expected. What is at this point clear, however, is that the breakneck intensity with which some strong personalities on the city council want to transform Adelanto into the Cannabis Capitol of the Western World does not match up with the vision, wisdom and advice of not just one or two but several professionals functioning within the norms of municipal governance. The reason for this urgency, or so the city officials consumed with the messianic zeal to make Adelanto so quintessentially marijuana-friendly contend, is the city’s dire financial state, which they reckon can only be adequately cured through capturing an advantage position in the now manifesting marijuana boom. But for some time a number of people have suspected that it is not just the city’s financial health that the marijuana crusaders are so concerned about. Rather, some aver, the true motivation is venality and greed, and that those pushing Adelanto toward a cannabis economy are looking to get in on a piece of the action themselves. Those suspicions were at least partially confirmed when Adelanto City Councilman Jermaine Wright was arrested by the FBI and charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with, among other things, receiving a bribe in exchange for using his authority in making arrangements to facilitate an undercover FBI agent’s putative marijuana distribution operation in Adelanto…
If we count, perhaps prematurely, Mr. Elliott as being the fifth city manager trampled in this mad marijuana stampede, the number of direct casualties of this sordid chapter of Adelanto’s history runs to at least 12, including the five city managers, Wright, three former city attorneys and at least three city employees who were perceived as obstructionists and were handed their walking papers on some pretext or other…
It appears that the pretext selected by Mayor Kerr to get rid of Mr. Elliott was the issue-de-jure, sexual harassment, a fixation recurrent within the national media of late. Not terribly imaginative, if you ask me, and perhaps too predictable. But such accusations were made. One of Mr. Elliott’s accusers alleges that over her protests Mr. Elliott prevailed upon her to accompany him to his home in Rancho Cucamonga following a civic event in that city in September. Mr. Elliott held her by the arm, she claimed. She managed to leave, she maintains, after Mr. Elliott discovered his son was present in the home. Mr. Elliott subsequently made inappropriate comments to her while she was in his office during a discussion of a sexual harassment investigation involving another employee, she said, and Mr. Elliott sent her texts inviting her to go dancing with him. A former intern in the city’s finance department alleges she accompanied the city manager to lunch on one occasion so she could air her complaint about a co-worker and that Mr. Elliott repeatedly asked her to lunch thereafter, all of which she refused, and that she was subsequently terminated. Another woman, a secretary in the city manager’s office, maintained that Mr. Elliott attempted to kiss her while she was telling him about her mistreatment by the city clerk…
On December 20, the city council met in closed session and, without any announcement, put Mr. Elliott on administrative leave as a result of the complaints. The following day, December 21, another Adelanto intern, one learning the ropes in the city’s animal control and code enforcement divisions, came forward with charges that Mayor Kerr has been pressuring her inappropriately, making her uncomfortable in her work environment, and creating an air of intimidation in which she was afraid to say “No.” Mr. Kerr sent her text messages on her private phone, the number for which he reportedly obtained by improperly accessing her confidential file at City Hall, according to the complaint. It is also alleged the mayor provided her with an unsolicited gift, put both hands on her shoulders, and at one point stroked her neck…
News Flash!!! Men chase women!!! Alert!!! Alert!!!
I know, all of this is different from simple man-woman stuff because it happened, or is alleged to have happened, in the work environment and was perpetrated, or allegedly perpetrated, by someone in authority over those subjected to these unwanted advances, and those so approached were put in a position where their jobs may have been on the line if they did not submit to those advances. I get that. But, did what was said to have happened really occur? Or are the allegations against the city manager falsified claims of someone being pressured by the mayor to assist him in his effort to discredit the city manager? And is the claim against the mayor bona fide? Or is it something concocted by the city manager to strike back at the mayor? In this supersensitive atmosphere in which any man at any level, even internally, acknowledging that a woman is attractive is now considered to have behaved impermissibly, it is very difficult to discern…

Grizzly Bears

Grizzly BearsWell within its history as a political entity, which initiated in 1853, San Bernardino County was host to grizzly bears. The large and fierce creatures are no longer a local phenomenon, with the last in this neck of the woods having been killed in the late 1880s or early 1890s. Nevertheless, biologists maintain that the California Grizzly, once scientifically referred to as Ursus horribilis, at one time had a population within the entire state that ranged to as high as 10,000. A fair number of those resided in the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains, and were present as well in the lowlands, though likely in lesser numbers.
That they proliferated in the San Bernardino Mountains is attested to by the names given to Bear Valley and Big Bear Lake by Benjamin D. Wilson in 1845, when, during an expedition into that marshy area at an approximate elevation of 6,700 feet, he encountered several of the creatures, and the men with his party bagged 11 of them, retaining the pelts.
In Southern California, grizzlies lived along the coast, near rivers, and in chaparral. Biologists say they would avoid entirely, or at least were far less fond of, the deserts and the coniferous forests associated with black bears today.
Opportunistic feeders, the grizzlies would eat whatever was available, including berries and roots, ground squirrels and fish. They were adept at digging in search of gophers, weasels, and other subterranean rodents. They did not seek out large prey, but would, if the circumstance presented them with the occasion, chase mountain lions and other smaller predators away from their kills.
Grizzlies were essentially indigenous to Southern California, having come into the area around 12,000 years ago along with a host of large mammals from north of the continent’s ice sheet such as bison, elk, moose, wolf, and humans.
For millennia, grizzlies coexisted with native Californians. The Indians were wary of the animals, which grew aggressive when startled or provoked, and proved dangerous because of their ferocity and willingness to kill humans to protect their territory and young. There is evidence that local Indians used brushfires to clear the landscape of places where bears could hide. Native Californians, however, did not engage in wholesale slaughter of the powerful animals, which could stand as tall as 9 feet and weigh from 400 to 750 pounds. Local bear populations remained stable for centuries.
The eighteenth-century arrival of Europeans upset that equilibrium. Grazing cattle and sheep destroyed the region’s native prairies and thus many of the bear’s natural food sources, but they also represented easily obtainable meat. Grizzly populations for a time boomed where livestock ranged. Ultimately, however, the newcomers brought doom for the grizzly as they expanded into areas in proximity to the bears. Ranchers, miners, and farmers all saw the bear as a menace, particularly when venturing into previously unsettled areas. Grizzlies do not usually antagonize humans but will more than stand their ground.
While unarmed humans could find themselves at the mercy of a grizzly bear, the predominant hostility in the long haul went the other way. Beginning with the Spanish settlers in California, the bears were hunted for sport or were captured and then put in rings with their hind legs staked to the ground, so that bulls could be sent charging in at them. A typical bear would vanquish a half dozen bulls before succumbing to a repetition of gore wounds. Eventually the object of most human-bear encounters became extermination.
In 1859 while in Los Angeles, William Holcomb and a companion, Jack Martin, heard of the Bear Valley diggings in the San Bernardino Mountains. They set out to make a try at working claims there. Forcing their horses through deep snow to get to the diggings, they reached Bear Valley, which had been dubbed “Starvation Flatts” by its discouraged group of miners, who were finding little. Like the others, Holcomb suffered from the lack of supplies and minimal gold finds in the rural mountain community. Called “the best sharpshooter west of the Mississippi,” Holcomb was asked by the miners to shoot some of the grizzly bears living in the area for their meat. Holcomb was able to bring back dead bears to feed the starving miners. He was nicknamed “Grizzly Bill” because he was known to have killed many bears. Over the next 30 years, he was said to have finished off all the bears in Bear Valley.
Ludwig Salvator, an Austrian prince who traveled through Southern California in 1876, was highly impressed by the region’s native flora and fauna. He wrote of the grizzly: “In the habit of roving at night, [the grizzly] goes out after swine as well as many kinds of roots, fruits, and vegetables. Owing to the zealousness of hunters who wage constant warfare on this troublesome neighbor, he is daily growing rarer.”
Their numbers being decimated, whatever bears who had become acclimated to the flat lowlands retreated to the chaparral-covered hillsides. By the 1890s they were unheard of in the flatlands and extremely rare in the most inaccessible of places. A large male bear, later named Monarch, was captured in Los Angeles County in 1889, and the last known specimen in the San Gabriel Mountains was shot on May 16, 1894. In 1908, the last wild grizzly bear in Southern California was killed by a retired game warden in Trabuco Canyon in Orange County.
A quarter of a century later, the state Fish and Game service introduced the Yosemite black bears to Southern California in 1933.

Grace Bernal’s California Style: Lavender

Style 01 05Happy 2018! What will the new year bring to the fashion scene? Last year there were some pieces shown on the runways which foretasted 2018. In Southern California, the trend is based on weather, along with an emphasis on being casual and cool. Add to that a hint of chic. With that said, let’s begin with color. It’s all about lavender this January. The color is light and perfect for the sunny days we’ve been experiencing, not to mention being perfect as a focal point. And with February coming up next, lavender is a great color for romance. You can take a lavender approach in the forms of a blazer, tops, cozy sweater, dress, and wrap coat. You can add a pop of color to your cold-weather wardrobe this January and make a lavender statement. Try pairing a lavender top and white leather jacket, lavender sweater and white booties, or a lavender dress with a pair of sneakers. The color lavender is lovely and perfect for January because it’s the first month of the new year, including love. Have fun with this pop of color, get creative with it, and stay chic.
“Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” -Alice Walker