By clicking on the blue portal below, you can download a PDF of the May 25 edition of the San Bernardino County Sentinel.
By Mark Gutglueck
An embryonic move toward disincorporating Adelanto prompted the city council this week to break the deadlock it has suffered through over the last several months, and install an acting city manager.
Brad Letner, who recently left his position as the executive director of the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce after nearly four years running that organization in his first civilian assignment after retiring as a lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army, was selected to serve in the capacity of Adelanto’s acting city manager by a unanimous vote of the four current members of the council during a closed session Wednesday night.
Letner’s presence at City Hall is necessitated by the acrimonious meltdown between Mayor Rich Kerr and City Manager Gabriel Elliott, who has been on an extended leave of absence since December.
The dispute between Kerr and Elliott reflects a larger struggle between traditionally conservative forces in and outside the High Desert city of 35,000 and a more venturesome contingent of residents and entrepreneurs who have moved over the last three years toward embracing the cultivation, processing, distribution and marketing of marijuana and cannabis products as a means of financially rejuvenating the city’s private and public sectors. That shift has paralleled the social and legal acceptance of marijuana as both a medicine and an intoxicant, as medical marijuana dispensaries first made legal with the passage of 1996’s Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use of Marijuana Act, began to proliferate in earnest in the last few years and then voters in 2016 passed Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, legalizing the recreational use of the drug.
Kerr intrepidly put himself at the forefront of that movement, militating with the solid support of his council colleagues Jermaine Wright and John Woodard and the wishy-washy support of councilman Charles Glasper. The four sought, first, in 2015 to welcome large scale marijuana cultivation operations into the city’s industrial park zone, and subsequently, beginning in 2016 and into 2017, expand the tolerance of cannabis-related operations from agricultural production of medical marijuana to permitting all order of commercial marijuana activity. Though the city’s new policy ran diametrically counter to the social mores and laws that had been in place for generations and reversed the accustomed governmental role of prohibiting marijuana possession, use, and trafficking while imposing upon offenders stiff penalties including decade-long prison sentences for disobeying those laws, Kerr, Woodard, Wright and their supporters braved the uncertain political waters and the reactionary legions arrayed against them. Patiently and persistently, they asserted that the wealth to be realized from getting in on the ground floor of the marijuana revolution was too substantial to turn down, and that the city stood, by simply levying assessments on the proceeds in terms of permits and taxes, to create a revenue stream that would in short order offset the dire financial situation the city government had been in for more than a decade. In 2013, Adelanto had been on the doorstep of bankruptcy, at which time the city council, as previously composed, had declared the city in a state of fiscal emergency.
The mad frenzy that brought dozens, then scores and eventually hundreds of applicants for business licenses into City Hall, a seeming fulfillment of the promise that Kerr and his ruling coalition had made that the new policy would turn the city around financially, at first stymied the mayor’s critics. But in November 2017, several months after an undercover federal task force of investigators including ones from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Securities Exchange Commission had come into town, Councilman Wright was arrested by the FBI on a warrant prepared by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in which it was alleged that he had made arrangements to accept a bribe from an undercover FBI agent in return for assisting the agent, posing as an applicant for a business permit for a marijuana distribution operation in the city, in cutting through city red tape and avoiding or getting around city zoning and code regulations. Since the time of his arrest on November 7, Wright has yet to be freed from custody. In January, after having missed more than two months of regularly scheduled meetings of the council, he was removed from office, as is specified by state law. In the meantime, Glasper, who had been made skittish by Wright’s arrest, dropped out of Kerr’s ruling coalition in seeming abandonment of the momentum which had enabled the marijuanification of Adelanto, and began siding on a number of crucial votes, in particular those pertaining to zone changes that would permit the expansion of the areas within the city where commercial cannabis activity could take place, with councilman Ed Camargo, who had been steadfast in his opposition to liberalizing the city’s policy with regard to activity relating to marijuana all along. This created a number of instances in which speculators, who had purchased property within Adelanto based on assurances provided to them by Kerr, Woodard and/or Wright that the property would soon be rezoned to permit marijuana cultivation or cannabis-related product manufacturing or sales, found themselves with property they could not develop as they envisioned nor sell or lease it to others who had the intent of using it for commercial cannabis activity. As those entities began to pressure Kerr and Woodard, the mayor and his ally turned to City Manager Gabriel Elliott to assist them in delivering on the promises they had made. But Elliott, who had been elevated to the city’s top staff position from his previous billet of the city’s development services director by the Kerr-led council in August 2017, had misgivings all along with regard to the aggressive move toward a cannabis-based economy for the city. He had gone along with that program when it was being pushed by a four-member council majority, but in the light of Wright’s arrest and Glasper’s reluctance to stay that course, Elliott too resisted the call by Kerr and Woodard to continue with the zone changes that would make more and more property within the city available for growing, processing or selling marijuana.
Elliott’s instransigence on this point angered Kerr and Woodard. In December, Kerr orchestrated the filing of three sexual harassment complaints against Elliott by two city employees and an intern. Elliott was immediately put on paid administrative leave while those complaints were investigated. In early March of this year, an independent investigator delivered her finding that the complaints against Elliott could not be sustained. Nevertheless, neither Kerr nor Woodard would support ending Elliott’s suspension. Their unwillingness to reestablish Elliott, who remains under suspension and continues to draw $18,000 per month under that status, is widely perceived to stem from his resistance to the agenda of accommodating cannabis-related business applications and approvals at a pace in keeping with Kerr and Woodard’s expectations. Since December, Kerr has made seven separate attempts to fire Elliott by placing performance and job reviews for him on the council’s meeting agenda for discussion in closed sessions. To effectuate Elliott’s firing, Kerr and Woodard need a third vote, which neither Glasper nor Camargo have been willing to supply.
On June 5, corresponding with this year’s gubernatorial primary election, the city is holding a special election to replace Wright. Three candidates are vying in that contest: Planning Commissioner Joy Jeannette, former council and mayoral candidate Ron Beard and Diana Esmeralda-Holte. Jeannette is one of Kerr’s political allies. If she is elected, it is anticipated she will supply the third vote to hand Elliott a pink slip.
Following Elliott’s suspension in December, the council agreed to appoint Mike Milhiser, an experienced city manager who had previously led the cities of Montclair, Ontario and Upland for a quarter century and served in the interim city manager capacity in Adelanto from February to July 2017, to return in an interim capacity. Regulations imposed by the California’s public employees’ pension system, however, prevent Milhiser, a retiree, from working more than 960 hours within a fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30. Thus, Milhiser was obliged to step down as acting city manager at the beginning of May. Kerr sought to fill that gap with the city’s current director of development services, Charles Rangel, who, Kerr felt, might prove amenable to his designs with regard to rezoning to accommodate the dozens of speculators who have already purchased land or are in escrow to buy land upon which they hope they will be able to operate cannabis-based businesses. Though Kerr made his best pitch to Camargo and Glasper, neither would give him the necessary third vote to hand the keys of the city to Rangel on a temporary basis.
On May 8, FBI and IRS agents armed with search warrants descended upon Adelanto City Hall, the Jet Room medical marijuana dispensary located at 17499 Adelanto Road just south of Joshua Avenue in Adelanto, a law office in the City of San Bernardino where the corporate headquarters for the Jet Room’s parent company is located, as well as Mayor Kerr’s Adelanto home. That search related to the continuation of the investigation into further graft allegations similar to the charges leveled against Wright. In the aftermath of that episode, individuals yet unidentified to the Sentinel initiated inquiries with regard to dissolving Adelanto as a city.
One indication of that effort was made in the Adelanto City Council Chambers after the adjournment of this week’s council meeting. Prior to the public portion of the meeting, the council in closed session had discussed and voted upon Letner’s hiring as acting city manager. Upon adjourning into an open public session, City Attorney Ruben Duran announced Letner’s selection, based upon a motion by Kerr which was seconded by Camargo and unanimously approved by the entire council. Letner was then sworn in, and took the city manager’s place on the council dais. During the public communications portion of the meeting, a woman whom Kerr summoned to the speaker’s podium by identifying her merely by first name – “Bobbie” – addressed the council, offering comments that were somewhat critical of City Clerk Cindy Herrera. After the meeting adjourned, Herrera and Bobbie had an exchange, which is audible on the city council meeting video, as the video and its audio continued to record. Herrera offered Bobbie a defense of her 30-plus year career with the city, including her tenure as both city clerk, then the time she served as city manager, followed by her return to her role as city clerk. As their back-and-forth continued, beginning at the 2 hour 5 minute and 40 second point on the council meeting video, Herrera can be heard telling Bobbie that she had received a call from an individual who was seeking to initiate disincorporation proceedings against the city. Herrera said she had informed Duran of the contact and the caller’s intended goal, which she said she hoped the city attorney had passed along to the city council.
Thus, the newfound urgency the city council had in bringing in Letner as city manager can be viewed as having issued from a concern that the city’s drift over the last several months has left it vulnerable to in fact being disincorporated. In this light, the rare accommodation between the two factions on the council displayed this week appears to be an effort to infuse the city with structure and leadership that has been notably lacking.
The San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission oversees jurisdictional issues throughout the county and would serve as the adjudicating body for any disincorporation effort involving the county’s 24 municipalities. Kathleen Rollings-McDonald, the executive director of the Local Agency Formation Commission, on May 24 told the Sentinel, “There is no official application on file with the Local Agency Formation Commission related to a disincorporation for the City of Adelanto. There have been no formal discussions about such a proposal, but there have been questions regarding what such a process would entail. Disincorporation is a very complex process which requires a formal initiation by either a petition or resolution of application, the preparation of a plan for service and fiscal impact analysis which would outline how the services currently provided would transition and the anticipated reallocation of revenues.”
Councilman Ed Camargo told the Sentinel on May 24 that he was uninformed about any effort to have Adelanto disincorporate, indicating that his willingness to join with Kerr, Woodard and Glasper in hiring Letner into the interim manager’s assignment was not prompted by concern over efforts to dissolve the city as a governing entity or jurisdiction.
Asked if he had acceded to hiring Letner because of a belief that as a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Letner would be unlikely to go along with Kerr and Woodard’s agenda in opening the city to further cannabis-based operations, Camargo said he did not have adequate information to make such a pronouncement.
As to whether his seconding of Kerr’s motion to hire Letner could be seen as an expression of confidence in the new acting city manager and the direction he will take the city in, Camargo said, “I’ll hold my comment until I see how his performance is on a day-to-day basis.”
The city has yet to work out the details of Letner’s remuneration. As a lieutenant colonel, he was paid $89,000 annually. As chamber of commerce executive director, he was paid $71,000 per year. It is anticipated that in Adelanto, he will receive a monthly salary in the neighborhood of $13,000, pro-rating him toward an annual salary of $150,000, topping substantially the amount of money he made in his previous assignments. On top of that, he will also receive benefits somewhere between $20,000 and $35,000 per year.
Kerr, in announcing the hiring Thursday morning in a prepared statement, called Letner “the right person at the right time.”
The bad blood between Upland City Councilwoman Janice Elliott and her council colleagues which evolved last year out of her unwillingness to fully endorse the closure of the city’s municipal fire department and the annexation of the entirety of Upland City Limits into a county fire service assessment zone has not abated.
Next week, at a meeting to be held Tuesday rather than on Monday because of the Memorial Day Holiday, the council will consider a resolution censuring her for what some members of the council consider to be conduct unbecoming an elected official in the City of Gracious Living.
The resolution itself reads like a charge sheet, dwelling in some detail with regard to certain accusations against the councilwoman. The resolution pulls up short in relation to other accusations enumerated, however, omitting details with regard to some controversial issues that remain problematic for the city.
According to the resolution, “The city council has determined that Council Member Janice Elliott has engaged in conduct which has brought embarrassment and discredit to the city council and improperly publicly disclosed confidential documents and information.” It further states that Elliott “breached the trust and confidence of the other city council members through public disclosures of confidential and privileged council communications.”
Moreover, according to the resolution, Elliot “improperly exceeded the scope of her authority and duties as a council member by interfering with city staff and management in daily personnel and operational matters and improperly and secretly engaged in communications and settlement negotiations with litigants suing the city without having the advance knowledge or consent of the city, potentially disclosing or prejudicing the city’s litigation confidentiality and strategy.”
Part of the resolution dwells on Elliott’s participation on social media sites, in particular one known as “Upland Uncensored,” a wide-ranging free-for-all in which topics and information germane to Upland, its residents, businesses, institutions and officials are bandied about in a forum that is raucous and often ill-tempered, and facts, conjecture, rumor and inaccuracy are circulated unfiltered, with each posting embodying the personality of its originator, and those offering a perspective from one side or another being skewered and insulted with equal abandon by those offering a different perspective, often in the most meanspirited of tones.
The resolution further takes Elliott to task for “repeatedly speaking publicly about discussions held in closed session, and commenting publicly in a manner that is detrimental to the city’s position in pending litigation only two weeks after agreeing not to discuss or comment on any such litigation” together with “improperly disclosing confidential information regarding a performance of a city employee.”
The resolution cites examples of Elliott having had direct contact with city employees rather than working to influence city policy by direction given to the city manager through a vote of the full council.
The resolution takes issue with Elliott having identified herself as an Upland City Council member when she communicated with Rancho Cucamonga city officials and encouraged them to avoid entirely or severely limit development in or around an existing natural wildlife preserve so that habitat for threatened or endangered species is kept intact. The resolution says this amounted to Elliott “misusing her position as a city council member.”
The resolution and the staff report accompanying it, to say nothing of the general atmosphere in the city during public events associated with City Hall and at city council meetings, indicates Eliott’s council colleagues’ distaste for her. It was not originally so.
Elliott, who was first elected in November 2016 in a neck-and-neck seesaw race against second place finisher and establishment-backed candidate Sid Robinson, at her first council meeting as an elected official was a party to the motion to have Robinson, as the second place finisher in the just-concluded contest, appointed to fill the gap on the city council created when Councilwoman Debbie Stone, in the middle of her second elected term on the council, was elected mayor in the same November 2016 balloting. Already afoot when Elliott came into office was the cash-strapped city’s effort to shutter its 110-year-old fire department and replace it with firefighters with the San Bernardino County Fire Division. That ploy involved annexing the city into a county fire service zone, thereby imposing on all of the city’s property owners a $156 per year per parcel assessment, the upshot of which was that the city was able to generate some $3.5 million in revenue without having to get prior approval from the city’s residents for that tax. Elliott in December 2016, then again in January and February 2017, fell in line with her council colleagues and senior city staff in supporting the municipal fire department closure and annexation, as it was packaged and presented to the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission, the government entity that processes annexation applications. In March 2017, however, as more and more residents began to rally against and actively oppose the fire department closure/county service zone annexation, Elliott sought to indulge that protest. Other city officials, feeling it imperative that City Hall stand united in pushing the annexation through, sought, at first somewhat gently and then more firmly, to dissuade Elliott from giving opponents to the city’s action a platform or mouthpiece from which to invite or incite further opposition. When Elliot proved unwilling to ignore the protest against the annexation and rather pushed for a more robust debate on the issue, her four-month honeymoon with her council colleagues came to an end. The souring of the relationship was steep and pronounced. As then-acting city manager Martin Thouvenell sought to preserve the public perception that City Hall stood as a monolith in favor of the annexation, Elliott grew to perceive the efforts to silence her and discredit her, as well as moves to squelch debate and discussion on issues of public import, to be illegitimate. When a document titled “In-House Policy of the Upland City Council” setting forth what was essentially a secret code of conduct for the council members was proffered by councilwoman Carol Timm for consideration by the council during a closed session, Elliott, unlike her four colleagues, did not sign it as she was called upon to do, but had the presence of mind to photograph it with her cell phone after it had been signed by the others. Sensing that the presentation of a behavior code for the council fell outside the subject matter of what is permissible for discussion during a closed session – legitimate issues for such discussions being potential, contemplated, pending or ongoing litigation, information or negotiations relating to real estate transactions, labor negotiations and employee hiring, firing or discipline – Elliott approached the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office to report what she thought was conceivably a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, California’s open public meeting law. Ultimately, the district attorney’s office closed out the matter with an agreement not to prosecute the council members after Upland City Attorney James Markman, faced with the proof of the Brown Act violation in the form of the photograph of the In-House Policy document taken by Elliott, without admitting guilt on the part of his clients acknowledged the violation. Markman committed to prevent any further violations from taking place in the future. The city council, embarrassed over what had occurred and angry with Elliott, in June 2017 moved to strip her of the adjunct board and committee assignments she had been given as a council member, consisting of her role as the alternate Upland representative on the Inland Empire Utility Agency; Upland’s representative on the San Bernardino County Interagency Council on Homelessness; and member of the City of Upland Investments Committee.
Since that time, relations between Elliott and other city officials have remained testy. Simultaneously, with the imposition of the fire district annexation and its accompanying assessments, there has been growing dissatisfaction among residents with the direction of City Hall. Many of those on the outs with the current political establishment in Upland have come to see Elliott as the champion of their various causes. There have been no changes on the city council since last year, and Interim City Manager Martin Thouvenell’s administration of city business has given way to Bill Manis, who was hired into the city manager’s spot earlier this year. Manis and Assistant City Manager Jeannette Vagnozzi are attuned to the prerogatives and imperatives of the council majority. With regard to virtually every issue that has come before the city over which Elliott has expressed a substantive difference with her fellow and sister councilors, she has not prevailed. It is common for motions Elliott makes during the course of public council discussions to die from lack of a second. Still the same, as the November elections approach, there is a perception, perhaps mistaken or overblown, that the city council majority in Upland, for all of its seeming absolute power in effectuating governance currently, is out of step with a substantial portion of the city’s population. A central element of that perception is the city’s seeming intolerance for dissent. Mayor Debbie Stone has increasingly made use of her control of the power switch to the public speaker’s podium microphone, cutting off members of the public addressing the council during council meeting in mid-sentence whenever it is her perception that the speaker is broaching, or is on the verge of broaching, a subject of sensitivity to the council or one that is otherwise problematic. This is reflected in some of the language used to repudiate Elliott in the censure resolution, such that the resolution in places comes across as a polemic rather than a straightforward recitation of facts.
“The council wishes it known that this public censure does not arise out of any good faith disagreement by or with Council Member Elliott on any matter, as good faith disagreement and debate are expected, encouraged and welcome,” the resolution states.
It is Elliott, according to the resolution, who is creating an atmosphere in which the free expression of ideas cannot be maintained.
Elliott’s comportment, the resolution says, “has caused all other council members to lose confidence in their ability to speak candidly with Council Member Elliott in both open and closed session, thus impairing the council from engaging in candid discussion and debate on pending matters.”
Elliott told the Sentinel, “These allegations are untrue and/or mischaracterizations of the truth. I have not meshed well with the council’s culture of secrecy and for this reason, I am the target of their political power. I was elected to do a job and this council has done everything in its power to prevent me from doing this. I have nothing to hide.”
Elliott said, “I would like to clarify the reasons I filed a protest statement on the fire service annexation and publicly stated so: I assumed that when residents received their public hearing notice, there would be a form attached that they could complete and submit. I was horrified when the notification came as a tri-fold, stapled form with the Local Agency Formation Commission’s return address. It looked like junk mail that most people recycle upon receipt. When I investigated the protest procedure, I discovered that it was not user friendly; required a computer, the ability to locate the correct case number on the Local Agency Formation Commission’s website, and required the parcel number of the property or the recipient’s name exactly as it appears on your ballot at election time. I thought the process was undemocratic and contrary to Proposition 13 intentions.”
Elliott continued, “At the Local Agency Formation Commission hearing in San Bernardino, I was told by Martin Thouvenell that the fire fees would not be increased after the annexation but that the county projected an increase in revenues because of increased compliance measures. When confronted with evidence that this would not be the case, Martin Thouvenell said he would work something out with the county. I did not believe him.
So although I supported the opportunity to lower the future pension costs and lower disability claims, I felt that the citizens should have the right to vote on this. Those are the reasons why I filed a protest form against the annexation of Upland’s fire services.”
Elliott said, “I have retained the services of an attorney, Thomas D. Allison, who is completely devoted to seeing my rights defended. Thomas is an experienced trial attorney with training and education in public administration and policy. It is my intent to defend myself against these accusations and continue to do the job I was elected to do.”
Two years after Oscar Valdez was appointed by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to serve out the remaining two years on Larry Walker’s term as the county treasurer-tax collector/auditor-controller, he is now standing for reelection in an effort to remain in the position another four years.
Seeking to prevent Valdez from laying claim to the office in his own electoral right is Ensen Mason, who twice challenged Walker for the office, in 2010 and 2014. To Mason, Valdez’s hold on the office represents a continuation of the county’s financial, investment and oversight policies that have prevailed for the last 20 years, when Walker was first elected to the combined officers of recorder/auditor-controller in 1998, and with which Mason has significant differences. Twelve years after Walker became auditor-controller-recorder, the county engaged in a reorganization involving four of its elected offices. It eliminated the treasurer-tax collector position as one that stood alone and merged it with that of the auditor-controller. It moved the county recorder function to the county assessor’s office. Simultaneously, it had the public administrator function relating to the administering of decedents’ estates, which had until that time resided with the county treasurer-tax collector, handed off to the sheriff, who seven years before had absorbed the function of the coroner.
At that time, Mason went on the record as opposing the merging of the treasurer and auditor functions. The following year, the San Bernardino County Grand Jury echoed Mason’s concerns in this regard. In its 2010-2011 report, the grand jury stated, “It is notable that the grand jury found no county where as many important positions are held concurrently by one person as is the case with the San Bernardino County auditor-controller/treasurer/tax collector and county clerk. While the combination of offices is allowable under Government Code §24300, the grand jury finds, in practice, in San Bernardino County the controller’s office, not the auditor’s office, does the risk assessment that determines which departments are to be audited. This chain of authority may not have been anticipated when the consolidation was deemed to be beneficial to the county. San Bernardino County is not out of the norm in combining the controller/auditor function. However, we are not the first grand jury to point out the inherent problems in this and to recommend a separation of the auditor’s function from the controller’s function.” The grand jury said that was particularly the case in the aftermath of those offices being were merged with that of the county treasurer.
According to the grand jury, the merger created a potential conflict and potentially tainted the autonomy and objectivity of the county’s audit function.
The same year that Walker was first elected auditor-controller, 1998, succeeding Errol Mackzum in the post, the FBI was delving into the dealings of more than a half dozen county officials – including San Bernardino County’s highest ranking staff member, Chief Administrative Officer James Hlawek; elected Treasurer Thomas O’Donnell, and the county’s Investment Officer Sol Levin – who were suspected of taking bribes from individuals and corporations doing business with the county. In 1999, Hlawek, O’Donnell and Levin were indicted along with others, all of whom in rapid succession agreed to plead guilty. The indictment revealed that O’Donnell, Levin, Hlawek and Hlawek’s predecessor as top county administrator, Harry Mays, had involved themselves in a series of kickback schemes. In one, in exchange for bribes and all expenses paid excursions to Costa Rica, Greece, France and Florida, from 1992 until 1998 Mays, Hlawek, O’Donnell and Levin provided Salomon Smith Barney and the New England Adjustable Rate Government Fund with contracts to invest more than $7.5 billion in public funds in financial instruments from which money was creatively spun off to brokers, resulting in an estimated loss or diversion of at least $20 million in taxpayer money over that six-year period.
The 2010 merger of the treasurer/tax collector’s office with that of the auditor-controller eliminated a crucial layer of independent scrutiny of the county treasurer’s function.
Eight years after the merger occurred, Mason still insists the conflict-of-interest the combining of those offices and functions represents is as critical as ever and will not simply go away. He said Valdez’s tolerance for that conflict of interest is an indicator of his unsuitability in the auditor-controller/treasurer/tax collector’s post.
“This campaign is the culmination of a decade of research, and explaining to the public how the financial planning and services businesses of San Bernardino County should be structured,” Mason told the Sentinel. “I’m a 30-year certified public accountant who has represented over 10,000 individual taxpayers as their advocate before overreaching government agencies, from the Internal Revenue Service to local county departments. I am also an enrolled agent, a certified financial analyst and I have an MBA in finance as well as securities and insurance licenses. I am the only candidate who holds any of these qualifications.”
Mason said, “The only qualification appointed incumbent Oscar Valdez holds is the ‘catchall’ – if you’ve been given the job, you can run to keep it. I’m the only truly qualified candidate. I’m also the only independent candidate. I’ll represent the voters who elected me and only them. There’s an old saying in politics regarding influence buying: ‘Follow the Money.’ I encourage you to do so in this race. You will see that I have financed my own campaign – only my conscience and principles are guiding me. Oscar Valdez, the appointed incumbent, was hand-picked for this job by county insiders just two years ago, and they are investing heavily in his campaign now. Look for yourself – county supervisors, the assessor, big businesses doing business with the county – his financial report is a who’s who of insiders with financial connections and big hopes.”
Valdez is tied to the establishment and its conflict-of-interest-laden way of doing business, Mason said.
“I ran unsuccessfully against Oscar’s old boss Larry Walker for this job in 2010 and 2014 to talk about financial mismanagement issues,” Mason said. “Oscar was loyal to Larry back then, and was rewarded with the top job when Larry suddenly decided to step down mid-term in 2016. One of my major concerns has always been adding the auditor-controller function to the treasurer/tax collector. I spoke out against the conflict of interest with the auditor examining the treasurer operations and then both reporting to the same person. My concerns were overridden at the board of supervisors level, and we will never know how much impact the $75,000 increase to Walker’s base pay had on the decision.”
Mason said that Valdez has now inherited the salary enhancement that was conferred upon Walker as a consequence of the 2010 merger. The money he is personally reaping in this way, Mason said, has blinded Valdez, just as it blinded Walker, to the fuller implication of the arrangement in which he is serving in the role of watchdog, as auditor, of his function as treasurer. This extends to the looming pension crisis hanging over the county, in which the ever greater cost of paying retirees in their golden years while they are no longer working is on a trajectory to bankrupt the county. Since a higher salary means an individual will draw a higher pension upon retirement, and because Walker and Valdez are both beneficiaries of that broken system, Mason said, neither was or is motivated to fix it, though that was and is their duty as the county’s treasurer and controller.
“We do know that Walker’s sidekick and career bureaucrat Valdez gets that extra money today,” Mason said. “And we know the first thing I’m doing if I get elected auditor-controller/treasurer/tax collector is calling for an outside panel of financial experts to provide options on how our county gets the best financial management at the lowest costs – and pension consequences be damned! I’ve never had a government pension and don’t want one. The costs are unsustainable and bourn on the backs of private citizens.”
Mason said it appeared that Valdez was appointed to keep financial issues threatening the county’s solvency buried.
“So, while we’re asking questions, why did Larry Walker retire in mid-term anyway?” Mason asked. “He ran for another four year term in 2014, and then orchestrated a mid-term handoff to his handpicked chief auditor. Almost looks planned doesn’t it? But planned with whom? The people that would have to rubber stamp it, right? That would be the board of supervisors. Last year they replaced appointed County CEO Greg Devereaux with Chief Financial Officer Gary McBride after a thorough nationwide search. OK. They also replaced longtime appointed County Counsel Rene Basle with Chief Deputy County Counsel Michelle Blakemore after a thorough nationwide search. Fair enough. But when they replaced the suddenly ‘retired’ elected official Auditor-Controller/Treasurer/Tax Collector Larry Walker with Chief Auditor Oscar Valdez two years ago, there was no nationwide search. They rammed through a quickie internal ‘search’ and swiftly came to the prearranged conclusion – Larry’s mini me, Oscar! Then they shoved it through a quick board vote with no debate and the swamp claimed another Frankenstein-like creation. It was a shell game. What kind of leadership was that? No national search, no widespread publicity, no special election to give voters a chance to pick – just a quickie political hit-and-run. ‘Move along people, nothing to see here. We’ve got it all covered up nice and neat. Run along now!’ I think it’s time to drain the swamp!”
Mason said the voters should take note that Valdez sought to unravel his electoral bid through a court challenge and failed.
“Oscar was so afraid of my unprogrammed candidacy that he challenged my ballot designation of taxpayer advocate/CPA in San Bernardino Superior Court. After weeks of legal maneuvering and my lengthy testimony before Judge David Cohn, I was completely vindicated, My ballot designation of taxpayer advocate/CPA is officially court-authorized and Oscar was ordered to pay costs for his frivolous attempt to mislead the public.”
Mason gave a final pitch to the voters. “I am endorsed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and taxpayers across the county. I support Proposition 13 and stand for thoroughly auditing every county department.”
A citizens committee that had earlier this year initiated a petition drive to qualify a countywide initiative for the November ballot aimed at reducing members of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to part time status and imposing on that panel’s members a commensurate reduction in pay has elected to suspend that effort until 2020.
The Red Brennan Group, which is named after the late government reform advocate who qualified a similar initiative for the ballot in 2012, took up the reform gauntlet last October, thirteen months ahead of the November 2018 election, giving its members what they anticipated would be sufficient lead time to qualify a comprehensive government reform package for the ballot. They had hoped to get two initiatives with a variety of local government reform provisions before the county’s voters for consideration this year. From the outset, however, obstacles strewn in the group’s path by county officials resulted in complications and delays that have led to them putting the initiative process on hold.
Dubbed by the reform advocates as the “Leadership Accountability Initiative,” the first measure included a variety of features designed to constrain local government’s access to resources, and reduce the expanding girth of county government. The initiative called for transforming the county supervisors’ positions to part time and dispensing with the position of county chief executive officer (CEO) by reinstating the position of county administrative officer as the county’s highest ranking staff member. This proposed reform was aimed at undoing action taken by the county in 2010, by which the CEO position was instituted, installing in its holder wide-ranging autonomy over key elements of the county’s governmental function. The CEO’s employment contract ultimately resulted in a yearly compensation package exceeding $560,000. Further, the agreement conferred upon the CEO a so-called superbonus, which provided job protection that prevented his or her dismissal from being effectuated by a simple 3-2 majority of the board and required nothing less than a 4-to-1 vote to terminate the contract. The CEO was also given absolute autonomy over all county department heads, in the form of authority to hire and fire them without board approval.
Perceiving an increasing danger of a highly compensated “ruling class,” the Red Brennan Group framed its initiative to further constrain the county bureaucracy by adjusting compensation for those in county elected office. The initiative pegged compensation of elected officials – supervisors, sheriff, district attorney, treasurer/auditor/controller and assessor – to a multiple of the median family income in the region, and eliminated further accrual of retirement benefits by elected officials. The first initiative further limited the annual budget for support staff to each member of the board of supervisors to no more than five times an individual supervisor’s annual compensation.
Finally, in an effort to restrict the increasing bloat within the county’s governmental structure, the initiative sought to place a per capita limit on the number of county employees. In 2010, the county had one employee for every 108 residents. By 2016 this ratio decreased to one employee for every 95 residents, such that San Bernardino County had joined the ranks of large California counties with the most numerous per capita/inefficient workforces. In the 2016 analysis, both Orange and San Diego counties required just one employee for every 160-plus residents. Recognizing the requirement to ensure adequate law enforcement resources, the initiative’s framers required that in the county’s unincorporated areas there would be no fewer than one sheriff’s deputy for every 1,398 residents.
The second initiative simply required the supervisors to use every legal means available to ensure county government employee pay and benefits were equal to private industry pay and benefits in the San Bernardino County region.
After the initiative proposals were submitted to the county’s stable of in-house lawyers, known as the office of county counsel, the county sued the initiative’s proponents, claiming the initiatives violated the California Constitution, the current legal authority of the supervisors, and the single subject rule for initiatives. In its lawsuit, the county contended it therefore should not be required to complete its ministerial duty of providing a ballot title and summary for the initiative proposals.
In response, the proponents filed a countersuit, seeking a writ of mandamus asking the court to order the county and the office of county counsel to write a ballot title and summary so signature gathering for the initiative could proceed. The Red Brennan Group then submitted seven further separate initiatives that, in essence, broke down the two original initiatives to overcome the county’s contention that the initiatives violated the single subject rule. This resulted in the county suing the Red Brennan Group with regard to four of the seven new initiative proposals. Further legal sparring ensued, which resulted in the Red Brennan Group submitting thirteen initiatives in total.
Contending that several of the initiatives as proposed by the Red Brennan Group were either prohibited by law or the California Constitution, the county outright refused to provide the ballot title and summary for all but two of the 13 initiatives. This prevented the Red Brennan Group from moving ahead with the bulk of the reforms it was pursuing through the initiative qualification process, the next major step of which is to gather the requisite signatures. Of the two initiatives deemed constitutional by county counsel, one initiative called for reducing the supervisors to part time status and providing a commensurate reduction in pay and benefits. The second sought to impose a one-term limit on the supervisors, preventing each member of the board from serving more than four years in that capacity. The Red Brennan Group again petitioned for a writ of mandamus. On January 18, 2018 Superior Court Judge David Cohn denied the request, ruling, essentially, that the county was justified in refusing to provide the requested titles and summaries on initiatives that county counsel opined were unconstitutional.
Believing the county’s objections to the original initiatives along with the objections to the follow-up submissions to be invalid and Cohn’s ruling to be in error, the group appealed the ruling to the Fourth District Court of Appeals. All appeals, however, are heard on the appellate court’s timetable, meaning that it might take a year or more for the matter to be resolved. Nevertheless, the Red Brennan Group was still seeking to proceed with the reform effort it had begun in October 2017, and get whatever reasonable facsimile or remnant of the initiative it could on the November 2018 ballot. Accordingly, in February the reform advocates pressed ahead with an effort to gather enough signatures to qualify a single initiative for the November ballot. That initiative called for altering the San Bernardino County Charter to designate the post of county supervisor as a part-time position, with pay limited to no more than $5,000 per month. The initiative called for allowing supervisors to hold full-time employment separate from their duties as county supervisors.
At present, county supervisors receive $151,193.17 per year in salary, $24,300.12 in what is termed “other pay,” and $94,138.60 in benefits for a total annual compensation package of $269,631.89.
To qualify the initiative for the ballot, petitioners needed to gather 28,688 valid signatures of the county’s registered voters. Professional signature gathering organizations indicated approximately 42,000 raw signatures would be needed to ensure the proper amount of valid signatures. Additionally, those advising the proponents indicated that a realistic deadline to qualify an initiative for the November ballot would be, effectively, the beginning of May. That meant the petition gatherers, already fighting the calendar as a consequence of the four months lost during the legal go-round with the county, would need to achieve a goal of gathering roughly 1,000 signatures a day over a 50 day campaign to reach the target, a daunting task but one The Red Brennan Group was willing to take on.
According to Tom Murphy, the spokesman for the Red Brennan Group, “We were getting a positive response and a fair number of signatures. But after about two-and-a-half or three weeks into it we looked at the numbers we needed versus the time we had to get them and reality suggested we weren’t going to make it. It’s as if we had to run a timed marathon and it looked like we would get to mile 22 and the race would be called. We said at that point, ‘Let’s conserve our resources and shift our efforts to 2020.’ We’re still tied up in the courts with our challenge of the ruling by Judge Cohn, which relates to what we believe are the strongest and most compelling elements of what we are trying to do. We are also heading back to Superior Court. We’ll let those cases play out and we’re now looking at 2020. We’re working through ideas we think – ones we hope – will not be put in county counsel’s arbitrary ‘constitutional penalty box.’”
Murphy took issue with county counsel’s refusal to simply analyze the submitted initiative proposals and prepare a ballot title summary for them.
“This was a very curious approach to county counsel’s ministerial duty as required by California law,” Murphy said. “By way of comparison, Xavier Becerra, the state Attorney General, received a request in August 2017 to prepare a ballot title and summary for an initiative adding language to the state’s constitution classifying abortion as first-degree murder. The attorney general dutifully performed his ministerial duty and provided a ballot title and summary to the proponents of the initiative. This specific initiative never gained sufficient signatures, but the point is germane. It appears county counsel’s attorneys need some training from the state on the definition and requirements involved in a ‘ministerial duty.’”
Murphy said being blocked by the county has been frustrating, but the disappointment has not doused the intensity of the reform advocates. Rather, he said, what he termed the county’s tactics of obfuscation and delay used against the Red Brennan Group have increased its members’ determination. He said the time from now until 2020 will not be squandered, and the reform advocates have already begun and will continue to use the opportunities available to them to make the case for local government reform. “We have started a radio talk show on KCAA out of Loma Linda that is essentially dedicated to county government and politics,” Murphy said. “From 2:00 to 3:00 PM every Sunday, our radio program, youTurn, will give everyone who is listening a clear picture of how the ruling class is spending our tax money and governing the county. If anything, giving us two years to fill in the background of what our movement is about will strengthen us. As an additional benefit to the community, any listener that dials into youTurn radio during the live show will have an opportunity to win a donation to their favorite charity operating in the Inland Empire. So set those cell phone reminders to go off at 1:55 PM on Sunday afternoon and turn your radio dial to 1050 AM, or 102.3 or 106.5 FM. If you are unable to pick up the radio signal, the show is broadcast live at kcaaradio.com.”
40th District Assemblyman Mark Steinorth, the one-time Republican firebrand whose two years as a city councilman in Rancho Cucamonga and three-and-a-half years in California’s statehouse have imposed on him pressure to move to the center, is challenging two-term Second District San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford in the June 5 election.
Both Steinorth and Rutherford are Republicans in a district that once tilted toward the GOP, but which as of this week now lies decidedly in the hands of the Democrats in terms of the prevailing party registration of its voters. Of the Second District’s 195,785 registered voters, 39.1 percent are Democrats and 32.4 percent are Republicans, with 23.3 percent expressing no party preference and 5.2 percent belonging to other parties. Technically, the five county supervisorial positions are nonpartisan ones. On the ballot, the party affiliation of supervisorial candidates is not mentioned. Nevertheless, the battles for supervisorial posts in San Bernardino County have in many cases proven to be highly partisan.
Rutherford presents an interesting case study in a Republican politician. Most of her professional life has involved her in government. As a young woman, she hitched her wagon to the political star in the person of Bill Leonard, a middle-of-the-road Republican whose career in the California Assembly and California State Senate was built primarily on appealing to conservative Republicans in the Inland Empire. After Leonard was forced out of the legislature by California’s term limits, he went on to become a member of the California Board of Equalization, where Rutherford worked on his staff. Rutherford cut her elective political teeth as a member of the city council in Fontana, a blue collar city which is overwhelmingly Democratic. In 2010, she vaulted into the Second District supervisorial post by challenging and beating then-Supervisor Paul Biane, who had been weakened by his connection to scandal-tainted former Supervisor Bill Postmus, the one-time chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Party. Rutherford has played it relatively safe the last seven-and-a-half years, and has a reputation of acceding to county staff recommendations and accommodating the wishes of the cities within her jurisdiction. Thus, Rutherford comes across as a creature of government in a political party that is considered to be the voice of the business community and the private sector, and, at least in California, remains as the bulwark against the growth of government and governmental regulation.
Steinorth offers something of a counterpoint. A successful entrepreneur, Steinorth built from the ground up a direct mail marketing and advertising company, well-rooted in the Central Valley and West End of San Bernardino County. His first major political effort, a run for Rancho Cucamonga Mayor in 2010, was made on the basis of his status in the business community. In that contest, Steinorth took on the odds-on favorite, councilman and former Rancho Cucamonga Fire Chief Dennis Michael. Steinorth’s campaign was faithful to conservative, and in particular fiscally conservative, principles, as his campaign featured constant reminders that Michael was a former public employee pulling a substantial pension, that two of his council colleagues were former firemen likewise receiving substantial pensions, that Rancho Cucamonga’s fire department alone had a budget that was larger than the entire municipal budgets of eight of the county’s 24 incorporated municipalities and that Rancho Cucamonga was paying its then-retired firefighters more in pensions than it was paying its then-working firefighters in salaries. In this way, Steinorth promoted himself as the candidate taking a stand against big government, generous salaries and benefits to government workers and high taxes. He lost the election to Michael in 2010, but in 2012 was elected to the Rancho Cucamonga City Council. Thus began one of the more mercurial political rises in San Bernardino County in recent years. Two years later, notably with the endorsement of Mayor Michael and his colleagues on the city council as well as the Rancho Cucamonga firefighters’ union, Steinorth ran for State Assembly in the 40th District, proving victorious over his Democratic rival, Kathleen Henry.
Steinorth arrived in Sacramento with his Republican bona fides intact, despite his having picked up endorsements from public employee unions along the way. Over the course of what is now approaching two terms in the State Capital, a Democratic town through and through, the political maturation process that Steinorh has been subjected to has required that he be far less strident in his denunciations of the Democratic approach to governance, and that he occasionally vote for legislation put forth by his Democratic colleagues that he would not support if the Republicans rather than the Democrats had an overwhelming majority in both houses of the state legislature.
Meanwhile, back in San Bernardino County, Rutherford’s board of supervisors colleague, the wealthy James Ramos, a Democrat, decided earlier this year to challenge Steinorth in the 40th District. With the 40th having grown increasingly more Democratic over the last four years – 40 percent of its voters are affiliated with the Democratic Party as opposed to 32.6 percent being registered Republicans – Steinorth realized that discretion would be the better part of valor. Instead of running for reelection against Ramos, who has the personal resources to put more than $1 million of his own money into a campaign in addition to what he could raise from other sources, Steinorth opted to run against Rutherford.
Rutherford’s reflexive support of government may have played her wrong, leaving her vulnerable to Steinorth’s challenge. Last year she supported the Upland City Council in its effort to impose on Upland’s citizens a tax without a vote through a move to close out the Upland municipal fire department, annex both Upland and neighboring San Antonio Heights into a county fire service/assessment district and then impose on those residents a $156 per year fire service assessment they previously had not been required to pay. This occurred in the face of overwhelming resident opposition to the move. Roughly 15 percent of Rutherford’s constituents are Upland and San Antonio Heights residents, and polling numbers show they are disinclined to support her at this point by a two-to-one margin.
With approaching $800,000 in his campaign war chest, Steinorth began this year’s campaign while holding an advantage on that score against Rutherford, who had less than a third of that to campaign with. Moreover, Steinorth, with his sophistication vis-à-vis marketing and advertising using direct mail together with his control of the machinery to accomplish just that, enjoys a further advantage over Rutherford. Exacerbating her disadvantage, Rutherford early this year appeared to have squandered a critical portion of the funding that was available to her on expenditures that had marginal or negligible candidacy-promoting value and which analysts said appeared to be intended to provide money to her family or associates.
One positive breakthrough for Rutherford came at the San Bernardino County Republican Party’s endorsement convention held in Ontario on April 14. Despite Steinorth capturing 59 percent of the votes of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee members participating in the endorsement process this year, the San Bernardino County Republican Party gave its endorsement to Rutherford, based on a party rule that the party endorsement automatically accrues to an incumbent seeking reelection if fewer than 60 percent do not dissent in that endorsement.
In recent weeks, voters in the Second Supervisorial District most likely to vote in this year’s election based upon their previous turn-out at the polls or by absentee ballot have been treated to the spectacle of dueling political hit pieces from Rutherford and Steinorth arriving in their mailboxes.
Thus, Rutherford, who endorsed Steinorth in his 2014 run for Assembly and endorsed him again in 2016 when he ran for reelection, is engaged in attacking him now, claiming, with varying degrees of accuracy, that as assemblyman he voted to raise gasoline tax statewide, voted to spend money on the north-south bullet train, and that he is a “dishonest, tax-hiking politician” who mistreats women.
Steinorth, who endorsed Rutherford in 2014, is now using mailed hit pieces to blast her not only as a supervisor “who never met a tax she didn’t like, ” but as having been a recipient of a $5,000 personal loan from former Upland Mayor John Pomierski, who was indicted for, convicted of, and imprisoned in a federal penitentiary for, taking bribes. A mailer from Steinorth sent exclusively to Democratic voters depicts Rutherford as a “right-wing politician supported by the Republican Party” who opposes abortion and marriage equality and supports “border vigilantes.”
This week, Steinorth told the Sentinel he merits election over Rutherford.
“I’ve been working hard in the state legislature to stop harmful policies that impact our community, but I ultimately made the decision to run for county supervisor because we need a voice for residents, small businesses and public safety at the local level to protect our communities. Crime is increasing and the number of officers on the streets isn’t. This is a real problem that needs to be addressed, not just talked about. County government needs to work for the people, not the other way around. We need to cut the fat and prioritize spending where we need it most. We do not need to raise taxes like my opponent has done repeatedly. We need a responsible, independent voice at the county who isn’t there just to collect a fat paycheck and a huge pension.”
Steinorth said he represents a better alternative to Rutherford because, “Unlike my opponent, I’m not a career politician. I’m a small business owner. I also have a track record of being effective for our community. I’m proud to be the only candidate endorsed by our law enforcement officers because I’ve proven I have their back. I’m committed to increasing response times and reducing crime. I’m also the only candidate endorsed by our local taxpayer associations because I’ve proven to be effective without ever voting for a tax increase.“
Steinorth said, “Crime is a huge issue facing everyone right now. We need to take a hard look at the county budget and set our priorities and number one must be public safety. We need more officers on the streets, we must improve response times and we must keep our talent in our county by compensating them competitively, which the county is not doing currently. Homelessness is another issue we’re seeing on the rise. I have a plan to address homelessness that incorporates providing mental health services. Simply housing our homeless is not enough. We must provide counseling and substance abuse treatment as well. Another huge issue is the fire tax. The community of San Antonio Heights was slapped by the county with a fire tax that they were never given the ability to vote on. This can happen to more unincorporated communities if they don’t have anyone representing their interests at the county. No one should have to pay more for basic services we already pay for through our property taxes.”
With just two candidates in the race, the contest will be decided on June 5, with the only possibilities of a November runoff consisting of the highly unlikely outcomes of either a precisely split vote with both candidates receiving identical vote totals of exactly 50 percent, or the number of write-in votes preventing either candidate from receiving at least 50 percent plus one vote.
This week the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors vectored over $53.13 million toward the provision of mental health related services throughout the county over the next several years.
That action was taken in keeping with recommendations made by Veronica Kelley, the director of San Bernardino County’s Behavioral Health Department.
The board approved contracts with six entities for the provision of so-called family resource center services, in an amount not to exceed $16,750,000, for the period of July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2023, including a pact with the Ontario-Montclair School District, in the amount of $2.375 million; a deal with Pacific Clinics, in the amount of $2.125 million; a stipulation with Rim Family Services, in the amount of $1,875,000; a covenant with Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health, Inc., in the amount of $1.75 million; a compact with Valley Star Behavioral Health, Inc., in the amount of $2.375 million; and a commitment with Victor Community Support Services, Inc., in the amount of $6,250,000.
The board approved a $500,000 increase to an existing contract it already had with Riverside–San Bernardino County Indian Health, Incorporated for the provision of Native American resource center program services, an adjustment from the previously agreed-to $1,590,000 to $2,090,000, for the total contract period of July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2019.
The board of supervisors signed off on exercising the last option to extend the existing county contract with Star View Behavioral Health, Inc. that has been in place since July 1, 2014 for the provision of specialty mental health services for children and youth in residential placement who have complex diagnoses and require a high level of treatment, raising the total contract amount by $1.3 million from $3.5 million to $4.8 million, effective July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. In 2018-19, the Department of Behavioral Health anticipates that Star View’s two facilities will serve up to eight clients per year at an estimated cost of $162,500 per child/youth.
The board approved an amendment to its existing memorandum of understanding with the Superior Court by which it will extend an ongoing contract related to the function of “drug court” program it has by one year, from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, at a cost of $181,168. That additional money, added to the $905,840 paid from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2018 will bring the total contract amount paid over the six-year period to $1,087,008. Under the terms of the memorandum of understanding, the Department of Behavioral Health provides funding to the Superior Court for reimbursement of costs for one treatment court coordinator, a portion of one court account clerk and related court and treatment expenses. The treatment court coordinator provides oversight of the drug court program, coordinates and plans agendas and acts as the liaison between the drug court team and Department of Behavioral Health to collect and report financial, statistical, progress information and outcome data as required by funding sources. The intention of drug court is to substitute drug use/drug addiction treatment for incarceration in cases involving non-violent substance use offenders.
The board also approved a $293,253 amendment to an existing contract that has been in place since July 1, 2015 with the Superior Court, raising from $879,759 to $1,173,012 the total contract amount for the Superior Court’s mental health counselor to provide consultation, support, and behavioral health liaison services, during the period from July 1, 2018 until July 30, 2019, to clients who are involuntarily placed in acute psychiatric hospitals and have interactions with the courts.
The board of supervisors on Tuesday also approved $329,528 in amendments to three existing contracts that have been in place since July 1, 2015 for the provision of substance abuse disorder transitional housing supportive services, upping the total amount to be paid for those services during the four year period from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2019 from $988,584 to $1,318,112. Thus, Inland Valley Drug and Alcohol Recovery Services will have its contract amount increased by $136,875, from the $410,625 it has received so far to $547,500; New Hope Village, Inc.’s contract will be boosted by $38,370, from $115,110 to $153,480; and St. John of God Health Care Services, paid $462,849 so far, will receive another $154,283, for a total of $617,132.
The board of supervisors extended by one year the existing contract it had with Social Science Services, Inc., doing business as Cedar House Life Change Center, to provide residential recovery services for adults with co-occurring mental health and/or substance use disorders, agreeing to pay $953,130 during the next fiscal year, raising the total Cedar House is to get for delivering the services from the $3,485,775 it has already been remunerated to $4,438,905, for the total contract period of July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2019.
The board of supervisors increased by $100,000 the $265,000 Children’s Fund, Inc. has received since July 1, 2014 to support Department of Behavioral Health child and youth programs and supportive services, extending the contract from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, bringing to $365,000 the amount to be paid to it over a five year period.
The board of supervisors approved increasing by $1,535,500 the total contract amounts the county has with two entities for the provision of one-stop transitional age youth center services. That contract change will apply to the upcoming July 1, 2018-to-June 30, 2019 fiscal year, increasing the $4,606,500 previously paid under those contracts to $6,142,000, for the contract period of July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2019. Valley Star Behavioral Health, Inc., which has already been paid $2.19 million will receive $730,000 in 2018-19, for a total of $2,920,000. Victor Community Support Services will see its contract amount escalated by $805,500, from $2,416,500 to $3,222,000.
The board of supervisors also extended the contract it had with Mental Health Systems, Inc. for one-stop transitional age youth center services since July 29, 2015 another year, effective July 1, 2018. Mental Health Systems, Inc. has taken in $5,193,498 on that contract so far. It will be paid $1,731,166 over the July 1, 2018-to-June 30, 2019 period, bringing to $6,924,664 it will realize for the total contract running from July 28, 2015 through June 30, 2019.
The county board of supervisors extended, effective May 22, 2018, the existing $3,627,883 contract with Lighthouse Social Service Centers to provide family stabilization rapid re-housing services, which first actuated on March 1, 2015, until June 30, 2019. This will up by $1,392,193 the amount Lighthouse has already received, bringing to a total of $5,020,076 the amount it will realize under the arrangement from March 1, 2015 through June 30, 2019.
The board of supervisors this week approved the purchase and distribution of prepaid bus passes to provide state mandated and court ordered support services to eligible Department of Behavioral Health clients, in an amount not to exceed $119,762, for the period of July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. Those passes are meant to assure that the patients will be able to attend scheduled appointments with physicians and clinicians.
The board of supervisors this week approved transferring from the Children and Families Commission for San Bernardino County $26,250,000 to the Department of Behavioral Health, for the period of July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2023, as reimbursement of services provided through the 0–5 Comprehensive Treatment Services program. The 0-5 Comprehensive Treatment Services program consists of two programs: the Screening, Assessment, Referral, and Treatment (SART) and the Early Identification and Intervention Services (EIIS) programs. The Screening, Assessment, Referral, and Treatment program provides services to children ages 0-5 who have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; experienced premature birth, poor maternal nutrition, or prenatal exposure to alcohol or other drugs; family violence; family substance abuse; maternal mental illness; or been involved in the foster care system. The Early Identification and Intervention Services program provides services to children/youth ages 0–9 who struggle with social-emotional disturbances or display developmental concerns that require less intensive, short-term interventions. The $26,250,000 is to be provided in $5,250,000 increments annually for the 0-5 Comprehensive Treatment Services program services, providing a minimum of 2,250 at-risk children with the Screening, Assessment, Referral, and Treatment program services at a cost of approximately $4,579 per child and a minimum of 2,250 at-risk children in the Early Identification and Intervention Services program at a cost of $2,950 per child. The remainder of the revenue will reimburse Department of Behavioral Health for administrative costs.
The board of supervisors approved a $1.7 million amendment to a contract with Telecare Corporation for the provision of assertive community treatment team case management services to seriously and persistently mentally ill adults, exercising the last option to extend the contract, effective July 1, 2018. The amendment increases the contract, in place since July 1, 2014, from $6,800,000 to $8,500,000.
Hesperia Mayor Russ Blewett died on Wednesday while he was under care at Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville, where he had returned for follow-up procedures after undergoing surgery there in December.
Blewett, 74, had been in office since shortly after being elected in 2010. He had a contentious relationship with his fellow council member, Paul Bosacki, but enjoyed an alliance with other members of the council, such as Bill Holland, Eric Schmidt and Paul Russ.
A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Blewett was active in the local congregation in Hesperia as well as with one in Upland, when he previously resided there.
In his later years, Blewett had lost the use of his legs..
“The City of Hesperia is thankful to the community for the outpouring of condolences after the loss of Mayor Russ Blewett,” the city’s website states.
The mountain chickadee, known scientifically as the poecile gambeli, inhabits mountain forests and conifers in the spring, summer and autumn, and lower levels in the winter.
Adults of both genders have a black cap joining a black postocular stripe behind their distinctive white eyebrows. Their backs and flanks are gray and they have paler gray underparts. They possess a short black bill, and a black bib. The typical adult wingspan is seven-and-a-half inches, and the overall length is five to six inches.
Their call is a throaty chick-adee-dee-dee, while their song is a three-or-four-note descending whistle fee-bee-bay or fee-bee-fee-bee. They travel in pairs or small groups, and may join multi-species feeding flocks after their breeding season.
The mountain chickadee forages actively in trees, often feeding very high in conifers. These birds forage by gleaning food from twigs, often hanging upside down. They work along the trunk or major branches, probing in bark crevices. Intelligent creatures, they have been seen using a wood splinter to probe in deep cracks. They will sometimes take food from available sources while hovering. In interacting with humans, they will come to bird feeders for seeds or suet.
They feed primarily on insects, seeds, and berries. Their taste in insects is varied, including many caterpillars, beetles, and others. They often feed on insect eggs and pupae, as well as spiders and their eggs. They are not particular about what kind of seeds they will eat, as long as they are accessible. They are less eclectic with regard to fruits and berries, eating generally whatever is available in their habitat but not straying beyond their habitable limits to seek fruit elsewhere.
In some areas, the numbers of chickadees may be limited by a scarcity of good nesting sites. A good nest site usually consists of a hole in a tree, either a natural cavity or old woodpecker hole, or a cavity enlarged or excavated by the chickadees. These are usually at least five feet above the ground, ranging up to 25 to 30 feet, although some birds will nest in stumps only a few inches up from the forest floor, or a hole in the ground or occasionally a nest box offered by humans. The same site may be used more than one year. In natural sites in trees, both genders help excavate the location. The nest itself, which is primarily constructed by the female with generally minimal assistance of the male, is a soft foundation of bark fibers, moss, hair and feathers.
They breed monogamously, in a variety of coniferous stands, including forests of pine, spruce, fir, or Douglas-fir, as well as groves of aspen in coniferous zones, less often in pine-oak or pinyon-juniper, and very rarely in cottonwood groves in lowlands, producing one to two broods per year. Most often seven to nine eggs, usually white and dotted with reddish brown and sometimes unmarked, are laid, sometimes as few as five or as many as 12. The incubation by the female is 14 days. An adult disturbed on the nest will give a loud hiss, sounding like a snake. The young are altricial, i.e., helpless and highly dependent upon parental care, and stay in the nest for 21 days. Initially the mother remains in the nest while the male brings food; later both parents feed the young. First flight takes place at about three weeks.
Though yet widespread and common, chickadees have shown a downscaling in population, according to some surveys.
From the Audubon Field Guide and Wikipedia
The pleated skirt is very much a great alternative for the spring season. From mini to ankle, the length is great in any form. The coats are gone and the spring breeze is here. With it comes the moment of the skirt, and it is stunning. Perfect for day or evening, especially if you’re a dancer. It brings back a 1930s nostalgia, with all the twirling. The layers skirts come in are fabulous, too. You also can get them in solid colors beginning with white, to floral prints, and bright colors. Enjoy the twirling!
“Don’t let anyone make you believe the length of your skirt is a measure of your character.” Amitabh Bachchan