Jet Room Dispensary Proponent Paid Kerr $35K For Project Permits

By Mark Gutglueck
David Serrano, the owner of the Jet Room marijuana dispensary that has been established in Adelanto, through his law firm paid then-Adelanto Mayor Rich Kerr $35,000 in the days, weeks and months before and after Kerr voted to confer upon the Jet Room permits and licenses to sell marijuana from its 17499 Adelanto Road address, including expanding the city’s marijuana sales zones to include the district where the dispensary is located.
Kerr did not report the money provided to him as political donations, depositing the checks into an account he had ostensibly set up for campaign purposes but which he used for his own personal expenses.
Serrano’s Jet Room was the first marijuana retail operation permitted and up and running in Adelanto, representing a significant deviation from the city council’s initial declared intent, embodied in the passage of Ordinance 539 on November 23, 2015, with regard to marijuana/cannabis-related businesses allowed to function within a specified area in the 53-square mile city’s industrial zone. Initially under Ordinance 539, the city limited the type of such businesses to cultivation operations exclusively, and did not permit the sale of the product to end users within Adelanto’s city limits, prohibiting retail sales of the drug while allowing wholesaling of the crops grown in the city to dispensaries located elsewhere.
At  the April 27, 2016 council meeting, Kerr first signaled that the city might allow an alteration of its policy to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to set up operations in Adelanto in the future. Present at that meeting was Manny Serrano, who was the spokesman for the High Desert Cannabis Association. Manny Serrano was also the brother of David Serrano, an attorney affiliated, variously, with the Law Offices of David Serrano and the Professional Lawyers Group, San Bernardino.
On September 22, 2016, David R. Serrano and his wife, Julia Orama-Serrano, initiated the purchase of the Jet Room property, consisting of a 2.23 acre lot and existing structure at 17499 Adelanto Road, the northeast corner of Adelanto Road and Joshua Avenue. On October 3, 2016 they entered into escrow with the owner, Dmitri Manucharyan, paying $450,000 for the property. The transaction was completed on October 11, 2016. Serrano put out that he intended to convert the structure on it, which had formerly been a lounge doing a brisk business among airmen more than two decades previously before George Air Force Base was shuttered in 1992 but which had lain fallow ever since, into a law office.
On October 26, 2016, the Adelanto City Council gave initial approval to Ordinance 553, which allowed medical marijuana dispensaries into the City of Adelanto. Because of a series of delays, the ordinance did not come up for a second confirming vote it needed to go into effect until May 2017. Prior to that second reading of the ordinance, on November 29, 2016, the city council held a public discussion relating to the pending passage of Ordinance 553 allowing the sale of medical marijuana in Adelanto, in particular the boundaries of the city’s marijuana dispensary overlay zones, which were to govern where dispensaries could be located. As a result of that discussion, the council articulated the intent to expand the marijuana dispensary overlay zone to include the  property at 17499 Adelanto Road. The same day, November 29, 2016, David Serrano’s wife, Julia Orama-Serrano, cut Kerr a $5,000 check drawn against the Law Offices of David Serrano Real Estate Trust Account at the Bank of America, with the designation “Adv Xmas Fund” in the memo line. On December 5, 2016, Kerr deposited the check into an account ending in the numbers 0917 which he had opened at US Bank in June 2014, and which Kerr had declared in a California Fair Political Practices filing to be the account for his 2014 mayoral campaign. Despite the Fair Political Practices filing identifying that account as one intended for his electioneering funds, Kerr had made another filing with the Fair Political Practices Commission certifying under the penalty of perjury that he had raised no money for and had spent no money on his campaign between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014, covering the year he was first elected mayor. Kerr utilized the 0917 account primarily as a personal bank account, using the funds in it for routine purchases at Home Depot, grocery stores and restaurants, drug stores, sporting goods stores and gas stations. In his campaign fund disclosure documents filed for 2016, Kerr made no disclosure of the $5,000 he had received from the Law Offices of David Serrano Real Estate Trust Account.
On February 16, 2017, David Serrano submitted $1,000 in fees to the City of Adelanto, in the form of a check from the Law Offices of David Serrano Real Estate Trust Fund in conjunction with a “comprehensive plan” for the Jet Room at 17499 Adelanto Road.
On February 27, 2017 a check for $10,000 was made out to Kerr against the Professional Lawyers Group, San Bernardino  account bearing the indication “Plaintiff Advance” in the memo line. It was deposited into Kerr’s US Bank 0917 account on February 28, 2017. Kerr did not disclose the $10,000 from the Professional Lawyers Group on any of his campaign disclosure filings for 2017.
On March 31, 2017, another check drawn against the Law Offices of David Serrano Real Estate Trust Fund, this one for $1,348, was written to the City of Adelanto with the phrase “Jet Law 17499 Adelanto Road Adelanto” in the memo line.
On May 17, 2017, a revised version of Ordinance 553 relating to allowing marijuana sales to take place in Adelanto, which updated the version of the ordinance first voted upon on October 26. 2016, was given its first reading, passing by a vote of 3-to-1, with Kerr voting in support of the ordinance. That version of the ordinance included a general plan amendment, which expanded the marijuana dispensary overlay zone to include the Jet Room property in the district where the operation of marijuana dispensaries is permitted. Kerr did not disclose having received, at that point, $15,000 from David Serrano and his wife or the entities with which David Serrano is affiliated. Nor did he make an effort to recuse himself from the vote which had benefitted David Serrano and the entities with which Serrano was affiliated.
On May 24, 2017, the second and final reading of and the vote on the revised version of Ordinance 553 took place at that evening’s city council meeting, passing 3-to-1, with Councilman John Woodard abstaining and Councilman Ed Camargo voting no.  That vote included the acceptance of the dispensary overlay zones in which the Jet Zone property was included. Kerr again supported the ordinance allowing the operation of marijuana dispensaries in the city and ratifying the marijuana dispensary overlay zones, benefitting David Serrano.
At the same May 24 meeting, the city council passed Resolution 17-12 on a unanimous 5-to-0 vote, establishing the Adelanto Cannabis Dispensary Permit Committee to be charged with determining which applicants for medical marijuana dispensary permits would be granted what was then supposed to be a limit of four such permits.
On June 16, 2017, another check for $10,000 written against the Professional Lawyers Group, San Bernardino account was made out to Kerr, bearing “Advance” in the memo line. Kerr deposited the check into his US Bank 0917 account on June 21, 2017. Kerr did not disclose the $10,000 from the Professional Lawyers Group on any of his campaign disclosure filings for 2017.
On August 23, 2017, then-City Manager Gabriel Elliott publicly announced how the Adelanto Cannabis Dispensary Permit Committee created by the passage of Resolution 17-12 on May 24 of that year was too be fleshed out. The committee, Elliott said, would consist of the mayor and the mayor pro tem, the city planner and two members of the public to be chosen by the city manager. That same day, August 23, 2017, a check was written for $10,000 against the Professional Lawyers Group, San Bernardino account to Kerr, bearing the memo “Advance”  and was deposited into Kerr’s US Bank 0917 account that day. Kerr did not disclose the $10,000 as a campaign contribution on any of his Fair Political Practices forms for 2017.
Between March 9, 2015, and November 6, 2017, there were 30 deposits into Kerr’s US Bank 0917 account, primarily cash, totaling $21,757. In this same timeframe, Kerr’s wife, Mistey, was collecting “donations” from the public for a never fully specified charitable cause. Much of the money provided to her during this time consisted of cash-stuffed envelopes provided to her while she was in attendance at the city council meetings her husband was presiding over. On March 17, 2017, Kerr opened another account at US Bank, with an account number ending 9895. Beginning in August 2017 and running until October 12, 2017, Kerr deposited $32,500 in checks made out to “Re-elect Rich Kerr Mayor of Adelanto 2018″  from various businesses and business owners in Adelanto into that account. On October 4, 2017, Kerr transferred $22,580.25 from the 9895 account into a third US Bank account, which was designated as Kerr’s official 2018 campaign account, otherwise known as “Richard Kerr DBA Committee to Reelect Richard Kerr,” which bore an account number ending 5129. In the months of October and November 2017, which were roughly one year before the next election for Adelanto mayor, Kerr withdrew $4,980 from his campaign account, using the money for what appears to have been non-campaign related living expenses.
Kerr, who was retired from the Marine Corps, also had a Navy Federal Credit Union Account with an account number ending 1705. This appeared to be his primary personal account into which his monthly military pension of $1,745 was automatically and regularly deposited. At the time of his election in 2014, Kerr was employed by Motorola as a cell tower technician, both installing and upgrading antennas and signal repeaters. By 2015, his status as the mayor of a California city had upgraded his cachet in the corporate world, and he was employed at that point by SDI International. From January 2015 through the end of October 2016, SDI International was making $2,500 weekly deposits into Kerr’s Navy Credit Union 1705 account. Kerr was dropped from the SDI International payroll at the end of October 2016. Kerr by 2016 was also working for Tech USA, LLC, with weekly payments from that entity being deposited into the 1705 account. From January 2016 to May 2016 direct weekly deposits of $2,100 from Tech USA were being made into the 1705 account. From May 2016 until January 2017, the direct weekly deposits from Tech USA into the 1705 account dropped to $1,300 per week. Kerr’s relationship with Tech USA appeared to be drawing to a close at the beginning of 2017, with what was a penultimate direct deposit of $296.99 on January 19, 2017. Four months later, however, it appears he was temporarily reinstated with Tech USA on a short-lived assignment, when Tech USA made direct deposits totaling $5,962.63 into the Navy Federal Credit Union 1705 account in May 2017. Those closed out the direct deposits made into that account by Tech USA.
By early 2017, the FBI had initiated in earnest an investigation into graft and corruption in Adelanto and the atmosphere surrounding the city’s rush toward legalizing all manner of operations with regard to the cultivation, refinement, warehousing, distribution, wholesaling, retailing and the manufacturing of derivatives of marijuana. Some seven or eight months into that operation, two separate FBI agents working undercover with an informant who had access to Councilman Jermaine Wright had tripped him up. One, posing as an arsonist-for-hire, had gotten Wright to pay him $1,500 to torch his restaurant, Fat Boyz Grill, as part of scheme to collect on Wright’s $300,000 fire insurance policy. That agent, whom Wright referred to as an “electrician,” assured the councilman he could make the cause of the fire appear to be an electrical problem. The other undercover FBI agent, who was masquerading as an applicant to establish a marijuana distribution company in Adelanto, paid Wright $10,000 cash – two stacks of 100 $50 bills – in exchange for Wright’s assurance that he would line up votes on the city council to grant the “businessman” the permits he needed and that any code enforcement activities against the marijuana transportation business would be curtailed. When Wright was confronted by a third FBI agent with the evidence that had been accumulated against him, he agreed to cooperate in the FBI’s probe going forward, maintain the confidentiality of the investigation and surreptitiously use a recording device as requested by the FBI to advance the investigation into corruption in the City of Adelanto.
That arrangement did not last long, and fell apart when Wright, who was not aware that the arsonist-for-hire was in fact an undercover FBI agent, approached the FBI informant who had introduced the arsonist-for-hire to him, identified him as a “snitch,” and yet not recognizing that the informant was working with the FBI, made overtures about making arrangements to have  “the electrician…go away,” that is, killed. Wright further sought to fake his being assaulted in an effort to convince the FBI and federal prosecutors he was suffering from a head injury and consequent memory loss as a ploy to get out from under having to testify. The FBI at that point ceased its effort to employ Wright as an informant and arrested him.
Prior to that however, the FBI on October 17, 2017 wired Wright up with an audio-recording device and had him engage in an in-person conversation with Kerr at Adelanto City Hall. In the course of that conversation, Kerr told Wright that he had resigned from his job and claimed he had not worked for a year-and-a-half, indicating he had no money coming in other than his pension of $1,745 monthly from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and roughly $450 after taxes and withholdings, of the $660 per month stipend he received as Adelanto’s mayor. Nevertheless, during that period of time, Kerr and his wife were tooling about town in newly purchased late model luxury vehicles.
As part of its ongoing investigation into Adelanto, the FBI was scrutinizing the generosity business applicants in Adelanto were showing toward the city’s elected leadership. As soon as the city council moved to legalize one form of commercial activity involving marijuana in Adelanto in late 2015, the largesse shown toward the city’s elected leadership escalated.
“An analysis of checks deposited into Kerr’s bank accounts in relation to the legalization of marijuana activities on November 23, 2015 indicated a significant increase,” FBI Agent Kevin Boles told a federal judge in 2018. “In 2015, no checks from Adelanto business owners or marijuana developers were observed. In 2016, approximately $25,000 in checks from Adelanto business owners were deposited [into Kerr’s account]. In 2017, approximately $45,000 in checks from Adelanto businesses or business owners were deposited.”
In conjunction with that element of the investigation that followed the tangent relating to Wright, the FBI obtained on October 16, 2017 a search warrant for the premises of Wright’s restaurant, Fat Boyz Grill, which was served on the following day, October 17. Among the items seized during the search was Wright’s city-issued cellphone. The FBI extracted the data from that phone. According to a document later submitted to a federal judge by FBI Agent Boles, “I conducted a review of the extracted data and observed text message communications between Wright and Kerr from September  4, 2017 referencing a Facebook posting concerning the Jet Room. On September 4, 2017, Wright sent Kerr a text message that read, ‘This doesn’t look good for the process when someone’s bragging that they already got a permit and a license for something we haven’t even held a hearing for.'” Accompanying the text message, Wright attached a screen shot of a Facebook posting by Freddy Sayegh dated August 25, 2017 containing a photograph that Boles presumed to be Sayegh sitting in a chair with a Jet Room poster in the background. The post announced “30 days till the Grand Opening of the Jet Room Dispensary.” Sayegh is an attorney and the chief executive officer of Green Holdings Group, which in some fashion had become involved with David Serrano in the Jet Room.
Kerr replied to Wright’s text, according to Boles, with “Your right. Pls tell these guys to stand down, they are making it really hard to do my job.”
On September 22, 2017, the Adelanto Cannabis Dispensary Permit Committee met to rank the applicants for the dispensary permits. During the meeting Kerr did not disclose that he had received money from the law firms associated with David Serrano totaling $35,000, and he did not recuse himself from voting on the matter.  Five applications were considered at the meeting, with one being deemed to not meet the city’s requirements due to the applicant not having title to the property where his dispensary was proposed. The committee signed off on providing permits to the remaining four applicants, who included David Serrano, whose filing related to a license for the Jet Room.
When the search warrant was served at the Fat Boyz Grill on October 17, Boles questioned Wright, who was on the premises at the time. Wright told Boles that he had originally set up the proposed zone for medical marijuana dispensaries to exclude the Jet Room property, with the dispensary zone boundary ending some 14 feet from the property line of the parcel containing the Jet Room. According to a report subsequently written by Boles, Wright told him “The decision to expand the prposed zone to include the Jet Room was advocated by Kerr. During the same interview, Wright disclosed Manny Serrano had previously attempted to bribe Wright by asking, ‘What would it take to put me in the zone?’ Wright told me he never accepted money from Manny Serrano.”
In addition to the application for operating the dispensary at the Jet Room, David Serrano through the Professional Lawyers Group incorporated six corporate entities with the California Secretary of State’s Office on June 12, 2017, each with the general stateed purpose of medical marijuana cultivation or manufacturing. Those six corporations are Beaver Farms East Inc., Beaver Extraction East Inc., Beaver Farms South Inc., Beaver Extraction South Inc., Beaver Farms North Inc. and Beaver Extraction North Inc.  All six corporations used the address of Professional Lawyers Group, 1300 N. Mountain View Avenue in San Bernardino as a mailing address and used addresses at 16175 Beaver Road, 16179 Beaver Road and 16173 Beaver Road in Adelanto as their operational addresses. In actuality, officially according to the US. Post Office and the City of Adelanto, the 16173, 16175 and 16179 Beaver Street address do not exist at the location referenced in the filings. Rather, the existing address there, at San Bernardino County Assessor’s Parcel Number 3129261490000, is 16177 Beaver Road Adelanto, California. There are three buildings at the 16177 Beaver Street address. On September 26, 2016, David Serrano and Julia Orama-Serrano purchased the property located at 16177 Beaver Road in Adelanto for $1,825,000, with the sale recorded at the San Bernardino County recorder’s office on October 4, 2016. On November 20, 2017, several gift deeds were filed to reallocate ownership of the land to David Serrano and three individuals, Lisa Marie Guerro, Marcella Christine Castaneda and Jennifer Nicole Serrano. Guerro, Castaneda and Jennifer Serrano are believed to be David Serrano’s daughters. Fifty percent of the ownership remained with David Serrano and 16.6666 ownership was allocated to Guerro, Castaneda and Jennifer Serrano.  The six corporations created and registered with the California Secretary of State’s Office on June 12, 2017 have as their incorporating agents and officers Philip Rios, who is an attorney with the Professional Lawyers Group; Manuel Serrano; Julia Orama-Serrano, also known as Julia Serrano; Jennifer Serrano; Lisa Guerra, also known as Lisa Galvan, and also known as Lisa Serrano;  Marcella Castaneda; Hector Orama; Luis Orama; and Miguel Orama.
On November 6, 2018, Kerr failed to gain reelection and was turned out of office. Just two days less than six months previously, on May 8, 2018,
the FBI had obtained search warrants and served them at Adelanto City Hall, the Jet Room, the offices of the Professional Lawyers Group at 1300 North Mountain View Avenue in San Bernardino and Kerr’s residence at 10679 Melody Place in  Adelanto. In the sworn affidavit in support of the petition for those search warrants, FBI Agent Boles referenced the $35,000 received by Kerr from the two law firms associated with David Serrano, and stated, “I believe the payments originating from David Serrano were, in fact, bribe payments to Kerr in return for his official acts of voting on ordinances that directly benefitted the Jet Room. I believe it is likely Kerr maintained his communication with Manny Serrano who, in turn, used David Serrano’s law firm to make the bribe payments as advance payments associated with a fictitious lawsuit in which Kerr is a plaintiff.”
On January 14, 2019, Kerr, represented by two attorneys from the Professional Lawyers Group, Keith Adesko and Philip Rios, filed suit against Malcolm Smith Racing, American Motorcycle Association, Grand Prix Series, So. Cal. M.C. and Adelanto Grand Prix, alleging they were collectively and individually responsible for injuries he had sustained when he was involved in a motorcycle crash at the Adelanto Grand Prix on January 14, 2017 in which he broke his left collarbone, cracked several ribs and suffered a partially collapsed lung. Kerr, who was mayor at the time, was riding his own dirt bike outside Stater Bros. Stadium in Adelanto and was being trailed by his children and grandchildren and within the Grand Prix area when his front wheel hit a soft spot in the dirt and he was thrown from the cycle.
According to the suit, “Defendants, and each of them, plan, operate, manage and promote an annual motocross motorcycle race event at the Adelanto Stadium. As a promotional gimmick, defendants encouraged plaintiff, the then-Adelanto mayor, to participate in the event and promoted his participation. Plaintiff, though an avid and experienced motorcycle rider, at 60 years of age is not physically capable of participating in a dangerous and physically demanding activity like motocross racing. Defendants knew, or should have known, of the demanding nature of the activity and should not have allowed plaintiff to compete in a race, much less promote and exploit the plaintiff’s participation for monetary gain. As a direct and proximate result of defendants’ negligence in allowing plaintiff to compete in a race, plaintiff crashed during the race and suffered serious injuries, including a fractured clavicle, for which plaintiff spent 10 days in the hospital.”
The suit was filed two years to the day after the crash, the last day before the statute of limitations on a civil suit in California expired. Elements of the suit clash with reports that circulated at the time of the crash, in particular one put out by the city’s, and Kerr’s, official spokesman at the time, Michael Stevens, who said Kerr was not riding as part of the race.
The suit is roundly perceived as a means of offsetting the FBI’s working theory that the $35,000 in payments made to Kerr by the Law Offices of David Serrano and the Professional Lawyers Group, San Bernardino were bribes and indeed were, as the memo lines on some of those checks indicated, advances on the settlement to be obtained from Malcolm Smith Racing, American Motorcycle Association,  Grand Prix Series, So. Cal. M.C. and Adelanto Grand Prix with regard to the injuries Kerr sustained in the crash.
The difficulty with that defense strategy in the face of any criminal charges pertaining to bribery that might be filed is that the first $5,000 of the $35,000 paid to Kerr by the Law Offices of David Serrano on November 29, 2016 came two-and-a-half months before the motorcycle accident.
As of press time, Kerr has not been charged with receiving a bribe or bribes and David Serrano has not been charged with providing bribes.
Phone calls by the Sentinel to the Professional Lawyers Group, San Bernardino in an effort to obtain statements from David Serrano, Philip E. Rios and Keith Adesko ultimately were routed to Jim Powell, another lawyer with the firm. Asked if Serrano, Rios and Adesko would be willing to go on the record with regard to the issues pertaining to the Jet Room, the $35,000 originating with David Serrano that was provided to Kerr through the law firms he is associated with and the actual substance of Kerr’s suit over the injuries he had sustained at the 2017 Adelanto Grand Prix event, Powell said, “Probably not, but I will pass the message along to them.”
The Sentinel’s effort to make voice contact with Kerr on his cell phone was met with a text message response from Kerr that said “Please text me.” Kerr did not respond to the Sentinel’s follow-up text asking for his version of events relating to the payments he had received from David Serrano and his law firms and Kerr’s votes relating to the Jet Room.

23 Years After The Death Of Brother, Family Files Claim

By Carlos Avalos
Lurline Davis, Alice Davis, and Rochella Edwards, the surviving family members of Jimmy Earl Burelson, have filed a claim for damages against the County of San Bernardino, the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office, the City of Fontana and the Fontana Police Department with regard to the desecration of Jimmy Earl Burelson’s body that occurred in the aftermath of his death on July 6, 1994.
The claim, made more than a quarter of a century after Burelson’s death, comes after what Monrow A. Mabon, the attorney representing Davis, Davis and Edwards, says suffices as a “verification” of what had occurred to Burelson was received between March 9 and March 15, 2019 by Mabon & Associates.
According to the claim, “The circumstances giving rise to this claim are as follows: On or about July 6, 1994, Jimmy Earl Burelson was in the custody of the Fontana Police Department. According to the Fontana Police Department, Jimmy Earl Burelson bailed out of their custody and approximately 30 minutes later Jimmy Earl Burleson was found murdered at the rear of the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant located at 16931 Foothill Blvd. Fontana, CA. 92335. Claimants allege that after the murder of Jimmy Earl Burelson, members of the Fontana Police Department and [a] member of the San Bernardino coroner’s office for their amusement desecrated the body of Jimmy Earl Burleson.”
This, Mabon alleges in the complaint, violated “the sanctity of Jimmy Earl Burleson. Claimants allege members of the Fontana Police Department and [a] member of the San Bernardino Coroner’s Office, from July 6, 1994 to the present have engaged in a conspiracy by a cover-up of the true circumstances surrounding the murder of Jimmy Earl Burleson, their desecration of Jimmy Earl Burleson’s body and their failure to investigate and disclose the true circumstances of Jimmy Earl Burleson’s murder.”
As previously reported in the Sentinel in February 2017, on July 6, 1994 Burelson, an African American male murder victim, was discovered behind the Kentucky Fried Chicken eatery at Sierra Avenue and Foothill Boulevard in Fontana. A police officer at the scene thought it would be funny to place a piece of chicken in Burelson’s hand, to make it look like he was stealing chicken from the restaurant before he was killed. A photograph was taken and this photo was circulated around the department for years.
On June 30, 2016, David J. Moore Sr. & Andrew Anderson, represented by attorneys Bradley C. Gage and Milad Sadr, filed a lawsuit in San Bernardino Superior Court against the City of Fontana, alleging discrimination, retaliation and failure to take corrective action. In that suit, Moore, an African-American, and Anderson, who is of mixed background but self-identifies as a Latino, alleged that the 189-member Fontana Police Department is comprised of sworn officers who are predominantly white, such that as of the date of the suit it never had more than four African American officers on the force at any given time, despite African Americans comprising more than 10 percent of the city’s population, while employing fewer than thirty Latino officers – roughly 15 percent – even though Hispanics comprise nearly 70 percent of the city’s population. According to the suit, the police department’s administration is even more lopsidedly out of step with the city’s demographics, which has perpetuated an atmosphere in which the department has condoned the mistreatment of minorities, and the officers employed by it have felt free to engage in a litany of both insensitive and socially unacceptable behaviors, including referring to both African Americans and Latinos in racist and derogatory terms. Among the manifestations of unacceptable behavior by the officers with the police department, according to the suit, was the treatment accorded to Burleson’s corpse.
Marshaled as evidence in support of the suit was a photograph of Burleson on a table at the coroner’s office with the chicken leg clutched in his hand.
Mabon told the Sentinel that he considered the allegation contained in the Anderson/Moore suit insufficient in itself for the claim he was contemplating filing on behalf of Davis, Davis and Edwards, and it was only upon interviewing former officers with the Fontana Police Department and receiving additional documents that he was ready to proceed.
On August 28, 2019 Mabon & Associates filed with San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson a complaint against the Fontana Police Department and the San Bernardino County Coroner’s office. The complaint was filed on behalf of Burelson’s family for violation of crimes against public justice: conspiracy under California Penal Code §§182-185, falsifying evidence under California Penal Code §§132-141, a violation of the Health and Safety Code §§7050.5-7055, a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act §51, another violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act §51.7 and Title 16 U.S, Code § 242. The formal complaint alleges that the Fontana Police Department led the public to believe that Jimmy Earl Burleson bailed out of jail and thirty minutes later was found murdered, behind the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant located at 16931 Foothill Boulevard in Fontana. The complaint alleges the Fontana Police Department in conjunction with the San Bernardino County Coroner’s office worked in unison to desecrate Mr. Burelson’s body. These facts, according to the complaint, were verified and delivered to Luraline Davis and her family by a former Fontana Police Department officer on March 12, 2019.
This complaint requests that an investigation be initiated by the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office into the death of Jimmy Earl Burleson and crimes committed against public justice by the Fontana Police Department and the San Bernardino Coroner’s Office.
Mabon told the Sentinel that he originally was apprehensive about filing a complaint with the San Bernardino District Attorney’s office because that agency works with the coroner’s office, creating a potential conflict of interest. For that reason, Mabon & Associates looked at filing a claim with the California Department of Justice, the California Attorney General, and the Federal Department of Justice. The California Code of Civil Procedure, however, requires that a potential litigant must exhaust all local remedies. Thus, despite the conflict potential, Mabon said, he filed a complaint with the district attorney’s office as well as the City of Fontana, the Fontana Police Department and San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors in order to preserve the right to litigation, pursuant to the California Tort Claims Act.
Mabon indicated his hope that Jason Anderson, who displaced the former district attorney in the 2018 election, “has the potential to be non-biased and do the right thing.”
Mabon & Associates is waiting for a response. If no response is forthcoming, Mabon said he will file a claim with the California Attorney General, and he intends to file and pursue a formal lawsuit on behalf of Burelson’s survivors.
Mabon is asserting “There was an orchestrated and calculated cover up of the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Burelson.” According to Mabon, “Based off of the history of the Fontana Police Department, it is very suspicious that Mr. Burelson was killed allegedly 30 minutes after he bailed out of jail; there is no certainty that Mr. Burelson actually bailed out of jail.” Mabon further stated “There is the possibility that he was killed in custody and planted at the crime scene.”
In the words of a former Fontana Police Department officer, “The case of Mr. Burleson has never been looked at twice, audited, or referred to a cold case investigation team.”
Mabon noted that Burleson’s death was “a murder case that has sit dormant for decades” and that the events leading up to it and around it had deliberately gone unexplored because of collusion between the police department and the coroner’s office, furthered by a blue code of silence he likened to being “no different than the American Italian Mafia’s Omerta, or gang members not snitching or squealing on each other.” Mabon said the department’s handling of the matter suggested Burleson’s case was not the first time officers with the Fontana Police Department had done something like this. He said the coroner’s office’s efforts to avoid addressing the desecration issue lent support to the conclusion that there were similar occurrences with other police agencies in San Bernardino County. Mabon, a 30-plus year law enforcement officer, told the Sentinel that “Law enforcement people or organizations who break the law should be treated the same, maybe even harsher than a normal civilian who breaks the law.”
Mabon’s advocacy on behalf of Davis, Davis and Edwards faces a critical challenge based upon the sheer amount of time that has elapsed since the incident in question. An event from twenty-five years ago falls well beyond the statute of limitations in all civil matters in California. Since 1994, there has been substantial turnover in the Fontana Police Department, with only a small minority of the officers who were working there at that time still employed by the agency. The precise identities of the officers involved in the alleged incident have not been established, and it is unknown whether they remain employed with the department.
Moreover, the coroner’s office has itself undergone an administrative transformation. Brian McCormick was the San Bernardino County coroner in 1994. At that time, the coroner’s office in San Bernardino County was a stand alone office. On January 9, 2005, following McCormick’s retirement as the county’s last independently elected coroner, the coroner’s department was merged with the sheriff’s department in San Bernardino County and the sheriff became the titular coroner. There has been a complete changeover in the personnel in the coroner’s division of the sheriff’s department since that time.
For most criminal matters in California, the statute of limitations is three years, with some crimes carrying a four-year statute. There is no statute of limitations on murder. With regard to civil matters, a citizen pursuing a lawsuit against another member of the public has two years from the time of the act in question, or the last act in a series of acts in question, to initiate the suit against the perpetrator. When the potential defendant is a governmental entity, a prospective plaintiff seeking remedy in state court must first lodge a claim against the governmental entity within six months, giving it an opportunity to satisfy the claim or reject it. Upon rejection, the prospective plaintiff has one year to file a suit in a California court of competent jurisdiction. A plaintiff contemplating a suit against any entity, private or governmental, in federal court has two years to lodge suit, and needs not file a claim beforehand.
Mabon told the Sentinel that the clock on the statute of limitations does not begin running until “the point of time a person discovers a wrong or suffered an injury.” In the case of Davis, Davis, and Edwards, Mabon said, “They didn’t realize what was going on, or they had no knowledge that there had not been any investigation or anything of that sort until, from my discussion with them, sometime around January or February of this year. I received information, and in some cases, I even thought the story was so outlandish because I had experience on LAPD of going down to the morgue and knew the conditions of the LA County Morgue and I was just trying to figure out how police and coroner personnel would do something like that. Eventually, David Moore sent me a photograph of it and then I read a newspaper article. So then I began making inquiries, using all the contacts I had, police personnel and so forth, and I was able to find out there had been an incident. I interviewed people  and found documents. Somewhere between March 9 and March 15, at that particular point in time I said, ‘Yes, we’re talking about a conspiracy and an ongoing cover-up. My contention is, for arguments sake, the statute has not been tolled and the fact is that our complaint has been validly and timely filed. I think the date was August 14 for our complaint and we can see that there is no statute violation.”
Adam Claybaugh, currently a lieutenant with the Fontana Police Department, told the Sentinel he had no knowledge about and had never heard of the chicken bone incident involving Jimmy Burleson. He referred questions to the department’s internal affairs division, Sergeant Mark Gonzales in particular. Gonzales had not responded to the Sentinel’s inquiries by press time.

SB Solons Holding Welfare Office In Muscupiabe Neighborhood Was Properly Approved

City of San Bernardino’s officials are coalescing behind City Manager Terry Ledoux’s game plan to allow a county welfare building to progress to completion, occupation and operation at the periphery of the Muscupiabe residential district over a cacophony of protest.
Calculating that the anger of residents in the Muscupiabe District have over the unwanted project in their midst will not translate into a willingness to expend enough money to wage an extended legal battle contesting the project’s approval, city officials have resolved to support the well-heeled developer of the project and his prospective tenant, the County of San Bernardino, in seeing the project through to completion.
City officials believe they can weather the concerted opposition to the project and stand by the much maligned secretive approval given to the project last year, while sidestepping escalating calls that the county first be required to obtain a conditional use permit before the building can be occupied by its transitional assistance department.
Simultaneously, Ledoux is angling to use a threat of legal action by the building’s developer, Scott Beard, as a pretext to prevent opponents of the project from obtaining internal communications among various city officials and Beard that demonstrate the degree to which the city violated its own protocols in arranging to have the project application analyzed and considered not by the city’s planning commission but rather by a more obscure collection of city officials.
In December 2017, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved 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 to be located at the northwest corner of 27th Street and Little Mountain Drive site for occupancy by the transitional assistance department for the ten-year period beginning August 1, 2019 and running through July 31, 2029.
The county’s commitment to that arrangement, however, came prior to the City of San Bernardino, the jurisdiction in which the building was to be constructed, signing off on the project. That cart had been placed before that particular horse in large measure because 27th Street TAD, LLC is a company owned and controlled by Scott Beard. Scott Beard is the scion of Gerald Beard, a politically well-connected real estate mogul who made his first fortune with the manufacturing of Doughboy Pools before enlarging his wealth as a land speculator and developer. Gerald Beard’s son is no less less politically well-connected than his father and is indeed even more so. For the generation he has been involved in the development and the stewardship of properties he has developed or acquired and leased to deep-pocketed occupants, including governmental entities, Beard has cultivated connections among public officialdom by generous political donations to elected officials.
Beard was particularly well wired in with then-San Bernardino Mayor Carey Davis, and it was assumed by county officials that Beard would have no difficulty getting an entitlement to build the 38,150-square foot facility.
The historic and quaint Muscupiabe neighborhood on the city’s northwest side is among some of San Bernardino’s strongest and most impressive residential sections. Its entryway features large pepper trees and medium size homes, some of impressive architectural character.
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. In common parlance, what was being planned at the northwest corner of 27th Street and Little Mountain Drive was a welfare office.    Such a use of the property, it was understood at City Hall, was very likely out of keeping with the expectations of a significant portion of those living in the Muscupiabe district. Recognizing that this put Beard on a collision course with that neighborhood sentiment which would create a firestorm of controversy and severe protest when the project came up for public review in the venue typically used for just such project approvals – the open forum of a planning commission hearing – city staff rerouted consideration away from the planning commission and instead placed it before the city’s development and environmental review committee, consisting of various members of city staff, primarily department heads and those from the community and economic development department.
Though the lion’s share of city committee and commission meetings, just as city council meetings, are videotaped and televised, the timing of the meetings is a crucial consideration. Whereas planning commission meetings are typically held on Tuesdays at 6 p.m., development and environmental review committee meetings are held on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m., a time when employed adults are generally unable to attend because of their work commitments. Thus, the consideration of the TAD building at 27th Street and Little Mountain Drive was undertaken in a relatively obscure forum.
Moreover, there were other anomalies about how the project was presented and vetted, which lowered its profile and reduced the likelihood that those in the Muscupiabe neighborhood would take stock of what was coming their way.
One of those was the mislabeling of the project. While at the county no bones were made about what the project was – a building to house an office of the transitional assistance department, a division of the county’s human services department – at the city level, an architect’s inaccurate description line on a rendering for the building in which “resources” was substituted for “services” in the heading human services was adopted as a general description of the building along with the use of the acronym for transitional assistance department – TAD. For virtually everyone who was unfamiliar with the acronym, this changed the implication to suggest that the building was intended to house the county’s human resources or personnel department.
A second misnomer was applied to the project. In internal memos to the city council relating to Beard’s proposal as well as in the disclosure notifications to the residents living in proximity to the project, the structure to be built was referred to in planning profession jargon as one which would feature “office professional” uses, or as a “professional office” building. Those terms carry a different connotation than the designation “commercial office,” which more accurately fits the actual 27th Street TAD, LLC project. A professional office refers to a workplace where employees of a company work in a clerical and corporate environment, functioning separately in cubicles or at desks or interacting with one another or both but essentially with little or no contact with the company’s clients and customers on site. This use generally involves a less substantial flow of traffic into and out from the site. In a commercial office, in addition to housing the employees of the businesses located at that location, those venues involve a daily or constant influx of customers to those businesses, entailing a much more substantial number of people and vehicles into, on and departing from the site on a constant basis during normal business hours. It thus appears that the city’s representation of the 27th Street TAD, LLC project obscured not only that the building upon completion would be a welfare office but that there would be a substantial amount of traffic into and through the area around the project in terms of people and cars coming onto and leaving the site.
2018 was an election year. Prior to the election being held, in October, the move toward having the development and environmental review committee pass judgment on the project at 27th Street and Little Mountain Drive was set. On November 6, incumbent Mayor Carey Davis was defeated by challenger John Valdivia, who since 2012 had been the city’s Third Ward Councilman. The election had an implication for the project proposal, as Beard was not only one of Davis’s primary backers in terms of political contributions, but his de facto campaign manager.
Thus, Beard, it turned out, had bet on the wrong political horse. Though the election was over November 6 and the outcome in the race clear by the morning of November 7, there was yet a six-week lag until those victorious in the November 6 race would be sworn in and installed in office on December 19. For that duration, Carey Davis would remain as mayor, a lame duck, but nevertheless yet the mayor and capable of exercising the full measure of political power in that capacity.
There ensued a mad rush to have Beard’s project fully approved, while City Hall was yet under the sway of Carey Davis. Thus it was that just eight days after the election, on November 14, 2018, the project at 27th Street and Little Mountain Drive was taken up by the environmental and design review committee during a hearing in which the project was identified on the agenda as “an office building” and the zoning on the site as “commercial office.” The agenda further minimized the impression that the project would have a substantive impact on the area by saying it was “categorically exempt” from the requirement that an environmental impact report relating to the project be provided.
With no residents present to inveigh against the project, Beard’s request that he be given entitlement to build it came off without a hitch.
It was not until after Beard’s contractors fenced off the site and began grading there earlier this summer that the residents of the neighborhood took notice of f what was happening. A few made inquiries, learning that a welfare office was going to go into the neighborhood.
27th Street and Little Mountain Drive lies at the confluence of the city’s 2nd, 5th and 7th Wards, represented by council members Sandra Ibarra, Henry Nickel and Bessine Richard, respectively.
By early August, the Muscupiabe neighborhood was awakened and up in arms. Ibarra, in whose Second District the project is located, and Nickel, whose Fifth District borders the project site, took up the cause for the area’s residents, vectoring attention to what had occurred in November, and advocating that the city apply some remedy to the situation. At the August 7 city council meeting, after they insisted that the burgeoning crisis come up for discussion, former City Attorney James Penman advised the city “preserve the status quo and freeze the situation …  by issuing a stop work order.” Penman told the council it should “stop and freeze everything in order that you can do a proper investigation to determine what happened. If you don’t issue the stop work order, the developer continues to build and acquires vested rights. Later [when] the residents get a writ of mandate and make him stop, he is going to sue the city for allowing him to continue to build and spend money.”
When Ibarra and Nickel sought to usher the council toward doing just as Penman was advising, taking action before Beard proceeded with actual building activity beyond the grading he had done up to that point, they encountered resistance from the remainder of their council colleagues. Deputy City Attorney Sonia Carvalho advised against imposing a stop work order on Beard after the city had given him approval to proceed with the construction of the building, telling the council the city could in the alternative seek to require that Beard’s intended tenant – the county – obtain a conditional use permit to operate a human services office at that location. The council receded from any direct action at that point, instead voting to have City Manager Teri Ledoux and city staff proceed with an  investigation into the situation Ledoux said she had already initiated, and report its findings back to the city council on August 14.
By August 14, however, Beard was threatening to sue the city if it took any action whatsoever – against him, his company, or the county – that would interfere with the completion of the project. In an auger of things to come, Ledoux refused to release the investigation she had undertaken, claiming it involved confidential information that would be improper to release while the prospect of legal action by Beard yet hung over the city. Muscupiabe District residents, who had earlier been led to believe the investigation’s results would be forthcoming and that the answers to the questions they were promised would be provided grew more disconcerted than previously. One of those, Kathy Mallon, who lives in the Blair Park Neighborhood immediately adjacent to the Muscupiabe District, submitted, on August 17, a request made under the California Public Records Act that the city produce information, documents and data that many people previously assumed would have been forthcoming with Ledoux’s so-called investigation.
Referencing “APN 0148-021-66, Northwest corner of Little Mountain Dr and W 27th St.,” Mallon wrote, “Please provide all permit application documents filed by 27th Street TAD and ATC Design Group” and “Please provide all staff reports used in support of the D/ERC [Design and Environmental Review Committee] evaluation” and “All email communications between staff and city administrators either internal or with the applicant/property owner. List below of known city staff and administrators to include but not limited to: R Carey Davis, Benito Barrios, Andrea Miller, Teri Ledoux, Jeff Bloom, Oliver Mujica, Brian Gumpert, Gary Akers, Hernando Cotangco, Robert Sepulveda, Robert Linberg, James Lane, Gracie Johnson, Stephanie Sanchez.”
Benito Barrios was the Second Ward Councilman in 2018. Jeff Bloom was the city’s acting community development director in 2018. Mujica was and is San Bernardino’s planning division manager. Gumport is with the city’s building and safety division. Akers is with the city’s land development division. Sepulveda is with the city’s public works engineering division. Lane is with the city’s environmental control division. Johnson is the city’s integrated waste division representative. Sanchez is the commission’s secretary. Miller was then the city manager.
Mallon sent her public records request via email directly to City Clerk Gigi Hanna, with electronic carbon copies to Ledoux, Nickel, Mayor John Valdivia and Ibarra.
In the four weeks since, the city has utilized a series of stalling and delaying tactics to avoid having to turn over the communications Mallon requested.
This week, city officials indicated Mallon will at last be provided with the materials she requested on September 17, a full month after her request was made. Word now comes, however, that officials will renege on that commitment again. The Sentinel is informed that Ledoux will assert a categorical exemption to having to supply the emails, texts, memos, and instant messages on the basis that doing so would harm the city’s legal position if Beard, as he has threatened, files suit against the city.
According to one well-placed city official, “There are memos and communication about this. The law allows the city to withhold information connected to pending or existing litigation and Beard has publicly stated that he will sue over this and I believe it has been discussed in closed session. In Public Records Act requests like this, it is Best Best & Krieger [the law firm the City of San Bernardino contracts with to serve as its city attorney] that reviews the request and determines what to release.”
The calculation city management is making is that it has more to fear from Beard than it does from the irate citizenry in the Muscupiabe District. Five-sevenths of the current city council – First District Councilman Ted Sanchez, Third District Councilman Juan Figueroa, Fourth District Councilman Fred Shorett, Sixth District Councilman Jim Mulvihill and Seventh District Councilwoman Bessine Richard do not represent constituents directly impacted by the project and therefore will encounter no untoward consequences for allowing Beard and the project to proceed. As members of a seven-person decision-making panel, Ibarra and Nickel have insufficient political muscle to force any action with regard to the project, such as instituting a requirement that before the county occupies the building with the transitional assistance department that it first obtain a conditional use permit, through which process conditions on that occupancy could be mandated that might mitigate the impacts upon the Muscupiabe neighborhood.
The Sentinel is reliably informed that Ledoux, in addition to withholding the communications Mallon requested from Mallon, is preventing the documents from being released to either Ibarra or Nickel.
Of interest and consequence in all of this is Mayor John Valdivia’s stance with regard to the project. Ostensibly, Valdivia carries no brief, and has no love lost, for Beard, who after all was the single strongest electioneering force on behalf of his opponent in last year’s election. The residents of the Muscupiabe District, those who were shortchanged by his rival, would seem to be his natural constituency, a group for whom he could now go to bat and whose support forever after would then presumably be his. Inexplicably, however, Valdivia has not embraced the Muscupiabe District’s cause. He spurned both the Muscupiabe Neighborhood Association and the nearby Blair Park Neighborhood Association early last month when they invited him to a forum at which their grievances were to be articulated to county officials including Supervisor Josie Gonzales, San Bernardino County Real Estate Department Director Terry Thompson and San Bernardino County Transitional Services Director Gilbert Ramos as well as Ledoux and current San Bernardino Community & Economic Development Director Michael Huntley, along with Beard himself. Valdivia has continued to hold the residents of the Muscupiabe District at arm’s length. Instead, he has sided with Ledoux, whose strategy appears to maintain the rectitude of the city’s action in approving the project in November and simply stonewalling and outlasting the resistance the Muscupiabe District residents are putting up. Ledoux’s calculation is that the members of the Muscupiabe neighborhood will neither collectively nor individually put up the money needed to hire an attorney to challenge the city’s approval process in court. For the residents, this has created a Catch 22-type scenario as applies to the communications Mallon has requested. It is widely assumed among those opposed to the project that somewhere in the communications the city is hiding and refusing to hand over is a smoking gun or perhaps more than one smoking gun, a sentence or paragraph where the desirability of keeping the consideration of the project from taking place in the far more open forum of a planning commission hearing as opposed to the obscure confines of the city’s development and environmental review committee is explicitly stated. Considering the way in which Ledoux is intent on keeping those communications under wraps, several people have come to believe that what she is attempting to keep from surfacing is a direct order from top echelon city official to someone in the city’s community development division to not have the planning commission review the project. Ledoux’s reluctance to allow open access to the communications among Beard, the former mayor, the former city manager and top city planning officials is a strong indication, several people have openly indicated, that some San Bernardino city official or officials in 2018 pulled strings to prevent the proposal for a welfare office now scheduled to be placed into the Muscupiabe residential district from being considered and vetted properly in an an open process commensurate with the serious impact the project will have on its immediate environs.
Were the residents of the Muscupiabe District to obtain such a piece of evidence, any legal challenge of the project approval they pursued would almost certainly succeed.
For that reason, Mallon and other Musciabe District residents find it particularly galling that Ledoux is using a threat of legal action against the city by Beard, whom they suspect of colluding with the city against their interests, to prevent them from obtaining evidence of that collusion so they can marshal proof that they are at the very least owed a chance to have the project reconsidered in an open forum where all of the impacts of the project are given a complete and unvarnished airing before they are consigned to coexist with what they consider to be a development that is incompatible with the present ambiance of their neighborhood.
At this point, the ball is now in the court of the residents of the Muscupiabe District, who face the option of accepting the city-dictated inertia of letting the project run its course through to completion or employing an attorney to legally contest the city’s approval process.
-Mark Gutglueck

Travis-Miller Files Suit Against San Bernardino

Her efforts to properly carry out her assignments as San Bernardino City Manager earned her the enmity of the city’s mayor, Andrea Travis Miller claims in a lawsuit she has filed against her former employer.

In that suit, Travis Miller maintains she was retaliated against, subjected to a “hostile” work environment, discriminated against and suffered gender bias. She says that tension between her and Mayor John Valdivia and his staff members was at the root of much of the shabby treatment she endured.

Travis Miller’s suit filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court, reiterates many of the issues she previously highlighted in a claim she filed against the city in July in the aftermath of her April 3 suspension and May 29 firing, while fleshing out further detail with regard to how the city and its leaders failed to take any corrective action or discipline those who were responsible for what she experiences.

In the breach-of-contract lawsuit filed Tuesday, Travis-Miller maintains several of the city’s elected officials knowlingly and deliberately violated the city’s  charter, which was revamped in 2016, particularly with regard to provisions that empowered her as city manager vis-à-vis the mayor.

She was the victim, according to Travis Miller and her attorney, Milad Sadr, of  “a concerted effort” orchestrated by Valdivia and his minions following his elevation to the post of mayor after he defeated his predecessor, Carey Davis, in the November 2018 election.

Valdivia evinced a shocking degree of chauvinism, according to the suit, including having “questioned why the city had a female city manager or the wisdom of having women in government” which ultimately had the effect of leaving her isolated from other members of city, excluded from meetings, and shunted aside in such a way that she was “cut off [from] the flow of information or communications intrinsic to her essential job duties.” She was, according to the suit, unjustifiably subjected to “negative performance reviews, reduction in authority, administrative leave and termination.”

 

Family Files Claim Over Death 23 Years Later

By Carlos Avalos
Lurline Davis, Alice Davis, and Rochella Edwards, the surviving family members of Jimmy Earl Burelson, have filed a claim for damages against the County of San Bernardino, the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office, the City of Fontana and the Fontana Police Department with regard to the desecration of Jimmy Earl Burelson’s body that occurred in the aftermath of his death on July 6, 1994.
The claim, made more than a quarter of a century after Burelson’s death, comes after what Monrow A. Mabon, the attorney representing Davis, Davis and Edwards, says sufficed as a “verification” of what had occurred to Burelson was received between March 9 and March 15, 2019 by Mabon & Associates.
According to the claim, “The circumstances giving rise to this claim are as follows: On or about July 6, 1994, Jimmy Earl Burelson was in the custody of the Fontana Police Department. According to the Fontana Police Department, Jimmy Earl Burelson bailed out of their custody and approximately 30 minutes later Jimmy Earl Burleson was found murdered at the rear of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant located at 16931 Foothill Blvd. Fontana, CA. 92335. Claimants allege that after the murder of Jimmy Earl Burelson, members of the Fontana Police Department and [a] member of the San Bernardino coroner’s office, for their amusement desecrated the body of Jimmy Earl Burleson.”
This, Mabon alleges in the complaint, violated “the sanctity of Jimmy Earl Burleson. Claimants allege members of the Fontana Police Department and [a] member of the San Bernardino Coroner’s Office, from July 6, 1994 to the present have engaged in a conspiracy by a cover-up of the true circumstances surrounding the murder of Jimmy Earl Burleson, their desecration of Jimmy Earl Burleson’s body and their failure to investigate and disclose the true circumstances of Jimmy Earl Burleson’s murder.”
As previously reported in the Sentinel in February 2017, on July 6, 1994 Burelson, an African American male murder victim, was discovered behind the Kentucky Fried Chicken eatery on Sierra Avenue in Fontana. A police officer at the scene thought it would be funny to place a piece of chicken in Burelson’s hand, to make it look like he was stealing chicken from the restaurant before he was killed. A photograph was taken and this photo was circulated around the department for years.
On June 30, 2016, David J. Moore Sr. & Andrew Anderson, represented by attorneys Bradley C. Gage and Milad Sadr, filed a lawsuit in San Bernardino Superior Court against the City of Fontana, alleging discrimination, retaliation and failure to take corrective action. In that suit, Moore, an African-American, and Anderson, who is of mixed background but self-identifies as a Latino, alleged that the 189-member Fontana Police Department is comprised of sworn officers who are predominantly white, such that as of the date of the suit it never had more than four African American officers on the force at any given time, despite African Americans comprising more than 10 percent of the city’s population, while employing fewer than thirty Latino officers – roughly 15 percent – even though Hispanics comprise nearly 70 percent of the city’s population. According to the suit, the police department’s administration is even more lopsidedly out of step with the city’s demographics, which has perpetuated an atmosphere in which the department has condoned the mistreatment of minorities, and the officers employed by it have felt free to engage in a litany of both insensitive and socially unacceptable behaviors, including referring to both African Americans and Latinos in racist and derogatory terms. Among the manifestations of unacceptable behavior by the officers with the police department, according to the suit, was the treatment accorded to Burleson’s corpse.
Marshaled as evidence in support of the suit was a photograph of Burleson on a table at the coroner’s office with the chicken leg clutched in his hand.
Mabon told the Sentinel that he considered the allegation contained in the Anderson/Moore suit insufficient in itself for the claim he was contemplating filing on behalf of Davis, Davis and Edwards, and it was only upon interviewing former officers with the Fontana Police Department and receiving additional documents that he was ready to proceed.
On  August 28, 2019 Mabon & Associates filed with San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson a complaint against the Fontana Police Department and the San Bernardino County Coroner’s office.  The complaint was filed on behalf of Burelson’s family for violation of crimes against public justice: conspiracy under California Penal Code §§182-185, falsifying evidence under California Penal Code §§132-141, a violation of the Health and Safety Code §§7050.5-7055, a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act §51, another violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act §51.7 and Title 16 U.S, Code § 242. The formal complaint alleges that the Fontana Police Department led the public to believe that Jimmy Earl Burleson bailed out of jail and thirty minutes later was found murdered, behind the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant located at 16931 Foothill Boulevard in Fontana. The complaint alleges the Fontana Police Department in conjunction with the San Bernardino County Coroner’s office worked in unison to desecrate Mr. Burelson’s body. These facts, according to the complaint, were verified and delivered to Luraline Davis and her family by a former Fontana Police Department officer on March 12, 2019.
This complaint requests that an investigation be initiated by the San Bernardino District Attorney Office into the death of Jimmy Earl Burleson and crimes committed against public justice by the Fontana Police Department and the San Bernardino Coroner’s Office.
Mabon told the Sentinel that he originally was apprehensive about filing a complaint with the San Bernardino District Attorney’s office because that agency works with the coroner’s office, creating a potential conflict of interest. For that reason, Mabon & Associates looked at filing a claim with the California Department of Justice, the California Attorney General, and the Federal Department of Justice. The California Code of Civil Procedure, however, requires that a potential litigant must exhaust all local remedies. Thus, despite the conflict potential, Mabon said, he filed a complaint with the district attorney’s office as well as the City of Fontana, the Fontana Police Department and San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors in order to preserve the right to litigation, pursuant to the California Tort Claims Act.
Mabon indicated his hope that Jason Anderson, who displaced the former district attorney in the 2018 election, “has the potential to be non-biased and do the right thing.”
Mabon & Associates is waiting for a response. If no response is forthcoming, Mabon said he will file a claim with the California Attorney General, and he intends to file and pursue a formal lawsuit on behalf of Burelson’s survivors.
Mabon is asserting “There was an orchestrated and calculated cover up of the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Burelson.” According to Mabon, “Based off of the history of the Fontana Police Department, it is very suspicious that Mr. Burelson was killed allegedly 30 minutes after he bailed out of jail; there is no certainty that Mr. Burelson actually bailed out of jail.” Mabon further stated “There is the possibility that he was killed in custody and planted at the crime scene.”
In the words of a former Fontana Police Department officer, “The case of Mr. Burleson has never been looked at twice, audited, or referred to a cold case investigation team.”
Mabon noted that Burleson’s death was “a murder case that has sit dormant for decades” and that the events leading up to it and around it had deliberately gone unexplored because of collusion between the police department and the coroner’s office, furthered by a blue code of silence he likened to being “no different than the American Italian Mafia’s Omerta, or gang members not snitching or squealing on each other.” Mabon said the department’s handling of the matter suggested Burleson’s case was not the first time officers with the Fontana Police Department had done something like this. He said the coroner’s office’s efforts to avoid addressing the desecration issue lent support to the conclusion that there were similar occurrences with other police agencies in San Bernardino County.  Mabon, a 30-plus year law enforcement officer, told the Sentinel that “Law enforcement people or organizations who break the law should be treated the same, maybe even harsher than a normal civilian who breaks the law.”
Mabon’s advocacy on behalf of Davis, Davis and Edwards faces a critical in challenge based upon the sheer amount of time that has elapsed since the incident in question. An event from twenty-five years ago falls well beyond the statute of limitations in all civil matters in California. Since 1994, there has been substantial turnover in the Fontana Police Department, with only a small minority of the officers who were working there at that time still employed by the agency. The precise identities of the officers involved in the alleged incident have not been established, and it is unknown whether they remain employed with the department.
Moreover, the coroner’s office has itself undergone an administrative transformation. Brian McCormick was the San Bernardino County coroner in 1994. At that time, the coroner’s office in San Bernardino County was a stand alone office. On January 9, 2005, following McCormick’s retirement as the county’s last independently elected coroner, the coroner’s department was merged with the sheriff’s department in San Bernardino County and the sheriff became the titular coroner. There has been a complete changeover in the personnel in the coroner’s division of the sheriff’s department since that time.
For most criminal matters in California, the statute of limitations is three years, with some crimes carrying a four-year statute. With regard to civil matters, a citizen pursuing a lawsuit against another member of the public has two years from the time of the act in question, or the last act in a series of acts in question, to initiate the suit against the perpetrator. When the potential defendant is a government entity, a prospective plaintiff seeking remedy in state court must first lodge a claim against the governmental entity within six months, giving it an opportunity to satisfy the claim or reject it. Upon rejection, the prospective plaintiff has one year to file a suit in a California court of competent jurisdiction. A plaintiff contemplating a suit against any entity, private or governmental, in federal court has two years to lodge suit, and needs not file a claim beforehand.
Mabon told the Sentinel that the clock on the statute of limitations does not begin running until “the point of time a person discovers a wrong or suffered an injury.” In the case of  Davis, Davis, and Edwards, Mabon said, “They didn’t realize what was going on, or they had no knowledge that there had not been any investigation or anything of that sort until, from my discussion with them, sometime around January or February of this year. I received information, and in some cases, I even thought the story was so outlandish because I had experience on LAPD of going down to the morgue and knew the conditions of the LA County Morgue and I was just trying to figure out how police and coroner personnel would do something like that. Eventually, David Moore sent me a photograph of it and then I read a newspaper article. So then I began making inquiries, using all the contacts I had, police personnel and so forth, and I was able to find out there had been an incident. I interviewed people  and found documents. Somewhere between March 9 and March 15, at that particular point in time I said, ‘Yes, we’re talking about a conspiracy and an ongoing cover-up. My contention is, for arguments sake, the statue has not been tolled and the fact is that our complaint has been validly and timely filed. I think the date was August 14 for our complaint and we can see that there is no statute violation.”
Adam Claybaugh, currently a lieutenant with the Fontana Police Department, told the Sentinel he had no knowledge about and had never heard of the chicken bone incident involving Jimmy Burleson. He referred questions to the department’s internal affairs division, Sergeant Mark Gonzales in particular. Gonzales had not responded to the Sentinel’s inquiries by press time.

Chino Valley Fire Board Mulls Third Censure For Williams

The Chino Valley Independent Fire District Board this week voted to consider censuring board member Winn Williams for a third time in less than eight months at its upcoming October 9 meeting.
Personality conflicts have plagued the relationship between Williams, a former fire captain employed by the district, and his fellow board members from very shortly after he assumed office late last year.
Williams previously served a two-year term on the board from 2004 to 2006 and was returned to the board by voters last November. After he retired from the district as a firefighter in 2002 following an extended leave following an injury on the job in 2000, Williams in 2008 initiated an effort, at the age of 59, to be rehired as a firefighter, asserting he had by that point recovered from his injury. When the district declined to rehire him, he engaged in a series of three legal actions to be reinstated as a firefighter, two in state court and one in federal court, all of which were ultimately unsuccessful.
Williams maintains the tense relations between him and other members of the board and the hostility of staff toward him that manifested almost immediately upon his swearing in in December 2018 is unnecessary and unjustified. He says the enmity he is subjected to is an outgrowth of his having unseated in last year’s election longtime board member Ed Gray, with whom he says the other members of the board had a chummy relationship.
The four other members of the board – John DeMonaco, Harvey Luth, Sarah Evinger-Ramos and Mike Kreeger – contend that Williams is obsessed with his own personal issues relating to his inability to rehire with the district, which prevents him from focusing on the district’s current challenges and demands. They say that having to work with a board member who has thrice sued the district puts them in an awkward position. His constant negativism with regard to the department’s personnel, in particular Fire Chief Tim Shackelford, prevents them from having even the semblance of productive discussions with him, they contend.
The declension in the working relationship between Williams and his colleagues and key district staff was so immediate that by February, little more than two months after Williams had assumed office, he was censured by a vote of his colleagues. That censure was based on the contention that Williams was unduly harassing district employees and making use of district assets for his personal use. Williams denied the allegations.
Censures of elected officials are exceedingly rare, and usually are a move of last or near-last resort by members of a governing board against a colleague with whom they do not get along. The February censure of Williams appears to be the most rapid application of the censure process against an elected official in San Bernardino County history.  It carried with it the imposition of what can only be described as extraordinary conditions that place extensive limitations on how and under what circumstances Williams can interact with, monitor and come in contact with district employees. It also restricts Williams’ access to district facilities.
Williams’ contention has been that the restrictions that had been placed upon him interfered, unnecessarily and illegally, with his ability to function as an elected representative of the voters in his capacity as a board member overseeing the district’s operations.
Four months after his initial censure, in June, the board censured Williams a second time, on that occasion for his having disregarded the expectations of his comportment set out in the February censure.
There seemed to be little improvement in the relationship between Williams and the other members of the board thereafter. Indeed, from week-to-week and month-to-month, it seemed, the other four members of the board were in a competition with one another to establish which one of them had the most pointed differences with Williams.
In August, DeMonaco sought a third censure against Williams, based on an incident that occurred after the conclusion of the fire board’s July 10 meeting, which he said consisted of Williams having had physical contact with him on his back and neck as they were engaged in an intense argument. Williams insisted that DeMonaco was mischaracterizing and exaggerating a gesture that was made as he voiced a sincere appeal to see if the contretemps between him and the rest of the board could be resolved. The remainder of the board declined to join with DeMonaco in having Williams reproved publicly and officially a third time, what some interpreted as a signal that a more civil accommodation among all five board members was in the offing.
Little more than a month later, however, Williams’ contempt for Chief Shackleford was again on display with several of his comments from the board dais at the September 11 meeting.
According to Williams, Shackleford has continued to evince a level of “incompetence” which he said “has put this entire community in danger.”
That proved to be too much for DeMonaco, Luth, Evinger-Ramos and Kreeger, who voted 4-to-0, with Williams abstaining, to consider the third censure of Williams at the first board meeting in October. That censure motion was not based upon Williams’ comments aimed at Shackleford but rather his previous criticism of the district’s clerk of the board, Sandra Heney.

County Makes Concessions To Union In Effort To Spur Economy

In the face of troubling local economic signs, the county board of supervisors this week made a move to boost the paychecks of county workers.
The jury is yet out on whether that move to artificially buoy the local economy will have the desired impact, or whether greater governmental commitments to employee salaries and benefits will deprive county residents of services and assistance they need to negotiate what some prognosticators are saying will prove leaner financial times just ahead.
Alarmingly, San Bernardino County’s unemployment rate, which had dipped to a near historic low of 3.3 percent this spring, in just over four months has zoomed up to 4.2 percent.
Those working, while not exactly in the poorhouse, are doing comparatively worse than virtually all of their counterparts in the country’s top 50 municipal areas. San Bernardino was next to last when it came to weekly wages before taxes and other payroll deductions – $931 weekly. That was a mere $4 above those in dead last at number 50 – the $927 paid to worker in adjoining Riverside County south of San Bernardino County’s boundary. In contrast, over the county’s western border, in Los Angeles County, workers there bring down an average of $1,282 weekly, putting the County of the Angels at number 22 among the Top 50 U.S. municipal areas. Orange County workers are faring even better with average gross wages before taxes and deductions of $1,287 per week, making it Number 20 among the country’s 50 leading municipal areas.
Meanwhile, the county’s residents who rent rather than own the premises in which they live and like the rest of Americans are dealing with a 2.6 percent inflation rate, have seen rental rates increase by 5.1 percent over the last year. A two-room apartment now runs the average renter $1,550 per month.
From the beginning of Spring 2017 to the very end of winter 2018, the combined economy of Riverside and San Bernardino grew, if not phenomenally, then very well, at 4.5 percent, the ninth-best improvement among municipal areas nationally in that timeframe. Nevertheless, between the beginning of Spring 2018 and the end of winter earlier this year, that red hot growth had cooled to a 1.6 percent rate. Though that was better than flatlining or a decrease, there were yet 65 other metropolitan areas throughout the country with economies growing more rapidly.
When it rains, it pours. The first week of September, employees of Haralambos Beverage Company learned that last month the company had informed the state’s Employment Development Department that beginning October 11, it will lay off 53 workers at its Redlands facility, including 36 sales personnel, 15 employed in operations and two managers.
In an effort to make an inroad against the deteriorating financials besetting the county, the county’s governmental structure announced this week that it has come to terms with Teamsters Local 1932, the collective bargaining unit for slightly more than half of the county’s approximately 22,000 employees, to provide those represented employees a 2.5 percent uniform wage increase effective tomorrow, Saturday, September 14, 2019, to be augmented by a matching 2.5 percent raise as of July 18, 2020, a third 2.5 percent accretion on July 31, 2021, followed with a 3 percent across-the-board hike on July 30, 2022.
Where it can, the county will also allow those employees reaching an accumulation of a specified number of hours at a given pay grade or level to move up in remuneration, receiving what is called a “step raise” immediately upon registering the designated number of hours. Those employees in positions for which the qualifications are forbidding, thus making them difficult to fill, will see even more generous increases.
Altogether, the deal with Teamsters Local 1932 is to set taxpayers back some $345.7 million beyond what the current projected personnel costs are to be for the county between now and June 30, 2023.
While it is hoped the extra money in the hands of slightly over half of the county’s workforce, increasing that segment of the county population’s disposable income, will have a “trickle-down” positive effect on the San Bernardino County economy as a whole, the diversion of that money into the pockets of the county’s public employees will in some measure detract from the county’s ability to provide services for its residents, including some of those whose circumstances under the challenges of the current dip and what is projected to be a more massive fiscal contraction beginning in 2020 will be most heavily impacted.